There are so many options! Where do I begin???
Source: BWI of Greater Houston
Like so many other categories of baby gear, babywearing can also look intimidating on the surface to those who are just dipping their toes in the water. There are different carrier types, but within those categories the options are endless. What is a new parent or caregiver to do?
The first thing to consider is your lifestyle. Are you the type of family that just wants to get up and go on the spur of a moment? Do you like taking your time getting everyone comfortable? Do you enjoy a challenge? Do you want something easy? Are you a childcare provider who might have many children to wear throughout the day? Will both partners (and even older siblings!) be wearing the child? Or will wearing rest primarily on one person’s shoulders? And of course consider your budget, although each category contains high-end, mid-range, and budget-friendly options.
Woven wraps may have the highest learning curve, but for most, they are the most comfortable and versatile way to carry a baby. The same wrap can last from the newborn days all the way into toddlerhood by wrapping it different ways. Front, back, and hip options are all available. Most people start with a size 6 as their base size, but check our ‘What Size Wrap Do I Need?’ post for more information on wrap sizes.
Closely related to woven wraps are stretchy wraps, which are a fantastic option for newborns, but once baby reaches around 15lbs, they begin to stretch too much and may not be as comfortable for the wearer. Stretchy wraps are not quite as versatile as a woven wrap as they can only be used for front carries. Popular brands in this category are Moby, Happy Baby Wraps, and K’Tan (which isn’t a true wrap, but carries like a wrap).
Ring slings are a super quick, easy in, easy out carrier. They are essentially a woven wrap, with a pair of rings attached to one end. Ring slings are very comfortable, especially for small babies, but as the child grows into toddlerhood, the increased weight on one shoulder can begin to strain the caregiver during longer carries. Still, many people enjoy having a ring sling for those walks in and out of daycare or quick trips into the store.
Pouch Slings are constructed of a single fabric with ends sewn together to form a loop. Similar to ring slings, the weight of the baby falls on one shoulder, but pouches must be fitted properly to the wearer. These carriers are only suitable for babies with good head control who can also sit unassisted. Pouches are very quick and easy to use and can fold up smaller than virtually any other type of baby carrier. Seven Slings and Hot Slings are popular brands as they oftentimes offer free carriers to expectant parents, but wrap conversion pouches are also available for the textile enthusiast.
The meh dai is derived from traditional carriers found in many cultures throughout Asia. They have a square panel and four straps to wrap around the wearer’s body. This option can be much faster than a wrap with a lower learning curve, but more comfortable than a ring sling for long periods of time with bigger babies. There are many variations for the construction of both the shoulder and waist straps, and the size of the panel and length of straps, so trying on several options is a great way to get a feel for what would be most comfortable for you. Meh dais are available in a wide range of budgets from the store-bought brands like Infantino to a custom Wrap Conversion Meh Dai (WCMD).
SSCs (buckle carriers)
Soft structured carriers are very popular as well. These were actually inspired by the meh dai, but include buckles instead of straps to tie on. With these it is best to try on as many as you can get your hands on because they all fit the baby and wearer differently. The learning curve is relatively low, but as with all carriers it is still vitally important to check your carrier and fit each time it is used. Popular brands include Ergo, Tula, and Lillebaby.
So there’s the rundown of the main carrier types. There are so many options to choose from, and it really depends on the family’s lifestyle as to what kind of carrier(s) works best. The volunteers of BWI of Gainesville are happy to discuss what may be the best fit based on budget and lifestyle preferences. Before committing to a carrier purchase, come to a meeting (free and open to the public!) and try on some carriers from our vast Lending Library.