Choosing the right baby carrier, sling or wrap is the key to getting to grips with baby wearing.
It needs to be comfortable, convenient and flexible for your little one, as well as for you and anyone else who'll be wearing it.
When we surveyed 1,032 parents in February 2021 with a child under five who own a sling or carrier, we asked them what their top considerations were.
Here are the top five:
When you're babywearing, you often have the choice of how you want to carry your baby: on your front or on your back.
Front baby carriers are most popular. Some baby carriers and baby slings have the option to hip-carry, too.
Pros of front baby carriers
Cons of front baby carriers
Pros of back baby carriers
Consof back baby carriers
For the best of both worlds, choose a baby carrier with multiple carrying positions for maximum comfort for you and your baby as they grow.
Baby carrying is quite a personal thing, and how comfortable it is will depend on the wearer, and getting the right type of carrier for you and your baby.
Slings and carriers shouldn’t give you aches and pains, even after prolonged use. Some parents in our tests felt discomfort in the shoulders, lower neck and lower back, but issues like this can be fixed by making some adjustments to the straps or buckles, and making sure the carrier is correctly fitted in the first place.
It can take a little while to get used to wearing a sling if you haven’t used one before. So if you’re new to babywearing, we’d recommend building up gradually before keeping your sling on for a long period of time.
If your baby hasn’t been in a sling before, it’s possible that they may cry when you first put them into it. It’s a new experience for them, and some babies may not like it initially.
This can be quite worrying for a parent but, if your sling is on correctly and your baby is positioned correctly, usually a little walk around or a jig about and some comforting words can help them to settle.
Many factors can affect the comfort of a sling. If your baby has had you up many times overnight, if you feel stiff after sleeping awkwardly, or are achy from an exercise class, for example, this can affect how comfortable you feel when babywearing.
Choosing a carrier with good features, such as lumbar support or padded straps, can help to reduce discomfort, especially if you plan to carry your child for long periods of time, or regularly when they're older and larger.
We’ve found some of the cost from around £40 upwards, so there's no need to spend a fortune. Generally, fabric wraps and slings are cheaper than soft-structured carriers, however, the latter tend to last you for longer as they provide plenty of support when carrying older babies.
A comfortable baby carrier or sling will mean you can carry your baby for longer.
Features to look for include thick, padded straps; sturdy fabrics; and good leg and back support for your baby.
As part of our tests, an ergonomics expert assesses each sling and carrier for how supportive it is, for both the wearer and the baby. We also take into account feedback from the parents in our user trials.
To double check how comfortable a carrier or sling is for you, we recommend trying it before you buy.
Head to a sling library, which will have a range of slings and carriers to try out. You’ll be able to get tailored advice on things such as getting the most comfortable fit for you, and adjusting your sling or carrier safely.
The weight of a baby carrier or sling can vary. A lightweight sling can weigh as little as 400g (that’s less than half a bag of sugar), while a structured baby carrier can be a lot heavier, as well as being big and bulky to carry around.
The slings and carriers we've reviewed recently weigh around 0.3-0.7kg.
You may not be quite as concerned about how bulky the baby carrier is – or how well it packs up – if you're wearing it only indoors. But if you want to use your baby carrier when you're out and about, you may want to go for one that's light and folds up neatly when not in use.
Also for outdoors, consider a sun canopy to help protect your baby's head from the sun. Some carriers also come with sleep hoods. Both of these will add bulk, but are handy extra features.
If multiple people are going to be using your carrier or sling, it’s definitely worth choosing one that's adjustable to help get the best fit.
Adjusting your baby carrier properly is vital, so it's useful to have one that you can get the hang of fairly easily, with good instructions to help.
If you're willing to invest time in learning how to adjust a sling or carrier, your range of choice is greater. If you don’t have the time or energy, choose something straightforward with a minimal number of adjustments.
For those who don't feel confident in working out how to carry a baby in a wrap, then a more structured carrier might be the way to go.
