If you find yourself convinced of the benefits of babywearing, but aren’t quite sure which type of carrier is best for you or your child, you’re not alone. Many mamas feel--or felt at some time--just as you do now; a bit unsure about which carrier or method is right for them. Remember that no two carriers are created equally. Most all provide some benefit, but certain ones may work better depending on your lifestyle, your body type and your child’s size.
Babywearing styles and fashions have certainly evolved, but most fit into one of five categories. Outlined below, you’ll find an overview of the most common types followed by an example of each.
Asian-inspired Baby Carriers (ABCs)
The construction of an Asian-inspired Baby Carrier is simply rectangles of fabric with a strap at each corner. Very basic in design, this type of carrier can be worn in front, back, and some styles on the hip. ABCs, or Mei Tais as they’re also called, are known for their comfort and versatility. Although wearing an ABC takes a little more practice, many moms like the natural positioning it allows for breastfeeding while carrying. This type is most comfortable for carrying babies less than 20 pounds, but is often used for children weighing up to 30 pounds.
BabyHawk - A popular, beloved Mei Tai-style carrier, the BabyHawk is sturdy, secure, and stylish since it’s available in over 300 fabrics. It ranges in price from $80-$100.
One of the easiest carriers to use, a pouch is similar to a sling. In is simplest form, fitted pouches are tube-shaped and made to fit the size of its particular wearer. Adjustable pouches may include snaps, zippers, Velcro, or rings. Pouches are extremely portable and also facilitate breastfeeding. Pouches can be worn in cradle or hip positions, but may not securely hold a baby in vertical positions. Typically, you can wear this type of carrier from your baby’s birth through toddlerhood.
Hotslings – This brand of pouch slings feature easy-to-follow sizing and adjustability. Hotslings offers pouch slings in a variety of fun prints for $50-70.
A favorite of many moms, slings are essentially fabric carriers that fit over the shoulder and under the arm, as if you’re wearing a pageant sash with the addition of a baby. They are adjustable by pulling fabric through rings at the shoulder. If you want padded shoulders with a strap for adjusting, choose a closed tail sling. If you’d rather adjust using the fabric as it passes through the rings, choose an open tail sling. Both styles can be used for cradle, front, back, and hip carrying positions from newborn to toddlerhood. Babywearers love slings for their versatility, comfort, and portability. They also facilitate breastfeeding, but can sometimes feel uncomfortable, since they put more stress on one shoulder.
Maya Wrap– Rated highly by new parents, Maya Wrap slings are known for their style, comfort, and adjustability. Available in both solid colors and prints, Maya Wrap Baby Slings are $74.95.
A structured carrier is similar to an ABC with extra padding and structure. This type of carrier is also referred to as a soft-pack or buckle carrier. An advantage of such a carrier is its ability to evenly distribute your baby’s weight across both your shoulders and hips. Structured carriers are easy to use and appeal to a wide variety of parents. They’re best used for babies over three-five months old who have head control. They can be worn in all carrying positions except cradle.
Ergobaby – Offering seven collections--including organic, designer, and sport—Ergobaby is a well-known and reputable maker of structured baby carriers. They allow you to choose the carrier that fits your lifestyle and needs. Due to their additional workmanship, prices range from $115-$150.
Soft and comfortable, wraps are carriers made of long pieces of cloth tied around the body. They are very versatile, comfortable, and portable. Although they can be difficult to learn to use, once tied, they can be worn all day in front, back, cradle, and hip carries. Wraps enable breastfeeding while carrying and can be used from birth through toddlerhood. Some fabrics, however, won’t hold babies over 20 pounds.
Moby Wrap – A bestselling wrap, Moby Wraps are available in nine varieties including designs, organics, and woven. Depending on your chosen style, size, and preference, you can purchase a Moby Wrap for $40-$160.
Now that you know a little more about the different carrier types, you’re ready to purchase your first one. If you’re able, consider borrowing from a friend whose baby has outgrown her carrier to serve as a test-run. Allow yourself time to familiarize yourself whichever carrier you choose. And if you need to, give yourself permission to try more than one kind of carrier to get this babywearing thing right! You’re well on your way to becoming a fashionable mom who reaps the benefits of the special parenting skill of babywearing.
Additional Resources on Baby Carriers