Analytical Introduction to Babywearing

Gosh, I love babywearing.  I love snuggling my baby close when I would otherwise have to set him down, I love getting to walk around, socialize and shop while nursing handsfree, I love not having to push and cart around strollers, I love saving my back, arm and hip from the strain of always holding him in my arms, and I love getting to show my baby my perspective and getting to involve him in all that I do.  I could go on and on about it, but I’m going to try to be concise, because man, this babywearing world can be a little intimidating at the beginning, right?  It’s a heavenly lifesaver, but do a little googling and you may just want to give up because it’s so overwhelming.  I get that.  So I’m gonna try to not make your head spin, ok?

Types of Carriers

Well, the first thing you should probably decide is which general type of carrier to get.  This is the basic gist of your choices.

Buckle Carriers (a.k.a. Soft Structured Carriers or SSCs)

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Buckle carriers are great because they’re quick and easy, unintimidating and easy to find.  They can pretty much all be worn on the front (facing in) and back, and many can also be worn on the hip (though it’s a tad awkward) and forward facing out (though that’s not the most comfy or ideal).

I love my buckle carrier because I can literally put baby in it in 4 seconds.  It is worth it to put it on just to wear baby from the car to the house, it’s so easy.  I also find it to be comfortable.  It distributes the weight on both shoulders and the waist/hips, and most have padding on the shoulders and waistband that’s just lovely.  Oh, and some of them have pockets.  I really like the pockets.

Lets talk downsides though.  They’re bulky!  This is not a carrier to stuff in the bottom of a bag.  And their size is not at all adjustable.  Very few of them fit newborns well, though it can be made to work.  If you get one that fits your three month old perfectly, it will probably start to not fit as well (you’ll know because your back will start to hurt) by around a year.  If you love buckle carriers, you’ll probably have to own two or three different sizes, if you want to keep wearing throughout the toddler years.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This isn’t really a pro or a con, but each one fits VERY differently, and for everyone that loves a buckle carrier, someone else will hate it.  So you may be assuming that one (the Ergo, it’s always the Ergo) is the best, because so many people love it.  It’s just available more places, so more people have it.  And it’s great!  But there are others that are just as great, and you never know which will fit you best until you try them on.  So, if you can, get your butt to a babywearing meeting and check them out for yourself.  If you can’t … well, buy an Ergo, chances are it’ll be just fine.  Some other great brands are Beco, Boba, Lillebaby, Tula, Kinderpack, Bamberoo, Action Baby Carriers, Onya, Carbird Baby and Patapum.

Sidebar (wouldn’t it be cool if I actually knew how to do a sidebar?  Lets pretend): A subset of buckle carriers with very narrow seats that let the legs hang downward, and often has no waist support, is very popular and widely available.  There’s nothing dangerous about these carriers, and if you like yours, awesome, rock it, but most people find they are less supportive, less comfortable, and hurt to wear for more than 15 minutes or for a baby over 15 lbs.  If it’s all the same to you, and you have the choice, any of the brands above will probably last you longer and make you happier, trust me.

Mei Tais

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An Asian style baby carrier, mei tais are similar to buckle carriers, except they have straps that tie instead of buckles.  They are less bulky than buckle carriers, and more flexible.  You can roll the waist or cinch the bottom for smaller babies, and use the straps to extend the seat for larger babies.  There’s no need to adjust straps when someone else wears it.  Less padding can mean less comfort for some, but also less hot and easy to fold into a bag.  There are even ones made out of woven wraps (wrap conversion mei tais or WCMTs) that are heavenly.  They can be worn on your front, back and hip, and the hip carry is much less awkard than a buckle hip carry.

Personally, I don’t use mine much, because I like to wrap, and I find mei tais to be an in between between buckles and wraps that I just don’t reach for often.  But they’re great, and many people love them!  Some popular brands are Babyhawk, Infantino, CatBird Baby, Kozy and Freehand.