When choosing, consider whether you can get it on and off easily – while juggling a crying baby – and whether you can get it on and off on your own. Our reviews assess these factors based on parent trials and expert assessments, and we also look at the clarity of the instructions that come with each carrier.
Most manufacturers have videos available to help you learn how to put on your sling or carrier. We’d recommend taking a look at these and practising with a teddy to get to grips with it before your baby arrives.
A sling or baby carrier is bound to get dribbled on or vomited on at some point. Check whether the one you've got your heart set on is machine washable rather than sponge-clean only, or comes with any other handy features such as dribble pads.
You can carry your child in a sling or baby carrier for as long as they are content and you’re happy carrying them.
Make sure the sling is adjusted properly and that your baby is comfortable.
T.I.C.K.S is an acronym for:
We’d advise starting with a short 10-minute carry to let your baby get used to the carrier, and gradually extend this to longer periods.
Always pay close attention to your child’s needs and switch between the baby carrier and, for example, a pushchair or carrycot as needed.
Yes, if used properly. It's important to make sure you know the basics of sling and carrier safety before you start using one.
Many of the slings and carriers we’ve tested have a position for breastfeeding. Check our reviews, or the instructions, to find out which ones are suitable.
Many slings and carriers are designed to be used with newborns. You may have to put a special insert into the carrier, which helps to raise your newborn so that he or she sits higher on your chest.
The top of your newborn's head should be close enough to kiss.
Check the product specs or instructions to find out if the sling or carrier is suitable from birth.
Some carriers are suitable to use with much older babies and toddlers, too. If you’re planning on babywearing for a long time, look for one that will last.
Some parents find it less comfortable using a baby carrier as their child gets heavier, and toddlers might not want to be carried once they become more active.
This depends on personal experience, though. Other parents don't tend to notice the weight of older babies if they’ve been carrying them since they were little, as their body gets used to it.
Generally, the best baby carriers for toddlers are those that are comfortable and provide good support for parents - . They have padded straps and waistbands that will help to support your baby's weight. If you're walking or hiking, you should go for a baby backpack.
Given the importance of practising babywearing, finding out what's most comfortable for you and adjusting your sling or carrier safely, it can be really helpful to visit a sling library or consultant to try any slings you're considering before you buy.
There's an enormous range of baby carrier and sling brands out there. Some are very well known and established, such as BabyBjorn and Mamas & Papas, while others are much smaller companies, often selling slings.
and are specialists in making soft-structured baby carriers with buckles and waistbands, although Ergobaby has also created a fabric sling. They sit at the top end of the price bracket. Other well-known brands and names, such as , and , make structured baby carriers, at lower prices.
Less well-known names, but equally popular with some parents, are brands such as , , and . These brands make a mix of slings, structured carriers and hybrid carrier slings, which have and buckles and straps, but may have less padding or lack a waistband.
Buyers beware: there's a large counterfeit market for certain carrier brands, such as Ergobaby and Moby Wrap. You'll need to be discerning when looking for a deal, otherwise you risk buying an unsafe product. Read our guide to so you know what to watch out for.
Babies love to chew on the straps or fabric of baby carriers, so it’s wise to have a dribble bib or bit of muslin to hand. They can also help you to protect your clothing and tidy up more quickly if your baby is sick while in the carrier.
Some carriers come with dribble bibs, while others brands offer them as an additional extra. Overall, we haven't seen much advantage in buying a carrier simply because it includes a dribble bib.
The secondhand market for baby carriers and slings is massive, and if yours is in good condition, you may be able to sell it via an online marketplace such as eBay or Facebook, or via an NCT 'nearly new' sale.
If that's not possible, so long as the carrier or sling is clean and in good condition, charity shops or women's shelters would probably be happy to accept any baby items such as this.
If the carrier or sling is in poor condition (frayed straps or missing parts) then it might be best to dispose of it. It can be placed in household waste, or alternatively, you can purchase a to put old baby items including carriers in.
The boxes aren't cheap, but if you're getting rid of lots of stuff, they're a good way to ensure the materials get recycled rather than going into landfill.