To sling or to carry, that is the question plaguing many new parents. The hands-free convenience of a baby sling can be very attractive, but what happens when she is fussy, or sick? A carrier allows for portability and stability in a cushioned seat, but do parents lose key biological bonding time with their newborn?

Baby slings became all the rage in the early 1990’s and now seem to be a de rigeur baby shower item. From the earliest times, mothers have fashioned soft cloth or leather pouches to cradle their newborns close-by. Experts cite improvement in child circulation, and vestibular development (balance) in newborns that are worn in slings. The baby’s autonomic responses become tuned into the mother’s, much like when she was still in utero, which is a familiar and relaxing feeling for the infant. As the mother moves and works through the day, she bends, twists, walks, climbs stairs, and any number of other physical activities which move the “worn” child with her. These movements accelerate the infant’s spatial relationship to the world and her sense of balance. Some mothers are so sold on baby slings that they even exercise while wearing their babies.  Modern slings are washable, adjustable and can double as changing pads and breastfeeding covers on the go. Another plus cited by some experts is that mothers aren’t the only ones who can wear a baby. They also allow dads and other caregivers to get into the act of bonding on a biological level with baby.

Baby carriers offer their own host of advantages. Some infant carriers are the portable portion of a car seat and simply snap in or out of place to move the child from car to office, to dinner out, or to party with very little fuss. The more sling-like strap on carriers also provide full-body support, especially to the neck and head (many carriers come with special newborn headrests with neck support), and cushion a baby’s delicate body against bumps, drops, and collisions. The strap on carriers still allow for the up close experience of carrying an infant close, and help develop the vestibular senses just like a sling. Dads may prefer the look of a carrier as well, and feel more secure participating in this bonding activity if they feel the child is protected.

The data shows that few things are better for a fussy or colicky infant that being held close to her parent’s skin, so whichever portable carrier option parents choose will aid in infant development and a sense of security.