There seems to be endless choices in the type of baby carriers that are available to parents and caregivers now. Some of these carriers are safer and more convenient than others. Most “main stream” carriers are either dangerous or uncomfortable to the baby and wearer. There are eight baby carriers that are most popular:
- Mei Tai- an Asian carrier with a square of fabric with 4 straps coming out of the corners. Two straps tie around the waist and the other two go over the shoulders. Some parents start wearing a Mei Tai after the newborn period. It has a moderate learning curve, but it very easy once learned. The weight of the baby is supported on the shoulders and hips.
- Structure- A popular carrier that is shaped and easy to put on. Most structured carriers are secured with snaps, or buckles. Almost all brands are easy to use, and most men don’t mind using a structure carrier. Structured carriers can be used a birth but most carriers require a newborn insert or adjustment. The learning curve for structure carriers is fairly easy. This carrier also has the weight of the baby supported by the hips and shoulders.
- Pouch- A sling shaped like a pouch. Think of a mother kangaroos pouch. The pouch can hold a newborn in a cradle position or hold a toddler on your hip. It’s very easy to use, and a small learning curve. The baby’s weight is supported by the back and one shoulder.
- Ring Sling- Is like a pouch sling but very adjustable. I find ring slings to be more secure due to the options of loosening and tightening the sling. Being able to tighten the sling can help keep the baby from slipping out. Ring slings can carry the baby in many positions from newborn to toddler. This carrier is also very easy to use, the learning curve is small. The baby’s weight is supported by the back and one shoulder.
- Bag- A sling shaped like a bag. Bag slings are not safe. Since the shape of the pouch is like a bag, a small baby is nestled deeply in the carrier. Most infant deaths that occur while the baby is worn, happens in a bag sling. Suffocation from the deep pouch and positioning of the baby are the main causes of infants dying in a bag sling.
- Podaegi – Is a long piece of cloth (like a blanket) with two straps on one side. This carrier is popular in Korea. The carrier can be used on your front or back. Newborns to toddlers can be worn. This is perfect for people who don’t want weight on your shoulders, since this carrier can be used as a torso carrier. It can also support the baby’s weight by the shoulders. Moderate learning curve, but once mastered can become second nature.
- Main Stream Structure- Carriers that are usually sold in big chain baby stores. These types of carriers are usually not ergonomic for the baby. This type of carrier holds the baby in an unnatural position with their legs hanging down. The carriers usually have a very small learning curve.
- Plain Cloth- Wraps, kangas, pareos, sarongs, shawls, scarfs and rebozos are plain cloth carriers. These carriers aren’t shaped nor do they have snaps or buckles. They are tied on the wearer to secure the baby. Babies from newborn to toddler can be worn in a plain cloth. Plain cloth carriers are easy and cheap to make, a few yards of fabric will do the trick. The learning curve is difficult, depending on the size of the cloth and the carry. Once a carry is mastered, wearing plain cloth will become easier over time. The baby’s weight is support by the shoulders, hips, back, or torso depending on how the cloth is tied.
When shopping for a carrier I consider three questions:
1) What is the age of the baby?
2) Where do I want the weight of the baby to be? (Shoulders, torso, hips, or back)
3) What type of carries do I want to carry the baby in?
No matter what your answers to those questions are, the safety and position of the baby has the most importance. A carrier should support the natural position a baby assumes when held on a person’s hip. Babies naturally put themselves in a squat, straddle position. When a baby is picked up, you can observe them naturally go into this position. All the carriers listed except the main stream structure carries and the bag carriers support the squat, straddle position.
No matter what carrier you choose, always make sure your newborn’s head and neck are supported and their breathing is not obstructed. Their chin should not be tucked into their chest. A simple test of slipping one finger under their chin can be used to check airflow. If your finger easily slips under the newborn’s chin then their airway should be fine. Keep your newborn high enough in the carrier so you can kiss them. This makes it easier for you to check their breathing and make sure they are not in distress.
Be sure to try out many different carriers. No two brands of carriers are the same. Try a few on and see what works best for you. Happy baby wearing!
Jessica is the owner of Unhindered Grace. She is knowledgeable in babywearing, co-sleeping and many other Attachment Parenting practices. Unhindered Grace is a place for information and support for parents and caregivers who or want to know more about practice Attachment, Continuum, and natural parenting.