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Baby Carriers 101


Babywearing 101 Baby Carrier and Sling Basics

Overwhelmed with information? Saw someone wearing a great baby carrier and want one like it? This chart gives you a quick primer on the basic types of baby carriers.

If you are buying a gift or aren’t inclined to do a lot of reading and research, scroll down for a quick list of recommendations for our favorite carriers for new babywearers.

For a quick chart comparing the basics of the different types of carriers: click here.

Ring SlingsRing-Sling-Studio-Tekni-The-Sling

What it is: a ring sling is a rectangular piece of fabric threaded through 2 rings to create a seat and fasten the baby to your body. The size of the pouch which holds the baby can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the fabric through the rings.

Age of baby: Birth through toddlerhood (or until too heavy to wear).

Positions: front carry (both facing in and out), breastfeeding, hip carry (for older kids) and limited back carry (older children)

Activities we choose a ring sling for:

  • breastfeeding
  • quick trips into the store
  • short cuddles throughout the day
  • parties, bbqs or anywhere you want to socialize while cuddling your child
  • around the house

Pros:

  • easy breastfeeding
  • adjustable
  • easy and fast on/off
  • can be shared between people of different sizes.

Cons:

  • one-shouldered (less comfortable for longer carries or for people with back and shoulder issues
  • not everyone likes the extra fabric hanging down
  • Dads sometimes prefer other carriers
  • some learning curve to getting them right

Get a ring sling if:

  • you want a fast and easy carry that is super cuddly
  • you (or the person you are buying it for) want a secure nursing carry
  • you want a quick hip carry for an older child
  • you want to share the carrier between people of very different sizes

Read more about rings sling baby carriers.

Shop ring slings

Buckle Carriers (aka Soft Structured Carriers)

Buckle-Carrier-Happy-Carrier

What it is:  a rectangular piece of fabric that secures with buckles or clips rather than knots. This type of carrier is a modern version of the meh dai carrier.

Age of baby: Newborn (may require insert or other adjustments) through pre-school

Activities we choose a buckle carrier for:

  • hiking
  • travel
  • long day trips
  • pretty much any activity with a child over 35 lbs

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Dads love them
  • Widely available
  • Feel very secure, without just a little adjustment
  • Easy to share between users of different sizes (adjustment required)
  • super comfortable for very long carries or for older and heavier children

Cons:

  • Newborns usually have to have legs spread out
  • Not as cuddly
  • Not as comfortable for hip carry
  • More involved to put on than a ring sling
  • Padding and buckles can be bulky, especially for petite people
  • Buckles can dig if they fall on the wrong spot on your body
  • Least “natural” feeling
  • Don’t easily fit in diaper bags

Get a buckle carrier if:

  • You want a single, multitasking carrier that lets you wear your child for hours
  • You love the functionality of a mei tai but prefer buckles over tying knots and/or don’t want to deal with long straps
  • You want a sturdy carrier for hiking or long walks with an older child who is still light enough to carry

Read more about buckle baby carriers.

Shop Buckle Carriers

Meh Dai Carriers

Meh-Dai-Baby-Carrier

What it is: a rectangular piece of fabric with 4 straps that you use to tie your baby onto you.

Age of baby: newborn through preschool age

Positions: front carries (facing in and out) and back carries. Can be used for high back carry. Hip carry, but a bit awkward.
Recommended positions: Upright facing in, upright facing out (Pikkolo only), back carry (older infants with head control, and toddlers)
Activities we choose a meh dai for:

  • housework (especially with an infant)
  • yard work
  • hiking
  • long walks

Pros:

  • sleek look, not bulky
  • no buckles to rub in the wrong places
  • infinitely adjustable and shareable between people of different sizes
  • two-shouldered design very comfortable for long carries and heavier kids
  • infants can have legs in or snuggled up
  • high back carry option is great for back-carrying infants and younger babies

Cons:

  • Knot-tying is not for everyone
  • Long straps can drag on the ground
  • can feel time-intensive for toddlers who want to get up and down a lot

Get a mei tai if:

  • You want a versatile carrier to last for several years that can be used for long periods of time and in a variety of positions
  • You want to carry an infant on your back

Read more about Meh Dai baby carriers.

Shop Meh Dais

Wraps

Wrap-Baby-Carriers-WRapsody-Hybrid

What it is: A wrap is a length of fabric that is tied around the baby and the caregiver. Wraps offer the most versatility of all carriers and also have the highest learning curve. Wraps can be stretchy or woven

Age of baby: newborn on up

Recommended positions: all of them (unless it’s a very stretchy wrap, in which case back carries are not recommended)

Activities we choose a wrap for:

  • super secure newborn wearing
  • housework
  • pretty much anything

Pros:

  • beautiful
  • super cuddly
  • very secure
  • available in a huge range of lengths, fabrics and colors so you can find one that feels great and meets your needs
  • infinitely adjustable
  • can be shared between people of different heights and sizes
  • can be worn in a huge variety of positions to reduce strain on your body

Cons:

  • higher learning curve (especially for woven wraps)
  • length of fabric can be intimidating at first
  • Knot-tying is not for everyone
  • Fabric can drag on the ground
  • Can feel time-intensive

Get a wrap if:

  • You (or the person you are buying it for) want an incredibly versatile carrier and aren’t afraid to spend a bit of time learning how to use it.
  • You like the idea of connecting with our babywearing ancestors.

Pouches

What it is: a piece of fabric sewn into a tube shape, baby sits in the pouch created by the fabric.  This style of carrier was very popular in the 1990s and 2000s but has fallen out of favor due to the difficulty in achieving proper sizing and positioning.

Age of baby: Newborn to early toddlerhood

Positions: Front facing in, hip carry

Activities we choose a pouch for:

  • quick trips into the store
  • short cuddles throughout the day
  • parties, bbqs or anywhere you want to socialize while cuddling your child
  • around the house

Pros:

  • No adjusting required, just pop baby in and go!
  • super simple to use, very little learning curve
  • easy and fast on/off
  • small and compact
  • sleek look
  • Dads like them

Cons:

  • limited or no adjustability
  • fewer positions
  • one-shouldered, so not as comfortable for heavier kids and longer carries
  • fewer manufacturers make them so they are hard to find

Get a pouch if:

  • You want a super simple, no fuss option for your infant or toddler.
  • You have a child who wants to get up and down a lot
  • You want a small carrier for quick carries that will fit in your diaper bag.

Read more about pouch baby carriers.

Quick Baby Carrier Buying Guide:

You want: We recommend:
An easy to use carrier for a new parent Tula Free to Grow

Beco Gemini

Happy Baby Wrap

Cuddly carrier for wearing an infant for long periods of time Wrapsody Hybrid

Happy Baby Wrap

Tula Free to Grow

A hiking carrier Tula Coast Carrier

Boba 4G Carrier

Onbuhimo

A carrier like the Baby Bjorn, but more versatile Beco Gemini

Ergobaby Omni

Tula Explore

An easy hip carrier Any ring sling
A carrier for an older or very heavy child Beco Toddler

Tula Toddler

Lillebaby Carry On

Carrier for water activities Beachfront Baby Wrap (0-6 months)

Beachfront Ring Sling (3-18 months)

Soft carrier with no buckles Mei dai

Wrapsody Hybrid

 

 

 

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