When I first started babywearing with my newborn, I had two main thoughts:
Because I was on a budget and just wanted to invest in one, I did a lot of research. While there are MANY different types of baby carriers from all over the world, six types stood out to me as the most commonly used in Australia. I thought I’d take the time to describe them, their main features, and my experiences with each of them, to hopefully help you figure out which one might be best for you!
When my little one was a newborn (up to about 6kg), we used our stretchy multiple times a day. It was a lifesaver! I loved that it was fairly simple to use, and could be pre-tied, so that I could get it all set up without having to juggle my baby at the same time. I could also put it on at home, then pop my little one straight in from the car seat once we were out of the house. It was also super soft (very newborn friendly) and folded up teeny-tiny for the nappy bag. As my baby grew bigger, I started looking into other options, as I found my stretchy wrap sagged and pulled on my shoulders.My first baby carrier was a stretchy wrap. These are basically long, narrow pieces of jersey material with plenty of stretch. The thickness of the wrap and blend varies from brand to brand, but can include cotton, bamboo, and polyester.
I would personally recommend getting a stretchy wrap for a newborn, especially if you’re not experienced with other types of carriers. I found that it made a good introduction to concepts like optimal positioning and making a seat (important skills to master when using ring slings and woven wraps in particular) without it being too complicated!
Structured carriers are great for quickly putting on and taking off again – clip, clip, and you’re done! We bought one when my little one was a few weeks old, and it became the “daddy” preferred carrier. We mostly used it on longer walks at the beach or in the bush. I’ve now loaned this particular carrier to my sister-in-law and purchased a different brand with a different fit. I love to use it for quick ups and Kangatraining classes!A structured carrier is usually one that consists of a waistband and shoulder straps, and held together with webbing and buckles. Some common structured carrier brands include Manduca, Tula, Ergo, Kokadi Flips, Lillebaby, Emeibaby, and more.
A few simple tips on picking the right structured carrier:
I’ll probably always have one of these on hand through to the end of our babywearing days. They’re quick, easy to use, and super comfy (with the right fit/type!).
We bought our first ring sling when munchkin was a few weeks old. I’m the first to admit that it was tricky. I honestly just didn’t get it. The process of making a seat, having the fabric in the right spot, and tightening in just the right places can be confusing at first. I gave up for a few weeks, but then persevered with it. And I’m so glad I did! I found (and am still finding now at 8mo) that the ring sling is great for a quick cuddle, popping into the shops, and so full of sleepy dust.A ring sling is a piece of woven fabric (approx. 2m long) with two rings sewn together in one end. To make the sling, you simply thread the tail of the fabric through both rings and then back between them, to lock the fabric in place. The sling goes over one shoulder, with the baby on your opposite hip, held upright and seated, facing inwards towards your torso.
The main downside I’ve found is that it is a one-shouldered carrier. This means that you may struggle to lift one of your arms to do certain tasks (like hang the washing). And also – even with a good, tight job, you’re still not holding your baby’s weight at the centre of your body. Once when I went shopping, I stayed out a lot longer than intended (a couple of hours) and used the ring sling the whole time. The next day, I put my back out badly. I’m fairly certain these two events are related! So only use the ring sling for as long as you would comfortably hold your baby on one hip in your arms.
So yes, I’d definitely recommend getting a ring sling for a baby or toddler that likes to be held for short bursts on occasions. And if possible, get some help from someone more experienced (like a babywearing consultant) to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.
The thing that I liked most about Meh Dais was their fit. Instead of having to adjust all the straps each time someone else (like my husband) used it (like with our structured carrier), the straps are just pulled tight and tied each time. I liked using our Meh Dai for jobs around the house, or nap-time, because it was so comfortable.By the time I had acquired my ring sling, stretchy, and structured carrier, I was pretty bent on trying all the types of carriers. Next on my list was a Meh Dai! Originating in China, most Meh Dais consist of a rectangle/square panel of fabric with a strap on each corner. The bottom two straps are tied around your waist, then you put baby in the panel, and pull the top two straps over your shoulders and cross on your back, tying at the front, or back, depending on how much length you have.
However, I realise now (months later), that I actually could have been even more comfortable with a better technique. Instead of pulling the shoulder straps towards my neck to make an X on my back, I should have pulled them straight down my back to tighten first. So if you’re looking to try a Meh Dai, I strongly recommend watching some detailed tutorials or getting help at a meet or from a babywearing consultant to make sure you’re making the most of your carrier!
I found it pretty easy to get on and adjust (just pull the webbing tight). If you’re new to back carrying, there will be a slight learning curve though – getting used to utting your baby on your back safely can take awhile! An Onbuhimo is a traditional Japanese style back-carrier – the most notable feature is that it doesn’t have a waistband. All of the weight is carried in the shoulders. In my opinion, they look a bit like a baby back-pack :-). Because they are similar to a structured carrier, these should only be used on babies who can get themselves into a seated position, right through to toddlers and bigger kids.
Onbuhimos are often popular with pregnant babywearers, as the lack of waistband means no pressure on a growing belly. They’re also often praised by mums who are uncomfortable with waistbands and the potential for muffin-tops! For the record: embrace that muffin top, mama, but if it makes you uncomfortable, then an Onbuhimo might be worth a shot.
After trying a number of different baby carrier types, I feel like I am pretty well-qualified to say that woven wraps are the best. For me, anyway. Look, everyone is different, but here’s why I love them…A woven wrap is a piece of woven fabric, usually around 70cm wide, and ranging from 2.7m (size 2) to around 5.7m (size 8) long. The patterns, blends, and thicknesses range greatly… from thin and floppy, through to thick and cushy.
In my experience, they’re the most versatile, adjustable baby carrier out. If I am going somewhere for a whole day, I will only take my favourite woven wrap. I can front carry, hip carry, and back carry (from newborn even, if you are experienced enough). If I want extra support, I can add multiple layers, and if it’s hot, I can choose a carry that offers more breathing space.
The main downside is that it can be a bit of a learning curve when you get started. It probably took me a few video tutorials and practices to get the hang of my first woven wrap carry, Front Wrap Cross Carry. But practice makes perfect, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you can quickly pick up other carries, and continue to perfect your skills and increase your comfort levels. Oh, and it’s a bit addicting… so be warned… you may fall down the rabbit hole (see you there!).
So… what should you buy?!?!
I'd suggest going over your lifestyle needs, the list above, and jumping in with what you believe would suit you best.
For many families, a baby carrier will be used daily, for many hours a day, and often for years (even through toddlerhood and beyond). Believe me when I say that finding the right baby carrier for you and your little one will be well worth the effort.
Trust your gut, follow your instincts, and listen to your heart. You've got this mama.
Angela + Brooke x
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Brooke Maree © 2017 All Rights Reserved
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Many parents wonder if they can still use a baby carrier if their baby is in a brace and being treated for Hip Dysplasia. The short answer is usually always yes! Which is great news. It’s about finding a suitable carrier style that is comfortable for you and your baby whilst they are in the brace.