Baby wearing is a central feature in my parenting style. Baby wearing allows me to keep my babies close while completing household chores and spending time with my family. Wearing my newborn helps me make the most of those precious cuddly brand-new weeks. Over the years, I have owned pretty much every type of baby carrier you can buy. Today, I thought I would go over some of my favorite baby carriers, and how I use them. Reading this post is a great way for parents to figure out how to choose the best baby carrier for baby wearing.
If you only have a couple of minutes to read today, scroll to the bottom of this post for a brief summary of pros and cons for each style of baby carrier.
How to Choose the Best Baby Carrier for Baby Wearing
Slings come in several varieties – sized, cocoon (also called pouch) style slings and more adjustable ring slings.
Right now I’m using the sized sling for Anna that you can see in the photo above. You can tell that she is much less secure in the sling than in the wrap, but it still creates a way for me to carry her about with some extra support. I keep my sized sling in my diaper bag – it’s small enough that it fits easily, and it’s perfect for going from the car to the school to pick up my kids. Pouch-style slings like this come in a huge variety of woven fabrics, and they can look quite elegant – like the one I’m wearing. You can used these slings for a hip carry with older children.
Ring slings are very simple. All you need is rings that are tested to hold your child’s weight, and a length of woven fabric. Ring slings can do everything a pouch sling can do, but they are more adjustable. This adjustability means they also require more fabric than a sized sling.
Important Safety Note
Please note that baby slings, especially, can be used incorrectly. Your baby should always be upright – not sideways – and you need to make sure that they can breathe easily. Any babywearing should be a chance for you to be more aware of your baby – not less. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued some helpful guidelines for safely carrying babies in slings, which I recommend reading.
I remember carrying my youngest brother and sister in a backpack-style structured carrier in the 1990s. These frame backpacks have mostly been replaced by soft structured carriers like the ERGO baby carrier, which we own. While I don’t use the ERGO much for little babies, I love soft structured carriers for heavier babies, especially once they are old enough for a back carry. Johnny lived in the ERGO carrier for much of his babyhood, happily observing life from a safe spot. Our ERGO wins points for being the one carrier Mike is happy to use, and I find it to be the most surreptitious-nursing-friendly carrier! I have also used a Beco Carrier. I don’t like the fabric on my Beco carrier as much as the fabric on my ERGO, but I do like the higher back on the Beco for toddlers.
Update, May 2016: ERGObaby has finally released a structured baby carrier that works from birth, without needing a newborn insert! Check out the ERGObaby Adapt as a structured carrier option for newborns!
Asian Inspired Baby Carriers
Mei Tai style and other Asian-inspired carriers for me fall somewhere in between soft structured carriers and wrap carriers. I love the carrier below (holding 17-month-old Lily), which is made out of a soft flannel material. I feel that Mei Tai carriers offer more support than a sling (because the weight is distributed across both shoulders and both hips). Mei Tai carriers offer a little less support than a good structured carrier. Like a structured carrier, Mei Tai carriers can be used for front, back, or hip carries, but your baby usually cannot face out. Note: many baby wearing experts feel that babies should not be worn facing out. A Mei Tai carrier won’t hold your baby as securely as a wrap, but they are much easier to put on and take off. Made from the right fabric, Mei Tai carriers can look quite elegant.
Choosing the Right Baby Carrier for Baby Wearing
I own all of these carriers. Right now I mostly use the sling and the wrap carrier, but as Anna grows I suspect that I will shift to using the Mei Tai and ERGO more. I find that I come back to my ERGO (for babies four months and up) and wrap (for babies under four months) over and over. So if I could only own one, it would be one of those. Despite looking complicated, wraps are easy to put on once you practice a couple of times. I feel that the ERGO provides the best weight distribution. Sling and Mei Tai style carriers look more elegant, and they also take up less space in a diaper bag. Beautiful, affordable handmade versions of these last two styles can be found on Etsy.
Quick Read: Baby Wearing Notes
So, to summarize, here are the pros and cons of each one, from my point of view
Pros: Great support for mom AND baby, versatile once you get the hang of wrapping. This style of carrier can look elegant with the right fabric. Baby is held very securely.
Cons: It’s a lot of fabric, which can make it hard to put on if you’re out and about. Many people are too intimidated by the wrapping to give it a go. Disclaimer: it’s really not that hard – remember, I couldn’t master the Guatemalan back carry but I’ve got this down!
Pros: Takes up almost no space in a diaper bag, can look very elegant.
Cons: Not the best support since weight is distributed across a single shoulder and the opposing hip, and baby is not held as securely as any of the other carriers.
Pros: Great support, dad-friendly, good for surreptitious nursing. Quick to take on and off.
Cons: Not ideal for tiny babies, not as elegant as the other three options. More bulky than sling carriers and some Mei Tai carriers.
Pros: good support, less bulky than a structured carrier, and can look more elegant than a structured carrier.
Cons: You lose the padding you get from a structured carrier, and I don’t consider it ideal for tiny babies – although two of my sisters loved using it with their newborns.
Do you have any more tips to add on how to choose a baby carrier for baby wearing? Which type of carrier have you used most?