I simply love babywearing. I own 3 Moby Wraps, a Maya Wrap, a Baby K’tan, a mei tai, a Snuggli, and a couple more tucked away in a closet somewhere. Babywearing let me keep Dylan close when he was a newborn no matter what I was doing. And now that he’s older, I can hold him as much as he wants while not killing my muscles and while still getting stuff done. I never leave the house without a carrier in my truck, even if I don’t specifically plan to use it. When you first start looking at baby carriers, the variety can be intimidating, but don’t worry! It soon starts to make sense, and babywearing itself simply makes so much sense that you won’t regret giving it a try.
Reasons to Wear Your Baby
- Babies who are carried cry less and have less stress. Non-carried babies have more stress hormones which can lead to more digestive problems and diaper rash.
- Carried babies spend more time in the “passive alert” stage which helps them learn from the world around them and feel confident.
- Babywearing promotes a strong attachment between parent and baby. Communication is stronger between the two and the baby is more emotionally secure.
- Using a baby carrier lets you have a full and busy life while also keeping your baby close.
- The Benefits of Baby Wearing from La Leche League dives into these benefits and more.
- And here’s another look with Ten Reasons to Wear Your Baby.
Types of Baby Carriers
This is where it gets complicated. There are so many types of carriers to choose from! Choice is a good thing, but it can also be overwhelming! First up, a simple description of which is which and where to see an example!
- A wrap is simply a long piece of fabric that you use to tie your baby to you. They come in stretchy and non-stretchy (woven) fabric. I use a (stretchy) Moby Wrap almost exclusively to carry Dylan, and I wrote a review of it here.
- Pouches and slings are basically a tube of fabric that you place your baby in that slings over one of your shoulders.
- A ring sling carrier is similar to a pouch except it’s adjustable. I wrote about the Maya Wrap (which is a ring sling) here.
- A mei tai or Asian baby carrier (ABC) is a rectangle of fabric with straps at each corner that you use to tie your baby to you. You can see Dylan in a mei tai in this post about screening compost.
- Soft-structured carriers are like a modernized ABC with padded straps and buckles. The Ergo is an example.
- Front-pack style carriers are fully structured, padded, buckling carriers. The Baby Bjorn is an example. I won’t be covering these carriers in this overview, because they I don’t recommend that anyone buy these.
Choosing a Carrier
There are several different ways to judge a carrier. Finding one that’s right for you depends on your budget, your priorities, and your lifestyle. Here are some characteristics you might want to consider:
- Learning Curve – Some carriers are easier to learn to use than others. All carriers take some getting used to, and all carriers are easy to use once you get some practice, so I wouldn’t prioritize the initial learning curve very highly. Other people are more intimidated by babywearing and want to start with something easy. Wraps are the hardest to learn initially. Soft-structured and mei tais are the easiest.
- Age of Baby – Wraps are particularly suited for newborn babies. Mei tais and soft-structured carriers are usually preferred for toddlers.
- Available Positions – A ring sling is ideal for hip carry positions and can also do a back position. A mei tai can do front, back, and side carries. Soft-structured carriers can be used for front and back carries, and some brands can do a side carry. A wrap can be used for front, back, and side carries, although stretchy wraps are mainly used for front carries.
- Weight Distribution – Wraps have the best weight distribution, since they go evenly across your back and waist and over both shoulders. Mei tais and soft-structured carriers also have good weight distribution. A ring sling only goes over one shoulder.
- Versatility – Wraps lead the way in versatility, hands down.
- Price – Wraps are generally cheapest, and soft-structured carriers are generally the most expensive, but there are a wide range of prices across all the categories. You can buy secondhand to save some money since a quality carrier will last through many children. You can also make your own wrap, ring sling, or mei tai.
- Ease of On-Off – Mei tais and soft-structured carriers go on quick, ring slings are also pretty quick, but a wrap takes a bit of work to get situated.
That’s a lot of considerations, and there are more that I didn’t cover, like attractiveness/fashionableness of the carrier, ability to breastfeed while wearing, ease of washing, and ability to switch between different wearers. What carrier is right for you will be such a personal decision, and if you love babywearing, you may find that you want more than one carrier to meet your needs at different times.
After all the weighing and considering, what do I actually recommend for babywearing? I have my personal favorites, but I also have more general recommendations based on hearing gazillions of opinions from the wide world of babywearing. There are some clear choices in each category.
- Wraps – If you want to snuggle a newborn closely, are concerned about price, want unlimited color/fashion options, and want the most versatility in age range and carry options, a wrap is the right choice. I swear by my Moby Wrap, but other people prefer woven wraps for older babies, toddlers, and back carries. For a woven wrap, I suggest going to Etsy for lots of great options in different prices.
- Mei Tai – If you want a strong carrier for older children that also stores away compactly and is very quick to put on, a mei tai is a good choice. Don’t scrimp on price, because you’ll appreciate all the extra padding, strength, and details. My favorite in this category is the BabyHawk.
- Ring Sling – A ring sling is a good choice if you want unlimited fabric options and a quick in-and-out option for any age of child. The Maya Wrap is a classic ring sling.
- Soft-structured – If you want a strong, comfortable carrier for longer wearing periods with a customizable fit and all the bells and whistles PLUS you don’t mind the cost, then a soft-structured carrier is the way to go. The leader in this category is by far the Ergo.
Honestly, I was a little stuck on how to fill out this resource page. I could probably talk all day about the features of a particular carrier, but I found less to say as a general overview. Still, I can expand this page over time.
What other information about babywearing would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?