Babywearing is amazing, end of. Wearing your baby in a wrap, sling or soft structured carrier has many health benefits for your baby and really aids bonding. Babies who are carried cry less, sleep better, and are generally in better health than those who aren’t. Babywearing brings your child ‘into the conversation’ and they learn far more about the world around them than they would if they were strapped into a pushchair. Babies who are worn spend more time in the ‘quiet alert’ state than babies who aren’t, and therefore are more receptive to learning.
But which kind of carrier should you choose? There are many mainstream carriers on the market (I won’t name names, but a little research of your own will quickly yield names of the worst offenders) that are no good for babies, or parents. I owned one of them for a short while when I had my son, and I couldn’t physically carry him for longer than an hour or so in it. It killed my back and shoulders, and it held him in a dreadfully uncomfortable looking position; he was suspended from the crotch, and therefore all of that weight was being forced straight into his little spine, compressing it and forcing his hips apart. And yet these carriers are the ones that most of us will end up with — not surprising then, that you mostly see pushchairs on the streets of the western world.
The gold-standard of baby carrying is exactly how you would hold your infant yourself — facing you, with their little legs in a ‘froggy’ position (knees higher than the hips). This way, the weight is evenly distributed across the buttocks and the thighs. In this post, I am going to briefly describe a few fantastic choices in babywearing equipment and I am sure that you will find something to suit!
These are my favourite things in the world for carrying small babies. There is nothing more supportive; your shoulders and back won’t even notice that you are carrying a child. You can wear them on the front (facing in or out), the back, the hip, or in a cradle position which is ideal for discreet breastfeeding on the move.
A wrap is basically just a long, wide piece of material that is wrapped about the body (and the baby) in a special knot. It can look pretty technical to a babywearing novice but it’s one of those things that once you get the hang of it, you could do it in your sleep (much like any other baby-care task!). They are available in several different materials, ranging from the super-stretchy Kari-Me to the sturdy, woven Didymos. I found the Kari-Me to be the best choice for us when my son was little; with a stretchy wrap, you can tie them onto the body before putting the baby in. This makes it very easy to take them in and out, and you can leave it on to make things even easier. However, the stretchy material is more suited to smaller babies, and you may find yourself needing something sturdier as your baby grows. A Moby wrap is a great middle ground; it’s stretchy enough to put on before putting the baby in, but it’s that little bit more supportive. Wraps do take a little bit of practice but once you get the hang of them, they really are fantastic.
Mei Tai Baby Carriers
This is the carrier that my son and I graduated from the Kari Me to, when he was around 8-9 months old. A Mei Tai baby carrier is a soft, Asian style baby carrier that has been used for centuries. It is just a rectangular piece of material with four straps coming from each corner. It is tied around the waist, and then lifted over the baby and tied securely (a quick YouTube search will show you how). You can wear your baby on the front or back (I used mainly a back carry as I found it better for distributing the weight), and there are even whispers of a Mei Tai hip carry (although I have never seen it on anybody in the flesh).
I was reluctant to try a Mei Tai; I have issues with my shoulders and lower back, and never thought I could find a carrier as supportive as a wrap, but boy was I wrong. I successfully carried my (rather large) son every day until he was 19 months old in my trusty Mei Tai, purchased from an Etsy seller for the measly sum of £30 inc. delivery. He loved it, I loved it, and I cannot wait to use it again with baby #2! You can get many different variations of the Mei Tai; some are more heavily padded than others, some have longer straps. There are a multitude of different fabrics and patterns to choose from. The BabyHawk Mei Tai is a good choice; I know many women who have used them and loved them. However, they are a lot more expensive than some you could buy from Etsy.com, lovingly handmade (to your exact specification, a lot of the time) by a WAHM (work at home mum/mom). It’s worth joining some babywearing forums and communities online so you can get seller recommendations.
The Ring Sling
A ring sling is something I, personally, have never tried. However, I know a lot of women who have used them and found them to be very useful. It is simply a length of material, joined together at one end with a metal hoop. The sling is then worn over one shoulder. Smaller babies can recline and breastfeed within the sling and older ones can sit up on the mother or fathers’ hip.
These types of carrier are fantastic for keeping in the changing bag, ready to whip out should your toddler, who insisted they could walk all the way, decides that in actual fact they can’t. They are effortless to put on, and are perfect for the constant up-down-up-down-up-down of a child who is learning to walk independently.
Soft Structured Carriers (SSC’s)
Fathers are often big fans of these. They offer all of the benefits of babywearing (close contact, froggy-legged position etc) with the Extra Added Bonus of buckles and straps. These give them a more ‘mainstream’ look which some people are more comfortable with.
Again, these aren’t a type of carrier that I have personal experience of, but many parents swear by them. I have read many a forum post from mothers with particularly sensitive backs and shoulders that thought their babywearing days were over, until they discovered their SSC’s. Some brand names that continually pop up as great ones are the Ergo and the Beco Butterfly.