So mumma, you have decided you want to wear your baby. You have learnt about all the lovely benefits of babywearing and you’re excited to choose the carrier that you and your little cherub will be using for endless snuggles during that first year or two!
There are various styles out there and it’s hard to know where to start. First, the rundown. There are two main carrier types: soft carriers which include ring slings, wraps and mei-tais; and structured carriers. Soft carriers are usually made from one or two layers of fabric, some with thin padding. They often involve some degree of wrapping or threading. A structured carrier is a clip-and-go style that resembles a backpack. They usually have clips or buckles and use padding in the structure and straps.
Now, let’s take you through the key factors to consider when deciding which carrier is the best option for you.
CAN THE CARRIER BE USED FROM NEWBORN?
The first twelve weeks, also known as the fourth trimester, is the time where you might be babywearing around the house – often done without shirts (AKA skin on skin). Soft carriers can be used pretty much from the get-go and are perfect for those early days at home with your newborn. Their soft style means they mould to the shape of you and your baby, making them comfortable for home use. You can easily sit down whilst wearing them and they are more like part of your clothing. Babywearing is also very effective for settling your bub, another reason you might reach for your ring sling or wrap at home. It may be the only way to eat your breakfast or enjoy a cup of tea in peace!
Structured carriers are a more rigid design and may not be as suitable for wearing around the house. They also might not be suitable for use until a certain age. If they are designed to carry newborns, consider if you can comfortably sit down whilst wearing. If you have had a C-section, it may sit uncomfortably on the scar. If you are leaning towards purchasing a structured carrier for the early at home days, consider testing it out first and confirming that you can use during the newborn stage.
IS THE CARRIER SUPPORTIVE AND SUITABLE FOR USE INTO TODDLERHOOD?
Support is key with babywearing. It’s a good idea to invest in a supportive carrier that will be comfortable to wear as your baby gets bigger. Structured carriers are designed to be supportive over long periods of time and usually have large weight limits for carrying children. With features such as padding in the straps, and often a strap that goes around the hips to distribute the weight, some mums prefer them for long walks/treks outdoors.
Soft carriers are also very supportive if made from a strong, woven fabric. Look for fabrics such as linen, silk and bamboo blends. Ring slings are typically made of linen and can be used well into toddlerhood. The fabric cups over your shoulder and distributes the weight evenly across your back for optimal support. Wraps made of stretchy fabrics are suitable for the early months, however, the stretch in the fabric will start to become less supportive as bub gets heavier.
IS THE CARRIER BREATHABLE?
There is nothing worse than a hot carrier. It is important that mum and bub stay cool when babywearing. When selecting a carrier, consider one made from natural, breathable fibres such as linen. Avoid synthetics like polyester. Many structured carriers use cotton fabrics, but it’s also important to investigate what is inside them. Padding and foam used in their construction is often synthetic resulting in a carrier that doesn’t breathe well. If you live in a hot climate this will be one of your most important considerations when purchasing a carrier.
HOW EASY IS THE CARRIER TO USE?
Consider the ease of use when selecting the right carrier for you. Some soft carrier styles such as wraps can take a bit of practise to learn to use. You see some impressive wrap knots which can be fun, but if you find that intimidating, the ring sling is a simpler option. The rings make it a little more straight forward to learn and avoid the need to set up the carry from scratch every time you use it. When shopping for a soft carrier it is important to purchase from a company that offers comprehensive demos and after purchase care. Ensure you ask questions if you are having trouble learning to use your carrier – giving up can mean you miss out on some very special bonding moments with your bub!
Structured carriers have a clip-and-go concept which is hard to get wrong. They can take some time to adjust and fit, but once set up, getting baby in is usually quite straight forward.
HOW PORTABLE IS THE CARRIER?
Consider the portability of the carrier and how you will be using it. A soft carrier can usually fold up nicely and fit into a handbag. If you plan to travel, you might want to be able to fit the carrier in a carry-on bag. The bulkier design of a structured carrier makes it a little more awkward to carry around. You usually make the decision before your outing that you will be wearing your bub and therefore bring it with you or put it on. With a soft carrier, you can just pop it in your mum bag or in the bottom of your pram as a back-up option, in case bub suddenly decides they don’t want to sit in the pram or need to be close to mumma.
WHAT DOES THE CARRIER LOOK LIKE ON?
Practicality is important when choosing a carrier, but these days many mummas are also looking for a carrier that works with their outfit rather than ruining it. It’s important for mum to still feel like themselves after having a baby. Soft carriers such as ring slings and wraps can be found in stunning colours that have been selected to go with current seasonal looks. The price point usually means you can own a few carriers that work with different outfits.
The nature of the structured carrier design – bulky buckles and straps – usually mean the focus is very much about the carrier rather than the outfit. If the look is important to you, opt for companies that design structured carriers in beautiful fabrics.
IS THE CARRIER SAFE FOR BABY'S HIP DEVELOPMENT?
A carrier should support baby’s hips in the ‘M’ or ‘froggy’ position for optimal hip development. Look to see if the carrier is approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHID) or similar organisation, which have qualified professionals review and approve the design of the carrier as a ‘hip-healthy’ product. Most soft and structured carriers, when used to manufacturers’ instructions, will achieve the correct positioning of bub’s hips and legs. Unfortunately, however, there are some carriers out there – typically structured – that don’t meet this requirement. It is Important to do your research on this point.
HOW MUCH DOES THE BABY CARRIER COST?
Although babywearing is very important it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here is a rundown on what you might be up for when investing in a baby carrier. If you are looking for a structured carrier, prices generally start from $150 and can be as much as $500 for premium brands. There is a lot more detail that goes into them, which is why they can be a fair bit more expensive than some soft carriers.
Soft carriers start at approximately $80, which is usually what you might pay for a stretchy wrap. More premium fabrics such as linen start at the $100 mark and can go up to $500 for high-end limited editions. Some mums opt for both a soft carrier for the earlier weeks and a structured carrier for when bub gets bigger. If you prefer to just invest in one carrier and significantly reduce your budget, consider a linen ring sling. This will be suitable from newborn to toddlerhood, whist being very affordable, and will eliminate the need to purchase a structured carrier at all.
SOME FINAL WORDS...
Babywearing will bring so many benefits to both you and your bub, and so it’s important to pick the right carrier for you. Here at Mumma Etc. we did a lot of carrier research before launching our foundation product – the ring sling. For us, the ring sling is our top pick of carrier that can be used from newborn to toddlerhood and ticks all the above boxes. Our slings are made from 100% handwoven linen, which makes them soft and breathable whilst being supportive and strong. We provide detailed demos and one-on-one support to make learning to use easy, and they start from only $99.90. If you only choose one baby carrier to invest in during the early years of parenthood, a Mumma Etc. sling is the perfect choice!