Lately it seems like a new baby carrier is born almost every day! The glut of options makes it difficult for an inexperienced baby wearer to know which style or brand is the best for her and her little one.
To help determine which carrier is right for you and your baby, Circle of Moms members suggest weighing the following four considerations.
1. Do You Need to Breastfeed Hands-Free?
For Daye P., being able to breastfeed while wearing a baby is a necessity. "I will have a young toddler to mother and chase after in addition to the new baby. I desperately need a reliable hands-free carrier that's good for nursing," she says. Circle of Moms members generally suggest wraps, ring slings and Mei Tais ($32 at Walmart.com) for moms in Daye's situation.
A member who goes by "KC W." explains why a sling is great for breastfeeding moms: "Baby is easily put in and secured in the sling. The sling adjusts to the exact size of the baby, by pulling on the end of the fabric. The sling grows with baby, and the learning curve is next to none, very simple!"
Additionally, slings have enough fabric to provide full coverage, which Shannon H. says allows her to breastfeed in public discreetly: "I use the ring slings while out in public. They're great for hiding what you're up to if you're in a place [where the] people around frown on nursing in public."
2. Is Your Baby Heavy?
For bigger babies, moms may want to seek out a baby carrier that can accommodate more weight. Members suggest that moms with heavier babies look for a carrier that distributes baby’s weight evenly and that offers more support. For instance, Emily H. uses both an Infantino front carrier ($27 at Target.com) and a Moby Wrap ($41 at thegreennursery.com), switching from the Infantino to the Moby when she knows she’s going to be carrying her son for more than half an hour. He weighed nine pounds, 11 ounces at birth, and Emily reports that, "My Moby Wrap is much more comfortable for both of us. It distributes his weight much better and more evenly, and I am rarely sore after carrying him in it."
On the other hand, Emily F. says wraps are awesome for tiny babies, but stretchy ones (like the Moby) start sagging after a while and heavy babies start to feel too heavy. She also cautions against using slings with heavier babies because the baby’s weight is all on one shoulder. "Adjustable ring slings are awesome, but mostly for hip carries of older babies, or quick in and outs, not for long periods of time," she cautions.
Renae K. and Stella M. are among many moms who recommend soft-structured carriers. One of these, the Baby Bjorn active carrier ($95 at albeebaby.com) has lumbar support to reduce strain on your upper back, shares Renae.
A member named Stella says she can comfortably wear her 18-month-old son, who is just under 31 pounds, in the Ergo ($90 at depotgiants.com): "The strap padding and support are great, and really easy on your back."
3. Do You Have a Bad Back?
Moms with bad backs like Kateryn T. may be leery of baby wearing because of the extra weight. "I’m currently unable to work out a way to safely wear my child without aggravating my underlying joint and back issues. I was completely unable to with my son, and I’d really like to give it a go with my daughter, who is due to arrive in just under two weeks. However, I can’t seem to find any information on how to help minimize the stress placed on the body by wearing the baby instead of pushing them around in a stroller."
Circle of Moms members say that wraps and soft-structured carriers allow you to support your baby on different parts of the body so that there is minimal stress on your back.
In particular, Colleen M. recommends moms look for a baby carrier that lets you wear your baby close and high, keeping his center of gravity above yours and as close in as possible. "Your baby carrier should distribute your baby's weight widely to reduce strain. A well-adjusted sling or pouch should not cause back strain, but may aggravate an existing problem. Wrap around carriers can be a good choice, as they spread the baby's weight widely over both shoulders as well as to your waist/hips. Unstructured or Asian-style soft carriers are flexible enough to hold your baby very close to you."
Jennifer C. agrees that wearing a baby high helps to minimize lower back issues. "When I use my wrap or sling, I tend to have [my son] in a position where he's hugging my breast, and I'm able to walk a couple of miles with him like that without problems," she says. She also notes that if you’re using a sling or wrap, that you spread the fabric out appropriately. "If I don't spread out the sling, or if the wrap is not spread out properly, it starts to bother my upper back and shoulder(s)," she says. Em K. adds that wraps can make it seem like your baby is weightless if worn correctly.
Rhea S. relays that her soft-structured Beco Baby Carrier ($129 at nurturedfamily.com) works really well in these cases: "If worn correctly, you should feel no pain in your neck or back, because the weight is designed to rest on your hips."
4. Do You Plan to Baby Wear for a Long Time?
If you’re planning on baby wearing for a long time — either for long sessions or for a year or two as your baby grows — then you’ll want to choose a baby carrier that will help you over the long haul. The Mei Tai ($32 at Walmart.com), for example, can be used when your baby is newborn until she is a few years old. Ella B. says she used a Mei Tai when her son was a newborn, and still uses it now that he's 20 months old (even to nurse while shopping).
Additionally, because it distributes weight across your shoulders and waist, it’s good for long treks. "I've gone on six-mile hikes carrying my five-month-old in a Mei Tai," Em K. says. Emily C. also says she wore her BabyHawk Mei Tai ($79 at Babyhawk.com) on a three-hour hike with a two and a half-year-old recently and felt great.
Victoria sings praises to the lifespan of an Ergo, ($90 at depotgiants.com), which she feels is well worth the money: "I use mine with my eight-month-old and my three-year-old, so the lifespan is long."
Similarly, the soft-structured Baby Trekker ($150 at babytrekker.com) can be used while nursing a newborn until your child reaches 50 pounds. "As a bonus, it actually fits my 300-pound-plus hubby (he is not fat though, broad),” says Danica C.
Regardless of your situation, however, choosing the best baby carrier for you might be a matter of personal preference. Georgia suggests going to a shop that carries several styles and trying them all out to see which one you like.
"Take a doll or teddy bear with you to put into the carrier so you can see what it will be like with baby. It won't represent the weight, but it will give you an idea of positioning. If you want to know how the weight is distributed, take a five kilogram bag of flour/sugar to use instead of a doll. That's what I did. [I] got a few funny looks, but who cares if [it helps] you find a carrier you love?" she says.
*Prices are current on the original date of this article's publication, but are subject to change.
Image Source: Wickenden via Flickr/Creative Commons
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