Baby carriers encompass all of the different products that are designed for a parent to wear their baby on their bodies and include: wraps and ring slings are made of long pieces of fabric while structured and soft-structured carriers have waistbands and shoulders straps. And those carriers have many options among them, as some allow you to carry your baby in front (facing in or out), on your back, on your hip, or a combination of all positions. So, how can you choose what’s the best baby carrier for you? Here are some helpful hints.
The Benefits of a Baby Carrier
While the idea of wearing your baby might seem intimidating at first, it’s actually a lot simpler than it first appears. And once I got the hang of using a wrap and carrier, I found it was an essential part of the first year of baby’s life, and made many things much easier.
Along with making life easier by having a hands-free option to carry my baby, there are real benefits to baby-carrying. For instance:
- A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found baby-wearing can reducing overall crying in infants by 43%.
- It can be easier to help get a fussy baby to sleep in a wrap or carrier.
- For those who choose to breast/chest feed, a carrier or wrap can provide easier access, often without the baby really needing to wake up or have too much of that pre-feeding fussiness.
- For those who are bottle feeding, carries and wraps allow a great option for older babies to be held and fed.
When it comes to choosing a baby carrier during your pregnancy, it can be challenging because if you haven’t used a carrier before, you aren’t sure what to look for. But if you are interested in having an option to baby-carrier, it can be helpful to know the benefits, as well as the types of carriers that are available. So let’s dive in.
Fabric Baby Wraps
Truly Mama Pick: Boba Wrap Baby Carrier ($59.99)
Baby wraps are exactly as they sound—you use a long piece of fabric to wrap your baby to you with a special tie and knot technique. Many of my parenting friends who chest/breast fed preferred these wraps because of really easy access for feedings. And because they keep the baby close and tucked in, they’re especially comfortable for newborns.
While wraps in general can take a bit of practice at first, both of these are prized for their comfort (for both baby and wearer), simplicity (these are long pieces of breathable fabric and are really easy to clean), and for their longevity –the Moby for example can hold between 8 – 30 pounds (which can accommodate a toddler if necessary).
Some wraps can accommodate a front, a back or a hip carry, with lots of guidance available online on how to perfect the wrap. And while I’m not a baby wearing expert, one general point of note with all wraps, slings and carriers: it is recommended to do some reading to ensure baby’s hips and limbs are always well positioned inside a sling, wrap or carrier. Many local parenting and baby stores offer in-person or online classes on baby wearing to ensure everything is being done safely and comfortably for all.
Baby Ring Slings
Truly Mama Pick: Maya Wrap ComfortFit Ring Sling ($75.95)
Ring slings consist of a long piece of fabric and use a looped ring to position and secure your baby. When my son was a newborn, I used the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Ring Sling ($75.95). I loved how easy it was to use, adjust, and wear for long periods of time. An added bonus? As a C-section mama I liked that it sat up higher away from my incision; there wasn’t a waistband I had to worry about in the months immediately after he was born. At the same time, it was exceptionally comfortable and didn’t put any strain on my back or shoulders.
The ComfortFit sling also has a zippered pocket which is great for holding your phone, a diaper or two or stashing a pacifier (so many, many pacifiers). Maya Wrap also has other options–like a sling with a lightly padded strap in case a bit more support and comfort might be helpful.
Structured Baby Carriers
Truly Mama Pick: BabyBjörn ($119.99 to $259.99)
As their names belies, these are typically a sturdier baby carrier with a more rigid outside frame. A note of importance on these carriers—many have inserts available for purchase for newborns that ensure necks and heads are properly supported until baby is a bit older and can support on their own.
There are many of these to choose from but the classic, and arguably the most recognizable baby carrier, is the BabyBjörn ($119.99 to $259.99). As the spectrum of price points indicates there are many options available here, with many of the carriers being able to be worn with baby facing inward (towards the wearer) or outwards (hi world!), and some are able to be worn as a back carrier.
To help with a sense of the options available for a structured carrier, I’ve linked the BabyBjorn comparison chart here.
Truly Mama Pick: ErgoBaby 360 ($144 to $180)
A soft-structured carrier is still made of shoulder straps and a waistband, but the carrier portion is typically softer and more pliable. I personally feel like these were the best of both the wrap and carrier world. I had a really squirmy baby and as he got bigger and stronger, I liked the move to the security of a carrier but with enough flexibility to wear for a long period of time.
There are lots of options for soft carriers but we found the best fit with the ErgoBaby 360 ($144 to $180). The Ergo was easy for me to get on and off by myself, and was very comfortable to wear. My son was born in the fall, so there was lots out outdoor time in the winter and following summer, and the ErgoBaby was great for all our outings. A plus was that it was easy to adjust when my husband wanted to wear it, and accommodated our significant difference in height with a few pulls on very well-located straps.
Best Hiking Carrier
While not technically a “carrier” like those mentioned above, I did want to mention that outdoorsy people may want to look at a backpack carrier: essentially a backpack you put your kid in. They are much more heavy-duty than soft-structured carriers, with metal frames, wide straps, and extra-thick waistbands, and are made for carrying your baby or toddler for long periods of time.
They’re great for active families who love to hike or walk, or just active kids who still want to see what’s going on. Many will also have a metal frame to help it sit up on the ground, making it easy for the little one to get into.
I hope this review has been helpful in thinking through what you might want by way of a carrier, wrap, or sling. As mentioned, many local baby stores or resources centers have in-person and online seminars on how to baby wear, and some may have wraps in-store for you to try so you can test-drive an option before you buy. Happy baby carrying!
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