When your baby is first born, the world can be an overwhelming place full of unfamiliar noises, smells and sights.
You are the one constant in your newborn’s life and the sound of your heartbeat will remind them of when they were tucked up safely in the womb.
For this reason, you will probably notice that your newborn wants to be held all the time and settles best when they are snuggled up close. Using a sling or baby carrier will allow you to keep your baby calm and comfortable, while still having your hands free to do other things.
The motion of being carried in a sling will often settle a baby and the rocking movement of your walking may well lull them into a deep sleep. You can wear your baby in a sling or carrier both indoors and outdoors and they are a great alternative to using a pram or pushchair.
What are the different types of baby slings?
There are lots of different choices when it comes to slings and baby carriers.
One of the most popular choices for newborns is the stretchy wrap, which is literally a long length of stretchy fabric, which you wrap and tie around yourself and your baby.
Stretchy wraps are very soft and supportive and hold the baby in a comfortable position close to you. Using a wrap can take a bit of practice but usually parents find it simple once they have got the hang of it. You can pre-tie your wrap before adding your baby and then simply adjust the fit.
There are also more structured baby carriers which are fastened using buckles. These typically are designed for baby’s who have some head control, although there are some options which are suitable from birth. It
As well as wraps and buckled carriers, there are other options which are a mix of the two. If you’re not sure where to start, a good option would be to see if there is a sling library in your area.
Sling libraries are usually run by babywearing consultants who can give you expert advice and answer all your questions. You will be able to try out some different types of slings and you can hire ones you like so you can work out which option works best for you and your baby.
What should I look for in a sling or baby carrier?
Age and weight
Check the age suitability and weight range of a carrier before you use it. Does your baby need to be able to control their own head reliably to use it safely or can it be used with a newborn?
If the carrier is advertised as being suitable from birth, check whether you need any additional inserts or it can be used on its own. Look at what the maximum age and weight it can be used safely is and think about whether it will suit your needs.
The slings and carriers in this article are designed for babies but you can still carry your child when they are a toddler. Some carriers can still be used with older children, while others will need to be replaced with another aimed specifically at toddlers or preschoolers.
One important thing to think about is how portable the carrier is. Some cloth ones will fold down easily and can be popped into your nappy bag so you will have it if you need it. However, some structured carriers, particularly the rucksack styles which tend to be aimed at older babies and toddlers, can be quite heavy and bulky.
Check what the material is made from. Is it soft and lightweight or warm and durable? Could you use the sling in warm weather or would it be too hot for both you and baby?
If you and your partner are both planning to use the sling or baby carrier, check that the size would work for both of you and that it can easily be adjusted.
There are a number of different positions you can use to carry your baby, including inward-facing, forward-facing, on the hip and on your back so look at what is possible with a sling or carrier before you buy.
To help you choose which baby carrier or sling is right for you, we’ve selected some of our favourites, which are all suitable for infants under one.
Shop the best baby carriers and slings below
Made from 100 per cent cotton, this adjustable baby carrier is extremely versatile and can be used to carry your little one in a number of different positions. This is a good choice if you’re keen to be able to carry your baby forward-facing so they can see the world but still get the ergonomic support they need.
The price point for the Tula Explore is quite high but can be seen as an investment purchase as it can be used all the way from birth (so long as your baby weighs at least 3.2kg or 7lbs) until they are a toddler weighing in at 20.4kg or 45lb. You won’t need to shell out for an extra newborn insert either.
There are a nice variety of patterns and colours available so you can find one which suits your sense of style and the padded shoulder straps make it more comfortable to wear. There’s also a wide padded waistband which is useful for evenly distributing your baby’s weight, making them easier to carry for longer periods of time.
Buy now £180.22, Amazon
Close Caboo Lite
The Caboo lite is designed to be an easy-to-use and budget-friendly carrier for newborns. A lighter, more streamlined and cheaper version of Close’s classic Caboo carrier, it can be used right from birth even if your baby is a little on the small side. It has been safety-tested for use from 5lbs and it pops over the parent’s head like a t-shirt. This means it is simple to get to grips with as there are no buckles to do up and you don’t need to learn how to tie a wrap.
