Babywearing is a healthy, natural, and fun way to bond with your baby. They get to go along on adventures, and you get to cuddle up with them and enjoy the closeness. And the best news? You can start using a baby carrier right away! There are baby carrier options suited for all ages, from newborns to toddlers.
Your child’s age and developmental milestones will determine what baby carrier you should purchase. Like mentioned, some carriers are designed for babies 0-4 months old and up. Let’s look at some different types of baby carriers for each baby stage.
There’s no question about it: a baby carrier is one of the most comfortable and secure ways of carrying your child around! However, there are some questions that we keep hearing from parents looking for a baby carrier for their baby.
What Are the Advantages of a Baby Carrier?
With a baby carrier, your baby will always be close to you, without you having to sacrifice your arms to holding them when you have a million chores to attend to. You can carry on working – inside the house, or outside – while your baby sleeps serenely beside you.
Baby carriers are especially helpful when you are travelling or visiting friends or family, and pushing a stroller around is not a choice. You could be waiting in line at the bank or walking along the beach, and your arms would not get tired from holding your baby for too long.
When Can a Baby Go in a Carrier?
Theoretically, babies can be carried in a carrier as a newborn. But you have to keep one thing in mind: babies need to be at least 4-5 months old before their neck muscles are strong enough to support their head. If you do carry a newborn that is less than 5 months old in a carrier, you need to make sure it provides enough support for the baby’s head to rest on.
Baby carriers are usually hard and firm to give sturdy support for your growing child. Your newborn might find it uncomfortable to sleep inside a rigid carrier; for this reason, a baby wrap or a sling made from soft fabric that can allow your baby to curl up comfortably inside might be a better choice.
To answer the question at hand: although it is perfectly all right to buy a baby carrier for your newborn baby, they will be better suited inside a sling or a wrap.
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How Much Weight Do Baby Carriers Hold?
Different carriers are built for babies of various weights, differing between brands and models. On average, babies weigh around 7 to 8 pounds at birth and slowly gain another 12 to 15 pounds over the next 12 months. Most baby carriers are built to support babies weighing from 7 pounds to 40 pounds – the average weight babies reach when they are 4 years old or more.
Therefore, most baby carriers can easily support a child who is more than 3.5 or 4 years old. However, most parents stop carrying their children when they reach their 2nd birthday because they learn to walk very well by that age.
When Can I Carry My Baby Facing Outward?
Very young children do not need to face outwards; they will be more comfortable sleeping the whole time you carry them around. Before they are 5-6 months old, it is recommended that you carry your child facing towards you, so that they can rest their head on your chest and sleep comfortably, listening to your heartbeat and feeling your skin against them.
By the time your baby is 6 months old, they would have developed strong neck muscles and started to show some interest in the world around them. This is the perfect time to start carrying them facing outward because they can hold their heads high and enjoy looking around them in different colours and movements.
When Is a Baby Carrier Safe for Baby’s Hips?
If the proper position to carry a baby in a carrier is not maintained, it is possible to harm your baby’s hips and lead to hip dysplasia – which is the abnormal formation of the hips. When the baby’s legs are left dangling on the sides, at any age from birth to 3 years old, it can create permanent problems for the hips, especially if the baby remains in the same position for a long time.
However, a good baby carrier provides support to the legs and not just the parent’s back. In such cases, the pressure is taken off the hips, and the legs get proper support; the legs do not dangle below the back but are spread and supported, going around the waist of the person who is carrying the child. The hip is more stable and doesn’t need to carry the pressure of the whole body, thus making the baby feel more comfortable.
How Old Does My Baby Have to Be for a Carrier?
Newborn babies can be put in a carrier, but it is preferable to wait until they are capable of holding their heads high. If you need to use a carrier for babies younger than that, it is recommended that you choose a carrier that has a sturdy headrest where your new baby can rest its head. Your newborn to 5 months old baby will be more interested in sleeping close to you rather than enjoying the view, so the carrier you choose must be comfortable enough for them to sleep in.
0-4 Months Old
When carrying your newborn or small baby, neck support is crucial. You will also want to be conscious of your baby’s hip support. We recommend that your baby be carried in an “m-position”, meaning that their knees are slightly above their bottom, creating a slight “M”. This will also help ensure that they have proper curvature of their back.
