How we test baby carriers and slings
Testing by parents and babies
First impressions and considered opinions
Forty-eight mothers and their babies took part in our assessment of baby slings and carriers. Each sling or carrier was used by 12 mothers and their babies, at least five times in one week. Each parent tested either slings or baby carriers, not a mixture of both.
All the babies were six months old or younger at the start of the user trial, and half were under four months old. They weighed between 4kg and 8.6kg (9-19lbs) to start with.
The mothers were asked to complete an initial questionnaire with nine questions about their first impressions of the sling or carrier. These were followed up with 32 more questions when they were more familiar with the carrier, to give us more details about the fit, comfort, design and their overall opinion of the products.
Fathers were able to test the carriers if they wanted and were also asked to complete a questionnaire. Their views do not contribute to the test scores of the carriers, though.
You can take a look at all the baby carriers and slings that have been rated Best Buys by visiting our reviews. You can gain access to all our reviews, from baby carriers and pushchairs to washing machines and TVs by taking out a £1 trial subscription to Which?.
Rating aches and pains
Parents were asked to complete a discomfort chart indicating any areas on their bodies where they experienced aches or pains from using each carrier for half an hour. They also told us what was causing their discomfort and how severe it felt.
Assessing the instructions
A good set of instructions is the key to being able to use a baby carrier easily and safely. So as well as asking parents to rate them, we got an expert in ergonomics (how well products are designed for people to use them) to look at how easy each of the carriers and their instructions are to get to grips with. The ergonomist looked at several factors:
- clarity and accuracy of the instructions
- how often you need to consult the instructions until you can confidently fit the product without them
- features of the carrier that make it easy to use
- how intuitive it is to use the sling or carrier.
Each sling or baby carrier was washed and dried according to the instructions on the washing label. They were washed with a mild detergent, and products with similar wash temperatures, cycles and colours were washed together.
Handwash or no-wash carriers were all washed on a handwash machine programme at 30ºC with a low spin cycle.
Some were washed in pillowcases as recommended.
They were rated after one and 10 washes for:
- shrinkage or stretching
- bobbling or pilling
- twists where the original seams no longer line up.
Any other noticeable effects of washing each product were also recorded.
Baby slings and baby carriers test score
Our test score excludes price and is based on:
30% - Parent’s comfort when wearing the baby in a sling or carrier
20% - Baby’s comfort, including level of support and contentment
25% - Design and ease of use when familiar with the carrier
10% - Getting started (the ease of using the carrier out of the box including the assessment of the instructions)
10% - ‘Word of mouth’ factor – would parents recommend this carrier to their friends?
5% - Washing tests