Babywearing 101

Babywearing 101

In the realm of babywearing we have so many choices available to us. They are wonderful to have but can also be overwhelming. Type “babywearing” or “baby carriers” into Google and you’ll get a staggering amount of information that can take ages to sort through.

The best way to get properly acquainted with different carriers and methods of babywearing is to see if you have a local babywearing group and go to a meeting. Hands on experience is always the best! But if you do not have that option, hopefully this brief crash course can help a bit.

First off, it’s important to remember the ABC’s of safe babywearing no matter what carrier you’re using. Always check to ensure you have a good fit and positioning.

Okay, let’s get into the carrier breakdown.


Pouch

Structure: A large tube of fabric that folds to make a pouch.

Price range: $15+

Popular brands: Seven Slings, Hotslings, Balboa Baby.

Carry positions: Front, cradle and hip.

Pros:

  • Folds up small and fits easily in a diaper bag.
  • Good for quick ups and downs.
  • Usually available for cheap at consignment sales and resale stores.

Cons:

  • Has to be fitted to the wearer, there is no size adjustability.
  • Usually made with cheaper fabrics that aren’t as comfortable.

Bottom line: If you can get a pouch sized right for you, it can be a very convenient option for quick ups and downs. There are many duffle bag-type pouches on the market and these should absolutely be avoided if they hang low and only allow baby to lay reclined inside as this is not safe positioning. Baby should always be close enough to kiss and closely monitored when doing cradle carries in pouches.

Pouch1     Pouch2


Stretchy wrap

Structure: a long piece of jersey-knit or similar stretchy fabric.

Price range: $40-60 

Popular brands: Moby, Boba, Solly, Happy Baby, K’Tan.

Carry positions: Front and hip.

Pros:

  • Can be pre-tied to slip baby in and out easily.
  • Very supportive for newborns.
  • Easily found at big box stores.
  • Affordable as a beginner carrier.
  • Fits all sizes. (Except the K’Tan. That needs to be fitted to the wearer)

Cons:

  • Usually stops being very comfortable once baby is 15+ lbs.
  • You cannot back carry in a stretchy.
  • They tend to run hot, not the best for summer wearing.
  • It’s a lot of fabric. Can be awkward and cumbersome.

Bottom line: Stretchy wraps are great for newborns but not so much larger babies. If you’re willing to buy multiple carriers, this is an excellent choice for a beginner.

Stretchy1     Stretchy2


Woven wrap  

Price range: $70+

Popular brands: Girasol, Natibaby, Little Frog, Didymos, Oscha, Pavo.

Carry positions: Front, hip, back.

Pros:

  • No weight limit. Can be used from newborn-toddlerhood and beyond.
  • Versatility. So many different ways to wrap.
  • They hold their value very well, great for swapping or reselling later.
  • A huge variety of colors, patterns and fibers.
  • Different sizes for different carries. A smaller wrap will fit easily in a diaper bag.

Cons:

  • Harder learning curve. Wrapping takes a lot of practice, especially with back carries.
  • Longer wraps can be difficult to tie on the go, tails can drag on the ground.
  • Good quality wraps are expensive, expect to pay $100+ for a popular brand.

Bottom line: Wovens are a great investment carrier with lots of versatility. With proper care they will last you forever. Choosing your first woven can be overwhelming with all the different options, so do some research and/or find someone who is familiar with wovens for their advice. 

 Woven4     Woven2


 

Ring sling 

Structure: A long piece of fabric that’s gathered in rings at the shoulder.

Price range: $50+

Popular brands:  Maya, Sakura Bloom, Beco, Girasol.

Carry positions: Front, cradle and hip. (Back carries are an advanced skill)

Pros:

  • Can be used from newborn-toddlerhood.
  • Great for easy ups and downs.
  • Easy to breastfeed in.
  • Easily adjusted.
  • Fits in a diaper bag.
  • Lots of fabric and print options.

Cons:

  • Can be a little uncomfortable on the shoulder for extended wearing.
  • Little bit of a learning curve on how to adjust for maximum comfort.

Bottom line: Ring slings are wonderful for newborns and small babies and great for quick ups and downs for older kiddos. Because it’s only one layer of fabric over both of you, it’s generally a nice and cool carrier. Another fun option is a mesh ring sling for swimming and other water activities. 

RS1     RS4


 

Mei-tai

Structure: Asian-style carrier with a body panel and straps for tying. Sort of a cross between a wrap and SSC.

Price range: $30+

Popular brands: Infantino, Babyhawk, Catbird Baby, Chimparoo, Fidella.

Carry positions: Front, hip, back.

Pros:

  • Can be used from newborn-toddlerhood.
  • Can be used for early back carries.
  • Multiple ways to adjust the straps for your comfort.
  • Some brands offer extra long straps for plus-sized caregivers
  • Easily adjusted.

Cons:

  • Needs extra adjusting/positioning for newborns.
  • Can be a bit uncomfortable if the straps aren’t tensioned right.
  • The canvas options can be a bit hot.
  • Wrap conversion options can be expensive.

Bottom line: The mei tai is a great option for quick ups and downs. If you’re wanting to wear baby on your back early on, it’s a safe option for a high back carry. If you’re relying on it as your primary carrier for a newborn, it does take some extra adjusting. The wrap conversion (woven wrap that has been converted) mei tais are very comfortable and usually have straps that adjust width-wise, which is a very nice option. The Infantino mei tai is one of the best budget carriers on the market. 

MT1     MT3


SSC  (Soft Structured Carrier) aka the buckle carrier

Price Range: $70+ 

Popular brands: Ergobaby, Tula, Lillebaby, Beco, Kinderpack, Boba.

Carry positions: Front, hip, back, forward facing.

Pros:

  • Can be used from newborn-toddlerhood with some brands.
  • Easy to use, little to no learning curve.
  • Easy to adjust for maximum comfort and doesn’t need to be re-adjusted each time.
  • Some brands offer forward facing options.
  • Most preferred style by dads.
  • Lots of style and print options.
  • Generally very comfortable for extended wearing.

Cons:

  • Some brands/models require an infant insert for newborns which can be bulky and hot.
  • Some brands can be hard to purchase because of availability.
  • Can sometimes be difficult to get a good fit if the wearer has a short torso, large breasts or narrow shoulders.
  • Some SSC’s can be very costly, especially wrap conversions.

Bottom line: The SSC is a very good option for a one and done carrier. Each SSC is like a pair of jeans, what fits one wearer great might not feel comfortable on another. Trying on different ones before you buy is extremely helpful. SSC’s are a great option for toddlers because of their durability and convenience. 

SSC2     IMG_1144


 

A Few Other Considerations

It’s helpful to keep in mind that babywearing is a skill you learn, not just a product you buy. Start by finding what you think you will love and you will learn how to wear as you go.

Only buy brand new from trusted retailers/sellers. There are a lot of fake carriers on the market that have not been tested for safety. Saving a few dollars is not worth your child’s safety.

Buying secondhand can be a great way to save some money, but just be cautious. Ergobaby is the most faked carrier and the fakes are very convincing.

As a general rule for SSC’s, if you buy a cheap carrier it’s probably going to feel like a cheap carrier when you wear it. Save up a little extra money and invest in a quality carrier, you will not be sorry!

Ask for help if you are not sure what you are doing or need recommendations. If you don’t have a local babywearing group for hands on help, there are plenty of babywearing support groups on social media that are happy to help!

Always practice safe babywearing!

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