Baby Carriers vs. Wraps vs. Slings: An Easy yet Expert Guide

Babywearing not only fosters those important early bonds, it can also make life a lot easier for parents. It allows you to free up your hands, so baby is protected and feels close to you while you go about your day to day.

But wait…

There are a lot of different babywearing options available to parents and caregivers, which may give you pause – it’s understandable. There’s a lot of info to take in.

To help you with your deep dive, we’ve compiled this expert – yet super easy to understand – guide to babywearing options. In a few moments, you’ll have a better idea of the choice that’s best for your baby and your lifestyle.

Side by Side Comparison

 CarrierWrapRing sling
Safety:
How secure is this carrier?
5 (out of 5)44
Comfort:
Is it comfortable for wearer and baby?
444
Versatility:
Is it usable in many positions? Is it shareable?
554
Cost:
Is it budget friendly?
245
Ease of Use:
Is it simple to learn?
424
Washability:
Is it easy to wash and dry it?
355

Soft Structured Carriers

They’re some of the most popular carrier options on the market, and it’s near impossible to go out on the town without spotting a baby or toddler happily bouncing along in one of these sturdy picks. They function just as their name suggests, with a soft structure that allows the carrier to protect baby while remaining comfortable for the wearer. No tying or preparing is required with this pick, which fastens with buckles around the wearer’s waist and back.

Soft-structured carriers are, as we established, very common. The market is flooded with picks, some of which are pricey. Beware of lower-end models from unknown brands, however – it’s essential that soft structured carriers be hip healthy for baby, meaning that baby is able to sit with their legs in a natural M formation. Carriers that don’t allow this are detrimental to your baby’s long term skeletal health, so it’s really not optional.

Carrying positions: Front-inward-facing, front-outward-facing, hip carry, back carry

Pros

  • Super easy to put on, and some models adjust easily to different sized wearers
  • Some have unique features like pockets and privacy panels that make life on the go easier for baby wearers
  • It’s a versatile pick, meaning it lets wearers safely carry baby in a number of different positions

Cons

  • Soft structured carriers are typically the most expensive baby wearing carrier, because they’re the most complex and featured
  • They’re bulkier than other baby wearing carriers, which means storing, washing and drying them can be a process
  • Not all of them are suitable for newborns without an infant insert, which is usually sold separately and can be costly

Wraps

Mothers throughout history have fashioned wraps to carry their babies, but updated versions of these clever cloth panels are a bit more glamorous. They’re generally soft and comfortable, and many picks are designed to be washable and forgiving of the inevitable mess that comes with babies and toddlers. The cut of the fabric is also specifically designed to make wrapping baby simple, and the Internet is absolutely loaded with fantastic tutorials that make it look like a breeze.

That said, there’s still a learning curve to wraps. Stretchy wraps can be good picks for new parents, as they’re comfortable and can be tied without baby for ease and safety. They’re much easier than woven wraps, but they’re also less safe and comfortable as baby ages. Woven wraps are slightly more difficult to learn, but once you master them, they’re very safe and comfortable and have great carrying versatility.

Carrying positions(woven wraps only): There are tons! Check some out here.

Pros

  • Stretchy wraps are easy to tie, budget friendly and an ideal pick for newborns
  • Woven wraps are lightweight and let wearers choose from a variety of safe, hip healthy carrying positions
  • It’s a less bulky carrier style, so it’s easy to stash in a diaper bag and requires less air drying time when washed

Cons

  • Stretchy wraps are only truly safe for newborn carrying, plus they can be uncomfortable as baby grows
  • Woven wraps are bought by size, so two very different sized parents would struggle to share one
  • Learning to wrap correctly and safely takes time and patience

Ring Slings

Fashionable and fun, ring slings operate on a similar premise to wraps, but they’re a bit easier to use. They make use of a sturdy, safe metal or wooden ring that makes tying the wrap for wear a bit easier. Like wraps, there’s lots of different styles, colors and fabrics available, some of which are designed to be both comfortable and washable.

Even though they’re a bit easier than traditional wraps, there’s a learning curve to ring slings. Like wraps, though, there are many tutorial videos available online that can make the process more comprehensible. Learning the right position is important for both safety and comfort reasons. It’s important to know that ring slings aren’t great if you have chronic back or shoulder pain, as this can make carrying uncomfortable and exacerbate the issue.

Carrying positions: front carry, hip carry, back carry


Pros

  • Works similarly to wraps, but are a bit easier to execute
  • Available in many styles and colors, but also fairly easy to make from scratch if you desire
  • Not a bulky pick, so it stores easily and air dries quickly(but make sure you keep it flat so it holds its shape).



Cons

  • They’re not a great pick if you have chronic back or shoulder pain
  • They’re generally sized, so sharing can be hard and unsafe
  • The position of the ring is key, because if it sits in the wrong place it will be uncomfortable for the wearer

Key Takeaways

Soft Structured Carriers

  • Offers safe, versatile carrying positions for baby
  • Fastens with buckles, adjusts for wearer
  • Good picks are pricier than wraps or ring slings
  • Bulkier and more difficult to wash than wraps or ring slings

Wraps

  • Available in a variety of colors and fabrics
  • Cheaper than soft structured carriers, but offer a similar versatility of carrying positions
  • More complex to learn than soft structured carriers or ring slings
  • Purchased by size, so sharing can be difficult

Ring Slings

  • Like wraps, available in a variety of colors and fabrics
  • Easier to put on than a wrap, though not quite as easy as a soft structured carrier
  • Offers three carrying positions, better for younger babies
  • Not suitable for wearers with chronic back or shoulder pain

There’s a lot to love about babywearing, and one of the big pros is the number of options available to wearers. Whether you love the breeziness of fabric wraps and slings or feel more comfortable with the security and features of a soft structured carrier, you and your baby can bond while you’re out there getting it done. Now that we’ve answered the big questions, you’re well on your way to making a great pick for you and your baby.

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