baby carrier, wrap and sling product shot; Courtesy Amazon
Infants: 0-2 • Little Kids: 3-6

Baby Sling vs. Baby Carrier vs. Baby Wrap: What’s the Difference?

Terry Ward is based in Florida and has worked as a freelance travel writer since 2000, writing for such publications as CNN, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, The Washington Post and Scuba Diving Magazine, among many others. She lives in Tampa with her two young children and husband and has traveled with them to the Arctic, Cuba, Morocco and elsewhere. Her favorite family travel destinations are Norway and Florida. See more of her work at terry-ward.com

See recent posts by Terry Ward

Wraps, carriers and slings, oh my! For baby-wearing parents, the hard part isn’t deciding whether or not to carry your baby around on your body—of course you want that instant snuggle effect!—it’s what contraption to employ to make the ride easiest on both of you. Read on as we break down the important things to know in the opinionated baby wrap, baby carrier and baby sling debate.

baby sling product vs baby wrap product; Courtesy Amazon

What’s the difference between a baby sling and a baby wrap?

Both baby slings and baby wraps are made from a single piece of fabric you wear on your body, and are generally made to carry babies from the newborn phase. They’re typically one size fits all.

Baby slings are the more basic of the two since they’re generally made to be worn only one way—over one of your shoulders and across your torso, making a pouch of sorts to cradle the baby close to your body in a position that naturally supports his or her neck. We like ring sling carriers best, since they make it easy to adjust for a just-right fit by sliding the ring (attached to one end of the fabric) through the other end of the fabric to tighten your baby in the right position.

Baby wraps—also a single, long swath of fabric—are slightly more complicated since there are different ways to wrap them onto your body to carry your baby in multiple positions. While slings work best for newborns in the cradle position, wraps grow with your child (up to about 35 pounds) since you have options for distributing the child’s weight so that you, the carrier, are most comfortable. Wraps also allow you to wear your baby inward and outward facing and are also typically worn over both shoulders and tied to your waist or on the side, which helps them distribute weight more evenly than a sling can.

Best Baby Slings

Nalakai Ring Sling ; Courtesy Amazon

Nalakai Ring Sling 

Nalakai makes a popular ring sling made from a super soft blend of bamboo and linen designed to be light enough to keep both you and baby from overheating. It doubles as a breastfeeding cover, too.

Maya Ring Sling ; Courtesy Amazon

Maya Ring Sling 

The Maya ring sling is another crowd favorite, thanks to its lightly padded shoulder that helps keep the fabric spread out at the proper width across your back.

Sakura Ring Sling ; Courtesy Sakura

Sakura Ring Sling 

To go a notch more luxe (not to mention, more expensive), the Sakura ring sling, made from silk, could almost be used as a fashion accessory once it runs its baby-wearing course.

Best Baby Wraps

Moby; Courtesy Amazon

Moby

For a classic baby wrap made of soft, stretchable, 100-percent cotton, turn to Moby, which is 18 feet long and designed to grow with your baby.

Boba wrap; Courtesy Amazon

Boba

Made of French terry, the Boba wrap, with 5-percent spandex in the cotton mix, is another crowd-pleaser that does the same work as the Moby and comes in some beautiful patterns and solids that make it hard to settle on just one.

Acrabros Baby Wrap ; Courtesy Amazon

Acrabros Baby Wrap 

You can save money on a baby wrap if you choose one in a rayon and polyester blend, like the Acrabros Baby Wrap, which has just the right amount of give thanks to the fabric’s natural stretch. It’s lauded by parents for its soft-to-the-touch feel.

What type of baby carrier is best?   

One thing all baby carriers have in common is that they have a more structured design and defined carrying pouch, compared to wraps and slings. But a quick online search will show you that the debate about which baby carrier is best is a popular topic everywhere from moms’ groups to product bulletin boards. Many people end up trying a few before settling on the carrier they like best (use a friend’s for a test run before pressing purchase, if possible). In the end, the baby carrier that’s most comfortable on you and for your baby is the best one.

