The Ultimate Guide to Babywearing: Nurturing your Newborn

The Ultimate Guide to Babywearing: Nurturing your Newborn

There’s nothing better than newborn cuddles during the fourth trimester. My midwife was a big believer in new mums spending one week in bed, and then one week on the sofa. Take time for skin to skin snuggles with your gorgeous baby and give your amazing body a gentle recovery period. However, sometimes you do want to be able to get off the sofa and get moving - whether that’s getting a few things done around the house, or going out for a walk and some fresh air. Luckily, babywearing provides a great way to do this, and we’ve got the low down on the benefits of babywearing, safety concerns, and what to look for when choosing a baby carrier.


What are the benefits of babywearing?

Babywearing your newborn in a wrap or carrier means you can keep your baby safe, secure and comfortable while keeping your hands free for other tasks, like walking the dog, caring for older children, or eating all the biscuits. But babywearing has heaps of other benefits too, both for babies and parents.


To begin with, babies love to be held. After 9 months tucked in the warmth of your body, it’s only natural that most babies protest being put down once they’re born. You are your newborn baby’s entire world, which is why most fussy babies will settle once they’re held against an adult and swayed about a little. Wearing your newborn in a sling or carrier means you can achieve this state of calm effortlessly!


A study carried out in 1986 showed that carrying babies for 3 hours a day reduces crying and fussing by up to 51 percent during the evening hours, a time often referred to as ‘the witching hour’ by new parents, for good reason! This makes sense — holding your baby close to your chest means they can hear your heartbeat, a familiar and comforting sound that they’ve listened to for months before birth. Listening to your heartbeat this way even helps to regulate your baby’s heart rate, while the upright position involved in babywearing can aid digestion, lessen reflux, and improve core strength! Early studies have suggested that babies carried in face-to-face positions with caregivers may even have increased language and comprehension capabilities as they grow. Pretty cool, isn’t it?


The simple act of being held and carried can help strengthen the bond and connection babies feel with their caregiver, as well as helping them to feel comforted and secure at all times. This bond can also be intensified for parents who choose to babywear, with an increase in oxytocin (also known as the love hormone) production lowering the risk of postpartum depression, and an increase in breastfeeding rates for babywearing mothers. And of course, less crying and more calm snuggling is always going to be a bonus for the whole household.


Societal pressure to put babies down despite their protests and to encourage self-soothing are predominantly western in origin. Different cultures around the world have practised babywearing for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Even the use of prams is seen as strange in most eastern countries, where babies are predominantly carried in wraps. In fact, Wales, (the home of Grow Wild), has a long history of babywearing using the traditional Welsh Nursing Shawl.


Mother and baby outdoors, mother wearing navy waterproof babywearing coat, baby wearing pink merino wool hat

Choosing a baby wrap or carrier

There are all sorts of different carriers on the market, and some may suit your individual needs better than others, so it’s important to do your research. Don’t panic, we’re here to help!


So, how do you choose which wrap or carrier is right for you and your newborn or older baby?


 Some things you might want to consider before selecting your baby carrier:

  •  Does the wrap provide safe, comfortable support for a baby’s spine, head and airways? Your baby should always be held high and snug on your body with their face visible. Their hips should be positioned in an ‘M’ shape to ensure they’re comfortable (though they’ll usually let you know if they aren’t!)

  • Is it easy to get your baby in and out? Can you do this by yourself? What you find easy to use will differ from what other people find easy. This is where sling libraries can be really useful, as they’ll let you try out different slings and carriers to find what suits you best.

  • Can you breastfeed in it? Most slings accommodate breastfeeding, with a little practice! Take a look at our post on Breastfeeding in a Sling for more on this nifty trick.

  • Is it comfortable for you? Think about the length of time you’ll be wearing your carrier, the terrain you’ll be walking on, and whether or not it provides adequate support across both shoulders.

  • Do you want to carry your baby on your front, your back, or have the ability to swap between both? Would you prefer to hip carry? (Please note – newborns should be carried on your front, in an upright position – other ways of carrying need to wait until your baby has more head and posture control).

  • Do you require extra pockets and compartments? The downside of babywearing is that it can make it more difficult to carry the seemingly huge number of things you need to take with you while out with your baby. Choosing a carrier with pockets and compartments will help with this! Alternatively, you can use a coat with pockets, or a bumbag/shoulder bag.

  • Will your baby be protected from the elements? Some carriers have removable hoods to help shelter your baby from both rain and sun.

