Baby carriers and slings: Choosing a sling or baby carrier Why buy a baby carrier?
A baby carrier or sling is one piece of baby kit some parents can't live without, while others never even consider using one. Weigh up baby carrier benefits and drawbacks before deciding whether it's an option for you.
Baby carrier benefits
Bonding with your baby
Those who love baby slings and carriers say they help you bond with your little one. Using a sling or carrier means your baby is close to you and safe. A baby carrier or sling is ideal for keeping a baby where they are happiest – close to your body where they're comforted by your heartbeat.
In the early days of a baby's life, a baby carrier or sling can be very reassuring for your new arrival. Newborn babies have poor vision but an excellent sense of smell, so holding your baby near you means they'll be able to smell your scent and will feel comforted. It's also a great way to help baby bond with Dad.
If your baby suffers from reflux, colic or wind after feeding, holding them upright makes it easier for the gas to pass through their body and reduces possetting. An upright sling or baby carrier can help you keep your baby upright and comfortable.
Baby slings and carriers can help settle a tired, fretful baby.
Baby carriers and slings can help breastfeeding mums to feed on the go. Certain slings are ideal for discreet breastfeeding.
Front-facing baby carriers allow older babies to interact with you and other adults when you're out, and gives them a stimulating view of the world.
A sling or baby carrier can give you the freedom to tackle other tasks while holding your baby – such as eating a meal with both hands.
Getting out and about
With both hands free and no pram or pushchair needed, a sling makes transporting your baby much easier while giving you freedom to do what you want to do. A baby carrier should keep your baby warm and snug in the winter, and a fabric sling will keep them well covered in the summer sun, too.
Look after your back
An ergonomically designed baby carrier or sling also helps you to take care of your back compared with carrying a little one in your arms. Slings or carriers which provide waist and lumbar support straps can distribute the weight of your baby evenly across your whole back.
Many parents find that using a sling means they can carry their baby for longer, often until the child is at least two years old (around 14kg) – or until they start to protest about being carried.
More than one child
Using a baby carrier when you've got more than one child means you can get away without the extra cost of a double buggy.
Baby carrier drawbacks
Going out for the day with only a baby carrier and no pushchair can be a tiring experience, particularly with older babies.
Baby carriers offer movement and flexibility but you'll need to take extra care when you're carrying your little one, particularly near sharp utensils, hot surfaces and boiling pans.
Getting in and out
Learning to get your baby in and out of a carrier quickly can be a tricky task to master.
Different types of baby carrier are suitable only for babies up to a certain size or age, so check its longevity before you buy. Some older babies or toddlers find a baby carrier too restrictive.
US baby sling safety concerns
In March 2010, baby company Infantino recalled two of its bag-style baby slings – the SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo sling – following three infant deaths in the US.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is currently investigating a further 11 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers from the past 20 years and has issued a general safety warning about the use of infant slings for babies younger than four months.
See our page on baby sling safety for more information on how to wear a sling properly.