How to Choose a Baby Carrier, Wrap or Sling

How to Choose a Baby Carrier

April 29, 2019

How to Choose a Baby Carrier

How to Choose a Baby Carrier
Photo by WildBird
How to Choose a Baby Carrier

Keeping your baby snuggled close to you while you’re also getting things done can seem like a pipe dream. But you don’t have to choose between doing one or the other when you have a baby carrier. It does all the work of keeping your baby next to your body so your hands are free to go about doing whatever work you need to do.

Do You Need a Baby Carrier?

Many Babylist parents say it’s their most important baby gear item. That’s because carriers offer tons of benefits, including:

  • Your hands and arms get a break from doing all the baby-holding work.
  • Allows you to do other things while keeping your baby close.
  • You get a boost of oxytocin (the love hormone) when you have physical contact with your baby, which promotes bonding and can help improve postpartum depression and anxiety.
  • You can skip lugging a stroller in and out of the trunk or on public transit.
  • It’s easier to navigate through crowds using a baby carrier than pushing a stroller around.
  • Research shows that babies who are carried three hours a day cry 43% less overall and 54% less during the evening.

Tips for Choosing a Baby Carrier

Because there are so many baby carriers to choose from, narrowing it down to one is difficult. To help, consider the following:

  • Longevity: If you want a carrier that lasts into the toddler years, you’ll need one that can accommodate a higher weight and has front-facing positions. Just want it for infancy? Consider one that creates a cozy environment for lots of cuddling.
  • Comfort: This applies to both you and your baby. The seat of any carrier should allow your baby’s legs to be in the hip-healthy “M” position. For you, think about how much back and shoulder support you’ll need. If you plan on wearing your baby for hours at a time, look for padded shoulder straps and lumbar support.
  • Fit: Some carriers can easily adjust to different caregiver’s bodies while others need to be perfectly sized to one individual. This matters if you plan on sharing the carrier with another person.
  • Ease of use: Getting a wrap on involves a multi-step process, while ring slings and soft structured carriers are easier to put on. Review the directions for a carrier before you make the purchase. Also, wraps and slings can typically be tucked into a diaper bag while soft-structured carriers are usually too bulky.
  • Climate: Lightweight fabrics and breathable mesh are best for warmer weather while heavy knits and padding are perfect for colder temps.
  • Care: Babies are messy (hello: spit-up and drool) but not all carriers are machine washable. Check labels for washing instructions.

What Types of Baby Carriers are There?

There are three styles of baby carriers to choose from. When shopping, keep in mind that newborns and older babies have different needs. A newborn wants to snuggle close with their head on your chest, and an older baby wants to stretch their legs and see the world.

Many families opt for two carriers: one for the newborn stage, like a wrap, and a soft structured carrier for older babies or toddlers. Other families get one carrier that adjusts to different ages.

baby-carrier-comparison-photo

Wraps

Wraps are long rectangular pieces of fabric you, yep, wrap around yourself and your baby to create a carrier. Here’s what you need to know about wraps:

  • The swaddle-like design mimics the feel of the womb, which newborns love.
  • Older babies may find the tight confines too restrictive.
  • Learning how to properly origami those fabric folds takes many replays of a YouTube tutorial or two.
  • Most come in one-size-fits-all and easily adjust to different body types.

Some wraps have gained popularity among parents for specific qualities, like:

  • The Moby is lightweight and good for summer months.
  • The Boba is thicker, which is nice for getting a secure wrap and for holding babies as they grow heavier.
  • The Solly Baby is ultra soft and comes in a range of prints and colors.
  • Baby K’tan does some of the wrapping steps for you, which makes it easier to put on but you have to pick a specific size.

For more details, check out our Best Wraps guide.

Structured Carriers

Soft structured carriers are usually designed with older babies in mind, although some can be adapted for newborns by using extra padding or adjusting the straps. Here are the major points to know about soft structured carriers:

  • They’re not quite as snuggly as wraps, but they’re faster to put on.
  • Carriers with padded straps and waistbands give more support when you’re carrying an older (and heavier) baby.
  • Some can be used from birth without an additional insert.
  • A forward-facing option for curious babies who want to peer out is available in some carriers.
  • Higher weight limits let you carry your little one for longer, even into toddlerhood for some carriers.

Note: The average five-year old is 41 lbs, so these carriers will probably have you covered until you’re very ready for your child to walk or stroll all the time.

Keep in mind: When choosing a soft structured carrier, look for one that sits your baby high enough so you can kiss the top of their head. This is the safest position. Also, make sure the carrier has a wide or adjustable seat. It helps distribute the baby’s weight and keeps their hips healthy as they grow.

For more details, check out our Best Carriers guide.

Ring Slings

Slings are made from one piece of fabric that’s worn across your torso and loops through two rings on your shoulder. The design creates a pouch for your baby to sit in. The pros and cons of this type of carrier include:

  • They’re great for hotter climates because they allow for a bit of air flow.
  • They’re simple to use.
  • They don’t evenly distribute weight. All the pressure is on your shoulder.
  • Most slings cannot be machine washed because it warps the fabric.

For more details, check out our Best Slings guide.

Choosing What’s Right For You There are so many carrier options to choose from, which is great, because there’s something that works for everyone. But it also can be overwhelming. By now though, you may have a gut feeling about which carrier type you’re leaning toward. Start your search there and rest assured that all carriers provide exactly what your baby’s looking for: being super close to you.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content.