Baby carriers are one of those things that you don’t really think you’ll need as a new mom until you have one. They can become even more handy when you have more kids and fewer hands! But picking a baby carrier can be daunting with all the types and styles and brands. A lot of it is up to your personal preference and your baby, but I’m going to share with you a rundown of the most common types of baby carriers, and a few of my personal tips.
So WHY get a baby carrier?
Well, there are lots of reasons. It keeps baby close, which is awesome for bonding and breastfeeding. If you have a baby with colic or reflux, the upright position can allow baby to sleep. You can even breastfeed in some carriers without completely removing your baby from it. It can be less cumbersome to carry your wee one in a carrier instead of a stroller (but strollers do have their advantage of extra storage!) It also keeps your baby close and away from too many people, a nice bonus during cold and flu season. And the biggest advantage of a carrier is is allows you to be hands free! I could pop my baby in the carrier and go about my chores of the day, or go walk a busy market without worrying about my stroller fitting in a small space. When my second came along, I was able to keep her close but still be able to care for my older child and not have to do everything one handed (which is a skill most moms will acquire at some point!)
There are a lot of different styles of carriers and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. So when looking for a carrier, you need to think about what you will be doing and where. And don’t worry, it’s totally ok if you end up with more then one style of carrier. Another difference between most carriers are the positions you can put your baby in. Some styles only allow one or maybe two different positions, while some allow a wide variety. Different positions include inward facing, facing outwards, hip carriers, lying down/cross cradle, or backpack carriers.
Before we begin:
There are always a few rules for wearing your baby in order to keep your baby safe in the carrier.
- Your baby must be KISSABLE – close enough to kiss so you know they are snug enough to you
- They must be VISABLE – keep your baby’s face in view at all times so you can check on them to make sure they are comfortable, breathing easily, and not overheating
- They must be SUPPORTED – making sure your baby’s back, hips, and necks for newborns are supported and in their natural position is important
- You need to watch baby’s CHIN – keep baby’s chin off their chest so their airway is open
- Your baby should be SNUG – snug in the carrier and tight against you to prevent them from falling out or slumping down, which could restrict their breathing.
Sling carriers come in a lot of different varieties and colours, and can be used with a few different carry positions. The sling style is typically worn over one shoulder with baby either lying down, sitting facing you, or on your hip. You need to be cautious when having a baby lying in the ‘pouch’ since they can slouch and it can affect their breathing.
The advantage of a sling carrier is they are quick and easy to put on and get baby comfy. They are also usually small enough they can be tossed into a purse or diaper bag.
The down side is it typically isn’t comfortable to wear for a long time and can get hard on your shoulder or hip. But for quick errands or travel, it worked great for me.
Wrap carriers come in a wide variety of fabrics – some woven with less stretch, some very stretchy. And they have come a long way since my babies were small enough to be worn!
The advantage with wrap carriers is they can offer a lot of different position options, and some are even safe for newborns, where other carriers are not. They can offer a nice snuggled position and keep baby close while keeping your hands free.
The down side is that some of the wraps can be complicated, and there is definitely a learning curve. There are some styles of wrap carriers out there now that are partially sewn together, making getting your baby in and out of the wrap easier. Another down side of the wraps is I found it was difficult to transfer my sleeping baby from carrier to crib without waking him when removing him from the complicated wraps.
The soft-structured or “backpack style” carriers are probably one of the most popular styles you will see out there, and there are a lot of brands available. Depending on the brand, you will have the opportunity to wear your baby in multiple positions. Some brands also offer inserts to allow you to carry your baby as a newborn, where others do not and you must wait until your baby is older to carry them.
My backpack style carrier was the my favourite out of all of my carriers. The ability to put my baby in the carrier on my own and with minimal fuss was a big advantage. I was also able to carry them until they were toddlers.
The brand I used puts most of your baby’s weight on your hips – which is a nice bonus if you have neck and shoulder problems like me. However, they tend to be expensive, and because of where the waistband sits, you might not find it comfortable if you’re a c-section mom until you are fully healed. I also found that in the summer my babies got HOT in this carrier – maybe black wasn’t the best choice 😉
Mei Tai carriers
A Mei-Tai carrier is almost like a mix between a soft-structured carrier and a wrap style carrier. It gives you the look and feel of the structured carrier, but without the buckles. This was the one style I never tried personally. Like the soft-structured it gives you the versatility of positions, but without the hip-carries. They can also be complicated with getting the knots tight enough or having the tails drag on the ground.
So what does this all mean? As you can see, when looking for a carrier it depends on the age of your baby and what you plan to do with it. Is it for just around the house or quick errands, or a bigger baby and longer walks or hikes?
Your best bet is to find an amazing baby supply store and test them out, even before your baby arrives. And bring your partner too, because baby wearing is for everyone!
Finding a style of carrier that works for you and your lifestyle is important, and they are definitely worth the investment.
Do you have a favourite babycarrier? Leave your pick in the comments!