|Double hammock carry with a Tekhni Meandros Sunshine|
This post has been edited several times as I've learned more about different carriers and as my own experience level has grown. Most recent edit 4/2/15. :)
Babywearing is something that has been a wonderful blessing to me over the course of 6 years and 3 children. If you've never heard the term babywearing before, or if it perhaps conjures up a very strange picture in your mind, let me define it for you--babywearing is simply carrying a baby using a sling or another form of carrier. It's a way to keep your baby with you. Babywearing is a centuries-old practice of many different cultures around the world, but it is gaining popularity in the industrialized world because of the attachment parenting movement. If you're interested in reading about the benefits of babywearing, I'd recommend TheBabyWearer.com, Le Leche League, and Dr. Sears.
When I began babywearing 6-7 years ago, I did it without knowing much about it. I used a couple cheap, bulky slings I found at garage sales and a framed backpack carrier. My oldest daughter rode in that on my back or my husband's through hours of dishwashing, shopping, cleaning, and hiking. I can't imagine those early days of parenthood without it. We explored and made memories as a new family, going places a stroller could never have gone.
When my son came along a few years later, I knew I wanted to wear him from the beginning--and I needed to, because I had a toddler to chase around. The backpack I had was really better for older children, and it hurt my shoulders and back after a few minutes. So, I began researching more ergonomic options and came across the Moby Wrap, which I reviewed on this blog at that time. The Moby was my gateway carrier, the one that really made babywearing click for me. I fell in love with how comfortable it was, and how sweet to keep my baby so close.
As my son grew, the Moby wasn't quite supportive enough, and I switched to a soft structured carrier (SSC), a Boba 2G, which I also reviewed here. We used the Boba on longer walks until he was able to walk everywhere himself.
When we found out were were expecting our third child, I began looking at carriers again because I can't leave well enough alone when I'm nesting. I knew I loved wrapping for newborns because of the Moby, but I wondered if there might be a cooler option available since she would be a late spring/summer baby and my biggest complaint about the Moby was that it got warm. Then I discovered the world of woven wraps. I say "the world" because there are an endless variety of colored, patterned wovens.
The Moby is a stretchy wrap, and stretchy wraps, well, stretch. (The Boba Wrap, Happy Wrap, Sleepy Wrap, and Solly Baby are all stretchy wraps as well.) That means that you have to tighten and adjust the wrap throughout wearing as it sags. Think of yoga pants that get baggy in the knees over the course of the day. Woven wraps have some give, but they don't stretch. They are usually a cross twill or jacquard weave--think of a nice tablecloth for an everyday fabric comparison. They are sturdier, more supportive, and generally more breathable than the jersey fabric of a stretchy wrap. Wovens are also more expensive than stretchy wraps by a large margin, and if I wasn't already a fan of wrapping, I don't know that I would have taken the plunge.
|Double hammock carry in a old Hoppediz red/pink--see how my daughter|
is supported in an M-shape position?
Wovens come in different lengths and can be tied many ways, and unlike the stretchy wraps, are also safe for back carries. A Moby should never be used for back carries but wovens excel at them. Here's a video demonstrating the difference. Moby used to feature back carry instructions in its brochures, but it's now widely accepted as unsafe and that carry has been removed from recent printings.
When evaluating a baby carrier, you're looking for a way to keep baby "close enough to kiss" so you can monitor his or her breathing and interact. Airways open always! Baby's legs should ideally be in an m-shaped position, with the bum lower than the knees, so that he or she is actually sitting in the carrier. In many of the carriers (like the Baby Bjorn or my old backpack carrier) readily available at Toys R' Us and BuyBuyBaby, the baby sort of dangles by his or her pelvis. A good carrier should support baby approximately knee to knee. Also, you usually want baby to face you, not face out. Facing you, baby's spine is in its natural position, and they can snuggle in if they get tired or overstimulated.
I highly recommend reading the Onya blog post Biomechanics of Babywearing as well as Babywearing International's article on SAFETY. Always use a carrier as recommended by the manufacturer.
|An old "stash shot"|
Carriers can be put in a few categories, listed here with some types/makers. If you need a visual, go here.
Stretchy wraps - Moby, Boba, Sleepy Wrap, Cuddly Wrap, Solly, Anaju...
Woven Wraps - Oscha, KoKaDi, Didymos, BB Slen/Babylonia, Girasol, Storchenwiege, Natibaby, GypsyMama/Wrapsody Bali Breeze, Chimparoo, Pavo, Neobulle, Dolcino, Ellevill, Ellaroo, Wrap Nap Fairy, Lil' Peepers Keepers, Diva Milano, Easycare, Hoppediz, JumpSac, Vatanai, Bara Barn, LANA, Calin Bleu, Pollora, Tekhni, Cari Slings, Danu, Vaquero, Pellicano...
Hybrid Wraps - Wrapsody Bali Stretch, Je Porte Mon Bebe
Ring Slings - Maya, Rockin' Baby, Bara Barn, Sleeping Baby Productions, Comfy Joey, Sakura Bloom, wrap conversions...
