Baby carriers, wraps and slings: Which type is best for babywearing?

Tips for deciding which baby carrier, wrap or sling to use

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Most parents will tell you that babywearing is a great way to keep your hands free when you’ve got a child that wants to be held. You can comfort your little one, soothe them to sleep and still have 2 hands to get things done. 

It can also make for easier outings, not having to lug the pram in and out of the car or through busy shops or on public transport.

So, you’re sold on the idea? But knowing which carrier to get can be a little trickier…

Like so many things to do with parenting, it will really come down to personal preference – both yours and your baby’s. 

Some babies love carriers and will want to be in them constantly – whereas other babies will hate them and not want to be in them at all. Some may hate one type but love another. And some parents can be just as passionate about the ones they love and hate too.

So this can make buying a carrier before you have your baby difficult. Here are some tips and things to consider when deciding which baby carrier, wrap or sling to use.

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1. Try before you buy

If possible, borrow different ones from friends and try them out on your little one. Once you’ve found one they love you can then purchase one for yourself (unless you can keep borrowing it, that is).

If you don’t have one you can borrow, try them on in-store or opt for one with a good returns policy just in case your baby hates it. 

2. Knowing the different types

So there are 3 main types of babywearing options:

Carrier

A padded, structured carrier that is worn on the body and shoulders. These typically allow your newborn to snuggle into you facing inwards before progressing to an outward-facing position as they grow.

Sling

A cocoon or strip of fabric offering both face-in and face-out positions as well as a “peapod” position. 

Wrap

A long strip of cloth wrapped and tied around the torso and shoulders. These can often be difficult to master but can be comfortable for both parent and baby as well as providing good support.

3. Safety

When it comes to any form of babywearing, safety is paramount. There are no Australian safety standards for baby carriers or slings however The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission provides safety advice when shopping for baby carriers and slings.

The TICKS checklist is a great guide too:

T — Tight: Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you.
I  — In view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down.
C — Close enough to kiss: By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head.
K — Keep chin off the chest: A baby should never be curled so that their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing.
S — Supported back: The baby’s back should be supported in a natural position so their tummy and chest are against you.

4. Comfort

As well as making sure your baby is safe and comfortable, you also want to make sure that you are comfortable too. Make sure the straps are broad, padded and adjustable. If opting for a sling or wrap they should be tied so that they are comfortable with weight evenly distributed across shoulders and waist.

The fabric should also be breathable to keep your baby from overheating in warmer weather.

5. Hip dysplasia

Ensuring your baby’s legs and hips are in the correct position for their age is important when babywearing to prevent conditions such as hip dysplasia. Some carriers may come with a newborn insert to ensure their position and posture is correct. If you are unsure you should speak with your doctor or physio about the best carrier for your baby. 

6. Age and weight restrictions

If you hope to continue wearing your baby beyond the first few months, you might want to consider investing in a carrier or sling that can accommodate more weight. Some will go up to 20kgs and will also convert to the back as the child grows.

7. Practice using it

Before the baby arrives, or when the baby is sleeping, get familiar with your carrier, some of them can be trickier than others and you may need to watch video tutorials. The more familiar you are with it the easier it will be when you’re trying to get your baby into it – especially if they are crying and unsettled.

Once you find the carrier that works for you (and you master getting it on) babywearing can be a serious game-changer. Your baby will love being close to you and you will love being able to have a little extra freedom – and two free hands!

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