Babywearing – carrying your baby or toddler hands-free in everything from a simple piece of fabric to a purpose-designed product – is popular.
Not only do busy parents need do a million things at once (or so it seems!) but they recognise the need for close connections to bond with and soothe their child.
You don’t need to practice attachment parenting or call yourself a “babywearer” to appreciate their use.
There are many benefits to baby wearing – read about them here.
Working out what is safe and comfortable from the range of products can be daunting, let alone working out which will best suit your lifestyle, budget and taste.
Choosing A Baby Carrier Or Sling
So, let’s get started and take a look at the basic styles available for parents who are choosing a baby carrier or sling:
#1: Stretchy Wraps
Designed to snuggle your newborn against your body, these strips of stretchy fabric look complex at first but the technique to wear them is simple once you learn how. Best suited to younger babies (3-8kg), they are not suitable for wearing on your back
Made from soft, organic interlock cotton, Australia’s-own Hugabub is comfortable to wear for both adult and baby. The excellent online tutorial makes it easy to learn how to use the carrier. Soft against the skin, the Hugabub washes well and is well-made and holds its shape.
The Ergobaby Wrap uses a 4-way stretch fabric and is known as a hybrid-wrap, considered to be firmer than a stretchy wrap but stretchier than a woven one. This wrap supports heavier babies up to 14kg.
The Manduca Sling is made from bi-elastic jersey (without elastane) and made from 100% organic cotton. Available in colours reminiscent of the ocean and the earth, they will appeal to both men and women.
#2: Woven Wraps
Coming in as many colours, patterns and textures as you can imagine, these carriers also come in varying combinations of natural fibres, including cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo, wool and silk. Designed for use from newborn to toddler on both the front and back, the techniques used to tie them range from simple to complex and – again – once you learn how, are quick and easy to do. It is recommended that back-wearing is only used by experienced wearers after using front-wrapping techniques.
Australian-made Wrapture is manufactured in Melbourne. Created using soft blends of fabrics, their limited-release carriers are beautiful to wear as well as look at.
Little Frog woven wraps are an affordable carrier in a range of fun colours, stripes and prints. Their cotton fabric is easy to care for and is a great beginner’s-wrap.
#3: Ring Slings
Often known for their bright rainbow stripes, ring slings are also available in many other designs. Suitable from newborn to toddler, they are a quick option for short periods of wearing and are terrific for wearing a child who can’t decide if they want to be up or down. The simple technique to wear them is easy to learn and use.
Hugabub organic cotton mesh ring sling is perfect for keeping your baby close in hot climates, as the mesh allows air to flow through and moisture to evaporate. As well as colourful stripes in various colourways, a gentle cream version is available and is perfect for those wanting a more subtle colour.
By Kay offers ring slings in their signature denim, stonewash and colourful cotton-linen blend fabrics, great for those looking for a trendy, stylish carrier.
#4: Mei Tais
This traditional design has been popular in Australia since the 1960s and is now used around the world. The inspiration for the SSC, the simple design has straps which tie around the waist and over the shoulders. Although that can seem complicated, they are simple to use.
By Kay mei tais come in funky designs with an urban edge, with 100% cotton and denim options. Adjustable to suit children 0-4 years.
Chimparoo Mei Tais combine the fabrics of woven wraps with the convenience of a mei tai, using 100% organic cotton in a range of gorgeous colours. Several features allow the carrier to be adjusted to fit the growing baby and toddler.
#5: Soft-Structured Carriers (SSCs)
Designed to meet the needs of modern parents, these wide-based carriers support babies hips in the recommended M position and can be used from birth to toddlers. Suitable for front, hip and back carrying Adjustable straps allow personal fitting and quick use.
Manduca offers the convenience of a built-in infant support. A range of adjustable zippers and straps allow you to get the perfect fit for adult and child.
The Ergobaby Performance Ventus Carrier features a mesh front panel, making it great in hot climates, as air-flow cools baby and wearer. However, it does require an additional infant insert for babies 0-4 months.
Tula carriers are popular for their amazing range of colourful prints (which can become highly sought-after!) and come in standard and toddler versions. An infant insert is also required for younger babies.
#6: Twin Carriers
Two babies, two adults, two carriers? That has been the way families of twins and more have made the most of babywearing in the past, or juggled two babies sharing one stretchy or woven wrap sling.
The TwinGo carrier is the solution parents have been waiting for. Not only is it perfect for twins, but a great option for siblings who are close in age who both need to be carried. Designed to be worn on the front or back as single carriers, the two become one and allow a child on the front and another on the back. Ergonomically designed, the TwinGo is suitable for babies from 4 months, up to an individual weight of 20kg or a combined weight of 30kg. A wonderful solution for carrying two little ones hands free.
#7: 4 Way Carriers – Forward Facing
Many parents are attracted to baby carriers which allow babies to face-forward, away from the parent. Forward-facing is one way to include them and give them a wider view. Generally, only short-periods of facing out are recommended, as babies can quickly become over-stimulated or over-whelmed and have no way to make eye contact with the adult to communicate their need to have a break.
Ergo 360 offers an ergonomic design which supports the baby in the recommended M position when facing the adult’s chest or back and when forward-facing with their back against the adult’s chest (recommended from 6.4-10kg) Ergo recommend that this position be used only for short periods starting from the age of 5-6 months upwards, and only when the child is awake.
The Mini-Monkey Dynamic Baby Carrier also has an ergonomic design which supports the baby in the M position in the newborn, front and back carries, however the forward- facing position reverts back to narrow-base. This is less likely to be comfortable for the baby, compared to the wider seat of the Ergo 360.
Baby Bjorn One is a major redesign of their original carrier, first released in 1971. Taking on-board feedback that earlier designs did not meet the International Hip Dysplasia guidelines, this carrier is very different to previous models. So, has the redesign addressed these concerns completely? Not quite.
With regard to meeting the International Hip Dysplasia (IHDI) guidelines, only two of the five Baby Bjorn suggested positions provide:
- A wide base of support under their thighs, ideally from knee to knee
- Their legs in a supported squat position with their knees slightly higher than their hips
- Their hips at 100 – 120° inflection and 45° abduction
Unfortunately, this includes the suggested positions for infants 0-4 months:
IHDI states: “The risk of hip dysplasia or dislocation is greatest in the first few months of life. By six months of age, most babies have nearly doubled in size, the hips are more developed and the ligaments are stronger, so are less susceptible to developing hip dysplasia”
ALWAYS Try Before You Buy!
With many carriers only available online and those in-store not always available to try on, it can be hard to work out which will fit you and your baby best. That’s where your local babywearing group can help. Most have a library of carriers you can try at “sling meets” and some have a lending library available too. You can talk to other parents about what they like about their carriers. They can usually help you learn how to use what you buy as well as offer tricks and tips – like using a clip-on mirror so you can keep an eye on the toddler on your back!!
- In Australia: BWBSS Aussie Babywearing Support
- In the US: Babywearing International
- In the UK: Babywearing UK
Also, be sure to check out our article about safe babywearing: 4 Babywearing Safety Recommendations.
The products in this article were personally tested by the author. Carriers submitted for review were later donated to a local babywearing group.