As I was making my list of essential items I would need to care for my first child, among a good diaper bag, bibs, diapers (cloth or disposable? Another day for that discussion), a baby carrier consistently came up as a necessary item.
But there were so many to choose from, so many styles, so many ways to wear them — I didn’t know how to decide on which to buy. In this article, I’ll save you the trouble of multiple google searches by highlighting the major things you should know when choosing a carrier for your baby.
There are five different types of baby carriers
The main types of baby carriers are soft structured carriers, backpack carriers, Mei-Tai carriers, slings, and wraps. All are suitable options for carrying your baby, but your choice of carrier will depend on the needs of your family.
Soft Structured Carriers
These carriers are the most commonly available baby carriers on the market. They feature padded shoulder straps and a thick waistband.
They are generally suitable for infants 4 months and older but some can be used for newborn babies often with an additional insert.
These carriers are also highly adjustable and can continue to be used as the baby grows. The adjustable straps also allow you to maximize for optimum comfort.
These carriers are most suitable for older babies and toddlers, particularly when you need to wear them for long periods. Your child should have good neck control and be able to sit unassisted. Backpack carriers provide a lot of structure for your baby and are ideal for taking your little one on outdoor adventures such as hiking.
These are the most traditional type of baby carrier. They are essentially a long piece of fabric that is wrapped around your body and your child. There can be multiple ways to tie a wrap, providing a secure snug closure for your baby. These can be used from newborn to toddler stage and can be shared among different caregivers. One thing to note is that this extra fabric can be hot during warmer weather. In addition, it will take some practice and time to learn the different ways to appropriately wear the wrap.
Mei Tai Carriers
These carriers are a cross between soft structured carriers and a wrap. They resemble a soft structured carrier but has extra fabric that you need to wrap around your body to secure your child.
Mei Tai carriers are ultra-flexible and can be worn on the front, back, or hip. While these carriers are adjustable and can be worn by multiple caregivers, similar to wraps, wearing them effectively requires a bit of practice.
These are an over the shoulder carrier that comes in two flavors — ring sling and pouch sling (pictured here). In a ring sling, a long piece of fabric is threaded through a ring and the other end is tucked under the ring. It can therefore be adjusted for enhanced comfort.
Pouch slings are a single enclosed piece of fabric that run from shoulder to hip, like a sash. They allow you to wear your baby on your hip, which is the most comfortable, or in front, which is ideal for newborns.
Overall slings are a nice beginner baby carrier that are suitable for all ages from newborns to toddlers. They are also ideal for nursing.
However, slings tend to put pressure on a single shoulder so these carriers are not suitable for parents with back issues. In addition, for pouch slings, it is important to get the correct size to ensure a perfect fit for the wearer and baby.
There is a safe way to wear your baby
No matter what type of baby carrier you choose. Here is a checklist that lets you know you are wearing baby safely:
- Both baby and wearer are comfortable
- Your baby’s back is supported
- The baby’s chin is off your chest
- Your baby is close enough to kiss
- The carrier is tight enough to keep baby in place
- You can see your baby at all times
How to decide on the best carrier for you
A few things should be considered as you decide on the right carrier for your family:
- The baby’s age — Wraps, Mei Tai carriers and slings are the most suitable for newborn babies, whereas soft structured carriers are ideal for older infants and toddlers and backpack carriers are most suitable for the older toddler.
- How you plan to use it — For everyday use, slings and wraps are good carriers. However, soft structured and Mei Tai carriers are ideal for travel, whereas backpack carriers are perfect for long outdoor adventures
- Ease of use- If being able to quickly wrap and wear your baby is important to you then slings or wraps (after practicing the different methods) are easy to put on and take off unassisted.
Baby wearing is not only convenient, but also helps to keep your child calm and feeling secure. Therefore, a good baby carrier is a “must have” item for any parent of young children. Now you can be confident that you’ll choose the best carrier for your family’s needs.
Personally, my husband and I own a soft structured carrier, which we used interchangeably with a wrap from newborn to 12 months old. Now that we have a roaming toddler, we mostly use a sling for those quick trips when we need to have our baby secured on our hips.
Ann Barn offers pouch slings and wraps in a wide variety of prints to suit your baby wearing needs.
About the author
Annalise is mom to a beautiful 16-month-old boy, a wife, true island girl, avid reader/audiobook listener, and huge fan of musicals.