One thing you will realize pretty quickly is that babies want to be carried most of time if they are not sleeping. A baby is a new entrant to the world and all he wants is to feel the warmth of a human body and feel comforted by the familiar smell and sound of their parents or caregivers. There is evidence that babies who get enough of this comforting proximity are less fussy and easier to manage during evening hours – which is when they are at their worst temperament and parents energy level is lowest.
However as a parent it can become pretty difficult if you also want to get things done. Worry not, there is a way out and the solution is baby carriers. “Babywearing” is indeed a blessing for parents as it allows you to do things while having the baby nestled comfortably – not to mention the parents enjoy having the baby at close proximity as well. Following are some of the advantages of “wearing” your baby (from The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears):
- It’s convenient. You can breastfeed discretely in most baby carriers while working, getting things done around the house, shopping or eating in a restaurant. If you have a baby who wants to be held all the time, this is an easy way to meet her needs while doing other things.
- It helps moms care for older siblings. Carrying your baby in a carrer can give you the mobility to care for your older children.
- It helps some babies to breastfeed better. Some babies, particularly those who are tense or tend to arch their backs, breastfeed better while moving. Also, babies who are slow to gain weight (for no apparent reason) have been known to gain better if carried in a carrier for several hours a day, since proximity to mom encourages babies to eat more frequently.
- It reduces crying and colic. A 1986 study of 99 mother-infant pairs (reported inPediatrics) showed that carrying babies at least three hours a day reduces crying and fussing 43% during the day and 51% at night. Babies are happier because they have less need to cry, and parents enjoy their babies more as a result.
- It enhances learning. Carried babies have enhanced visual and auditory alertness, and increased “quiet alertness” times. Carrying a baby promotes cognitive development and speech development, since babies are exposed to more experiences and conversations.
- Carried babies are involved in their parents’ world. They participate in life, rather than see it as a spectator.
- Carrying your baby promotes bonding and enhances parents’ feelings of competence. A higher frequency of feeding and touching stimulates mothering hormones, and frequent carrying encourages and speeds the development of a mutual reading of each other’s cues.
You can keep the baby close to you and attend to your chores by using either
1. Baby slings
2. Baby wraps
3. Me Tais
4. Baby Carriers – Front & Back & Hip
5. Baby Backpack
But before we dive deep into the options – here are some things that you should consider before making you choice.
A. Your unique situation – Although all of these fulfil the basic purpose, you should choose based on your unique requirements. Does your baby like to see where he goes or is he happy just snuggling on your chest and being able to see you. If both the parent is going to use the same carrier make sure it does not require a lot of time to adjust.
B. Your comfort – Being a parent is obviously and experience in selflessness but it does not make sense to injure yourselves while taking care of the baby. If your back tends to hurt after carrying the baby it is an indication that some harm is being done. Try a few and look for one that distributes the weight evenly between the shoulder neck and upper back. If your lower back is being strained – avoid that particular carrier. Wider and well padded straps usually work better.
C. Baby’s comfort – make sure that the baby’s head and neck is well supported with a padded headrest if you are using a carrier for the baby. Also make sure that the legs holes are loose enough and comfortable. Some common problem with slings and wraps is that they get too hot in the summer months. Please ensure that the fabric is breathable and does not hurt the baby due to its roughness.
D. Secure: While this feature may go without saying for most carriers, it is your prerogative to make sure that the carrier meets your standards. Some parents never feel this sense of security with slings and feel only good when there are
E: Ease of Use: If you find a carrier that cannot be operated without help, or which needs both hands then that is a sign that it may not be the one to choose. As you will realize with babies it is great when transitions can happen without waking the baby up – if your carrier or wrap requires too much manipulation that it disturbs the baby then it could result in hours of extra work for you. Also if you are breast feeding, choose something that suits your nursing needs.
F. The best baby carriers are one that can be washed easily and quickly as extended use renders them vulnerable to baby spitups and other mess.
1. Baby slings
A sling is a broad strip of fabric that stretches across the torso onto one shoulder, thereby forming a pouch which can be used to hold the fabric in front of you or on the side.
