This is Part 4 of our series on Safe Babywearing. You can find the original post with links to all the others here. This post is part of our sub-series on safe baby carriers. You can find out more about safe carriers here.
Generally, carriers are made of two types of parts: fabric and hardware. Here we will discuss what safe and good quality hardware and fabric should look like.
In any carrier, the fabric should be suitable for the purpose. If your carrier has seams sewn into it (for example, mei tais, SSCs), then the fabric should be “bottom weight”- simply put, if you would wear a pair of pants out of that fabric, then it’s probably a good thickness. This is because these kinds of carriers put a lot of pressure on the seams of the carrier and the fabric must be strong enough to withstand it.
Ring slings and wraps can be made of thinner materials because there is either no seam or only one, however in the case of a ring sling, the fabric should still be of reasonable thickness or the carrier will not have longevity.
Fabric should also be breathable, for both your own and your baby’s comfort. Natural fibers such as cotton, wool, bamboo, silk, hemp and linen are all used widely.
There are two main types of hardware used by baby carriers: slings and buckles. Buckles should not come apart easily in your hands. They should be sturdy, heavy duty items that can withstand dropping, rough use and, most importantly, your baby’s weight. The buckles on your carrier should not be of the same weight and make as those in a craft store or on a cheap back pack. In a SSC, the buckles hold your baby to you- they should be of excellent quality.
Rings come in several types. The safest kind of ring is a seamless ring of about ¼ inch diameter (about 6mm) for ring slings. Rings can be made of metal such as stainless steel, aluminium or even of nylon. Be wary of plastic or wooden rings. The manufacturer of your sling should be able to give you information about how your carrier’s rings were tested.
The industry standard sling rings are tested to withstand 300lbs (136 kg) of weight. This is not because the sling is expected to carry a baby of that size, but because the rings withstand a great deal of pressure over time and when being adjusted. They may be dropped, exposed to water, heat and extreme cold. They must not fail with a baby in the sling and should be tested as such.
Some rings are not made seamless, but with a join. If there is a join, it should be welded. If not, it’s possible the rings can come apart and slip through the fabric – this could be a danger to the baby. Welded rings are not considered by the industry to be as safe as seamless rings as the weld itself may be a weak point. Rings with an unclosed join should not be used.
Check your hardware! A good quality baby carrier will last you for years, but it won’t last forever. Especially if your baby carrier is second hand or older, checking your babywearing hardware: buckles and rings, is essential. This article is an excellent guide.