Babywearing is a practice that goes back to the dawn of time because of how perfectly and wonderfully it works. Babywearing truly is simple and seamlessly compatible with this thing we call life. Wearing can offer newborns the constant warmth and security that they need; enable simple on-demand breastfeeding; give parents hands so they can care for a vulnerable infant while taking care of other needs, whether harvesting fresh vegetables from a garden or simply using the restroom without screams from the next room. Basically, baby carriers can make you feel like you have superpowers, and that’s everything during those sleep-deprived, what-am-I-doing, nonstop-screaming, holy-sh*t early stages of parenthood.
Babywearing takes so many forms these days. From basic to glam, budget to WHAT??? We’re here to help your babywearing – and your budget – by drawing out the most popular of today’s carriers and what they’re best for.
This style of wrap is popular, especially for younger babies. They also tend to be rather stylish, affordable, and comfortable. The wide fabric allows for even distribution of baby’s weight for mom or dad. Plus, their stretchy and cozy design is heaven for sleepy newborns, and makes them ideal for Kangaroo Care. They’re typically composed of natural fabrics, like cotton, bamboo, or blends with a small percentage of spandex or polyester. This kind of fabric can actually be found at your local fabric shop, so if you’ve got skills in the sewing department, you can easily make your own baby wrap!
The potential drawbacks to stretchy wraps is that they can get hot and, depending on the fabric weight, they’re not always interchangeable between babies and toddlers. Bigger tots are more comfortable to carry in a supportive fabric like 100% cotton, while wee ones are better off in a softer wrap like a cotton/spandex blend. Another con to stretchy wraps is that they’re mostly limited to front and side carries. There’s also that small matter of figuring out how to tie them. But at $40, a few YouTube tutorials will make them a doable and inexpensive way to your dip toes in the waters of babywearing. They’re a perfect gift for new parents because they allow for 24/7 contact for beautiful bonding and they can even help to soothe the most colicky of babies.
Visit a natural parenting group or cloth diaper club and you’ll find an endless array of beautifully woven wraps enveloping sweet, chubby-cheeked babies. They’re a crazy hot item thanks to beautiful designs, lovely colors, and their breathable break-in-able natural threads. They’re most often made of natural fibers like bamboo, hemp, cotton, and linen (pssst! Did you know linen is made from flax?). Longer woven wraps make trendy parents go gaga because they open up a magical new world of eye-catching ties and carries.
There are parents that just can’t get enough of woven wraps (literally, they’re wrap cache is taking over their homes and their partners are concerned that they may need to stage an intervention). Then there are those that find wove wraps, and their 5+ meters of fabric, utterly terrifying. While it’s not insurmountable, and the rewards are plenty, if you find this too intimidating you might feel more comfortable with a wrap/carrier cross like the Meh Dai/Mei Tai. But before you give up on wovens, you should know their intimidation has the perfect remedy; ring slings.
Loop that woven through a pair of rings and you have a super simple sling to use while you master the art of tying. Sling rings take ties to a whole other level, and you and your babe will have any lady passerby swooning with love at first sight. Check out Modern Baby Wearing’s post on woven wraps, and you can get all the details on fabrics, sizing, climate considerations, types of carry’s, tips for newborns, and more.
Some of the most notable woven producers include Didymos, Lenny Lamb, Tula, and USA-manufactured Butterfly Baby. A good woven wrap will be an investment of around $75-200 and will securely and comfortable hold baby from birth to toddlerhood — making this a perfect one-of item that can help you to save in the long run. Unless you have a sewing machine. Because there’s a DIY wrap tutorial for that too!
Ring slings are wonderful because they’re so simple to put on, and that’s nothing short of magic when you have a breast-loving newborn or a store-wandering toddler. You can have your tot on your hip quicker than you can say, “Don’t touch that!” and you can actually shop with two hands!
One plus to ring slings is that they aren’t as long as a woven wrap. And that’s really quite helpful when it comes to, say, toilets or rain puddles. They can be adjusted to fit whomever is in it or wearing it and they offer a stream of fabric that can double as a nursing cover. Since they’re a smaller length of fabric, they’re also super easy to toss in a bag or stash in a car. Even better, they’re available in a range of price and quality thanks to brands like Soul Slings, Maya Wrap, Oscha Slings, and Beco.