  • Can the wrap be worn by multiple wearers? Slings need to be fitted carefully to each wearer, and will need to be adjusted as the baby grows, so make sure you’re able to do this easily – no one wants to be fiddling with uncooperative buckles while juggling a baby!

  • Finally, does the wrap suit all your current needs? Current is the important word here — it’s very likely that your needs will change as your baby grows, and you may find that you have to change your sling over time. What may be comfortable for you and your baby during the early months may not work so well for an older baby, or a toddler.


Stretchy wrap

Stretchy wraps are a great option for carrying newborns. They can usually be worn from day 1 up to around 8 months, depending on the weight and size of your baby. The fabric should be lightweight and breathable, which is why the Hana Baby Wrap is one of the most popular stretchy baby wraps on the market.

Made from a blend of bamboo and organic cotton, the Hana Baby Wraps are super soft, cool and breathable, keeping both you and your baby comfortable all year round. They are perfect for newborns and younger babies, as they mould around you and your baby, offering full head and neck support and carry them in a secure, ergonomic position.

If the stretchy wrap is your top choice, you can check out the Hana Baby Wrap here.



Ring sling

Ring slings are worn on one shoulder and usually made of sturdy, woven fabric. Ring slings are very portable and pretty simple to use. They can be used from newborn, in a front carry, upright position. The commonly-used hip carry position is best for babies aged 5 months and over, as they need to have good postural control. Ring slings are also great for toddlers who want to be carried now and then! Ring slings also work well as a breastfeeding aid.


The downside of ring slings is that they tend to be worn for shorter periods of time, since the weight is only distributed over one side of your body.


Structured carrier

Structured carriers can be soft-structured, like the KahuBaby carrier, or more rigid, like the Osprey Poco carrier.


1.   Soft Structured Carrier

Soft-structured carriers like the KahuBaby carrier incorporate straps, buckles and padding to achieve an adjustable fit for a variety of ages — from newborns to toddlers. Some structured carriers may be worn on the front of the body, and some allow for hip and back carrying as well.


The KahuBaby carrier is suitable from birth and holds your baby in a comfortable ergonomic position. The flexible design allows four different carrying positions, supporting your baby as they grow and develop. Best of all, we stock the KahuBaby Carrier in a selection of beautiful patterns.


2.   Structured Carrier

Structured carriers are often more rigid, and are designed for hiking, climbing and serious rambling! They tend to be for older babies, from about 6 months on, and aren’t usually suitable for newborns, but they can be a brilliant option for parents who need to carry their kids long-distance, providing excellent support and stability.


Woven Wraps

Thanks to their versatility, woven wraps are a popular choice amongst babywearing parents all over the world. These wraps can be used to carry babies in a range of ways — from the front, to the hip and the back.

They tend to be less stretchy than a stretchy wrap, and may take a little longer to master — but don’t let that put you off! This style of wrap can be used from newborn until your child grows out of being carried, with different sizes and lengths available for different ages. Even better, woven wraps come in an array of designs, patterns and colours.


Remember, slings and carriers are a personal decision — what works perfectly for one parent may be completely impractical for another!

Is babywearing safe? Let’s talk about sling safety

While babywearing, ensure that you’re aware of basic sling safety. Most safety concerns revolve around keeping your baby’s airway clear, along with supporting their back and neck.

Your baby should be able to breathe without obstruction, and you should be actively engaged and able to check on your child and respond to any changes. We recommend following the TICKS guidelines for safe baby wearing:


TIGHT — slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you as this will be most comfortable for you both. Any slack/loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down in the carrier which can hinder their breathing and pull on your back.

IN VIEW AT ALL TIMES — you should always be able to see your baby's face by simply glancing down. The fabric of a sling or carrier should not close around them so you have to open it to check on them. In a cradle position your baby should face upwards not be turned in towards your body.

CLOSE ENOUGH TO KISS — your baby’s head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable. By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head or forehead.

KEEP CHIN OFF THE CHEST — a baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing. Ensure there is always a space of at least a finger width under your baby’s chin.

SUPPORTED BACK — in an upright carry a baby should be held comfortably close to the wearer so their back is supported in its natural position and their tummy and chest are against you. If a sling is too loose they can slump which can partially close their airway. This can be tested by placing a hand on your baby's back and pressing gently - they should not uncurl or move closer to you.).

We don’t recommend carrying (especially young) babies in a cradle carry in a pouch or ring sling, as if done incorrectly there is an increased risk of pressing their chin to their chest and compromising airflow. There are many other positions that are safer and more comfortable!



Principles of correct babywearing positioning

Each sling manufacturer will have their own set of instructions for correctly fitting and wearing their carriers, so be sure to examine these carefully when you get your new sling. In the meantime, we have included some essential principles here to get you started.

