There are so many baby carrier brands out there making all kinds of claims. We often accept the features they have without asking the fundamental question; what is important to me? I advise my clients to take a step back, assess their situation and do some research. Choosing the right baby carrier is one of the most important purchasing decisions we can make for our children. This article will help you to confidently identify premium quality carriers and ask retailers the right questions.
The quality of a carrier can range from the care put into making the carrier to the means of producing it. Here are the main quality considerations:
You may be carrying your child for a significant part of their early childhood so ensure you are satisfied that the fabric is hardwearing.
The carrier may be in contact with you and your child’s skin for long periods, so natural breathable materials are a high priority.!00% cotton, canvas and linen are often used in premium carriers where the material is in contact with the skin.
Look for Non-metallic vegetable dyes as these are kinder to the skin.
The OeKo-Tex standards include a test for material worn next to the skin. If the carrier achieved a good or very good in the children’s skin category, the result will always be prominently displayed. If it is not, ask your retailer about it.
Is the baby carrier built to last? Premium baby carriers are not cheap and you may be using it for some time.
Are the buckles and clasps sturdy? The best carriers use military grade plastics in this safety critical part of their construction.
Are the seams double stitched with extra anchor stitching at the load bearing points?
Check for your local safety standard marks
If ethical buying is important to you, check out the manufacturer’s website, most responsible makers will have environmental and human rights impact statements along with information on the means of production.
The design of the carrier will tell you a lot about the care put into making it. Importantly, it may reveal if the brand has kept up with innovations, or is using an old design. Some baby carriers are more suited to certain body shapes and of course you may want it to fit a number of wearers and children. Here are some ideas on what to look for in the information, adverts and pictures and what to ask your retailer:
Make sure the carrier is suitable for the age of your child; the age range should be displayed prominently in the advert or literature.
Check that the child is seated in the correct position; research has shown that children seated in an ‘M’ position, with their bottom and legs supported knee-pit to knee-pit, are getting the optimum support for their developing pelvis, hip and back joints.
With most carriers there is a learning curve in terms of their usage. However, putting the carrier on should feel intuitive.
How many positions can you use with carrier? Having the versatility of three positions, such as: front (facing in), back, and hip carry can be a god-send as the child grows and your needs change.
Studies have found that new-born babies being carried in the facing out position can develop anxiety. I advise parents to avoid carriers that only offer the facing out position.
Be wary of buckles and straps that are hard to reach and buckles that are too stiff and fiddly.
Premium carriers have extra wide padded shoulder straps and a wide stiff padded waist belt for comfort and support,
Most premium brands will offer an organic option.
The very best carriers have plenty of adjustability to suit you, your baby, and your carrying partner’s needs. Make sure that each supporting strap or belt can be fully adjusted
Premium brand carriers often differentiate themselves with additional features such as hoods, foot straps, storage bags and neck rests. Ask your retailer what else it comes with.
Baby carriers can be difficult to get used to at first. Many manufacturers and retailers of premium brands offer practical advice.
Does the carrier come with a fully illustrated booklet or DVD with carrying instructions?
Are there on-line videos showing how to use the carrier?
Is there a help line or email address you can use to gain additional information, advice and guidance?
Try Before You Buy
Even with a comprehensive checklist like the one above, there is no substitute for trying before you buy. The problem is retailers often only stock a narrow selection of carrier and, anyway, you can only try them on in the shop. There is little opportunity to find out in the real world whether you and your little one will take to it.
Some retailers offer baby carrier hire services for anything from 2 weeks to several months hire. Some will even use the cost of the hire to offset the price of a new carrier. This can be an effective way of ensuring you get the right carrier.
Join your local sling-meet group, although these groups are usually for people with stretchy and woven wraps, they often have sling libraries that include soft structured baby carriers.
Contact your local sling consultant. They host carrier parties for groups and undertake personal one to one consultations. Your sling consultant should have a wide range of carriers and should be able to demonstrate the carriers with you and your child and offer tailored advice.
By thinking about your needs, researching and asking the right questions you should avoid expensive mistakes and ensure you find the right premium baby carrier for you.
Wendy Sheard is a Trageschule trained sling consultant and owner of Precious-Bundle [http://www.precious-bundle.co.uk] one of the UK’s largest retailers of premium stretchy wraps and soft structured baby carriers. Wendy believes in the personal touch and offers pre-sales sling consultations, after sales advice and ongoing sling support for as long as you want it.