When I was pregnant with Fabes, I must have said a thousand times “Oh, yeah, we’re totally into babywearing.” I had a Moby Wrap and an Ergo on my registry, just like every other mama whose baby shower I’d been to in the last five years, and I was certain that they were all we would need to happily wear our precious new buddy into her early childhood. Which, technically, they might have been.
But good heavens, if I’d only known.
It started with my feeling uncomfortable. Faby loved to be worn, and I hate pushing a stroller, so between the two of us, she was in a carrier for a huge chunk of every day. I loved our Moby Wrap for the first wintery months of her life – loved cozying her into its soft stretchy warmth and wearing it around the house all day popping her in and out at random. But around three months in, she started feeling awfully heavy as the stretch jersey tugged and sagged, but her little legs were still just shy of being long enough to spread comfortably over our Ergo seat and my back hurt all. the. time. I knew I didn’t want to bother with the front facing carriers – I’d worn one as a nanny and can remember the brutal back pain that came with it- but I had no idea what else to look for. So I did some poking around on the internet. I joined a local babywearing group on Facebook, and signed up for thebabywearer.com, and in mere hours I was swept into a tide of hundreds, maybe thousands, of baby carrier styles and options, all moving and trading at lightning speed accompanied by weird abbreviations and drooly gushing comment threads. Overwhelming is not a big enough word. But after a lot (a lot) of late nights stalking the swap boards, googling pictures, and reading articles, I learned the difference between a WCMT and a SSC and an Obimama and a ETLA Conversion…but you don’t need to go there yet.
This blog post is for you, expecting parent, as you are trying to make an informed choice for your new baby purchases without losing your effing mind – I applaud you. I’m thrilled that you are interested in babywearing – both Fave and I have LOVED wearing Faby, and it has been the most profound sanity saver of our young parenthood. What follows is an introduction to the pros and cons of the styles of carriers available, and a list (albeit not an all-inclusive list) of some of the options available in each category. I hope it helps you as you begin your search.
What it is: A big long piece of stretchy fabric, usually cotton jersey or similar
Age/Weight Range: Approved for up to 35lbs (varies by brand), but really ideal for the first few months – tend to become less comfortable after 15lbs or so.
Pop-ability: the ability to pop ones infant in and out of a carrier without having to undo any complicated wrapping. These guys are great for that.
Easy for beginning wrappers to get a good, snug, supportive carry with a newborn
Variety of positing options
Cozy for the winter months
Affordable, available second hand for as low as $30
Can be very, very warm, especially for summer babies
Learning to wrap will take some time – you can do it, but practice will be necessary
Not very supportive for babies >15lbs.
No back carry option – stretchy fabric is not safe for back carries.
Brand you know: Moby Wrap, as modeled by Channing Tatum in that daddywearing picture seen round the world.
Ring Slings (RS, WCRS – wrap conversion/converted ring sling):
What it is: A piece of non-stretchy fabric with two rings attached that are used to anchor and adjust the carry.
Age/Weight Range: Birth – upwards of 40lbs (so, like, 3 or 4ish) (varies by brand)
Quick ins and outs – easy to adjust and secure baby quickly, making them great for trips to the store etc.
Pretty – lots of colors, styles, and fabrics available, and ring slings have a great, sleek shape – great for dressy occasions when you still need to wear
Affordable options – can be purchased, even new, for around $65, and secondhand for less
Cool – they cover less of your body than most carriers, and options like linen and gauze lend themselves well to hot days
Loooong life span – you can use a supportive ring sling easily for a newborn and easily for a toddler.
Learning to thread and adjust rings can be frustrating, although it gets very easy once you get the hang of it
You will need to learn what it means to “get a good seat” and practice doing so
All of baby’s weight is on one shoulder, making long-term wearing uncomfortable.
Not ideal for back carries
Brand you know: Maya Wrap
Woven Wraps (a thousand brand specific abbreviations)
What it is: A big, long piece of non-stretchy woven fabric, often cotton, linen, wool, or silk blends.
