This post is written by my dear friend Brittney. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to baby carriers. Her blog is private, and when I saw this on there with so much amazing information I begged her to post it on my blog! My sentiments are Brittney's, I love my babies close to me. We are not a car seat carrying family. Car seats are for cars. That's it, in my humble opinion. Enjoy this post and all the cute pictures of Brittney and her beautiful baby.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
About Baby Carriers
I love baby carriers. I don't know what I'd do without them! I love having my baby close and having my hands free to do other things. While I'm intrigued by attachment parenting and the philosophies surrounding babywearing, I mostly do it for convenience purposes. Having a good carrier really makes my life as a mom so much easier!
I started learning about babywearing in the months leading up to my son Matthew's birth. I knew I wanted a carrier of some sort, but I was only familiar with Snugli's and Baby Bjorn's. Somehow I stumbled across some websites that introduced me to a whole new culture surrounding pouches, ring slings, wraps, mei tais, hip-carriers, and soft-structured carriers. I discovered how seriously some people take babywearing - we're talking women with closets full of carriers, several of each different kind in various colors, patterns, etc. I became obsessed with researching styles, brands, and fabric options, reading countless reviews and browsing through forums dedicated to anything and everything you'd ever want to know about babywearing. Did I mention that I was a little bit obsessed? Yeah. My husband thought I was crazy. For some reason it totally consumed me. Maybe it was some part of my nesting instinct going wild. I felt an intense need to find the perfect carrier(s) for when Matt was born, as if my success as a mother of two depended on it.
The most addicting thing about it was that there were online forums where I could buy used carriers for cheaper than normal and then turn around and sell them if they didn't work for me. Since before Matt came along until now I've bought and sold more carriers than I can count! After a while I either decided that they weren't all that comfortable, or they just weren't that cute. (There are SO many cute options out there!) Currently, I've just got 4 that I've decided are good to have - a hemp pouch, a Mei Tai Baby mei tai, an Ergo soft-structured carrier, and a Catbird Pikkolo soft-structured carrier. My daughter, Ariana's too big for the pouch now, but I've kept it and the mei tai around for lending purposes. If I had the money, I'd buy even more, but I'm doing fine with the ones I have. :)
Lately I've had people asking me what I think about different carriers, so here's a run down on different types, what they're good for, and why they're a better option than the standard carriers you generally find in stores. I'll start with the "why." I've been rock-climbing enough to know that hanging in a harness is not the most comfortable thing. With most standard backpack-style baby carriers (aka soft-structured carriers), the baby hangs in a similar manner, placing their weight on their lower spine and crotch area. Whether they're facing inward or outward, they're just kind of hanging there w/ their legs dangling straight down. Some people say it can cause hip or spine problems and hinder proper development. (Check out this article if you want to read more about this.) Of course, there are many people that have used carriers like this (myself included) and never had any problems... to me it just looks so awkward and uncomfortable!
Since there are better options available, I like to use carriers that allow babies to be carried in a more natural position. It's recommended that babies be carried with their legs wider apart and their bum down, in a frog-like position - the way a baby is when he's straddled on your hip. Also, it's not recommended that babies face outward in a carrier because it's easy for them to become overstimulated. When babies are carried facing you they can still look around, but they can hide their face if they get tired or overstimulated. For people that insist that their baby likes facing outward best, it's possible to do with different slings and even some other soft-structured carriers that cinch at the bottom (like the Pikkolo) while still allowing for a bum-down sitting position. Another option is to do a back-carry, though that's not possible until the baby is older (6 or 7 months old).
Now for the types of carriers... This is by no means a complete list. These are just the ones I've used and am most familiar with.
This is the easiest option since it just goes over your shoulder, you pop the baby in and you're good to go. There's no bulk, so they're easy to keep in a diaper bag, and they're super snuggly for newborns especially. I use pouches a lot for the first couple months when my babies are still tiny and sleepy and need that womb-like environment. By they time they're more alert and starting to get a little heavier I prefer other options, but it's possible to continue using pouches in a hip carry until babies are much older. The important thing w/ a pouch is finding the right fit. Though there are some good adjustable pouches available, most are fitted, so you just have to take your measurements and follow the brand's size chart to find the right fit for you. If it's too big or too small, it won't be comfortable. They're supposed to be tight-fitting around the baby, though. It may look like they're being squished, but that's the point! Some popular brands include Hotslings, Peanut Shell, Karma Baby, and Slinglings. (They generally cost around $40.)