Ring Slings and Pouch Slings

IMG_20130825_200341_455IMG_20131109_182023743IMG_20130905_132749_598-1Slings are great for front or hip carries.  And unlike buckle carriers and mei tais, they are ideal for itty bitty newborns, which you would wear on your front, with the arms in and the neck supported.  They are also fantastic for larger babies and toddlers, in that they offer a quick and easy hip carry, allowing them to look around better.

Ring slings are very adjustable, and though they are often sized, it only effects the length of the tail, so sizing is not super important.  The tail can also be used to pad a newborn’s neck or as a nursing cover, and some have pockets.  Some (like my rainbow one here) are wrap conversion ring slings (WCRSs), which are incredibly supportive, comfy and toddler-worthy.  There are several different types of shoulder styles that affect comfort greatly, and every style is loved by some and hated by others, so you really should try them on and see what you like.

Pouch slings offer the advantage of not having to mess with threading fabric through rings or positioning the rings right, but their disadvantage (and it’s a BIG one) is that they must be the right size.  You can generally find these super cheap second hand, because everybody buys the wrong size.  Don’t buy one you can’t try on with your actual baby and someone with the experience to tell you it fits right, because it probably doesn’t.

Slings are quick and easy like buckle carriers, but lightweight and compact like mei tais.  They offer the best hip carry around.  But their primary disadvantage is that the single shoulder support can be uncomfortable or painful for some people, and just about no one likes to wear a ring sling for long stretches of time.  Some popular brands for ring slings are Maya Wrap, Sleeping Baby Productions, Sakura Bloom and Zanytoes.  Some popular brands of pouch slings are Seven Slings and Peanut Shell.

Wraps

2012-12-30_11-09-20_912 IMG_20140110_170104017 IMG_20130718_092331_856Wraps come in two basic types: stretchy and woven (there’s also gauze and hybrids, but just think of those as wovens for our purposes today).  Stretchy wraps, like the popular Moby, and the less well known but arguably more awesome Boba Wrap, can ONLY be used for front carries.  They are awesome for squishy new babies, but very uncomfortable for babies over about 15 pounds.

So why even start with one, you might ask?  Well, they’re cheaper than woven wraps.  And because they stretch, it is very easy to put the wrap on, then put the baby in, and pop them in and out throughout the day.  Because wovens have no stretch, you need to get everything precisely perfectly tight around your baby, so it’s much easier to wrap around your baby; in other words, put your baby in halfway through, tighten it up, then tie it with them already in it.  I loved the ease of pre-tieing my stretchy wrap, which was actually just 5 yards of jersey cotton from Hobby Lobby, cut in half lengthwise … easy peasy, and I’m not crafty.

There’s also a one-of-a-kind carrier called the k’tan that’s closely related to stretchy wraps.  It’s basically a stretchy wrap with training wheels, so it has way less learning curve.  But it comes in three sizes, and you have to get the right size for your body, which is probably not the same size as your partner’s body.  But it’s not a bad option if you get the right size and don’t want to bother with learning wrapping.

Anyway, the advantage of a wrap is that you can always get that perfect fit each time for wearer and baby, it is by far the most flexible carrier.  One advantage of woven wraps specifically is that they can last from newborn to … well, there is no end.  Certainly they will last through the toddler and preschool years, but I have seen people wear grown adults in woven wraps.  For real.  And there is no end to carries you can do!  Front, hip, high back, low back, torso carries, you name it, you can do it 15 different ways.

But the learning curve is kind of steep.  When you get it, it’s awesome, and it’s actually fun to learn, if you’re looking for a new hobby.  If you’re not looking for a new hobby, it may just seem like a major pain in the bum.  For a new hobby, it rocks, because there’s always something new you can learn and perfect, and always new wraps and fabric blends to try.  It can be an expensive hobby though, because you will probably end up wanting to buy all the wraps once you decide you love wrapping.  But you can totally get by with one wrap … if you have rock solid self control.

Anyway, another great option is hybrid stretch wraps.  Wrapsody makes a great one.  They’re cheaper than most woven wraps, you can do all the carries, including back carries, but they have that pleasant stretch that’s so nice with newborns, just not so much stretch to make back carries dangerous and make large babies sag.