At this age, you should either use a newborn insert in your carrier, or a newborn-specific carrier. Our Upscale carrier provides everything you need to carry your newborn throughout this stage and beyond with adjustable carrying positions.
4-7 Months Old
Once your baby can hold their head up on their own, it may be time to adjust their carrier. If you have an adjustable carrier, try widening the base to provide your growing baby with enough room to be comfortable.
For younger babies, the facing-in position may be best, but as your baby gains more head and neck control, you can switch them to facing out. Many baby carriers, like those offered at Infantino, are convertible and can be used for both carrying positions. Facing out allows your baby to enjoy the world around them and learn through their developing senses!
Our Flip carrier is one of our most popular because it can easily be transformed from a facing-in carrier to a front-facing carrier, which means that you can use it from infancy to toddler years.
8-12 Months Old
When your baby has strong head and neck control, it might be time for a front-facing carrier or back carrier! This way, the older baby can enjoy both physical contact and observation of their surroundings. Babywearing, especially on adventures like walks and hiking, provides babies and toddlers with an eye into the world and is a huge learning opportunity.
12+ Months Old
Once your baby is about a year old, or over 22 pounds, a back carry will likely be most comfortable for both you and your baby. While you might have super mom strength, carrying a baby, this big can be hard!
To alleviate some of the pressure on your back and shoulders, a carrier with a back position might be best. They are also ideal for babies and children who want to interact with their surroundings a little more. Carrying a baby on your back gives them more freedom to look around because they aren’t as restrained, like with a facing-in carry. But rest assured, back carriers are still safe and secure!
Please note that all of these ages are approximate and choosing the right baby carrier will depend on the size of your baby, their development, and your babywearing preferences. Infantino can always help if you have further questions.
Many parents ask themselves “when can you start using a baby carrier?” and the answer is as soon as you feel comfortable, granted you have the correct fitting carrier! When considering a carrier for a newborn, below are our favourites:
- Wraps – Wraps are great for newborns because of their versatility and flexibility. Wraps are made out of soft fabric that is comfortable for newborns and can be positioned in a variety of setups. Our wrap-style carrier Together is popular among parents who enjoy the comfort of wraps.
- Mei Tai Carriers – The Mei Tai carrier is based on a centuries-old style of babywearing and is similar to a wrap, except that it has four straps to make it easier to put on and adjust. Our Sash carrier is a classic example of this age-old favourite.
- Front Structured Carriers – The front structured carrier is perfect for newborns because it provides the head and neck support they need. Because there are many different versions of structured front carriers, you want to make sure you get one that is specifically suited for newborns or has the additions necessary to fit small babies. Our Advanced Flip carrier is one example.
What Is Important When Using a Baby Carrier for a Newborn?
Inside the womb, the baby can hear the mother’s heartbeat and the rhythm of the mother when walking or moving. That’s why so many babies love being carried in a baby carrier. The closeness of the parent, feeling the heartbeat and the rhythm while the parent is moving is familiar and soothing.
Newborns and babies up to 4-6 months should only be carried facing towards the parent (inward facing). With good head, neck and hip support. Often referred to as an ergonomic position. A baby carrier that creates a frog-legged m-position and has a soft panel that allows a c-shaped back and good neck and head support during the first 4-6 months.
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What to Think of When Using a Baby Carrier for a Newborn Baby:
- Frog legged m-position that supports the thighs from knee to knee is important during the first 4-6 months while the baby’s hips are still growing. In this position, the forces on the hip joint are minimal. The legs are spread, supported, and it puts the hip in a more stable position.
- Soft Panel that allows a c-curved back. The c-shape position, also known as fetal-tuck position, allows your baby to maintain primary curve alignment, reducing the pressure on the spine and hips. It’s the most calming position for a newborn baby, conserves energy and allows for better regulation of body temperature.
- Supported head and neck are very important during the first few months before the baby is stable in the upper body. A newborn baby doesn’t have the muscle strength to hold up her head and needs a full head and neck support. When carrying in a baby carrier, the general rule is that the support should be up to the baby’s ears and not cover the head. This is important to make sure you can keep an eye on the baby and that the baby’s airway is always free.