Pouch Slings - HotSling, Peanut Shell...
Asian-style carriers/Mei Tais - Freehand, Ellaroo, BabyHawk, Catbird Baby, BB Tai, Hop-Tye, DidyTai, MySol, Ocah, Infantino, Kozy...
Buckle Carriers (SSCs) - Ergobaby, Boba, AngelPack, Lillebaby, Onya, Beco, Tula, Kinderpack, Pikkolo, NuzzleMe Ultimate Man Carrier, Madame GooGoo, JumpSac, Scootababy, Action Baby Carrier, Bamberoo, Connecta, Emeibaby, MobyGo...
I've tried at least one of each category and found my favorites, but it's been trial and error.
Although I loved my Moby with my son, I don't think I'd go back to a stretchy wrap now that I've owned and used wovens. I would still recommend a stretchy wrap to a new babywearer with a brand new baby, because they are cozy and easy to come by--you can even make a no-sew version yourself with some jersey knit fabric. They are ergonomic if you tie them correctly, forgiving of sloppy wrapping, and a great way to start babywearing. Stretchy wraps are also moldable and soft from the get go, whereas woven wraps need to be broken in. But once I tie a woven on, I don't ever have to worry about adjusting it. It stays where I put it and stays comfortable for as long as I have it on. My baby doesn't shift around at all. The summer my third child was born I really loved my gauze Wrapsody Bali Breeze--airy, cool, and packable. Wrapsody also makes a hybrid wrap. If I was starting all over again, I would be drawn to a hybrid, which combines the characteristics of a stretchy and a woven at a price point that's about halfway between them.
|Rucksack carry in Ellevill Gaia Linus|
While babywearing has turned into something of a hobby for me (hubby recently called me a babywearing evangelist), at the end of the day, it's just something that lets me bond with my baby, comfort her, and get to know her while I go about all my other tasks as a mom and wife. The more children I have, the more I appreciate babywearing. There is less of me to go around, but more for me to do! Babies don't keep, they grow increasingly independent and mobile. The window of time for holding them close is so small, but I can't just sit around and stare into my infant's eyes all day because there are other demands on my life. So I wear her while doing school, while shopping, while prepping to cook or bake, while cleaning, while watching from the sidelines at my children's sports events and practices, while supervising at the playground. I wear at church every Sunday.
"Wherever we want to go, we go. That's what babywearing is, you know. It's not just a wrap and a sling and a mei tai and buckles. That's what a babywearer needs. But what wearing is...what babywearing really is...is freedom." - Jack Sparrow...and me. ;)
|Hoppediz Oslo with an awesome tail pocket|
Want to know more? Let's do a little Q&A.
Am I going to look totally weird carrying my baby around like a kangaroo?
98% of the time, the feedback I get while babywearing is positive. I think babywearing is beautiful, and many other people do too. Depending on where you live, be prepared for curious/appreciative or ignorant/rude comments. Most people are happy to see a happy parent caring for a happy baby, but there's always someone who thinks a baby will never walk if you carry them around or other such nonsense and will have no qualms about telling you so. Do your research so you can respond with wisdom, confidence, and grace.
by : rebecca :
Is babywearing expensive?
Only if you want it to be. I've built up a stash of carriers over time, investing in it as I would a hobby because it's something I enjoy, it's useful, and I'm a nut. :) You can spend anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars on carriers, or you can use something you already have. In a pinch, you can torso carry with a towel. Most of the babywearing happening around the world is done with simple pieces of cloth, so even if your budget is tight, it's something you can do well. A DIY wrap with cotton interlock/jersey or osnaburg is a great way to start. More on that in a bit. One word of caution, though--Ergobaby carriers in particular have many knockoffs on eBay and Amazon. These look like the real thing, but use inferior materials and are not tested to the same safety standards. So if you are bargain hunting, be careful.
by RBF Health
Can I make a carrier myself?
Absolutely! To make a non-stretchy wrap, you will need to purchase osnaburg fabric or a sturdy 100% linen or cotton/linen blend. Flannel, cotton quilting fabric/calico, and most muslins are to be avoided. Many people find that tablecloths make great shorty wraps and can be found for a few bucks at thrift stores. Mahogany jacquard-weave tablecloths also make beautiful wraps and ring slings once cut and hemmed. If you are interested in DIY carriers, I'd recommend joining the Babywearing DIY Advice and Support group on Facebook, and the Dyed Baby Carriers group if you're interested in gorgeous inspiration. Both groups have thorough and excellent files worth reading over. The DIY group has links to many patterns and tips for creating every kind of carrier. One thing I saw the other day that I was particularly impressed with--one mama took the buckles and straps from her non-ergonomic carrier and used them to make a new, adorable SSC. Some other DIY links and tutorials I've collected:
Frogmama: Make Your Own
The Babywearer.com DIY Forum (requires free membership to view)
DIY Hood to Headrest Mei Tai Tutorial
Sleepingbaby.net Baby Crafts
I can't sew/I don't have time to make something. Where can I buy a good carrier?
