Wall Street Journal

Baby Slings

Wall Street Journal
Feb 23, 2006
Shopping Around section

Baby Slings
By ELIZABETH BERNSTEIN
February 23, 2006
Page D3

The baby sling may have been around as long as humans. Early hominid mothers are believed to have tied their babies to their bodies while gathering food. Now you can buy a hand-dyed linen one for $550.

Following fashion’s evolutionary path, the baby sling, basically a swath of fabric that cradles an infant close to her mother’s hip, is becoming chic, sometimes at the expense of practicality. (Try cleaning spit up off of red silk.)

In September, a Japanese chain that specializes in baby slings opened its first U.S. branch in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, Psny, with some slings selling for $550. Retailers are also pushing a host of specialized slings: mesh slings to carry a baby in the water, camouflaged slings for dads to wear, even pint-sized slings for kids to carry a doll.

Many slings also include a pocket to carry a wallet, keys or cellphone.

While no one tracks sales of different types of carriers, some individual retailers are starting to see baby-sling sales take off. At BabyCenter.com, baby-sling sales increased 30% in 2005, compared with the previous year, while sales of other types of baby carriers were up just 15% in the same time period.

The new generation of slings is being marketed as both hip and functional. Manufacturers are touting their slings as more comfortable for parents, because they distribute the baby’s weight across a shoulder and an opposite hip — as opposed to pulling on both shoulders like front or back carriers do — and allow mom or dad to switch sides periodically. “If you can change loads and positions, that’s good for the body,” says James N. Weinstein, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.

Here is a look at some new options:

Company/Sling: Oopa Baby/Perfect Red Silk Unlined
Price: $100
Comment: Gorgeous fabric, but there was too much of it: Our 11-pound baby tester completely disappeared inside the sling and hated having her face covered. (The company says tinier moms can order a petite version, which is six to eight inches shorter.)

Company/Sling: Psny/Flowered cotton P-sling
Price: $100
Comment: The company — which has three stores in Japan and one in New York — sells some of its hand-dyed linen slings for more than $500. Again, our baby tester got lost in the voluminous fabric, which didn’t seem to support her head adequately. (The company says its stores have instructors on staff who can help moms learn to adjust the slings properly.)

Company/Sling: Rockin’ Baby Sling/Black with flames and “Mom” patch on pocket
Price: $87
Comment: While not as luxurious as the first two, the fabric is more substantial — and less ample — which helped to support our baby tester’s head better. The company offers “sling support” on its toll-free number or via email.

Company/Sling: Sidecar Slings/Melbourne (retro print in orange, magenta and red)
Price: $62
Comment: Our baby tester liked this sling because it held her close to mom but supported her head so she could look around. Mom liked that the brown fabric on the inside — the sling is reversible — will hide stains well.