How to Choose A Baby Carrier?
When my elder son was born, I was a work-from-home mom. He is what Dr. Sears calls a high need baby. Demanding constant attention- Sleeping only when in my arms- Frequent episodes of colic. The first three months would have driven me crazy if it were not for the magic of baby wearing.
We bought a baby wrap when my son turned about a month old and honestly, life turned much better.
He would comfortably sleep in it for long stretches. Breastfeeding was easier and episodes of colic reduced drastically. I was comfortably able to give attention to my work while babywearing my son.
Though I thought a baby carrier would be of use only in the newborn days, I was quite wrong. Once he started getting mobile, he would run in to all sorts of troubles and mischiefs. That is when I found my next saviour- a soft structured carrier from Infantino in which he could sit front facing and enjoy the view. It was especially helpful on grocery shopping, hospital visits and whenever we went to any crowded place where strollers aren’t quite accessible.
Overall, baby carriers are one of the best gifts for new parents. If you would like to know about the best options, take a look at our list of best baby carriers in India.
Based on my personal experience as well as expert opinions, we bring to you this in-depth buyers guide to help you choose the right baby carrier for your need.
We discuss about various types of baby carriers, its pros and cons, general advantages and disadvantages of babywearing, important aspects that you need to consider while buying a carrier and finally tips for safe babywearing.
First of all, let us get to the pros and cons of babywearing.
Benefits of Babywearing
Soothes the baby
As baby is very close to your body, she can feel your heartbeat, breath,smell and even your emotions. For newborns, it reminds them of the womb and soothes them instantly making them less cranky.
Encourages overall development of the baby
As per researches, baby wearing promotes overall well-being and development in babies. It aids in the healthy physical development of the spine, vestibular system, vision and other systems.
As babies can see around better and thanks to constant communication with the caregiver, their mental and emotional development also tend to be better.
Reduces colic and other intestinal discomforts in newborns
Newborns tend to develop colic and other digestive problems. Being always in lying position adds to their discomfort. While babywearing, the baby is in an upright position with the abdomen pressed against your body, thereby reducing incidence of colic.
Develops attachment with parents
Babywearing releases oxytocin in both the baby and the parent, thereby fostering a close bond between them and boosting breast milk production in mothers. The baby can feel your breathing, your smell and your voice, making them more secure and comfortable too.
Helps fight postpartum depression
Babywearing helps mothers with postpartum depression to better handle their responsibilities. Since babies are so close to them, they can respond to every cue of the baby. This provides them a feeling of accomplishment which helps them to handle their condition better.
Babywearing keeps hands free to attend to your daily chores. You can go for shopping, take your pet for a walk, and attend to your elder child’s needs while babywearing. Thus, you can maintain the closeness with the baby while simultaneously carrying out your day to day activities.
Ease Of Maneuvering
You can use a baby carrier wherever you want. A stroller, on the other hand, may not maneuver easily in crowded places.
Drawbacks of Using Baby Carrier
Deep Learning Curve
Some carriers like the wrap and ring slings are not easy to wear. The learning curve is deep and you may have to go through online tutorials quite a few times before you can master the art of babywearing. As it is a tad time consuming, you may not be able to use the slings when you are going out somewhere in a hurry.
A baby carrier is not a good option while you are out shopping alone. The babies weight along with the weight of your shopping bag can put undue pressure on your back. In such a situation, you would need the help of another person to carry the bag for you.
Twins or multiples
Though there are baby carriers for twins available, they are not quite common in India. The ones available are ridiculously expensive too. Moreover, your back and neck might develop strain while simultaneously babywearing twins. Hence, it might not be a feasible option for parents with twins or babies who are close in age.
A baby carrier may not be as safe as a baby stroller. If in case you slip while babywearing, your baby might get badly hurt. It is best that you wear flats with good grip while baby wearing. You may also have to take extra care while bending to pick something.
Though there are a few drawbacks for baby wearing, you can overcome most of them by being careful and patient. Overall, positives of baby wearing far outweigh the negatives.
Now, let us take a look at the different types of baby carriers available in the market.
Types of baby carriers
This is a wide piece of cloth like a saree that is worn around your body covering both the shoulders. The baby is placed inside the wrap close to your chest in a comfortable position.
The wrap can be made of a stretchy material like cotton jersey or knit jersey or woven material like cotton, or linen. Stretchy wraps are generally used for newborn and woven wraps that are sturdy are used for older babies and toddlers.
Baby Wraps from Mamacuddle and hybrid wraps from Anmol are some of the recommended options.
- Wrap will fit in your diaper bag, and hence it is easy to carry around.
- The wrap can be worn in any comfortable position, and it is easy to adjust.
- Breastfeeding the baby is easy.
- Wearing a wrap is time-consuming.
- Wraps can be used for carrying only smaller babies and may not be suitable for your toddler.
- If the wrap is not worn correctly, it can cause discomfort to your baby.
Just like the wrap, the ring sling also comes with a wide piece of cloth wrapped around the body. But the sling will have rings for easy adjustment. You need to thread the other end of the fabric through one ring and fasten it using the other ring.
Unlike a wrap, a ring sling covers only one shoulder of the wearer.
Anmol Hybrid Ring Sling again is a good option to choose.
- Ring slings are easy to wear and take off.
- It is easy to breastfeed the baby while using a ring sling.
- The sling can be difficult to wear especially for petite women.
- Since it covers only one shoulder, it can be difficult to carry heavy babies.
- It is not advisable for parents with weak back or shoulder muscles as the weight is not evenly distributed.
Soft Structured Carriers
These are sturdy carriers that come with a fabric seat and two shoulder straps. The baby can be made to sit either facing inward or outward.
