TYPES OF BABY CARRIERS
One of the biggest dilemmas for parents who decide to babywear is – which baby carrier should I choose? We will try to introduce you to all types of baby carriers that are currently in the market and explain some of the fundamental differences between them, as well as their possible pros and cons. We have already talked about the benefits of babywearing and now is the time to get to know the baby carriers more closely. 🙂
The first thing you should definitely do is choose one specific type of baby carrier that best suits your needs. We will try to help you narrow down your choices to at least a few options, if not one specific baby carrier.
● Wrap – is a long piece of fabric that wraps around your and your baby’s body. By properly tying a wrap we create a comfortable and above all safe baby carrier. It can be worn in different positions: front, side or back, and it is suitable for newborns, infants and young children. There are many different ways to tie a wrap around your body, some can be more demanding for beginners, but by practicing and improving it, wrapping becomes much easier. Wraps are the most traditional and simple types of baby carriers, but not perhaps the simplest choice for beginners. At first, wraps may seem a bit scary and difficult to master, but very quickly the most basic positions and bindings are grasped, and everything else after that is just a skill upgrade.
There are many types of wraps of different brands and many different blands on the market today, but there are basically three kinds of wraps: strechy, woven and hybrid wraps.
Strechy wraps are more convenient for newborns and smaller babies up to 9 months (although many strechy wraps are now tested for weights even up to 15 kg, but you might find that wearing a larger active baby usually requires more support like the one in woven wraps, and thus greater safety). Strechy wraps are intended for wearing in a front position and are very convenient for beginner parents, because of the easier tying and lightness of the wrap itself.
Woven wraps are recommended for everyone, from newborn to toddler and preschool age, they are especially amazing because you can wear them in all versatile positions that wearing wraps provide (front, back, hip, with all kinds of knots). We also distinguish woven wraps (except by composition) in weight,where stronger weaving usually has a higher weight and support. Woven wraps come in different lengths and have labeled sizes, Sizes depend on the parents confection size, but might also depend on the wrapping style, because some wrapping styles require shorter wrap than others. However, most beginner parents will choose size six to start with.
Hybrid wraps are actually a combination of the first two – they provide additional support over strechy ones, but still aren’t as supportive as woven ones. However they are much softer and lighter than woven wraps.
The undeniable advantages of wearing wraps is most certainly the versatility of a whole range of positions and styles (especially in woven wraps), it’s suitability and simple use while breastfeeding, large “age range”, easy durability, comfort, adaptability, aesthetics (many beautiful styles of tying knots and many lovely patterns). Wrap’s disadvantage is that it might require some extra practice and skills, and has much material to work with it, so it might not be everyone’s first choice.
● Ring sling – consists of a fabric, i.e. a shorter wrap (also made of different materials and weights) with two metal rings at the end of one side of the fabric. The rings allow us an easy adjustment as well as tightening or loosening of the fabric. The fabric is shorter in a ring sling than in a wrap, it requires less wrapping because it has only one layer, so ring slings (once you get into the stunt of safe and good adjustment) are a really great choice if wraps seem too complicated for daily use. Its disadvantage is that it is worn over one shoulder, which might not suit some parents. In addition, ring sling is great for use by parents of all sizes and physiognomies, even when there is a large difference in height between both parents. Ring slings can be used from newborn to toddler age. They are compact and easily fit in every bag. There are two shoulder types in ring sling – gathered and pleated. Most ring slings are gathered and this type of shoulder is less structured and worn pulled down over a shoulder. In pleated style shoulder, the material is stitched and folded together which ensures a more even distribution of weight, and this also takes less space on a shoulder and provides more hand mobility, but some parents might find it less comfortable than a gathered shoulder.
● Soft structured carrier (SSC) or so-called buckle carrier, kangaroo carrier -due to its ease of adjustment and it’s huge market ,SSC has become the most popular sort of baby carrier. We can see many various SSC producers constantly improving new designs and features. Parents should keep in mind that the SSC market is nowadays flooded with many SSCs, from which some might not support baby’s ergonomic position. So, if you are unsure about buying a particular SSC, always consult one of the babywearing counselors before you decide to set aside money for a new SSC. Or at least seek advice from babywearing groups on social media. The SSC market today also offers many carriers which are adapted to wearing newborns, some even offer carrying in a front-to-front position, many SSCs come in mash or so called coast variants (with mesh material on the back), and as such are adapted to warmer weather; not to mention a whole range of gorgeous patterns and gadgets that accompany some of the SSC’s most popular brands. SSC can also be found in various materials, mostly cotton, but as with wraps, there are many combinations with various materials like linen, silk, bamboo, etc. As for age, there are many SSC’s that are declared from 0+ months (without or with newborn insert), all the way to toddler size. Its main disadvantage is that it might not fit both parents,especially if one is much smaller or taller then the other one. Also, some parents will mind the buckles and might not favour the more engineered structure of a SSC.
