Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baby Carriers 101

So, you've probably heard of babywearing, right? It's a pretty simple concept, it just refers to using a carrier to strap your baby onto you, instead of freely carrying him or using a stroller. The most mainstream image that comes to mind for most people is the Baby Bjorn (snubbed by most avid babywearers, but that's neither here nor there). What you may not know about are all the options you have, and the pros and cons of each. So, let's talk about the most popular carrier types:

Soft Structured Carriers

What is it?
These carriers have shape and form even when not being worn and use straps and buckles to attach to your body.

Who makes them?
The most recognized manufacturer of this style is the Baby Bjorn. However, it's widely accepted in the babywearing world that the bjorn is not the best choice, some even theorize that it's bad for baby's hips because the baby isn't in the sitting position and is "crotch dangling" instead. So, what are the best choices? The Ergo, Pikkolo, and Beco are all great SSCs.

How much?
They are a little pricey, ranging from $130 - $150. However, you can get better deals on them at resale shops, and by stalking the web for sales.

Pros: Very user friendly, husband friendly, low risk of back pain, toddler friendly, easily adjustable on the go

Cons:  Expensive, not newborn friendly, not breastfeeding friendly, doesn't work well in hot climates

Mei Tai

What is it? 
A soft structured carrier with straps that wrap around you & baby, and then tie to each other instead of buckling.

Who makes them?
You can find tons of manufacturers of Mei Tais online, you can even find patterns to make one yourself. But, the most popular ones are CatBirdBaby (makers of the Pikkolo) and BabyHawk, If you are looking for a great deal, I have the bargain basement Infantino Wrap & Tie and it's just about as good as the big names.

How Much? 
The big names range from $80 - $110, you can pick up the Infantino for $35.

Pros: Low back pain risk, moderately priced, handles up to 40/45 lbs

Cons: Slight learning curve, not breastfeeding friendly, doesn't work well in hot climates

Ring Sling

What is it?

Ring slings are made of one long strip of fabric with two rings attached at one end, you weave the other end of the fabric through the rings, throw it over your shoulder, and insert baby.

Who makes them?
You can find a ton of etsy shops and DIYers that sell ring slings online. Some of the popular big manufacturers are Maya Wrap, Sakura Bloom, and Ellaroo. You can also buy swim ring slings (how ridiculously cool is that?).But, there is something to be said for buying a ring sling locally, I bought mine at a local shop and was able to go back in with my baby and have the owner help me figure out how to use it just right.

How much?
Prices can range big time on ring slings, from $40 for a simple cotton one on etsy, to $500 for a designer silk Sakura you could wear to a ball (because we all have balls to go to, right?).

Pros: Easily adjustable on the go, breastfeeding friendly, newborn friendly, fashionista friendly, works well in hot climates, affordable, toddler friendly.

Cons: Moderate learning curve, not husband friendly, back pain risk if used incorrectly.

Wrap (Stretchy)

What is it?
One long wide piece of knit fabric that is wrapped over both shoulders, around your body and baby's and can be tied in a multitude of ways.

Who makes them?
Moby is hands down the number one manufacturer of stretchy wraps. But, when you get right down to it, all it is is a really long wide piece of jersey knit fabric. If you can sew a hem you can make one of these for less than $15.

How Much?
A Moby will run you about $40. As I mentioned above, if you want to DIY you can make your own for super cheap.

Pros: Affordable, low back pain risk, newborn friendly, breastfeeding friendly, carries are extremely versatile.

Cons: Significant learning curve (youtube is your friend), difficult to adjust on the go, not toddler friendly, not husband friendly, not good in hot climate.

Wrap (Woven)

What is it?
One long wide piece of supportive fabric with very little stretch that is wrapped over both shoulders, around your body and baby's, and can be tied in a multitude of ways.. The woven wrap is designed to take over when the stretchy wraps stop providing the support you and your baby need.

Who makes it? 
Wovens are to babywearing enthusiasts as wool is to the cloth diapering world. So, instead of pretending like I'm an expert on the different manufacturers, I'm just going to go ahead and refer you to Piece of Cloth. They have a great list of top woven vendors.

How Much?
Typically $80 - $200, although you might be able to find a better deal on etsy.

Pros: Low back pain risk, toddler friendly, breastfeeding friendly, carries are extremely versatile, fashionista friendly, some are suitable for hot climate.

Cons: Significant learning curve (youtube is your friend), difficult to adjust on the go, expensive, not very husband friendly.

Well, there we have it. The list above is meant to be concise, I know I didn't cover every baby carrier out there, but I want to give moms (and maybe some dads) a good starting point that isn't intimidating. If you're left wanting more, check out these sites for more info:

The Baby Wearer
Dr. Sears on Babywearing


Anonymous said...

I love this post! Lots of great babywearing info! I have to add, however, that some mamas find breastfeeding to be exceptionally easy in an SSC or a Mei Tai....it totally depends on where your girls hang out, really. ;)
Also....any carrier can be "husband friendly", if he gives it a try! My husband was hesitant to carry our first son in even a basic pouch sling....but by the second baby, he was reaching for the wrap! By the third baby, I plan to have him doing it all by himself! ;)

Laine said...

Thanks for the comment Emilie! I'm sure it's possible to breastfeed in a SSC or Mei Tai (unless you do forward facing!), and I know there are husbands out there that will rock a woven (I even have a picture of one above).

But, when I say "friendly" I mean that particular need (babywearing husband or breastfeeding in the carrier) will not be challenging for the majority of users.

For the husband friendly carriers, it should take one demonstration and you're good to go. My husband just agreed to give the ring sling a try, but it took four months of prodding and a mega baby melt down to convince him it was worth a shot, where as he didn't blink twice about the SSC. Hope that clears up wheat I meant!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I totally understand what you're saying in regards to husband friendliness...but in that case, the majority of carriers are just as difficult for mothers to get the hang of, as well. When I teach babywearing classes, the most commonly reached for carriers by new mamas (and dads, when they come!) are the pouches and the ring slings...because of the intimidation factors, I suppose. The more there seems to be to a carrier, the more intimidating it seems to a new user...mom or dad.

Babyviva said...

More than just a way to transport baby from here to there, Baby Carriers can have surprising benefits for your infant at Babyviva.

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