Some parents swear by one or the other, and are prepared to defend their choose to the very bitter end. Many others, however, like to mix and match using both a sling and a baby carrier, depending on what they're doing and how old the baby is.
So how do you navigate these rather complicated waters? And indeed, what is a baby carrier and a sling? Here the collective wisdom of our PlayPennies parents (all the ones I could find to ask while writing this at any rate) will help you out.
What are they?
Baby carriers and slings are two rather different ways to carry your baby about without you actually having hold the baby.
Even if the sling or carrier says it is suitable for use from birth, do check on the weights. For example, my baby bjorn baby carrier was suitable from 8 pounds, which was perfect for me (son was spot on eight pounds) but not so good if your newborn is six pounds at birth. You'll have to wait a bit before using.
A baby carrier is a sort of large, soft, padded harness that holds your baby close to your front, with the baby either facing forward, or towards you.
A sling, and there are lots of different types, can be used to hold the baby in a similar way, or in lot so of other different positions such as on hip, and piggyback style. Baby can be placed in a variety of different positions too, as the sling is made of material that can be wrapped around him or her.
Why would you want one?
A baby carrier or sling has a lot of advantages. First one mentioned by most of our mums is how much easier it is to use on public transport, rather than trying to get a pram on and off a train or bus.
Experts online also point to things like bonding for the parent and baby, which is helped by the holding the baby close at all times. Babies also, apparently, have a keen sense of smell while their eyesight is pretty poor. So being held close where they can feel your skin, and smell you, is very reassuring for them.
I only just learnt that last fact while researching this article. And it explains so much! I found my son just wanted to be close to me at all times. Frankly, if it hadn't been for the baby carrier, I would have have been able to do any housework. Doing the dishes while wearing a baby bjorn though takes a special kind of skill.
If you've a baby who suffers from reflux or colic, then one of these can be a lifesaver as it keeps them in an upright, but comfortable position, minimising the reflux or colic. They'll get more sleep and you will get less screaming (that's not a guarantee, but a definite possibility!).
If you have back problems or other joint issues, then ergonomically designed carriers or baby slings are much better for you than carrying baby about in your arms.
Which one should you buy?
There's an almost unfeasibly large range of different types of carriers and slings. Do you want a wraparound, ring or pouch style sling? What about a Mei Tai (which, sadly, aren't a special sort of cocktail for mums but actually a Chinese type of baby sling)?
First see if there's a sling meet near you. Take a look on the Sling Meet website, or sign up to your local NCT newsletter. These are a fairly recent development, and a really good one in my opinion. Many meet about once a month. Parents bring along their slings and baby carriers, and other parents can try them out.
Some slings seem mind-bogglingly difficult to work out how to tie up, but if you have someone show you straight off you will find they're actually dead easy.
It also gives you the chance to try all sorts of different kinds out. I spoke to one mum who ended up with three. A sling for around the house and a Baby Bjorn for taking the baby out when younger, and an ergo sling for taking baby out when older.
Did you use one?
What were your experiences like? Any tips for new users to pass on? We'd love to hear from you.