● Mei Thai – a combination of a wrap and SSC which can also bemade of various materials that differ in composition, softness, elasticity andstretchability. Mei thai has a standard panel, but does not have any buckles.The shoulder and waist straps tie in knots. Mei thai might not be the mostideal choice for newborns (although there are many new mei thai models outthere labeled 0+) but it is a really great choice for bigger babies, toddlersand preschoolers, and different sized parents as well. It is ideal forminimalistic parents or parents that love wraps but are having hard time with wrappingskills. With mei thai, parents can enjoy many different variants of tying knotsbut in a more simple way. It’s disadvantage might be long shoulder and beltstraps.
● Halfbuckle – a combination of SSC and mei thai; the beltaround parents waist is buckled as on the SSC, but its shoulder straps end in awide fabric that crosses behind and is tied the same way as on a mei thai. Thereare half buckles with thicker and padded or thinner shoulder straps, but they tie equally in a knot. It is ideal for minimalists who like mei tais but stillwant a little less material and less knots.
● Pouch sling – is a tube of fabric, usually secured over parents shoulder and worn across in front in various positions. Pouches are not suitable for newborns and smaller babies, but it comes very handy for wearing bigger babies and toddlers. It is small and easy to maintain, but it’s biggest disadvantage is that it comes in sizes and can not be shared by two different sized parents.
● Onbuhimo or so-called onbu – although onbuhimo is actually a traditional Japanese style carrier that originally looked somewhat different from those we can come across on the market today, we give onbuhimo a special place due to the great increase of its popularity in the last decade. Onbuhimo is intended for carrying children on the back and is not intended for babies that are not yet sitting unassisted. It can also be found in the “reverse onbuhimo” version (it has straps like mei thai). Onbuhimo is especially interesting for wearing toddlers, because toddlers enjoy curiously discovering the world around them over their parents shoulders.
● Backpack carrier (Framed carriers) – not recommended for children who can not sit on their own and have no control over their cervical spine. It has a stiffer and heavier shape with an additional frame (usually aluminum), and the materials are mainly intended for outdoor use and long walks in nature. It usually has many extra compartments and pockets in /on the carrier itself. It is ideal for parents who like soft hiking or often go on excursions. It’s disadvantages are – heavy frame, larger size and the fact that a child in a backpack has no skin to skin touch with the parent,because the child is sitting in a seat.
Nowadays we have a whole range of different SSC’s, ring slings, half buckles,wraps, etc., as well as a whole range of beautiful and interesting knots, blands, great features … But although we have a handful of tutorial videos on social media for parents to learn how to position a baby or how to tie a wrap or adjust it to any type of baby carrier, it is always best (especially for beginner parents) to consult with a professional babywearing consultant. Having listed the most popular and common baby carriers, we can also list some of the traditional baby carriers around the world, many of which have been used in carrying children from time immemorial to the present day: cradleboards, podegai, manta, straw baskets, reboz, amauti, khanga, carrying on straps, hammock… etc. It is interesting to observe all of these carriers throughout history in a variety of cultures from the North Pole to the glowing parts of Africa, the Asian savannas, Peruvian peaks, and urban European cities; everywhere there is a common link – love and a unique parent-child bondage, safety, care, attention and comfort provided only by the parent. Decades ago, in European countries carrying children was specific to the poorer social strata, families who did not have nannies or strollers. Today, knowing all the colorful benefits of babywearing (and many that have yet to be explored), we can freely say that in the modern world, babywearing has rightly begun to take its place in the mainstream, and is no longer part of traditional, but also part of modern culture. The choice of baby carriers is bigger today than ever. Therefore, always choose a baby carrier according to your needs, lifestyle, frequency of carrying and above all, according to the comfort of your baby and yourself. Not all types of carriers are ideal for all parents, and even not all brands within a certain type of carrier will suit you equally, so it is always advisable to try the baby carrier before actually buying one.
Writren by Babywearing Consultant Edita Umihanic and pictures used from Lena’s traveling carriers testing tours