If there’s a question I hear a lot from parents wanting to wear their babies, it’s “how do I get started?” As with cloth diapering, there are a confounding number of carrier types out there — wraps, ring slings, mei tais, SSCs (soft structured carriers), stretchy wraps and pouches — and every one of these types has numerous brands and products enveloped within it.
Ultimately, I always tell people to try a few different carriers before selecting one. Even if you’re buying used, there’s a chance you’re not going to like it. If it’s your first and only carrier, and you don’t completely love it, there’s a good chance you might give up on your search — or just not babywear. It might seem like a bit of extra work to go and try some carriers out before you settle, but it may well save you from reselling whatever you’ve got.
The kind of carriers you should be looking at depends on a few factors. How big is your child? What kind of outings will you use the carrier for? What are features that are important to you? (Compact to carry, easy to put on, quick to put on, comfortable for long periods of time, versatile, adjustable …)
If you’re looking to carry a newborn infant, a stretchy wrap (such as a cuddly wrap or the Tula elastic wrap) is an excellent first choice. They lack the sheer quantity of tying options that a woven wrap has, which is a good thing when you’re just getting started. They are comfortable, easy to pop baby in and out of and easy to nurse in. They can’t be used safely for back carries and are no longer as comfortable and easy to use once your baby reaches roughly 15 pounds.
If you’re looking to carry a newborn infant, but want some long-term usefulness from your carrier, and you want to be able to pop your carrier on quickly for shorter time periods, you can try a ring sling. Some people can wear ring slings for long periods of time without much discomfort. They are usable for front carries, hip carries, and (for the experienced babywearer) even back carries. They pack up relatively small, are lovely to look at and are quick to put on and adjust. That adjustability also makes them much preferred to carriers like pouch slings where it is integral that you get the proper size. I don’t personally recommend pouch slings, particularly for the side lying position, because it does carry some risk of positional asphyxiation. The best, and safest position for your baby is tummy to tummy and upright. We have beautiful Storchenwiege ring slings in a variety of patterns available, and hear endless rave reviews about their security, softness and comfort.
If you’re looking for a carrier you can wear for hours with minimal, if any, discomfort — one that goes over both shoulders and distributes the weight nicely — you might want to try a soft structured carrier (SSC). Really, I recommend SSCs for anyone new to the world of babywearing. The learning curve is extremely small. They are easy to get on and off, are generally fun to look at, and should be comfortable for you. There are, however, a ton of choices. Some solid options are the Boba, Beco Butterfly II and Beco Gemini, and the Tula Ergonomic. Boba and Beco carriers can be found through Deirdre at Continuum Family, and Tula Ergonomic carriers can be found through us. Other carriers that resemble soft structured carriers include popular, easy to find models like the Baby Bjorn and Snugli carriers. We do not recommend carriers that promote wearing your infant or toddler facing away from your body. Whether on your back or your front, your infant should be facing in to you. Your child’s knees should be elevated above the level of their hips to promote healthy development. Hip dysplasia is a risk associated with these “crotch dangling” carriers.
If you’re looking for the ultimate carrier that can do everything and then some (and then turn into a hammock when you’re done!), you should get a woven wrap like one of our Storchenwiege or Ellevill wraps. With the heftiest learning curve, they may take you a while to master, but once you do, they can be worn a million and one different ways for premature infancy through to school-aged. My Ulli has held babies from the newest newborn through to a 6 year old without discomfort or strain for the wearer. After 4 years of use, it is the softest, strongest, and still most vibrant baby carriers I have. Despite being washed what seemed like almost daily for a long time — thanks to my pukey girls! — it hasn’t shown the slightest sign of wear or fading. Storchenwiege in particular are the wrap for the older child — they are often used in maternity wards for pregnant women to hang off of during labour, and have been weight tested to safely carry more weight than anyone could comfortably carry.
Getting Started on a Budget
It can be difficult getting started on a budget when it comes to babywearing. Only the most common carriers are easy to find used. In our city, Ergo carriers are popular and readily available — and sometimes you can score a ring sling or a wrap, or an SSC of another variety. But even if you’re looking to buy used, I recommend going to a babywearing get together to try a greater variety of carriers to see what fits you and feels best for what you want it for. At Abernathy Naturals, you are welcome to use the Contact Us form or e-mail us to come and try out one or all of our demonstration carriers/personal stash. Even if you’re not planning to buy new from us, I want you to find a good carrier, so the door is always open! We have a BabyHawk mei tai, a Beco Butterfly II, a Tula Ergonomic, my Storchenwiege Ulli, a Storchenwiege ring sling, a Tula Elastic Wrap and a (sadly, broken) Ergo organic.
Sometimes, arrangements can be made for layaway for carriers as well.
Has this helped you? Do you have questions? Comment below and let me know!