I love slings! I could rave about them all day. Over time I've acquired a small selection; from the mass-produced carriers you can buy on the high street (a great introduction but definitely not recommended for long-term use) to woven wraps and my own personal favourite, Mei Tais. I began my baby's life struggling with a pram (stroller) and being restricted as to where I could take her. The day I discovered slings the whole world opened up to us! So here are my pros, and in fairness some cons, to using slings, based on my experiences and those of the mums I talk to.
Stairs? Not a problem. No more walking around to the elevator or having to use a ramp! Fields, hiking trails, busy, crowded shops. They're all easily negotiated. Public transport is a breeze. Just sit down! No more waiting for a bus with adequate space for the buggy.
A brand new pram isn't cheap. Even second-hand the price is much more than even an expensive sling. Some slings can be expensive, especially the soft-structured carriers, but there plenty of people selling them second-hand on baby-wearing websites, and there are also sling-libraries in many places where you can rent a sling for a small fee. Sling-meets are a great way to try the many different types of sling on the market to find out which one suits you.
When I had a pram it was a nightmare to fit into the car! Every time I wanted to go out anywhere I had to wrestle with the pram. It also took up a large space in my tiny house. A sling, on the other hand, will fit into a small bag and can be easily carried until you need it.
Nothing settles a baby like being held close to mum (or dad). In a sling a baby is next to your chest all the time, snuggled in and secure. This promotes bonding and breastfeeding. Most babies will fall to sleep easily in a sling with the motion of walking or rocking.
When your baby is right in front of you, you find yourself talking to them. They get to see your facial expressions and watch your lips form words. This is how babies learn language and non-verbal cues. Anything that promotes this development is beneficial. Also, I find that when your baby is at ‘head-height', others interact more frequently with them, and on a more ‘grown-up' basis. I've found adults address the baby and talk to them as though they understand, rather than standing over them in a pram talking primarily to the parent.
The list of things you can get done with your baby in a sling is almost endless, especially if you use a back-carry. I've cooked, done dishes, laundry, vacuumed, swept, fed the dogs, etc, all with my baby happily snuggled into me, either asleep or watching her surroundings with interest. So much better than leaving her in a high-chair or play-pen!
Carrying a baby long distances is a great work-out. It's not that a baby is heavy or difficult to carry, as a properly fitted sling holds your baby close to your centre of gravity and should not feel uncomfortable. But carrying any extra weight whilst walking adds to the benefit of a work-out.
Some slings, especially the woven wraps, can be a little tricky to master. But practice makes perfect and these days there are dozens of videos on the Internet demonstrating the various carries. Sling-meets are great to try-out the various slings out there and get help from those with experience of using them. And there are so many different types of sling available that anyone can find one that suits them.
As I said I've tried many types of sling before finding the ones that suit me. And the choices out there can be daunting to a beginner! But baby-wearing forums are a great place to get recommendations, and again finding a local sling-meet gives you the opportunity to try-out the different options available.
This is the ‘biggie' for me. Slings are not so great if you have a lot of heavy shopping to carry, and it's here where a pram would be more useful. The extra weight of shopping bags pulling on your shoulders when you are wearing your baby can put strain on your neck. I would advise, where possible, using a back-pack, or bringing someone along who can help carry shopping. Another great idea I've heard mums suggest is using a drag-along bag, like the type old ladies sometimes use. These seem to be increasing in popularity and do seem to be available more now than in the past, and in fashionable styles.
In hot weather, carrying your baby can be a bit of a drain. But using a light-weight sling and dressing your baby minimally or not at all helps. In rain, use a large umbrella to cover you both. Or there are rain covers that are specifically designed to fit over certain types of sling.
A sling is great if you have one baby, but what about multiple babies, or babies born soon after each other. Well, there are slings available for carrying twins, and certain wraps can be tied so they will hold twins. There is also the option to carry one baby and use a small pram for the other, rather than a huge twin-pram.
This is another toughie. A drawback of using a sling over a pram is there is no where to just put your baby if you need to sit for a while at a park or somewhere without adequate seating such as a high-chair. My baby is very mobile at an early age, and when I take her out of the sling to do something and set her on the floor she runs off before I've even had chance to get the sling off! I can't place her in the pram where she is secure.
There's no getting away from it. Carrying your baby on your body is always going to be more risky than carrying them in a pram. You could fall, slip, or simply catch their leg or head on something as you walk by (which I've done many times!). I guess the solution to this is to just be extra careful, especially when going down stairs or stepping over things. Keep your hands free if possible to catch yourself if you do fall. And if you feel dizzy or tired, don't use the sling until you are more steady.
So they're my pros and cons. Overall I think the benefits massively outweigh the drawbacks. But decide for yourself.