There are a lot of tools that make our life easier. Many of them introduce their own complications, and I’d put baby strollers in that category. The various baby slings and backpack alternatives help out without circumscribing normal activity. The Maya Wrap’s advantage lies in its simplicity — it’s just a piece of fabric with a metal loop — yet it’s functionally equivalent to more complicated babypacks. So it’s the elegance of the thing that grabs me. My wife somehow managed to carry both twins this way. So you can count it as entertainment, too. This tool was absolutely essential to us in transporting all three of our children.
The Maya Baby Sling beats a stroller on size, cost and bulk alone. Since it is more compact and mobile than a stroller, it’s much easier to walk and move around when you’re carrying a child, especially when it keeps your hands free. Most stores aren’t really set up for strollers, since wider aisles take up precious shelf space. American-style supermarkets may be the only exception, and even then it’s difficult to push a stroller and a shopping cart at the same time. (I’m still looking at it through the lens of our experience with twins). Commerce aside, there’s plenty of rough terrain out there where a stroller is more trouble than it’s worth. The sling keeps your hands free and child close, so it’s convenient to do just about everything except bend down. Finally, when it comes time to pack everything up we could fit both slings in a backpack, which trumps the trunk requirement of most strollers.
For hiking trips Kelty-type baby backpacks tended to work out better, but they’re not as comfortable for napping children, and the metal frame is almost as inconvenient as a stroller in tight situations. Our kids stayed happy longer in the slings, too. The slings win again when packing everything into a car, or on a bike or a plane, for that matter.
The Baby Bjorn-class rigs are similar in some ways, but they are much more limited in terms of the size of the child and the position you can carry them. Other than that Baby Bjorns have the same benefits, although I’d have to say they’re also the ugliest way to carry your child; It reminds me of the 747 they use to transport the Space Shuttle. I quickly mastered putting down a sleeping child in a sling (instant blanket), but the boat-like rigging of the Baby Bjorns usually spelled trouble.
For my wife, of course, it’s a no-brainer. The slings were the best for breastfeeding, since she could do it while moving around.
[Please see the more recently-reviewed New Native Baby Sling for a simpler, cheaper alternative. -- SL]