Babywearing: What should I use to carry my baby?
With great choice comes great… confusion... usually. The sheer amount of different styles of carrier for your baby can be a double edged sword; there is sure to be a carrier out there that you and your baby will absolutely love, but with all of the choice and recommendations, how likely are you to actually find it?
I’d like to take you through a few of the most common types of carrier in the hope that it will help you to refine your search for the right carrier for you and your little one. This list is not exhaustive, and I’ve tried not to go into certain brands so we can keep things simple.
Although I hope this blog will help, I honestly believe that nothing at all compares to real face to face advice and actually trying on the different types of sling. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has its own sling library please, please try to get there. If you’ve not yet had your baby but think carrying them in a sling is something you’d like to do go to the sling library now. I didn’t get my act together enough to go to our sling library until my first baby was nine months old, but I could really have done with the help sooner.
Whichever carrier you choose, always remember the TICKS rules:
And remember to trust yourself; if the way you’re carrying doesn’t seem safe or secure to you, you’re probably right! The help is out there, if there’s one thing babywearing parents love, it’s helping other people to wear their own babies.
So with no further ado, here are the most common types of carrier you’ll come across and some of their pros and cons to help you make your decision.
The Stretchy Wrap
What is it? This is a long piece of stretchy fabric which can look pretty daunting to start with. However, with a few practice runs they can definitely become your best friend as you start life with your newborn.
All stretchy wraps are put on in exactly the same way, and many different brands are available. Because they all do the exact same job technically and are used in the same way, all you have to do it find one you like the look and the feel of. Some are warm and thick, others are lightweight and breathable, some are blended with bamboo while others are simple jersey fabric. There is a stretchy wrap to suit every budget and if you’re on a very strict budget or are just not sure whether it will be for you, they can be picked up extremely cheaply second hand.
They’re soft and squishy (just like your newborn) and mould exactly to fit the size and shape of you and your baby without any fiddly adjustment straps. This means that they can be easily worn by parents, friends, grandparents or other caregivers without needing to be altered to fit each different person every time. They are absolutely perfect for supporting a newborn in a way that is physiologically normal for them, keeping them snug and close to their caregiver with a curved spine and hips supported in a tucked position. The soft, stretchy, warm nature of the wrap mimics the womb making the transition to the outside world a lot gentler than it may otherwise be. The great thing is that once you’ve put the wrap on, you don’t have to take it off and can just pop baby in and out through the day.
The Cons: Although they are weight tested to a fairly high limit most people find that they start to become less supportive by the time their baby is about six or seven months old. Some people can find the length of the fabric off-putting and if you’re putting it on outside the ends of the fabric can get wet/muddy while you’re putting it on. There are shorter versions available though for people who are petite or who don’t like to have a lot of fabric left over at the end. It’s not advised to use stretchy wraps for back carries.
The Woven Wrap
What is it? It’s another “long piece of fabric” deal, but this time the fabric is a woven fabric with no stretch in it. They are definitely not just long pieces of normal fabric like you might find in clothing, they have a real warp and weft, any pattern is woven into the fabric, not just printed on. They are much stronger and far more beautiful than ordinary fabric. They come in several different lengths, so if you want to know exactly how long the fabric is you just need to ask the person who is selling it to you. You won’t be able to do every type of carry with every length. Some carries require more fabric than others.
The Pros: Once you’ve mastered a stretchy wrap you’re halfway there to mastering the woven and like the stretchy wrap, they don’t need to be adjusted to fit different people. They will also last from newborn right up to carrying your toddler, so if you are willing to give them a go, you may never need to buy another carrier ever again! There are so many different ways of carrying your baby and toddler in a woven wrap, tutorials for which can be found all over the internet so there will definitely be one, or many, to suit you! Can be used for parent-facing carries on the front, back carries and hip carries.
The Cons: Because they don’t help you out by tightening themselves the way a stretchy does (to a degree), you do need to get used to tightening the fabric well around you and your baby as you wrap to stop the wrap becoming loose as you move around. If buying them new they can be stiff and difficult to put on, if this is the case you can search for ways of “breaking in” your wrap which can include, braiding it, sleeping on it, washing it and more!
