How to choose a baby carrier
If you've come across this article, you're probably at the beginning of your path in the world of baby carriers, and you are:
- In the advanced stages of pregnancy, try to choose the baby carrier that will be best for you and the baby on the way.
- You have already given birth, and you hear a lot of talking that you "must try a baby carrier" and that it "helps to put the baby to sleep," "helps with colic," and "frees your hands."
So, we're here to organize all the information and help you pick out a baby carrier that will be best suited for you.
You probably have heard all kinds of "buzzwords" from people around you, from Facebook groups, child developmental instructors, Instagram posts – basically everywhere.
We live in an area with an overload of information. Sometimes, excess intake generates a lot of load and confusion (especially if it is your first child) and can make you anxious and stressed. So, let's get started and have everything you need in an orderly fashion to help.
Terms in the world of baby carriers
If you've already started the baby carrier research, you've probably come across one or several of the following phrases:
"Wrap carrier", "woven carrier", "ergonomic baby carrier", "backpack carrier", "Mai Tai carrier", "loop carrier", "babywearing", "ring sling", "back support", "babywearing consultant", "hiking carrier", "cradle hold", "tummy to tummy", "kangaroo hold", "newborn baby carrier", "independent seating", "kissing distance", "M position", "knee to knee", "hanging carrier".
So much info huh? Let's hit the road and figure out what this is all about.
Let's start with some basic terms.
Baby carrier – from the word of "carry." Carry the baby with you from place to place.
Ergonomic baby carrier – this is a generic term describing a wide range of baby carriers. It's not a specific baby carrier or a specific brand. When you say an Ergonomic baby carrier, it means a baby carrier that allows the baby to be in an ergonomic position that is suitable according to its age.
Ergonomic position - this position allows the baby to be situated correctly in a healthy way for their bodies, depending on their age. Now comes the most crucial sentence (stay focused) – even if you purchased an ergonomic baby carrier, that does not mean that the baby will automatically be in an ergonomic position.
The parents need to learn how to use the baby carrier the right way. It means, you can buy an ergonomic baby carrier, but the position you put the baby in will be non-ergonomic. You can buy the most recommended, expensive, popular baby carrier – but misuse it. And it's going to happen with every baby carrier if you don't follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Therefore, no matter which baby carrier you purchase, do not use it until you read the instructions correctly, see tutorial videos and make sure that you understand how the baby should be seated in the carrier.
Remember, the wrong position of the baby in the carrier may cause discomfort and restlessness for the baby and then you may think that "the baby does not like the carrier." So, before you give up on the baby carrier you purchased and try another one – make sure you used it correctly.
M position – one of the indicators to know whether you have placed your baby in an ergonomic position. This phrase means that when the baby is in the carrier, his legs are spread, and the knees are high so that the baby's legs form an M.
Kissing distance – a phrase designed to check whether the baby is placed at the right height on the parent. So, if when the baby is in the carrier, you can kiss them on the head – you will know that you have them at the correct height.
Newborn carrier – a carrier that fits a baby at a minimum weight of 3.5 kg, that can usually be used directly after the baby is born. These baby carriers give full support to the baby's back from the buttocks to the neck, and they allow the baby's back to be rounded with elevated knees. In this category, there's a wide range of carriers. To verify which carrier is suitable, read the manufacturer's guidelines.
A Carrier from the age of independent sitting - It refers to baby carriers that can only be used from the stage in which the baby knows how to sit up by themselves. How do you know you've reached this point? The baby will sit up alone and pick themselves up from a reclining/crawling position to sitting on their tooshie. It's a sign that the baby's back is already strong enough, and the support needed has changed. It happens around the age of 6-8 months.
Babywearing consultants - these are women (mostly) who make a living from consulting about babywearing/baby developmental /sleep consultation. These are usually retailers of various baby carrier companies that exist in the market, and they make money this way. The consultation can be paid or commissioned for selling the carrier.
Therefore, there is a good chance that they will recommend you on one of the baby carriers they sell and not on other brands.
When you make an appointment with a babywearing consultant, check with her whether / and which company she works with so that you could know which carriers she is selling.
Currently, there is no formal training for babywearing consultants in this field in Israel - except for personal experience, autodidact learning, and schools that teach development for babies.
SII standard for baby carriers – the SII standard today in Israel is voluntary only (any baby carrier manufacturer can choose whether to test the products or not) and is based on a European or American standard.
Urban Baby Wrap carriers have been tested and approved by the SII according to the European implementation SI 13209 part 3.
