Introduction To Babywearing - Which Carrier Is Best For You? | Pure Natural Newborn Photography
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Introduction To Babywearing – Which Carrier Is Best For You?

Babywearing is such a beautiful craft, that just happens to be hella-useful when you need your hands free to get sh*t done, but also want to take advantage of all the baby cuddles. While I love the concept, and absolutely intend on learning the craft when the time comes, I am not the most knowledgeable on all things carriers. So, I have found an expert to give you the lowdown, and I leave the floor to Débora.  

 


Which Carrier Is Best For You?

 

As a carrying consultant, whose specialization is working with individuals, this is the question I dread the most. Why? Because what people want to hear is a blanket answer, but from my perspective as an expert–there isn’t one.

 

A baby carrier is much like an item of clothing; a t-shirt will fit many people well enough, but will it fit all of them equally as nicely? I’m pretty sure my neighbours aren’t interested in my tastes, or my colour selections. If clothing was so simple to fit to everyone, then there would be only one store in the entire world. Each time I start a private consultation, I start with an intake form to make sure my recommendations are unique to your scenario. Here is an idea of what that is like:

 

  • Do you have any body injuries? Upper back, lower back, mobility concerns?
  • Was your baby born at term? What concerns are there, if any?
  • Are you sensitive to heat?
  • Do you wear a t-shirt in the middle of winter?
  • What time of the year is your baby due?
  • How old is your baby?
  • Do you feel comfortable in snug clothing?

 

Because there are so many carriers out there, different makes, models and brands on the market, and so many families of different shapes, needs and lifestyles, I make sure to simplify things by discussing broad categories of types of baby carriers, rather than focusing on specific brands.

 

Babywearing 101

  • Baby must be in eye’s view of everyone, not just the parents. If the tips of the ears cannot be seen by a bystander, the baby is too low.
  • The carrier must support the baby’s back to prevent the neck from touching the chest. This is to prevent positional asphyxia.
  • Also, babies are furnaces. When I say a carrier is cool, it still won’t change the heat generated while carrying another human being.

 

Stretchy wraps

 

👍🏻 These are typically 4-5 m long and are made of some type of jersey knit fabric. There are differences, such a fibre composition and if there is elastane / spandex woven in. They are extremely mouldable around the body of a baby, and fit the wearer quite snugly. No matter whether you are wearing tummy to tummy, or in a hip position, there is always three layers of fabric around the baby and parent’s body, making this rather hot. Carriers made with pure cotton, or a cotton poly blend, will last longer than those with a 5% spandex content because the spandex cannot take excessive washings and it will eventually lose its hold. It is also most commonly used within view, and does not do so well for backwearing. Of course, there are a small number of brands that are exceptions, but I’m keeping this general for simplicity’s sake.

 

💰 Typically quite affordable, starting at around $70 plus tax and upwards, they shine best when used for children 6 months and younger.

 

Is this the carrier for you?

  • Your baby will be born from October to February in most places in Canada. Many parents I work with simply find this style too warm in the summer months.
  • You are an average size of 1.57 m (5’2”) and taller.
  • Longer learning curve.
  • You feel comfortable in snug clothing.
  • You like or are not bothered by a constant, consistent pressure against your body
  • Can afford to invest in another carrier style.
  • Your baby is under 6 months old.
  • May drag on the ground while tying.
  • It can be used with some preemies, depending on size, intubation and parent’s size as well. There are better options, however.
  • Can be used in a wheelchair

 

Soft structured carrier (SSCs)

 

👍🏻 These carriers feature a structured waist band that acts like a weight belt, similar to what you’d see on camping packsacks, and two padded straps coming off the top corners of the carrier. This carrier type is the most comfortable for us because most of us have used backpacks since kindergarten, and enough of us have seen Ewoks being carrier in them. Meaning they are just as comfortable for use around the home, wandering through town, the store or even on camping trips. These carriers are extremely durable, come in a variety of fabric types and have a number of features.  I will group them into two categories, fixed panel and adjustable. A fixed panel brand will fit typically from 8 months to 2 years, depending on the size of the child, at which point you might need to invest in a toddler carrier. Some fixed panel brands do also have an insert available for use with newborn stage. Fixed panel SSCs cannot be used from birth without some adjustments to keep the baby in view, not just of the parent but of everyone. Adjustable panel SSCs will cinch down and do not require an infant insert. Depending on the brand some will last to 18 months, a few will last up to two years.

 

💰 Cost starts at $70 for brands like Infantino, most however are in the $150-$200 range (taxes extra of course).

 

Is this the carrier for you?

  • Suitable for full term babies only. In a fixed panel SSC, the baby must be positioned using either an infant insert, with a rolled up towel, or small pillow to make them viewable.
  • Short learning curve.
  • You like buckles and a predictable carrier.
  • Sizing is variable from brand to brand. Some do not fit extremely petite individuals, others do not fit plus sized properly. Remember, a carrier is like clothing, Please ensure you try before you buy.
  • If you are prone to overheating, chose one with a mesh panel, even in winter. Especially if budget is a concern and you cannot afford to buy several. It is easy to toss a blanket over the panel to trap in warmth.
  • This carrier does vent on the sides, does allow the child to stretch a bit more and feels less constricting to adults.
  • Harder to switch quickly between adults of two different sizes. You have to always readjust the straps.
  • Most brands can be used in a front, or back carry. Some can be used in a side or hip carry position.
  • Can be used front facing out.
  • Not suitable for preemies.
  • Not recommended for wheelchair use. The waist band can interfere with sitting in a lot of cases.

