carrier

What to Consider When Buying a Baby Carrier?

Keeping your baby snuggled close to you while you’re also getting things done can seem like a pipe dream. But you don’t have to choose between doing one or the other when you have a baby carrier. It does all the work of keeping your baby next to your body, so your hands are free to go about doing whatever work you need to do.

You can transport your baby in a stroller or car seat, but many parents enjoy the simplicity and feeling of closeness provided by a baby carrier. Baby carriers cuddle your child against your body while leaving your hands free. You can move easily, navigate crowded places, and take care of daily tasks while your child snoozes or relaxes on you.

Experts say babywearing can soothe a fussy or colicky child, help lower a mom’s risk for postpartum depression, and promote bonding with parents.

Some parents only use baby carriers in the early months, finding them uncomfortable once their baby reaches 15 to 20 pounds. Other parents happily tote kids long past this point. Some of the newest carriers on the market intended for toddlers handle weights up to 50 or 60 pounds, and have ergonomic pads and straps designed to shift the weight of your child onto your hips and off your shoulders and back.

For many parents, a baby carrier is the most useful piece of baby gear. It allows them to take care of daily tasks and move through crowded places easily while their baby snoozes on them. To help you determine which baby backpack is right for you and your baby, we put together this comprehensive guide. Looking for blankets for baby cot? Look no further. My Baby Nursery has you covered. Let’s dive in! 

Types of Baby Carriers & Key Features

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Baby carriers come in a wide variety of styles and features. Whatever carrier you choose, always follow the usage instructions and safety advice in the instruction manual, and always monitor baby when in the carrier to ensure proper airflow is maintained.

Pouch Slings:

Pouch slings are very popular – particularly with first-time parents – as they are so easy to use. The traditional and most common style is made from a continuous loop of fabric which is curved to hug your body, with a pouch for baby to nestle in. Some new styles include buckles which allow the pouch to be adjustable to fit. Pouches go over one shoulder, and baby is placed in the pouch. Many brands include light shoulder padding for wearing comfort and/or rail padding.

  • Age/weight range: From babies to toddlers (range varies between brands).
  • Size: Traditional pouches are fitted to size, e.g. S, M, L. Adjustable pouches fit a wider range of sizes.
  • Carrying positions: Ideal for hammock/cradle and front inward facing with young babies. Can also be used for hip and back with older babies and toddlers if desired.
  • Ease of use: Easy. Simple put on and pop baby in.
  • Support for baby: Contoured design hugs wearer’s body while securely and snugly holding a baby.
  • Support for the wearer: Fabric goes over one shoulder and spreads widely across the back, eliminating pressure points and providing comfortable weight distribution.
  • Pros: The easiest type of carrier to use. Ideal for young babies.
  • Cons: Not as comfortable as other carrier styles for carrying older babies and toddlers.

Ring Slings:

Ring Slings are one of the most well known and versatile styles of the baby carrier around. A length of fabric is threaded through two rings for safe and secure carrying. No need to rethread each time; just pop it on and pop baby in. Ring slings offer parents a variety of different carrying positions and are particularly good for younger babies. Not only does the cosy hammock position keep baby close to your heart, it’s easy to breastfeed in transit and take a sleeping baby out without waking. Many ring slings come with a free instructional DVD guide, light shoulder padding for long term wearing comfort and a very wide choice of fabrics.

  • Age/weight range: From babies to toddlers (range varies between brands).
  • Size: Different sizes to fit a size range. Medium fits most mums.
  • Carrying positions: Ideal for hammock/cradle and front inward facing with young babies. Can also be used for hip and back with older babies and toddlers if desired.
  • Ease of use: Easy to moderate. Once sling has been adjusted to fit wearer, the baby is simply placed in.
  • Support for baby: Sling hugs wearer’s body while securely and snugly holding a baby.
  • Support for the wearer: Fabric goes over one shoulder and spreads widely across the back, eliminating pressure points and providing comfortable weight distribution.
  • Pros: Very versatile. Ideal for young babies and also popular with older babies due to the hip carrying position. Long ‘tail’ doubles as a breastfeeding cover or shade cover.
  • Cons: Brands without shoulder padding are less comfortable to wear.

Soft Structured Carriers (with Buckles):

Soft Structured Carriers (SSC) with buckles are a favourite with parents. These baby carriers come with the convenience of buckles for ease of use and quick adjustments, instead of the traditional tying technique that is used with Mei Tais. Other features can include additional shoulder and/or body padding for comfort, reversible colours, wide fabric choices and extra support additions. Designs vary between brands – some are similar to the traditional Mei Tai design, while others have a more structured body and shoulder style. A very popular carrier choice both in terms of comfort and one size fits most design.

