One of the most common questions we hear from parents is “what are the best baby carriers?”

The best baby carriers are

  • ones that are designed to keep your child safe
  • ones that keep your child comfortable
  • that work for you and your family
  • ones that you find easy to use

So that means there is no one perfect answer.

A better question might be “how do we know which baby carrier is the right one for us?” Many people will have friends who swear by brand X, or loved brand Y. Some will have adored soft stretchy wraps, others will have preferred buckles. Many may have used more than one!

Websites will often list the features of a particular carrier and this can feel very reassuring. This brand will do this and it will do that, and it will also jump up and down! This one has a pocket, these straps work in umpteen ways, that one has a thick waistband, that one looks softer. This can be overwhelming and it can be tempting to just pick the one that seems to offer the most.

Why is it worth doing some exploring first?

You’ll often hear sling professionals saying “it’s like choosing a pair of jeans, or a pair of shoes.” Sometimes you get lucky, but more often than not, you end up wishing you had tried first!

What fits and works for one person’s shape and size and flexibility may not work for another. As a carrier needs to mould around a parent and child and keep them together, the fit is important. A poorly fitting carrier that you find difficult to adjust is not the right fit for you all, and may mean a baby is not carried in a way that keeps their airways open. A carrier that is too big or small for your child will not support them well and will likely not be comfortable for them.

It really helps to have some in person guidance and a chance to try things out to see what suits you before you make a decision.

This is where sling libraries come in useful. Here at Sling Spot we have the Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library right next door; all are staff are experienced at helping families try things out. We choose our shop stock based on what our library visitors have used and loved! You can find your local library on Sling Pages.

When we help a new family we will often ask a few questions, such as

How old is your baby/child?

A newborn has different needs from an older baby and needs greater care with airway protection. You may opt to use a soft  cuddly wraparound carrier for the early months and move onto something else when baby grows, or you may opt for one carrier you can use from birth to toddlerhood. Read our guide to newborn baby carriers here. 

How many children do you have? 

Twins or triplets may need extra support (and there are twin carriers out there!) and it’s not hard to learn how to carry a baby and a toddler together, with the right combination. Perhaps each parent wants a carrier for each child for family walks and each parent has a different comfort need?

How long would you like to be able to use your carrier? 

Some families may wish to carry preschoolers from time to time, some families may have children with special needs. Some only anticipate using the sling in the first year.

Who will be using it the majority of the time?

We usually suggest the chosen carrier needs to work best for the parent/carer who will be doing most of the babywearing!

Where do you imagine using your carrier most?

For example, if you have a dog and need to do the school run in the wind and the rain, you might find a buckle carrier a simpler solution for that need. If you expect to be doing long walks or wish to feed in the carrier, this will affect your choice.

Do you have any back or other pains that might affect your mobility?

This is important, as a carrier that doesn’t fit well may exacerbate issues and cause some discomfort as the weight is not properly distributed. Some carrier straps may need a little dexterity to reach, and painful wrists may find clips or knots harder work. Some carriers focus on broad weight distribution (such as wide straps, or sturdy padding, or a very snug fit) to keep you carrying for longer, and different bodies will find that different options work best. Many parents with back pain find woven wraps offer the greatest comfort and control. It may take a few tries to find a carrier that works well.

What next?

Once these questions have been explored, we’ll often ask if you’ve seen any carriers around that you like the look of or are unsure about. This will help us to assess your worries (for example, if someone loves the idea of a cuddly, sleepy carrier but a stretchy wrap feels too much, we can suggest the Close Caboo) and know what sort of direction to go in.

Try a few options, practice with the demo dolls (most libraries will have several!) and see which carriers feel good and are easy to use. There may be a knack to learn; but it won’t be harder than learning to tie shoelaces and we are here to help you work it out. In person help is so valuable, images and videos are no substitute for having a go in person!

Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong the first few times, you are learning something new (and it is good practice for when your own children get things wrong!)

Most libraries will allow you to rent the carrier you like best to try at home; take the chance if you can. This will help you build confidence or tease out any issues you can discuss on your next visit, so the next thing you try may feel even better!

This is our guide to popular newborn carrier options

These are our most popular buckle carriers

Our top picks for easy-to-use ring slings