 

Meh dais / Mei tais

 

👍🏻 This is a plain panel carrier that has a strap coming off each corner. This carrier can be made of any material, and can include features such a full or partial panel cinching. It is very customizable, even if the panel is too large, the size is easily adjustable with some strategic rolling.

 

💰 Price point starts at roughly $100 plus tax and up. Most being above $100.

 

Is this the carrier for you?

  • Most will work well for term babies through to 18-24 months, depending on the size of the child.
  • Short to medium learning curve.
  • Designed to fit an average size individual, however, easily adjustable if you are petite. Some brands also carry some with longer straps for plus-sized individuals.
  • Is quite cool compared to a full structured carrier. There are some made with venting panels, but as it is much thinner than an SSC panel, they are not as warm.
  • Easily exchanged between individuals of differing sizes.
  • Top straps will drag on the ground.
  • Can be used from birth. Brands with adjustable panels can be used with preemies.
  • Can be used in a wheelchair.

 

Wraps

 

babywearing-in-canada-conference-2016-50-cotton-custom-woven-wrap-west-of-4th_sdm_1473👍🏻 I could honestly go on and on about wraps, to the extent that given enough time I can outdo a Shakespearean play. Hamlet has nothing on me when you get me started. For simplicity’s sake, a wrap is a simple length of cloth, most are around 65-70 cm wide and can be of any length. I will group them into two categories: Long wraps and short wraps.

What is a short wrap? This is very personal, depends on your size, the size of your child. Generally speaking, any wrap 1.2 m to 3.5 m is a short wrap. These can be used most frequently in what we call one or two pass carries. A pass is a short way of saying how many times the carrier goes around your body.

What is a long wrap? A long wrap is designed to have three passes around your body. The most common length is a size 5, or 4.6 m long.

 

💰  A wrap is the most customizable of carriers and you are only limited by your flexibility and your imagination. The costs are extremely variable, you have the machine woven brands that can start at a cost point of $60 for a 2m length, all the way up. The more expensive ones you’ll see are artisanal hand wovens, they are without a doubt absolutely gorgeous, and can cost at least $1,000 dollars. Wraps can be made of any fibre combination, be any thickness or consistency (some are very textured and rough to the touch, others very slick).

How do you choose? Find your price point first. There’s lots of choice in colours and brands at each level, you may be a brand name shopper like me or a fashion house aficionado.

 

Is this the carrier for you?

  • You are comfortable with knots.
  • You are okay with a longer learning curve.
  • You love fabric.
  • Can be used from birth and works well with babies of any age or size. For preemies, a shorter length is preferable, and if you need to you can fold the wrap in half to fit their little bodies.
  • It might not suit all premature babies, if there are a lot of tubes or the baby must be kept in a prone position (this is extremely rare).
  • Can fit any size, provided you know what your preference is and work with the shape of your body.
  • It can be quite cool, if you prefer a single pass carry on your body like a ruck. Or quite hot, if you like a three or four pass carry like the double hammock.
  • Easily exchanged between individuals of differing sizes.
  • Will drag on the ground.
  • Can be used in a wheelchair.
  • Will bother individuals with a low touch tolerance. If snug clothing or too much pressure is over stimulating to you as a parent chose something else.

 

Front pack carriers

 

👍🏻 These are highly structure carriers, and if you were worn as a baby it was likely the one your parents had in their tool kit. The oldest brand is the Snugli. These carriers create a tube around the baby, and the legs fit into a seat similar to one you’d find in an activity centre: This is the pack if you will. As a side note, this style is called a high street carrier in Europe / the UK. Some brands have narrower seats than others. The pack is then hung from a harness that goes around the shoulders, though some do have a strap that provides some waist support. These carriers are losing ground and are less popular than previously due to shifting trends among parents, but are common on the second hand market and may still be what parents picture when we mention baby carrier.

 

💰 These carriers range in price from $60 and up.

 

Is this the carrier for you?

  • You like buckles and a predictable carrier.
  • Short learning curve.
  • Child must be old enough to fit in the pack, typically around 2-3 months of age for most babies.
    • A proper fit: The pack is snug around the baby’s body to prevent slumping.
    • These carriers cannot be adjusted properly to fit a narrower torso and short bodies, so size and length of torso is important.
  • Fits women on opposite ends of the size spectrum (petite or plus size) really well because they take the waist out of the equation.
  • Is quite cool compared to an SSC because the baby is suspended on the harness.
  • Is suitable for adults who have a low tolerance for high pressure against their skin or do not like too much tactile stimulation.
  • May fit better around some types of baby casts or harnesses at first.
  • Better for babies who also do not like to be held so tightly, though this is rare.
  • You must have a strong upper back, suitable for some individuals with weak lower back or if you have broad shoulders.
  • Will only be comfortable up to 6 to 9 months of age for babies of average size.
  • Those without a waist strap can be used in a wheelchair, with some exceptions.

 

 

I hope this guide has been helpful to you. There are, of course, far more carrier styles than those I mentioned here. The best thing to do when exploring baby carriers it to take an introduction to babywearing course, attend a local babywearing group meeting or a try before you buy program.

 

 – Débora

 

Debora Rodrigues Babywearing Expert Educator Ottawa

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – 

Débora Rodrigues is the one-woman-show behind Babywearing in Canada & Crown Of Dreams. Between the awareness campaigns, the annual conference, the baby carrier shop and rental program, and the amazing baby wearing courses, she has more than her hands full! But she manages to do it all with the love of her two boys; the passion that drives her creativity.

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