A Beginner’s Guide to Baby Carriers

This roundup of the five major types of baby carriers  was written by Baby Cheapskate Facebook page admin Nava. If you’re not a fan of our FB page, you’re missing out on her great tips. If you’re reading this on the main BC page or in your feed, be sure to click “Read More” to see the whole article.

Wrap

I learned to wrap the two year old I babysat for a few years ago. While I learned on a stretchy wrap (the most common type, but not as supportive as kid gets bigger), the non-stretchy wovens (much more expensive, slightly harder to find) give you more mileage in the long run.

I’ve heard many people say they’re scared to use a wrap because of the learning curve. In essence, its pretty simple. I had my friend show it to me 2-3 times and it was easy from there. I then stopped using it for a good few months and picked up right where I left off when I had a different job babysitting a newborn. Wrapping is pretty intuitive and when using a woven wrap the possibilities are endless! The color-range is limitless and the fabrics range from wool, to silk, to sweat-wicking athletic material. Breastfeeding is easy in a wrap.

  • Popular brands (stretchy): Moby (shown), Sleepy, Baby K’Tan (semi wrap)
  • Popular brands (woven): Girasol, Neobulle, Didymos, Storchenweige, Wrapsody (GypsyMama)
  • Popular brands (water): Wrapsody (GypsyMama), Baby K’tan Breathable Breeze, Mother’s Helper Solarveil wrap

Mei Tei

A mei tai (Asian-type) carrier is almost like a wrap, but you have a few less steps in tying it on. The body of the carrier is pre-formed, and you get to adjust the wrapable straps around you for a very personalized and supportive fit (ties around your waist and crosses over your shoulders).

A spin-off is called a buckle-tai (and half-buckle). Instead of wrapping the fabric waist around you, it’s a clickable buckle and pre-formed, usually with a padded waist belt (think hiking backpack) and shoulder straps. With a half-buckle, its exactly like it sounds, only one part is buckleable, the other you wrap/tie. BF is easy in a mei tai too.

Then there’s also the wrap conversions– which seem to be the best of both worlds (and most expensive of them all). You can send your woven wrap in to specialized seamstresses (usually WAHMs that know what they’re doing), who will convert it for you into a mei tai! Strong, supportive and beautiful!

  • Popular brands: BabyHawk (shown), Kozy, CatBirdBaby, Ellaroo, Freehand
  • Popular brands (Mei tai wrap conversions): Bamberoo, Kimimela
  • Popular brands (water): Octi Mei Tai (OMT) Solarveil


Pouches

Pouches are just that. A continuous piece of fabric/pouch you sling over your head and one shoulder and lay diagonally across your chest (going from shoulder to opposite hip). You carefully ease baby into it until they’re positioned parallel to your body. Obviously- as with all the carriers- you would read how to carry safely and watch videos on the proper techniques of putting on and carrying your baby around.

Pouches are super easy because there’s nothing to buckle, tie or wrap and they stash easily and compactly (depending on how padded the material is) into a pocket or diaper bag. As baby gets older and has proper head control, you can place them ‘Buddha-style’ in the pouch, facing out to see the world. When they get too big for that, you can do a hip-carry and use the sling as the main support instead of your arm (your arm is there as safety, but the pouch takes a lot of weight off your arm).

Look for a pouch that has a padded rail (rail meaning edge of fabric of carrier), so your LO won’t be uncomfortable and have a sharp edge cutting into the back of their knees. Out of necessity, I’ve BF’d in a pouch in public and no one was the wiser. I had a lightweight burp cloth on my shoulder and draped over the carrier and no one blinked.

  • Popular Brands: New Native, Hugamonkey, Kangaroo Korner, Hotslings, Peanut Shell (shown)
  • Popular Brands: (water): Kangaroo Korner mesh

Ring Slings

Ring slings are like pouches, but instead of one continuous piece of fabric, it’s one long piece of cloth that fastens at the shoulder with two loop-through rings that hold the fabric to you securely. I was never a fan and my kid too big to wear comfortably (I also didn’t like the style), but again, its all about personal preference.

  • Popular brands: Sakura Bloom (made of breathtakingly-gorgeous silk and silk-linen), Bara Barn, Zolo, Maya, Ellaroo, Comfy Joey, Oopa
  • Popular brands: (water): Kangaroo Korner, Mamma’s Milk Solarveil

Soft-structured Carriers

Soft-structured carriers (or SSC) are what a Baby Bjorn is. Everything is there for you to just strap into and place baby inside. No tying needed. Buckle the carrier onto you, then place baby in the pre-formed seat and buckle the safety straps. SSC’s look more streamlined (if you want to carry your baby, but aren’t into the ‘crunchy granola’ look) and some would argue- easier to put on. They aren’t as soft as the other carriers because they usually have more padding and stitching all over to lend a bit of rigidity to the design.

  • Popular brands: Beco, Babyhawk (Oh Snap), Pikkolo (aka CatBirdBaby), Ergo, AngelPack LX, Boba (shown), Olives & Applesauce, Freehand

Why I Wear the Baby

While I’m in no way an expert, I totally enjoy carrying the baby. He loves seeing everything from a higher vantage point and is overall happier when carried (obviously, right?). I also get the luxury of hands-free carrying, can vacuum, wash dishes, shop etc. without aching arms.

I find that the baby is calmer, has less outbursts when overtired and usually nods off when DH or I carry him.

I also find carriers incredibly helpful with a sick, feverish child. All they want to do is sit in your arms the whole day for comfort and while you’d love to, you have other things to do that require your attention, too. So carrying them in a carrier lets them have the physical contact they crave when they’re not feeling well, but you have your hands free to do what you need. Carrying them on your back works great, too. More often than not a cranky, sick kid will fall asleep on you because they’re lulled by whatever you’re doing as you go about your day.