Best Baby Carriers

Ergobaby 360 All-Position Baby Carrier; Courtesy Amazon

Ergobaby 360 All-Position Baby Carrier

Ergobaby 360 All-Position Baby Carrier is the one that originally set the standard for baby carriers and has received all sorts of awards for its design that lets you carry the baby front forward-facing, front outward-facing, on your hip and on your back. Padded shoulder straps, an ergonomic seat for your baby and an adjustable head support that can be made larger when they loll their head back to sleep are among the perks we love.

LÍLLÉbaby COMPLETE All Seasons Baby Carrier ; Courtesy Amazon

LLÉbaby COMPLETE All Seasons Baby Carrier 

For even more positions for wearing your baby—a whopping six in total—the LLÉbaby COMPLETE All Seasons Baby Carrier adds toddler and fetal-style configurations to the carrier’s baby wearing options. The seat of this carrier is also wider than most others, which helps to further distribute the baby’s weight. Parents rave about the lumbar and shoulder support this carrier provides, too. And the carrier can be unzipped on the outside for ease of getting baby out while keeping yourself strapped in.

Baby K’tan; Courtesy Amazon

Baby K’tan

One of the best baby carriers for dads and moms alike, the Baby K’tan goes on over your head, T-shirt style, and evenly distributes baby’s weight the way a more structured carrier does. If you’re looking for something that feels like a wrap, but doesn’t require you to actually wrap anything, the Baby K’tan is ideal.

Osprey Packs Poco AG Plus Child Carrier; Courtesy Amazon

Osprey Packs Poco AG Plus Child Carrier

If you’re planning on hitting the hiking trails with your baby once they get past the newborn phase, then an aluminum-framed backpack style carrier is where it’s at. Osprey Packs Poco AG Plus Child Carrier has a fully framed and padded cockpit for your kid and you can even set the pack on the ground and rest assured it stands on its own, thanks to stabilizing bars. The AG in the name stands for anti gravity, and you’ll be impressed by the light-on-your-feet feel, even with a not-so-tiny passenger pushing the max load of 48.5 pounds.

baby wrap vs baby carrier; Courtesy Amazon

Are baby wraps better than baby carriers?

People to tend to choose one over the other when it comes to the debate over wraps or carriers, so it’s hard to say if one is better than the other. Once you’ve mastered the art of putting on a baby wrap, it might be a more comfortable fit than a baby carrier for you and your baby, since it conforms perfectly to your body, almost like it’s painted on. That said, you’re never going to get the lumbar and shoulder support from a wrap that a carrier, with its additional bells and whistles, can provide. Think about when and for how long at a time you plan to carry your baby and how much structured support you need. This might help you decide whether a wrap or a carrier will work best for you. Sometimes, having one of each might be the best answer, since wraps pack down lighter and flatter in a suitcase for travel.

How long can you carry a baby in a carrier?

Baby carriers vary when it comes to their recommended maximum load weights. In general, most dictate a maximum weight somewhere between 35 and 50 pounds. But remember, even if a carrier is designed to carry a heavier baby, that doesn’t mean that the person wearing it will be up to the challenge. The Ergobaby 360 All-Position Baby Carrier has a weight limit of 45 pounds, while the Baby K’tan recommends not exceeding 35 pounds. Backpack-style carriers made for hiking usually push past the 45 pound mark a smidge. But again—and not unlike the quandary of whether or not to have another kid—it all comes down to how much weight you’re willing to shoulder.

Related: Best Baby Socks (That Actually Stay On)

Longtime travel writer and adventurer Terry Ward lives in Florida with her husband and young son and daughter. She’s constantly on the lookout for the next Scandinavia Airlines Kids Fly Free deal to save money on flights to Norway, her favorite place to visit both in the winter (Northern Lights!) and summer (Midnight Sun!). A travel writer since 2001 (read: long before the kids came along), she’s written for such publications as Endless Vacation Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler and Scuba Diving Magazine, among many others. Find Terry on her website, Terry-Ward.com.

What to Pack for Your Next Trip

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.

×