In today’s world, all we have are options. From the right clothes to dress our babies in, to even the kinds of food they eat. Baby wearing is no different. There is a huge amount of variety in the kinds of baby carriers that one can find.
Below is a run down on some of the different types and some of the pros and cons to each.
To start off the list you have the most readily available carriers; those found in Baby’s R Us, and Target. They would be your Snuglie, and Bjorn. These carriers first off are NOT good for your baby, and can actually put their little spines at risk. Carriers that place a baby facing outward with their legs left to dangle can put undue stress on the spines and hips, which in turn can cause a condition called Spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis compromises developing curves in the spine. Another drawback is how uncomfortable they are for moms. These types of carriers, however, are extremely popular, and readily available, which makes them the number one choice (unfortunately) for most parents. There are really no good points to this carrier other than that fact that it does promote parents being more attached to their children.
The next carrier is also pretty well known commercially, the hip carrier. This carrier is extremely nonversatile. The only thing this carrier can do is a hip carry; with the strap going over your shoulder. They are however, easy to find, and relatively easy to use. These need to be used once a baby has excellent body control and head control.
The next type of carrier that then comes to mind is the pouch. Most pouches you find on the market today are non-adjustable; which can be a drawback, and advantage all at one time. A Pouch can be extremely hard to fit, and because they are not adjustable they must fit the wearer perfectly to work and do their job. If they are too big or to small, they will hurt the wearer, and not be safe. Also, this sizing depends on the wearer as well, some mom’s (like me) like to have there pouch hip length. Others like to have there baby a bit tighter or looser, so this plays a big role as well.
Pouches can be used for a wide variety of carries,from facing out (in a “froggy” position), hip, tummy to tummy, back carries, to cradle carries. Pouches come in a variety of fabric choices, from regular cotton to stretch cotton, and may have padding or not. They can also come reversible, which can be a nice addition.
All in all, pouches are a good fit for a lot of parents. They are easy to use, have a low learning curve, and are pretty versatile; you can even breast feed in one. Some disadvantages are that babies sometimes do not like a pouch, and with only being worn on one shoulder it can become painful as your baby grows older or if you wear it for a long period of time. Pouches can be used from birth up to around 35 pounds (though most parents find it is most comfortable up to around 12ish pounds.)
Ring Slings are next. Ring slings come in a variety of styles as well, from padded to non, with an open tail or closed. Open tailed simply means that the tail is not sewn together, with this extra fabric your sling can be easier to adjust and also you can use the extra fabric to cover baby, or protect her from the sun. A closed tail simply means that the tail fabric is all sewn together; this is extremely nice since there is no extra fabric “hanging around.” They come in a variety of fabrics.
You can do all of the same carries as above and it also fits to the same weight limits. Ring slings are very adjustable, so anyone can adjust it to wear baby (i.e. mom and dad can share the same sling). However as with the pouch there are drawbacks, again after long periods of time, or heavy babies a ring sling can be not as comfortable as some other carriers. Babies can also have problems with the rings, as can some parents. They can also be hard to adjust.
All in all, Ring slings are a good “fit” for parents looking for something that more than one person can use, pretty easy to navigate, and they can breastfeed with ease in.
The next kind of carrier, going by ease of use would be a Mei Tai. A Mei Tai is an Asian inspired carrier and consists of 4 straps. Two longer straps for the shoulder area and 2 for around the waist. Most Mei Tais are made with the top straps to be positioned on the flat or top part of your shoulder. However there are also “wrap” inspired straps that can be placed on the balls of your shoulders as well.
A Mei Tai has a bit more of a learning curve than the above baby carriers. However, it can also be much more comfortable and versatile. A Mei Tai is almost always a tied carrier, which means that you tie around your waist and then around baby as well. It can take some getting used to, i.e. figuring out how tight to tie it, and tweaking the straps so that everyone feels comfortable. A Mei Tai can be used, in a hip carry, back carry (high and low), front carry with babies legs in the froggy position and some Mei Tai makers are now adding drawstrings to the bottom for that “face the world” carry (though ALL Mei Tai makers recommend that this carry only be done for very brief periods of time). You can also (almost always) nurse in your Mei Tai. A Mei Tai can be used from birth, till around 35 pounds and still be totally comfortable for wearer and baby. I have actually also worn my 50 pound 6 year old in mine as well, for short periods!
A Mei Tai is a one size fits most moms and dads, though most Mei Tai makers do offer extra large strap length’s, it is usually not needed. A Mei Tai is a great fit for a mom who wants comfort, and the ability to do different carries for different reasons. Some of the drawbacks can be they are a bit harder to learn, a baby can’t do the “lay down” carries as the two above carriers can.
