Are you trying to figure out what baby carrier is right for you, but there are just so many different kinds of baby carriers out there that you feel confused and indecisive? Today, my fellow blogger Beth Cubbage is sharing with us the main types of baby carriers and how to choose the right baby carrier for you!
Beth Cubbage writes about career, parenting, and all things working mom at Parent Lightly. As a full time consulting manager and mom to two girls, she knows firsthand how heavy being a working parent can feel. At Parent Lightly, she helps lighten that load for working moms using her love of data, obsession with process improvement and positive outlook.
This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.How many times in motherhood have you wished for an extra set of arms? Maybe your baby was sick and you really, really needed to make dinner. Or perhaps you needed to nurse your latest addition and your busy toddler wanted to go to the playground.
It can be so hard to balance all of the competing family priorities, especially when you have a baby. That’s why babywearing can be SO handy.
There are a couple of major benefits to babywearing. First of all, it’s practical! You can meet your child’s needs while taking care of chores.
You can play with older kids while the baby naps. Babywearing really allows you to multitask while also honoring the needs of your children.
Babywearing is also great for baby! Research shows that skin-to-skin contact is very calming and beneficial for newborns. Babies are often more relaxed when they can be close to you, smelling familiar smells and hearing familiar sounds.
So let’s take a look at how to choose the right baby carrier, so you can make an informed decision and choose a baby carrier that is right for you.
How to Choose the Right Baby Carrier
Although babywearing is pretty awesome, there are so many different baby carrier options that it can sometimes feel too daunting – especially when you’re low on sleep.
That’s why I’m going to break down each type and help you decide which baby carrier might be right for you!
Soft Structured – Baby Carrier
The soft structured baby carrier is what most people think of when they think of babywearing. The SSC is most easily described as a baby backpack. The carrier has two straps, which go over the wearer’s shoulders.
The baby is held in a fabric panel between the straps. Typically soft structured carriers allow the baby to be worn on your front or back (when baby has enough neck control). These carriers are definitely the easiest to use.
You just clip the waistband around your waist. Then hold the baby to your chest or back, slip the panel up over the baby’s back and put a strap over each shoulder. Then clip the chest strap, tighten all of the straps and you’re all set!
One downside to the soft structured carrier is that the weight isn’t necessarily well-distributed on your shoulders. You need to find a carrier with shoulder straps that are comfortable for you!
My husband and I only liked one baby carrier, the Ergobaby soft structured baby carrier. I was just as easy to use as Beth described above and it was incredibly comfortable, both for us and the boys.
The shoulder straps are padded and wide for great support.
I’ve tried others, like a ring sling, but I’m definitely not the kind of mom who likes to be figuring out hundreds of different ways to tie a baby carrier, so it did not work for me at all.
I wanted something comfortable and practical and I found both qualities in the Ergobaby. I can’t recommend it enough.
The first one is the exact same color as the one we have. I also added an option with the infant insert (the third carrier above), which we have as well and it adjusts the carrier for the size of a newborn baby.
The fabric panel that holds the baby is also usually a fixed width so it can be hard for the carrier to grow with the baby – especially in the early days when growth is super fast. There are some hacks you can use for this (like tying a ribbon around the seat if it’s too wide).
Beth is absolutely right! Thankfully, this issue is addressed on the new Ergobaby Omni 360, the fourth option in the grid above. It has a narrower width right on baby’s bottom so you can have them facing you or the other way. It adapts to the growing baby from newborn to toddler 0-48 months. – Isabel
Pros: Simple to use, not many pieces to attach, comfortable, feels secure
Cons: Limited adjustability for wearer and baby
Ring Sling – Baby Carrier
A ring sling is one piece of fabric (linen or woven material) with a ring sewn into one end. The fabric is draped around the wearer, and over one shoulder, creating a pocket where the baby is supported.
After positioning the ring sling loosely around your body (making sure that the fabric is threaded through the rings), place baby with his belly facing yours inside the fabric. Tuck the fabric under baby’s bum and up his back, then tighten the sling.
In theory, the ring sling is quick and easy to secure. In practice, I just never got it. One huge benefit of the ring sling is that it’s lightweight, which is really nice when you’re wearing outside in the summer.
Ring slings are very adjustable, so it’s easy to scoot the baby around to your hip or move her slightly lower if you want to nurse in the ring sling.
As I mentioned above, the tension of the fabric on the baby’s back is the only thing holding the baby in, and I never thought that felt secure. I almost always held on to baby with one hand when wearing in the ring sling.
