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Couple with a baby in a carrier

You’ve decided that using a sling, wrap or carrier is for you. But when it comes to design, where do you start? Here are the choices

As with many baby-related products, a huge range of slings, wraps or carriers are available. So here's some information to help you choose which type might suit you and your baby.

Whichever sling, wrap or carrier you choose, make sure you check the manufacturer's instructions before you use it. Many manufacturers also offer demonstration videos on their websites.

Types of baby slings, wraps or carriers

Baby wraps

These are long pieces of fabric that wrap around you and your baby. You can choose from stretchy or woven varieties.

This type can be super-comfy. The fabric can spread across your whole back without digging in. This makes sure you use your back and shoulder muscles equally.

Although you must check that the wrap is correctly tied each time, it can be left tied on when your baby has been taken out, which saves some precious minutes.

Woven wraps can be used from birth to toddlerhood and beyond, and worn in lots of different ways. Stretchy wraps, on the other-hand, might not be supportive enough for larger babies or those over six months old.

One problem is that they can get sweaty. Stretchy wraps might get hot in warmer weather, as you need a few layers wrapped around to give baby enough support.

Learning how to tie the knots for woven wraps or use these wraps at all can be more challenging than using some other types of carrier.

Meh dais, mei tai or bei dai

They might sound like a type of cocktail but they are in fact based on carriers that originated in China (Knowles, no date). They are made of what is usually a square or rectangle of fabric with four straps. One set of straps is tied around the wearer’s waist and the other over their shoulders, or sometimes all are tied together. The fabric forms a pocket for the baby.

You have options as they can be worn on the front, hip and back, depending on your baby’s age, weight and size.

The straps spread the weight over your shoulders and hips through the straps. This means they can be comfortable even when you’re carrying older babies and toddlers.

Soft structured carriers (SSCs)

These are a cross between meh dais and a backpacker’s rucksack. They have a structured waist and padded shoulder straps that can fasten with buckles or straps.

Many of them are good for beginners, as most are easy to use.

The upper weight limit in the manufacturer’s instructions might allow you to carry more weight and therefore an older child. This can come in handy if you need to carry your little one when they’re tired at the end of a long walk.

Ring slings and pouches

Ring slings and pouches are worn over one shoulder. Ring slings are pieces of cloth with two rings sewn at one end. The free end is looped through the rings, forming a pouch for the baby, with the tail of the fabric hanging down.

Pouches are made of one folded length of material that forms a pocket for the baby. Both types are worn over the body like a sash but this style means the weight of your baby might not be spread evenly.

Do not use bag-style slings

Absolutely avoid bag-style slings. They are unsafe as they put babies into a dangerous position, lying down without support – bringing their chin to their chest, and they cover a baby’s face with fabric (ROSPA, 2022).

Sling libraries

If you’re staring at the list of options thinking you have no idea where to start, an NCT sling library is a good idea. Click on the following link to see whether you have a nearby NCT sling library.

Pop in and you can test a variety of slings and carriers. You can hire slings for a small charge and choose which one suits you best.

Non-NCT sling libraries may also offer a sling consultation service where you can take your own sling and ask for advice on how to use it. Just be aware that sling libraries and consultants do not have standardised accreditation and that their training will vary.

Baby carrier, wrap and sling safety

You’ll want to keep a few safety considerations in mind when choosing a sling. A good place to start is the manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll need to follow their advice for whether the size, weight and age of your baby is right for the sling. Before you use the sling or carrier, check for signs of wear and tear and don't use it if you have any concerns.

To understand how to use a sling safely, read more in our article Everything you need to know about slings and carriers.

Buying a safe baby carrier, wrap or sling

Consumer watchdogs in the UK have found that some cheaper online sling products fail safety standards. Some that are on sale have areas of weakness in the fabric, include suffocation risks, are missing instructions or did not adequately support a safe carrying position for a baby (Which, 2022). So be sure to check your product thoroughly and follow the TICKS guidance.  

If you’re buying second-hand, make sure the sling comes with instructions or they are available online to download.

This page was last reviewed in June 2022.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby courses helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

For more information on the slings available, find your nearest NCT sling library. Our sling libraries have a wide variety of slings and carriers to try and hire so you can find which one works best for you.

Knowles R. (no date) Meh dais, podaegis, onbuhimos. Available at: [Accessed 23rd June 22]

ROSPA. (2022) Baby slings. Available at: [Accessed 16th June 2022]

Which. (2022) Coming apart at the seams – 91% of cheap baby carriers and slings tested by Which? fail basic safety standards. Available at:… [Accessed 16th June 2022]

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