  • Age/weight range: From babies to toddlers (range varies between brands).
  • Size: One size fits most wearers.
  • Carrying positions: Varies between brands. All have front upright carrying positions, some also allow for back carrying. Not suitable for hammock/cradle carrying.
  • Ease of use: Easy. Carrier is adjusted to fit wearer with buckles, and the baby is placed in.
  • Support for baby: Carries baby in an ergonomic upright position. Many have head support for younger babies.
  • Support for the wearer: Even weight distribution over both shoulders. Padded shoulders can also minimise pressure points.
  • Pros: Very popular, easy to use and share with other wearers.
  • Cons: No hammock/cradle carrying position.

Soft Structured Carriers (Mei Tais):

Mei Tais – also known as Asian Style Carriers – are a traditional form of babywearing that has been around for centuries. The Mei Tai consists of a rectangular or square fabric panel with four tying straps. Modern-day Mei Tais combine the traditional tried-and-tested design with updated features such as comfortable shoulder padding, contoured headrest, stylish prints, durable fabrics and/or reversible colour options.

  • Age/weight range: From babies to toddlers (range varies between brands).
  • Size: One size fits most. Easy to share with other wearers.
  • Carrying positions: Ideal for front and back carrying, particular with older babies and toddlers.
  • Ease of use: Moderate. The small learning curve to learn the tying techniques.
  • Support for baby: Many brands include a headrest to support young babies.
  • Support for the wearer: Even weight distribution over both shoulders. Padded shoulders can also minimise pressure points.
  • Pros: Even weight distribution and complete adjustability make it particularly good for back carrying older babies and toddlers.
  • Cons: Some parents may find the design too simple or tying technique too fiddly. Some brands use heavier fabrics which are bulkier.

Wrap Slings:

Wrap slings – also known as baby wrap carriers and wraparounds – are a wonderful way to keep your baby close to you for extended periods of time. Known for their supreme comfort and even weight distribution, they are the most comfortable type of baby carrier to wear, particularly with young babies—ideal for constant bonding and closeness with newborns, unsettled babies and carrying for long periods. Use with newborns (including preemies and twins) to preschoolers. The design consists of a long piece of fabric which is wrapped and tied around your body—a small learning curve but easily mastered with a little practice.

  • Age/weight range: From babies to toddlers.
  • Size: One size fits most wearers.
  • Carrying positions: Upright front carrying positions.
  • Ease of use: Moderate. The small learning curve to learn the tying technique.
  • Support for baby: Very supportive with wrap providing head support. Carries baby in an ergonomic upright position, closely nestled to the wearer.
  • Support for the wearer: Possibly the most comfortable style of carrier available. Even weight distribution over both shoulders, with wide fabric shoulders to alleviate pressure and strain.
  • Pros: Very popular for young babies, unsettled babies and long term wearing, particularly around the house. Extremely comfortable to wear.
  • Cons: Tying technique requires practice to learn; however, step-by-step photo guides are included with most brands.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Baby Carrier

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Age and Weight of Baby

The age and weight of your baby and whether you want to use it with children of multiple ages will determine which carrier will best suit you. The age and WEIGHT of your baby will be the starting point to rule out certain carriers.

  • Minimum and maximum weight recommendations – Most structured carriers on the market have a minimum weight of 3.5kgs and a maximum weight between 15-20kgs depending on the brand.
  • Premature and Low Muscle Tone Babies – Premature babies and babies with low muscle tone require more support than a traditional soft structured carrier can offer. Babies with low muscle tone have a higher risk of asphyxiation (suffocating) while in a baby carrier since bub does not have the same level of strength that a full-term baby has to hold themselves up which puts them at a higher risk of slumping into a dangerous position. It is important to follow the “TICKS” guidelines for safe babywearing. The only safe option for a premmie baby is a woven wrap or a ring sling made from woven wrap material, with a ring sling being my top recommendation. It is important to check with a trusted medical health professional to determine whether a baby carrier is a safe option for your baby.
  • Newborn Babies – There are many structured carriers on the market now that are adjustable to use from newborn without the use of an infant insert. Where possible, I highly recommend steering clear of a carrier that requires an infant insert. It isn’t easy to get a good comfortable fit for bub and wearer with an insert. Inserts also make the carrier very hot for both wearer and baby. A carrier that does not require an insert will contain adjusters for both the width of the seat and the height of the body panel. These styles will grow with your baby and also enable you to use with children of different ages (within the min and max weight limits)
  • 4 months + – Usually, by 4-6 months, babies will fit into a wider range of soft structured carriers without needing an insert or additional adjusters. This differs greatly between brands but also the height and leg span of your baby. Taller babies tend to fit into this category sooner than petite babies.
  • Toddlers and Preschoolers – Many brands produce carriers with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. These carriers or not as adjustable like the carriers designed for newborns but are made wider and taller to accommodate for taller and heavier children.

