Over the last few years, I’ve fallen in love with babywearing. Wearing our babies has been shown to help aid with bonding, boost and regulate our breastmilk supply, and create a more independent child. Research shows that it’s great for the infants’ mental development, and can help us parent our other children by keeping our hands free. I’ve done a lot of things while baby wearing – like sit in a class, teach a class, shop, and even make dinner.
At present count, I have seven different baby carriers, and I wouldn’t be opposed to owning more. Some people might wonder, “Why in the world would you want or need more than one?”
I’ve found that baby carriers are like guitars. People who love guitars don’t stop at just one – they want to collect different kinds to be used in different situations. The same goes with babywearing. Some carriers are better for short trips, and some are better for the long days out. Some are better for newborns, and some are better for older babes. Some carriers are specifically built for hot days, and some are better in colder weather. And let’s not forget that they come in a million different styles and colors to fit various body shapes, tastes, and preferences.
I have found that there are four main types of carriers that are worth discussing (and owning, if you have the means.) My four favorite styles of carriers are:
- Mei Tai
- Soft-Structured Carrier (Buckle Carrier)
Today I’m talking about my personal experience with these styles, and the specific brands I’ve used. I do have a favorite, but they all have a place in my heart, and I’d be hard-pressed to give up any one of them.
Please Note: I will not be discussing any outward-facing carriers like the Bjorn or Snugli (sometimes cheekily referred to as “baby danglers”) because the general consensus among the babywearing education community is that outward-facing is not safe for babies, EVEN if the carrier suggests that it allows for outward-facing. According to Elizabeth Antunovic on SleepyWrap.com,
“…front facing carriers unlike, wraps, slings, mei-tais and soft structured carriers, do not provide proper leg support which can make (baby’s) pelvis’ tilt backward and place them in the dangerous “hollow back position”. Pressure is placed on the baby’s shoulders and the chest area, often retracting the shoulders and hollowing the back even more. Facing out is a nonphysiological position that places pressure on the inner thighs of the baby and the base of the spine. Upright carrying facing out is stressful on babies.”
I would also like to point out that “bag” style carriers are not safe for baby, and have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission after being linked to 3 infant deaths. They can constrict breathing and cause suffocation. When I had my first son, I tried to wear him in an Infantino Sling Rider, and the contraption made me a nervous wreck. It seemed to me like a baby wouldn’t be able to breathe in it, and I’m glad I trusted my instincts and returned it to the store after just one use. Unfortunately, that put me off babywearing all together, and I didn’t find it again until after my second son came along – and it took me until he was 9 months old to really fall in love with it.
I’ve learned a lot since then, and discovered that safe babywearing is a biological norm for us humans. I love to help new (and seasoned) parents discover the benefits of babywearing, so here’s what I can tell you about the four styles of carriers that I recommend most.
I love: Moby® Wrap
Retail Price: Starting at $39.95 USD
There are two main types of Wrap style carriers – those that are stretchy, and those that are woven. Woven wraps provide a bit more stability, but stretchy wraps can be more comfortable for some. Stretchy wraps are usually better for smaller babies, while woven wraps can hold up better for older, heavier babes.
The Moby Wrap is my favorite carrier for the newborn period. It holds the baby so closely and securely, it’s like the baby never left the womb (except you can kiss and smell their head now.) In fact, I’ve had people assume that I’m merely wearing my baby inside my t-shirt. It’s highly versatile – and you can nurse in it, or use it for a number of different holds.
The major drawback is how difficult it is to put on. Most people will agree that it’s a pretty huge PITA, since you’re dealing with wrapping 18 feet of fabric around your body, which not something easy to do if you’re out in public because the wrap will be dragging on the ground. However, even though the learning curve is high, once the wrap is on, you can leave it on the whole day with only minor readjustments.
I also love the price point (under $40) and the fact that it’s such a popular product you can buy it in big box stores and most baby boutiques. This wrap should definitely be on a new mom’s registry. Since the wrap is literally JUST a long piece of fabric, you can even make your own, if you’re so inclined. I made my own when my second son was a baby (I failed at picking out the correct fabric, however, so mine was a bust, which is why I’m happy to have my Moby!)
I Love: Thing-A-Ma-Sling Custom Created Baby Slings
Retail Price: Starting at $54.95 USD
The main selling point for me about ring slings is how easy they are to put on and take off. I can even put a ring sling on and secure my baby in it with the baby already on my chest, which comes in handy for those times that I don’t want to (or can’t) put the baby down for a minute or two while I get my carrier on. I love that the sling has pockets to hold things like a binky, diaper, wipes, or keys, and the sling itself can fold up small enough to stuff in a diaper bag.
There are as many different brands and styles of ring slings as there are stars in the sky, but what I love about Thing-A-Ma-Sling is that they make custom carriers to give you a truly one-of-a-kind sling. I don’t know another company that could have made me a sling to match my blog, complete with embroidered logo! However, the slings are sized, which means that your partner may not be able to wear the sling if he/she is much bigger or smaller than you.
