A lot of this will look familiar to my longtime readers, since I published part of it back in October. I’ve gotten several new carriers since then and felt like I should update my guide to include them. I also wanted to share some very important information about what kind of sling NOT to buy. I’ll probably update again in 9 months when I have an infant to show newborn carries, but in the meantime if you have any babywearing advice or posts please feel free to leave links in the comments.
This isn’t a “guide” as much as a “check out all my baby carriers” post, but it may be helpful for anyone still unsure what exactly is going on with all this babywearing. The short explanation is wearing your baby is fun, leads to a calmer happier child, and is an important part of attachment parenting. I find wearing Baby Evan to be much easier than dragging a stroller around all the time, especially in stroller unfriendly places (beaches, farmer’s markets, outdoor events, wine festivals, museums). The only downside to babywearing is once you start you can’t stop buying carriers and that can get pretty expensive. I’m not an expert but I learned a ton from my local babywearing group led by my friend Sarah who’s worn 3 of her kids and teaches classes. Here’s my experience with a few of the most common types.
Ergo – Between $120 – $135 depending on the fabric, although I got mine from BabySteals.com for about $80
The Ergo is a soft structured carrier (SSC) which means it’s got more, uh, structure than a mei tai but holds the baby in a very similar way. There are a lot of snaps and buckles and straps and things to adjust but don’t let that intimidate you – it’s about as complicated as a backpack. The Ergo is supposed to distribute a baby’s weight to both your hips (with the waist strap) and your shoulders so you can carry even a larger child comfortably. Their suggested weight limit is 40 lbs but say it’s safe up to 90 lbs – but who wants to carry a 90 lb kid??? You can carry the baby in three ways, facing you on the front, facing you on the back or a hip carry (link included since I haven’t figured out that last one yet). I actually can’t believe it took me a year to get this carrier. I love it so so so much. I can get Baby Evan on and off my back all by myself even in a rainy parking lot. I can also swing him around from back to front without taking him off, PLUS if I loosen one strap I can get him low enough to nurse while still walking around. The one pictured below is the Ergo Organic Carrier- Black/embroidery.
I think the Ergo is the best carrier for places where I’m likely to take the baby on and off, since I can easily wear it even without the baby when he wants to run around.
Please excuse the pj’s – I needed a pic but didn’t want to stall bedtime
Moby Wrap – I bought mine from BabySteals.com for half price, but I think they usually run between $40-$60.
The Moby is my least-used wrap, although some moms swear by it*. (There’s a very similar carrier called a Sleepywrap which I’ve also heard good things about.) I bought my Moby during the very hottest part of summer and the extra layers of fabric were just too much for the New England humidity. Now that it’s finally cold enough to appreciate it’s snuggliness, Baby Evan has sort of outgrown it. The Moby is one long length of stretchy t-shirt-like fabric (mine has a fleece panel in the middle, which makes it a Moby D) you wrap in various ways to hold the baby to your body. The Moby is supposed to be good up to 35 lbs but my 20 lb baby seems to stretch it out fairly quickly and I need to tighten it up after 5-10 minutes. I was hopeful the hip carry would extend my Moby’s use, but Baby Evan twists and thrashes so much I’m afraid he might fall out. It is very comfortable, the material is nice and the wideness of the “straps” spreads the weight out so your shoulders don’t get sore. If you had a newborn who refused to be put down, especially to sleep, I would definitely recommend a Moby. Bonus: it can also be used with twins or for breastfeeding hands free (although I never got the hang of that).
Hug Hold – Baby faces mom. Really great for tiny babies. Don’t worry, they won’t suffocate although you will worry they might.
Update 2012: Thanks to a commenter for alerting me that Moby no longer recommends the back carry I removed the photo from my post. I never used it – despite following the instructions in my Moby manual the stretchiness of the material meant it never seemed secure. When I had my second baby I gave this Moby to a friend in search of one and replaced it with a beautiful pink woven wrap. Woven wraps are much less stretchy but still comfortable. You can check YouTube for all kinds of neat carries, but be careful to use your own judgement – despite the title of “expert” or “educator” there is no oversight of babywearing by anyone other than other babywearers who have declared themselves experts. Keep common sense and good judgement in mind.
*The son of one of the mom’s in my breastfeeding support group was born with club feet and has to wear special shoes attached with a metal bar to help reshape them. A sling or mei tai wouldn’t work for her, because the former squishes his feet together and the later separates them too far. She LOVES her Moby because he can wear the bar while she wears him and she swears it’s the only way she can get him quiet while in his “torture device”.