Age Range: Birth – basically adulthood. Different brands and fibers have varying levels of supportiveness, but wraps are generally strong enough to haul your spouse around in if you see fit.
Options abound. Thousands of colors, patterns, and makers to choose from.
Comfort. Woven wraps are the most versatile of baby carriers, with dozens of variations on front, back, and side carriers to play with until you find what is most comfortable for you and your wear-ee.
Longevity – one good woven will last you from the birth of your first baby until your last baby goes to college.
Value – brand name woven wraps hold their value, and sometimes even become more valuable with use. You can sell a used, well-cared for woven for nearly or as much as you paid for it, sometimes more, which is huge.
Purchasing is complicated – buying your first woven is tricky. I’d recommend joining two groups on Facebook – The Babywearing Swap and Babywearing 102. The first is an excellent place to purchase a woven or just watch them fly by as you figure out what you like, and the second is a great forum for asking any questions you have as you learn.
Price – woven wraps are an investment, and can be spendy – from $80 up to numbers you might be too new to hear about. They are often woven by hand by artisans, so while I believe that money is doing something wonderful for our global economy by supporting artists and small businesses, it can be sticker shock galore.
Sizing is confusing. Wovens come in sizes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and sometimes 8. The size refers to the length of the wrap, and the longer your wrap is, the more options you have for carries you can do – sort of. Let’s leave it at: most beginners start with their base size, which is frequently a 5 or 6. If you’re plus sized, you might start with a 6 or 7. You can always trade it for a smaller size later if you want to.
Learning to wrap takes time and commitment. It is not easy, but it is really comfortable. You decide if you are a wrapper or not – no shame either way.
Brand you know: Moby Dolcino
Mei Tais (MT, WCMT, and that’s MAY TIE. A Mai Tai is a tropical beverage, a Maytag is a washing machine, a Mei Tai is for your baby 🙂 )
What it is: Fabric carrier with rectangular or contoured body piece and four long straps that you tie around your waist and over your shoulders.
Age Range: Birth – 40lbs ish, depending on maker/size/style.
Easier to use than a woven wrap, with a lot of the support and comfort that wovens offer.
Wide variety of fabrics/styles/options available
Great price range – starting at $30 on up to forever
Good for front or back carries
Not the quickest in and out for trips to the store etc, although I use mine for this all the time.
Long tails aren’t ideal for wet weather wrapping
Brand you know: Infantino
Buckle Carriers (SSC, FB, HB – that’s soft structured carrier, full buckle, and half buckle)
What it is: A structured carrier with straps that fasten around your waist and shoulders with plastic buckles.
Age Range: Varies by brand. Some are good for newborns, others not – often an insert is necessary for tiny babies. Some companies make toddler sizes for larger kids.
Ease of use – super fast in and outs, limited adjusting necessary, easy to learn to use
Cool – not a lot of fabric coverage
Storage – many have pockets for your keys etc!
Industrial look is often appealing to dads, and we love to see dads wearing babies, like, whoa.
Most are good for front or back carries
Not a ton of fit flexibility – some brands may be more comfortable for you than others.
Can be a challenge for petite or larger mamas – sizing tends to be geared toward “average”
Brand you know: Ergo
Other interesting stuff you might want to know:
If you want to wear your baby, you MUST READ THIS and familiarize yourself with TICKS. No excuses.
I have not recommended any exclusively front facing carriers here because we never owned them, and I also have skipped a few options, like pouch slings, simply because we haven’t tried them. You could be the tester! Report back please!
I’d strongly encourage you to find a local babywearing group to join. You can often borrow or try carriers before you invest, plus learn to use the carriers you have to the fullest of their potential.
Bag style carriers, like this recalled version, are very dangerous – please don’t use them.
This is only a very introductory list. But for now, take a breath and see what’s out there. I hope I opened a few doors for you today.
All of these carriers can be purchased second hand, if that’s your thing. Check out Facebook’s The Babywearing Swap.
Want to see the carriers I’m dreaming of? Follow me on Pinterest!