There is only a single sizing option, which is described as ‘one size fits most’ rather than all, which is worth bearing in mind if you are much larger than average. The fit can be adjusted though by pulling fabric through a set of rings, which is useful if it is being used by both parents. Although aimed at newborn and young babies, it is possible to use it for older ones too and there are different carrying positions you can try, including a hip position.
Buy now £58.79, Amazon
Lifft Stretchy Wrap
Manufactured in Yorkshire, this stretchy wrap sling is made with a two-way stretch cotton so it is snug and supportive and feels super soft and comfy. Suitable to be used right from birth, this is a great first sling, although you may have to practice a few times to build your confidence in wrapping. The Lifft Stretchy Wraps come in two different sizes – the 500cm option which will fit everyone and the shorter 410cm, which is great for more petite parents who don’t want a lot of fabric left over once they have tied their sling. The short size is ideal for people who are a UK size 12 or smaller.
The stretchy wrap will keep your newborn baby close and in a natural and safe ergonomic position. It can be used up to 15kg and 33lb and the material will evenly distribute your little one’s weight, making them easier to carry. Made from 94 per cent cotton and six per cent elastane, it is easy to pop in the washing machine when it gets dirty – a must with sicky and snotty newborns – and folds down small enough to keep in your changing bag for when you might need it. At less than £40, it is also one of the most affordable options on our list.
Buy now £39.95, Amazon
Hana Bamboo Wraps
Made from a soft bamboo and cotton blend, these stretchy wraps are lighter and cooler than those made from cotton alone, making it a great choice during warmer weather. Hana make wraps in a choice of two different materials – the organic version is made from a higher percentage of bamboo viscose (68%) with less organic cotton and elastane, while the Oeko Tex standard type is made from 48 per cent bamboo viscose, 48 per cent cotton and four per cent elastane. Both blends feel very soft to the touch and include plenty of stretch for getting a snug fit around your little one.
The wrap is suitable for newborns, although you will probably want to switch to something firmer – whether that is a woven wrap or a structured carrier – when your baby gets older. It is designed to carry infants weighing between 2.8kg (6lb) to 9kg (20lb) so is best for those first few months often referred to as the fourth trimester where babies want to be held close in an environment which mimics the womb.
Buy now £29.00, Amazon
The Zensling is made from soft, comfy fabrics and the straps are simple to put on and adjust, making it an easy sling to master for first time babywearers. It is recommended for babies weighing between 3kg and 20kg so could potentially last you from birth to walking, depending on the size of your child.
With the Zensling, there are two carrying options – the front carry, where baby is carried facing your chest, and the back carry, where your little one is on your back facing the same direction as you. Be aware though that back carries are not recommended until your baby is at least six months old. One great feature of the Zensling is the integrated hood, which can be used to support your baby’s head when they are sleeping. The carrier feels comfortable for both parent and baby and is made from cotton and lycra blend. The shoulder straps are padded so they won’t dig into your skin and the whole carrier is lightweight enough to squeeze into your baby changing bag.
Buy now £110.00, Mamaruga
Ergobaby Omni Dream
The Omni Dream from Ergobaby is a great all-rounder. Made entirely from brushed cotton, it feels really soft to the touch and even has a little pillow attached to offer your baby head and neck support. Like the Tula Explore, it provides a choice of carrying positions, including world-facing and on the hip, as well as the more standard inward-facing and back carry options.
The Omni Dream includes quite a few extras, although this may make it seem a little fiddly if you are a first-timer. There’s a hood, which Ergobaby claims can also act as a privacy shield if you’re breastfeeding your baby in the carrier, side pockets and even a removable storage pouch to keep your bits and pieces. You can also buy teething pads and drool bibs to add to the carrier if you want to protect it when your little one’s first teeth are starting to come in. Designed to be used from birth to toddler, the carrier can be adjusted as your child grows and comes with a lifetime warranty, meaning it will be replaced if there is a manufacturing or material defect.
