*Edit: I’ve expanded on my “free” babywearing. Sorry I did rush over it and it’s important to be mindful of appropriate fabrics. If in doubt, it’s better to be safe. *
Babywearing can be expensive – but it doesn’t have to be! And spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean a better carrier. We bought the top-of-the-range absolute most expensive carrier stocked in Babies Galore (6 years ago – there wasn’t much to choose from) and it’s still the most money I’ve spent on a single carrier, coming in at a whopping $225 for a Baby Bjorn that our son outgrew in 8 short weeks (he was a big baby – he didn’t outgrow the weight limit, it was just unwearably uncomfortable after about 8-9kgs.)
Thankfully I was able to sell it for most of what I paid for it and used the money to fund an Ergo baby carrier which without doubt the best thing I’ve ever bought for my children.
But I understand that an Ergo is still out of a lot of people’s budgets, even a second hand one as they hold their value pretty well – also beware of cheap Ergos, when it comes to pricing on them if it’s too good to be true it’s probably a knock off.
So, what budget friendly babywearing options are there? It depends on your budget!
Free (or very cheap) babywearing options
- Borrow one. You’d be surprised how many people have carriers they aren’t using that they’re happy to part with short term – or even give away. If you’re on social media maybe do a status shout out asking if anyone has anything you can borrow – or try a local free-cycle page. It’s worth asking. Especially if you’re not sure if you want to babywear. A friend a few years ago asked on Facebook does anyone have a carrier she can have – and I was one of a few people who offered to give her a spare carrier, she didn’t end up taking mine because she had more offers than she knew what to do with.
- Tablecloth “shortie wrap”. If you happen to have a suitable tablecloth, one made from quality woven fabric, then you can make a carrier out of one. Ideally you want something that’s 3 meters by at least 60cms wide – otherwise you may need to cut it down to size. Here is a helpful tutorial and also how to wrap it.
- Scarf sling. I have done this when caught out without any kind of carrier and a baby who needed to be carried. I had a thick, sturdy, woven scarf which I very simply tied in a knot at my shoulder and used as a very basic sling. But this tutorial for a Rebozo carry with a scarf is a little more comfortable than my make-shift sling.
- Bed sheet. In an babywearing emergency you can use a bed sheet to wear your baby – be mindful that a bedsheet may tear, so it’s a good idea to keep a hand on your baby, but sometimes it may be the only way to settle a baby, for very short term until you can find an alternative carrier. This video shows how to do it. It’s a little hard to hear but the instructions are pretty simple.
Under $50 Babywearing options
- No sew DIY Stretchy Wrap. This is what I used for my second baby carrier and it was infinitely better than the Baby Bjorn and I think the fabric cost me about $30 (on sale). It’s really easy to make even if you’re not at all crafty. You just need 5 meters of a 100% cotton jersey knit fabric (just basic t-shirt fabric) You want to make sure it’s stretchy and that the cut edged won’t fray – if you’re not sure ask in store! Ideally look for fabric that is at least 120cms wide – so when you cut it in half lengthwise your wrap(s – you’ll be making two by the way) will be at least 60cms wide. The easiest way to cut it in half evenly is to fold the fabric in half and pin at regular intervals a couple of cms from the fold and then use that as a guide to cut as neatly as you can (because there is no sewing involved, the cut edge is the finished edge). That’s it. You’re done. Now you either have a spare wrap or one to give away! How awesome is that! This is a good video tutorial to tie it.
- No sew ring sling. If you already have a suitable tablecloth, scarf or piece of woven fabric then this is going to be even cheaper – like $8.50 cheap for sling rings. I’ve bought from Kari Tree Lane before and found their postage time was pretty good – if you’re in a hurry to get them! And follow this video tutorial.
- DIY Sewn ring sling. KateSurfs has a great tutorial on how she made herself a ring sling. (You will also need sling rings as above)
- Second hand carriers. You might not get a top of the range carrier for under $50, but you should be able to get something – (read ahead to the under $100 section for brands to look out for).
- DIY Mei tai. If you’re a confident sewer you can also make your own mei tai carrier. I’ve made one for a friend and I used a combination of several tutorials. This was my favourite tutorial.
- Kmart and Target Carrier. If you want a new carrier there are some inexpensive carriers in these stores that are safe to use however they will likely have a narrow base, which isn’t necessarily optimal for bubs hips but you can do this clever “Scarf Hack” from FineandFairBlog.com can help address that if this is your preferred option.
Also if you’re going to DIY a baby carrier I highly recommend joining this DIY Babywearing Facebook Group, they have a wealth of information about appropriate fabrics and great tutorials.
This is where you’re budget gets a little bit more breathing room – keep in mind all of these recommendations are for brand new carriers, you can also get second hand carriers in most of these brands for less and many others for under $100, if you do want second hand I highly recommend checking out the Baby Wearing Buy Swap Sell Facebook page, check out the “under $100 album”.
Ring slings. Little Frog ring slings are a great budget friendly ring sling. I’ve reviewed one with my toddler and Leia reviewed it as well with her baby. Also Mamaway is a recommended brand of inexpensive ring slings.
Stretchy Wraps. There are several options of stretchy wraps to choose from (which would be cheaper again if you buy them second hand) Such as Moby Wrap, Boba wrap and Hug a bub
Woven wraps. You can sneak in a Woven Wrap for just under $100, including a Little Frog wrap (which I’ve also reviewed) Hoppediz – which I’ve owned and loved – I highly recommend their “light” range for summer and warmer climates. Or even a Lenny Lamb wrap for (just) under $100 – but you might need to shop around.
(Please ignore the bit of a messy wrapping job – but this was wrapped while she threw an epic over tired tantrum, but the moment she was wrapped in her Hoppediz wrap she was asleep – bliss!)
The most important thing is to remember when choosing and using any baby carrier is TICKS safety checklist (see video below) and also to regularly check your carrier (no matter how much it cost) for signs of wear and discontinue use if the carrier is damaged (and possibly return to seller if it’s covered by warranty). If you’re having trouble affording the carrier you want it’s also worth enquiring about lay buy options or payment plans.
Also, while spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean a better carrier (as learnt the hard way) generally you do get what you paid for so it’s worth spending as much money as your budget will allow, and keep in mind reputable branded carriers maintained in good condition can often be resold for most of what you initially paid for it – though I wouldn’t bank on that personally, but it is something I know a lot of babywearers do take into consideration when they’re buying carriers.