The Buckled CarrierWhat is it? A buckled carrier is any carrier that is fastened with buckles rather than rings or being tied manually. The baby will sit in the panel of fabric and the carrier will (usually) strap around the adult’s waist and then separately over the shoulders either crossed or in the same way as a rucksack’s straps sit. There are so many different brands of buckled carrier that it would be impossible to go into them all here and although they are very similar there are some differences in certain brands which mean some types of buckled carrier are put on differently to others, so you will need to read the instructions carefully to be sure, even if you’ve used a buckled carrier before.
Pros: They are very quick to put on and the short straps mean that nothing drags on the floor if you’re putting them on outside. They can be worn on the front and the back and some brands are able to do hip carries as well. Some carriers can be adjusted so that your baby can face away from you while being carried on your front (when they are able to sit unaided). They are perfect for people who have difficulty or lack confidence in tying knots. Many companies now have styles of buckled carrier than will adjust to fit your baby from newborn until they are big enough to move up to a toddler sized carrier. Carriers which don’t adjust to fit smaller babies often have a separate “newborn insert” which you can buy separately to enable you to use the standard sized carrier sooner. Toddler and pre-schooler sizes are available as well once a standard or baby sized carrier has been outgrown.
Cons: Even the brands which look very similar will have a different fit to them, and so some people will find some brands much more comfortable than others. If it’s at all possible, it’s definitely worth trying them out at your local sling library before you buy. Because the straps need to be adjusted to fit the adult carrying the baby if you are going to be sharing the carrier with anyone else it will need to be adjusted each time for each person using it. The newborn inserts that are available can be bulky and not very comfortable in hot weather. Although adjustable carriers are available which can carry smaller babies some people find that their very new baby is still too small to be safely carried in the adjustable carrier for several weeks after they are born, meaning that they will need to find another way to wear their baby in the meantime.
The Meh DaiWhat is it? A Meh Dai is, at its simplest, a rectangular panel of fabric with a strap on each corner. The straps on the bottom corners fasten around the adult’s waist, the panel is pulled up and over the baby’s body and the baby sits in the bottom of the panel while the two top straps are put over the adult’s shoulders crossed if the baby is being carried on the adult’s front or like rucksack straps if the baby is on the back and then tied again around the waist.
Pros: This is a really simple, easy to use carrier which, because it simply ties around the adult using it, doesn’t need to be adjusted when it’s being used by more than one person. They can be used on the front and back and some are available which adjust to fit newborns and can be used up until toddlerhood. Toddler sizes are available as well once a standard or baby sized carrier has been outgrown
Cons: If you have difficulty or lack confidence in tying knots then they may be tricky for you to use. As with stretchy and woven wraps, the long straps can drag and get wet if you’re putting it on outside. I’m going to admit my bias here and say I can’t think of any other cons. I love meh dais of all kinds, they’re my absolute favourites!
The Ring SlingWhat is it? The ring sling is a piece of fabric (often the same woven material as the woven wraps) which is attached to two metal rings at one end. The other end of the fabric is fed through the rings to make a “buckle”. The baby or toddler sits in the wider part of the sling on one side of their caregiver, and the sling is supported on the adult’s opposite shoulder.
Pros: These are very quick and simple to put on, they’re also good to use from newborn (worn on your front in the same place your newborn would sit in a stretchy/woven wrap) until toddlerhood. They are mostly used for slightly older babies and toddlers being carried on the hip and are very handy when you’re baby starts to walk confidently and wants to be up, then down….then up again….and down again... They need to be tightened each time they are put on but don’t need to be adjusted for different wearers. Ring Slings are also great when your baby is in a nosey mood as you can carry them on your hip so that they can look where they’re going, but still snuggle in to you and look at you if it all gets too much.
Cons: When your baby gets heavier it can be difficult to carry the weight on one shoulder for long periods of time, for that reason many people use them for short trips only when their babies are getting to be heavy toddlers instead of small squishies. I hope that’s given you a quick idea of some of the different styles of carrier out there. Please do check out this link where you’ll be able to find details of your closest sling library where you’ll be able to get face to face support from trained peer supporters and consultants and try a range of different carriers. https://slingpages.slinginglondon.co.uk/sling-advice-resources/
Comment with your questions or tell us your favourite type of sling! Follow the author of this post, Swing Sling Plymouth, on Instagram and Facebook!
Photos provided by: Jemma Nicholls of Sling Swing Plymouth (www.facebook.com/slingswingPSI) Jessie Blackler of Carried Away (www.carriedawaybabywearing.co.uk) The lovely peer supporters of Plymouth Sling Library CIC (www.plymouthslinglibrary.co.uk)