Choosing a Baby Carrier
Cloth baby carriers come in an endless array of fabrics and colors, from basic solid cottons to exquisitely embellished silks. Whether you're looking for something to use every day, a carrier for a special occasion, or slings to match every outfit, the choices are yours to make, whatever your personal style. Your baby carrier (or carriers) can be both functional and attractive.The array of baby carriers available today can be a bit overwhelming, but don't let that keep you from finding a carrier (or a few) that work for you! If there's a Babywearing International chapter or other nonprofit, free-to-attend babywearing group near you, you can get free babywearing help and can try several types of carriers, which will give you a better idea of what to buy or make. Another source of help is online communities like the forums at TheBabywearer.com.
How big? How old?
All of the types of carriers shown on this page can be used to carry babies and young children on the wearer's front, hip or back, although some are better for one or the other carry. Most of these carriers can be used from birth until parent or child chooses to stop carrying. This can sometimes be age 4 or beyond!
Whichever carrier you choose, look for a carrier that holds your child in a position you would naturally carry them in arms in front, on your hip, or for a piggyback ride. Most carrier manufacturers list weight limits for their carriers, but there is often a significant discrepancy between the published weight limit and what a particular user finds comfortable. Also, technique makes a difference. Buckling or tying on your hips feels very different from buckling or tying around your true waist. Help from experienced babywearers, such as Babywearing International's Volunteer Babywearing Educators, can save most beginning babywearers both time and money as they review their babywearing options.
A simple strip of cloth makes an elegant and comfortable baby sling. A little
learning is required to wrap and tie the cloth, but basic methods can be
mastered in minutes. Wraparound slings can be short, for quick one-shoulder carries, or longer, to distribute the baby's weight evenly over two shoulders and the caregiver's torso and hips. Wraparound slings come in a variety of
fabrics, but natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and silk are more breathable and have a more appropriate texture than synthetics. Some wraparound slings are specially woven to have exceptional performance as baby carriers, offering strength, breathability, just the right amount of diagonal stretch, and the right texture for holding the baby securely; these highly prized textiles are sometimes known as German-Style Wovens because this type of sling was developed in
In its simplest and most elegant form, a ring sling is a shawl with a pair of rings attached to one end. The rings replace the knot or tuck-and-twist method of fastening used with traditional shawl carriers such as Mexican rebozos or Indonesian selendangs. Some ring slings have padding where the sling rests on the caregiver's shoulder or along the edges of the sling, and some depart further from traditional shawl carriers by having the fabric at the end of the sling folded and stitched into a rope-like tail. Ring Slings are an ideal newborn carrier and are also fantastic for the up-and-down toddler phase.
Simply a tube of fabric with a curved seam, a pouch sling is a sleek carrier option. Pouches are sized to the adult wearer, and what they lack in adjustability they make up for in convenience. Few carriers take up less space in a diaper bag or are as quick to put on and take off as a pouch. While usable with newborns, many moms find these more fitting once their postpartum weight stabilizes and baby becomes stronger, generally around 4mo.
The modern take on a traditional Chinese baby carrier with a body panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps still carries the traditional name, "mei tai" (pronounced"may tie"). The new-generation mei tais typically have either wide, padded shoulder straps, or extra-wide, wrap-style, unpadded straps for the wearer's comfort. They also offer a variety of features such as headrests or sleeping hoods for the baby, pockets for diapers or other essentials, and fabric choices that range from strictly utilitarian to truly luxurious. Mei tais can be used from birth and are ideal for sharing among caregivers.
Soft Structured Carriers
Also with a body panel and shoulder and waist straps, soft structured carriers replace knots with buckles and add a thickly padded waistband and shoulder straps. The result is a different weight distribution and overall different look and feel from a mei tai, putting this style of carrier into a category of its own. Soft structured carriers offer the convenience of buckles yet are vastly different from framed backpacks in that they hold the baby securely against the wearer's body. Unlike framed backpacks, soft structured carriers are suitable from birth through toddlerhood and provide the benefits of body-to-body contact for the baby (although some require or include a special insert for newborns). Soft Structure carriers really shine after about 4-5mo.