Why Wear Your Baby?
Infant carriers worn on the body often turn out to be the single most important item of baby gear for many families. New parents are surprised at how much their babies want to be held and carried, and how much a carrier soothes them. However, it can be hard to find out the best infant carriers and to decide which one is best for you and your baby.
You may have heard the term “babywearing” and might feel that it is not for you, but as your days as a new parent fill up and you feel more tired, you might find yourself hunting for relief for your aching arms and back. It’s exhausting to have a cranky, crying baby who act so happy in your arms!
People all over the world have practiced babywearing for centuries, because most mothers needed (and still do need) to go back to the work of growing and making food, caring for other children, or doing other chores within days after giving birth. Infant carriers hold the baby close and safe next to your body, leaving both hands free. There are many products on the market designed to help you wear your baby. Following are some of the basic styles of carriers:
Pouches and Ring Slings
Slings have been used all over the world for thousands of years. Babies love them because it holds them in a natural hammock-type position, close to their parents’ or caregivers’ heartbeat. Slings are wonderful for nursing as it’s easy to hold baby in the right position. The fabric of the sling covers the exposed parts of both you and the baby, allowing for privacy. Many cranky newborns settle down very quickly when cradled in a nice, warm sling!
Slings can be very simple or beautifully ornate, adjustable with rings or sewn together, and commercially or home-made. They come in padded, unpadded, and pouch varieties. You may have to experiment to find the one that suits you and your baby best. The less structured the fabric the more versatile, though the learning curve is higher as you will have to master some tying techniques. Special slings exist to carry babies into water to go swimming, with UV-protective fabric for sunny outings, and can be made from very warm fabrics, so you can find a sling for every climate and activity level.
Be aware that they can be a little hard on the back, because they put most of baby’s weight on one shoulder. To alleviate this, it’s important to switch shoulders every day or so if you use one often. You’ll also reduce the back strain of any baby carrier by positioning the baby as high up on your body as you can, and holding them very close.
Fabric wraps, such as the Moby Wrap, are a great alternative to slings because they distribute the weight of the baby on both shoulders and the hips of the wearer. They can be wrapped in many different ways to accommodate babies as they grow, and can be put on your body in various positions (including a back carry position and as a hip carrier). They are also wonderfully lightweight.
Wraps can help you carry children who weigh up to 45 pounds, and a few minutes of being carried around next to you can be a great way to soothe toddler “owies”. The one drawback is learning the different wrapping and tying techniques, though all commercial wraps come with instructions or even a DVD. There are also some easy to learn beginner positions.
Hip carriers take advantage of a natural baby-carrying position, but free up your arm to do other things. They are designed to cup over your shoulder to avoid it pressing against your neck, and some brands include storage pockets or other handy extras. They are great for older babies who still love being carried.
Many of us first experience babywearing when we get a classic Baby Bjorn front pack. This is a great and easy-to-use carrier, though there are many other brands and types available now. Some manufacturers offer more support for active wear or longer use, others come in mesh models for hot climates, while some are made out of neoprene fabric for taking baby swimming. The ERGO baby carrier is one such great front pack for infants that can also be used as a back carrier or hip carrier for older babies and toddlers.
Once a baby has good head control and can sit up reasonably well, they will love a baby backpack! They keep baby safe and allow them to see everything that’s going on around them, making them the best baby carrier for festival, zoo, and aquarium outings. There are two types:
- Soft, structured fabric, with large padded waist and shoulder straps for comfort. Baby sits piggyback on you, comfortable on your body;
- Frame baby backpacks, which are actually modified hiking backpacks. Think of an actual frame camping backpack, but instead of a place to store your camping gear, there is instead a seat and harness built in.
Whatever baby carrier you choose, your baby will love being with you as you go through your day!