Choosing a Carrier (what I wish I knew)

When I first began my search for a babywearing device, I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and I was a very clueless first time mom to be. I knew I wanted to hold my baby close to me although at that time I had no idea what attachment parenting meant. I was planning on being a stay at home mom, so my goal with babywearing was not so much function (like it is now,) but to foster closeness and comfort with my baby.

At the time there was no storefront to shop for a carrier but I managed to stumble across some information online. Like many parents, I put a Bjorn on my registry because it looked simple and was available at many stores. I also got a Hotsling pouch because they were cute (and having a cute baby in a cute carrier is a must!)

Fast forward to baby being born… Lilah was definitely cute, but she was also extremely loud and cried non stop. In effort to soothe my fussy baby, I reached for my carriers, but instead of calming my baby, we both ended up in tears! What seemed to be two very decent options (at the time) were VERY frustrating!!! My newborn was far too floppy in the Bjorn, and she just dangled there in a very odd manner. It was horribly uncomfortable on my back and shoulders and just didn’t seem right from the start. The pouch, although a very adorable option, was hard to use and I couldn’t adjust it to get the right fit. I knew that it was important to keep baby’s airway open and to never let her chin rest on her chest, but I couldn’t for the life of me achieve an optimal position in that carrier.

In my frustration and desperate attempts to soothe my baby and give my weary arms some rest, I went searching for a new option. I came across some instructions on how to make a stretchy wrap from an online forum, and off I went to the fabric store! I made that carrier and read the wrapping instructions online, and I was surprised to find that I was not frustrated this time. I had found a carrier that worked perfectly!! My crying baby hushed and immediately fell asleep, and we were both in love with wrapping from that day forward!

So certainly on try number three, I was set with a carrier for life, right???? WRONG!!! About seven months passed and suddenly my beloved stretchy wrap that had been so comfy for everyone began to hurt my back and shoulders, and my poor baby practically sagged down to my knees! By this time I found myself pregnant again and struggled to wear my baby in front too. Someone suggested I give my pouch another try with a hip carry, and I was finally able to realize what those things were good for! I lugged Miss Lilah around on my hip in the pouch for the next nine months.

As I approached my son’s birth, I figured I should find a different carrier, one that would last from birth to toddlerhood. A carrier that wouldn’t have a life expectancy like the stretchy wrap. I got a ring sling! Miles was born and spent the first month or so in the sling and I was in love with that thing. I could nurse him easily, he could sleep, everyone was happy…. until he got bigger. Did I say bigger? I meant to say GINORMOUS! Miles was a huge baby and it didn’t take long for me to have a very sore shoulder despite having a very quality ring sling and wearing it properly. Something that I learned was that one shouldered carries are not for everyone!

Now I was really serious about finding THE carrier!! The one that wasn’t going to hurt me as my giant son got even bigger! I got a Beco! Certainly a soft structured carrier would be that magic carrier to make my life perfect and easy right? Because now I had two kids under a year and a half and babywearing was a necessity to make my life manageable and possible. The Beco was going to save the day!!! I got the carrier in the mail the day Miles turned 8 weeks old and I was excited to put him in the infant insert, except he was too big for it (surprise, surprise!) and he didn’t fit yet in the body because he couldn’t spread the width of the carrier. Miles refused to froggy his legs and would stand up. Again I had found myself frustrated with a carrier and wondered why in the world I couldn’t find one that worked perfectly for me, my child, forever and ever.

Back on the hunt again and I landed my first woven wrap. I had wrapped before with the stretchy wrap so certainly I would be able to handle the non-stretchy version. WRONG! I was in tears, my son was in tears, my daughter was in tears. I wanted to give up but I knew that I needed to make it work in order to function in my life. I HAD to wear my son and have my hands free for my 18 month old. I posted online for advice and started hitting the Youtube videos like crazy. To my surprise it wasn’t very long before I had mastered a few carries in the woven wrap. I managed to get my 8 week old in the woven wrap, be extremely comfortable wearing my heavy boy for long periods of time, and had my hands free to carry Lilah too as needed. I even managed to figure out how to wear them both at once! As Miles grew older, the woven wrap still worked perfectly, and although I did add a few other carriers to my stash for convenience and experimentation (a Mei Tai and a Podegai,) I had something that worked for my family, that made my life easier, and helped me feel successful in managing my little ones.

Hey, it only took me five tries to get it right!!!

Now I’m on to my third baby and moving from being an avid babywearer to someone helping others in their journey. I want to pass on what I wish I knew as a first time mom, and hopefully save them from the mountains of frustration I endured while trying to find my way as a babywearer.

Here’s what I wish someone would have told me:

*You will most likely need more than one carrier. This is not always the case but as your baby ages your needs will change. What works for one stage won’t necessarily work best for all. What worked for one child, doesn’t necessarily work for the next.

*Don’t waste your money on a mainstream carrier (like a Bjorn.) Just because it’s popular and widely available, doesn’t mean it’s quality or comfortable.

*Wrapping with a woven wrap has a slightly different learning curve than with a stretchy, but it’s SO worth it!

*Stretchy wraps are really only ideal for babies up to about 15 lbs. Past that they are not supportive for parent or baby and can result in sagging and discomfort.

As I prepare for the class this Thursday evening at Happybottomus on the topic of choosing a carrier, I reflect on my own journey of finding the right carrier for me. I hope to be able to spare families the frustration of trial and error by helping each parent determine their needs and give them a variety of options with details on each carriers staying power. My goal is to present the most optimal options first, followed by other sufficient options. Babywearing is a tool, a parenting strategy, a functional necessity for many, and for others a way to further bond and practice attachment parenting. On Thursday evening we’ll talk about the various needs of each family, the physical needs of each growing child, and how to combine all of those needs to find the perfect carrier options for you! It will also be a great opportunity for other experienced babywearers to share the ups and downs of choosing a carrier!

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