The right baby carrier can make your life with a baby a lot easier, whether you're committed to carrying your baby often as part of an attachment parenting philosophy or you just want something to use when you're out and about. However, there are so many choices that you can find yourself overwhelmed. Use our guide to help you narrow down your choices.
Baby carriers typically fall into a few different categories - wraps, slings and buckle carriers. Like the name implies, wrap carriers wrap around your body, tying your baby to you in a variety of ways. Some are simply a very long piece of fabric, while others like the "mei tai" have a base structure along with some straps. With these, there's a small learning curve as you figure out how to tie it securely, but they're easily adjustable for all body types. Slings wrap around your body diagonally to hold your baby to you. Ring slings are adjustable, while pouch slings are not. Buckle carriers tend to have comfortable, padded shoulder straps. You simply have to buckle your baby into the carrier. In many cases, you can use them to carry your baby in the front or back.
Even if the carrier is one-size-fits-all, it's smart to take some time to try on different carriers to get a feel for how they fit. Pouch slings might be the only type of carrier that you can't adjust for size, but different types are easier to adjust than others. For instance, wrap carriers are a good choice when there's a big size difference between mom and dad. Buckle carriers do adjust, but it can take some time to get it right.
Before you purchase a carrier, check the age and weight limits. Some buckle carriers, for instance, are meant only for babies who have good head control, while certain slings or wraps can only accommodate babies up to a certain weight.
Check out the material to make sure that it's durable and what you're looking for. Some types of carriers are made from stretchable cotton jersey, which can be nice when you have a wiggly baby. Other people prefer the sturdiness of plain cotton or the fashionable look of a silk carrier. You might be interested to learn whether or not you can clean it in the washing machine.
Most commercially available baby carriers have been put through rigorous safety checks, so you don't need to worry much if you're buying your carrier online. However, it's important to remember that homemade versions of brand name carriers don't necessarily have to follow safety rules, and any carrier you buy used might have been part of a recall. Do your research before you make a decision.
There's been some concern recently about the way that baby's legs are positioned when in a carrier. In particular, carriers that allow the baby's legs to "dangle" can potentially cause hip dysplasia. Carriers that spread the baby's legs into more of a frog-like position may be the better option.
Think about how you want to use the baby carrier. Are you looking for something that will grow with your baby - even through the toddler years? Do you want to carry your baby in front, in back, or both? Do you need a carrier that both mom and dad can easily wear? Do you want a carrier that includes pockets for your belongings? All of these things can affect which carrier is the right one for you.
Those looking for a wrap sling should first check out the Moby Wrap. This was one of the first companies to make this style popular in recent years. Baby K'tan and Boba Baby also have versions of this style. If you prefer mei tai-style wraps, Infantino makes them in a wide variety of styles and colors.
Mamaway and Vlokup are two companies that make the ring sling style of carriers, while Hotslings is known for making pouch slings. When getting a pouch sling, remember that sizing is important, so take your measurements and compare them with the company's sizing chart.
If you prefer a buckle carrier, start by checking out the Ergobaby and BABYBJORN products. These are two of the most popular brands, but they do come with a high price tag. The Infantino version is a bit more affordable.
Since everyone is different, there's no single best baby carrier for everyone. It's all about personal preference. One of the best ways to find the carrier that's right for you is to try on different versions. If your town has a local babywearing support group, mothers there may let you try on their favorite styles. Once you do this research, you'll be able to find the best one for your needs.