Simply put, babywearing is the act of wearing your child (baby-toddler) in a soft fabric carrier. It is something that has been done for centuries by cultures all around the world. There is the practical aspect of babywearing, it allows mom or dad to carry the child with them, but also have use of their hands, and have the weight of the baby more evenly supported. But there is also an emotional aspect of babywearing: promoting parent-child bonding, allowing baby to be easily soothed, and involving baby in daily activities. All of the carriers can be used while nursing, and many provide some cover for added discretion. For many families baby carriers become a replacement for a stroller in everyday life, providing an easy way to walk, hike, or run errands without the bulk of a stroller.
There are many options of carriers, each with their own advantages. This blog is the first in a series about babywearing. In this blog we will introduce the different types of carriers, to help you choose which one(s) is (are) right for you. The best baby carriers are both functional and beautiful, making a great accessory for you and your baby. One last note on babywearing, is to consider it a skill that is learned. While most carriers can be mastered in minutes, certain positions, such as back carries, may take more time to learn, but are well worth the investment, for the added comfort and flexibility that these carries provide.
Ring slings are made of a single piece of fabric that is attached to two rings at one end. The fabric is threaded through the rings creating a pouch for your baby or child and a tail of fabric. Ring slings are one of the simplest and easiest baby carriers to use and are easily adjustable to the size of both the child and the wearer. Ring slings can be used from birth to toddlerhood with a weight limit around 30-40lbs. Baby can be worn in several positions, on the wearer’s front (for infants), hip or swung to the back (for toddlers). Positioned on Mom’s front, the baby is in a perfect position to nurse, while the tail can be used as a cover. Since getting your child into a ring sling is quick and easy, they are very convenient for running errands and as a carrier for your toddler who wants to be carried one minute, but walk the next. Ring slings are also one of the smallest baby carriers, they can be folded up and fit into most diaper bags. Ring slings can be shared between caregivers, however a sling on a larger individual will have less of a tail. Choosing a larger size would mean a longer tail on the smaller individual. While many moms find ring slings very comfortable, the baby’s weight is supported by only one shoulder, which can cause stress on that shoulder. To reduce this, be sure the sling is positioned around the shoulder to evenly distribute the weight and alternate the shoulder periodically.
Mei Tais are a modern adaptation of a traditional Chinese baby carrier, which consist of a body panel of fabric, shoulder straps and a waist strap. The shoulder and waist straps are tied, holding baby to your body and providing a truly custom fit. They are versatile carriers for use from birth through toddlerhood with weight limits of 30-40lbs, and are perfect carriers to be shared between caregivers. Mei Tais come in several variations with very wide shoulder straps or padded shoulder and waist straps, headrests and hoods, drool pads and more. The addition of hoods and headrests provides added support for baby’s head and neck, and also provide some cover while nursing. Baby can worn on the front, back or hip in most mei tais.
Soft Structured Carriers are similar to Mei Tais, in that they consist of a body panel, shoulder and waist straps, however the straps are connected to the body panel with buckles, eliminating the need to tie the straps. While these carriers can be shared between caregivers, the buckles limit the adjustability of the straps. If two people are going to share a soft structured carrier, it is best if they both try it on to ensure a comfortable fit. While some soft structured carriers can be used for newborns, they are favorites with parents from 4-5 months through the toddler years. The sturdy padding on the shoulders and the waist provide a very comfortable carrier for longer trips with a heavier toddler.
Simple pieces of cloth are rectangular pieces of fabric of varying lengths that are used to wrap a baby in. They take a bit more learning to master, but are very versatile, and simple carries can be learned in minutes. Shorter versions can be used for one-shoulder carries, while longer ones can be used for two shouldered carries with added support around the torso, and an extra layer of fabric under the baby. Wraps are typically made of woven fabrics that provide strength to support baby with varying amounts of stretch to them. Wraps are the most versatile carrier and can be used from birth though toddlerhood.
Stretchy Wraps are typically made of cotton and have more stretch to them than woven wraps. The added stretch makes them easier to learn how to use, but decreases how supportive these wraps are. While stretchy wraps are perfect for newborns, they may not be supportive enough as your baby grows.
Woven Wraps are made from many different fabrics, including cotton, wool, bamboo, and silk. The fabric content affects the weight, texture, breathability, and support of the wrap, while the weave affects these things and the color and/or patterns.
Water Wraps are made from quick drying nylon or mesh fabrics and are intended for use in water.