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If you’re expecting a baby, chances are you’ve heard about baby wearing and are wondering how to pick the right baby carrier. Babywearing is all the rage right now, especially among more natural-minded parents and those who ascribe to the attachment parenting philosophy. But with the sheer volume of carriers available on the market, the quest to find the perfect one can seem overwhelming. Never fear! This article will help steer you in the right direction and find the carrier that’s perfect for you and your beautiful babe.
BENEFITS OF BABYWEARING
There are many benefits of wearing your baby as opposed to pushing her around in a stroller.
One of the best parts about baby wearing is that it promotes a closer bond between you and your baby. Skin to skin contact is touted as an effective method for fostering an emotional bond between a baby and her caregivers. What more perfect way than to do so while you go about your daily business?!
KEEP BABY CONTENT
Life in a brand new world can easily overwhelm newborns. With all the lights, sounds, and smells going on, babies often become overstimulated and fussy. But because many baby carriers replicate the feeling inside the womb during that critical “fourth trimester”, baby wearing can help keep your baby calm and content. Your baby will feel safe and snug against the warmth of your body and will relax as she hears the familiar sound of your beating heart.
GET MORE DONE
Pre-kids many of us tend to take for granted just how easy it is to get things done around the house without a baby needing our attention 24/7. If your baby is anything like mine, and hates being put down, babywearing will enable you to get a few things done around the house without having to sacrifice your baby’s contentment. Although some carriers require wearers to keep one hand on baby at all times, some are “hands free” and really free up your arms for small tasks. Whichever you choose, babywearing definitely makes some of life’s daily tasks easier to accomplish.
KEEP BABY AWAY FROM NASTY GERMS
If you go to a party or family function with your newborn, people are going to want to hold him. But as a protective mama bear with hormones a-ragin’, you just might not be comfortable handing off your baby in those early weeks postpartum. Babywearing provides a perfect excuse to keep your brand new baby close and prevent him from getting exposed to more germs than necessary. It’s clear that babywearing offers more pluses than minuses, so you’re probably thinking you should just get on Amazon and pick one already! But there are a number of things to consider when choosing the right baby carrier to fit your and your baby’s needs. Here are 5 tips to help you pick the right one.
TYPES OF CARRIERS
Babywearinginternational.org lists over forty different types of baby carriers! That’s a lot of choices! And it makes sense because babywearing spans across cultures and continents. The practice also dates back thousands of years. But for the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about the five main types of carriers you’ll probably encounter in stores and online.
Stretchy wraps are usually made of a long and stretchy rectangular piece of cloth. They’re most often marketed towards newborns because they lend themselves best to lighter babies.
One benefit of a stretchy wrap is that you can create a very snug and soft environment for your little one. Also, because they’re made from lots of soft and stretchy material, they can be adjusted to your unique shape and worn comfortably by moms of all sizes.
One drawback to a stretchy wrap is that they tend to be hot. Because they have to be worn so snugly in order to be safe, they basically plaster your baby up against your body and create a lot of warmth. They’re also often made of very thick, stretchy material and don’t breathe well.
Another disadvantage to stretchy wraps is that they aren’t great to use with older, bigger babies. This is because stretchy material has a lot of give, and isn’t as supportive as other carriers for heavier babies and toddlers.
A woven wrap is a long piece of woven fabric used for babywearing. Woven wraps are available in a wide variety of sizes, and can be tied in many different ways.
They differ from stretchy wraps in that the material usually does not have any stretch to it.
Woven wraps are prized for their aesthetic appeal because of the endless variety of colors, patterns, and fabric types in which you can find them.
Depending on the wrap fabric you choose, a woven wrap can also provide years of use with the same child, from the newborn years through toddlerhood.
Although you can tie a woven wrap in a myriad of ways, learning to tie safely and correctly can take some time. If you’re looking for a babywearing method with a very short learning curve, you may want to choose a different type of carrier.
SOFT-STRUCTURED CARRIERS (SSC’s)
Soft structured carriers typically feature a buckle design and are often reinforced with padding. They’re supportive and easy to put on.
SSCs are my favorite because they provide the “wrap” for you. All you have to do is secure the carrier on your body, make sure your baby is positioned properly, and buckle your baby in. SSCs are also completely hands-free, meaning you don’t have to keep one hand on baby at all times.
Ring slings are made of a long, rectangular piece of fabric with two overlapping rings secured at the end. They can be used for front or hip carries. If you’ve ever tied a ring belt buckle, you can secure a ring sling.
It often takes several tries to get the right fit and to create a safe “seat” for your baby, but once you get the hang of it, putting a ring sling on can be pretty quick and easy.
