Carrying your bundle of joy in a cosy carrier or snuggled in a sling or wrap provides many benefits to both parent and child.
A baby carrier allows mum or dad to be hands-free, it can help relieve colic and reflux, encourage bonding between parent and child as well as benefit your baby’s physical development.
Take a look at the different types of baby carriers available and the pros and cons to give you a better idea of which carrier to purchase.
- Hands-free - Makes daily tasks, running errands and travelling easier. Using a carrier, you can get up and go without having to take a stroller out with you.
- Soothes baby - babies love to be close to their parents and being worn in a carrier helps to reduce crying, especially in the evening hours.
- Bond with your baby - being so close to your baby, you are more likely to interact with them when they are awake plus cuddles are an amazing way to reconnect with your baby once they are out of the womb.
- Promotes health and well-being - babywearing allows you to carry them in a position that is beneficial to their physical development. It will help to prevent flat head syndrome and promote digestion which will help babies suffering from colic and reflux. Also, having your baby so close to you allows you to respond to their cues and learn to meet their needs, which will enhance baby’s learning and cognitive development and help you to feel more confident as a mother.
- Babywearing breastfeeding - once you have established breastfeeding and learned how best to carry baby, you can begin to nurse in a carrier on the go.
Baby wraps are long pieces of fabric that wrap around you and your baby. You can choose from stretchy or woven types of wrap.
- The fabric can spread across your back and evenly distribute baby’s weight making sure you use your back and shoulder muscles equally, keeping you comfortable carrying your baby.
- Wraps are versatile. You can carry your baby in different positions until you find a way that suits you both.
- Can be left tied on when your baby has been taken out, which saves some precious time.
- Finding the right length of wrap can be tricky, you may end up with too little or excess material.
- It can take a lot of practice to learn how to securely tie a wrap.
- Wraps might get hot in warmer weather as you need a few layers wrapped around you.
Stretchy wraps are made of elasticated fabrics. You tie the wrap around your body first, then stretch the material over your baby as you place them in. Stretchy wraps are best for younger babies as the material might not be supportive enough for larger babies or those over six months old.
Woven wraps tend to be cotton, or a blend of cotton and other fabric such as linen, hemp or wool. The sturdier material makes woven wraps a good choice for parents with older babies and toddlers.
Meh Dai (aka Mei Tai)
Minimalist in design, the meh dai is a simple carrier, in between a wrap and a buckle carrier. These Asian carriers are usually square or rectangular with straps attached at each corner. One set of straps is tied around the wearer’s waist and the other over their shoulders. The fabric forms a pocket for the baby.
- Versatile and adjustable, you can carry baby on your back, hip or front depending on your baby’s age, weight and size.
- Can be easily adjusted to carry a baby or toddler comfortably and safely with even weight distributed for parents comfort too.
- Will keep your baby's legs well supported, without adjustments or inserts
- Some parents feel nervous about using them with a newborn or small baby due to the soft, unpadded pouch of this type of carrier.
- The weight of an older baby may put pressure on your neck and shoulders when wearing a meh dai.
Soft-Structured Carriers (SSCs)
These carriers are a cross between a meh dais and a backpacker’s rucksack with a structured waist and padded shoulder straps that can fasten with buckles or straps.
Similar to the mai dai, some soft structured carriers have a large rectangular piece of fabric with straps on all of the corners. Typically, soft-structured carriers have padded straps with buckles rather than fabric to be wrapped and tied.
- The design of a soft-structured carrier will keep your baby's legs well supported, without adjustments or inserts.
- Easy to put on a soft-structured carrier and adjust the tightness.
- The weight of an older baby may put pressure on your neck and shoulders when wearing a soft-structured carrier.
These carriers are worn like a backpack or rucksack and have a framed seat for your baby. Most backpack carriers have additional straps that buckle around your waist and chest for extra security. Backpack carriers hold your baby in a sitting position so only suitable once baby can sit unassisted and have good neck control.
- Backpack carriers are useful for wearing the baby for long periods making them ideal if you want to take your baby or toddler on a hike or long walk.
- Some models of backpack carriers are equipped with storage pouches where the child can keep small toys, snack or sippy cup.
- Backpack carriers can be bulky to store and transport, and some will need assembling before you can use them. May be more difficult to store too as it doesn’t fold up compact.
- Framed carriers can be quite heavy, and with a toddler in it, it may strain your back.
A ring sling is a piece of cloth with two rings sewn at one end. The fabric is folded and threaded through the rings to form a loop, which can then be adjusted according to the size and shape of you and your baby. Usually worn like a sash (placed over your head and 1 shoulder). Your baby is placed between you and the fabric, with the fabric providing seat and back support.
- Ring slings can be used with newborns and toddlers
- Can be easily adjusted to suit both parent and baby’s comfort.
- Recommended for shorter trips from the car to shop or playground, or for carrying your baby around the house rather than a long walk.
If you're still unsure about which carrier to buy, you may find it useful to visit a sling library. Sling libraries may be run by qualified babywearing consultants or trained peer support volunteers, who can help you find a carrier that works for you and your baby.
You’ll be able to try out different styles of baby carriers at sling libraries and get assistance on fitting and adjusting. Once you’re happy with your choice you can hire a sling or carrier. You can also bring your own sling or carrier along for expert advice and help.