And lastly, if you want to hike a trail in the woods somewhere, there’s almost no way a stroller is going there, so you have the choice of carrying your kid in your arms for the duration or popping them in a carrier.

All-in-all, though I don’t ‘wear’ my baby daily, it takes a huge load off arms/back/neck to be able to have the carrier as an option while parenting. Anything to make it easier, eh?

Learn More

For anything and everything babywearing-related, get thee to TheBabyWearer forum. You can find more information on choosing the carrier that’s right for you, instructions on making your own carriers, a group for selling/trading carriers (and other items), info on carriers for special needs/situations etc.

Browse the forum and find a group that meets up in your area. They tend to have meetups that allow you to try many different carriers at once (and the selection is endless!) and help you with any issues you’re having or want to address etc.

The site also has a section divided according to what part of the world you live in and is then further broken down by state and then areas. You can pose a question to that particular area and get area-related feedback such as what carrier is best when living in hot, southern climates, or which carrier cover will protect my child best in winter, etc.

Where to try/buy without breaking the bank:

For starters, Meetup.com has babywearing groups which usually meet in a safe, public location (think the local park or Starbucks meeting room) and are moms who have a ‘stash’ (i.e. nice collection) of different types of carriers. They’ll allow you to try each of them on with your baby and help you determine which is right for your needs and you’re most comfortable with. There’s no selling going on (unless specified). They’re low-key places to meet and learn more about the topic.

Once you’ve settled on which type and brand is best for you, start scouring Craigslist, ebay and local consignment shops for said carrier. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find huge markdowns on carriers no one at the store thought anyone was interested in, so they relegated it to the back of the display (brand-new Moby for $12 anyone??).

The Baby Wearer has a section called FSOT (aka For Sale Or Trade) where hundreds of mothers post what carriers they have for sale or are looking for and you can score great deals on carriers there. Most are in excellent condition too (unless specified– they’re very meticulous and will post pictures of anything that may not be perfect) as they take very good care of their stash. There’s a buyer-rating-system up on there for feedback, so you’re not dealing as blindly as you would with someone off of Craigslist with no feedback. Note: You may need a certain number of posts before you’re approved to see the FSOT section.

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Comments

  1. Amber says:

    The lillebaby EveryWear is another great soft structured carrier. I LOVE mine!

    • Yvonne says:

      I recently purchased the lillebaby EW carrier as well and I’m pretty happy with it except I don’t love the straps. I also have an Ergo and the straps fit better and are more comfortable. Do you have any issues with the straps on yours? How old is your baby and do you wear him/her facing in or out? Just curious if I’m using mine incorrectly.

    • JenniferG says:

      My lilebaby is the best baby item purchase I made. I don’t know how I could make my monthly flights home to visit family without it. I tried the Ergo but my baby loves to face outward. Lilebaby is safe and most of comfortable.

  2. Nava says:

    The Lillebaby is one I haven’t tried yet, but read a lot of feedback on. They seem to be not as supportive as other SSCs, but they do make one with a mesh that’s more breathable.

  3. Junglewife says:

    I have several pouch slings, as well as an Ergo, and love them. I tried the stretchy wrap but just couldn’t get the hang of it. Also, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to breastfeed while using it. Maybe it’s because I usually lift up the bottom of my shirt to breastfeed, rather than using special nursing tops, or wearing a button-down shirt and unbuttoning it from the top? Anyway, I can’t figure out how in the world I could breastfeed while wearing the wrap, I had to take it off every time, and for me that was more trouble than it was worth. Anyone have any ideas/suggestions for me?!

    • Janelle says:

      Thanks for the great guide! I wear my baby daily. I have SSCs, ring slings, wraps and wrap conversions.
      My advice for nursing in the Moby is to either use a nursing shirt, button down shirt or loose-neck shirt to feed from the top of your shirt. Or if you’re just at home, you could just wear a bra under the Moby. Baby will love and thrive from this skin to skin time!

  4. Kristie says:

    Another GREAT way to try different carriers to to rent a few from a place like PAXbaby.com or HeavenlyHold.com!!

  5. We started with a basic carrier, which worked well up until our little boy was about 15 lbs. Then it bacame a pain… literally. So we got an Ergo for Andrew’s 1st birthday and it has been awesome. We love it!!!! I can get housework done and I know where he is and what he’s doing and he’s happy as a clam! It even fits both me(5′-2″) and my husband (6′-1″). AWESOME!

  6. Jenni says:

    I have another great SSC suggestion to offer…I own a Belle Baby Carrier and I LOVE it. It is comfortable, doesn’t hurt my back, folds up very compactly, and looks stylish on. The one downside is that you can’t carry baby very comfortably in it beyond 25 pounds (about 1 year old) but by that time I was able to carry my son on my hip supported with my Hotsling (which I also loved).

  7. Nava says:

    @Jenni- As simple and pretty as the Belle is, there are two issues with why it wasn’t included here. 1- It chafes the chin/neck/face of a lot of babies. The front doesn’t fold down and while it is curved, there’s a seam there rubs against them because its always taut and attached to the front straps (because it bears the weight of the baby as you carry them). 2- It’s considered a ‘crotch dangler’ because its dangles babies by their..you got it, crotch area (major ouch for boys and uncomfortable for girls). It puts unwanted pressure on their developing hips/spine/trunk. A better bet would be if they made a carrier with more fabric support underneath like the ones I mentioned above; which support the whole thigh area too and puts their legs into proper position (it looks uncomfortable for us but is natural to them). I see they recently came out with a head support (they didn’t used to have one), so I’m hoping they fix all the details that bother babywearers and make this into an awesome, lightweight and simple carrier for all to enjoy!

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