It’s strange, thinking about how defenseless babies are. It’s like you can’t even leave them alone for a second without worrying about all the ingenious ways in which they can hurt themselves. But parents have chores to do, places to be, people to meet, lives to live. And babies are heavier than they look. A good carrier or wrap is vital.
But every carrier is different because every baby is different. (Did you know that there are at least five different known positions in which you can carry a baby?) However, there are a few things every parent can take into consideration when choosing a carrier, which will help you tailor your choice to the needs of you and your baby.
How to Choose a Baby Carrier or Sling – Buying Guide
Babies are unpredictable. When asking about anything related to them, veteran moms or dads are your best bet for decent advice. And that’s why we turned to Betty, a stay-at-home super mom, for advice on baby gear.
Mombrite, Mom & Blogger
Betty is a wife and mother of two who spends her time chasing after her toddler and digging herself out of piles of diapers and laundry. She is a blogger at Mombrite, where she writes about her hilarious mishaps and glorious victories as a mom.
You can laugh with her through the chaos that is parenthood on her blog or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Understand the Differences between a Carrier and a Wrap
There are two main contraptions you can carry your babies in: carriers and wraps or slings. They’re useful for different things.
Great for Long Trips: Baby Carriers Support the Baby and the Parent Carrying the Baby
Baby carriers are sturdy and durable. And you get to hang your baby from you in a variety of fashions. Most have three or five carrying positions (facing you, facing the other way, sideways, like in a cradle, or balanced on your hip or on your back). You can adjust depending on where you are and what you’re doing.
If the carrier comes with a belt, it’ll shift some of the baby’s weight away from your shoulders and on to your hips so you don’t end up sore. This is great a) for when you’re going to be carrying your baby for a long time or b) if you have stiff shoulders or back pain. The only drawback, really, is that carriers are big and difficult to stuff into bags.
I especially loved my carrier for long trips when I had to walk a lot while wearing my baby—Disneyland, SeaWorld, hiking— because the carriers provided great back support to help with the weight of your baby in the front.
Carriers are also easy to breastfeed in when you are on the go—you just need to drop your baby lower in the carrier and throw up a nursing cover (or go with the two-shirt method) and voilà! You can walk around and breastfeed hands free! Definitely a huge help when you want to get things done around the house!
Slings and Wraps: You Can Slip Them into Bags and Wear Them around the House
Wraps and slings are made of cloth. You can just fold them up and stick them in your diaper bag. That way, you can switch back and forth between them and your stroller when you’re on long walks. But make sure you know how to put these on right because your baby could fall.
Wraps are long pieces of cloth that you ravel around yourself and your baby–you essentially tie your baby to you. They’re secure, but they can also be a pain to put on outside. (They’re long, so they drag on the ground.)
Slings are easier to put on; you secure most of them to a ring over your shoulder. However, they don’t have as much padding or support, so you need to learn how to put them on right to ensure your child is safe. But it’ll take some of the pressure off you during sudden breastfeeding sessions.
However, I never got comfortable enough with a sling to go hands-free; I always held my baby with one hand just in case. You need more practice and experience to get the sling to be as secure as a carrier, so if the baby is active, you might have trouble keeping the sling tight. That said, once I nursed my newborn to sleep, she was super comfortable in the sling and I could at least move around and do chores with one hand (better than none!).
Triple-Check the Age and Weight Limit of the Carrier
Most carriers will tell you how old in months or heavy your baby has to be before you can use them. Usually, it’s wraps you can use as soon as your baby’s born. If you don’t think you’ll be going out much early on, you can go for a carrier targeted at infants 3 months or older–which is after the baby’s neck is strong enough to support his or her head.
Some baby carriers can be used until your toddler is three, but how you carry your baby changes as he or she grows (from cuddling in your arms, for example, to piggybacks). So consider getting carriers you can only use for half a year to a year–and then switch them out as the months pass by.