I also have a Babyette WaterBaby Mesh Ring Sling from Natural Urban Mamas which is a lightweight sling designed for wearing baby to the beach or in a pool. Being able to wear my baby safely in the water means I can finally accompany my older two children to the splash pad this summer!
Mei Tai (Asian Style Wrap)
I love: CatBird Baby Mei Tai
Retail Price: Starting at $89 USD
I found the Mei Tai when my second son was 9 months old, and it was the carrier that made me fall in love with babywearing. My all-time favorite hold is the hug hold, and I love the way the Mei Tai carriers position the baby in a perfect hug hold. It is – hands down – the most comfortable way to wear a baby, in my opinion. As my son got bigger, I was so easy for me to flip him around to my back and pull the straps over my shoulders to achieve a perfect back carry. Because the straps criss-cross on the back, it provides superb support, and allows for even a heavy child to be worn for longer periods.
The only problem I have with the Mei Tai is, like the Wraps, you’re dealing with really long straps that are going to hang on the ground while you’re putting it on. The other problem is that, because of those long straps, you’ll need to take the entire carrier off when the baby isn’t in it (or you’ll have to tie it back around yourself without a baby in it, but it feels – and looks – quite awkward that way.) For comfort, the Mei Tai gets my vote every time, but for ease-of-use, it falls short.
Having said that, this carrier is still a favorite in my house, and my husband wears my baby in it every single day during his night time walk-her-around-the-house routine. He loves how easy it is to adjust to his body, and criss-cross straps are easier on his back.
Soft Structured Carrier (Buckle Carrier)
I Love: Ergo Baby
Retail Price: $120 USD
Because I loved my Mei Tai so much, I was reluctant to try any other carriers that functioned relatively the same way. But when my third baby came along, and we found that we had to wear her nearly every waking hour of the day, I asked a friend to borrow her Ergo so that my husband and I at least had one carrier each. I thought my husband would gravitate toward the Ergo, but it turned out that I was the one who fell in love with it. After I had worn my friend’s Ergo every single day for over a month, I decided to fork over the cash to buy my own.
The Ergo is definitely the most expensive of the carriers, but it is surely worth it. What I really love about the Ergo is how quickly I can pull my baby in and out of it, and how comfortable it is to wear all day long. I leave mine on, even when the baby isn’t it in, by just leaving the waist buckled and letting it hang down on my thighs. That’s something I couldn’t do with the Mei Tai because the straps would have hung to the ground, and when I have to take my baby in and out of a carrier at least a dozen times each day, this is a critical time saver. I also love that it has a storage pocket where I can keep a binky or burp cloth, and the fold-away hood is very easy to use.
If you’re using the carrier for a smaller baby, you will need to buy the infant insert, or make your own using a simple fleece blanket (which is what I did.) I’ve even worn my 35 lb toddler in this carrier when he was having a particularly clingy day, and it worked fine (though, admittedly, I’m not jazzed about carrying 35 lbs of anything in any type of carrier.) I will say that I do miss the criss-cross feature that I love so much about the Mei Tais, but the well-padded straps on the Ergo make it comfortable enough for me.
I can safely say now that if I had to pick just one, I might go with the Ergo over any other carrier on the market – And I’m not alone. Ergos are one of the most popular carriers available today, and one major plus is that they are readily available at big box stores (like BuyBuyBaby) and baby boutiques so you won’t have to look hard to find one. If you’re not prepared to fork over the cash, look for them used on sites like Craiglist, or other mom/baby forums. Throw it on your baby registry, and you’ll probably find that it will become the most-used piece of baby gear you’ll ever own (just don’t forget the infant insert, or you’ll have to improvise!)
What’s the final word? It’s hard for me to recommend one carrier for everyone because there is no one carrier that works for every person, or every baby. If possible, I’d recommend trying on as many as you can find before making any purchase. If you’re in an area without any stores that sell a wide selection of carriers, see if there are any babywearing groups in your area that offer loaners – like the DuPage Slingers group in the western Chicago suburbs.
I hope this review will helps some parents discover the wonderful benefits of baby wearing. When I’m out in public and I see a mom or dad struggling to carry a baby, I want to stop them and say “Here’s a carrier – give your arms a break!” My third baby is fairly high needs and demands to be held nearly all her waking hours. Without babywearing, I’m honestly not sure how I’d manage to parent my other two children. Babywearing allows me to be hands-free, yet keep my baby close enough to smooch whenever I want.
Don’t forget that babywearing is for dad, partners, grandparents, and babysitters too! Check out Baby Wearing Dads if your guy needs any inspiration.
And remember, babywearing is safe, as long as it’s done safely! For more information on safe babywearing practices, visit TheBabyWearer.com.