- Inward facing – a newborn baby should always be carried towards the parent. Facing inwards, the child can rest on the parent’s chest. The head can and should be supported by the baby carrier and the body of the adult carrying. A newborn baby who is still getting used to the life outside the womb is not ready to be carried forward-facing as it can cause overstimulation.
Safety Tips for Wearing a Baby Carrier
Do Your Research.
Before you purchase a carrier, first try a variety of models to determine which is best for you and your child. An easy way to do that is to attend a local babywearing meeting, so you get to see and try many carriers in person, a babywearing educator and vice president of the board of directors for Babywearing International. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, confirm that your baby’s age, height, and weight meets the product guidelines, look for online safety reviews, and make sure the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hasn’t recalled the carrier. Read the instruction manual, which you can find in the packaging material or on the manufacturer’s website, and watch any instructional videos. You want to make sure you know as much as possible before you begin wearing your baby.
Practice Using the Carrier Without Baby at First.
Try using the carrier, but don’t put your baby in it yet. Instead, you can use a doll, a stuffed animal, or even a bag of flour so you can have some weight in the carrier. Practice putting on the carrier and taking it off. Have someone help, but do some solo run-throughs too. You need to be able to put the carrier on and take it off, buckle it and unbuckle it (with one hand since you’ll need to support your baby at the same time) and put your baby in and get her out without help. Once you have that down, wear the carrier (still sans baby) around the house so you get used to it and can determine if it’s comfortable throughout the day. When you start to practice with your baby in the carrier, do it on the floor, on a soft surface, and have a spotter until you have lots of experience.
Make Sure Baby Is Positioned Correctly.
Your baby’s airway should remain clear while he’s in the carrier. His chin shouldn’t be tucked into his chest, and his face should not be pressed up against your body—both positions can obstruct your baby’s breathing and lead to suffocation. Your babe should be upright, with his face visible at all times, and you should check on him often. Be especially careful with newborns. Carriers require babies to have some degree of neck strength and the ability to hold up their head using a wrap during the first few months (babies usually have good neck strength at about 4 months old) because there are inserts that support the head and neck. But before you use one, make sure your baby meets the age and weight requirements, and check with the manufacturer to confirm the insert is appropriate to use with your carrier.
Your baby’s leg position is also important. The legs shouldn’t hang straight down because it can interfere with hip development and possibly lead to hip dysplasia (a deformation of the hip joint). Your baby’s legs should be spread apart, and the legs should be straddling your body, which allows for healthy hip positioning. Also, don’t wear your baby in the carrier for excessive lengths of time. This is not meant to be a position that the baby should be in for several hours. She recommends limiting time in the carrier to an hour at a time. Then give your baby a break so his hips can move around and avoid getting overextended.
Dress for the Weather.
During the winter, you can wear your baby inside or outside of your coat. If you prefer inside, dress her in her indoor clothes and a hat, put on the carrier and baby, and then wear a babywearing pouch, maternity coat, or coat that’s a size or two larger than you normally wear. Zip the coat up only halfway so you can still see your cutie’s face. To wear her outside of your coat, dress her in her winter gear and put on your coat and the carrier. Adjust the straps to make them comfortable, and then place your baby in the carrier. Never cover her head with a blanket. No matter how thin, it can affect her breathing.
In hot weather, use a carrier that has breathable fabric; dress your baby and yourself in light, airy clothing; stay in the shade as much as possible, and keep yourself (and your little one) well hydrated.
Your balance can be affected when you’re wearing your baby, so watch your step. Also, be mindful when going through doorways and turning corners. When bending, bend at your knees and support your baby with one or both hands. It’s also a good idea to inspect the carrier before each use to make sure there are no frayed seams and that buckles are working appropriately. In addition, follow some basic safety tips: No cooking or drinking hot beverages when your baby is in tow, don’t travel in a vehicle while wearing your baby, and avoid activities that increase your baby’s risk of falling (like running or bicycling). These simple steps can make babywearing more enjoyable (and safe) for your little one.
Babywearing, no matter if you have a newborn or a 2-year-old, is a wonderful way to get out of the house, bond with your baby, and get some exercise! The team can help you find the right carrier to suit all stages of your baby’s life. Take a look at our range of mattresses for baby cots.