I would say you do need to be careful carrying newborns and make sure that the carrier you are using is specifically for young babies who need the neck support. As for older babies and toddlers, I would just use a carrier where you can lengthen the straps to fit your growing child’s body. Pay attention to the weight limits on the carriers/slings so that you can carry your baby or toddler safely.
Make Sure the Carrier Has a Wide Bottom and Supports Your Baby’s Legs
If possible, choose a carrier with a deep and wide seat. It should ideally extend into your baby’s knees–so when he’s sitting in the carrier, his legs are splayed and raised into this M-shape. This takes pressure off your baby’s hips. This is vital, as their skeletal tissue is still very soft.
The same goes for wraps. If the wrap secures the baby against your body in such a way that their legs are forced together, it could lead to hip dysplasia. You want something that will support the baby’s thighs and keep their legs splayed.
Think about What Positions You Want to Carry Your Baby in
With a carrier, you can hold your baby 5 different ways:
- You can hold her sideways, like in a cradle. This is helpful when you’re breastfeeding or soothing a fussy baby.
- You can hold him facing you. This way, you can follow all his facial expressions and know immediately when he’s tired or upset. It also keeps newborns from getting overstimulated.
- You can hold her facing outwards so she can see the world.
- You can hold him on your hip, which takes a good deal of strain off your back. This is great for toddlers, who are heavier. He also has the option of looking at you or the world around him.
- You can hold her on your back so your hands are free. Your baby can also see exactly what you’re seeing. However, it takes a lot of practice to get a newborn safely on your back, so make sure you consult a professional before trying.
Not all carriers can be adjusted into the above positions, so make sure you choose something that lets you carry your baby the way you want. Carriers for newborns, especially, will usually only let you cradle your baby in your arms or snuggle them facing you.
1) You cannot see your baby’s face and the baby can be overstimulated easily. He/she will have trouble communicating to you that he/she is tired and wants a break from seeing everything, and he/she has no option to shield his/her face from all the stimulation.
2) When the baby is faced inward, its spine has a natural C curve that is supported by the carrier. However, when the baby is faced outwards, the baby’s spine is pushed into an unnatural, arched position. With little muscles to support his/her spine and with no help from the carrier, the baby now feels the impact of every step the mom or dad takes.
3) The baby’s legs are supposed to be in a “frog” position with the legs pulled up to at least hip level or higher. With the legs dangling and unsupported, the baby is now prone to hip dysplasia.
Make Sure the Fabric is Comfortable and Breathable
Babies have high body temperatures (Betty calls them little ovens). They usually sweat more than adults and get fussy when it’s hot. It doesn’t matter whether it’s winter or summer–you want a breathable fabric to facilitate airflow and keep your baby cool.
If you or your baby has sensitive skin, choose a carrier made out of a gentle fabric, like 100% cotton. And in summer, your baby’s bare arms and legs will be brushing up against the carrier, so get something that feels good against the skin.
And since the baby is ultimately going to spit up on the carrier, you want a fabric that is machine-washable because—let’s face it—who has time to hand wash a carrier when you have a young baby to take care of?
You Want Something that Is Easy to Wear by Yourself
Choose something that you can wear easily on your own. If you can, try a carrier out at a shop. If you can’t get in and out of it by yourself, you’re going to have trouble in the future.
But if you’re a devoted net shopper, at least take a peek at the reviews. Look out for keywords like “difficult,” “put on,” and “take off”–and go for carriers that seem simple and self-explanatory.
Ring slings are slightly more difficult because you do have to make sure that the ring is nice and high on your shoulder so you can properly tighten the sling around your baby, and sometimes it takes a few tries.
I have tried woven wraps and for the life of me I cannot get the technique right to tightly wrap my baby. Moreover, both of my children are too active and tend to kick or trash about when I was trying to wrap them with this long fabric. Therefore, I find the woven wraps very difficult to use, especially when you are on the go and trying to deal with this long wrap in the parking lot without getting the wrap dirty.
Top 10 Best Baby Carriers and Wraps to Buy Online
Here are what we found to be the best carriers, wraps, and slings available online now. Some are very comfortable. Some are very secure. And some are very convenient. Figure out what your priorities are before choosing.
