Friday, December 08, 2006

Types of slings and carriers

Wraparounds or wraps
A wraparound is a length of fabric tied around the parent and baby in many different ways – on the front, side, and back, with either one- or two- shouldered carries (the latter gives comfort for the adult’s shoulders and back through weight distribution and means they have both hands free). The baby can be positioned in an almost unlimited number of positions with plenty of support for their posture. They can be used to carry newborns to young children. Their use requires some practice, but makes up for it in versatility.

Woven (many tying options; stable for older children with back carries)
Rebozo (a short wrap)
Never Fail Back Wrap
Freedom Sling
EllaRoo Wrap

Stretchy (easy to get baby in and out; mainly used for front carries)
Moby Wrap

A sling goes over one shoulder and around the torso of the adult. It is usually tied with a couple of rings that allow the sling to be tightened or loosened and worn by different adults. Baby can be carried on the front, hip or back. Small babies can recline in the sling, whereas older babies and toddlers are often carried sitting upright on the hip. Slings are easy to get on and off and baby can change positions without getting him out. Parents can choose between padded or unpadded; which affects pressure, warmth, adjustability and bulk.

Maya wrap
Amaryllis Pocket Sling

EllaRoo Sling
Comfy Carry
Baba Sling

Like a sling but without a tie, ring or clip. The fabric is sewn together into a loop. Can be used for front, hip and back carries. They are usually lightweight and easy to get on and off. Most pouches are not adjustable which means that exact fit is important.

New Native Baby Carrier
Peanut Shell
Kangaroo Korner (adjustable)
The Slingset (multiple pouches)

Asian-style carriers
These are formed of a rectangle of fabric with straps that come from the corners. They are made of either two straps, developed from the Korean-inspired Podaegi, and the more commonly known four-strap carriers, which have developed from a Chinese-inspired Mei Tai, which means ’to carry the beautiful’. They vary in whether they can be worn on the front, hip and back, and whether they have padding on the straps. They are easy to get on and off.
Cwtshi Evo
Kozy Carrier
Ellaroo Mei Tai
Ellaroo Podaegi

Structured soft carriers
These generally use clips or Velcro for easy fastening. Some are designed just for the front, others for front and back, others for front, hip and back (thus for different age ranges). Some of them are extremely comfortable, most are easy to get on and off. A few of these types of carriers do not provide adequate support for a baby’s spine and place too much pressure on the baby’s pelvis, because the material under the crotch is too narrow, so the baby’s legs dangle down.

Structured soft carriers which do provide adequate support for spine and pelvis:
ERGO Baby Carrier

Backpack style carriers
These often have a metal frame, with the baby being held slightly away from the adult’s body.

Hip carriers
Ellaroo Mei Tai Hip Carrier
Hippychick Hipseat

Doll slings for children
Storchenweige, Didymos, Maya Wrap, TayorMade slings, New Native Baby Carrier, and Cwtshi.

What to consider when choosing a carrier

The age of your baby -

Newborns to pre-sitting infants – front carries using stretchy and woven wraps, slings, pouches, Asian-style carriers and some soft structured carriers. Back carries are possible too, as long as there is head support.

For 5 or 6 months onwards, back carries and hip carries using woven wraps, soft structured carriers, Asian-style carriers, and slings.

Do you want to choose between lots of different carrying positions? Then a woven wraparound has most choices, followed by an unpadded sling.

Consider the climate you live in - In hot summers, cotton, mesh, linen, and hemp feel cooler. For cold weather, woven wraps made in Europe are usually warmer. Or you may choose a carrier that fits under your coat or even buy a specially designed coat or poncho.

Comfort of baby and wearer - Consider whether you want padding, and whether your shoulders get tense (wraparounds and podaegis might be a choice here). Some people prefer two shouldered carriers and woven wraps for comfort and weight distribution. Wearing older babies on the back helps too.
Do you want to be able to breast-feed with it on? Many carriers enable you to do this, especially stretchy wraparounds and slings.

Is organic and fair-trade manufacture important to you? Look for organic carriers, fair-traded, with baby-friendly dyes. Remember that baby has the carrier against his skin and is likely to suck it at times.

Will you be carrying a baby or toddler whilst you are pregnant? Look for one that can be tied just around the shoulders, such as a woven wraparound for back carries.

Does it provide ergonomic support for the baby? Dr. Evelyn Kirkilionis has the following suggestions: The legs need to be supported at a 90 degree angle or more and straddled around the wearer’s body. She recommends avoiding carriers where the hips hang straight down. For back support, the carrier needs to be snug against the baby’s back and pull the baby close to the parent. Some slings and structured carriers do not have enough back support for younger babies. Head support and stabilisation is important for young babies and older babies when sleeping.

Some carrying tips
• practice first at home in front of a mirror (and keep practicing!)
• make sure the baby is held securely.
• for optimal support for baby and comfort for wearer, high up and firm holds are usually required. This creates optimum weight distribution.
• consider back carries for older and heavier babies.
• ensure baby has the option of protection from over-stimulation, particularly when they are younger (some specialists do not recommend frontward outward facing carries)


The Babywearer website - this site has everything you might want to know about carrying babies, from choosing a carrier, to reviews and sellers of hundreds of carriers, to detailed instructions on how to use them, how to make them, and several different forums to join.

For a fuller version of this article, including benefits and advantages of each type of carrier, descriptions of each brand of carrier and where to buy them, as well as a list of relevant websites including sites with research articles and help with tying, visit

With thanks to
Suzanne Shahar and
Bronwyn Nugent
Beate Frome

This article was first published in Kindred magazine Dec 2006 - Feb 2007


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