Let’s talk baby carriers, shall we?
A hugely popular question across all parenting forums is “What’s the best carrier for me and my child?” The honest answer is: It depends.
The BEST carrier suits your needs; is ergonomic (for you and baby); and meets TICKS safe wearing guidelines.
What’s TICKS? Good question. Here you go.
Tight (not sagging or slumping, but mimicking a close, in-arms UPRIGHT position)
In view at all times (you can always see baby’s face)
Close enough to kiss (dip your head and you should be able to kiss the crown of baby’s)
Keep chin off chest (clear airways are SO important. Upright, not cradled or flat)
Supported back. (spine is gently c-curved, with no space for baby to slump)
So, now that we know what a ‘good carrier’ looks like, let’s assume you’re bringing home a healthy full-term newborn. (If you have other challenges, please seek the advice of a trained baby wearing consultant who can best advise you on additional needs.)
Lots of parents like…
Stretchy Wraps, (like moby or Hugabub). These are cozy, support baby high and tight, mimicking an in-arms position, and will be comfortable until about 7-8kgs. If you’re in a warm climate or expecting a summer baby, you might like to consider a cooler option, such as a…
Ring Sling, which is literally about two metres of woven fabric with two rings attached at one end.
(These put baby’s weight on one shoulder, so may not be suitable if you suffer from back problems.)
These are suitable to use from newborn and are useful carriers right through to toddlerhood, especially if you take the trouble to buy a wrap conversion from one of the many vendors of woven wrap conversion ring slings. Tinoki, Woven Wraps Australia, Carry My Baby, Nurture Nest, Mochamama, AngelRock Baby, Frangipani Baby… the list is long and all of these people (many of them trained baby wearing consultants and experienced mums) will go above and beyond to help you find and troubleshoot the ‘best’ carrier for your situation. (They’re also an easy first carrier to DIY, so very budget-friendly)
If you only want to buy one carrier, or you’re not afraid of investing a little time into acquiring a new skill, a woven wrap is ideal from newborn to childhood and will give you a lot of flexibility in carrying your child as they grow and develop. From the basic FWCC (front wrap cross carry) for your new baby right through to preschoolers (and sometimes beyond!), wraps are versatile, strong, and come in a million colours, blends and designs for every climate and every personality.
Of course, you can go straight for a soft structured carrier (SSC) if you like too – Ergo, Tula, Beco and Boba all make wide-based carriers that can be used with an infant insert right from birth. Manduca offer a cooler option, as the infant harness is built into the body of the carrier. These are brilliant options for people who want the reassurance of a buckle or a more structured carrier. Because they are only *so* adjustable, it’s a great idea to try a variety in person before buying just to make sure that particular carrier suits your build and can be tightened to support your body as well as baby’s. Please note that back carries need to wait until baby is sitting independently.
Other options suitable from birth are the Close Caboo, K’tan, and Mei Tai.
Steer clear of:
- Carriers that don’t meet TICKS.
- Close-tailed slings, bag slings, pouch slings… these are all difficult to adjust and even harder to wear safely. (Some have been recalled, some are still commercially available.)
- Narrow-based carriers that leave baby’s legs ‘dangling’ or unsupported above the knee. We always want baby’s legs in an “M” position, with the knees as high OR higher than the hips, please.
Why wear your baby at all?
The first three months in the world, baby is really in their “fourth trimester”. Adjusting to life on the outside can be tough for everyone. Skin to skin contact promotes bonding, development, respiration and helps boost oxytocin in mums – especially important in our high-pressure and often isolating days of new parenthood. Worn babies are often calmer and less stressed – and that means everyone is calmer and less stressed!
While babywearing can help a breastfeeding relationship, it’s a wonderful bonding tool in situations where that’s not possible. I’ll honestly say that with a baby who vomited every feed and cried incessantly unless upright, wearing saved me from depression.
It got me out of the house when I felt like my tiny five-pounder was still way too small for her pram. It gave me a hobby and a new language to learn, a new network of friends that extends worldwide (thanks Facebook!) and now it’s a way I can help other new mums who come in to our baby wearing group meets clutching their baby in one arm and their last remaining shred of sanity in the other.
I returned to 30hrs/week work when our little one was six weeks old, and suddenly Daddy was left holding the baby. Suddenly he learned to wrap too, and “wrap cuddles” and “wrap walks” are just what we do because that works for us.
Giving everyone – partners, grandparents, EVERYONE – a carrier they can use competently gives them another avenue of “I CAN!”, and strengthens the village of support around a new mum.
If I could give every new family a new carrier, I would. I would give the new mums hands to eat a sandwich and play with their older child; a way to keep the little one happy for an hour and give a post-partum mama a precious hour of sleep; a way for (much) older siblings to feel proud and responsible.