Things to Consider in a Baby Carrier or Wrap
As a new parent, you’re already buried in a mountain of must-have baby supplies. Diapers, cribs, strollers, and car seats crowd your baby registry, but you may have decided to put off a carrier. After all, how hard could it be to manage ten pounds of infant? Turns out, it’s pretty tough and you’re probably going to need a hand.
This is precisely what baby carriers are designed to do. Sturdy fabrics and straps allow you to secure your precious cargo to your body, leaving your hands free to finally get back to work. The benefits of babywearing extend to your little one too, including easier, more discreet breastfeeding; better emotional development through increased human contact; and greater engagement with the surrounding environment.
But not all carriers are created equal. At SafeWise, we inspected the various babywearing devices and determined not only what’s stylish but what will provide a safe, secure hold for your baby. Here are a few things to consider before you commit to a carrier.
A myriad of baby carriers crowd the market, but we’re focusing on products that are for everyday use and promote babywearing. One of the biggest considerations when choosing a carrier will be the age and weight of your baby. Certain types of carriers and wraps are better suited for infants, while others are geared towards older babies and toddlers.
These sturdy babywearing devices have buckles and straps that keep baby secure and parents comfortable. If you have an older baby or toddler, opt for a structured carrier with a wider, taller seat.
Womblike and versatile, wraps are long swaths of fabric that can be tied in various ways to secure your infant and allow for discrete breastfeeding. Because wraps usually provide inward-facing or fetal tuck positions they are best for younger babies and infants.
Slings are a variation on a wrap that usually has a hoop securing the fabric across the shoulder. You won’t find any slings on our list because many experts consider them a safety concern. They can be used inappropriately and can position the baby in a way that makes it difficult for your little one to breathe.
The more versatile the carrier or wrap, the more use you’ll get out of it. Choose a babywearing device that allows for both inward-facing and outward-facing positions to encourage appropriate engagement as your baby matures.
Soothing and best for smaller babies, wraps and carriers that provide inward-facing positions let your little one snuggle close. This is a benefit for infants who still prefer to be swaddled and sleep frequently.
Older babies who can hold their heads up and engage in the world like to have their hands free. Outward-facing positions allow babies a better range of motion and the ability to see what’s going on around them.
Similar to carrying your bundle of joy on your hip, shoulder-carry positions are best for older babies that are already sitting and don’t require as much support.
This carry is popular for parents who have older babies or toddlers and want to use carriers to stay active. It’s important to note that for safety reasons, you should invest in a real backpack carrier if you’ll be hiking or walking frequently. Back-carry positions are best for toddlers who are just too big for a comfortable front-carry position.
Whether it’s a trendy wrap or a structured carrier stuffed with storage, a baby carrier’s primary job is to keep your child secure. Here are a few safety concerns you should consider before you purchase.
Quality of Fabric
Inspect the stitching and the quality of fabric to ensure durability. Carriers get messy with spit-up and spills, so you’ll want something that’s going to hold up after more than a few trips in the washing machine. You also want a fabric that has plenty of breathability for both you and baby, so look for lightweight cotton or mesh fabric to promote air flow.
We’ve mentioned this a few times, but you want to choose a product that offers a safe carrying position for the age of your baby. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly, watch a few videos, and practice plenty before you use your carrier the first time.
For infants, it’s important to ensure the carrier doesn’t tuck little chins too tightly to the chest and block the airway. For older babies and toddlers, you want a frog leg position that won’t lead to hip dysplasia. For more information about proper babywearing positions, use Babywearing International’s Guide to Using a Baby Carrier.
Ease of Use
Parents are busy people, so carriers should be able to be put on, taken off, and adjusted with one hand. Some carriers like wraps have a steep learning curve, so if you’re not willing to watch videos and practice until you get it right, then opt for the structured carriers.
You are going to wear this all day in all seasons, so opt for something with good breathability and appropriate support that’s comfortable for both parent and baby. Wide shoulder straps, lumbar support, and mesh fabric all ensure maximum comfort for everyone involved.
You have a new baby and there’s lots to invest in. Consider what you absolutely need right now, but also acknowledge that going cheap now means you may need to upgrade later and, ultimately, pay more.
Wearing a baby doesn’t have to be frumpy. Choose a carrier that has lots of pattern options, but be sure to consider all the people who might wear it on a regular basis before committing to that trendy color.