While the benefits of a ring sling make it nearly impossible for them to disappoint, there are a few things to keep in mind. Ring slings are great for newborns but carrying bigger babies for an extended period of time can quite literally be a pain in the neck. This is common for carries to one side, since all of the weight is often distributed to one shoulder. Special care needs to be taken with positioning newborns so their airways are open and their necks aren’t overextended (which is easily addressed by watching a few tutorial videos from Babywearing International). All possible cons aside, it’s hard to go wrong with a ring sling. They’re simple to use, easy to pack up, great for nursing, can be used between babies and toddlers, and they take just seconds to put on.
Soft Structured Carriers (or SSCs)
You may also see SSCs called Ergonomic Canvas Carriers or Buckle Carriers. If neither of these ring a bell, then these two words ought to do it… The Ergo. It seems that the Ergo did for babywearing what syrup did for pancakes. One look and people just had to have a taste! Now companies like Tula and Lillebaby have stepped in to add their own flavor and innovations to the mix. The easy of use, cuteness, and comfort has provoked some serious love for baby carriers over the past decade.
People love SSC’s because they’re easy to use, easy to adjust, and breastfeeding-friendly. But without a doubt, their biggest selling point is their comfort. They’re design is so body-friendly, you can wear them for hours on end. Hours that can be comfortably spent walking, hiking, working at a desk, washing dishes, or picking up Lego bricks so that no one has to suffer the consequences. Most SSC’s can be worn front, back, or to the side. There are also carriers like Lillebaby’s COMPLETE or Ergo’s 360 that can pull off an ergonomic forward-facing front carry (though it is important to note that forward facing carries can be less comfortable for the wearer when worn for extended periods of time). You can even score an organic baby carrier thanks to Yoshino and Ergo Baby.
Of course, SSC’s have some limitations. For some carriers, no amount of adjusting will make it work well for little babies. You can buy an extra attachment but once they hit around 3 months they’ll be too big for it, yet their hips will be too small to sit in the carrier alone (with exception to the carriers that offer a snap adjustment). If you want an SSC that will work from newborn up, you’ll want to buy one that’s specially designed with mods for newborns (ie. Beco Gemini, Ergo Adapt, and Catbird Pikkolo). Extra-large todders may also require special accommodations, either with a special toddler-sized carrier.
Once you get past the newborn stage, or you buy one meant for a newborn as well, these carriers are absolutely worth the money. Parents are even using the same carrier for all of their children, and some are even toting kids up to age five! Costs vary from around $85 to $150, and it’s money very well spent.
There a variety of specialty carriers like the Baby Bjorn, Peanut Shell, Hotsling, K’Tan, etc. These types of carriers are great for parents intimidated by price because they tend to be less expensive. They also address the intimidation parents feel with wraps because they’re pre-sewn with little to no tying required. This kind of simplicity and affordability is a big selling point for parents.
While specialty carriers do have many qualities, the features of these carriers can also make them under-preform in broader terms. Specialty carriers may have more limitations on the age ranges that they can accommodate, making them an unwise investment for budget-conscious families. They may also require more specific sizing for the wearer (making it less seamless, or impossible, for all caregivers in a family to utilize the carrier). While some of these specialty and lower-budget carriers do offer comfort, others may leave your back feeling the pain after short periods of wear.
So Much More
There’s really is so much to learn and explore with babywearing, but we hope that this list can help you get off to a running start. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out Modern Baby Wearing. Jay McMillin, the woman behind the site, does an extraordinary job of teaching the ins and outs of babywearing. She’s a Center for Babywearing Studies-certified babywearing instructor and a UCSD-Certified Lactation Educator. If the babywearing fever hasn’t made its way to you yet, check out her Instagram. Give it minutes and you’ll be in a wrap-induced stupor.
Before you go, we want to hear from you. What has been your experience with babywearing? What fabrics, brands, etc. do you love? We want to know EVERYTHING. Share your stories in the comments below!
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