Babies who are worn are healthier and happier, become independent faster, learn more, cry less, and sleep better. Yay babywearing! But as we know, the options out there can be very overwhelming. You are giving yourself and your child such a gift by doing this, so hang in there… we are here to help!
There are 5 basic types of ergonomic carriers that are commonly seen and used. Our important safety guidelines apply to all types of baby carriers. Let’s get right to it!
1. Wraps – Also called a wraparound baby carrier, a wrap is a piece of fabric, ranging from approximately 2 meters to about 5 meters long, which is designed to be tied to the caregiver’s body, creating a pouch which will secure the child to the caregiver’s torso. Wraps can come in various styles, the most common of which are stretchy wraps and woven wraps. The typical weight range for wraps is the industry standard of 8 lbs to 35 lbs. Wraps, especially woven wraps, are known for their versatility and comfort, as well as for their artistic/stylish nature.
Stretchy wraps can usually be found at big box stores (common brands include Moby, Boba, and Sleepy Wraps). These wraps are known for their give and stretchiness in multiple directions, and as such must be tied very securely to the caregiver and used only to hold baby on the front of your body. Stretchy wraps are ideal for children from about 8 lbs. until the wrap is no longer comfortable. Stretchy wraps should not be used with premature babies, as they do not offer enough support for a child with low muscle tone.
Woven wraps are unlike stretchy wraps in that do not have as much give; the fabric used has less elasticity. As such, “German-style woven wraps” (brands include Didymos, Natibaby, Tula, Oscha, and others), can be used to wear baby on your front, hip, or back, in a number of different types of carries. The length of fabric will determine the method of carrying your child, but the same safety considerations will apply regardless. Woven wraps are very comfortable into toddlerhood.
Wrap Example (this one is woven) by Danielle Navratil Photography
2. Ring Slings – A ring sling is a piece of fabric secured with rings and worn on one shoulder. A ring sling attaches baby to the caregiver’s torso by creating a hammock against the wearer’s chest. There are several different types of “shoulder” of ring sling – some are sewn in a way that is gathered, some are pleated, and some are folded – which varies by manufacturer. Ring slings, most often used in a front or hip carry, are known for their quickness and ease of use, their elegance, and their simplicity, and can be very comfortable and handy to have in spite of their single shoulder pass. Ring sling makers include Sakura Bloom, Maya Wrap, and Tula.
Ring Sling Example by Chrystal Cienfuegos Photography
3. Pouch Carriers – A pouch carrier is similar to a ring sling in how it is used (a single loop around the caregiver’s torso without rings), and is a sized carrier meaning it is intended to be purchased for one size of user and cannot be adjusted. As such, pouch carriers require very specific sizing that is appropriate to both the child and the caregiver at the time that it is used, but can be a quick, easy carrier and can travel easily in the bottom of a diaper bag as a backup. Many new parents receive an email offering a Seven Sling for free for the cost of shipping – this is one brand of pouch sling that is available for purchase. Hotslings is another.
Ring Sling Example, Hotslings Stock Photo
4. Soft Structured Carriers – An SSC is a rectangle of fabric with straps affixed on all four corners. The lower straps come out of the panel parallel to the floor and connect around the body with the use of straps and hardware, usually webbing and buckles. The upper two straps are sewn to the rectangle securely in a way that creates backpack-style loops. When the soft structured carrier is placed on the caregiver’s body, the pouch created by attaching it to the torso holds the child in an upright position. Soft structured carriers are known for being easily accessible to all users, adjustable, and quick to use, and are loved by many. Soft structured carriers can be worn on the front and back, and sometimes on the hip. Some popular brands that make soft structured carriers include Tula, Ergobaby, Boba, and Beco.
Soft Structured Carrier Example by Chrystal Cienfuegos Photography
5. Mei Tais – MTs are similar in construction to the soft structured carrier, but feature a rectangle of fabric with long straps that tie. These long ties take the place of the soft structured carrier’s webbing and buckles. Mei tais, which can be worn on the front, back, or hip, are known for their comfort, adjustability, and ease of use, and are very easily adjusted between two different caregivers (no adjusting of the buckles). Commonly found brands of mei tais include Babyhawk and Catbirdbaby.
Mei Tai Example by Ariel Dolfo Photography
As you can see, there are many different styles of carrier you can use to engage in comfortable, ergonomic babywearing. No matter your desire – beauty, comfort, ease of use, quickness – there is a carrier that is right for you, and which will allow you to keep your hands free and your heart full!