I don’t know why but I never considered baby carriers as an option for my daughter. For whatever reason, they simply weren’t on my list of baby necessities. I guess I always thought a stroller was more than enough to carry my child around. Because of this, I didn’t use a baby carrier for the entire first year of my daughter’s life. It was only after a friend of mine gave birth and started using a sling to carry her baby that I started to discover the value of the baby carrier – or, as some people have nick-named them, your “second pair of arms.”
As you’ve probably already discovered, there are A LOT of different baby carrier models out there, whether they be slings, Mei Tais, or soft structured carriers. If you’re wondering what their differences are, you’re not alone.
The baby sling is a large piece of fabric (sort of like a drape or curtain) that you tie securely around your back and shoulders to sustain the weight of your child. They’re available in just about as many shades and colors as you can imagine, and they can often be real works or art. That said, knowing how to tie them so your child is correctly positioned demands a certain amount of know-how. Although there’s no lack of videos online letting you know what to do, I found slings to be a lot harder to use than some of the other options.
The Mei Tai is a sort of hybrid between the sling and the standard carrier. They typically come with an integrated seat, but usually without adjustable straps. They also tend to wrap around your back similar to the way slings do, but require a bit less effort to do so..
Finally, there’s the soft structured carrier. This is more or less a backpack that you buckle your child into and secure with adjustable straps. These carriers are not usually considered as fashionable as the alternatives, but they are much simpler to use.
Personally, I’ve tried one sling and two standard carriers, and I have to admit that my heart lies with the latter option (more precisely with my Lillebaby).
If my daughter was throwing a tantrum and I was getting to the end of my patience, figuring out how to put on a sling could turn things into a real ordeal. Granted, I was never able to find another carrier that looked as nice as my sling did, but the speed with which I could put my daughter into my soft structured carrier really convinced me. On top of that, I also found that my children were much better positioned in these carriers (although this might’ve had something to do with a lack of experience with slings on my end).
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about positioning. Although carriers can be extremely practical, they do require a certain amount of prudence. There are rules and norms when it comes to baby carriers that are very important to follow in order to preserve your child’s security. Take your time reading the manufacturer’s instructions because you can’t just go putting your child whichever way you want.
For young babies, the parent-facing position is recommended. Making sure your child’s legs are properly supported can be essential when it comes to your child’s hip development. Their knees should be lifted slightly and positioned more or less at 90 degrees. It’s also incredibly important that you see their face at all times, and that their nose and mouth aren’t obstructed. When your baby is young, their neck and head should be adequately supported in the back. The baby should always be vertical, even when you want to nurse while carrying your child. And obviously, try to keep a close eye on your child at all times.
The INSPQ (institut national de santé publique de Québec) produced a very interesting document detailing safe and proper baby carrier use.
To make sure you and your child will be comfortable, it’s recommended that you take a walk around the store to test out a variety of carriers. There are a couple of different models, each of which offers interesting options.
For example, ErgoBaby carriers feature a very practical storage pocket that can be used on long walks (Ergo Omni 360). Lillebaby carriers feature breathable mesh pockets for superior aeration (which are very much appreciated on hot summer days) as well as a removable head support (Lillebaby Pursuit All Season). Some baby carriers can accommodate only a single position, while others are created to support parent-facing and front-facing carries (Babybjorn One Air).
In any case, you should make sure you have adequate lumbar support. The baby will gain weight pretty quickly so you’re going to need to be able to stand comfortably and correctly to avoid back pain and injuries.
Your baby carrier will quickly become a must when it comes time to do chores. As I mentioned before, a baby carrier is quite literally a second pair of arms. What’s more, they’re a lot more discreet to carry around than a stroller!