How to Choose a Baby Carrier
- August 10, 2021
- by Melissa Lawrence
Hi mamas and papas! Melissa here. I’m sure that you will agree with me when I say that I love cradling my little ones in my arms. It’s a mutual feeling, too, since babies are often most comfortable in the arms of their parents. But like you I can’t spend all day holding them, since I have other things to do and my arms can support only so much! That’s where baby carriers come in to help.
Do You Need a Carrier?
A baby carrier is not strictly necessary. It only imitates what you do with your arms, and the function of holding your baby is also, of course, perfectly served by a stroller. As I mention in my guide to choosing a stroller, carriers and strollers are interchangeable. You could just have one or the other.
That being said, there is a special advantage to a carrier. It allows you to hold your baby up against you, where they are most at ease, while allowing you to rest your arms. It also goes in places where strollers can’t, like among dense crowds.
If that doesn’t convince you, then consider that research shows that babies who are carried at least three hours a day cry 43 percent less throughout the day. So besides undoubtedly making your baby more comfortable, carriers can secure some peace for you too, Mama!
What to Look For in a Baby Carrier
There are a couple of factors I’d advise you to keep in mind as you shop for baby carriers:
- Child age. How old is your child at the time that you are buying this carrier, and how long do you want to be able to use the carrier for them? For instance, a wrap simulates the womb, making it suited for newborns, but it lacks the support that you’d need for older babies.
- How much you use it. How many hours at a time will you be using the baby carrier? The longer your sessions, the more padding and support you need for your back and shoulders. For heavy use, a structured carrier might be more desirable.
- Fit. Some carriers, like wraps, are one-size-fits-all, and so you don’t need to think about how they conform to your body or how easily you can pass them on to other caregivers like your spouse. Others involve more adjustment or are designed for specific body sizes.
- Ease of use. If you get a wrap, then you’ll need to tie it, whereas a structured carrier slips on like a backpack. On the other hand, it’s easier to squeeze a wrap or sling into a bag.
- Washing and care. Take note of the care instructions for a carrier before you buy it. Not all carriers are machine-washable. Considering how messy babies can be, you might be spending a lot of time hand washing a carrier that can’t go into the machine.
What Baby Carrier Should You Get?
Buying a carrier is not quite as involved or significant as buying a stroller. There are four basic styles for you to choose from. In particular, some styles are better suited to newborn babies, while others offer greater support and freedom that suits them to older babies. Hence, you might want to buy two carriers over the course of your child’s life, or else buy one that is adaptable according to age.
Wraps. Wraps are long pieces of fabric that wrap around your body and are held together by a knot. They are suited for newborns because they recreate the feeling of the womb. The same restrictiveness that enhances their appeal to newborns, however, can make them unpleasant for older babies. Bear in mind that tying wraps is a skill you’ll need to work on.
Slings. Slings are wide pieces of fabric that go over one shoulder and across your torso, to form a pouch. Since there is no tying involved, they are typically simpler to use than wraps. They also have the virtue of being lighter than wraps, offering better airflow in hot weather. But because they don’t distribute weight evenly, they’re not suited to being worn for long periods of time. Lastly, the fabric of slings is typically not machine-washable.
Check out my review of the best ring slings you can get.
Soft Structured Carriers. Soft Structured Carriers, or SSCs, are more substantial than wraps or slings. They resemble a backpack in that they combine straps that go over your shoulders and a pack that can be placed either on your chest or your back. You place your baby in the pack, which provides a lot of support. Their structure makes them useful for older, heavier kids, even into toddlerhood.
Read my review of the best structured carriers on the market.
Hybrids. Hybrid carriers seek to combine the features of wraps and structured carriers. They provide the support of a structured carrier with the flexibility and bodily closeness of a wrap.
Learn about the best hybrid baby carriers in my review.