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Three Basic Baby Carriers

Three Basic Baby Carriers From Newborn To Toddler

Babywearing is one of the seven B’s of attachment parenting. While Dr. Sears told us all the benefits of babywearing, he could have written a completely separate book on the different WAYS to wear your baby. Like most things with babies, I am of the mindset that baby carriers are largely transitional with the different stages of development. While one type of carrier is great for a newborn it might not be ideal for a toddler and visa-versa.  So how does a new mom, a first time mom, or even a first time babywearer pick the best baby carrier for their family’s needs? A friend and I have developed what we call the trifecta of baby carriers. These are the three carriers that we feel are great for any babywearer.

In my experience, most everybody starts with a stretchy wrap or carrier. It only makes sense, it is the cheapest of the trifecta and is available in most big box retail stores. Moby is the most widely known and available, though there are other comparable brands such as the Boba Wrap. Stretchy wraps and carriers are usually made out a stretchy jersey material. Wrap versions can be very versatile, but also carry a bit of learning curve. This is usually overcome by a pre wrapped stretchy carrier, such as the Baby K’tan.  Two problems I had with the stretchy carrier were:  I was unable to back wrap, due to it being unsafe, in addition to the fact that the weight limit was very low. By the time my son was about 15lbs my lower back was looking for a different solution. None the less, the stretchy wrap did serve its purpose very early on.

Another problem I had early on with my stretchy wrap was the length of time it took me to tie it in public. Not to mention the fact that it drug the nasty, dirty parking lot while I was trying to get it tied on outside of my car. With practice I got much quicker at this, but as I mentioned before there is a bit of learning curve. My solution to the learning curve was the ring sling. Ring slings are WONDERFUL to nurse in discreetly, as well as getting a baby in and out of the car quickly. The weight limit on ring slings can vary. The brand that I chose was SlingEze. I chose that one largely due to the padded shoulder and adjustable size. There are a variety of slings available some offer those options, others simply don’t.  The choice on those features are largely personal, but I knew when hanging 20lbs from one shoulder that I wanted a little bit of cushion.

Even though my sling offered a great cushioned shoulder, eventually even that was overcome by gravity. Hang a 20lb baby from your shoulder for a couple hours and you will understand. This, combined with my husband’s reluctance to participate in what I found to be a quite enjoyable and meaningful experience lead me to buy my first soft structured carrier.

The soft structured carriers or the dad carrier is the final rung of the trifecta of carriers. If dad will wear a backpack, he more than likely will wear a soft structured carrier. It is not recommended that you ever face your child forward on your front due to stress on their spine; back wearing was my solution for the curious toddler who wanted to see everything as I saw it. Soft structured carriers are the only carrier in the trifecta where back carries are recommended. If not for back carries my babywearing relationship might have ended at least a year before its prime.

Besides being dad and back carry friendly, soft structured carriers also have one of the broadest weight limits, most will start as early as newborn (some require extra parts for this) and go up to 45lbs. One of the main things to look for in a good carrier are a wide seat, you want to see the butt of the carrier stretch from knee to knee like the Boba 3G. Narrow seats put undue stress on the hips and are contraindicated by the International Hip Displasia Institute. Unfortunately, the soft structured carrier is also the most expensive carrier of the trifecta. 

There are a thousand different types of carriers, these are the top three basic carriers. Anything beyond this is what I, personally, consider intermediate or advanced baby wearing devices, in that their learning curves and prices increase, sometimes, exponentially. For more information on the trifecta or intermediate or advanced carriers find a local specialty store, visit them, AND shop with them. You will find a hidden wealth of knowledge in many cloth diaper stores, plus the time and man hours that are required to give you the personal attention you deserve. Another option is to search out local babywearing groups. Additional resources can be found nationwide at www.babywearinginternational.org or  www.thebabywearer.com

Credit: Valerie Cannon Photography

Tiffany Carra owns the Fort Worth Cloth Diaper Store, Simple Baby, and is a chapter leader for the Tarrant County Birth Network, a chapter of BirthNetwork National. For more information about attachment parenting and cloth diapering topics visit the Simple Baby Blog.

  • reply Aubrey ,

    Good article. My baby wearing journey was almost identical to yours. One thing I would add is that if you are carrying a long legged toddler in a soft structured carrier, foot stirrups are a good investment. Without them, my 3 year old, 35 lb son kicks me in the back of the knees, which gets real annoying real fast.

    • reply Tiffany ,

      I completely agree. Stirrups are great! They actually come with the Boba 3G. :)

    • reply Trooppetrie ,

      thank you, pregnant with number 7 and trying to decide. I have used a sling with some but never felt secure. Now with multiple little ones I am thinking the ergo

      • reply Tiffany ,

        Ergo was actually my first soft structured carrier. I loved it, and have owned two. A couple things to know about Ergo. To wear a newborn you have to purchase the newborn insert. Also over the last few years the market has been flooded with knock off Ergos. Some are so convincing that it is impossible to tell until there is a warranty claim. To avoid that make sure you are purchasing from an authorized retailer. You can ask the retailer or you can call Ergo to double check check that.

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