Often the first question people ask about babywearing is ‘what is the best carrier?’
But there is no BEST carrier. There are good carriers, there are carriers that are comfortable, there are carriers that are not so much.
The Best carrier is one that you will use. If you will not use a carrier that is pink, it won’t matter if it is the most comfortable fit for you, you shouldn’t bring it home.
Babies are born craving touch. Human interaction is how we learn to be human, and at a base level that involves holding, stroking and physically being with our babies.
A baby carrier allows parents and caregivers to meet their own needs while providing the baby with constant touch. Giving a caregiver a way to hold the baby while eating, walking, looking after themselves and other children is invaluable.
It has been said that babywearing is like wearing a hug. Which is rather a wonderful description.A good hug can improve even the worst days. I define babywearing as using material, either structured or unstructured, to hold a baby or small child to an adult’s body. As long as the baby is secure, unable to fall out and breathing is in no way obstructed you are good to go.
So, what carrier?
- The one you have. If you have been gifted a carrier, have one that you used with a previous child, or are able to borrow one from a friend or neighbour this is the best place to start. Make sure that you follow the instructions provided with the carrier, or ask for help from the person who gave it to you. Remember, as long as the baby is visible and kissable™, airways and clear and s/he can’t fall out you are good to go.
- A Stretchy Wrap, such as a Hug-a-Bub or Moby wrap is a really great option for a small baby. Where possible in-person help from a local sling group leader, your midwife, the retailer or a friend is strongly encouraged to ensure that the baby is safe. Again, a secure carry with baby visible and kissable™ and unable to slip out the side and you are good to go.
- A Front Pack Carrier (FPC). These are carriers that can be worn on the front only. They are available in big box stores, as well as smaller baby shops. They are generally easy to work out how to use, and most allow the option of having the baby face away from the parent (only while awake and only after the baby has good head control.) These tend not to be popular among babywearing enthusiasts, and may be more comfortable for smaller babies, and tend not to fit well anyone with any curves.
- A Buckle Carrier. Buckle carriers will take you from birth right through to toddler. For babies under 4 months some require an extra insert. Fit is individual, so if you have the option of attending a local meet, or trying one on in the shop this is a good idea. Most will be able to be comfortable (with some adjustments) for the majority of wearers. Some brands are more popular than others, many come in a range of different colours and patterns.
- A Woven Wrap. The most versatile option. A woven wrap is usually purpose woven specifically to carry a child. There are many different sizes, brands and options available. We suggest that everyone start by learning a front wrap cross carry (FWCC). However you tie it, the same rules apply – can the baby breathe? is the baby supported?
- A Ring Sling. A one shoulder carrier that allows for front and hip carries. Babies should be worn upright, with visible faces, and close enough to kiss. Not an ideal only carrier because it puts all the weight on one side, but easy to take baby in and out of for quick trips and around the house.
- A Mei Tai. Modern Mei Tais, like the traditional version, are a square of fabric with straps at the corners. Modern versions tend to have shorter waist straps and long shoulder straps that can be crossed over in the front and back. Buy from a babywearing shop to ensure that you are getting one well made, or (if you are skilled at sewing) consider making your own.
- One You Make. Before trying your hand at making a carrier for your baby ensure you know what you are doing. Try on a few different carriers, look for information from a DIY group or a website. Your baby’s safety is your responsibility. Make sure you are using fabric that will hold up to the job, that any components are strong enough and have been tested, to support your child. Again, Ensure that the baby is in view, can breathe and can’t fall out.
What you are looking for when choosing a carrier is to hold your baby close. You need to know that you are using the carrier correctly, so following instructions or getting help from an experienced babywearer or educator is really important. Remember that as long as you have your baby in view, baby’s airways are not blocked, and they can’t fall out you are doing great.
Visible and Kissable ™ Baby Carriers Industry Alliance.