Complete Guide to Organic Baby Carriers & Slings

Here's why and how to find eco-friendly, organic slings, carriers, and wraps.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

An overview of organic baby slings
Overview of Organic Baby Slings

Just like the clothing you buy for your baby, your baby slings and carriers should be made of fabrics and materials that are healthy and free from the chemicals in conventionally-made options. Start snuggling your baby in a natural, organic baby sling or carrier. 

Why conventional baby slings and carriers are bad

If you look only for comfort and convenience when shopping for a baby sling or carrier, you could be setting your baby up for exposure to unhealthy chemicals and materials that are used to make conventional slings and carriers. Read on to find out more. 

Conventional cotton’s unhealthy characteristics

Regular cotton may seem like a natural baby carrier fiber, but unfortunately, its environmental record is far from natural.

  • Though cotton crops make up only 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it uses more pesticides than any other crop, with 16% going to grow this textile crop. Cotton is also the fourth most fertilized crop worldwide.
  • Farmers exposed to agricultural chemicals like those used for cotton crops suffer from a wide range of serious health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that well over 10,000 people die every year due to exposure to insecticides.
  • Children’s skin and internal systems are far more vulnerable and sensitive to the effects of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. Pesticides have been linked to many childhood health problems, including birth defects, autism, endocrine disruption, and neurodevelopmental delays. 
  • Cotton is an incredibly water-intensive crop. For example, cotton crops’ water needs vary between 7000 and 13000 m3/ha while beans’ water needs are around 3000-5000 m3/ha. Additional water is required to wash, dye, weave, and size cotton fabric.
  • When cotton is converted into material suitable for making baby slings and carriers, loads of hazardous chemicals are used to process it, including softeners, heavy metals, silicone waxes, ammonia, and formaldehyde. 

The problems with polyester, nylon, and rayon

Human-created fabrics like polyester, rayon, and nylon don’t have the same agricultural eco-woes as cotton, but they do come with their own special environmental problems:

  • Rayon is made from wood pulp and requires toxic chemicals like sulfuric acid to transform the pulp into fabric.
  • Polyester and nylon are both fabrics made from petroleum-based ingredients, supporting the hazards of this industry (greenhouse gas emission, oil spills, and so on).
  • Producing polyester results in dangerous byproducts such as volatile monomers and solvents that are sent into our freshwater systems.
  • Creating human-made fabrics like polyester requires a lot of energy.
  • Acrylic fabrics are polyacrylonitrile, a class of substances suspected to cause cancer according to the US EPA.

Toxic chemicals used in textile production

Today, there are all kinds of chemical additions mixed in with our fabrics to provide a variety of convenience features for things like baby carriers that have a tendency to take a lot of abuse like iron-free and stain-resistance. But these chemicals have come under scrutiny for their human health risks.

  • Some manufacturers add perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), the same material used in Teflon cooking products, to give fabrics a no-iron quality. PFCs have been linked to many human health problems, including cancer. 
  • Formaldehyde is often applied to textiles to keep them from shrinking, but this chem has been linked to allergic skin reactions.
  • Synthetic dyes used to color all types of fabrics contain strong solvents, heavy metals, acids, and other toxic components. Cotton is inherently resistant to dyes so much of the color applied to it is washed away into rivers.

3 sustainable materials to consider in baby carriers and slings

Hopefully by now you’ll see that the eco-hazards and health risks posed by the conventional textiles industry isn’t something to take lightly. With every textile purchase you make, you have the ability to either support eco-friendly operations or environmentally-destructive ones. Below are organic, eco-friendly materials that can be used for baby carriers. 

Organic cotton baby slings and carriers

Organic cotton can be used to make baby slings. You’ll know it’s organic if you see that it is made from Certified Organic cotton fibers. Certifications through official bodies are best:

Though organically-grown cotton will use the same amount of water as conventionally-grown cotton crops, it will not come with the same chemical burden. Nevertheless, organic cotton still requires a lot of energy and water to process into textile form.

Bamboo baby wraps and carriers

The benefits of bamboo are nearly boundless! Not only is it an extremely soft fabric for making baby slings, but bamboo baby wraps are also long-wearing and very environmentally friendly. See why: 

  • Bamboo sticks (bamboo is actually grass) can grow up to 47 inches in a single day, making it rapidly renewable.
  • Bamboo will grow in almost any climate, making it highly versatile.
  • When bamboo is harvested, it is only trimmed back – the plant goes on to produce more bamboo.
  • Bamboo does not naturally require irrigation or pesticides. There are some large plantations, however, using these agricultural methods, making it important that you choose organically-grown bamboo.
  • Bamboo has a complex root system that can benefit the local ecosystem by preventing soil erosion.
  • As bamboo grows, it releases a great deal more oxygen into the atmosphere compared to trees.
  • Bamboo is easily dyed (unlike cotton) so the effluent flowing from factories is much less hazardous.

