Your little one was carried for 9 long months in the womb. While that may sometimes have been a challenge for the person doing the carrying, your baby was likely pretty happy with their cozy digs.
Since babies tend to know what they like (and let you know, loudly) some parents choose to continue carrying their infants in the fourth trimester (newborn days) all the way to the toddler years (and sometimes beyond).
What are the benefits of carrying a baby ?
- Reduces crying
- Promotes health
- Assists with breastfeeding
- Enhances connection
- Eases everyday life
Do you need a baby carrier?
In short: No. You don’t have to use a baby carrier with your infant.
In fact, most items you’ll see on registries aren’t absolute must-haves. A baby carrier is in the could-be-nice category. Some parents may do well without it. That said, others cannot see living life any other way.
For this reason, you may want to check around to see if your area has any local babywearing groups. You may be able to try out different carriers for free with the group’s loan program.
There are definitely pros when it comes to using a baby carrier.
Allows you to have your hands free to do anything from washing dishes to caring for other children.
Is an alternative to a stroller if you’re small on space in your home/car or if taking a stroller doesn’t make sense at your destination.
Gives your baby or toddler a convenient seat if you’re out to eat or somewhere else where you might not have access to a high chair.
May help to soothe the baby. A very dated study from the 1980s showed that babies who are carried more fuss and cry 43 percent less than infants who are carried mainly for feeding and when they cry in the first 3 months. A baby carrier may make this easier, though it’s not necessary.
Allows for exercise, like walking or low-impact aerobics, with baby close and warm.
Lets you breastfeed on the go. Some carriers, like ring slings, are particularly easy to figure out, but you can find a way to breastfeed in most carriers with enough practice.
Related: Oh, baby! Workouts to do while wearing your infant.
What are the types of carriers?
If your head is still spinning with all the brands and options, try breaking it down by type. Maybe a certain style of carrier speaks to you — but you may not know until you try.
You may even find that your preferences change as your baby gets older. If you don’t have a local babywearing group, consider asking a friend if you can borrow their carrier for a test run.
The main types include:
Soft wrap. The long piece of material that you tie around your body (stretchy).
Woven wrap. The long piece of material that you tie around your body (no stretch).
Ring sling. Wrap with a ring that allows you to adjust the tightness with ease.
Meh dai or mei Tai. An Asian-style carrier that’s made of a panel of fabric around the baby; two wide, padded straps that go around the waist; and another two that go around the shoulders of the caregiver.
Soft-structured carrier. Carrier with padded shoulder straps and adjustable belts. Can be for infants and older toddlers.
Structured carrier. Carrier with a frame, usually aluminum, that’s used for hiking or other long trips.
What to look for when shopping
When you’re shopping, try to remember to look for key features that make sense for your family’s needs.
These might include:
Baby’s weight. Some carriers are made for the tiniest babies. Others are made for toddlers and preschoolers. Some help span the range by offering options to grow with your child. When shopping, remember the size of your baby and that they’ll likely grow quickly in the first year. Some carriers may require a special infant insert for smaller babies.
Preferred carry position. Some carriers allow for just one way to carry baby. Others are adjustable or made for multiple carry positions. If adaptability is important to you, consider buying a carrier that will move and groove with you.
Ease of cleaning. Babies spit up, have blow-outs, and otherwise make a mess of things. Try finding a carrier that will easily wash in your washing machine. Alternatively, you may consider purchasing drool pads and other covers that you can secure around the most dirtied areas and remove for easy cleaning.
Budget. While certain brands or patterns may be hard to pass up, you don’t need to go broke buying a baby carrier. Keep your budget in mind. And if you can’t get what you want new at the store, try a local secondhand baby shop or borrowing/buying from a friend.
Hip-friendly design. It’s important to choose a carrier that allows the baby’s hips and knees to sit in an ergonomic “M” position to promote healthy development.
Safety tag. Again, sling carriers that have been tested for safety will include some kind of tag with associated information. You may run across vintage or homemade carriers if you’re looking secondhand. Be careful when considering these choices. Safety standards are continually changing, so getting a more current carrier may be the safest option. And be sure to examine every carrier closely to make sure everything is in working order.
In addition to purchasing a safe carrier, it’s also important that you follow all instructions for usage. Injuries related to baby carrier use do happen. You should also be aware of proper positioning to prevent hip dysplasia in your precious cargo.
Trend or no trend, babywearing is here to stay. And, really, it’s a win-win situation. Your baby gets all the closeness and cuddles. You get both your hands-free to get stuff done, work out, or explore the world.
So, if toting around your baby sounds like something you’d like to try — consider borrowing a friend’s carrier for a day or two. You may not find the right fit at first, but — in time — you’re sure to find one that works for you and your family.