There are different types of slings – padded, unpadded and some include rings for adjustment. It is quite confusing because most wraps also claim to be slings so that they appear in amazon search results for slings.
Here is an example of one
Here are some pros
- Relatively easy to use. – Extra padding on the sides of the sling does not only giving more comfort to the baby but also makes the carrying light on your shoulder
- Allows you to carry the baby in the same position they would assume in the womb. Easier for breastfeeding as well.
- Allows you to maintain eye contact and contains movements on the part of the baby – which provides a welcome relief to the baby. The rocking soft, snug feeling of the sling and the sounds of mom’s heartbeat and voice helps calm the baby.
- Slings can be used till your baby is much older – I have seen parents who use it all the way till their children are 3-4 years old. This is also because slings are much better for the back.
And the cons
- Not comfortable for use in cradle position
- Also not suitable for larger babies
- Some parents complain that they never feel secure enough to let both hands go. I personally felt the same looking at the babies in the slings.
- Men don’t like to used slings.
- Danger of suffocation and hip dysplasia
I personally never thought of slings and I am sure many can forego the need for slings too. In our cases since both of us had to carry the twins most times, we needed carriers that could be interchangeably worn. There are padded, unpadded, lightly padded or pouch ring slings. The pouch is similar to the ring sling in that it mimics a wrap one shoulder style carry, but instead of rings the pouch is popular for having no adjustability. Instead you buy a pouch that fits exactly, and then it is ready to put on and put baby in at any moment without any tying or adjusting. There are now also adjustable pouches that have snaps or zippers to change the size of the pouch.
Personal recommendation is that slings work well for older toddlers than any other carriers. Look for lightly padded ones.
2. Baby wraps
A wrap is a wide piece of fabric usually worn around your body and over both shoulders. These are popular because they’re so versatile – you can wear a wrap in all kinds of configurations and easily adjust it by pulling on the fabric. Like slings, wraps can make it simple to breastfeed your baby while wearing him. Wraps offer optimal head, neck, and back support, and are also comfortable for the wearer as they distribute your baby’s weight well and there are no pressure points.
Wraps come in two forms – stretchy and woven – a stretchy wrap stretches, a woven doesn’t. With stretchy wraps, you have the ease of use factor – you tie a stretchy on, and then use the stretch in the fabric to put the baby inside. In case of a woven wrap, you tie the fabric around the baby as you go. For this reason, many people like to start with a stretchy as they find it easier to pre-tie.
- More versatile
- Very comfortable for the baby.
- Can be tied in different styles according to your preference. Wonderfully, ergonomically comfortable and customizable – most people can get comfy in this
- Best option for babies till they are 6 months
- Steeper learning curve to use a wrap.
- Some of the fabrics can get hot during the hot season. So choose your wrap carefully based on the weather.
There are only two wraps worth considering and if these two don’t work then you might start looking for others. The two wraps are the Boba wrap and the Moby wrap.
The Boba wrap is basically a long sheet with no buckles, straps or buttons. They are made of 95% cotton and 5% spandex blend. They claim to support babies till 35 pounds but you will find that the baby outgrows the wrap by around 6 months – at least that was the case with both my boys and the children of my friends as well. T
This is similar to the Boba in that it is recommended for babies upto 35 pounds. It is made of 100% cotton and is longer than the Boba wrap.
Which is better if you had to choose one?
Cant say one is better than the other but at least I can lay out the differences and also explain why I prefer one over the other.
1. Moby wrap is a little longer than the Boba and also wider than the Boba. If you start off with Boba you will find the extra fabric unnecessary and cumbersome. Boba has just enough length.
2. Boba has 5% spandex which make it stretchy and pulls the baby snugly towards you. Not only that – this makes it easier to tie the fabric as you dont have to worry about leaving just enough space for the baby to be inserted. All you can do is just to pull it and put the baby in. With Moby, since there is no stretchiness, you will have to be careful to leave the right amount of space and maybe tie and retie till the space is right.
3. The fabric of the Boba feels and little thicker and softer. The Moby is 100% cotton and hence there is a little roughness as one would find in a 100% cotton T shirt.
