Skip to navigation menu Skip to content


Young mother with her newborn baby son in sling at home.

Safety Guide: Baby Carriers, Slings, and Backpacks

By Beverly Moors, FNP-C, IBCLC, Coastal Pediatrics

Baby carriers can be a practical way to carry your baby and keep your hands free. They’re also a great way to bond with your infant and keep them close and happy. Here are some options and safety tips to protect both your baby and you.

Types of carriers:

  • A baby carrier is a soft padded carrier that you wear on your front. Some have adjustable options so you can wear your baby on your back or hip.
  • A baby sling is a pouch or strip of fabric, usually secured over your shoulder and worn across your front in various positions.
  • Baby backpacks usually have rigid frames that you wear on your back. They’re suitable for older babies and toddlers who can hold up their heads. It’s a good idea to ask a pediatrician whether your baby is old enough to be carried in a backpack.

What to look for in a carrier:

  • Comfortable hip positioning for your baby.
  • A space in which the baby can move their head, arms, and legs.
  • If using a sling, make sure it doesn’t cover your baby’s face or force them into a fetal position.
  • Take your baby with you when you shop for the carrier so you can match it to their size. Make sure the carrier supports their back and the leg holes are small enough that they can't slip through. Look for sturdy material.
  • If you buy a backpack, the aluminum frame should be padded so your baby won't be hurt if they bump against it. A sunshade is also a good idea.


  • When you’re carrying your baby in a carrier, bend at your knees, not the waist. Otherwise, your baby may tip out of the carrier, or you may hurt your back.
  • Infants born prematurely or with respiratory problems should not be placed in backpacks or other upright-positioning devices, as the positioning in these devices may make it harder for them to breathe.
  • Some sling carriers may curl your baby's body into a c-shape, which increases the risk of breathing problems. If you use a sling, your baby's neck should be straight, and their chin should not be pressed into their chest. Make sure you can always see their face.
  • In any type of carrier, check frequently to ensure that your baby's mouth and nose are not blocked by fabric, or your body, and that airflow is not restricted. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns about the suffocation hazard to infants, particularly those younger than four months, when carried in infant sling carriers. When infant slings are used for carrying, it is important to ensure that the infant's head is up and above the fabric, the face is visible, and the nose and mouth are clear of anything that could block air flow.
  • Check the carrier periodically for rips or tears in the seams and fasteners.
  • Babies older than 5 months of age may become restless in a carrier, so continue to use the restraining straps. Some children will brace their feet against the frame or against your body, changing their weight distribution. You should be certain your child is seated properly before you move about.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to walk in and beware of uneven surfaces so you don’t trip.
  • Be careful when you put on or take off the carrier. This is when falls are most common. Get someone to help you or sit on the floor.
  • Don’t carry your baby in a front-wearing carrier or sling when cooking due to the risk of burning your baby.
  • Avoid holding hot drinks and food, running after other children, or doing anything else that could be dangerous.

Like this post?

Sign up to receive our once monthly email with more kids' health tips from the region's most trusted name in pediatric health care.

About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.