Types of carrier

People often ask “What is the best carrier?”  There is no right answer.  We are all different shapes, as are our little ones.  What will be perfect for you will not suit the next person.  Each type of carrier has its own advantages and disadvantages but finding the right one (or ones) for you and your family will be a huge benefit to you and your baby!

Types of baby carrier:

Wrap

Asian Baby Carriers (ABCs)

Pouches and Ring Slings

Soft Structured Carriers

 

WRAP 

This is probably the most basic and cheap carrier you can get – but conversely you can spend a lot of money buying a wrap.  The joy of wraps is that they allow you to wear your baby so close that their weight is very well spread across your torso and little strain is put on your back or shoulders – if it hurts it is probably not correctly tied!   There are two main types of wrap – stretchy and woven.

Stretchy Wraps

Stretchy wraps are a long piece of stretchy material that you wrap around yourself and the baby.   They are often made of jersey type cotton or bamboo, sometimes with elastane or lycra.  They are very snug.

You tie the wrap before hand, then pop baby in.  There are several different methods of tying, but most people use a simple “wrap and cross carry” or “hug hold”.

Because the wrap is one long piece of fabric it will fit different sized parents without adjustment (you just tie it to the appropriate tightness).

Common Brands: Moby, Hugabub, Kari-me, K’tan, Boba wrap, VSL Stretchy, Hama, and more.

Age/weight – from birth to around 9 months (guidelines often say 30lb but the stretchy nature of the fabric means that many people find them uncomfy/less secure beyond about 18lb).

Breastfeeding – Yes

Back Carrying – No

Learning Curve – Medium-high.

Hybrid wraps

These have more give than a woven wrap, but less than a stretchy.

Common Brands:  JPMBB (Je Porte Mon Bebe), VSL,

Age/weight – birth to smaller toddler (maybe 18 months?)

Breastfeeding – Yes

Back Carrying – Yes

Learning Curve – Medium-high.

Woven Wraps

Woven wraps are available in many different fabric blends and sizes, starting at around 2.7m and going up to 5 or 6 metres.  (4.6 – a size six is probably the most common, it will fit most sizes and can be used for many different ties). The weave is designed to be extremely strong but to have some give so that it is comfortable to wear.  There are very many different methods of tying from front wraps, hip carries and back carries, using sling rings, even tandem carrying.  If you buy a quality wrap it will last for generations.    If you love your woven wrap you may find one is not enough – there are so many beautiful colours and weaves, and silk or linen, wool or hemp mix as well as cotton, and jacquard weaves…

Common Brands: Didymos, Storchenweige, Girasol, Calin Bleu, Ellaroo, Natibaby, Oscha, Firespiral, Hoppediz, Lenny Lamb, Little Frog and many more…

Age/Weight – from birth until you’re done.  (Because woven wraps are not stretchy they are better for older and heavier babies and toddlers than a stretchy wrap.  The individual qualities of the wrap will affect your comfort with an older/heavier child – something thinner and lighter in 100% cotton might be uncomfortable with a heavy toddler where a hemp mix would be fine).

Breastfeeding – Yes

Learning Curve – Medium to high.

Simple Piece of Cloth

Do not overlook this as an option, especially in an emergency.  Many Mums can tell you stories of desperate times with a forgotten and a pashmina from a charity shop for a hip carry or a bath towel torso carry.  Around the world women use what they have to carry their babies with no shame.


Asian Baby Carriers (eg Mei Tai, Podaegi, Onbuhimo)  

The most popular ABC is the Mei Tai.  Essentially a Mei Tai is an apron (a square of fabric) with a ribbon/strap coming from each corner.  They are kind of a happy medium between an SSC and a wrap as they are easily adjusted from person to person (just tie tighter!) and have a lower learning curve than a wrap.  They are also great for back carries and hip carries with low faff factor!
A Podaegi (aka Pod) is a Korean carrier, which has a longer “apron” and no waist straps.  The shoulder straps cross under the bum making a secure seat. They can be particularly good for back carries if you are pregnant or dislike a waistband.
An Onbuhimo (aka On-bu) is a Japanese design which has shoulder straps and an apron, with loops on the bottom (waist) corners of the apron.

