Introduction to Baby Carriers
Being a beginner in the world of babywearing and baby carriers can seem daunting at first especially with all the different types available! There are all sorts of terms and sometimes carriers can look very complicated, but the truth is most are easy to use with other’s having a slight learning curve. Any carrier that you may buy is going to give you and your baby all the benefits of babywearing and will often be a staple in your parenting tool box! I know that I couldn’t have survived without babywearing and even at 3 years, my daughter still loves being worn and will STILL fall asleep! As a starting point, I have complied this article about the most common carrier types on the market to help beginners increase their knowledge about their options and the differences and advantages of each.
A woven wrap is a piece of woven fabric that you wrap around yourself and your child. It is specifically woven to have diagonal stretch where there is no give or stretch horizontally or vertically. This provides great support for babies and also gives them the necessary stretch to allow for optimal positioning.
Woven wraps are an amazing babywearing option as the one wrap can be used from birth to toddler and beyond. As you wrap it to you and your baby, it will fit you both perfectly as the fabric moulds to both your bodies and is completely adjustable. This allows for any baby-wearer combination to be able to use it and get a great fit. With the right positioning and tightening of the woven wrap, your baby will also be in the optimal positioning and as the wrap is adjustable it will ‘grow’ with your baby. The other advantage is that as you wrap for each use, there are no re-adjustments between different wearers.
Woven wraps are versatile as they allow for multiple carriers (front, hip, back) and countless variations (eg how it is wrapped and tied off). They also allow for comfortable weight distribution which make babywearing a breeze. They also come in a large range of sizes, blends, colours and weaves so there will also be a great deal of choice for every person and family.
Yes there is a learning curve and they can seem intimidating, however learning the basics isn’t as complicated as you would expect. A little bit of practice, patience and persistence can make this your favourite carrier choice.
Ring Sling is a piece of material that has two rings sewn into the end. Ring slings can be made out of cotton material however to get the most comfort and adjustability, I would recommend a ring sling made from a woven wrap. For this article, all the information provided will be about woven wrap ring slings. A ring sling is usually between 1.75m -2m and is measured from the shortest end to the ring slings.
You wear a ring sling over one shoulder with the material going across your back around to your front and is threaded through the rings on your chest. Your baby is positioned either on your front or hip depending on their age and interest in the world. As it is made from woven wrap material, it moulds to both you and your baby and with correct adjustments and tightening your baby can be in an optimal position.
Most people find that ring slings are great as once you have mastered them, they become a quick option for babywearing. Especially useful when your toddler wants to get up and down every couple of minutes! As with the woven wrap there is a learning curve and for some, it can be uncomfortable for longer periods of time as the majority of the weight is on one shoulder.
MEH DAI & HALF BUCKLES
A Meh Dai is a square/rectangle piece of fabric with the four corners extended with straps that you tie off. These are the shoulder and waist straps.
A Half Buckle is similar to a Meh Dai except the waist strap has a buckle clip (often with a structured waist).
Some Meh Dai’s and Half Buckles can be used from birth as it depends on whether they can provide the back and head and neck support required for a newborn. The majority of woven wrap Meh Dai’s and Half Buckles done up securely are suitable however Meh Dai’s that have a structured back panel often means that a newborn’s back isn’t supported in a rounded or optimal position.
Both are easily adjustable for the wearer and as you tie off each time you use, they are easily interchanged between people. A quality Meh Dai and half buckle allows for the back panel and seat to be adjusted for the baby therefore allowing for optimal positioning and comfort. As the shoulder straps get tied off under the baby’s legs it also means that there is no pressure on their developing spine and they tend to be a cooler option.
All Meh Dai and Half Buckle brands have different styles and options therefore different comfort and fits for the wearer and baby so it is useful to try before you buy. Both of these are a great option and if you get one made from woven wrap material, you get a lot of benefits without having to learn a more complicated skill of wrapping.
SOFT STRUCTURED CARRIER (FULL BUCKLE)
There are two different types of Soft Structured Carriers or Full Buckle Carriers, one type is fully adjustable for the baby and wearer and one that is semi adjustable – usually with an added insert for the baby which is required until they can fit the carrier.
A Fully Adjustable soft structured carrier (eg Emeibaby, Kokadi Flip, Fidella Fusion) can be used from birth to 2-3 months onwards depending on their weight restrictions. None of these require an infant insert as they can be adjusted to fit your baby from the start and once fitted allow for your baby to be in the optimal position. These carriers also have a lot of adjustability for the wearer so a good fit and better comfort is possible.
A Semi Adjustable soft structured carrier is one that requires an infant insert is often better suited for when your baby is old enough to fit without the insert. Inserts are often bulky, hot and difficult to use and optimal positioning of your baby can be difficult to achieve. They tend to be a ‘one size fit all carrier’ which means they also tend to have less adjustability for the wearer as well so they can be less comfortable than the soft structured carriers mentioned above.
A soft structured carrier is one of the more common carriers as it is an easy option for babywearing as once fitted all you have to do is fasten and tighten the waist belt, safely put your baby in the carrier and fasten and tighten your shoulder straps. It is quick and easy however with different brands they all have a different design which means that the fit will be different for each wearer/baby combination. It is important to try to find your perfect match.
Stretchy wraps are similar to a woven wrap in that they are one long piece of fabric that you wrap around yourself and your baby. The difference is that a stretchy wrap will stretch in all directions which means that it isn’t as strong as a woven and will stretch as you wear. When using a stretchy wrap, it is important to significantly tighten the wrap and you will need three passes (times that a wrap wraps around your baby) to ensure that they have enough support to be worn safely.
A stretchy wrap is great in the newborn days as it is very snuggly however it can also be very hot with the three passes required and as it can sag (as the material doesn’t have as much strength) as your baby grows, it tends to get uncomfortable for the wearer and baby around the 6-8kg mark. In terms of long term babywearing, a stretchy may not be your answer but it is also a common gateway into babywearing and great for little babies.
Onbuhimo is a baby carrier that is similar to a soft structured carrier except it has no waist belt. Onbuhimo’s originated in Japan and have a back panel and the shoulder straps can come in buckles, fabric loops or rings. The back panel is used to make a seat for your baby as it hammocks to put them in an optimal position.
This carrier is worn as a high back carry and is great for older babies and toddlers as a quick babywearing option. Due to its design, it is not suitable for newborns or baby’s that can’t sit independently as there is additional pressure on their upper back and usually it is a one size fits all option. It is also a comfortable option for pregnant women or anyone who dislikes having anything around their waist. It does take some adjusting to ensure it is comfortable as all of your baby’s weight is on your shoulders.
Truthfully there is no right or wrong baby carrier, it all depends on you, your family and your baby and what exactly you are wanting in a carrier. To find YOUR carrier for your babywearing journey, you can arrange a Babywearing Consultation to try all the different types to find your perfect match or you can also try on carriers at your local babywearing meet.
Approved Babywearing Consultant