Baby carrier are everywhere and come at most price points. There is a good reason for that women have been wearing their babies for thousands of years. Somewhere along the line, we tried substituting a playpen, a walker and a high chair (which all do have their places too, don’t get me wrong),but having your baby close to you while you get you daily duties done is priceless. Not to mention all the health benefits to the babies, as they will be left to cry less, and have there needs met easily. This is most helpful during the newborn stage, specially if you are breastfeeding. There are couple evenings I have cooked, done the dishes, tidy the kitchen while breastfeeding a newborn. It makes those first few week (or months) breastfeeding much easier as baby wants to (and needs to) eat every 30 minutes. It is still handy with older kids too like when my 5 year old has a fever, or my 2 year old is having a rough day, and feels the new baby is getting too much attention- 20minutes in a wrap and he’s a new boy. It has help me avoid breastfeeding pitfall and even allowed me to shower when it would have been otherwise impossible.
There are so many options when looking for something to wear you baby in. Some of these options are pitfalls themselves. They are not ergonomic, and will be uncomfortable for you and baby. These can put an end to your babywearing days prematurely. There are 3 things you want to look for no matter what type of carrier or sling you are looking at. 1) Crotch dangling is bad- When looking at back pack type carriers ( soft-structured carriers, or SSC for short) you want to make sure it has a wide base. A newborns legs will be tucked up in a froggy ‘M’ position, but once baby grows they still need that ‘M’ position you need a wide seat that extends from the back of one knee to the other so that the knees are higher than the butt. This is the most ergonomic portion for the growing babies hips. There are a lot of carriers, and some very pricy ones that have a narrow base these are ‘ok’ for very short periods of time, but shouldn’t be use for daily baby wearing. 2)Another thing to look for is that it fits your body type. Going to a store where you can try on multiple different carriers is the best option. There are some great carriers, but the one I like may not be the best option for you. 3) Learn how to properly use the carrier. Seek help if you are having trouble, some carrier have a learning curve. If the carrier feels uncomfortable bring it to the store you bought it from and ask for help. You can even look for a local babywearing group. Most have weekly meetings that you can meet other babywearing moms. They can help you and figure out the problem. Even better try to find a group before you buy a carrier- even if you are still baking your baby. Come to a meet-up and the other lovely mama will help you out.
Types of carriers: I will avoid name brands here because, for those who are just learning, it would get too complicated and overwhelming. There are really 5 different types of baby carriers that are readily available:
1) SSC as mentioned above. look like a small soft backpack. They have shoulder straps and a waist buckle. There are so many different brands and even within brands there are numerous models. These can be wonderful, convenient and comfortable for babies from newborn on (some need additional inserts for newborns). There are even pre-school child sizes so they can be very versatile. You can wear most of them on your front and back, some can do hip carries as well. Theses are a favourite for some babywearing moms. SSC also fit different body types differently, and its harder (not impossible though) to find one that will fit both dad and mom. These are best to try before you buy.
2) The Mei tai is an asian inspired carrier. they are all basically the same- shape wise. There is a central body panel that is reversible on some, then there is a long strap that runs along the bottom of the panel, with a few feet on each side-this is the waist belt. There are two similar straps coming off the top two corners, these are the shoulder straps. These have no buckles they are just tied on. Making them very versatile when you have multiple wearers. They waist strap can also be worn a few ways, rolling the waist with shorten the body panel, making it more versatile as you baby grows. These can be worn on you front, back and you can do a hip carry too. Again there are many varieties, and finding what is most comfortable for you is important.
3)The Ring Sling is a very handy carrier. you can wear you newborn or toddler in easily. Very easy to breastfeed in too. They may not be your favorite for carrying a toddler for hours, but doable if you switch it from shoulder to shoulder a few times though the day. A sling is a piece of cloth with 2 special sling rings sewn on to one end. You run the other end through the rings and secure them between the rings then tighten around you and baby. You can wear baby in a cradle position, a tummy to tummy position and a hip carry position ( you can do a back carry too, but it takes some practice to do it safely). The sling goes over one shoulder, so switching the shoulders can make it comfortable for longer period. The material used also plays a big role in comfort. There are sling made with strong pieces of cotton, or cotton blend, even silk. There are also woven wrap ring slings, which are made with a piece of a woven wrap (see below). Different fabric blends will have different feels and weight limits. These are fairly easy to use, but again if it’s not comfortable seek help, you may just need to make an adjustment.
