Strollers are on the list of absolute “must-haves” for most expectant parents. And for many, strollers are truly invaluable. But there are situations in which strollers are simply not practical, and there are times babies do not want to be in them. In those cases, baby carriers become just as essential as strollers.
If you think picking out the right stroller for you is confusing, baby carriers are even more difficult to choose. There are so many different types out there, and they all have their own advantages and disadvantages. I have used baby carriers with great success for over four years now, and I don’t think my life would be the same without them. Here is a break-down of various kinds of baby carriers – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
• Baby Bjorn type carriers
These are first on the list because they are available in most baby stores. I started my baby-wearing career with a Baby Bjorn after my daughter was born. These are great for smaller babies, and allow the baby to face the parent, or the world. Because these carriers do not promote an optimal spinal position for the baby, and tend to cause sore shoulders for parents, they are not a great option to use for long stretches.
• Soft-structured baby carriers
Well-known examples of these are the Ergo baby carrier and the Beco. Soft-structured carriers support the parent’s hips as well as the shoulders, making them a more comfortable option. The baby can be worn facing the parent, on the parent’s back or hip. Some allow the outward-facing option as well. I love this type of carrier, because it is comfortable for baby and parent alike for long periods of time. They also promote an optimal hip and spinal position for the baby, when facing inwards.
• Mei tai carriers
are similar to soft structured ones, with the difference that they are not done up with buckles but instead tied with long straps of fabric. They are, essentially, the more traditional version of soft-structured carriers. The greatest advantage of mei tais (pronounced “may tie” – how appropriate!) is that they are highly adjustable. Different people can use the same carrier without having to adjust straps.
• Ring slings and pouch carriers
are worn on one shoulder. The baby is popped into the bag that forms in between two layers of fabric. Slings are a good option for newborns who like to be in the cradle position, and for toddlers who want to take a ride on mom’s hip for a short while.
are long strips of fabric, around six meters long, that can be tied around the parent’s body to wear the baby is almost any position you can think of. They have a bit of a learning curve, but those who use them swear that wraps are the most comfortable and versatile baby-wearing option of them all.
• Finally, a note about bag slings
These gained popularity a few years back, but after the recent recall of a well-known bag sling, infantino’s sling rider, it became clear that they are not safe to use. Bag slings tend to close around the baby, and force it into a position that can cause breathing difficulties and even death. The recall should be enough to prove they are not safe. Don’t use one.
Olivia Van Buren is a mother, a journalist and a feminist. She is passionate about natural childbirth and reproductive rights. On her blog Write About Birth, she discusses childbirth options, ranging from unassisted homebirth to hospital birth and anything in between. Join the debate on painless childbirth – is it possible?