One drawback of the ring sling is that it doesn’t distribute your baby’s weight very evenly across your back and shoulders, but rather puts most of the strain on one shoulder. If you have a bad back it may be wise to choose a carrier with better weight distribution. Ring slings also require you to keep on hand on you baby at all times.
The great thing about ring slings is that they hardly take up any room in your purse or baby bag, they’re relatively easy to take on and off, and they breathe like a dream.
Originating in China, a mei dai wrap is a soft carrier that can be worn for front, back, or hip carries. It features a rectangular body panel that supports the baby’s body, a thick waistband that goes around the wearer’s body, two waist straps which are tied to secure the wrap, and two shoulder straps which are also tied and often crossed in an x shape in the back for more support.
Mei-dais have tons of longevity because they keep your newborn close and snug to your body and are able to support the weight of an older toddler.
5 TIPS FOR CHOOSING A CARRIER
1. CONSIDER YOUR CLIMATE
Because stretchy wraps are made of a thicker material and hold your baby snugly against your body, they have a tendency to create a lot of warmth. This can be considered a bonus if you live in a colder climate or if your body naturally runs cold, but for many people this would be a major drawback. I distinctly remember wearing my newborn son in a Boba Wrap on warm Southern California days and both of us sweat like a pig, so we ended up switching over to a linen ring sling. If you’re looking for a cooler option, choose a wrap or sling in a natural material. My cousin gifted me a linen ring sling (Lille Baby) and I was comfortable wearing my son in it even in the super hot summer months.
2. REGISTER FOR MORE THAN ONE CARRIER
I recommend you register for two different baby carriers if you can. Some babies hate being worn at first or might prefer one type of carrier to another, so having options can be very helpful. My son only tolerated being worn in a stretchy wrap the first few weeks, and hated my buckle carrier, but he enjoyed being worn in a ring sling. And as an older baby, he preferred our buckle carrier. I also believe that some carriers are better than others for different stages of a baby’s life. Above all, be flexible and #expecttheunexpected. That’s pretty much my motto for parenting life because it rings true in SO many situations! You may spend hours scouring the internet to find the perfect baby carrier, only to discover after your baby is born that she hates it. Save your receipts and be prepared that you may need to switch gears once your baby is actually here.
3. LOOK FOR SECOND HAND ITEMS
If you don’t plan to have a registry or baby shower, buying one or two quality baby carriers can be pricey. Buying second hand from private parties is a great alternative at a much lower price point. Parents decide to sell their carriers for a variety of reasons, but many times it’s because a toddler has simply outgrown the need or desire to be worn, and their carrier is still in great condition. Facebook has tons of groups dedicated to babywearing, and you’ll most likely be able to find a baby carrier buy/sell/trade group in your area. Don’t forget to also look in thrift stores and consignment shops, as well as to scroll through Craigslist, Letgo, and OfferUp every now and again. When looking for a second-hand baby carrier, make sure the carrier is made by a trusted brand and that it’s in good shape with no tears or broken clasps or buckles. You will be carrying a very precious passenger after all!
4. CONSIDER LOGISTICS FOR BREASTFEEDING
If you want the option to breastfeed while babywearing, some carriers are superior for that capability. Ring slings are a great option for breastfeeding moms, since you can simply lift the rings and adjust your baby to find the optimal positioning for breastfeeding. If you prefer some coverage while nursing, the excess fabric in a ring sling can be used as a nifty nursing cover. Other good choices for breastfeeding while babywearing are stretchy wraps, mei-dais, or woven wraps.
5. EVALUATE LEARNING CURVE/EASE OF ATTACHING
All carriers have somewhat of a learning curve, but some are more complicated than others.
- Woven wraps can take considerable time to learn to tie properly and create a safe “seat” for your baby.
- Stretchy wraps require a lot of space (they’re usually quite long) and time to attach, so if you’re baby is fussy, it can be a pain to lay her down while you secure the wrap to your body.
- Ring slings are easier to attach, but getting a good “seat” can take several tries before you’ll feel confident your baby won’t slip out when you start moving.
- Some parents really just want pull out their carrier on and buckle baby in, making a SSC ideal for their situation. Others truly enjoy the process of creating the more complex types of carries that woven wraps, stretchy wraps, and mei-dais are capable of.
Although wraps and mei-dais may create frustration while you’re first learning to babywear, don’t be too quick to rule them out. They still have some amazing features (i.e. beauty, longevity, comfort) that might just outweigh the con of a steep learning curve.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Regardless of which carrier you choose, once you learn how to properly wear your carrier with baby inside, babywearing will become second nature to you.
When selecting a carrier, remember to consider your personal needs as a parent. Your comfort while babywearing is just as important as your baby’s.
I hope this post has been helpful to you for figuring out how to choose the right baby carrier. In the comments, tell me which carriers stand out to you! And if you already have a favorite, tell me why you love it!