Most new parents would like nothing more than to snuggle their newborn for weeks on end. Too bad the realities of today’s hectic life mean most moms and dads are up and running within days, if not hours, of returning from the maternity ward. Fortunately, one piece of baby gear is designed to help parents get through their daily routines while providing the physical closeness every infant needs: the baby carrier. Studies show that “babywearing”, or using carriers to hold babies results in happier, healthier children. Pronto’s Baby Carrier Buying Guide can help you decide which of the many styles best suits your family’s needs.
There are three main choices. Pouch style, carries baby front and center with both hands free. Wraps and sling style are an offset option usually positioning baby on your hip or cradling in frontal position. Backpack style is good for heavier tykes and hands free uses. Review the different styles before you buy to ensure you get the full scope of what’s available.
Wraps, pouches and slings are perfect for discreet breastfeeding while those that position the baby on your front or back free up hands for other tasks. Backpack baby carriers are ideal for allowing junior a good view of his/her surroundings.
Sling and wrap-design baby carriers can aggravate hip, back or shoulder issues. Look for carrier styles that protect those areas and provide even weight distribution. As baby grows, backpack-style baby carriers may be more comfortable than front- or side-style carriers. If possible, buy new.
Maximum recommended weights for baby carriers can vary by as much as 15-20 lbs, so consider how long you’d like to use your baby carrier to tote your child.
Want to make a statement? Some baby carriers offer simple function and form, while others up the fashion factor with a variety of eye-catching fabrics and colors.
Asian-style baby carrier that allows you to carry your baby either on your front or back.
A style of parenting that encourages a parent to bond with a baby through “wearing” the baby using a sling or baby carrier over extended periods of time. Studies show that babywearing can result in happier and healthier children over the long term.
Refers to a piece of cloth at least 30 inches wide and six feet long used by women in Central America as a shawl and to carry babies.
A form of baby carrier that is wrapped and knotted, often with a plastic loop. Baby can be carried in the front, on the hip, or for some styles of wrap, on the back.
A baby carrier that is simply slipped over the head and shoulder and across the chest to carry baby marsupial-style.
A baby carrier that is similar to a backpack, with a seat for the child in place of the gear compartment. These carriers have sturdy aluminum frames and are appropriate for babies who can sit on their own all the way up to larger toddlers.
Baby carriers come in a variety of style. Traditional wrap slings, also called rebozos, are wrapped and knotted either to cradle a small baby or support an older one sitting on your hip. Pouches are similar to wrap slings in their style of hold, but typically have no ties. Instead, they simply slip over your head and shoulder and fall across your chest. Mei tais are another variation that wrap around your torso and offer support using both of your shoulders. Your baby then catches a lift on either your front or back, whichever works best for you both. Other carriers, like the Baby Bjorn, position baby on your front only, though you do have the option of facing baby toward or away from you.
European-style front carriers have strong lower back support and elaborate fasteners that are designed for safety and ease of use, and at one time were quite popular among the celebrity set (although wrap slings seem to be the latest trend among those stalked by paparazzi). Finally, for the outdoorsy set, you can find backpack-style carriers sturdy aluminum frames (these carriers should only be used with children old enough to sit up by themselves (about 5 to 6 months).
Another key question to ask yourself is what you’ll be doing when you’re carrying your baby. Do you need it to free your hands to do household chores or tend to other young children? Or perhaps discreet nursing is part of your objective? Sling carriers and pouches are handy for breastfeeding and carrying, but the positioning on one side of the body may be awkward for accomplishing other tasks that require two free hands. By contrast, baby carriers that position baby on the front or back may be more convenient for two-handed endeavors. Backpacks are great for hiking and walking the mall, but be cautious about bending and squatting while wearing them (in fact, be cautious about bending and squatting with ALL types of carriers – particularly if you’re not very graceful to begin with!).
When you’re choosing a baby carrier, you need to consider both your and your baby’s comfort. For example, slings and pouches may be super-cozy for small babies, but may not provide adequate support for parents or caregivers with back and/or hip problems. Mei tais, on the other hand, require the use of both shoulders, which provides more balanced weight distribution. Some mei tai baby carriers come with padding and extra back support.
If you have an injury or other back/hip or shoulder condition, look at baby carrier styles that protect these areas. Note that front and side carriers tend to pull your body in unnatural directions. As your child gets older and heavier, you may want to graduate to a backpack-style carrier for the most comfortable carrying position.
With backpack-style baby carriers, proper fit is often gauged similarly to a standard backpack; size, weight, padding, and hip/shoulder adjustability are critical components for comfort and safety. Some backpack-style baby carriers are designed with vents for cooling baby in warm environments, while others offer sheltering covers for outdoor use.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a baby carrier, of course, is the safety of your cargo. Purchase new to be sure you’re getting the latest technology and then, once you have your baby carrier, check all fasteners and read instructions carefully before use. Baby carriers often feel awkward at first, so you may want the assistance of another adult until you master the manipulations.
Another important factor in the selection of a baby carrier is how long you intend to use it. Some baby carriers, like the sling, pouch, mei tai, and backpacks are designed for babies and toddlers up to 35 or 40 lbs., while others like front-only carriers are typically most suitable for infants and babies younger than 12 months. If you’re looking for your carrier to last well into the toddler years, remember to review the manufacturer-suggested weight limits. Also, if you’re planning to use your carrier for extended outdoor use, you may want to review additional features such as the sun and rain shields that are often available with several backpack styles.
Lastly, many baby carrier companies, such as Maya Wrap and BabyHawk — whose slogan is “the cure for the common baby carrier” — recognize that a parent’s desire for style may be almost as important as a baby’s need for closeness. For this reason, several manufacturers offer a wide selection of design and some even offer organic fabrics and/or custom-made carriers. Design extras to look for include hand-loomed, breathable fabrics in bright colors and multi-cultural-inspired patterns. Among Baby Bjorn’s Web site boasts about launching new colors each year to match the season’s latest styles and appeal to both men and women. The bottom line is that once you’ve examined baby carrier type, purpose, and need for comfort and safety, you’ll likely have no problem finding a carrier that also matches your personal tastes.