Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to Choose the Right Baby Carrier

Years ago there were very few options for baby wearing, you either made your own sling or bought one of those very generic, inexpensive carriers that only fit an infant. Today, oh my! Where do you start? It seems the options are never ending and every year there are new companies making baby carriers. We have tried about eight or ten brands, yes I've lost count [look of shame]. Let me tell you, there is no such things as a perfect carrier because many serve different purposes and are best for certain stages. 

Here are some tips that may help you choose one, or two, that would serve your lifestyle well. 

Birth to Toddler: A lot of carriers can be used from birth to toddlerhood, but in my opinion they aren't necessarily the best for each age separately. We did use the Ergo Baby Carrier from birth with an infant insert with our first baby, it worked, but in my opinion wasn't as comfortable for a newborn and infant as a wrap is.

Infant Carriers: Though most carriers designed for infants will carry a toddler, it just isn't very comfortable with a lot of weight. I found that slings are really most comfortable with infants and do not give you enough support for carrying a heavier toddler. From experience, the best way to carry a newborn and infant is in a wrap, see below. Some carriers like the Baby Bjorn and Belle Baby are for infants only

Wraps (top picture above): These long pieces of slightly stretchy fabric can really ruffle some feathers as you learn to put them on. It did for me! But boy was it worth the learning curve! Nothing is as comfortable with a little newborn or infant. My favorite thing is that I can put it on after my baby falls asleep on my chest in my arms. That is something I can't say for any other carrier. We love our Moby Wrap, but there are many similar ones on the market such as the Sleepy Wrap or the Boba Wrap. I use it a lot at home to get things done when my infant wants to sleep nowhere else but next to mama. I don't mind and I can comfortably wear him for about two hours before it starts to be a little too much for my back. It's also a good way for me to get some time with my toddler to read and play all the while with baby brother conveniently with us. 

Slings (above): These are also soft fabric carriers, but unlike wraps you do not wrap them around yourself many times, they are shorter and usually a fixed length or adjustable to your body size. Carriers such as the Maya Wrap are called a wrap when in reality they are made more like a ring sling. To wear a sling properly it has to be close to your body so that the baby is right against your chest, not your stomach (for an infant). We tried a sling but I just couldn't get it to work right with a newborn, perhaps it would have been easier with an older child. I'm sure many moms find it convenient. I don't really like that it puts most weight on one shoulder, so it is best worn for short periods of time or you have to alternate shoulders. 

Soft Structured Carriers (below): This is another favorite of ours that I consider a must have. My first child practically lived in her Ergo Carrier for the first 18 months until she got too heavy for me, but daddy still carried her. We have also tried the Boba Carrier and liked it just as much, there are many brands including Baby Bjorn, Belle Baby, TogetherBe, and Scootababy. I personally prefer the ones with a wider seat where the baby is more in a sitting position than a hanging one. I like that soft structured carriers are really easy to put on, it takes less than a minute and it is great to just have with you in the car, stroller, or diaper bag when you need it. I like that the Ergo and Boba let you wear the baby in the front or back. 

Structured Carriers (below): These are framed rigid carriers mostly reserved for people who are active outdoors and like to hike with their children. There are also some brands that have simplified the structured carrier for everyday urban and city use. The child sits on your back at a higher position so that they can see all around them. 

We have found that a combination of a wrap and soft structured carrier basically covers all our needs and makes it comfortable to wear both a newborn and a toddler. What carriers do you like? Are there any you would like to see Thanks Mama carry?

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