Besides eBay, there are several places to buy and sell used carriers. DiaperSwappers Marketplace, TheBabywearer.com, Frogmama Clearance and many Facebook groups, including The Babywearing Swap and Babywearing on a Budget. Always check seller feedback and pay with Paypal when dealing with an individual rather than a store. Since wraps actually become nicer to work with as they break in, many people prefer to buy them used. I purchased two of my wraps from the swap, one from TheBabywearer forum, and two from eBay. The other I got new from Marsupial-Mamas, which runs a 40% off sale once or twice a year. In addition to Amazon and big box baby stores, other reputable online retailers for new carriers include:
Purple Elm Baby
The Blueberry Tree
Two Mommas Designs
Sling With Me
Wrap Your Baby
Mom's Milk Boutique
Love to be Natural (UK site, but ships worldwide)
What kind of carrier should I buy?
Hard to say. It really depends on the age of your child, where and when you plan to wear, and what you're comfortable with. Here are a few things to consider.
If you're most familiar with non-ergonomic carriers, you may like a SSC.
If you like the look of traditional babywearing, you may like a mei tai or wrap.
If even weight distribution and comfort is most important, I think wraps and SSCs are the way to go. However, any ergonomic carrier option that utilizes both shoulders should be fine. I don't prefer ring slings for longer carrying times.
Most men prefer SSCs (buckle carriers)--but not all.
If you have an infant under 6 months--a wrap, ring sling or a SSC that can cinch/snap/adapt for smaller babies will be best.
If you have a baby under 15lbs. and under 4-6 months and you only want to front carry, you may like a stretchy wrap.
If you have a child between 6 months and 18 months, almost any kind of carrier will work well.
If you have an older toddler or preschooler and need extra support--look for a toddler SSC or larger bodied mei tai (Tula, Onya, Beco, Kinderpack, Toddlerhawk, Kozy) or a woven wrap. In wrapping, people talk about "toddler worthy-ness" and some wraps are known to work better than others for bigger kids.
If you don't want to have to practice carries and want something intuitive and easy to use, front or back, you may like a SSC or mei tai.
If you want something quick and/or your child wants up and down frequently, you may like a ring sling, shorty wrap, or SSC. Ring slings are great for stuffing in a diaper bag.
If you want to be able to easily nurse while using a carrier, a ring sling is typically recommended (though it can be done with some practice in any carrier, I'm told).
If your child wants to see the world, you may like a wrap, mei tei or SSC for a high back carry, a ring sling for a hip carry, or a hip-specific carrier, like the Scootababy or Ellaroo Mei Hip. Some SSCs also allow hip carries or an ergonomic forward facing carry for short periods of time--the Beco Gemini, Pikkolo, and Lillebaby come to mind.
Can I try before I buy?
If the carrier you want can't be found at a local store, several of the online retailers I linked above offer trial programs. Paxbaby, Abby's Lane, Quirky Baby, and Granola Babies all do, and probably others. Another great resource, if you have one, is your local Babywearing International group. Most of these groups have lending libraries so you can try a carrier out at a meeting or even borrow it for a time.
How do I figure out how to use my carrier?
Most new carriers come with illustrated instructions to get you started, but if you're buying used or want more options, YouTube and TheBabywearer.com will be great assets in learning how to use your new-to-you carrier. I'd recommend practicing over a bed or with a spotter if you are wrapping or trying a back carry for the first time. Also, it really helps if baby is in a good mood while you're learning, so try when he or she is freshly fed, changed, and happy. :)
I already have a non-ergonomic carrier, can I use it?
I think of almost all babywearing as good babywearing. If you've been using something to carry your baby and it's been working for you, know this: the only really dangerous babywearing option is a bag sling. Children have died in them and they have been recalled. If you have one of those carriers, the good news is that you can send it back to Infantino and they will mail you an ergonomic mei tai! Other non-ergonomic options--narrow based carriers--are not ideal (see Onya's article on Babywearing Biomechanics), but in the vast majority of cases, they are safe. If you'd like to see a neat trick to make your Baby Bjorn or Snugli more ergonomic though, check this out.
|Spreading passes for a back carry in a Didymos Lisca Fuchsia|
Did I miss anything?
Here are a few good "Babywearing 101" resources:
All About Babywearing
Did I get something wrong? Please contact me so I can correct it ASAP. I'm not an expert, and not professionally trained, just a mama who loves to snuggle her babies. I have helped to admin a large (17,000+ members) Facebook babywearing group and now help to admin the babywearing chatter group for my local area, so it's a world I'm immersed in and I try to stay up to speed on the latest recommendations. I've tried to be careful with my research and hope I've shared something valuable.
Images without attribution and licensing are my own.
I've continued to write about babywearing from time to time since this post was written in 2013. You can find all my posts on the subject here.