Ergo Baby Carriers, Infantino 4 in 1 convertible baby carriers are some of the best options to choose from.
- It is easy to wear and remove.
- It provides excellent support to the baby.
- Both father and mother can use it as the carrier are suited for both.
- Ergonomic baby carrier provide excellent support to back and neck for extended babywearing.
- Since the carrier is sturdy and bulky, it will not fit inside the diaper bag.
- No neck support if the baby dozes off.
Meh Dai is a combination of wrap and soft structured carrier. It has a rectangular piece of cloth which acts as baby’s seat and 4 straps ( essentially long piece of fabric) which acts as waist band and shoulder strap.
- Versatile and sturdy
- Easy to carry around in diaper bags as they do not have any buckles to make them bulky.
- Good for those with back and shoulder pain as the weight is evenly distributed.
- Tying and untying knot might be time consuming and special care needs to be taken to ensure that it doesn’t come loose while baby is in the carrier.
This is another form of baby carrier that is worn on your back. The carrier is then fastened using buckles and straps.
This type of carrier is similar to a backpack and can be used only for babies with good neck support.It usually has a padded shoulder strap, as well as strap to fasten around waist and chest for equal distribution of the baby’s weight.
- It is easy to wear, and the baby will be comfortable.
- There is plenty of room, and hence you can easily carry older babies.
- The backpack design makes it more comfortable for parents.
- Not suitable for infants and small babies who are yet to have complete neck control.
- You will not be able to see the baby as he is on your back
- It can be bulky for petite people.
- It is relatively expensive.
Things to Consider While Choosing a Baby Carrier.
Each type of carrier have a purpose for which it is best suited.
Sling wraps are best for newborns as the cocooned womb like disposition gives them a warm secured feeling. Be it home or on outings, this type of carrier suits your baby well in to their toddlerhood. However, while young babies are comfortable in soft stretchy wraps, older babies are comfortable in woven wraps.
Mamacuddle and Anmol are some of the best options to choose from.
Ring sling wraps on the other hand are the best suited for newborns till they are less than a year old. This is because the baby’s weight rests mainly on the parent’s single shoulder. So it might be difficult to carry heavier babies in it.
You might love Maeeri ring slings that come in gorgeous designs and prints making it a fashion accessory rather than a mere baby carrier.
Soft Structured Carriers( SSC) are mainly suited for those who have a busy lifestyle and are always on the go. Be it shopping, casual walks or strenuous activities like trekking, SSCs are best suited for it all. Most of the models can be used as front and back carrier. As they are made of sturdy fabric, you can use it up till toddlerhood days. Infantino, Ergo Baby, Boba are some of the options worth considering.
The fabric of the carrier should be soft, breathable and be made of non-toxic dyes. It should also be sturdy enough to carry the weight of the baby.
Ensure that the fabric is not treated with any textile chemicals as babies tend to chew them while being in the carrier. Baby carriers from Anmol, Kol Kol etc use 100% soft cotton with children friendly dyes.
Ease of use
You should be able to buckle and unbuckle the carrier without others’ help. You should also check whether it is possible to use the carrier with single hand as you will be holding the baby with the other.
While choosing a carrier, opt for one with a wide and sturdy padded straps at hip and shoulders. This will ensure that the baby weight is evenly distributed thus avoiding neck and back pain.
Similarly, the baby should be able to sit comfortably in the carrier and see your face. The leg holes of the carrier should be padded so that it does not constrict the baby’s thighs. You should also look for additional straps so that you can adjust the position of the carrier according to your comfort level.
It is always better to go for breathable, eco-friendly material that does not cause any harm to the baby’s skin. If you are living in a hot and humid region, opt for light colored material as dark colors tend to heat up very fast.
Ease of cleaning
Spit-ups and diaper leaks are common occurrences when a baby is around. The material of the carrier should be such that you can easily machine wash and dry it.
Now, the most important of all, here are tips that help you ensure safe babywearing.
Tips For Safe Babywearing
Ensure Sufficient Neck Support
Until the baby is old enough to hold his head properly, the carrier selected should provide proper support. Under no circumstance should the baby’s neck droop and touch his chest, as it could block the windpipe and suffocate the baby. It is advised to use an infant insert if your baby weighs less than 5.5 Kg.
Face should be clearly visible
The baby should be positioned in a carrier in such a way he/she sits vertically without blocking the air passage. The baby’s nose should not be pressed against your body or fabric. Both the baby and parent should be able to see each other’s face clearly.
The rule of thumb is that the baby should be positioned in such a way that the care giver can kiss the baby’s forehead at all times.
Good support to the thighs
Young babies are at a higher risk of hip dysplasia (hip dislocation).
While inside the carrier, the baby’s leg should be spread on either side of your body and with proper support to the thighs so that it doesn’t dangle down. The legs and thighs should form what you call an “M shape” or frog shape.
Bending with the carrier on
If you have to bend down to take something, always bend at the knee and not at the hip. This way, the baby will not feel uncomfortable, and your back will also not be strained. Further, it prevents baby slipping out from the carrier.
Also never ever cook while babywearing.
Check for wear and tear
Before using, you should check the carrier for any wear and tear including loose stitches, tear, or worn off fabric.
Use the carrier only in appropriate places
Just because the baby is close to your body does not mean that you can use the carrier everywhere. You should not use the carrier when you are driving or in a moving vehicle. In such a situation, the baby should be made to sit in a baby seat and not in a carrier.
It is always advisable to test the baby carrier before purchasing one. This way you can figure out how comfortable the baby is inside the carrier. You will also get an idea of the baby weight you need to carry around and whether it poses any strain to your back muscles. As most online sites provide a 10 day return period, do a few trial runs and ensure that you can use it for long.