After we have become familiar with some basic terms in the world of baby carriers, we will move on to a review of various carrier types.
Types of carriers
Woven wrap carrier – the most "ancient" and first baby carrier. A long strip of unstressed fabric that you need to wrap around you and around the baby's body.
Benefits: Suitable from birth, allows ergonomic position, inexpensive, also suitable for high weights.
Disadvantages: It takes time to develop the skills for using it—a carrier for baby carrier addicts.
Elastic fabric carrier – also called "wrap carrier". this is the most traditional baby carrier, It's a carrier that's one 15-foot-long strip of fabric that the parent has to wrap on his body and then place the baby inside. Unlike a woven cloth carrier, the elastic carrier's fabric is stretchy and flexible. It's considered to be an ergonomic baby carrier.
Its wrapping may be daunting at first, but it is easy and friendly to use after a few practices.
This is the baby carrier that all developmental consultants recommend for the first few months after birth because it (1) is suitable from birth, (2) allows an ergonomic position because it adapts to the baby's body because of his flexibility (3) the baby can be in a position that mimics the uterus.
Ring sling Carrier – An evolution of the woven cloth carrier. One long strip of fabric has been added to a two-ring locking/fitting mechanism by which the carrier is fastened and adjusts its size.
Advantages – easy to operate, relatively low cost, allows side carrying, suitable from birth.
Disadvantage – suited for small babies because the whole weight of the baby sits on only one shoulder and is not divided evenly between the two shoulders. So, if you have back problems, it is advisable to avoid them. Uncomfortable for long carrying.
Loop carrier – an elastic fabric carrier consisting of two fabric loops that form an X shape on the parent's body in which the baby is placed, releasing you of the wrapping process. It has all the advantages of an elastic fabric carrier (elasticity, allows cradle hold, suitable from birth), its disadvantage is that it is sold by size, must be measured before purchasing to choose the right size, and is not suitable for both parents (because each parent needs a different size). Good only for the first 2 months till the point that the size is too small.
Mai Tai carrier – also called a Chinese carrier. It is a hybrid baby carrier that is suitable from birth with minimum tieing, built from a baby panel and to which another four strips of cloth are attached to tie on the parent's body. Suitable for both parents, saving some of the bondage compared to an elastic or woven cloth carrier, considered an ergonomic baby carrier.
Soft-structured (buckle) carrier – a carrier like a school backpack/travel bag. It's a carrier invented in recent decades to make it easier for people who have trouble (or aren't interested) with dealing with ties of the cloth carriers and are looking for a carrier to accompany them over time.
The carrier is usually made up of one piece of cloth in the center where the baby is located and has padded shoulder straps and adapters to adjust the size of the baby carrier to the dimensions of the baby and the parent.
In this category come baby carriers of almost all companies – Ergo, Baby Bjorn, Artipope, Tula, Urban Baby Wrap, and many others.
Some are more ergonomic than others; it depends on the model and manufacturer. They are usually more expensive than cloth carriers because of their technology (straps and buckles). Some are suitable from birth, and some are suitable for independent seating. Please read the manufacturer's guidelines to verify from what age they can be used.
Backpack carrier: A carrier on the back with a rigid structure suitable for toddlers from about one year of age (read the manufacturer's guidelines) that has a good weight distribution and is designed for field trips and camping. This isn't really a city trip carrier. These are costly carriers for the most part (over NIS 1,000) because of the weight distribution technology.
As long as it is not a two-year-old baby who weighs 15 kilos and you do not travel every weekend to the desert or the north on many kilometers’ routes, it is possible to get by with a regular carrier and do not need to purchase one of these carriers especially.
Twin carrier – a carrier suitable for carrying two babies simultaneously.
Hanging carrier – a derogatory phrase (the manufacturer of a carrier of the above category will never use this to describe its product) designed to describe carriers in which the carrier does not allow punctuation of the baby's legs and lifting the knees to pelvic height to create an M position.
The baby's legs are usually straight in the above carriers, and the knees are not raised. As long as the knees are not extended to the height of the pelvis, the carrier is considered non-ergonomic and not suitable for the baby's body.
After reviewing all types of carriers, we will move to possible positions in each carrier.
Baby positions in a carrier
Tummy to Tummy - the primary position in which babies are usually carried today in the various carriers, and is considered the most recommended position from birth in all carriers.
Why is it most recommended and most common? Because it is the safest and most ergonomic.
It allows for an ergonomic posture with broad spread feet for the baby, high knees, rounded back, back support, and allows eye contact with the baby.