Everyone says this is best for newborns, but I've tried it twice now with both Matt and Ari and only ever ended up using it a handful of times. It consists of a long piece of jersey-like material that you wrap around you to hold the baby in place. It allows for a really snuggly carry, like the pouch, but the baby's weight is distributed over both shoulders and your back so it's comfier and easier to do for long periods of time.
I really like the idea of it, I just never liked dealing with so much fabric. Had I figured out how to nurse in it and not have to take it off so much throughout the day, it may have worked better for us. They don't work so well once the baby gets bigger. Popular brands include Moby wraps and Sleepy wraps. (Around $40)
This is an asian carrier with essentially a square piece of fabric to hold the baby in place and four long straps - two to tie around your waist and two to go over the shoulders. I love this kind of carrier because it allows the baby to be upright but you can get a cozy custom fit since you tie the straps however tight you need them. I used this when both Matt and Ari were tiny and just scrunched their legs up inside. Around two or three months they were able to go in it with their legs out, although I cinched the bottom a bit so it wasn't quite so wide. I used it a lot around the house, especially. Right now I've lent mine to my sister-in-law, otherwise I'd probably still be using it. They have them now with padded waists for when the baby gets bigger. I haven't tried a padded one yet, but I'd like to! The straps are really long, but they're not complicated to use. They can be used for both a front and back carry. Well-liked brands include Babyhawk, Mei Tai Baby, Kozy, Freehand, Bamberoo, and Napsack. (Usually around $80 to $100)
Soft-Structured Carrier (SSC)
The backpack-style carrier is my favorite since for me it's been the one I get the most use out of, and David's willing to use it, too! Really, it's like a mei tai but with buckles, so you don't have to mess with the straps. Many come with sleeping hoods, pockets, and toy rings, which are nice little perks. The Bjorn and Snugli fall under this category, but like I said before, there are so many better options available - more comfortable, better for baby, and cuter! Basically they differ in the width and height of the fabric panel behind the baby, the amount of padding in the shoulder straps and waist, strap configuration, and of course, fabrics. Right now the Ergo is probably the most common, and it's the one I've used most with both Matt and Ari. It's shorter, so the baby's arms can be out, and it's a little more rugged than other options. I'm still using it for front carries with Ariana, but pretty soon I'll probably switch her around to my back. The great thing about this style of carrier is that, if you choose to, you can use them with kids up to around 40 pounds! They distribute the weight really well so you don't feel it like you might with other brands.
My Pikkolo also falls under this category. It's a lot cuter than the Ergo and has great memory foam straps. It doesn't have a padded waistband, though, so the weight distribution is different. What really sets this one apart from others is that you can cinch the bottom to make it narrower for small babies, and you can use it to have the baby face outward if you choose. For me, it's definitely a keeper. Other brands include Beco, Angelpack, Connecta, Babyhawk, andOlives and Applesauce. If I had the money, I'd try them all! (Around $100 to $150+)
Basically this is like a SSC, but it just goes around one shoulder instead of two and you carry the baby one your hip. It's especially convenient for errands and things. I had one of these - a Scootababy - and I loved it, but somehow it got lost on a trip to Disneyland. :( Ellaroo is another popular brand. (Around $100)
I've never used a ring sling, mostly because they look a little too fancy for my taste. A lot of people really like how you can get a nice custom fit, and like pouches, they work especially well with small babies.
So there you have it. Plenty of info and some not-so-great pics. :) If I were to suggest just one carrier, it would either be a pouch or a soft-structured carrier. Really, I think it's good to have at least two - one for when the baby's tiny (a pouch or stretchy wrap) and another for when the baby's a bit bigger (SSC or mei tai). Even though I only use my pouches for a few months, they're invaluable to me during that time. Now, though, I'd hate to be without my SSC. Ariana's 9 months old and I still use it all the time - shopping, hiking, going to the park, going to museums, picnics, etc. I carried Matt until he began walking at around 15 months (he was a late walker!), but I'd like to carry Ari for even longer than that. She's a good little snuggler so I don't think she'll mind. And she's light, which makes it nice. :)
For anyone wanting to learn more about babywearing and carriers, go to The Babywearer website. Once you register you can read all sorts of reviews and visit forums, including their "For Sale or Trade" forum which has some great deals on used carriers. Another good one-stop site to see a bunch of different carriers is Attached to Baby. Happy babywearing!