10. Infantino Sash Mei Tai Carrier
A Seat for Your Baby and Wide Straps that Will Conform to Any Body Type
This is what’s called Mei Tai carrier. Your baby gets a seat, but you also get these long sashes to tie around yourself. It might seem annoying, but the sashes are helpful for two reasons. First, sashes are flexible, and you can wrap them around you so that it feels comfortable (whereas buckles are sometimes in hard-to-reach places). Second, it is supremely adjustable and fits well on plus-sized moms and dads.
The shoulder straps are wide and padded, so they don’t dig into you. However, make sure it’s tied correctly. The ties can loosen, or put a disproportionate amount of pressure on your lower back. Take time and find out how you can fasten the carrier safely and ergonomically.
9. LILLEbaby Complete All Seasons 6-in-1 Baby Carrier
Easy to Control Airflow and Slip in and out of
Zip up in winter, and zip down for airflow in summer. LILLEbaby has a flap with mesh underneath so you can control how hot or cold your baby is. It’s made for long-term use and allows for 6 positions, which match up to the stages of your baby’s development (from 7 to 45 lbs). The lumbar pad distributes the weight across your shoulders and back. It has adjustable straps and an integrated infant insert.
It’s easy to put on, and there’s also a detachable hood for the baby. Overall, it’s a great concept, but there have been some quality control issues. Another minor annoyance–the pockets expand inward so anything you put in them will dig into the baby’s back.
8. Moby Wrap Bamboo Warp Baby Carrier
A Wrap that Keep your Baby Close, Cool, and Protected from the Sun
This wrap is great because bamboo’s a natural UV blocker. It’s soft and easily washable and gentle enough for babies with eczema. It’s also light enough for sweltering Florida summers.
It is a lot of cloth, and it’s overwhelming at first. But you need that much to make sure your baby is secure. The wrap will also accommodate petite, plus-sized, or any sized parents in between. You get an instruction manual too, which details all the ways in which you can wear your baby, and it’s easy enough to understand. But if you still find yourself struggling–which you might–make sure you ask a local baby wearing group for help before giving up on the Moby.
7. Baby Tula Multi-Position, Ergonomic Baby Carrier
Offers Two Ergonomic Carrying Positions and A Bunch of Stylish Designs
The carrier will hold babies weighing in at between 15 and 45 pounds. It will also take 7 lb. newborns with an infant insert, but if summers are hot where you live, your baby will start sweating puddles. You also can only carry your baby facing you or sprawled on your back–but remember that these are the most ergonomic positions anyway.
The Tula also comes with a removable hood, which will support your baby’s head if he or she falls asleep. The only thing is, there’s no place to store the hood (there’s only a small Velcro-fastened pocket in front), so it could get annoying flopping around. But Tula has fashion going for it. There’s many patterns, and the design is straight-forward–it’s oddly flattering to wear.
6. Beco Gemini Performance Baby Carrier
Best for Hot, Sweaty Summers: Mesh Carrier, No Infant Inserts Necessary
This carrier does a couple of things to keep you cool. It’s mesh. And it’s secure enough that you don’t need infant inserts–which is usually just another layer of fabric that leaves the baby sweaty and fussy. There’s a belt and the straps are criss-crossed across your back, which distributes weight a little better over your body so you’re not sore after a long day.
You also get four carrying positions, which is helpful, since the carrier is designed to accommodate little 7 lb. newborns and big 35 lb. toddlers. The biggest weakness is the safety buckle. To undo it, you have to press a button in the middle and pinch the sides at the same time. Some struggle with it, but some also find it reassuring to know the buckle’s not going to come undone accidentally.
5. Boba Baby Wrap Carrier
A Stretchy Wrap that Provides a Lot of Support and Comfort
This soft wrap stretches, so it hugs your curves and really supports your baby. As far as wraps goes, this one isn’t too hard to wear, and there are tons of tutorials online. Or you could go to a baby wearing class. But it is really long, so you don’t want to put it on outside because it’s going to drag along the floor. But that’s also what makes it one-sized-fits-all–and comfy on plus-sized parents.