Kangaroo hold - a suitable position from birth for the first month of the newborn. After a month, it is recommended to switch to a "tummy to tummy" position. This is a position in which the baby's knees are close to their abdomen, and this is how they enter the carrier, in a vertical and straight position. This is ideal for babies who have just been born and are still in a fetal position and do not straighten their legs.
Cradle Carry / Cradle hold - a position that simulates the position in the womb. The baby's back is rounded, the knees are close to the abdomen, and placed in a diagonal position on the parent inside a pocket in the carrier. This position is now considered unsafe and less recommended for parents of a first child who still do not know how to operate a carrier and pay attention to all safety emphases.
If you are interested in a cradle hold, we recommend receiving frontal guidance from a babywearing instructor or baby development consultant who can give you all the safety emphases.
Breastfeeding in a baby carrier: You can breastfeed in all the carriers that currently exist on the market as long as you carry the baby in front and not on your back. It's a skill that needs to be learned but one understands the principle after watching one tutorials video. Possible in a cradle hold or tummy to tummy position.
Important emphases for breastfeeding in a baby carrier - wear a shirt that allows feeding. So, for example, if you want to wear a golf shirt and breastfeed in a baby carrier, it is less suitable 😊
Carrying with the face forward - a position in which the baby's back faces the parent and the baby's face faces the world. This is a less recommended position for long period both because the posture is not ideal in terms of supporting the baby's pelvis and back and because it is a posture in which the baby is exposed to a lot of environmental stimulation. If you have decided to carry in this position, it is recommended to do so only from the age of six months and for a relatively short period of time.
Not all baby carriers are suitable for this position; check the manufacturer's instructions to ensure the baby carrier fits.
So, after all the information you have read, let's go back to the initial question,
How to choose a carrier?
The most important parameter - make sure that the carrier is ergonomic.
How do you do that?
- Ensure that the carrier allows the baby's legs to be elevated and create an M shape.
- Make sure that the carrier is not too stiff and allows the baby's back to be rounded. There are carriers whose fabric is stiff and hard, and as soon as you put the baby inside and stretch the straps, it straightens the baby's back.
- Make sure that the carrier gives the baby's back support along its entire length from the torso to the neck.
- Is breastfeeding a consideration? No, you can breastfeed in almost every baby carrier.
- Good support for the parent's back? Important but more important is good support for the baby's back. If you have back problems, (1) don't buy a Ring Sling (2) Follow the instructions for using the baby carrier you purchased. Most back pain will be avoided if you place the baby carrier at the correct height on your body. (3) Prefer carriers whose back straps are crossover and form an X in the parent's back.
- That the carrier will suit both parents? Have a conversation about it with your partner and make a decision accordingly. Keep in mind that there is always someone who will use the baby carrier more in practice. It could be the parent who stays with the baby at home, and the use will usually be during the day, ot It could be that the parent who stays home with the baby will prefer a stroller, and the use of the carrier will be mainly on the weekend by the other parent.
- Is price a consideration? Obviously. Each one and what he can afford. There are many excellent carriers in a wide range of price levels, from 200 NIS to 2000 NIS. Choose what fits your pocket and make sure it is ergonomic. Today you can also buy second-hand carriers or borrow a carrier from friends if your budget is limited and you do not want to compromise on the carrier.
- Should the baby carrier be adapted from birth to two years of age? We do not recommend that this be your primary consideration. In our perception, this carrier is like a bag (but a significant bag!). There is an evening bag, a bag for work, and a hiking bag. Same with a baby carrier. What a newborn who weighs 3 pounds and just got out of the womb needs and what a one-year-old toddler needs are two completely different things. It's fine to have two carriers - one for the first few months of a soft and flexible fabric that will wrap the baby, and another carrier from 5 months old built and more complex that fits the ergonomics of a baby who has already (1) grown a little and his back has strengthened, (2) he holds his head alone, (3) Its weight has increased, and you need a firmer carrier that is suitable for larger weights.
- Most of the baby's carrying is in the first year. From the age of one, most people minimize its use; if you continue to carry a baby over one year old, buy a carrier that will suit the needs of one year of age +.
- Is design important? It's not the primary consideration, but we believe it is a consideration. You will be walking around with the baby carrier a lot in the first year. In our eyes, it is an accessory, and there is no reason why it should not be stunning and will make your heart happy.
Do you have a question that you did not find an answer to in the article? Feel free to send us a message via the contact page, and we will be happy to answer.
Good luck and enjoy babywearing,