When a baby is carried correctly in a sling, it supports the spine, keeping it in the rounded ‘C’ shape that they need to be in while they are growing. It should not look like the baby’s back is “arched” when in the sling. Once you’ve settled them into the sling, it is best to do a “pelvic tuck” to make sure their pelvis and lower back are curled into the correct, comfortable position.

Here's an example of how to do the pelvic tuck in a soft structured carrier:

Pelvic Tuck


As babies’ hip joints are not fully developed at birth, it’s also important that babies’ legs are flexed when they’re in a sling, so that the hip joint sits securely in the socket and the blood vessels are not restricted. The baby’s knees should be higher than their bottom so that an ‘M’ shape is seen when looking at the baby from behind. This means finding a carrier/fitting a sling so that the base has a nice wide “seat” for the baby, with the sling material supporting their legs “from knee pit to knee pit”.


Forward facing is not recommended for young babies (between 4-6 months old). Their head and neck control isn’t as strong as an older baby, and in this position there is less support and they will tire quickly. If a baby shows signs of falling asleep when forward-facing, you need to switch them round to face you again as there is no head support and breathing can be compromised. And we can all imagine how impressed a sleepy baby is going to be with being hauled out and swivelled round — so pick your timing carefully! Even with an older baby, it’s recommended that they don’t forward-face for longer than about 20 minutes at a time. Forward-facing can be overstimulating, and babies naturally look to the parent’s face for emotional reassurance during new experiences. Facing you means they can snuggle into your chest when they need a little extra comfort from the big wide world.


If you’re not confident babywearing initially, have a look for a sling library near you. Sling libraries usually have experts on hand to help you out. They’re also a useful place to go if your needs change as your baby grows. If you’re not able to find a sling library nearby, there’s also the option of speaking with a trained sling consultant, in person or online. The Carrying Matters website should be able to help with this.


Babywearing in Special Situations

Parents of babies with special needs, premature or low birthweight babies and twins can still wear their babies. Talk to a babywearing consultant about the best sling for your child(ren).


What about sling feeding?

Breastfeeding while babywearing is convenient, and the increased responsiveness can lead to longer breastfeeding success. It can be tricky initially, but it’s a skill worth mastering.


Before you get started, think about the following:

  • Make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions first, as not all slings are suitable for breastfeeding in.
  • Keep an eye out for trip hazards if you’re feeding while walking about.
  • Always ensure your baby can breathe freely. While a healthy baby will never compromise their ability to breathe while feeding, a poorly or very sleepy one might.
  • Ensure your baby is supported at all times (it’s not completely hands-free feeding!).
  • Always reposition your baby after a feed, ensuring their head is clear of any sling fabric.


If you can get the hang of sling feeding, you’ll feel like a superhero, and reap the rewards over and over. 

Breastfeeding in a sling


Babywearing clothes: What to wear while babywearing

One of the things to consider while babywearing is clothing. It’s important to remember that your wrap or carrier adds an extra ‘layer,’ so be sure to factor this in while dressing your baby, and yourself. You can check your baby’s temperature by placing two fingers on their back or chest.

Top top: Babies aren’t great at regulating their own temperatures. A cold baby will usually let you know they’re uncomfortable, but overheating can be easy to miss, and carries a higher risk. Avoid bulky layers – no snowsuits – as these can both cause overheating, and compromise correct positioning. Merino wool baby clothes are fantastic for babywearing as they are naturally temperature regulating, but without the bulk. They are also soft, smooth and stretchy, so very comfortable for little ones. We think our Merino Wool Loose Fit Trousers are perfect for babywearing, with a generous fit and broad waistband – super comfortable for little tummies and legs.

Dress yourself in lightweight, breathable layers that are easy to move around, especially if you plan to sling feed. Try to avoid bulky clothes that may affect the sling fit or position of your baby.

Clothes designed especially for babywearing with space for your baby carrier inside can be invaluable. It’s no fun at all being trapped in a jacket, dripping with sweat, and having to decide whether to grin and bear it, or strip off your carrier and disturb your sleeping baby, so that you can remove the layer of clothing underneath.

Luckily, we stock the Mamalila Softshell Maternity and Babywearing Jacket, which means you can strip off your coat without unsettling your baby, and (hopefully!) enjoy a post-walk cup of coffee in peace.

Want to check out some options? We’ve got you covered — click here to see our range of carriers and clothing designed specifically for babywearing.

Mother wearing her baby while out walking in the mountains in winter