Baby Carriers - a baby and parents' best friend

woven wrap
One of the things I most look forward to when I've got a little baby on the way (which I finally do--woot!) is snuggling them up next to me in a baby carrier. I don't know why, but there's something really special about it, especially when they are fast asleep and you can tell they are in total bliss next to you.

Obviously, I'm not one of those parents that uses a baby carrier all day long, but out of all the supplies to get when a baby comes along, a baby carrier/sling is at the top of my
'to buy' list for any parent. If you don't have one or have one and don't use it, you don't know what you are missing out on! Here are some reasons I love them:
  • They make travel much easier. I like my stroller, but when baby needs to sleep or is fussy, a carrier is a great place to be. And when we are on hikes or any other place where strollers are cumbersome, a carrier is about a million times easier than carrying baby (or toddler) in my arms.
  • They make shopping much easier. Not only do you not have the car seat taking up most of the cart, but you don't have a fussy baby or a whining toddler who wants to be held. And you have two arms to shop and manage other children.
  • A carrier is useful for one child, but it's a bit of a life saver when you have more than one child--especially when you've got an older mischievous child that likes to sprint away any chance she gets (did any of you ever see that hilarious Modern Family about this?)
  • Not every baby can be fully comforted during the evening fussies, especially if they are colicky, but for many babies, plopping them into a carrier will turn them from fussy to happy and if you are really lucky, fast asleep. Jacob spent much of his evenings the first few months of his life in a carrier. For him it was the difference between a crying baby and a happy baby.
  • I know I'm not the only one that dreads dinner time. It's seems like the perfect time for older children to act up and for baby to want to be held. Out comes carrier and at least half of the problem is solved. Be safe if you are cooking and holding a baby though! I usually back carry during this time.
  • A carrier allows extra snuggle time for a busy mom and has been shown to lessen crying.
  • It provides an easy way to breastfeed on the go. I personally have always been terrible at breastfeeding with baby in a carrier, but many people don't completely lack in talent like me and have huge success at this.

Can you tell I really like them?!


stretchy wrap

OK. So not everyone will love baby carriers as much as me, but obviously I really think they're worth trying out! Most younger babies will love carriers from the beginning, but if you've got an older baby, you may need to start off with short periods and try it several times over before she starts to like it. Trying out different carriers and holds can help too. And keep in mind that older babies often don't like to sit still very long in a carrier so you may need to move around every so often to keep her happy.

For those of you who are new to babywearing, here are some of the basics to help it go well:
  1. Get a high quality, comfortable carrier! If you don't have a good carrier, you'll be miserable and so will baby. Most of the carriers sold in big stores today are not the kind of carrier you want. Luckily, baby carrying has become more popular and people have become more aware of carrier safety and comfort so we're starting to see a few good carriers, like Ergo, in stores.  I list some suggested brands below.
  2. Knee to knee please! A baby's position in a carrier is important not only for her comfort, but also to keep her hips and spine healthy. Baby's should be carrier in a straddled and squatted position with baby's knees slightly higher than baby's bottom. The carrier will be supporting baby's weight from knee to knee (rather than just by the crotch). It's much like the position baby naturally takes when you hold her.
  3. Facing in is best. The general recommendation is to have baby facing toward you. This allows you to keep baby in the knee to knee position and it also allows her to turn away so she doesn't get overstimulated. If you start with a carrier early on, baby will probably be very content facing in. If baby loves to face out, I suggest just doing this for short periods of time. Personally, I'm not too terribly worried about a baby beyond the newborn stage getting overstimulated but, I do worry about all that weight on their crotch and their hip and back alignment in the facing out position.
  4. Try out different positions and carriers to see what you and baby like best. You can carry on the back, front or hip and as far as kinds of carriers, there are lots out there with the main ones being slings, mei tais, soft structured carriers/buckle carriers, and wraps (stretchy and non-stetchy).
  5. Follow the directions and recommendations of the carrier you buy. Make sure you wear it snug enough, high enough and correctly. Keep baby's airway open at all times (there is nothing scary or difficult about this if you know what you are doing). Practice in front of a mirror several times (you can use a doll at first) and have someone experienced help you out. YouTube can also be really helpful when learning how to use a carrier. Here are some tips on babywearing safely.
position (but it should be a touch higher) of newborn in a carrier (Photo Credit: jeportemonbebe.com)

position of a 3/4 month old in a carrier

Different Kinds of Carriers and Suggested Brands:
When you buy a carrier, cheap often means not well made--and that can put your baby at risk. For the most part, I recommend buying/borrowing carriers that have been reviewed by well educated babywearers as safe. You can find many reviews (and lots of other info) on TheBabyWearer  and DiaperSwappers. You can also buy and sell used carriers here, but you have to kind of know what you are doing to do this, so it'll take a bit more effort and research to do it this way. Making your own carrier is also a good option-- to make a safe one it will usually take a good amount of time and work. I'm going to include some recommended brands below-- there are many good brands out there so the list is definitely not complete.
ring sling

