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I literally would not be able to survive as a mom of seven kids without babywearing. I have been wearing my babies ever since #2 was born and I wish I had discovered it with #1. I have tried so many different types of carriers and love them all. Each one is best for different situations, so here’s a little rundown of why I love babywearing and what slings I use, when. (pardon all the selfies, I never realized that I don’t have many pics of me using carriers taken by others!)
Benefits of Babywearing
I absolutely love babywearing for so many reasons. There are numerous studies that show the benefits (for both mom and baby) of keeping your baby close throughout the day. These benefits include less crying, smarter babies, calmer more confident mommies, and hands free functioning. Babywearing means I don’t have to tote around a baby car seat if I want to have the option to not carry my child in my arms. It means I can go pee when I’m out and about with my baby on my own. It means I can eat my lunch while baby is eating theirs. It means I can go for a walk over rough terrain without having to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy stroller. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that babywearing is AMAZING!!
The topic of safety could be a whole post in and of itself, but just remember the acronym TICKS and you should be ok.
A ring sling is my #1 go to carrier. A ring sling is a strip of fabric ~25-30 inches wide with two rings sewn onto one end. You wrap the fabric around your body like a Miss America sash and feed it through the rings. I love ring slings because they fold up small to fit in the diaper bag, are quick to get on and off, and can be used from newborn through toddlerhood. The main downside to a ring sling is that all the weight is on one shoulder. This isn’t such a problem with a newborn, but as your baby gets heavier it can start to hurt after a while. I usually use the ring sling for quick trips when we are out and about, and don’t use it much at all in the house.
Good ring sling brands include Maya Wrap and Sakura Bloom. Ring slings are also pretty easy to make, but insure that you use tested ring slings, not craft rings, and that you sew with high quality thread that won’t break. Gutermann thread is one of the most recommended threads for baby carriers.
Stretchy wraps are one of the best options for newborns. A stretchy wrap is a long piece of cotton stretch material that you tie around the body. Stretchy wraps are pre-tied on mom and baby can be popped in and out. Stretchy wraps are NOT safe for back carries. The advantages of the stretchy wrap are that the weight is evenly spread over both shoulders, waist and back, and that since it is prettied it’s super simple to get baby in and out. The biggest downside is that they can get too warm for both mom and baby in hot weather.
Good stretchy wrap brands include Boba and Moby. Stretchy wraps are also very simple to make yourself. Find some thick stretchy cotton, make sure it is cotton so it is breathable, and make sure it is a little heavier weight than your average $5 T-shirt. Buy 5-7 yards depending on your size, cut in half lengthwise, and you’re done! No sewing needed because this type of fabric won’t fray.
Soft Structured Carrier (SSC)
These are the carriers that most people think of when they think of wearing their baby. These carriers are basically a rectangle of fabric with waist and shoulder buckles and straps. It is recommended that you look for a carrier with a wide seat that is a better position for baby’s spine. Many carriers (such and Baby Bjorn) have narrow seats called “crotch danglers”. These are not only bad for baby’s spine and less comfortable for them, but they are usually less comfortable for the parents too, due to the way the shoulder straps meet in the upper back. SSC’s are great when you are great for longer wearing periods and most can be worn on front or back. They can be used for older toddlers as well as newborns. They can be a little difficult to get adjusted comfortably at first, but once you have your straps in place you won’t have to change them other than a little loosening as baby gets bigger.
There are several different brands of SSC’s. The most common in store brand is the Ergo, which I have owned and loved. Other options include Tula, Boba, and Beco. These carriers are much more complicated to sew yourself, but it can be done if you are adept with a machine.
(sorry no pictures, I’ll work on getting one!)
A Mei Tai carrier is a rectangle of fabric with ties at the waist and shoulders. Rather than being buckled they are tied around the body giving them maximum adjustability. Em Tais can also be worn on the front or the back. I have owned a few different ones, but have never been comfortable wearing one on my back due to my narrow shoulders. There are also half buckle Mei Tai’s, which have a buckle on the waist strap, and wrap strap Mei Tai’s, which have wide fabric wraps vs narrow ones.
Babyhawk, Infantino, and Didymos are all great Mei Tai makers. A Mei Tai is pretty easy to make, but you have to use the right materials. Inexpensive materials could lead to carrier failure and an injured baby. This is the tutorial I used when I made a Mei Tai many moons ago. There are also work from home mom’s and other companies that will do a wrap conversion for you. Just make sure you research them and read reviews to ensure you are getting a quality product.
Last, but certainly not least, is the woven wrap. Woven are the most versatile of the baby carriers. They are long strips of sturdy woven fabric that you can tie in many different ways depending on what you need. Woven wraps can be used to carry two babies at a time if you have twins or even just a toddler and an infant. Longer wraps have more tying options, but also can be a bit complicated and get hot. Shorter wraps will give you less options, but be quicker to wrap and cooler to wear. Most woven wrap lovers have a stash of several different lengths and fabrics for different occasions. Woven wraps can get pricey, but once you get past the learning curve it will be well worth the cost!
Some great brands for woven wraps are Didymos, Ellaroo, and Dolcino. Wrapsody makes a lighter weight wrap that is excellent for those in warmer climates. There are tons of other well-loved brands out there, just do a little google searching.
The best way to decide what kind of carrier will work for you is to find a local babywearing group. Search on Facebook or the Babywearing International website to see if there are any groups around you. At group meetings there will be experienced wearers there to show you their different carriers. Also most groups have a lending library for paying members so that you can borrow a carrier to try before you commit to buying.
What is your favorite carrier type and brand?