How to Choose the Best Baby Carrier for You and Your Lifestyle
Most new moms will tell you that a baby carrier is essential. While it's not possible to grow new arms, it is possible to make the most of the two you've got by wearing your baby. But, finding the best baby carrier for your infant or older baby is no small task. What works for one mom won't necessarily work for another. Even a carrier that once worked for you might not work once you have another baby. As a mother who has worn all of my babies, I have experienced this first-hand!
It's easy to get lost in baby carrier reviews. Some look for the safest baby carrier or try to find the cutest baby carrier. Others try to find a baby carrier that is easy on your back or the baby carrier that is easiest to use. Some are just searching for the best baby carrier. Here are some things to consider and a summary of the best types of baby carriers and infant carriers out there.
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When choosing your baby carrier, think about these factors:
Budget: Baby carriers are available at all price points, ranging from about $20 to up to $200 based on type and style. It's easy to get carried away, so set a budget before you start looking.
Length of Use: How long do you plan on wearing your baby? Some baby carriers work great for infants, but not so well for older babies or toddlers.
Frequency of Use: Do you plan on wearing your baby most of the time instead of using a stroller? Or will you be wearing your baby mainly around the house as needed to free up your hands? If you plan on more frequent use, a carrier with more support and multiple possible positions becomes more important.
Climate: Some carriers can make both mom and baby hot. If you are having a summer baby, live in a warm climate, or plan on baby wearing all year long, look for a carrier in a lighter fabric or one that has features that make it more comfortable to wear all year long like the Beco 8 All Seasons Carrier.
Who Will Use the Carrier: Most carriers can be adapted to meet the needs of multiple caregivers, but there are some that are purchased according to size. If multiple caregivers will use the carrier, look for one that can be adjusted to fit a range of body types.
Lifestyle: Some carriers require a great deal of attention to be used safely. We all want the safest baby carrier possible for our little ones. So before choosing a carrier, make sure you understand how to use it safely and think about whether you will be able to take the steps necessary every time you place your baby in the carrier, even if she is screaming and your toddler needs you and you are already running late.
Soft Structured Baby Carriers or Buckle Carriers: Soft structured carriers are considered the best baby carriers by many. And for good reason. They typically have a padded belt with a buckle and another buckle that goes across your chest. Babies can typically be worn facing your chest or on your back. Some models also allow you to wear your baby on the side.
Although I tried just about every type of baby carrier out there, I quickly came to appreciate soft structured baby carriers because they are easy to use, can be adjusted quickly, and last for as long as you would want to reasonably wear your baby. Some popular brands are Tula (Tula releases carriers in limited edition prints) and Ergo. Most soft structured carriers can be used with infants, although some require the use of an infant insert. Many also sell waist extenders separately should you require a longer fit.
Ring Sling: Ring Slings, also called shoulder slings, are a basic and easy-to-use type of baby carrier. Ring slings are typically made from one long piece of fabric with an adjustable ring that goes over one shoulder. Some types also have extra padding on the portion that goes over your shoulder for comfort. Ring slings are great for getting a baby in and out of a sling quickly.
In my experience, ring slings are the best type of infant carrier since infants fit snugly in the sling and can be placed in securely no matter what their size since the piece of fabric can be tightened or loosened easily and without limit. Some ring slings are sold in different sizes based on the wearer's height and weight so it may be difficult to share this type of baby carrier with multiple caregivers. Style range for the gorgeous Sakura Bloom slings that available in silk to basic cotton slings like these from Moby.
Pouch Slings: Pouch slings are similar to ring slings in that they are made from one piece of fabric, but instead of having an adjustable ring they stretch. Because they are not adjustable they must fit precisely to be safe and it may be difficult to share them among caregivers. Many moms like these slings because they are very simple to put on and off and fit easily in diaper bags since they are small and do not have any hardware. One popular brand is Hotslings.
Wraps: Baby wraps are the most traditional type of baby carrier and are one long piece of fabric. They can be complicated to learn how to use safely and quickly, but are nevertheless popular with many caregivers. One big advantage of wraps is that, with practice, they can be used to fit nearly any baby no how big or small and can be used well into toddlerhood. Many caregivers also love that they are available in so many styles and fabric weights for any climate.
With other carriers, you are out of luck if your baby doesn't like the position you put him in. But there is no shortage of ways to carry a baby with a wrap. As versatile as they seem, however, many moms find them too complicated to learn how to use, too time-consuming to put on, and worry about using them safely. Many others, however, find that using them becomes second nature with a little practice and get years of use out of their wraps. Affordable wraps are available starting at about $20.00 and prices go up based on fabric type and style to the pricier (but beautiful) wraps from Didymos.
Mei Tai: Mei Tai baby carriers are a hybrid between a soft-structured carrier and a traditional wrap. Mei Tais look very similar to soft structured carriers in that they have a large panel to support the baby. But instead of buckles, they have strips of fabric that are tied around the caregiver's waist and chest. This Mei Tai from Cybex incorporates beautiful details.
No matter which type of carrier you choose, be sure to make sure you use your baby carrier safely! If possible, you may want to try different types of baby carriers before you buy one. Many areas have chapters of Baby Wearing International where caregivers can go to try carriers and get advice from experienced volunteers.
How did you decide which carrier was the best baby carrier for you? Share in the comments!