You’ve decided that using a sling or carrier is for you. But when it comes to design, where do you start? Here are the choices
Types of baby slings or carriers
For all slings or carriers, make sure you check the manufacturer's instructions. Many manufacturers also offer demonstration videos on their websites.
These slings 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 sling is correctly tied each time, it can be left tied on when 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 difficult than using some other types of carrier.
They might sound like a type of cocktail but they are in fact Asian-style baby carriers. 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. 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 but some can be complicated.
Always check the manufacturer’s instructions but the upper weight limit 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. They are worn over the body like a sash but this style means the weight of your baby might not be spread evenly.
Absolutely avoid bag-style slings. They are unsafe as they put babies into a dangerous position – bringing their chin to their chest – and cover a baby’s face with fabric. Both of which put babies at risk of suffocating (CPSC, 2010).
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. Visit the Sling Pages (the Yellow Pages of the sling world) to find a sling consultant or library near you.
Baby 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.
The UK Sling Consortium offer guidelines for safe use of slings and carriers. They recommend you go through a safety checklist called TICKS to keep your baby safe in their sling. The letters in the TICKS checklist stand for ‘Tight’, ‘In view at all times’, ‘Close enough to kiss’, ‘Keep chin off the chest’ and ‘Support back. Read more in our article Everything you need to know about slings and carriers.
We don’t yet know whether any particular positions or carriers are good or bad for your baby’s hips. Read more about hip dysplasia (hips growing abnormally)
This page was last reviewed in February 2018
Our helpline offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our Early Days groups 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.