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Choosing The Right Baby Carrier for Your Family

Choosing The Right Baby Carrier for Your Family

Choosing a baby carrier can be a bit daunting as there are now so many options and often many that seem an awful lot the same!

All of our carriers will take you through at least one full year of your baby’s life and if you’re enjoying using them, most will do the second year too! They also all provide great knee to knee support which is important for both hip socket development AND comfort – for both you and your baby.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the different styles we stock, and what some of the reasons for choosing them might be as well as general safety tips. If you are choosing a carrier for a newborn make sure you check out our other article here too.

Introduction to Carriers:

 


More Info

Ring Slings:

Ring slings are made from lengths of woven wrap fabric with two rings sewn in one end. They are used on one shoulder and again will take you from new born through toddlerhood. Ring Slings are another great comfortable supportive option for newborn as they’ll support the “C-shape” curve babies are born with. They have a shorter learning curve than wraps, and many men will be happy to wear them too.

Ring slings are fabulous with toddlers as you can pop them in an out easily once they’re starting to want to walk on their own, but inevitable end up tired halfway along! They fold up easily to be carried in a nappy bag.

Rings slings are far more versatile and useful than a 'pouch sling', as they can be used by different sized parents and quickly adjust to the size of the adult and child.

They are a great introduction to babywearing as they don't require any specific technique to use them - you just need to know the right position for the age of your child, and ensure you position the ring sling comfortably on your shoulder.

Like woven wraps, ring slings are available in a wide range of fabrics and very beautiful designs. Choose something simple and practical like charcoal linen, or go lush with a limited edition silk blend design.....


Woven Wraps:

Woven wraps are long pieces of specially woven babywearing fabric. They are designed to be strong and secure and have a good stretch/give across the diagonal to mould around your baby. They have a bit of a learning curve, so you need to be prepared to ‘learn’ how to wrap, and pop along to a babywearing meet/group to get some hands on pointers. YouTube has a lot of tutorials now as woven wraps become more popular, but there is nothing like hands on help!

The fantastic thing about woven wraps is that they will fit all sizes and shapes and all ages of babies, from newborn up. Our babywearing expert, Alice, is happily still wrapping her 12.5 kg toddler!

Because the fabric doesn’t stretch you can use them in lots of different styles, front, side and back. You can use them in one shoulder and two shoulder carries, some that wrap snugly around your chest to distribute weight and others that just are more like a backpack.

And one of the reasons people love woven wraps and become addicted to the, is that the designs are AMAZINGLY beautiful!

From 100% cotton, to linen, silk, wool and hemp blends, there is a wrap for everyone and every sized child. Different blends will give different support, with hemp being the most ‘toddler worthy’ wrap and wool blends being amazingly soft and cuddly. Most people of average size would be fine to start out in a 4.6/7m wrap (or a ‘size 6’) and there are many lengths available depending on what carries you like or what you feel like wearing on any given day.


Stretchy wraps:

Stretchy wraps like Moby, Hug-a-bub or Boba are lovely for new borns. They’re soft, gentle stretch cotton that you wrap around yourself (or your partner!) and tuck your new bundle into. Particularly in the first few months they can give you your hands back and are comfy enough that you can sit down and relax once baby has zz’d off all snuggled up. Because they wrap right around you if you spread them out they’re amazing for skin to skin too, as yoúll be covered where you’d like to be and baby is held against your chest listening to your heartbeat.

Most people will find that day to day use of a stretchy wrap will wind up around the 8-9kg mark as due to the stretch in the fabric it becomes harder to hold baby close and snug to you. Keeping their weight close to your centre of gravity is what keeps a carrier being comfortable. You can wrap a Moby or Boba for a hip carry which is great as babies get nosier and want to see what’s going on in the world around them, but they are NOT appropriate for using with back carries.

 

 

Soft structured carriers - SSC

Soft Structured Carriers or SSCs are a very popular choose in the baby carrier range. This style covers brands like Ergobaby, Boba, Beco, Manduca, Lillebaby and Tula.

These are also super quick to pop on and very supportive. While you and your baby may take a little time to get used to carrying and working out the most comfortable position for you both, SSCs do not require any learning or technique in the way a woven wrap does.

This style of carrier is very popular with Dads and those who like quick on and off. They consist of a buckled, padded waistband, buckled padded shoulder straps and a back panel with a sleep hood.

Dads tend to like them as they tend to be simpler to learn and visually a bit plainer.

Soft Structured carriers can be used for front or back carrying and from newborn (though with some you’ll need a separate insert) Ergobaby and Manduca can be used for hip carrying too, though they are a little fiddlier to set up this way than a Ring Sling.

These carriers are fabulous for going hiking and provided fantastic support for long term wearing. They are our most recommended option for a comfortable way to carry children for longer periods of time.

Tula even do a specific toddler carrier to keep the knee to knee support for your child which means big hikes are possible even when 3 yr olds get pooped – they’re not heavy like framed backpack so are easily carted along.

Soft Structured carriers can be used from newborn through to about 4 years (20kg). Check the age and weight information for each brand before making your choice.

The different brands have different fabric, may differ in the height of the back panel and the length of waist band.

