We pride ourselves in being unbiased gear experts. Learn more about how we research, expertly review and curate products here.
Once your little one enters the world, they’ll want to be close to you every second. After all, they’re used to the comfort of the womb and they may find the outside world intimidating (can you blame them?).
To keep your tiny human close and allow yourself the freedom to use both hands to do other things—like call mom to come over and help—you’ll need to invest in a babywearing product. It’s one of those must-have baby items we recommend.
There are several types of babywearing products on the market. Baby wraps, structured carriers and ring slings are all forms of babywearing, and they may look the same at first glance.
To avoid going down a rabbit hole at 2 AM, let us help you narrow it down. We dive into the difference between baby carriers vs. wraps vs. slings, cover the pros and cons of each and provide a few of our favorite picks to help you choose the best option for your little one.
Baby Wrap vs. Carrier vs. Sling: What’s The Difference?
There are three different types of carriers. While all three of these products serve a similar purpose—holding your little one close to your chest so you can be hands-free—the main difference lies in the structure.
- Wrap: A baby wrap is a long rectangular piece of fabric that wraps around you and ties in the back to hold baby close.
- Sling: Like a wrap, a sling is a piece of fabric that wraps around you. The main difference is that it is secured with a ring instead of tying it into a knot.
- Structure carrier: Instead of a loose piece of fabric, a structured carrier has buckles and clips that secure baby in.
Wondering which is right for you? We dive into each babywearing product below.
Baby wraps are long pieces of fabric (or sometimes loops of fabric) that are wrapped around your body tightly (also known as woven wraps). The purpose of a baby wrap is to hold baby on your chest facing inward or outward.
Because baby wraps are long pieces of fabric, they are stretchy and can be adjusted to fit any parent or caregiver and are generally one size fits all. Baby wraps are best for infants, however, they can accommodate children up to 35 pounds.
- Retail: $33-$65
- GoodBuy Gear: $13-$42
Baby Wrap Pros
- Enable you to snuggle your newborn tightly to your chest
- Come in a single size and is stretchy so it can fit a variety of body types
- Easy to clean, baby carriers can be tossed in the washing machine
- Easy to travel with. Simply roll up the fabric into a slim tube and stick the carrier in a diaper bag or stroller
- Can be used with newborn babies and accommodate toddlers up to about 35 pounds (around 3 years of age), although they are most comfortable with young babies
- Easy on your back, baby wraps help evenly distribute your baby’s weight so your back doesn’t get sore
- Easy on the wallet, baby wraps are less expensive than many baby carriers
Baby Wrap Cons
- Can get warm and be tough to wear in the summer
- Can be difficult to figure out at first. Be sure to practice a few times at home (and watch a few YouTube tutorials) before you try to wrap for the first time with a fussy baby
- Easier to wear with newborns and younger children. An older baby would probably feel more secure in a structured baby carrier
The Best Baby Wraps
Hand-picked by our team of gear experts and seasoned parents, here are some of the top baby wraps we recommend (aside from the Boba and Solly mentioned above):
- Baby K’Tan: You get to choose your size so you don’t have to walk around with tons of excess fabric. The logo in the front is really helpful when attempting to wrap solo. Keep in mind that if you choose your size you might be limited to you being the only person to use this wrap.
- Moby Wrap: Extremely versatile with just about every carry option you can imagine, along with options to use fabric as a blanket, cover-up and even pillow for a Mom-nap. Keep in mind that when you use in certain modes, you might end up with a lot of excess fabric. Sure it’s tuckable, but it can add additional heat.
Structured Baby Carriers
Structured baby carriers strap onto your body and hold your child. These straps are adjustable and clip together to secure baby in. Baby carriers can be worn on your front or your back and they are designed with older children in mind, though, they can hold your newborn with some adjustments.
Structured baby carriers are very safe and are easier on your back than other babywearing options. However, the biggest disadvantage of baby carriers is that they’re not adaptable to all body types, so test out a few before making a decision.
