The Basics of Choosing a Carrier

So you’ve discovered the wonderful world of babywearing and decided to buy a carrier. If you’re like me, you immediately start scouring the internet for your options and quickly discover that the decision might not be as easy as you first thought. The possibilities seem endless and it can feel a little overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, with a little research, choosing a carrier will quickly become the most fun thing you do during nap time!

The following is a rundown of each type of carrier. The summaries and pictures are taken directly from Babywearing International, and I’ll add in some of my own personal experiences, as well!

Wraps

“A simple strip of cloth makes an elegant and comfortable baby sling. A little learning is required to wrap and tie the cloth, but basic methods can be mastered in minutes. Wraparound slings can be short, for quick one-shoulder carries, or longer, to distribute the baby’s weight evenly over two shoulders and the caregiver’s torso and hips. Wraparound slings come in a variety of fabrics, but natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and silk are more breathable and have a more appropriate texture than synthetics. Some wraparound slings are specially woven to have exceptional performance as baby carriers, offering strength, breathability, just the right amount of diagonal stretch, and the right texture for holding the baby securely; these highly prized textiles are sometimes known as German-Style Wovens because this type of sling was developed in Germany. Wraps are an optimal and versatile carrier from birth.” (BWI)

My take on wraps: For me, wraps are hands down the coziest, comfiest carrier you’ll ever wear. The snuggle factor alone makes me love wrapping. My son, Jude, spent much of his first year snoozing peacefully wrapped on my front, and now as a toddler, he loves asking for rides on my back so he can experience the world from my point of view. However, I wouldn’t say that wraps are always the fastest way to wear your baby if you need to get them up quickly. That being said, there are definitely some wrapping pros out there that can get a baby wrapped in the same amount of time it would take to pop them into a pouch. So if you love the idea of wrapping, it’s definitely worth taking the time to practice carries and
become a pro wrapper yourself!

Please note: There are two main types of wraps–stretchy wraps and woven
wraps
. Stretchy wraps are generally good to use until the baby reaches about 15 pounds. Stretchy wraps may NEVER be worn on the back. Woven wraps can be used for front, back, and hip carries, and can easily last from birth through the end of your babywearing years (even if your preschooler still likes to go for an occasional ride!).

Ring Slings

“In its simplest and most elegant form, a ring sling is a shawl with a pair of rings attached to one end. The rings replace the knot or tuck-and-twist method of fastening used with traditional shawl carriers such as Mexican rebozos or Indonesian selendangs. Some ring slings have padding where the sling rests on the caregiver’s shoulder or along the edges of the sling, and some depart further from traditional shawl carriers by having the fabric at the end of the sling folded and stitched into a rope-like tail. Ring Slings are an ideal newborn carrier and are also fantastic for the up-and-down toddler phase.” (BWI)

My take on ring slings: I think that ring slings are an excellent choice for a newborn carrier. Many moms find these are also the carriers that they can nurse most easily in. I didn’t buy my first ring sling until my son was already a few months old, and since I had a toddler-sized baby on my hands, one-shouldered carriers were not my go-to, but it was great for quick trips up and down. Next time around, I definitely plan to have a ring sling from the very beginning!

Pouches

“Simply a tube of fabric with a curved seam, a pouch sling is a sleek carrier option. Pouches are sized to the adult wearer, and what they lack in adjustability they make up for in convenience. Few carriers take up less space in a diaper bag or are as quick to put on and take off as a pouch. While usable with newborns, many moms find these more fitting once their postpartum weight stabilizes and baby becomes stronger, generally around 4mo.” (BWI)

My take on pouches: I’ll be honest; I stayed away from pouches for a long time, because one-shouldered carriers just didn’t appeal to me. However, I do have one now that Jude is a toddler, and I love it anytime I need to run in somewhere quickly, especially if it’s a place I can’t let him just roam around on his own. It’s the perfect solution instead of chasing him around and losing my place in line wherever we may be.

Mei Tais

“The modern take on a traditional Chinese baby carrier with a body panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps still carries the traditional name, “mei tai” (pronounced”may tie”). The new-generation mei tais typically have either wide, padded shoulder straps, or extra-wide, wrap-style, unpadded straps for the wearer’s comfort. They also offer a variety of features such as headrests or sleeping hoods for the baby, pockets for diapers or other essentials, and fabric choices that range from strictly utilitarian to truly luxurious. Mei tais can be used from birth and are ideal for sharing among caregivers.” (BWI)

My take on mei tais: I think if I HAD to choose, this would probably be my favorite type of carrier. Now I can’t say that they are as cozy as a wrap (unless you get a wrap conversion mei tai, but that’s a post of its own!), but they are
super comfortable and extremely fast to get on. I think mei tais have a special place in my heart, because they are always there for me when my extreme wiggle-worm doesn’t have the patience to be still long enough to be wrapped. I can still get that perfect fit that a wrap offers, only much faster!

Soft-Structured Carriers

“Also with a body panel and shoulder and waist straps, soft structured carriers replace knots with buckles and add a thickly padded waistband and shoulder straps. The result is a different weight distribution and overall different look and feel from a mei tai, putting this style of carrier into a category of its own. Soft structured carriers offer the convenience of buckles yet are vastly different from framed backpacks in that they hold the baby securely against the wearer’s body. Unlike framed backpacks, soft structured carriers are suitable from birth through toddlerhood and provide the benefits of body-to-body contact for the baby (although some require or include a special insert for newborns). Soft Structure carriers really shine after about 4-5mo.” (BWI)

My take on soft-structured carriers: I think finding a good soft-structured carrier is a lot like finding a good pair of jeans—sometimes the search can be challenging, but once you find “the one”, you’re in love! For our family, we always like to keep one SSC on hand as the daddy-carrier. Buckles are easy to handle, and I suppose this is the easiest carrier to look “manly” in! I actually started babywearing with an SSC, and I think it’s a great gateway carrier. It showed me how wonderful babywearing was, but without the intimidation factor of a wrap or even a mei tai. Once I mastered an SSC, I was ready to spread my wings and live up to my potential of being a true babywearing addict!

So there you have it—the basics on the most common types of carriers. While putting this post together, I found myself wanting to put in so much more information about each carrier, but in trying to keep it a true summary, I had to leave a lot out! So be on the lookout for more detailed posts dedicated to each type of carrier in the future.

-Kristin

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