On to the next, the Korean Inspired Podegi. A Podeagi is a carrier that only has one long strap, or sometimes this one strap is cut into two pieces. It has a long body or back panel, which is where baby will sit. It is also (as with the Mei Tai) a tie on baby carrier. One of the drawbacks to a Podeagi is that since it only has one strap, it is harder to get tied on. It is usually recommended that the wearer sit down to put it on. This can be a pain but also works very well. A Podeagi can be worn tummy to tummy and on the back (in high and low carries).
A Podeagi’s basic drawback is that you need either another person or a chair to help with getting the carrier on. However once worn it is very comfortable and versatile. It, along with the Mei Tai, is much smaller than a wrap and can fit into the diaper bag easier. Another great thing about it is if you have shoulder problems, it can be worn with out ever being on your shoulders. The carrier is good from birth (at birth most people prefer that the back of the carrier be behind babies head) to 35 pounds and beyond, with older children being able to have the carrier under their arms so that they can use them.
The next carrier would be a wrap. Wraps come in different lengths with the most common being 4+ yards, or 3 yards. Wraps are in essence is just a long piece of fabric, serged or hemmed on the ends. They come in different kinds of fabrics which make them and give them there differences. Some are woven, others are stretchy materials, and fleece can also be used.
There is a wide variety of positions that can be used. If you have a shorter wrap, the wrap does not go over both shoulders when tied. This can lead to back and neck pain while wearing. However, since it is shorter it is less cumbersome and somewhat easier to get the hang of. The longer, while being able to do more, can also be cumbersome because there is a lot more fabric. Wrap carries are, face to face, facing out, back, cradle, kangaroo, hip. It can again be worn from birth to 35+ pounds.
A lot of mommies love wraps. They are a carrier that you can put on in the morning, and keep on all day long; taking baby in and out as needed. They can also be one of the most comfortable carriers because there “straps” go over the ball of your shoulder as apposed to the top part; they are also very versatile, and comfortable.
The Onbuhimo is next. It is simply a Podeagi with rings at the bottom of the back panel, to place the straps though. You still tie this carrier on, but with the rings, you can use it much like a Mei Tai, you can place the straps over your shoulders (or around your chest area) then thread though the rings, before tying around your waist. The rings add another step which can be cumbersome and confusing to some. Though other’s love that they can thread them though the loops instead of tying behind baby. These can be used from birth to 35+ pounds as well.
In general, the whole baby wearing experience is totally personal. What works for one, another person would hate, and what works for another would not necessarily work for you.
If you’re new to baby wearing, and don’t know where to go, here are a couple questions to ask yourself:
* Can a baby be worn in front, on the side, and in back?
* Will the carrier accommodate the child from birth through toddler hood?
* Do I want or need a carrier to last from birth to toddler hood?
* Can a child be transferred from one wearer to another without being taken out?
* Will other people be using or wearing the baby, does this matter?
* If a baby falls asleep vertically, can he easily be moved to a horizontal position without being taken out of the carrier or can the carrier be taken off and without disturbing baby?
* Can a baby be put into all carrying positions by the wearer, or is another person or “thing’s” help necessary to help, does this matter to you?
* Is it possible to easily adjust the carrier so that different points on your body feel the weight?
* Does the carrier let the baby be worn in many different positions? A carrier with limited positions won’t meet a baby’s changing needs and desires.
Always know that if you buy a carrier that you can’t get to work for you, there are many places that you can go to sell the carrier, and to look for others. You can also almost always go back to store (on line or not) or person and ask them to help you, almost all in this field will help you with any questions, and/or problems you may have. We want you to be happy wearing your baby!
A last note, on what has worked best for us: We have several different carriers for several different situations. What worked best for us in the beginning was a pouch. The reason being that it was super easy to use and I needed that, with 4+ month old baby and a 5 year old, life needed to be as simple as possible.
What we use and love now, is different on the situation we are in. I use a pouch, when it’s a quick trip around the block or up and down. However, I can not cook in my pouch (to many roaming hands). For long walks or trips, we almost always use a Podeagi. While it can be sometimes hard to get on, (if we are away from home, I use the car seat to help with this) my son LOVES the high back position, and I love the way it does not sit on my chest like the Mei Tai does in the high back position. Zachary loves to see out and likes having his arms free. The Mei Tai also has its use in this house, when going to the park when I am unsure if there will be a way to get Zachary back up on my back, or if there is a chance he might need or want to nurse we always resort to the Mei Tai. We have tried a wrap and a ring sling, both of which did not work for us.
For the most comfort and ease of use I go for the Mei Tai every time, there is so many things you can do with one, it’s one of the most comfortable things I have found, we just love it!