You don't need a fancy carrier to wear your baby. Babywearing can be done super cheaply, all you really need is a piece of cloth and the desire to make it work! So whether you are crafty or not, we have thrifty babywearing options for anyone on a budget.
Use What You HavePretty much any piece of cloth can be used as a baby carrier. People have used scarves, towels, even bed sheets as baby carriers! Here's some great links for using what you already have to wear your baby!
WearYourBaby.com Improvised Carriers
Babywearing International of Birmingham - How to make a bed sheet baby sling (video)
theBabywearer.com - Wraparound Carrier Instructions Links and Info (instructions can be used with different lengths of fabric you already own)
Do It YourselfMaking your own carrier is actually not that hard, can be very inexpensive and some don't even require the use of a sewing machine! When making your own carrier, make sure you do some research and get the correct materials. Also, look up instructions for how to properly use your carrier since it won't come with instructions. You will have to make sure you know how to safely use the carrier you make.
You can easily make a no sew stretch wrap with some jersey fabric. Actually, the width of the fabric is wide enough to make two by cutting lengthwise from one end of the fabric to the other. And stretch jersey does not need to be hemmed or surged, just make sure the fabric you buy isn't too stretchy since it won't be supportive enough.
Non stretchy wraps can also be made without sewing, but depending on what fabric you choose, you may need to hem the edges. Lots of people recommend Osnaburg fabric for making your own wrap, but there are a variety of fabrics you can use, all with their own pros and cons. If you purchase a fabric that need to be hemmed but don't want to do it yourself, most tailors can do it for about $10 which can still save you a ton.
To make your own wrap, check out these sites:
Make-Baby-Stuff.com - Stretchy wrap instructions
WearYourBaby.com - Stretchy and non stretchy no sew wraps
Ring slings can be simple to make with both sew and no sew options available. The most important things to consider when making a ring sling is to buy the correct fabric and proper rings. Craft rings and metal rings that are welded (not solid) are not safe for babywearing. Sling Rings are widely recommended and widely used by the babywearing community for making ring sling.
To make your own ring sling, check out these instructions:
Jan Andrea No-Sew Ring Sling
Jan Andrea Simple, Un-padded Sling
Maya Wrap Sew Your Own Sling
Making a mei tai takes a bit more work and skill. If you have a sewing machine and some time, then you can likely make a simple mei tai. Here's some instructions for different DIY mei tai carriers:
Jan Andrea - Making a Mei Tai
Becoming Mamas - Let’s Make a Mei Tai (or Onbu)!! Part I and Part II
Here's some more resources for those of you interested in making a DIY baby carrier.
Becoming Mamas - Adventures in Carrier Making: A Brief Guide to DIY Babywearing
Jan Andrea at Home
The Babywearing Sewing and Improvising Baby Carriers
Buying a used baby carrier is always an option. Some people are able to find them at Good Will, Salvation Army, or other second hand stores. These are usually a really good price, but don't come up often and can be hard to find. But if you already shop at these places, make sure you do a quick scan to see if there are any baby carriers tucked anywhere. Hint: wraps and ring slings are not always with baby stuff because not everyone knows that they are baby carriers!
There are also swap boards on The Babywearer and all over Facebook and the internet where people sell and trade used carriers. The problem with the swap boards is that most brands hold their value insanely well, so it can sometimes be really hard to find something if your budget is super strict. But if you are not picky about the brand or even if it's a home made carrier, then you can usually find something. Just make sure that any home made carrier has been safely constructed using safe materials. Watch for things like single layer quilting cotton carriers or carriers that don't have reinforced stitching at the weight baring seams. Also, ring slings should always have solid metal rings, not welded rings or craft rings.
Buying on a BudgetOn a budget, but still want to buy something? There are lots of options out there for carriers that are affordable brand new. Make sure when looking for a deal that you are buying from a member of the BCIA or someone that is CPSIA compliant, otherwise you are getting a lower cost at the expense of complying with safety regulations.
Buckle carriers tend to cost a little more because they are more complex and require more materials. But their are still some brands out that there are available at amazingly low prices right off the shelf, so sales needed!
Moby GO $79.95
Action Baby Carrier $98
Basic Mei Tais can be found for really good prices. The Babywearing Essentials mei tai by Catbird Baby is one example of a simple mei tai carrier at a value price.
Some ring slings can be purchased under $50 from places like Sleeping Baby Productions. Maya Wraps are also a great deal at $74.95 if you are looking for something a little more comfortable than a single or double layer of standard cotton.
Wraps can get pricy, but there are many amazing brands out there that are a really good value right out of the box. Stretch wraps are generally the most affordable, but they are also less supportive for older babies. The Wrapsody wraps are a really great price for someone interested in wrapping, but wanting to try it out before spending a lot on a wrap. Hoppediz and C&C are other amazing brands of woven wraps that both cost right around $100.
So whether you make your own, buy used, or just want a more affordable brand, there are options for everyone. Anyone can babywear on any budget, so look for an option that fits yours!