How to Choose the Right Baby Carrier
There are different ways to carry your baby, whether home or outside, but probably nothing beats the baby carrier.
Having your little one close to your heart at all times can be a priceless and invaluable experience. Sure, there are strollers or car seats, but the carrier definitely gives you the mobility the other two can’t. You can walk freely, move without fuss in public places and do all kinds of tasks during the day - while your baby relaxes or takes a nap safely tucked and warm on your body.
In fact, by promoting moments of bonding, the carrier is said to help with children who are more temperamental, as well as help mothers struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. Physical contact with the baby actually contributes to the production of oxytocin in the body, which is the so-called “hormone of love”.
Baby carriers come in lots of shapes and sizes and can be used for both babies and toddlers. Some parents want to use them only in the early months of their baby’s life, feeling uncomfortable after the baby starts to grow. Others are happy to continue carrying them even when they’re 2-3 years old. Carriers are designed to handle all this, some models managing weights up to 50-60 pounds; they are specially designed, with ergonomic straps and pads that help shift the weight of your child onto your hips, rather than the shoulders.
Next, we’ll go through a couple of different models of baby carriers where you can have the chance to see which one will suit you and your baby best.
Types of Baby Carriers
Baby carriers usually fall into four main categories: slings, front packs, backpacks, and wraps.
Slings are carriers made of swaths of fabric that are carried over one shoulder where the baby comes in the front. Other benefits of the sling include:
- They’re great for newborns who often have to be held in their mothers’ arms; works much better than having to be pushed in a stroller, which also isn’t really recommended for babies under six months.
- Perfect for pursuing daily tasks with your hands-free and no worries about your little one on the side – this way you can do almost whatever you want and have them right in front of you at all times.
- Multi-purpose carriers – very convenient for different activities with your baby. Besides carrying, you can also use it to cover your sleeping baby. If you’re a mother who nurses, it also allows for a more discreet nursing experience, creating privacy during breastfeeding.
- Babies are usually pretty comfortable in the slingers and you can even move them in and out of it while they are sleeping
- Slings are lightweight, small, easy to carry with you and allow for a variety of positions for the baby.
A drawback in using slings would be that they’re not really ergonomic – because they’re worn on one shoulder, the weight of the baby falls unevenly and they can become uncomfortable as the baby grows and increases in weight. They can also be a bit confusing to use in the beginning; if not positioned correctly, the baby can slide out of the bottom. Make sure you know how to position it properly before using it.
Front packs have a bit of a more complex structure than the slings. They contain a seat that attaches on your front with straps that secure the carrier to your body.
- The benefits are pretty similar to the slings: lightweight, portable, you can keep your hands and arms free at all times.
- Some front packs come in two options: the baby can face inwards towards you or outwards towards the world, which often can be great fun for tad older babies.
- The front packs are bulkier than the slings, so moving the baby in and out of it is more difficult. They’re also more suited for babies that can already hold their heads upright.
Backpacks are actually very similar to regular backpacks or camping backpacks. They consist of a seat and a frame that’s attached to your back with straps that cross over the shoulders.
- Backpacks are usually better for older babies who can sit upright, and especially more curious ones that like to explore their surroundings from high up.
- Many of them are pretty spacious and have extra room for keeping supplies.
- Some models also include a canopy for different types of weather.
- Very convenient for all-day trips – hiking, amusement parks or regular outings, shopping.
- They can be rather bulky in size and form, and not for everyone. Also getting the backpack on and off your back can be a two-person job.
Wraps are similar to slings but are worn around the body and over both shoulders. Like slings, they’re made from softer materials and are pretty versatile, which makes them rather popular. You can easily adjust them by pulling on the fabric. They’re also more convenient when breastfeeding. The downside would be similar to the slings: they can become uncomfortable if you carry bigger kids because they don’t have the ergonomic support that the backpacks and the front packs usually have.
How to Decide on a Carrier
There isn’t one perfect type of carrier for parents and babies. As we saw earlier, they vary in proportions and forms, and some types fit some people better than others. A lot of parents also switch between them, especially as the baby gets older, trying on what would be most suitable for them and their baby.
The first thing to think about is where and how you plan to use a carrier. Are you planning on using it throughout the whole day, only indoors or for various occasions, both in and outside? Defining the purpose of the carrier will significantly help to narrow down your choices.
It’s always a good idea to first try the carriers while you’re in the store or borrow one from a friend or acquaintance, preferably with your baby so they have a say in the choice as well.
What to Look For
- Adaptability – some parents prefer different types of carriers for different ages of their baby, usually a sling or wrap for a newborn and a more structured carrier for a bigger baby or a toddler. The great thing is that a lot of carriers are actually designed to grow along with your child.
- Comfort for the parent – comfort is crucial for you and your baby. For your comfort, you should look for wide straps with good padding for a better distribution of the baby’s weight. This will save your neck, shoulders and upper back from a lot of strain. Some people share the carrier with other parents or their partners – if you’re one of them make sure to find one that is easily adjustable for both of your bodies’ types.
- Comfort for the baby - the baby’s comfort is also a priority number one. If you plan to buy a front carrier, look for ones that have loose enough pad holes which aren’t going to be too tight for your baby’s thighs. They shouldn’t be too loose though, otherwise the baby might slip through. Considering babies also sleep in the carrier it’s good to get one with a padded headrest which will support their neck and head.
- Safety – this goes hand to hand with comfort. Always make sure the straps and the seat support your baby securely. Look for belts, buckles, and snaps that are made from more durable materials, and make sure they are in good working order.
- Usability – usually it’s best to look for carriers that don’t require an extra person to set them up or to put the baby in. You should be able to take the baby in and out and the carrier on and off without help.
- Flexibility – if you often want to change the positions of the baby or you want to breastfeed while wearing the carrier, look for one that will make the experience easier and more discreet for you. Slings and wraps are the best types for these purposes.
- Weather – there are carriers which can be too warm for summer days, especially if they’re darker colors, which absorb the light more. When buying a carrier also consider the clime in which you will be wearing it most and search for an appropriate fabric.
- Care – it’s important to know how easy it is to clean the carrier. The easier the maintenance, the better. Usually, carriers that are machine-washable are more practical - cause we all know, kids can be pretty messy!
Some Safety Notes
While carriers are pretty convenient, there are some important safety precautions that need to be taken into consideration:
- You should always consult with your pediatrician before using a sling if:
o You have a baby under 4 months.
o The baby is born prematurely or with low weight.
o Has respiratory problems.
- Check your baby often when wearing a sling or wrap. See that it’s not curled up or in a chin to chin position and that its face shouldn’t be pressed against the fabric or your body. These positions can be potentially dangerous and lead to suffocation within minutes, which is why you need to be extra careful.
- Make sure your baby’s face is visible – either at or above the rim of the wrap or sling.
If you’re still confused about what choice you want to make when buying a baby carrier – and, granted, it is rather vast – you can find a list of best baby slings in our Best Baby Carry Sling Guide
, that offers the handiest choices for both mother and baby.