Hanging Up The Sling

When my second child was born, my first was just two years old. Life with a baby and a toddler was a lot busier than life with a singleton, and I didn’t have the luxury of spending hours sitting in the glider rocker nursing or lying on the floor watching my baby wave her arms in the air. Because of that fact, one of the most important pieces of baby gear was my ring sling.

Appearance-wise, it looked so simple. A long piece of olive green fabric attached to two silver rings. The non-ring end had a pocket with a zipper. (People said to stay away from black because it gets hot, and also linty. I thought the green color might be less girly in case my husband ever wanted to use it. He didn’t. I should have gotten the purple one I wanted.) And people were amazed that I paid fifty dollars for it. But I got so much use out of it that fifty dollars was a steal.

With my ring sling, I was able to breastfeed my infant hands-free while making a sandwich for my toddler. With my ring sling, I was able to carry my toddler across my back while pushing the baby in the stroller to get across a busy, dangerous street. With my ring sling, I was able to keep my baby, born during cold and flu season, tucked up against me and away from germy, poking fingers.

The kids are bigger now though. My son is almost 6 and long past the stage of being carried. My daughter is 3 1/2. I’ve used the sling twice in the past year. Once was when I took both kids and a friend of my son to see Disney On Ice by myself. I used the sling to carry my daughter on my hip so I had both hands free to help the boys navigate the parking garage and crowded arena. It worked great.

The second time was this past week. My daughter had been napping and I had to wake her up to go pick up her brother from preschool, but she was still groggy and sleepy. Rather than waste gas to drive the five blocks to school, I used the sling to position her so she could lay her head on my shoulder, draped the long end of the sling over her face to shield her eyes from the sun, put my keys and phone into the pocket and walked.

Some of the other moms were surprised. They thought she might be too heavy, or that my back must be aching. And that really wasn’t it. She is small for her age, but my back felt fine. And while carrying her for five blocks in my arms would have been difficult, the sling was doing most of the work.

On the way home though, I started to feel uncomfortable. Again, not because of her weight, but because it was 80+ degrees and despite my shorts and tank, carrying her was making me hot. Seriously hot. As in glug water and lie on the couch to recover hot.

It may be time to hang up my sling. At almost 6 and almost 4, we’re approaching not having kids small enough to carry. I’m done having babies. I’m done babywearing. I’m done breastfeeding and co-sleeping.

At this point, I’m curious how parents with older children continue to practice attachment parenting. I never thought much beyond the baby and toddler years, but I’m looking at it now. And contemplating how to incorporate the principles into my parenting style as I raise older kids.

Those of you with elementary age children, tweens and teens–how do you continue to use AP practices into those later years?

11 thoughts on “Hanging Up The Sling”

  1. I loved your post. I have an almost 7yo, an almost 3yo and am pregnant for the last time, with twins. I found with my older child that AP moves onto concious or aware parenting. They need less physical attatchment (but not less touch/hugging etc if that makes sense), but more emmotional attatchment, like guidance, safe respectful boundaries, you need to kind of grow with them. A group of mums I know who had kids of similar ages had exactly the same dilema. We all went on to homeschool our kids, so it was a seamless transition from baby wearing to learning with. Good luck on your journey, baby wearing rocks!!! (ps/ depending on your youngest’s weight, you may be able to get an ergo and continue to carry her for a bit longer, we carried our eldest who is light weight in the ergo when she was almost 6!) x

  2. I think this is an important part of AP that isn’t really laid out anywhere. How do you attachment parent an 8 year old, or a 12 year old who is embarrassed by PDA’s? And really, how do you even attachment parent an independent 4 year old with a mind of his own? It’s something I’ve discussed with friends many times, and I’ll be watching for the answer to this question!

  3. oh my goodness that made me tear up… i am typing with one hand as my 5 week ols rests in my other and what a call to cherish every minute… i cant believe some day she’ll be too big for her sling. 🙂

  4. Thanks for writing this. My 2 year old is getting too big for my ring sling and it’s making me a little sad. I carried him around almost constantly in a sling or wrap until he was about 18 months old and started becoming too heavy for me. I cherish those memories of constant closeness!!

  5. What a beautiful post. It made me teary thinking about Aodhan not wanting to be in the sling one day. We have graduated to the Ergo, and I miss our moby and ring sling so much. Your post has made me want to go back to the other two slings….the Ergo is GREAT, but it does feel less cozy then the other two. A beautiful post, what lucky kidlets you have!

  6. I still wear my 3 year old a lot.
    I guess it comes down to getting a good well made toddler carrier, or using a woven wrap. I don’t intend on stopping wearing my 3 year old anytime soon!

    1. My daughter is very independent and wants to walk most of the time anyway. And I’m really fine with not carrying her. I don’t think what I use to carry her will make much of a difference. Lugging around an extra 27 pounds will make me hot no matter what. It just seems so strange that this item I used SO much when she was younger is very quickly becoming obsolete in my life.

  7. I love this, and can relate. My sling is hanging in my closet. It’s so worn and dated that no one wants it, but I can’t seem to give it to charity. It just figures that my 2-year-old hates to be carried in a sling; since I probably would have carried her forever!

    In response to how do you AP older children (mine are 7, 5 and 2); I think it’s more about staying connected, being a good listener and honoring the unique needs of each child. Each girl gets some alone time with each parent during bed time; and this is a really important time for them to voice any problems or ask questions. If they wake up at night, we allow them in our bed until they settle then eventually move them back to their own bed. This is such a rare occurrence now that we actually enjoy soothing them after a bad dream.

    When my oldest displayed a lack of readiness for kindergarten, I enrolled her in a co-op so I could be in the classroom with her on a regular basis. She loved it, and was more than ready for her public school the following year.

    AP is also about honoring your commitment to your spouse and balancing the needs of your children with the needs of yourself and your relationship. Children thrive in a home with a solid partnership, so creating this balance is key no matter how old your children are.

  8. This was such a touching post that made me look back in time. Our sling wearing days have been done for 3 years now… my daughter is now 6.5 years old. I didn’t want to give up the sling but it had reached it’s end and needed to be provided to another loving family to enjoy. It was such sadness but we do have many pictures of her in a sling so I have those at least as “keepsakes” to the sling wearing days.

    I would have to agree with Sharron in regards to AP for the older child. You don’t have that skin-to-skin contact that you used to have but you have those cherishable kisses on the cheek, the most spellbounding connection of eye-to-eye contact, the joy of having the tightest hug you’ve ever felt that day, and the joy of holding their hand reminding you that they are still young and need you.

    APing an older child is different mentally. Being respectful of who and what they are. Being respectful of who and what you are. Keeping everyone mentally balanced is essential to APing an older child.

    Most of all, I think rememebering that time is fleeting and to cherish every moment you can, even past the sling stage. You are treating your child like you would like to be treated with the abilitiy to talk with another person who can at least really understand what you are saying.

    It’s a new phase that you’ll cherish just as much as you cherished this one. The scenarios are different but the goal is the same. Love. Unconditional love.

  9. Hi…

    thanks for sharing this…
    i have been wanting to purchase a ring sling…or something similar and have been checking around (I live in the Philippines) and seems that it is quite pricey…soooo…i didn’t really want to invest and buy something like this, esp since my son (will be turning 2 on the 21st 🙂 yey) and my daughters (16, 12, 11) want to take turns carrying him.
    still…i want to be able to go malling and walking around with all of them with my son comfy and my arms not hurting with all the carrying …

    so thank you for giving me that extra push to buy a 2nd hand sling 🙂

    more power.

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