Using a child carrier (or “babywearing” as some call it) is not only tremendously useful, but popular among new parents, which means that you have a lot of choices—maybe too many choices. How can you pick from among the dozens of baby carriers that are available these days? Which is better, a Baby Bjorn with its straps and buckles or a hand-dyed $200 silk sling? What’s so great about a baby carrier, anyway?
All baby carriers offer two main advantages: your hands are free and your baby is close to you. Putting your baby in a carrier can make many everyday tasks (like grocery shopping) much easier. In cold weather, keeping your baby close to your body helps her stay warm. Here’s an overview of the types of baby carriers available today.
Front Baby Carriers
A front carrier puts you torso to torso with your baby, with a configuration of straps and fasteners designed to support and distribute your baby’s weight in a comfortable way. Many front baby carriers offer the chance for your baby to face either in or out, depending on your preferences and the baby’s need for head support. While the straps may seem confusing at first, most are easily mastered and adjusted. Examples include Ergo, Baby Bjorn, Kelty Kangaroo, and Snugli.
Not to be confused with a cocktail, this is basically a square of padded cloth (usually with a colorful design) that forms a seat for the baby, plus strips of cloth that go over your shoulders and around your waist. Usually, these are worn with the baby facing you, torso to torso, with some carriers allowing baby to be carried on your back.
Slings can be very simple—a single piece of cloth stitched to itself at the ends, or slightly more elaborate, with a ring for adjusting the cloth and perhaps even a pocket. Many people like the simplicity and adjustability of a sling. Be sure to leave room for baby to breathe easily (ensure that her face is easily visible) and pay close attention to positioning—there have been a few cases of asphyxiation using slings, and some have been recalled. If you’re concerned about using a sling with a young infant because of this issue, know that they are also useful for carrying an older baby or even a toddler on your hip. Brands include Hotslings and Maya.
Another option is a wrap-a single long, stretchy piece of fabric that can be configured in many different ways to hold your baby close to your body. Many moms and dads swear by the Moby or the Cuddly Wrap, which look tricky at first but, rumor has it, are really easy once you get used to them.
Some baby carriers can seem complicated to wear, especially at first. Get comfortable using it with a doll or teddy bear before you use it with your baby. It will be much easier, and your baby will sense your confidence when you use it with her for the first time. Follow all manufacturer instructions regarding your baby carrier, and be sure to avoid activities with injury potential (like cooking or skateboarding—yes, I’m talking to you, Dad). Your baby will delight in having a “big person” view of the world, and you’ll delight in having your hands free to hold the dog’s leash, your lemonade, or the hand of your beloved. Enjoy!
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