A baby sling or soft-structured carrier can be a useful bit of kit for parents of newborns. As well as letting you go hands-free to push an older sibling in a buggy, or make yourself a cup of tea, babywearing can be great for soothing crotchety or colicky babies.
So whether you’re currently expecting, or your little one has already arrived, read on for tips on picking out a sling or carrier for a newborn.
Check out our recommended best baby carriers and slings
1. Do I want a sling or carrier?
Before deciding what brand you want, you need to decide whether you want a baby sling, baby carrier or both.
Fabric wrap or ring slings can be useful for newborns as they cocoon your baby in an ergonomic position and hold them close to your chest, which is very comforting for them. However, many have a weight limit of around 9-10kg (about 12 months old), at which point you’d need to consider switching to something for bigger babies.
Baby carriers are usually suitable from birth to two or three years old, but will require adjusting to ensure your newborn is held in the right position.
Some parents choose to buy both a sling and carrier to provide a bit of flexibility depending on where they are or how long they intend to carry their baby for.
Read more to help you make your choice in: Which baby carrier or baby sling should you buy?
2. How do I carry my newborn safely?
Whether you use a wrap or a structured carrier, the most important thing is that you carry your newborn safely.
You should follow the TICKS rules for safe babywearing:
Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you.
I: In view at all times
You should be able to see your baby’s face when you look down. Fabric shouldn’t close around their face.
C: Close enough to kiss
Your baby’s head should be close enough to your chin that you can kiss the top of it.
K: Keep chin off chest
A baby should never be carrier in a position that forces their chin onto their chest, as this can restrict breathing.
S: Supported back
A newborn baby’s back should be supported, but in a natural, slightly curved position (from the side it will look like a ‘J’).
Read our guide to carrier and sling safety for more tips and advice.
3. Does the carrier need an insert?
Structured baby carriers will need to be adjusted to ensure newborns and smaller babies are held high enough on your chest that you can kiss the top of their head.
Some carriers do this by providing a removable wedge or insert – like a mini cushion – so that the baby sits higher in the carrier.
The one pictured above is an insert you could fit into an Ergobaby Ergo Original carrier.
The downside of these inserts is that, as a loose addition, they could potentially get lost.
The alternative are baby carriers where the seat part can be adjusted so that it becomes higher or smaller, making it suitable for a newborn.
The Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carrier is adjusted for newborns using Velcro tabs on the base of the carrier.
4. What position does the sling or carrier hold my baby?
Ideally, newborns should be carried so their knees are higher than their bottom. This will automatically provide a gentle curve to their back in the shape of a J when looking at your baby from the side.
Their legs should be tucked up so they’re not dangling, and bent at the knee so they’re in a foetal or ‘frog’ position. As they grow, their legs will take more of an ‘M’ shape.
Their head should rest on your chest, turned to one side and without anything covering their head or airways.
Wrap slings can be especially good for newborns as you can wrap them in a way that they’re supported, but also so that everything is tucked into the sling, so they feel cosy.
5. What’s the weather like?
Having a little baby strapped to your chest can act like your own personal heater, which is all very well when you’re carrying during winter, but is also something to consider when carrying during the warmer summer months.
Wrap slings tend to be made from very lightweight material, such as cotton or bamboo, which can help to keep your baby feeling comfortable. Meanwhile, some carriers have the option of choosing a mesh-like material version for added breathability.
The Ergobaby Aura Baby Wrap is made from 100% natural viscose (from the eucalyptus and acacia tree), while the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One is also available as the One Air version, made from breathable mesh.
6. What’s the shelf-life of my sling or carrier?
This is essentially how long you’ll be able to use your sling or baby carrier before your child outgrows it.
While it’s possible to use a fabric wrap sling with toddlers and children, most parents wouldn’t use one past the age of 12-18 months as they don’t provide the same support.
Structured carriers are frequently designed to carry children from birth up to the age of 2-3 years.
When buying your sling or carrier for your newborn, you’ll need to consider how long you might want to babywear.
Our baby carrier and sling reviews tell you the minimum and maximum weight for each product.
7. Who will be using my carrier or sling?
Adjustability is key when choosing a carrier or sling. Structured baby carriers will have straps and waist bands that may need altering when a partner with a different body shape chooses to use it. This could be fiddly and frustrating if you have the settings ‘just right’. However, structured baby carriers tend to be popular with both male and female carriers.
On the other hand, wrap slings are typically one long piece of material that you wrap round you, with no ‘settings’. So providing the material is long enough, it should be easy to switch between users if you make sure that the sling is tied tightly enough.