I always felt the same way about ring slings and although I owned one, I never used much, because my baby never felt secure enough. It also took me a really long time to tie him in there. Because of that, I never felt like it was even worth the hassle. – Isabel
While admittedly better than carrying the baby’s entire weight, the ring sling definitely isn’t as hands-free as I would prefer. Still, if you would like an inexpensive carrier for a summer baby or one that you plan to use only with a very small baby, a ring sling could be a good solution.
Pros: Lightweight, adjustable, quick to put on (once you figure it out)
Cons: Lots of fidgeting, not very secure feeling
Stretchy Wrap – Baby Carrier
Lots of moms start with the Moby or a similar stretchy wrap, which is basically just a very long piece of fabric. Stretchy wraps have a lot of benefits – they’re pretty easy to put on once you get the hang of it. And because of the stretchy fabric, they’re very forgiving when you’re first learning to use the wrap.
Because of the passes and the stretchy fabric, baby typically feels very secure in a stretchy wrap, allowing you to be truly hands-free. And the wrap allows significant customizability. The baby can be worn with legs in or out of the wrap. The seat can be adjusted to fit baby exactly.
The Moby was definition responsible for the small number of meals that I actually sat down and ate when my first was a newborn. Heaven!
Stretchy wraps do have a few drawbacks, though. All that thick fabric means that they are hot. So hot. I remember wearing only the moby, shorts and a nursing bra inside my house in February because the wrap and baby combined were just so darn hot. I can’t imagine wearing a stretchy wrap in the summer, and I think I only wore it outside a handful of times.
Stretchy wraps are also only good for younger babies. Once your child reaches about 20 pounds, the stretchy fabric is no longer supportive enough. Fortunately, stretchy wraps are typically reasonably priced so the short-term nature of the wrap is OK.
Pros: Great intro to wrapping, very secure and snuggly. Highly adjustable. Relatively low cost.
Cons: HOT. Only good for young babies.
Woven Wraps – Baby Carrier
A woven wrap is a length of woven fabric. I would say that woven wraps are a specialty niche area of babywearing. Woven wrap fabric is typically very strong and lightweight. Because it’s usually cotton, linen, silk or cashmere, it’s much more breathable than a stretchy wrap.
Woven wraps – depending on the length – are almost infinitely customizable. With a longer woven wrap, your child can be worn on your front, hip or back. The part that supports the baby can be adjusted to fit the baby perfectly. Most woven wrap techniques also support the baby very well and feel secure.
One thing I can’t skip over is that woven wraps are beautiful. With an almost endless array of colors and patterns, woven wraps are really the prettiest way to wear a baby in my opinion.
I actually started using woven wraps because I still wanted to wear my toddler while I was pregnant with number 2.
The Ergo that we’d loved just wasn’t comfortable anymore since the strap went across my stomach. With the wrap, I could tie it in a way that I could still carry my older daughter without putting pressure on my bump.
As with anything, there are some downsides. There’s a pretty major learning curve and lots of video-watching before you gain confidence with a wrap. For some, it might not be worth the effort when a soft structured carrier will do just fine.
If you’re using a long wrap, they can also be hard to manage if you’re wrapping outside. Nothing like dragging your beautiful woven through the mud or (my personal favorite) muddy snow (done it).
Pros: Infinitely customizable. Strong, breathable and beautiful.
Cons: Major learning curve, impractical for lots of outdoor use.
How to choose the right baby carrier: where to start
For my money, I would start with a stretchy wrap baby carrier if you have a newborn. When your baby is around 2-3 months and has some neck stability, move on to a soft structured baby carrier (Kinderpack is my personal favorite, but Lillebaby and Tula are popular. ErgoBaby is an old-school fave).
I highly recommend getting a soft structured carrier with mesh. This really helps the heat dissipate if you do a lot of wearing outside and/or have a baby that’s a portable heater.
If you really want to geek out on babywearing, enter the black hole that is woven wraps.
For all of these options, there are tons of B/S/T groups on Facebook. Baby carriers are usually in pretty good shape, so don’t be afraid to buy a carrier that’s lightly used (as long as the sellers assure you that it’s in good or better condition).
Choose the right baby carrier for you!
Babywearing can be pretty great for families with more than one kid and those who do a lot of travel or outdoor activities.
Anywhere that a stroller can’t easily go (hiking trail or NYC subway) can be conquered with the right baby carrier! Take the time to try out some different options to find the one that’s right for you.