Before I was a mom the word babywearing meant absolutely nothing to me. In fact it was more of a…why would anyone in their right mind want to do that? However, two kids later and a third on the way, I have now been educated that babywearing is not only “cool” and extremely necessary…it can also be fun! I remember showing up at the park one sunny day and was totally impressed by my friend that she was not only wearing one child but two at the same time. WHAT? No, it’s true she had a very cool babywearing wrap that held a child in the front and one in the back (not to mention that she must be extremely strong to carry all of that toddler weight). Babywearing is a subject, like breastfeeding, that people are extremely passionate about. While it’s not for all parents, some people really enjoy it and you will see them tote their kids around while strapped to them well into the preschool years. In fact, you can even earn a certification in babywearing and educate and empower other parents in your community about babywearing — who would have thought?!
This week was designated as International Babywearing Week to celebrate those parents that truly enjoy wearing their babies and also to educate those that may not know exactly what it is or how to go about it. “Babywearing” simply means carrying or holding a baby or child using a cloth baby carrier (as defined by Babywearing International). If you think about it our ancestors have been carrying around their babies and children for years — all strapped to them as they made their way across the country in covered wagons and on foot. If they can do it, we can definitely do it in the modern world…right?!
I for one found it necessary to wear my son as I could have hands-free to care for my daughter but when he reached about 9 months I felt he was just too big for me carry around but much of that could have been resolved by the type of carrier that I was wearing. If only I had known that at the time but now there are so many different options in carriers on the market that it can seem overwhelming for those attempting it for the first time. Here’s a look at a few of the different types of baby carriers available but really in the end, they all work really well and it’s up to you to pick the one that best fits your lifestyle.
Soft structured carriers — these carriers are probably the ones that you are most familiar with and have used already. These carriers come equipped with more “bells and whistles” than a traditional sling as they have buckles and straps that adjust to fit each individual and have padded shoulder straps, waistbands and a body pouch for baby to sit in. Most of these carriers can also be worn front for newborn babies (recommended for 8 lbs. and up and some require a separate infant insert) and on the back for toddlers. These carriers are great for families on the go and are fairly easy to use right out of the box with little instruction. Great soft structure carrier examples include the ERGOBaby Carrier, $120, at ergobabycarriers.com, and the BABYBJORN Comfort Carrier, $152.93, at amazon.com.
Wraparound Slings — this sling is a long, sturdy and breathable piece of cloth that is wrapped around the back and shoulders to create a body pouch/carrier for your baby and child to sit in. There are no buckles, fasteners or buttons to fuss with. Baby can be worn in the front, on the hip or on the back depending on the size and weight of your child. It takes a little bit of learning to get the wraparound sling method down but after a few tries, most people don’t have any problems and love the way baby can have close contact with you and in some cases, easily breastfeed discreetly without being taken out of the carrier. Wraparound slings are also great for moms with more than one child, such as twins or a newborn and toddler that they can wear both children at one time. A great wraparound sling is the Moby Wrap, $44.95, at amazon.com.
Ring Slings — a ring sling is just what it says, a long piece of cloth that is connected by two rings to adjust the length and height of the sling across the carrier’s body. With the ring sling you don’t have to wrap, tie or knot the cloth. You simply put it over your head and adjust to you and your baby’s specifications for a snug but not too tight fit. They are easy to use but take precaution and read the instructions to avoid improper use and suffocation when it comes to using slings in any form. Great for newborns and for easy, discreet breastfeeding a ring sling is definitely recommended for first time babywearers. A ring sling example includes the Maya Wrap Sling, $67.46, at amazon.com.
Mei Tai Carriers — a modernized version of the ancient Chinese carrier, a Mei Tai carrier is similar to the soft structured carrier except it has less structure and does not have buckles for adjustment, instead you wrap and tie the straps yourself to fit your body and baby’s. The carrier has a built-in body panel and comes with waist and shoulder ties and can often be customized with exterior pockets, sleeping hoods and stylish fabrics for the body panel. A great Mei Tai Carrier is Freehand Mei Tai Carrier, $72, at amazon.com.
Many parents have several different carriers for different activities or stages in their babies life. While you may love a ring sling for your newborn, you may find that a soft structured carrier is preferred for the toddler years where you can comfortably carry them on your back. Or perhaps Dad wants to give the babywearing a try and he wants something different altogether. Babywearing is a special skill and a special bonding moment for any parent and their child so just enjoy it while the time lasts and in the end, you’ll find what works best for you! Happy Babywearing!