4)The Wrap is a very long piece of cloth used to wrap the baby onto your body, Because of this its very versatile. There are 2 main types stretchy and woven. The Stretchy Wrap is amazing for newborns. it’s a greet tool for skin to skin contact. It is very long piece of cotton jersey and very warm so that, right away, deters some, don’t give up once you get the hang of it it’s great. With a stretchy you tie it on to you then stretch it and pop in your baby. This wrap can only be used with front carries, and because to stretch to wear a larger baby in. The Woven Wrap is the most versatile of them all as one can use it with all your kids, newborn to preschool, and you, your husband, your teenager, and grandparents can all use the same one. It also has the biggest learning curve, there are many different sizes, materials, brands, and ways to wrap with it. This one you defiantly don’t want to go into alone. Watch hours of YouTube videos, find other mama that can help. I practiced with a lot wrapping and re wrapping, and babies may not have to patience for that, so you may have to ( and probably will have to) practice with a dolly or stuffy. An older more patient child may be helpful too. You can do front back and hip carries, and there are many creative ways to tie it. Once you get it it’s well worth it, but you may also get hooked. If you love fabric and/or fashion there are so many beautiful pieces or wearable art out there. Don’t let price scare you either, there are very affordable wraps out there. Buying one you love is an investment, unless the wrap is damaged you will be sure to get close to what you paid for it if you decide to sell it. Heck some hard to find one fetch more than what it was bought for new. Buying used is a great idea too as the wrap will be broken in already (some wraps are rather stiff when bought new and need to be broken in to become more comfortable).
5) The Framed backpack carrier very popular with dad. They are not very practical unless you are taking a larger child on a hike on your back, but if that is what you want it for, they are great for outdoor hiking. Just be sure to make sure you get one that is ergonomic.
“My baby wants to look around i want a carrier where she can face out,” This seems like a good idea, in theory, and facing out seems like it would be the best way to carry as baby can see everything. There are 2 problems with front carry facing out. One is that its very hard to do this ergonomically (remember the ‘M’ position of the legs on bum). The buddha carry with a wrap or sling is pretty good though. Two, facing forward can be very overwhelming, baby can get over stimulated easily. When baby in faced toward you they can look out at the world, but then turn and shut out the world and focus on mom. I’m not saying to never do this, but it should be limited to 15 minutes to help avoid over stimulation. Back carry is great for curious babies as they can see the world over your shoulders, but block it out when they want to.
No matter which carry you have or use you will see the benefits, babies love being held and close to you. If you baby seems fussy when in the carrier give them time. There may be a small adjustment that needs to be made, YouTube is a babywearers best friend. I can pop my youngest (6.5 months now)in and bounce on an exercise ball, she goes right to sleep. Some babies fuss for a few minutes before they give in to sleep, so don’t give up. if you have dishes and chores most babies are more than happy ti sit on your back and watch how its done.If you are having trouble and are getting frustrated. try again later, or try with a dolly and go slowly. Once you are able to get baby into the carry quickly they will me less like to fuss. Babies can sense frustration and them crying will make it worse. So put it down do something else and try again later. Soon you will be able to go from carry to breastfeeding in a snap. You’ll be able to go shopping while the nap. Most of all you will let you baby feel secure and that their needs are being met, which make for more confident children.
Happy Babywearing Ottawa!
By Andria Bell. I am in my 30’s. I have 3 beautiful children. .Our oldest, Katie, just turned 5 and is in Senior kindergarten. My angel, I was a single mom with her, as her father left us when I was 4 months pregnant. I met my husband when she was 18 months, so to all of us, he is her dad. Next, our son, Logan is 2.5. He is an entertaining, curious little guy. Sometimes too smart for his own good. Our third little munchkin Helena. Her pregnancy was complicated, and her short life has been as well, so far. She is 4 months now and will be needing open heart surgery within the next few months, for a Heart defect. I have a wonderful supportive husband, who is a Chiropractor here in Ottawa. together we use an attachment / natural parenting style (I guess that would be the best label to use) which includes breastfeeding, bedsharing and babywearing. I hope to share some of ur experience in all these areas!