Yet despite all of bamboo’s benefits, it isn’t a perfect fiber. In many countries, tropical forests and complex ecosystems are being bulldozed to make room for single-crop bamboo plantations, which depletes the soil and degrades living spaces for wildlife. Looking for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified bamboo is therefore a good idea. Additionally, turning bamboo into fabric can be water and energy intense, though no more than cotton or rayon.

Hemp eco-baby carriers

The growing of hemp fibers is surrounded by controversy, mostly because the average consumer doesn’t understand that hemp used for its fiber is a very different plant species than hemp grown for marijuana. But if you can get past that controversy, you’ll see that the environmental benefits of hemp as a textile for making eco-baby slings are numerous:

  • Hemp produces three times more fiber than cotton per acre.
  • The industrial growth of hemp requires no agricultural chemicals like pesticides or herbicides.
  • Soil in which hemp is grown is improved by the process as hemp adds nutrients, stimulates beneficial microbial growth, and helps to prevent weeds.

Like bamboo, hemp isn’t a perfect fiber. It does require a good dose of water to keep it growing, and many crops rely on synthetic fertilizers to make it grow plentifully. That said, hemp is a wonderful fiber and a great fit for those looking for natural baby slings and carriers. 

Companies worth considering

  • New Native – Their products are made with 100% GOTS Certified organic cotton from Control Union (SKAL). Plus, they are certified by the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 and use eco-friendly dyes and finishings.
  • Beco Baby Carrier – To make sure that your little one´s hips are cared for, consider Beco Baby’s certified hip-healthy, 100% organic cotton carriers. For instance, the Beco Gemini Baby Carrier Organic.
  • Moby – Mobywrap baby products have received various awards for their outstanding features, and are made from organic cotton.
  • BABYBJORN – They strive to make a positive impact on the environment and work hard to reduce their carbon footprint in various ways.
  • Ergobaby – They take environmental responsibility and are committed to carefully measuring, managing, and reducing environmental impacts throughout their whole supply chain.

Eco-friendly dye alternatives

Whatever your textile choice, it’s a good idea to consider fabrics that are free of toxic synthetic dyes as well, including:

  • Color-grown cotton that is bred to produce pre-colored fibers right off the plant.
  • Fiber-reactive dyes are organic substances that react directly with fibers to create covalent bonds and provide vibrant, long-lasting color. Based on synthetic formulations, these result in lower quantities of hazardous wastewater, require less energy during the dying process, and are free of heavy metals. The one downside is that these do contain sodium carbonate, which can irritate the lungs and trigger asthma attacks in workers.
  • Plant-based dyes are made by using things like flowers, nuts, leaves, bark, fruit, vegetables, and roots-things that occur naturally in nature and are therefore renewable. They are not plagued by problems like heavy metals and do not create the same pollution problems as other dyes that are rinsed into natural waterways.

Other eco-friendly baby carrier solutions

In addition to looking for sustainable fibers that are colored using eco-friendly dyes, you can further green-up your baby’s sling or wrap by looking into a few other natural habits and products:

  • Natural latex foam: Polyurethane is commonly used to make baby mattresses, baby carriers, and baby car seats, but it’s full of chemicals including formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and surfactants, all of which can pose serious health hazards for your baby. Choose natural latex rubber for a more natural carrier.
  • Recycled polyester baby carriers: Today there are some clothing and baby carrier options made from recycled polyester which is generally manufactured using recycled plastic beverage bottles. This has many benefits for the environment: It saves energy, water, resources, and landfill space.
  • Eco-friendly features: If you’re looking for an eco-baby carrier, look for options that use recycled steel for clasps and structural parts.
  • Buy used baby slings and carriers: Secondhand baby items are such a great option for parents and babies alike. Not only are they cheaper, they also help to prevent good products from going to the landfill and they require no additional resources to make.
  • Homemade baby slings: Of course, if you’re a DIY pro, then you could easily make your own homemade baby sling. To find out how to make baby slings, check out these resources: YouTube and DIY Craftsy.