Buy now £174.90, John Lewis
Rose and Rebellion baby carrier
This British brand makes handmade carriers for parents who don’t want to blend into the background. The brainchild of a mum who loved design and a dad who found most baby slings strained his back, the first carrier was intended to be a one-off for personal use before growing into a small, ethical business. There’s a wide range of designs which are edgier than your usual baby products, including patterns featuring guitars, skulls and animal prints. At less than £80, the Rose and Rebellion offers good value for money for a structured baby carrier.
It is designed to be used from six weeks to around a year but there are larger options available so you can keep carrying your child comfortably once they are a toddler. Using an ergonomic design, the carrier spreads the weight of your baby evenly, supporting their thighs and keeping them in a healthy upright position. The shoulder straps and waistband are padded for comfort and support and the buckles are heavy-duty and simple to use.
Buy now £79.99, Rose and Rebellion
Sleepy Nico Baby Carrier
These British-made baby carriers come in almost any design you can dream up. As well as having an impressive range of bold and beautiful patterns on their website, as well as pared-back options for those with more conservative tastes, there is even the option of having a bespoke design custom made for you as well.
The Sleepy Nico baby carrier fastens using buckles and is designed to be used from the point when your little one has good head control, which is usually around three or four months, up to the age of two. There is then a larger toddler size if you want to still continue carrying past that point. The material is padded enough to feel comfortable and supportive but soft and unstructured enough that it will mould to your body shape, unlike some firmer baby carriers. One nice touch is that you can also buy matching suck pads (sold separately) to protect your sling’s straps and give your little one something soft to nibble on when they are teething. Suitable for both front and back carries, the brand was founded by two busy mothers with an eye for fashion.
Buy now £95.00, Sleepy Nico
Wearing a sling or baby carrier can be warm work in the summer and the Integra Solar is a buckled baby carrier specifically designed for hot weather. Perfect for high temperatures and holidays, it is also versatile enough that it could be used as your main baby carrier all year round. Made from a breathable and sun-protective fabric, which blocks out up to 99 per cent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, it wicks moisture away from your skin.
The solar fabric feels similar to cotton but is very strong and waterproof as well so it can be used in the shower, when it’s wet outside and at the beach. However, the manufacturers stress that it is never safe to swim with a baby in a sling. There is also a large built-in hood which fastens to the shoulder straps and can be used to provide your little one with shade and also support their head while they sleep.
Buy now £85.00, Integra Baby
AmaWrap Baby Sling Wrap
Made from all natural cotton, this soft wrap sling is lightweight, breathable and supportive. It can be used from babies weighing 5lb and over, making it a great newborn option and you can carry on using it for little ones up to 33lb. Certified as hip healthy, the wrap comes in a single size but you’ll have to learn how to tie the wrap to get your little one in the right position.
The good news is that the wrap itself comes with a guide explaining the different positions you can carry in, including how you can safely breastfeed in the sling. The AmaWrap website also includes step by step guides and video tutorials to help you learn how to wrap and the company even has its own babywearing experts on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Buy now £44.99, Amawrap
Ergobaby Embrace Newborn Carrier
If you are looking for something soft and snug which is designed for newborns but the idea of wrapping your baby intimidates you, the Ergobaby Embrace offers a good balance between a structured buckled carrier and a stretchy wrap. Simple to use, you won’t have to tie any knots or learn any wrapping techniques. Stretchable cross straps go over your shoulders and back and clip into the carrier using buckled straps, which can be adjusted to fit.
Suitable for use from 3.2kg (7lb) up to 11.3kg (25lb), the Embrace aims to make it easy for you to keep your little one close from birth. There is a choice of two fabrics – soft air mesh, which is cool and breathable and the slightly cheaper soft and snug knit which is made from a warm double-knit jersey-type material. Compact enough to fold up and pop into your nappy bag, it is also machine washable.
Buy now £79.90, John Lewis
The Tula Explore is a fantastic all-rounder and one of the few options that can realistically be used right from birth up until your little one has reached the toddler stage. We loved the different colours and patterns this sling came in, making it easy for parents to choose a design which suits their personality and it can be used to carry your baby in multiple positions, making it one of the most flexible and versatile carriers on the market.