It provides a lot of support; it keeps the baby snug to your body and under many layers. But that also means that it gets really, really hot. And it works best for kids that can’t walk yet; you’ll need an alternative carrier after 18 months.
4. Hip Baby Wrap Ring Sling Baby Carrier
Light and Sturdy: Perfect for Short Trips and Indoor Activities
The sling is light, and you can use it in the summer. But it’s sturdy enough to support 30 lb. toddlers as well. However, the sling does shift and loosen over time, and you need to keep adjusting it. That’s why it’s best for short trips or for chores around the house or for rushing around the airport because you can sit down in this sling–much more comfortably than you could in a carrier.
It is machine-washable, though the dye bleeds a bit. It also shrinks in the dryer. The fabric is not stretchy and a bit stiff, actually, so you have to look up ways to break it in.
3. Baby K’tan Original Baby Carrier
For Colicky Babies: A Wrap that Loops over You and Takes Just a Few Seconds to Wear
It’s called a wrap, but it’s more like two huge loops. So it’s easy to wear–there’s no wrapping or tying; you kind of just slip it on. It’s compact but can be worn five ways, and it comes in mesh, denim, and cotton. The cotton is the stretchiest and the softest, but mesh is going to let your baby breathe in summer.
It’s tight and sturdy. It’s great for colicky babies; when they start fussing, you pick them up and in a blink of an eye they’re wrapped snug against your body. But because you don’t have to tie it yourself, it’s not one-size-fits-all. Pay close attention to the sizing chart and, when in doubt, contact a customer service representative.
2. Ergo 360 All Carry Positions
The Most Ergonomic: Wide Belt for Your Back; Deep Bucket Seat for Your Baby’s Hips
Yeah, your baby needs to be comfortable–but so do you. This carrier’s got padded shoulder straps and a wide belt that distributes weight between your hips, shoulders, and back so you can take long walks with your baby. And it’s got a deep and wide seat, so no matter how you wear your baby, his or her legs are in that splayed M-position.
The carrier itself can be used by both newborns and toddlers, but you do need an infant insert for babies under 12 lbs. The most annoying thing about it is probably the Velcro fastener. You have to undo the entire waistband to refasten it. And Velcro is loud and will probably wake up sleeping babies.
1. Boba 4G Carrier
Easy to Wear and Adjust and Includes Foot Stirrups for Extra Leg Support
The carrier comes with an infant insert, which you can remove as your baby grows. With the insert in, you can carry around 7 lb. newborns. The straps and waistband hug plus-sized parents comfortably, but the carrier is not bulky and awkward on petite frames.
It comes in lovely colors and patterns. There’s also a hood and foot stirrups for extra leg support. In fact, babies are so comfortable that they fall asleep almost as soon as you stick them in the carrier and start walking. The straps distribute weight evenly across your back and onto your hips. There’s also a bunch of ways you can adjust the carrier so that it’s comfortable on your body.
For Ultimate Peace of Mind, There’s Always Baby Wearing Classes
You could buy the best baby carrier in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it properly, it’s not going to be secure. (Especially wraps. Wraps are difficult.) If you need the extra support, there are local baby wearing classes or groups that will show you how to fasten your kid onto you.
If you’re looking for an extra twist, there’s always baby wearing dance classes. You can learn Latin American dance, belly dancing, hip-hop, or ballet–without ever having to put down your baby.
There are also tons of baby wearing support groups out there that meet frequently so that you can ask the more experienced baby wearers for help. Some groups even have a library of carriers you can borrow so that you can try a variety before you make your decision on which carrier best fits you and your baby’s needs.
It can be great wearing a carrier. You can bond with your kid and get stuff done–kill two birds with one stone. It can also lead to sore shoulders. So remember to choose a carrier that’s going to provide enough support for you and your baby.
Absolutely no “crotch danglers.” You want belts for you and wide seats for your child. It might be a hassle sorting through carriers, slings, and wraps now–but it’ll certainly pay off in the future.
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