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Choosing a Carrier

There are many things to think about when choosing a baby carrier. You can get quite overwhelmed when looking at all the options, so here are a few suggestions and some things to consider when choosing.

Ring Slings:

What is a ring sling?
A ring sling is a piece of cloth with two rings sewn into one end. Many people seem to try a ring sling early on because Dr. William Sears, or someone they know recommends them. The ring sling was invented in the late 1970s by Rayner Garner who wanted a sling that was adjustable for himself and his wife (they were drastically different sizes). Later it was popularized by Dr. Sears, a leading force in the attachment parenting movement.

Pros: They are very adjustable, comfortable, and easy to take on and off quickly in any weather. They offer a very good option for discreet and comfortable breastfeeding on the go. A good ring sling (any of the ones recommended later in this section) will cup the shoulder and distribute your baby's weight across much of your back. A ring sling is a good choice for moms and dads who want to share a carrier. A ring sling packs very compactly in a diaper bag or backpack. Ring slings can be worn with your baby in four different positions: On the front facing in, on the front facing out, on the hip, and on the back. Ring slings can be used from birth to about 35 lbs.

Cons: Ring slings that are heavily padded can be very hard to adjust and very frustrating. Because a ring sling is a one-shouldered carrier it can be hard on some people's backs, especially as children get heavier. Some find it hard to learn to position the baby in the sling correctly.

Tips: Look for a sling with little or no padding, as this is more comfortable and easy to adjust for most people. Your baby should ride high and snug in your ring sling, with their bum at or above your belly button.

At Pinkletink Baby we offer ringslings on our Ring Sling Page

Wraps:

What is a wrap? A wrap is a long piece of cloth which can be wrapped around you and your baby and tied in many different ways. There are over 15 different ways to wrap. Depending on the length of the cloth it can be tied as a one-shouldered carrier or a two-shouldered carrier. Wraps are made of stretchy material and woven (non-stretchy) material. In one form or another, wraps are the original baby carrier used for centuries in every part of the world.

Pros: Stretchy wraps are great for newborns. They snuggle your baby close and keep them snug and comfortable against your body. Woven wraps offer great support for all sizes of children. All wraps can be worn with baby on the front, back, or hip. Your baby can be wrapped on your back comfortably and safely from the first weeks right through toddlerhood. Because you can spread the cloth over much of your upper body, your baby's weight is distributed more evenly and you will be able to carry heavier children more comfortably than with other carriers. Discreet and comfortable hands-free nursing is possible in many of the front carries, sometimes with minor adjustments. The only weight limit is how much you can carry.

Cons: It can take some people a bit longer to master wrapping than it takes them to learn to use other forms of carriers. It may take some time and practice for some people to learn wrapping without hands-on help from an experienced wrapper. Long tails of cloth sometimes drag on the ground as you are wrapping (not once you are finished though), and can get dirty.

Tips: Practice, practice, practice. For some people it takes several days to several weeks to become proficient at a certain method of wrapping, so choose one method and get good at it. Make sure that you wrap good and snug or you and your baby will not be supported in comfort.

At Pinkletink Baby we offer 4 different brands and several sizes of wraps on our Wrap Page

Mei Tais:

What is a mei tai? A mei tai (say may tie) is a rectangle of cloth with 4 straps coming off of it. The rectangle supports your baby while the straps wrap around you and your baby and tie in various ways on front, back, or hip. A mei tai is one of a group of Asian back carriers known in babywearing circles as ABCs. There are others in this group, but we will focus on the mei tai. It is primarily used in Asia for carrying children on the back, but can be used as a front or hip carrier too. I find it most comfortable on the back (rather than the front or hip) with children larger than about 25 lbs.

Pros: Mei tais are very easy to learn to use, probably easier than a sling or wrap. They distribute weight on both shoulders in front and back carries. Discreet nursing is possible with minor adjustment. Baby can be positioned on front or back with legs in or out from the first days, and with legs out on front, back, or hip from about 4 months on. Many people find mei tais are the easiest back carrier for toddlers. Mei tais are great for dads who want to carry their kids. Dads just seem to really like the ease of mei tais.