Unless specified, carriers are only used with baby facing inwards towards the adult, ie front carry facing parent or back carry like a biggyback position. While some new models of SSC have an adjustable position for facing outwards with older babies, the recommended position for babies is facing towards the adult.

We have extensive Soft Structured Carrier comparison charts and details. For details click here.

 

More SSC Videos

Onbuhimo Carriers

Based on a traditional Japanese way of carrying, Onbuhimo have become an extremely popular type of baby carrier. With comfy shoulder straps but no waist band, Onbuhimo are ideal for during pregnancy or for those who prefer not to have a waist band. Wearing an Onbuhimo is like a hands-free a piggyback!

Why choose an Onbuhimo rather than other buckle carrier?

  • Ideal for pregnancy

  • No 'muffin top' or tummy rolls from a waist band squishing your middle

  • More compact than a regular buckle carrier to carry round with you.

  • Onbuhimo can be very reasonably priced.

  • Generally worn with a toddler who can help put it on by sitting on a chair or standing.

Find out more about Onbuhimo here.


Mei Tai.

Mei Tai are based on the traditional asian style carrier. They are more structured than a woven wrap but without the padded waist band and buckles of a structured carrier.

Mei Tai are very versatile in the way you can wear them and also they can fit any sized person as they are tied to fit each time you wear it.

A Mei Tai has four straps (one at each corner, and the top two straps are longer). Tie the shorter straps round your waist, like an apron, then position baby and lift up the back panel. Then wrap the longer straps over your shoulders and across to secure in front of your baby.

These carriers are often available in beautiful designs and are made by small boutique businesses.

They offer a middle ground between the learning of a woven wrap and the simplicity of a soft structured carrier.

Brands available at The Sleep Store include Baby Hawk and Catbird Baby.

 

Baby Carrier Safety

Baby-carrying done properly is very safe!  Always follow the carrier instructions exactly and/or learn how to safely use your carrier from a qualified baby-carrying consultant who has had expert training in babywearing safety..

In particular pay special attention to ensuring baby's airways are always totally clear and that your baby is fully and safely supported by the carrier.

All carriers are designed to be used with baby in an upright position, held securely and firmly in the upright position. Never use the cradle or lying down position with a baby carrier, as this can compromise your baby's airways.

Special care must be used when bending. Hold your baby with one or both arms if you are bending and avoid bending from the waist. Carriers are not designed for hands free use when bending.

Carriers are not designed to be used in situations or activities where it wouldn't be safe to carry a baby in your arms. For example: running, jumping or biking.

Essential safety Checks:

While there are numerous different ways of describing how to carry safely, all the different points come down to 2 simple factors:

  1. Airways

  2. Hands-free

 

AIRWAYS:

  • Airways

  • Can you see, feel or hear your baby is breathing?

  • Ensure fabric isn't over your baby's face.

  • Keep your baby's face above and clear of any squishable chest material - ie above your breasts!

  • With a newborn, this often means wearing a buckle carrier higher on your waist and creating a deeper seat to ensure the back panel is not over baby's face or head.

  •  

 

HANDS FREE:

  • Do you feel confident you can be totally hands free?

  • If you need to hold your baby, when you are standing upright, then your carrier isn't safe for hands free carrying.

  • When bending forward support your baby with at least one hand.

  • Check you are following the instructions or get some hands-on expert help.

Baby's Comfort:

  • Newborn hands are up by face.

  • Fabric is smooth on baby's back

  • Knee to knee support

  • Pelvis tilt - Knees higher than bottom

  • Natural shape of spine is supported

 

There are many different ways of describing these key safety factors, including the well-known TICKS guidelines for babywearing.

TICKS Babywearing Safely


Download a copy here.

TICKS used with permission of the UK Sling Consortium.

More safety information from Babywearing International:

Babywearing International believes that babywearing is an inherently safe activity. But as with any other baby or child product, it is important to observe a few basic safety tips.

Make sure your child’s airway remains open at all times while babywearing. The best way to do this is to keep him or her in an upright position, high enough on your body to monitor breathing and ensure that her chin is off her chest. Babywearing International recommends that infants only be held in a horizontal or cradle position while actively nursing (if desired) and return to an upright or vertical position as soon as they have finished.

It is also important that your carrier provide adequate support for your infant’s developing neck and back. Ideally baby should be held with his knees higher than his bottom with legs in a spread squat position and support from knee to knee although with older babies and toddlers full knee to knee support is not always possible or necessary. An ergonomic carrier (whether a soft structured carrier, Asian-style carrier, sling, or wrap) will provide better support for baby and will be more comfortable for the caregiver as well.

Always inspect your carrier for wear or damage before use examining it for weak spots, loose stitching, worn fabrics, etc. BWI recommends purchasing a carrier from a reputable manufacturer to ensure that it meets all current US safety, testing, and labeling standards.

Practice all carries—especially back carries–with a spotter, over a bed or couch, or low to the ground until you are completely confident. A BWI meeting is the perfect place to learn new skills with the assistance of a Volunteer Babywearing Educator. In most cases it is best to be comfortable with front carries before attempting back carries.

Always exercise common sense while babywearing. Baby carriers are not an approved child restraint or flotation device and should not be used in moving vehicles or boats. Avoid babywearing in situations where it would not be safe to carry an infant in-arms.