Wrap (Stretchy) - This is one of the most common carriers used with newborns and my personal favorite for this age. It is easy for beginners to pick up and one of the least expensive to buy. It can only be used with small babies. At about 16-20 pounds they start to not feel supportive enough to me (although they list them as ok for a bit longer than this). You can only use a stretchy wrap on the front. Some good brands are: Anaju, Boba, Lovey Duds, Moby, Sleepy Wrap, Snuggy Baby and my favorite, Wrapsody Bali Stretch (it's cooler to wear and can be used with heavier babies). Very easy to DIY--all you need is 5 yards of thick stretch cotton or blend fabric, no need to even sew.

Wrap (Woven) - A woven wrap is the most versatile carrier out there although it has one of the bigger learning curves. Like the stretchy wrap, it's a long piece of fabric that you use to wrap baby to you.  One wrap will take you from newborn until the end of your babywearing days. You can carry on front, back and hip. I recommend starting off with a 4.6 meter (size 6). Some good brands are: BBSlen, Didymos, Dolcino, Ellaroo, Ellevill, Hoppediz, NatiBaby, Neobulle, Girasol, Storchenwiege, Vatanai (great for the heat), Wrapsody Bali Breeze (great for heat). Which brand is best? They all vary in their own way--I suggest starting off with something you love the look of (it's hard to choose!) and go from there. These aren't great to DIY, although some people will make them with gauze or osnaburg. Here are some great wrapping instructions that includes pictures and videos.

Slings, Ring Slings and Pouches - A sling is a long piece of fabric worn over one shoulder. Pouches have a bit of a pocket for baby to sit in and ring slings have rings that make them fully adjustable (the kind of sling I prefer due to better adjustability and fit). Slings, especially one without a ring, are small and light and easy to tote around. They work well with newborns and are nice for babies that want frequent ups and downs. They can be tough on the body if baby weights much since your weight isn't evenly distributed. Some people loves slings, but I personally only use them occasionally because I get sore if I wear baby for long in them. Some good brands include: Comfy Joey, Hotslings, Karma Baby, Kalea Baby, Maya Wrap, Peanut Shell, Sleeping Baby Productions, Sakura Bloom, Sweet Pea, Zolowear. Here's a DIY tutorial. Tips on how to use a sling here.

mei tai

Mei Tai (MT) - This is one of the least known types of carriers but one of my favorites ones once you get past the newborn period.  This is pretty much a body panel of rectangular fabric with two waste straps and two shoulder straps. It can be worn on the front, back or hip. It is more adjustable than the soft structured carriers below which is helpful with multiple users (it resembles them minus their buckles) and gives you more of a closer fit. Some good brands are: Babyhawk, Bamberoo, Catbird Baby, Dream Carriers, Freehand, Kindercarry, Kozy, Nursling Hemp Tai, Olivia Bolivia, Tettitett, Two Mamas Designs. DIY tutorials here. Tips on how to use a Mei Tai here.

Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) - These are like mei tais but have buckles. They generally have extra shoulder and hip padding and don't hold baby quite as close to your body as a mei tai, but much closer to your body than a framed backpack (as a general rule, the closer it is, the less weight it feels you are carrying). These are easier to use once baby is past the newborn stage and I personally find them the coolest to use for hiking and similar things, especially if you get one with mesh or solarveil fabric. These are a favorite Dad carrier. Some good brands include: Action Baby Carrier, Bamberoo, Beco, Boba, Ergo(the most well known SSC--only buy new unless you know for sure it is not a counterfeit), Dream Carrier, Kanga, Kinderpack, Oh Snap, Olives and Applesauce, Tula, Two Mamas Designs.

There's a lot more info I could give you on carriers, but I think I've probably mentioned more than most of you ever wished to know already! Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question and I'll do my best answering it--or at least send you off somewhere where you can get your question answered.

Happy Babywearing!

Soft Structured Carrier





11 comments:

  1. What a great post -- thank you for sharing the wisdom! Quick question for you ... My son just turned one but is 33 inches (to my 60). Do you think the MT is the best option for us? TIA!