4. Since is not 100% cotton, the Boba might be a little hotter during the brief summers when the temp is at its highest.
Other than that they are pretty similar in terms of the way you use them to carry your baby. There is a learning curve, but these wraps are most comfortable to carry the baby over long periods. The slings can get painful since there is a concentration of pressure on one shoulder. I chose the Boba since I liked thestretchiness but I have to say I always was alert to the comfort of my babies as the head tended to sag a little because of the elasticity of the fabric. The Moby felt a little more firm but I felt that it was getting more and more difficult to insert the baby into the space I left. So I abandoned it after 2-3 months and used only the Boba. My husband would only wear it at home and that the reason we quickly had to move to carriers. Also, these don’t fit well in a diaper bags as they are bulky.
3. Me Tais
Recently a new style of carriers have become popular – they are called Mei Tais or Asian style carriers. They are a hybrid version of wraps and structured soft carriers like Ergo, baby Bjorn etc. Their speciality is that they contain no hardware – no buckles, buttons nothing, all securing is established through double knots. The Maei Tai is similar to a structured carrier and has four straps – one in each corner.
Baby can be worn on the front with legs tucked under until around 10-12 weeks, then the legs poke out the sides to straddle you, knees up bottom down
The Mei tai appeals to many Western parents because of its similarity to a backpack–it is easy and quick to learn to use. The mei tai is much less versatile than the wrap, but with one great front carry, one great back carry, and one great hip carry, it will meet most needs! Some people find a mei tai equally comfortable to the wrap, and mei tais are made with lots of different features so that you can pick the ones important to you: padded waist straps, padded shoulder straps, padded body, longer straps, shorter straps, head rests, etc.Mei tais are a good middle ground for someone who likes the custom fit of tying that a wrap offers but wants the speed and ease of a soft structured carrier.
I personally would not recommend for new-born but definitely would use it for older babies.
A nice detailed comparison is provided in this blog.
4. Structured Soft baby Carriers
While we did use wraps for a while, we quickly moved onto structured soft carriers and found that it was enough for next year or so. After that they did not want the carriers and were happy to walk or sit on the stroller.
We used two sets of carriers during the first 18 months of the baby.
- 0-4 Months – Our babies were around 7 pounds when they were born and doubled their weight in the first 4 months and during this period the Baby Bjorn Original and Baby K’tan works best for this period. Around the 4 month mark these carriers become useless as your back starts killing you and the baby too becomes restless. While Baby Bjorn original has an outward facing option it seemed too uncomfortable for the baby. I would suggest you use the wrap for the first few months instead of any of these. If you simply cannot use the wrap, then I would suggest the Ergo with an extra baby insert.
2. For the next year we used these two carriers which are in my opinion among the best of the lot
- Ergo 360 It is front facing, and certainly more comfy for the baby as it allows an ergonomic frog leg position that prevents dangling of legs. There is a versatility in positions that one can also find in the lower rated but more expensive Baby Bjorn one – which is not as comfortable for the baby. It was also easy on my back and this is one of the reason I am fan. The only disadvantage is that you have to buy an extra insert for infants. It does not have pockets – which some parents seem to prefer. The velcro waistband is also a little difficult to adjust. The weight limit is 33 pounds and so it becomes useless by the 18 month mark.
- Tula Ergonomic baby This was a late discovery and I can vouch that this is one of the best in the category. Superbly comfortable and really pretty looking, and little more user friendly than even the Ergobaby, it is just as comfortable for the baby and the parent. A big disadvantage is that the baby can only face towards the parents in the forward facing position – one of my sons was ok with that but the other one hated it. So I urge you to buy and test on your baby before you accept. But the baby can see what you are seeing if in the back position – so you can adjust around it if everything else seems ok.
5. Baby Backpack
When you need to wear your baby for long periods of time, as in during travel, hiking, visiting foreign locales – you need something firm that allow the baby to sit for longer periods without getting antsy. These have frames made of lightweight aluminum which facilitate this.
My top recommendations in this group