There are countless way to carry your baby. I could dedicate an entire blog just to the subject of babywearing over the ages and in different cultures. But who has time for all that? Since I get asked about babywearing and carriers a lot, I thought I would make a simple post on the most common types of carriers and provide some resources on them. Not every type of carrier is right for everyone. I LOVE wraps, but maybe you will hate how long they can to learn. So a ring sling may be your jam. Or maybe you want to skip all that fabric because it makes you hot, and go straight for a SSC. So check out the common options and think about what would work for you….
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft Structure Carriers: Think baby backpack. Most are pretty easy to use—just a few snaps and buckles. Most are pretty easy to put on alone and most an be shared between wearers easily. Most can do front, hip, and back carries. Also, most are very economic and can be worn for a long time. Note I said most….not all SSC are created equal. If you buy a $35 off eBay or at Walmart, it probably won’t be that comfortable for you or the baby. Also watch on for cheap, poorly made ones from China, they can actually break and hurt your baby. But a good SSC is amazing and pay for itself overtime. And just because you hated one brand, don’t give up!
Everyone is different and there are so many brands nowadays that odds are you can find the perfect on for your needs. Common brands are Ergo, Tula, and Beco. I personally love Action Baby, but we own a Tula since that’s my husband’s favorite.
Woven Wraps: A long piece of woven fabric that you use to secure your baby onto you. Can easily be shared between wearers, great for nursing, and can be tied in many different ways to suit your needs. Can be used for front, hip, and back carries. When tied properly, very ergonomic and comfy. However, there is a huge learning curve. It’s takes time and patience to learn how to wrap. But once you get it, it’s magic! Once you get a carry down, it is very easy to do alone (even back carries!). Then there is the whole addiction issue….you might become a total wrap junkie and own more than you can count. There are so many brands, sizes, patterns, materials, weaves, and so on. You find one you love and suddenly want to try another. Then another. And another. Soon you’ve spent a small fortune!
It doesn’t have to be this way though, I do know responsible people who only own one or two wraps. But it’s a fun world to get into if you can afford it. Common brands are Diddymos, Girasol, and Lenny Lamb (honestly this list could go on and on). I am a wrap girl, my two personal favorites wraps are my Girasol Tahoe and my Kokadi Kurma (both size 4).
Bei Dai/Meh Dai
Bei Dai/Meh Dai: An Asian-style carrier, sort of a mix between a SSC and wrap. Your baby sits in a like SSC, but you tie/wrap the straps like a wrap. Easy to use and much easier to learn than wrapping. Can be used for front, hip, and back carries. You can do some of fancier finishes like a wrap, but have the simplicity of SSC while putting your baby in. However, since the straps do not adjust like a SSC, it can be harder to share between wearers. And they can be harder to fit as your baby grows and might be too big for a newborn. And they come in as much variety as a wraps.
You can even convert a wrap into one. Common brands are Infantino Sash, and BabyHawk. I love Meh Dais for hiking, especially my Fidella Fly Meh Dai. The body panel adjusts so it can fit from newborn to toddler. And it’s sooooo cushy and soft.
Stretchy Wraps: A wrap made from stretchy jersey-knit fabric that you use to tie your baby onto you. Similar to a woven wrap, but with one big difference—they are NOT suitable for back carries. They should only be used for front and hip carries. Can be easily shared between wearers and very easy to put on alone. A much smaller learning curve than a woven wrap because you can pre-tie the wrap on then insert the baby. Perfect for newborns, so snuggly! And most can support a baby into toddlerhood, but it will probably be uncomfortable. The stretch makes it harder for heavier babies to stay high and the straps might dig into you. But they are a great way to start babywearing and see if you like wrapping. And they tend to be cheaper than woven wraps. Common brands are Boba and Moby. My first baby carrier was a Boba and I loved it. So snuggly and saved my sanity with a newborn.
*There is an exceptions to the back carry rule. A few brands make hybrid stretchy wraps ones that can be used for back carries, such as the Wrapsody Hybrid wrap .
With a Hybrid, you can pretty much do everything you can with a stretchy wrap (like the snuggly Pocket Wrap Cross Carry) and most of the stuff you can do with a woven (like the supportive Double Hammock).
Ring Slings: A piece of woven fabric with two rings attached to one end that you use to make a sling for your baby. Can be used for front, hip, and back carries. They are fairly easy to share between wearers, but since they are sized, they may not share well between two people with a big difference in size. For example, a petite wife will probably buy a small and her body-builder husband probably would want a large. They come in many colors, patterns, weaves and fabrics like woven wraps so the possibilities are endless. When picking one, watch for the quality and strength of the rings. Cheap rings run the risk of breaking and dropping your baby to the ground. Ring slings are easy to nurse in and are wonderful for newborns. Also very easy to put on alone and perfect for quick ups. There is a much smaller learning curve than woven wraps—pretty much learn how to thread the sling, place your baby correctly, and tighten. But it can get uncomfortable with a larger baby or toddler for long periods in a front or hip carry, since the weight is distributed over one side of your body. And back carries are a a bit tricky to learn, similar to woven wraps.
Common brands are Maya, Sakura Bloom, and most wrap brands make them as well. To be honest, I am not that big a ring sling fan. My favorite was my Natibaby Nebula, it was so beautiful. But like I said, not all carriers are for everyone. Ring slings and I just don’t get along well, so I sold it.
Here are some wonderful links and resources for some experts:
This is a wonderful chart Wrapsody made comparing different types of carriers. Yes, it’s a biased towards their product (and it honestly is a darn good wrap). And it goes into more detail on carrier types than I do. But it shows you all the potential options in a carrier.
Wrap You In Love is a totally awesome babywearing Consultant in Germany. Her website is a wealth of knowledge. She explains different types of carriers here in great detail. And here she lists pretty much every brand of carrier I’ve ever heard.
Babywearing 102 is another wealth of knowledge. It started as a Tumblr and now is mainly a Facebook page. Both are a great resource. This babywearing glossary was SO helpful when I started started out.
And lastly, the ever wonderful Babywearing International. I recommend you find your local chapter and attend a meeting. You can borrow carriers until you find the right one for you and get advice on how to use them properly. The website is very helpful if you cannot attend a meeting.
And regardless of the type of carrier you use, please remember to follow proper babywearing procedures at all times! This nifty poster can help you remember.
And just for fun, here is montage of all these carriers!