Cons: Front carries may not be as comfortable as they would be with a wrap for larger children because the cloth can not be spread as well to distribute weight. Back carries with very tiny babies can be difficult to learn without help to position your baby. Some babies have an difficult time transitioning from riding with legs in to riding with legs out as their legs may not be quite long enough to straddle the carrier comfortably at the time when they clearly want to start to ride with their legs out.

Tips: Choose mei tais with wide or well padded straps to distribute your baby's weight as comfortably as possible. Be sure to tie the mei tai high and snug to position your baby correctly, you should be able to lean down and kiss your baby's head when they are positioned correctly. When you are learning to put your baby on your back, seek the help of an experienced babywearer, check your work in a mirror, or work kneeling on a soft surface like a bed or carpet.

At Pinkletink Baby we offer 3 different brands of mei tais on our Mei Tai Page

Pouch Slings:

What is a pouch sling?
A pouch sling is basically a tube of cloth that is folded in such a way as to make a pouch to put your little one into. They are popular for their ease of use, as they are not adjustable. Some are slightly adjustable with buttons or snaps at the back to make it easier to wear thicker or thinner clothing underneath, but usually not adjustable enough for two people of different sizes to use the same pouch. They must be sized correctly for the wearer or comfort and safety are seriously compromised for the baby and wearer.

Pros: Pouch slings are compact. They are quite simple to learn to use. Many people like the look of pouch slings. Easy and relatively discreet breastfeeding is possible with a little practice.

Cons: Because a pouch is not adjustable it is very hard to position a small baby safely and correctly in a pouch. Incorrect sizing can be hard on the wearer's back and can make it too easy to position baby in an unsafe position.

Tips: Please make sure to get the correct size! Refer to sizing charts for the sling you are considering purchasing. A pouch sling should be quite snug. Your baby should ride with their bottom at or above your belly button. I personally do not recommend a pouch as a first carrier for your baby.

We do not offer pouch slings at Pinkletink Baby because they are not adjustable enough to fit comfortably for many people.

Other carriers:

There are obviously many types of carriers I have not covered here, and some are good and some are not. I have given a list of recommended brands, and I encourage you to stick to that list as I know from my own experience that these carriers are well made, safe, comfortable, and reliable. I generally do not recommend buckle type carriers (Ergo, Beco, Snugli, etc.) because I myself do not have much experience with them and tend to find that all the buckles just complicate matters. Also, buckle carriers tend to have stiff, mesh strap ends dangling when you are finished tightening your carrier, and, personally, many things dangling off my carrier drive me crazy (with most other carriers you can tuck up the straps and not have things dangling down). Also, I would like to point out that some buckle carriers have been known to have problems with buckles suddenly coming undone, which poses a safety hazard. So, I personally tend to use simpler carriers because they are just that, simple. There is less that can go wrong with them just from an engineering standpoint.

What about the BabyBjorn?

What discussion of modern babywearing would be complete without mention of the Bjorn? Do I like it, not like it, feel ambivalent toward it? Well, it is hard to say. It is a buckle carrier in essence, but a relatively well designed one. On the other hand, it is not so great for the posture of your baby or you. Babies over about 12 or 14 lbs do not have a wide enough seat to sit with their legs in a good supported position in a BabyBjorn, and this is potentially bad for their developing hips and spine. Also, a standard Bjorn can be hell on the wearers back even with a very small child unless the cross is pulled as low on the back as possible. It is never possible to position a baby facing out in a Bjorn in such a way that they are well supported for long periods of time. So, in general I do not recommend a BabyBjorn. It is just not a cost effective carrier, and it may make you and your baby very uncomfortable. Try a stretchy wrap instead, or a ring sling. If you have a Bjorn already and are determined to use it as long as possible I recommend talking to me about positioning your baby as correctly as possible, and adjusting the straps to support your good posture as well as possible.