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Which shoulder style is the best?

That's a tough question to answer but there is no right or wrong. If you ask 100 babywearer's you will get a wide variety of answers: Gathered, Pleated, or padded... The right shoulder style is the one that works for you. Here is a breakdown of what each one has to offer:

Gathered

Pros: No pads or pleating and is easy to use for a first timer. It can be spread out as much or as little as you want to eliminate pressure points for you and baby. Drawbacks: It tends to creep down on your dominant arm the longer you wear it and will need to be adjusted more often than a pleated shoulder. Some people also find the shoulder to be too bulky even with lighter fabrics.

Pleated

Pros: Just like it sounds, the fabric around the rings is folded and then sewn into pleats. This is also great for beginners because it will stay off your dominant arm and allow you full motion on that side. Plus, pleated shoulders tend to be very pretty! Pleated shoulders need less adjusting while wearing as well. The pleated shoulder sling is quickly becoming the most popular style. Drawbacks: While you can still adjust the fabric to avoid pressure points, you do not have as much adjustability as the gathered shoulder.

Padded 

Pros: These became very popular through Maya Baby and are now primarily found in commercial slings, although some small businesses will manufacture them as well. It is supposed to offer more comfort for new users who are not used to adjusting the shoulder fabric. While many people enjoy this style, it is one of my least favorites. Drawbacks: The shoulder fabric is not adjustable making this a One Size Fits Some type of style. Many people will buy this style of sling and quickly trade it in for a pleated or gathered shoulder.