In part one of Babywearing for the Newbie, I provided you with a history of babywearing and in part two I discussed the advantages and benefits of babywearing. Now that you are well versed in the basics, let me take you on a tour of the types of babywearing options as well as some basic babywearing safety tips. And again, if you would like to view some gorgeous photos of babywearing around the world, check out this post I recently published on my personal blog.
Types of Babywearing Carriers
If you are in the market for a baby carrier, it is important for you to understand the different types of babywearing options. Not all of them will fit in with your lifestyle of your physical ability to wear your baby. I have provided a comprehensive look at the different types of babywearing options so that you may better understand what will work best for you.
A favorite with parents, front carriers are well known for their comfort and ease of use. All straps and buckles are located in the front, so the wearer simply places the shoulder straps on the shoulders, cuddles baby between chest and carrier, and securely buckles the upper fabric and adjustable waist belt. Young infants face inward with a neck support, while older babies can face outward, with the neck support folded down. A front carrier is structured, with thick, stiff material for excellent support for baby’s neck and spine, but also soft and flexible for comfort and easy storage.
Designed to be worn exclusively on the hip, hip carriers are popular with parents starting to babywear with an older baby. These carriers are designed to cup the shoulder, so that the strap doesn’t ride up on the wearer’s neck when the baby is being held on the hip. Parents adopting older babies love these for adoption travel, thanks to the compact design, ease of use, and close connection with their baby.
The modern Mei Tai is based on traditional Asian baby carriers. In a Mei Tai baby carrier, the baby can be worn on the wearer’s back or front. Hip carries are also possible. The design is simple: a panel of fabric with supporting straps to go around the waist and over the shoulders. Mei Tai baby carriers are easy to use and their two-shouldered design makes them comfortable with even the heaviest babies. Some parents find that the long straps look intimidating, but this is actually the easiest carrier for parents to learn to use and master.
Baby Pouches, or slings, are the simplest and most straightforward type of baby carrier. They are popular for their compact design and ease of use. Baby pouches are available in Fitted and Adjustable versions.
Similar in structure to a wrap, you thread the long fabric through a pair of rings. This creates a secure, yet adjustable, pouch for your baby. The best ring slings are fully adjustable, ensuring a perfect fit no matter who is wearing the baby. An open tail (the loose fabric threaded through the rings) is not only beautiful, but functional. It can serve many purposes: nursing cover-up, sun shade, and more. Ring slings are one of the best carriers for nursing, particularly with newborns. The adjustable design of the carrier allows you to get the baby latched on in the position you like, before tightening the sling around the baby to support them in that position.
Structured baby carriers are the most supportive design of carrier. Inspired by hiking backpacks, they feature padded shoulder straps and stiff waist/hip belts, adjustable nylon straps, and lots of buckles. Dads love these! Because of the structured design, and the ability to transfer a lot of the child’s weight to the hips, these are among the most comfortable carriers with even the heaviest of children. Going one step further, a baby backpack carrier is an actual hiking backpack converted for older babies. Your toddler sits comfortably in a seat with a secure harness built into the backpack. These types are the bulkiest of any carrier, and are best for camping or long hikes. A great way to introduce your older baby or toddler to the great outdoors!
Wraparound Baby Carriers (wraps) are the least structured carriers available. They are simply long pieces of fabric that the wearer wraps around herself and her baby to create a secure and supportive carrier. Because of the special wrapping and tying techniques involved, they have the longest learning curve of any baby carrier. However, they also provide exceptional versatility and comfort – even with the heaviest of babies.
Many people find that wraps look very intimidating, but there are several easy “beginner” techniques that anyone can learn to do.