The practice of babywearing is done all over the world and has many benefits for both mom (or any other caregiver) and baby. Jenna recently wrote a blog post for Atlanta Birth Center about the specific benefits of babywearing here. Once you’re ready to start wearing your baby, it may be difficult to know where to start. There are many carrier options, styles, and ways to carry. The following information will provide you with an overview of what is available and how to use the different types. Please note Atlanta Birth Center does not endorse any particular brand or type of carrier.
Wraps are long pieces of fabric that can be tied in multiple ways to hold an infant up to a toddler in a variety of positions. Wraps are made from a wide variety of fabrics and designs (i.e. stretchable cotton vs. woven cotton), which largely determines the price. Expect to pay from about $40 – $150 depending on the type of wrap. Wraps are generally easy to clean, very portable, and allow for easy breastfeeding. Some wraps are “one size fits all” and others are based on height or weight ranges of the person wearing the baby. Before placing your baby in a wrap, it’s important to read the instruction manual and watch any instructional videos that may have come with your wrap or that are available on the manufacturer’s website. Consumer Reports actually warns against using wraps because of the safety concern with improper use; however, when used properly, wraps can be a wonderfully versatile and safe way to wear your baby. Give yourself time to learn the various ways to carry your baby and practice the holds with the assistance of another person or with a doll or stuffed animal. Here is one mother’s detailed review of various types and brands of wraps and her favorite ways to carry with written and video instructions.
Some Popular Brands: Didymos, EllaRoo, Maya (with rings), Moby, Natibaby (with and without rings), Vatanai, Storchenwiege, Wrapsody
Pouches are adjustable pieces of fabric that slip over the caregiver’s head so that one end rests on the caregiver’s shoulder and crosses over the chest to the other side. This creates a pouch near the caregiver’s hip where the baby can sit, which allows for easy breastfeeding while in the carrier. Pouches are not recommended for people with neck or back problems since the child’s weight is distributed unevenly across one side of the caregiver’s body. Pouches are less versatile than wraps because they can only be worn in one position, but this also makes them much easier to use. Most pouches are made from cotton, so they are also easy to clean and store. These are best for older babies with good head control and who can sit upright. I caution you not to use pouches with newborns. In 2010 over 1 million pouches were recalled after three newborn deaths. The fabric of the pouch can cover their faces and/or their “C-shape” body position in the pouch can push their chins down tightly onto their chests, which may block airflow and can result in suffocation. Newborns are best worn in other types of carriers that allow them to maintain an upright position. Pouches are widely available and cost around $20-$70.
Some Popular Brands: Balboa, New Native, Zolo
Front carriers allow you to carry your infant on your chest. Most carry the baby facing the caregiver, but some allow you to turn the baby facing outward once he/she has better head control. This very popular type of carrier is offered from a wide range of manufacturers and range in price from $30-$170. There is a wide variation in how the carriers are made, available colors, how evenly the weight is distributed, the amount of padding, and the weight limits of the child. If you’re interested in this type of carrier, take time to read product reviews and/or try on store models to find the one that will best suit your needs. Front carriers are easy to put on and take off and are machine washable, but are a bit bulkier to carry in your diaper bag. Make sure you read the instruction manual carefully, as some models have specific safety measures for newborns to safeguard against falls. Due to the positioning of your baby on your chest and the straps of the carrier itself, it may be more difficult to breastfeed in this type of carrier.
Some Popular Brands: Baby Bjorn, Chicco
Back carriers are best used for older children. They fit the caregiver like a backpack, allowing for even weight distribution. They are often reinforced with structural support for carrying toddlers. This carry is great for hiking with small children as it’s comfortable and natural for the caregiver and allows the child to easily view their surroundings. They cost around $110-$200.
Some Popular Brands: Deuter, Kelty
Mei Tai Carriers (pronounced “may tie”)
Mei Tai carriers are an Asian designed square or rectangular piece of cloth with straps on all four corners. The baby can be worn on the chest or the back from newborn age through toddlerhood, though some manufacturers recommend waiting until your baby has some head control. They are made from cotton and are machine washable. There are several ways to tie the straps, so make sure you are familiar with the ties before using with your baby. Mei Tais cost around $80-$90 and many websites even allow you to personalize the patterns and/or colors of your carrier when ordering.
Some Popular Brands: Baby Hawk, Freehand, Mei Tai Baby
Multiple Position Carriers
These soft structured carriers can be worn in three different positions: on your chest, hip, or back. The padding and structure of the carrier supports your baby as he grows (with weight limits in the 40-50 pound range) and also distributes the weight evenly for your comfort. Manufacturers recommend using these once a baby has good head control and can wrap his legs around you (around 4 months); however, Ergo Baby has an infant insert that allows you to safely use the carrier from birth. They cost around $100-$140 and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Some Popular Brands: Beco, Ergo Baby
Carrying Two Children
Special Weather Carriers & Wraps
You can wear your baby through all seasons. Click here to check out light fabric carriers and wraps designed for warm weather. You can even get a UV cover or wear your baby in the pool or ocean. For the colder climates, check out these covers and coats.
Babywearing is a wonderful way to keep your baby close and both of you happy through infancy and into toddlerhood. Once you choose the carrier that will work best for you and your baby, make sure you fully understand the manufacturer’s instructions. Give yourself time to practice and get used to wearing your baby. If one type of carrier doesn’t feel right to you, consider returning it and trying another. I went through three types of carriers until I found the one that was perfect for me. With whatever type of carrier you choose, make sure you keep the following safety tips in mind. Happy BabyWearing!
General BabyWearing Safety Tips
- Always follow manufacturer instructions.
- Inspect your carrier before each use for tears or damage.
- Watch your baby carefully when he/she is sleeping in the carrier to make sure the airway is not blocked.
- Follow your baby’s cues. Babywearing should be comfortable for both you and your baby. If your baby begins crying in the carrier or seems uncomfortable, try repositioning or allow for some cuddle time outside of the carrier. If you are uncomfortable, remove your baby and try readjusting the carrier. Refer to your instruction booklet or manufacturer’s website for more help.
- Be mindful of your baby’s legs and arms sticking out of the carrier when walking through doorways or tight spaces.
- Carriers are not fire retardant, so do not use near open flames.
- Do not cook or handle hot food/drink or sharp knives if you are carrying your baby in a front or hip carry.
- A baby carrier is not a substitute for a car seat.
- Do not engage in vigorous exercise activity while carrying your baby.
- Avoid bending at your waist to prevent your baby from falling out of the carrier. If you must reach something low, bend at the knees or squat and keep one hand on your baby for support.
- As your child gets older, be aware of objects that may be in his/her reach when in the carrier, especially when using a back carry.