- Retail: $70-$199
- GoodBuy Gear: $20-$123
Baby Carrier Pros
- Easier to take on and off than wraps
- More comfortable for older children
- With padded shoulder straps and a wide waistband, most carriers evenly distribute your baby’s weight across your body so you don’t end up with an aching back
- Come in more color, size and style varieties than other babywearing options
- Some carriers have breathable mesh to keep you and your little one cool
- Most come with a pocket so you can stash your wallet and keys inside
- Most baby carriers are machine washable
- Many carriers come with privacy hoods so your baby can sleep or nurse privately while strapped to you
Baby Carrier Cons
- They are bigger and bulkier than baby wraps, making them harder to fit in a suitcase or diaper bag
- Unlike baby wraps, carriers are not adaptable to all body types. If you’re especially tall or short you may find some baby carriers uncomfortable to wear
- They are more expensive than other forms of babywearing
- Some baby carriers require a special insert if you want to carry a newborn in the carrier. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s guide
The Best Baby Carriers
While structured carriers are a more expensive babywearing option, you can find a lot of great options that are open box and discounted. Here are some of the carriers we recommend:
- ErgoBaby: Known for its ergonomic design and versatile 4-way carry options: front inward, front-outward, back and hip carry. We love the hip carry option for the extra support with less strain on our back.
- Tula: Bold prints and soft goods are a plus. We love the wide, soft waistband which is supportive without feeling restrictive. Some Tula carriers allow you to carry baby up to 65lbs—an awesome feature for longevity.
Like a wrap, a ring sling is made of a soft fabric that you wrap around your body. The main difference is that this fabric is secured with a set of rings. Ring slings are more breathable than other forms of babywearing options and offer the option to hold baby on your hip.
Ring slings can fit your newborn snuggly and are designed for children up to 33 lbs. However, the weight does not distribute evenly and you will feel it all on your shoulder. If you have a heavy toddler or active child, you may want to choose a more secure option.
- Retail: $60-$179
- GoodBuy Gear: $40-$97
Baby Sling Pros
- Easier to put on than wraps
- More affordable than structured carriers
- Not as hot as wraps and structured carriers
- Can be worn on your chest, hip or back
Baby Sling Cons
- While easier to figure out than a wrap, there is a bit of a learning curve. We recommend figuring out how to use the wrap before you use it for the first time with your little one
- Some say that the rings can irritate your skin if positioned in a weird area
- The weight is not evenly distributed, leaving pressure on your shoulder
The Best Baby Slings
Ready to make a purchase? Our team rounded up our favorite ring slings to hold baby in tight.
- Tula: They make an easy, lightweight, packable sling that is easy to operate and carry around on the fly. We love this for quick runs or as an item tucked in your diaper bag for those times you think you are “running in/out”, but it ends up being a marathon. Keep in mind it’s an additional splurge, but one that you will be so thankful you did.
- Baby K’Tan: It’s a wrap and an awesome sling. Easy to adjust, intuitive and extremely versatile.
Should You Choose a Baby Wrap, Carrier or Sling?
When it comes to choosing between a structured carrier, wrap or sling, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Lifestyle: How often do you plan to use it? If you plan to use yours every day for trips around the block or to the store, consider investing in a carrier. These are more sturdy and will last you a lot longer. However, if you’ll just be using your carrier at home or plan to travel long distances with it, a wrap or sling will fit better in a suitcase and will be more comfortable at home.
- Age of children: Most carriers will be suitable for your baby. However, a structured carrier is better for older children and will grow with them until their toddler years (or until they reach the maximum weight limit). If you’ll just be using a carrier for your newborn, a wrap or sling might be a better choice.
- Body type: If you deal with any sort of back or shoulder pain, you should consider a structured carrier. These are the best at distributing baby’s weight evenly. However, the structured carrier does not fit as many body types, so check the size guidelines before purchasing.
- Price point: As mentioned, a structured carrier is more expensive than a carrier or sling. If this is out of your budget and you don’t see yourself using it too much, go for a more affordable option.
Regardless of your budget, you can find high-quality structured carriers, wraps and ring slings at GoodBuy Gear. We only sell top-quality baby and kid items, so you can parent the way you want to parent—without sacrificing your savings.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the number of baby items out there, check out our curated list of the top baby items you actually need.