You can find very affordable woven wraps too, Little Frog is one such brand.  And if you can splurge a tiny bit more, you can’t go wrong with Dydimos, Natibaby, Kokadi or Oscha, to name a few.  Cotton, linen and hemp blends are easier to care for than silk or bamboo, and cotton and linen are cooler than silk and hemp.  Some blends take more work to break in than others, meaning they’re kind of crunchy and stiff at the beginning, so buying used can be nice.  Unlike some other carriers, they hold their value very well, and occasionally increase in value!

Basic Safety

Done safely, babywearing has a slew of benefits for both you and the baby.  Worn babies cry less, learn more and gain better muscle control, but safety is extremely important, because unsafe babywearing can be quite dangerous.

First and foremost, you should be able to see baby’s face.  If baby is in a back carry, you should be able to see his or her face in a mirror.  Fabric should never cover their face.  You should be able to kiss baby at all times, unless in a back carry.  That would be some Cirque Du Soleil shit.

There should be a finger’s width between your baby’s chin and chest.  If the chin is tucked down toward the chest, it can inhibit breathing.  This can happen if baby is slumped.  Baby should be upright, with his belly against you.

Make sure the carrier is tight enough to not allow for slumping.  That being said, the carrier should not be so tight that it makes the baby’s back flat or arched.  Hold your newborn on your chest in a natural position, and see how his spine is rounded, but not compressed.  This is the posture they should have in a carrier.  As he gets older, his posture will change, and so will his posture in the carrier.

And this one really seems like common sense, but I do have to say it.  Make sure baby can’t just fall out of the carrier.  That means that in a buckle carrier or mei tai, the waist strap needs to be tight.  If baby’s legs can slip under the waist strap, it’s not tight enough.  In a sling or wrap, that means you’ve made a good seat, with enough fabric between you to cover the diaper area, so that they’re sitting in a little pocket, and the fabric is tight enough to keep that pocket in place.

Where To Get Help

The best place to get help babywearing, as well as find support and make awesome friends, is your local babywearing group.  You may be able to find one through Babywearing International or by just searching “babywearing [your city'].”  If you have a local breastfeeding group, attachment parenting group, or know a local midwife or doula, they can be good to ask as well.

If you don’t have a local babywearing group or anyone you can ask, you can find support online.  If you are on Facebook, join Babywearing 102.  If you’re not on Facebook, join The Babywearer, they have forums on about every subject related to babywearing, but beware the FSOT (For Sale or Trade) forums, they can be intimidating and suck away your time and money (true story).

And of course, there’s youtube.  Just be aware of those safety rules though, because not everyone on youtube is following them.  There are many fantastic videos out there, but some bad ones too.  If you’re unsure, ask the ladies in Babywearing 102, The Babywearer, or hell, ask me!

In Conclusion

I hope this has been informative and confident building.  Babywearing has done so much for me and for Analytical Baby, and I love to share the love.  Happy babywearing!

3 comments

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Julie K (1408 days ago)

Great post! Super informative and easy to follow. I really enjoyed it and will bookmark for my friends that want a good run down on babywearing.

Erika (902 days ago)

ScienceMomArleneMy husband and I loved our baby caerirr for our first. We used something very similar to the Baby Bjorn but it’s made by Infantino. It was great for both of us to use and my daughter loved it as well; but we did only use it for trips out and sometimes around the house when I could get nothing done without her in my arms. With the second one coming in Feb (and having a 2 year old) I know I am going to be wearing this one a lot more. I am hopping to use the one we have but it’s not the best for newborns so I started looking into the more wrap kinds. I was wondering if anyone could suggest a wrap type they loved best? I really like the Moby Wrap, it seems very versatile. Anyone have any pros or cons about the Moby Wrap?

    Analytical Momma (902 days ago)

    Stretchy wraps are wonderful for newborns! Just know that it probably won’t be comfortable after baby reached about 15 lbs. And if you will be having your baby somewhere hot in the summer, Moby might not be the best choice because it’s hot! Solly Baby and Ack Wraps both make stretchy wraps similar to Moby that are cooler.

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