Here’s pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about babywearing
(Photo: Unsplash, Steven Cleghorn)

This post is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop.

Here’s pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about babywearing

My husband recently returned from six weeks of TDY. While he was gone, I was solo-parenting my three children, ages four, two, and six months. During that time, I had to figure out the logistics of school drop-off, going to the grocery store, and stopping at the post office with children in tow, all while completing my basic household chores around my children’s schedules, with or without their “help.” One thing that made it all easier was babywearing.

While my husband was gone, my youngest spent large parts of the day in his carrier or wrap attached to my front. I raked leaves, prepped dinner, dropped the older two off at school, vacuumed, and visited the post office all with two hands free and my son strapped to me. Since he often fell asleep, I didn’t have to waste time getting him down for a nap and could use that time for other chores. Once he fell asleep, I would use that time to write, all with him still strapped to me.

Why should you choose babywearing?

Believe it or not, babywearing can have some real benefits:

  • One study has shown that six-week-old babies cried 43 percent less than other children.
  • Infants that are carried by their mothers stop crying, reduce voluntary movements, and exhibit decreased heart rates. It is a beneficial way to calm a baby.
  • Wearing promotes bonding, can help the mother battle postpartum depression, and makes breastfeeding easier.
  • Babies who are carried tend to eat and sleep better.
  • It makes solo-parenting so much easier.

How to choose a baby carrier

There are a number of baby carriers out there, so how do you choose? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long do you plan to babywear?
  • Who will use the carrier? Will you be sharing?
  • Do you want to purchase one carrier to last through all stages of wearing?
  • What is your budget?

Rachel Boarman is a Certified Babywearing Consultant (yes, that’s a real thing!) and blogger at Wrapping Rachel, who says that there is no one “right carrier” out there. “I find that both babies and caregivers have carrier preferences. There isn’t one carrier that is perfect for everyone,” she said.

The best way to find the right carrier for you is to head over to Babywearing International, and scroll down to “find a chapter.” You can find a local group there where you can ask questions, try out carriers, and find your best fit. You can click here to find a consultant near you.

“Hands on help is really incredible and can make the difference if a carrier isn’t quite working out for you or baby,” Boarman said. “Sometimes a small adjustment is all it takes to really love a carrier. It’s easy to figure out if you meet with an educator.”

Types of carriers

What are the various types of carriers? What are the pros and cons of each? We’ve got you covered. Note that this is not an exhaustive list and other pros and cons are out there. This list also does not include hiking backpack carriers since they are not used for everyday wear. Here are some of the top carriers for everyday use and the favorite brands among them:

Soft structured carriers

  • Price range: $40-$250. SSCs can fit almost any budget, but they are very easy to find secondhand without being overused.
  • Weight: 8-35 pounds
  • Uses: You can wear baby on the front, hip, and back (some models allow baby to face out on the front). These are often preferable if you are looking for a quick and easy carrier to use for longer carries. Great for all-day wearing or when running errands where baby may be in and out frequently. Can breastfeed (with some practice) or bottle-feed without removing baby from the carrier.
  • Why choose: Some wearers believe SSCs offer a better hold because there is less room for error. It’s a matter of connecting buckles and tightening straps like a backpack rather than wrapping around the body and tying. They tend to be quick to put on and easy to put baby in and take baby out. The padding on straps can make for longer, more comfortable carriers.
  • Drawbacks: Some models can feel bulky or hold in heat. Newborns can be difficult to wear properly without inserts. Some carriers may not be used for infants and others may require additional equipment. Those who have short torsos or longer arms may find these types of carriers don’t work as well. “Some people find it annoying to share between caregivers if they like to keep their straps adjusted perfectly without changing them. SSCs can be like jeans–it sometimes takes trying on a few to find one that works perfectly for your body and baby’s body,” Boarman said.
  • More information: Some carrier brands have developed lightweight carriers that are more breathable and thinner to prevent babies from getting too warm. Many of these carriers offer hoods to cover baby’s head on a sunny day as well as storage pockets for the wearer. These carriers are fully adjustable, they can be shared between parents or sold secondhand.

Ring Slings

  • Weight: Birth-35 pounds
  • Fabric types: Linen blends (summer), cotton (winter) and everything in between.
  • Uses: Offers three types of carries (front, hip, and back). Easy to nurse on the go.
  • Why choose: Slings can be more comfortable, keep wearer and baby cooler, and easy to put on. This type of carrier is sometimes better suited for infants without additional equipment. It is easy to pop baby in and out is quick and easy to use.
  • Drawbacks: There is a slight learning curve but educators can help. As it’s a one-shoulder carry, it can limit arm mobility for the wearer on one side and have uneven weight distribution. Back carries can take some practice.
  • More information: Ring slings have a “tail” of fabric that can be used as a sunshade, breastfeeding cover, or a blanket.

Stretchy wrap

  • Fabric types: Knit jersey, gauze, and other stretchy fabrics
  • Weight: Birth-25 pounds, sometimes lower.
  • Uses: You can carry the baby on the front. Stretchy wraps are great for use at home while snuggling a newborn. The wearer can breastfeed or bottlefeed without removing baby from the wrap.
  • Why choose: The fabrics are soft and cuddly for infants and tend to be warm and cozy for babies in the winter. It’s easy to pop baby in and out without retying the wrap.
  • Drawbacks: The fabrics can stretch out during wear as baby gets heavier, requiring the wearer to re-tie the wrap for a better fit. Some can also lose their stretch over time. Certain fabric types can get too warm and lack breathability. It can take some time to learn how to use properly. These wraps do not offer a back carry option.

Woven wrap

  • Fabric types: Linen, cotton, wool, and others.
  • Weight: Birth-toddler
  • Uses: These wraps are great for all day snuggling at home or while out. The wearer can breastfeed or bottle-feed without removing baby from the wrap. You can carry baby on the front, side, or back.
  • Why choose: Woven wraps are versatile for babies of all sizes from birth to toddlerhood. (Boarman says you can use the same wrap from newborn to preschool!). Fabrics are usually soft, machine washable, and get better with wear. They usually come in a variety of patterns and colors. They are supportive and comfortable. Certain carries allow the wearer to easily pop baby in and out.
  • Drawbacks: Tying can be be time-consuming and there are multiple ties to learn. Boarman says it can take time to find what specific carries are preferable to the wearer and baby. A local educator can help guide you if you choose this wrap.

Meh Dais

  • Fabric types: Usually the bulk of the carrier is made using wrap fabrics, but the straps are a more durable fabric like twill, corduroy, or canvas (among others).
  • Weight: Birth-toddler (may require some adaptation)
  • Uses: Can wear baby on the front, hip, or back. This carrier is a sort of hybrid of wraps and SSCs, so the wearer gets the benefits of both.
  • Why choose: Easily shared between wearers. The carrier is worn by tying ties instead of using buckles or adjusting straps. It can be easy to pop baby in and out.
  • Drawbacks: The tie straps overwhelm some wearers, while others don’t like that the straps may touch the ground when putting baby in.

Start wearing

Whatever carrier you choose, be sure to take some time to learn how to use it properly. There are unsafe ways to carry, that can risk baby slipping out or harm the wearer due to incorrect wear. An educator will ensure you are doing it properly and can advise you on better ways to wear to be even more comfortable. Happy wearing!

The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.

By Sarah Peachey