If you’re pregnant or have a baby or toddler, you’ve most likely thought about wearing your child – even if you haven’t thought about it in that exact way. The aisles at Target and Babies”R”Us have all sorts of slings, ergonomic carriers, wraps – there’s certainly no shortage! Even though babywearing, or baby wearing, is a relatively new trend here in the U.S., it’s been common practice in many other cultures for centuries. Wearing your baby is a common part of attachment parenting (AP), but even if you don’t subscribe to AP, there are lots of reasons babywearing can be beneficial.
Benefits of Babywearing
Wearing your baby promotes attachment, fosters bonds between an adult and a baby, it can help reduce crying, promote calm (especially for a colicky baby), help premature babies gain weight and relax their nervous systems, and most of all, it’s convenient. There are those times where a stroller can be bulky or cumbersome, and if you wear your baby, you don’t have to deal with a stroller! If you have older children, you can wear the baby while navigating an outing with your older child, freeing up your hands. During a rough spell (like teething) or if your baby is colicky, wearing your baby around the house can let you clean, run errands, or work, while still providing comfort to your baby – you can even nurse and wear your baby at the same time. There is nothing that will make you feel like supermom more than pushing a toddler in the swing while breastfeeding in your carrier!
Types of Wraps, Slings and Carriers
There are so many carriers out there, with the price ranges to match – which one is best? There’s not one answer for this. Many parents like to have more than one style, depending on if they’re going to use it for long periods of time, or based on how old the baby is, or just because they are fun and come in so many cool prints!
There are four main kinds:
- Wraps are long pieces of cloth and come in a variety of lengths. You can use these for front, back, and hip carries. While these are the most basic kind of carrier, they can also take a while to get the hang of. These are especially great for newborns, since they are the most customizable and provide the most “swaddle.” They are also super adjustable, and can be used with older kids on the hip and back. Brands include Boba, Moby, and Baby K’Tan. The Baby K’Tan wraps don’t require tying (the other ones take practice in wrapping and tying around your body and the baby), but can be tricky to size properly.
- Mei Teis (not the drink!) are carriers with a soft square body and tie waist and shoulder straps. They can be used for front, back, and even side carries. Their adjustability makes them very versatile for both mom and dad, and are good for shorter moms who find the structured carriers a bit too bulky or not quite sized right. The long ties can be challenging in the beginning, and you might need someone else to help, until you can get the hang of it yourself. They can also be used from birth through toddlerhood. Brands include Infantino and BabyHawk.
- Soft structured carriers have a soft body and a buckle waist and shoulder straps. These can be used to carry baby in the front or back. Some, but not all, can be adjusted for side carries. They’re basic and easy to use, and don’t have the fuss of super long ties or long strips of fabric. Some allow the baby to be worn forward facing, but not all of them have that feature (ie, Ergo 360 versus the regular ErgoBaby carrier). With inserts, they can be used from birth through toddlerhood. Brands include Ergo, Tula, Lillebaby, and Beco.
- Ring slings are carriers that are slung over one shoulder and worn diagonally across the front (mostly), although they can also be used for hip carries. The cloth is threaded through rings, and is adjustable. These are quick and easy to slip on, and the ergonomics make it a good choice for breastfeeding while babywearing. They’re very adjustable to each person’s body shape and size, too. As with most adjustable carriers, they can take getting used to in sizing it correctly and adjusting it so it fits you and the baby properly. Brands include Sakura Bloom, Rockin’ Baby, Sweet Pea, and Maya Wrap.
- More options: While these are the main kinds of carriers, there are also pouch-type carriers (which are exactly what they sound like), and even clothing that is designed to help you wear your baby. Pouch slings are a single piece of cloth that are tube-like (or pouch-like), and draped across the body diagonally, and the baby sits in the pouch. While these are good for smaller babies, they may not be as supportive for heavier, bigger babies. They’re very easy to use, but they need to be sized appropriately to provide enough support and safety for babywearing. While they can be used for front or hip carries, they’re much more suited for the hip. Brands include HotSlings and Peanut Shell. Some clothing brands actually make clothing with built-in babywearing capacity, like NuRoo brand babywearing shirts.
What type of carrier is best depends on what is most comfortable for you, and what your baby likes. Sometimes local babywearing groups have a “lending library” for you to try out various types of carriers before committing to one, or ask your friends which carriers they liked, and ask if you can try them out. Some are trickier than others, and can take practice – especially the wraps and Mei Teis.
Babywearing is safe when done properly, so always follow the instructions, or ask someone trained in babywearing. A great resource is Babywearing International. You can find local chapters here. The most important thing is making sure your baby has a clear airway (ie, her face is not smushed up against you).
Do you wear your baby? What is your favorite carrier, and why?