A common barrier to babywearing for some parents may be the huge market of baby carriers. There are so many brands, types, price points etc., that some parents may feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. First and foremost it is important to know that the type of baby carrier, or the brand of baby carrier is not at all important. Wearing your baby, holding her close and bonding together is the most important thing!
Every caregiver will have a different preference for type or brand of carrier, trying on several before you buy will help you decide what works best for you and your baby.
Here is my top 5 list, which I hope helps simplify things!
1. Sleep Belt
Although not technically a baby carrier, the sleep belt deserves mention here. It is like a “tube top”, a circular piece of stretchy material that can be used to hold a newborn skin to skin with a caregiver. The Sleep Belt is an excellent choice for a premature infant who does not yet meet manufacturers requirements for other carriers. (Usually a baby needs to be full term and 8lbs to be safely carried in other carriers.)
The Sleep Belt is not meant for the parent to sleep in, just the baby! Also, it is not meant for hands-free babywearing or walking around. Picture a new mom with a premature infant holding baby skin to skin while she reclines and watches TV or reads a book.
2. Ring Sling
Ring slings are one-shouldered carriers using 1 layer of woven material secured with 2 metallic rings. Ring slings come in several different shoulder styles: pleated, gathered and hybrid. The type of shoulder you pick is really personal preference.
In my mind, ring slings are great for 2 stages:
- Newborn wearing
- Hip carrying an older baby. A hip carry can be accomplished once you feel your baby has sufficient trunk control to be carried in arms on the hip, usually around 5 months of age.
Make sure your ring sling is made with metal rings that are approved for baby carrying, not plastic. Ring slings need constant adjustment, and probably wouldn’t be the best choice for a long hike. They may not be suitable for parents with back problems, especially as your baby gets heavier.
3. Buckle Carrier
I will break down buckle carriers by age range:
NEWBORN: It is easiest and probably safest to use a buckle carrier that does not require a special infant insert. The insert costs extra money, and can also be difficult to use, not to mention hot as it is an extra layer of material covering the baby!
Examples of brands that make buckle carriers that can be used from 8lbs and up in a full term infant: Beco Gemini, Lillebaby Complete (can start at 7lbs), Baby Bjorn Original, One and We; Tula free to grow, Soul slings “Anoon-A”, ErgoAdapt and several more I am forgetting!
4 MONTHS TO TODDLER: This is “most” buckle carriers, such as Ergo Baby, Baby Tula, Boba, Lenny Lamb, etc. These can be used without the infant insert as long as your baby fits knee to knee, with the knees swinging freely. They come in a variety of colours and sometimes the best choice is the carrier that you like to look at!
I should also note that for the ages 4-12 months you may want a carrier with the option to face outwards. This can be enjoyable for your baby to see a new perspective. However, it can also be overstimulating for baby and hard on the caregiver’s back so limit wearing facing out to 20 minutes at a time.
Also baby should be awake for this, old enough to fit the carrier properly and in an approved carrier (for example, Beco Gemini, Lillebaby Complete, various Baby Bjorn models). Many parents will prefer a hip carry over forward facing. Hip carrying still allows baby to see out but is more ergonomic for both of you.
TODDLER & PRESCHOOL YEARS: These are wider-based versions of the “baby size” buckle carrier and can be more supportive if you are carrying a child who wears size 2T clothing. However, it is not necessary to buy a larger carrier for your toddler or preschooler, often the standard size fits just fine and can be used usually until 35-45 lbs.
Always check the manufacturers’ instructions.
4. Stretchy Wrap
This is a long rectangular piece of material that can be wrapped around the caregiver and baby. Stretchy wraps are nice and snuggly for newborns, but often get less comfortable as your baby grows. They can start to feel saggy and dig into your shoulders after about 15 lbs. The Wrapsody Hybrid is a unique stretchy wrap that has only one way stretch and continues to be comfortable with larger babies.
Most stretchy wraps (except the hybrid) should not be worn for a back carry.
5. Woven Wrap
Woven wraps are also long rectangular pieces of material but they do not stretch like stretchy wraps. For that reason they can be worn much longer than a stretchy wrap, they usually support a baby or a toddler up to 45lbs. There are a variety of ways to tie a woven wrap. The tying method is referred to as a “carry”. The first carry to try when you are learning is “FWCC” or front wrap cross carry. Because wraps are infinitely adjustable, they can be fitted exactly to your baby each time, ensuring you are both comfortable. They can be worn in a front carry, hip carry or back carry. Back carries are only recommended if you are comfortable wrapping on your front, and if your baby is able to sit unassisted (usually around 6 mos of age).
This is one type of baby carrier that has a very large market and so many brands, fibre blends and sizes that it can make your head spin! If you are interested in trying a woven wrap, I suggest attending a babywearing meet up for hands on support and a chance to try out the wraps we have in the library. Also, buying a size 6 in 100% cotton is always a safe bet.
A very special thanks to the families who shared their babywearing photos with us and enriched our blog!
Comparison chart of buckle carriers:https://www.carrymeaway.com/learncenter/choosing-the-best-buckle-carrier-for-your-child-a-comparison-chart/
Buckle carrier fit tips:https://www.carrymeaway.com/learncenter/9-tips-getting-comfy-buckle-carrier-dos-donts/
Woven wrap sizing:https://babywearinginternational.org/what-is-babywearing/resources-for-educators/woven-wraps-a-sizing-guide/
How to tie a “front wrap cross carry”: https://uppymama.com/how-to-tie-front-wrap-cross-carry/
Jill Bailey is a local mom of 4 busy boys, a Babywearing Educator and a Family Physician with a special interest in pediatrics. She has enjoyed wearing all her boys, but her interest in babywearing grew after the birth of her 4th son in June 2016 when it became a beautiful necessity. Realizing that the Orangeville area had no Babywearing group, she took the Canadian Babywearing School Educator course in November 2016 and started a local group. She hopes to empower local parents to wear their babies safely, comfortably and confidently.
Join Jill’s Facebook community “Orangeville and Area Babywearers” for more support and information about monthly meet ups. At meet ups they discuss safe babywearing and spend time trying on different carriers. Their goal is to give you the skills and confidence to wear your baby safely and comfortably.