BabyBjorn – Starts at about $6o and goes up, but you can find them on Craigslist pretty often
The Bjorn is sort of controversial among babywearers, since the baby’s legs just dangle without any support. I’ve heard it can be bad for their…hips? legs? feet? I’m not too concerned though, since it remains one of the best selling baby carriers worldwide and it doesn’t seem to bother Baby Evan at all. It’s not the most versatile carrier – you can only wear it on your front, but the baby can face in or out. The weight limit on my BabyBjorn Original carrier is up to 25 lbs so my giant baby is going to outgrow it before any of the others. On the up side, it’s very sporty and easy to wear for longish periods of time. I use it when I walk for exercise and don’t plan to take the baby in and out very often. It’s definitely the “manliest” of my carriers and E has no problem wearing it in public public (as opposed to among friends public):
Baby facing Dad – It’s true, I did this whole post just for an excuse to post this picture again.
Baby facing out – Baby Evan falls asleep pretty much without fail in the Bjorn, even in loud places.
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SLINGS before I get to mine. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently recalled the bag-style slings mostly found at places like Babies R Us and big-box retailers (I’ve also seen them several times at TJMaxx). These slings are unsafe and several babies have died after either suffocating in the fabric or having their airways constricted due to the extreme c-curve the sling creates. Do not buy this kind of sling.
BUT. Please don’t let one irresponsible manufacturer ruin all baby-wearing. It can be done 100% safely with a little knowledge and some common sense. Also, please don’t tell moms in the grocery store they might kill their babies by wearing them, especially when they’re using something that is totally not a sling. And if you DO say something that ignorant to me, please accept my apology in advance for the verbal beat-down you’re going to get.
Ok, on to slings.
Maya Ring Sling - $50 for the basic, $65 for the padded (mine is the Lightly Padded Ring Sling), organics are around $95 (secret tip: the website has an outlet for discontinued fabrics at great prices)
My mom bought a Maya for me at Papoose when Baby Evan was just a few days old and I’ve used it at least twice a week every since. It’s the carrier I wore while I stood in line for 8 hours auditioning for Deal or No Deal. I keep it in the car for quick runs into the store. It’s great for shopping or walking around and is easy to wash, store and stuff in my diaper bag. It has a zippered pocket in the tail for your keys or wallet so you don’t have to carry a diaper bag for quick trips (one down side of the sling is it’s really hard to carry a purse while wearing it – one shoulder has the ring, the other is trapped behind the baby). The negative for this carrier – or any sling – is all the weight is on one shoulder and not spread out across your back. I also have some trouble keeping the padded part up on my shoulder where it belongs, especially when juggling a squirmy baby in a parking lot. The Maya comes in different sizes to fit different sized people and we bought the largest so E and I could both wear it (and, let’s be honest, so it would fit over my boobs) although that means the tail is longer than necessary. I’ve been told ring slings are the easiest carrier to nurse in but I never did figure out the nursing-while-walking/standing/moving thing, so I don’t have any advice to make that work. Here are pictures of E and I using our Maya Ring Sling at various stages in Baby Evan’s life:
Tiny (jaundiced) Baby Evan tucked in the sling
Medium-sized Baby Evan tucked in the sling
Baby Evan sleeping in the sling at brunch
E cleverly uses the sling to keep his hands free for beer
Now that Baby Evan is sitting up, the hip carry is our favorite. He can see in any direction he wants and if he gets tired I can pull the fabric up over his arms and shoulders and he can sleep comfortably.
Fixed Length Sling – There are a lot of makes and models of pouch style slings (Hotslings and Peanut Shell are two popular brands) and the prices range from very inexpensive to VERY pricey. Mine is an Amy Coe Pink Pucci Sling I got from bTrendie for $15.
I was really excited about this sling, especially since it was such a good deal, but unfortunately it’s not my favorite. I bought the large size since I was afraid something smaller wouldn’t fit over my, uh, chestal area, but it ended up being sort of big. I highly recommend buying one in person (or at least after figuring your size out in person) from someone who knows what they’re doing. I can use the fixed sling now with Baby Evan the toddler sitting up but I doubt I’ll be able to use it with an infant. I might take it to my seamstress and have her shorten it, since it is a pretty fabric and it was a great deal, even if I have to pay someone to alter it. You can use the same carries you would with a ring sling – cradle carry, front carry & hip carry – you just can’t adjust the length.
Mei Tai Carrier – I bought my generic mei tai at Papoose for $30, and my wonderful husband bought me a genuine BabyHawk for Christmas. If you don’t want to spend $90+ you can find tons of homemade ones on Etsy, or if you’re crafty, try Googling for your own sewing pattern.