Ergonomic Design

An ergonomic carrier features a wide seat base that supports the baby’s legs from ‘knee to knee’ with baby’s knees positioned higher than their bottom (around the height of their belly button). This is often referred to as the’M’ position Baby should be able to swing their legs freely. If the baby’s leg movement is restricted the seat is too wide and needs to be adjusted or used at a later date one bub fits into the carrier properly. Adequate support and correct positioning promote healthy spinal and hip development.

Carrying Positions

Different styles of carriers may give you the option to carry a baby is a range of positions. For example:

  • Inward facing (baby facing wearer)
  • Outward-facing (baby facing away from wearer)
  • Hip Carry
  • Back carry (baby’s tummy against wearers back)
  • Cradle Carry – this position is generally not recommended, but it can be done safely. I’d recommend speaking to a babywearing consultant for advice.

Not all carriers can facilitate each position, so if there is a certain position that you wish to carry your baby in it is important to read the instructions and watch tutorials to see which brand and style of carrier best suits your needs.

Hot or Cold Climate

If living in a hot climate single layer carriers will be the “coolest” option, my top recommendation would be a single layer linen ring sling or a buckle carrier with a mesh panel in the body panel to allow for better airflow. In a hot climate, it is best to AVOID stretchy wraps which require 3 layers of support and carriers that require an infant insert.

Budget

The budget tends to be the biggest driving factor when choosing a baby carrier. While the price is important to consider many other factors should be taken into consideration before making a decision. A baby carrier is an investment. You wouldn’t choose a car seat, cot or pram based on budget alone.

Important Safety Notes

  • If your baby is younger than 4 months old, was born prematurely or at low birth weight, or has a cold or respiratory problem, consult your child’s doctor before using a sling.
  • While wearing your baby in a sling or wrap, check on him often. Make sure he’s not in a curled, chin-to-chest position and that his face isn’t pressed up against the fabric or you. Both of these positions can lead to suffocation, which can happen within minutes.
  • Make sure you can see your baby’s face or eyes in the sling and that your baby can see you. Unless you’re nursing her, your baby’s face should be visible (at or above the rim of your sling or wrap).
  • If you nurse your baby while wearing him, reposition him afterwards, so his face is visible and at or above the rim of the sling or wrap. His face should be away from the fabric and your body.

What It’s Going to Cost You

Structured carriers can range from $30 to $180; wraps and slings from $25 to $200; mei tais from $20 to $100; and baby backpacks from $150 to $300. The price of structured carriers and baby backpacks tends to vary according to the number of features including weight limits, carrying styles and fabric; higher-priced wraps, slings, and mei tais are usually quite similar to lower-priced models functionally but are made of higher-quality fabric. Baby Prams are one of the most important baby products to get right. Check out our range here.

Baby Carrier: Safety Notes

Baby carriers can be beneficial for both baby and parent, but as with other baby products, it’s essential to use them with safety in mind.

  • Consult with your doctor if your baby was born prematurely or has a respiratory problem
  • Make sure you can see your baby’s face in the carrier, and that your baby can see you as well
  • Your baby shouldn’t be curled up so that their chin is forced onto your chest, as this can restrict their breathing
  • Your child’s head should be as close to your chin as comfortable
  • Check the baby in the carrier often, and monitor your baby’s breathing
  • The carrier should provide adequate support for your baby’s developing neck and back
  • Always inspect your carrier for wear or damage before use

With so many carriers to choose from, buying the best baby carrier can be a challenging task. Going to a shop that offers several styles and trying them all out to see which one you like is a good idea. In the end, you can’t go wrong with a simple, versatile, and supportive carrier that will bring you and your child even closer together. 

Choosing What’s Right For You There are so many carrier options to choose from, which is great because there’s something that works for everyone. But it also can be overwhelming. By now though, you may have a gut feeling about which carrier type you’re leaning toward. Start your search there and rest assured that all carriers provide exactly what your baby’s looking for: being super close to you.

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