Wrap Conversion ABCs are made with woven wrap material and often have “wrap straps” which may not be padded as some ABC straps are, but are often wider and/or flaring – this can make them especially comfortable and supportive.  Many mainstream wrap makers offer their own – such as Didymos’ Didy-tai, Girasol’s Mysol and Hoppediz’ Hopp-Tye.

Common Brands:  Babyhawk/Toddlerhawk, Ellaroo, Kozy, Napsack,  there are also MANY many WAHM makers

Age/Weight: birth to 30lb or beyond (depends on the size and materials and maker, wrap conversions are likely to last longer)

Learning Curve – low-medium

Breastfeeding – Yes

 

Pouches and Ringslings

Pouches are basically a loop of fabric worn over one shoulder.  The newborn is carried cradle style next to Mama’s heart during the early months.  As s/he gets bigger s/he will graduate to sitting in a Buddha position and ultimately to sitting on the hip with the sling for support.

It is important to choose a pouch that fits you correctly as you will be uncomfortable if it is too loose or too tight, and there are also falling risks to the baby if any sling is not correctly fitted.  For this reason pouches may not be a flexible choice if several family members will be using the same carrier (unless you are all the same size of course!)  Some brands (such as the Baba sling) are adjustable using a strap or buckle to fit several people, resolving this issue.

Ring Slings are a long  piece of fabric with two rings sewn onto one end, then threaded through to form an adjustable loop.  They are highly adjustable and when used correctly can be a very comfortable choice, but they have a surprisingly high learning curve – there is a knack to getting them secure and tight and positioning the rings correctly.  So if you struggle with one it is worth persevering.

Because you can buy rings yourself they are also an easy option if you want to make a sling.  You could convert a short wrap into a ring sling either by sewing  (and depending on how crafty you are pleating and padding the shoulder) or even no sew simply by threading the rings correctly you can use as a ring sling while keeping your wrap!  (Be aware that you should buy proper sling rings – not just welded metal rings which could fail).

NB.  Pouches and Ring slings are not “bag” type slings, but do be aware of the dangers associated with bag slings – if you choose to carry your baby in a “cradle” position in a pouch or ring sling it is important to make sure that the “TICKS” are adhered to – close enough to kiss, visible, chin off chest.  

Common Brands of pouch: Baba sling,  Zolowear, Hotslings, Tricotti, peanutshell,

Common Brands of Ring Sling:  Maya Wrap, Sakura Bloom, Comfy Joey, wrap conversion – didymos, girasol, storch, oscha, et al

Age/Weight: birth upwards (again depends on the brand/fabric etc, wrap conversions will be more supportive and are therefore likely to last longer)

Breastfeeding – Yes

Learning Curve – low-high.  (They seem simple, but can be trickly!)

 

Soft Structured Carriers 

These are the ultimate Daddy/grandparent carrier as they are easy to use and somehow the structure seems to reassure those who are unsure about using a sling or wrap, or unwilling to learn.   You may need to adjust strap lengths etc from person to person though, which is a bit of a faff.  They are great with toddlers and frequently the child outgrows it because they want to walk long before they are approaching the weight limit.  If you are intimidated by learning to tie a wrap but need a carrier which will spread baby’s weight evenly (if you have back problems for example) then you may wish to consider a SSC.  Beware what you buy though.  They can be an expensive choice and can be a very personal choice – so the one that is perfect for your friend may not be good for you.

Common Brands:  Beco, Ergo, Boba, Rose and Rebellion, Connecta, Tula, Manduca, Wompat, Patapum, Lillebaby, Moby Go

Age/Weight: from 3-6 months to 45lb (infant inserts are available or inbuilt in some carriers)
Sizing is complicated.  Some can be used from birth (well, 7lb) either with or without an additional insert.  Some brands are classed as “Birth to toddler” while others are sized.  If you buy a birth to toddler you may find your toddler sizes out of it before you and they are ready to stop carrying, especially if your toddler is in the upper percentiles)

Learning Curve – low, low-medium for back carries

Breastfeeding – No (some people do manage it, but they are definitely the most awkward choice for feeding in).

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