My mei tai is now my (second) favorite of all the carriers, even though I have the most basic, bottom of the line version. It’s really easy to get on and off, holds the baby very securely, and Baby Evan loves being carried against my chest. (He went through a brief period where he wanted to face out and fought the mei tai but I’ve adjusted the way I stand so he can see what I’m seeing or who I’m talking to.) It folds up very small and has no metal or plastic parts so I can throw it in the washer and dryer for a quick cleaning. The straps spread the weight across my back and shoulders so I don’t feel off balance or get a sore neck. The way Baby Evan sits in the carrier puts his weight on his butt and supports his thighs so you don’t have to worry all that dangling will mess up his…hips? legs? Whatever it is people worry about. There are fewer carries in a mei tai than with the Moby, but you can put the baby on your front or your back. One of the benefits of a mei tai back carry is you can tie the waist strap, pop the baby in while holding the shoulder straps and sort of swing the whole thing around so you don’t need a partner to get situated (although I’ve only dared to do this while sitting on the bed in case he falls out). If you REALLY wanted you could do a forward-facing front carry, but you’d need to cinch the middle of the fabric with a ribbon so the baby’s legs didn’t point in totally different directions. If you really wanted to just buy ONE carrier, I highly recommend some version of the mei tai. Here’s mine at Plymouth Rock and Mystic Aquarium:
Front carry – When the baby was smaller, the mei tai provided plenty of sun/weather protection.
Front carry – The easiest way to carry my 20 lb fattie. I noticed today though that he’s getting too tall for my smallish mei tai. I guess I’ll have to buy a new one!
One of the benefits of this carrier (and all baby-wearing) is the baby is right up at eye level with Mom, so you get to experience things together.
Back carry – The only downside is the hair pulling, but it doesn’t happen very often. Yet.
And here’s my real Baby Hawk. It’s got a different pattern on each side and the blue side also has a pocket so I can tuck my keys and phone in it for quick trips into the store. I KNOW I shouldn’t have picked such a light color for the straps but it’s so pretty and I couldn’t stand another black carrier. It’s a little bigger overall than my orange mai tei so it holds a heavier/larger baby with no problem.
Back carry – I can do it by myself now that he’s big enough to sit on my back himself
Front carry – At 12 months this isn’t my favorite anymore, but when I put him on my back for too long I miss him. Super cheesey, I know.
Backpack Carrier – Many different options and styles, ranging from about $80 – $200 depending on bells and whistles. Check Craigslist before buying one new – it’s the kind of thing people buy and never, ever use.
This was actually the very first baby item I bought EVER, from someone in Navy Housing who was getting rid of all their baby stuff on Craigslist. I paid $15 for the Chicco Smart Support Backpack, never used, complete with every accessory and the owner’s manual. And then it sat in the guest room closet, since I’m too lazy to actually go hiking and it’s too big and unwieldy for everyday baby-wearing. But lo and behold the perfect backpack-using opportunity came along just last week and I was soooo glad I had it. It can only be worn one way, but it is designed to be as function in that one way as possible – straps to hold the baby in, sun shield, rain shield, storage bag in the back, fold out stand. I really loved being able to set him down still in the backpack for a few minutes to rest and he didn’t seem to mind at all. I think this kind of carrier is extra popular with dads.
Next time I’m making my husband wear him, but I think this was the perfect carrier for hiking a dirt trail in the rain.
For a carrier with a fixed frame it fits both of us surprisingly well.
This is actually my aunt carrying ME in a baby backpack in about 1983. I’m a pioneer baby.
There are many, many, MANY other carriers, all of which I would like to own or at least try out at some point. I just saw a Beco Butterflyfor the first time and think it looks amazing (My friend Cheri reviewed it here). If you’re looking for how-to videos for baby carrying, YouTube is a surprisingly good resource, especially for different ways to tie or wrap new carriers. Who knew there was more than just Single Ladies parodies and people getting hit in the crotch on there?!
So there you go, all my experience with babywearing. How about you? Do you have a favorite carrier to recommend?
***Disclaimer: All carriers were purchased by me with my own money (I clearly have a serious problem) and reviewed without any consideration for the makers/companies. They have no idea who I am and probably wish I would stop talking about them. Several of the links above are connected to my Amazon Associates account, so if you follow them and buy a carrier there’s a teeny tiny chance I’ll earn a few cents. Please don’t let this knowledge pressure you into buying every single carrier pictured just so I can afford, uh, more carriers. ***