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    1. Suzanne+matt,
      A MT, SSC or wrap would work well for you. Most people starting to babywear at a year will probably feel more comfortable with a MT or SSC. The SSC has an easier learning curve but the MT is a great option too. It mainly has to do with preference. Is there someone who has one you could try out? If you live near SLC in utah you can come over and try out mine :) Oh, and if you get a MT, I personally find them more comfortable with toddlers if it has a padded waste, and you'll probably want a standard size if there is an option there.

      Rachel

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  2. What are your thoughts on the BabyBjorn?

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    1. Nancy,
      Bjorn has come out with a better model that allows you to hold baby more knee to knee. But I'm still not a very big fan of it. Almost every other carrier I've tried is more comfortable for baby and mom, and it is hard for me to be a fan of a carrier that promotes a carry (non-knee to knee) that isn't ideal. But for some tiny newborns it can work well and even if it's not the best carrier, it's still nice to see moms wearing their babies close to them.

      Rachel

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  3. This is a great post about baby wearing! I love the pictures of the transparent wrap showing correct positioning (thanks to you for teaching me!). I now cringe when I see a baby worn incorrectly or in a baby bjorn/snuggli (like the previous comment).

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    1. Sharon,
      Yeah, I love those transparent pictures. It makes it a lot easier to understand the positioning when you can see it clearly. I honestly sometimes find myself starting to cringe when I see a baby held incorrectly in a carrier, but I try to keep in mind that at least the baby is being held and the person is trying to babywear, so cheers for that.

      Rachel

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  4. I was a little surprised that you like baby wearing so much. I've been following your blog for a month or so now and read a lot of posts on routine etc and I always thought babywearing defeats the purpose of the routine as it gets the baby used to be worn and constantly near the parent. For this reason I didn't even register for a wrap/sling as I want to practice attachment parenting (which advocates a lot of babywearing) as little as possible. I am concerned the baby will get used to sleep when its on me or being worn and I won't be able to be away from her even for few minutes.

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    1. MakeUpJunkie,
      Thanks for the good questions. I hold and cuddle my babies and toddlers and and even older children a lot. They sleep on their own most of the time (some exceptions would be a fussy evening time when they don't sleep well or when we are out and about during sleep times) and I teach them independent play from a young age (even starting with just a few minutes as a newborn) but I feel like lot of cuddling and holding actually helps them be more independent.

      I've noticed that parents that ALWAYS hold their children do sometimes have a child who is reluctant to ever be put down or separated from the parent, but I feel a nice combination of holding/cuddling and some independent time to their own helps them feel safe and secure but also free to explore on their own. As they get older, gently encouraging them to do things more on their own will lead to even more independence. They begin to understand that mommy can't hold/give attention to them all the time and although they may not like it at first, they will get used to it. My children have done amazingly well with separation and independence, better than most other children I know. I'm not as extreme as the AP philosophy that advocates always holding and sleeping with a child and avoiding non-human props at all costs (pacifier, bouncy chair), but I feel a good amount of nearness to a parent from birth will help not hinder development, attachment and independence.

      In regards to holding them in a carrier for sleep, yes, they will get used to that. Good sleep habits are something to strive for most of the time, but some variation from the norm is ok. So holding in a carrier for sleep is ok sometimes if you're aiming for independent sleep, but doing it a lot can inhibit independent sleep.

      best,
      Rachel

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  5. Hi Rachel,

    I've found your blog to be so informative! So far we do EWS and a consistent bedtime routine. I do nurse to sleep at night, which I'm OK with for now (My baby is 3 months and wakes twice a night).
    What I need help with is naps! Somewhere along week 6 I realized he napped so well when I wore him in a carrier (Moby wrap). Since then I've with him for every nap (apart from naps in the stroller). I haven't put him down for a nap once in the past 6 weeks. Now that the "fourth trimester" is ending I'd like to start transferring naps to the crib (which he sleeps fine in at night). I'd also still like to have him nap in the carrier, maybe for one nap a day, so I can go out with him. Do you have advice how to transition?

    Any help would be appreciated!
    Tullah

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    1. Tullah,
      Take a look at the 0-3 minutes nth sleep guide. Take it step by step. You might want to start putting him down in bed once asleep in wrap then try once drowsy. Try having him go to sleep where is bed is (but in a wrap at first) and don't move around when he's falling asleep. These method might work, or he might just fight it and it could be easier dropping the wrap all at once. doing a nap a day in the wrap might work ok, but it could sabotage your st work.

      Rachel

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  6. I know, you are looking for the best baby carriers for Breastfeeding! I also go through in this situation a few times back. It was a great mess at that time to find the best one for my baby. Best Baby Carriers

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