I’m not an expert baby wearer by any means, but I have gotten the chance tried out several types of carriers, so I thought I’d share my opinions. At first, I just collected several types of carriers, but never really figured out how to use any of them successfully. Then, I joined a local baby wearing group about 6 months ago, and one of the member perks is getting access to their lending library. So I’ve been learning more about the carriers I already own and getting to try out new ones. First of all there are approximately one million and four different carriers out there, so for this broad review, I’m going to only stick to types of carriers and not go into the pros and cons of specific brands. Obviously, these are just my opinions, every baby and mom pair is different, so you may find one of your favorites is one I didn’t like. This is just a basic guide of what I think. Here are my findings so far:
Wraps: (Moby is one common example) These are the most versatile type of carrier, but come with the highest learning curve. You can use them for front, side, and back carries, but most regular wraps will not hold the weight of heavier babies, so it is generally only used for infants. I am not coordinated or geometrically minded enough to figure these out. I actually took the Moby wrap off my registry because I was scared someone would buy it for me. I’ve since used one at a friend’s house, but it was still super intimidating. I don’t like the idea of depending solely on my wrapping skills to keep a baby from tumbling down to the ground. Maybe I’ll think about it for baby #2, but for now I’ll just admire those of you who figured it out. Verdict: Not for Me
These are probably the most widespread type of carrier, just a loop of fabric that can be used in 3-4 different ways for front and side carries. There’s a wide range of prices for basic slings, but overall this is the most inexpensive option. I keep a sling in my diaper bag because it’s easy to fold up and travel with and the simplest to use for short periods of time, like at the grocery store. This is also great for nursing in restaurants because it totally hides the baby (and your boob)! Mine has also doubled as a changing pad, blanket, sun visor, and burp cloth depending on our situation that day. The only negative I’ve noticed is that they are not adjustable, so you have to order your specific size and even that may not be a perfect fit. Now that she’s bigger, I’m noticing it is harder to use, especially if I’m trying to nurse, but the hip carry is still just fine, and we can usually manage the kangaroo carry in it, even with her gangly little legs. Verdict: Must Have
This was the first type I felt comfortable using. The amount of material is easier to work with to make the baby feel secure, especially since you can customize the fit using the rings to create a comfortable pod for your baby in front or side carries. Mine has a padded shoulder, which made it much easier on me too. It can be difficult to adjust tightness of the fabric to when holding a baby, and it made me nervous to pull on it too much, so I usually carried her one way for a few weeks at a time, then had my husband help me adjust it properly and would use it that way for a week or two. That was kind of annoying because one of the perks of this style is versatility. I’m sure if I would have worked with it more, I would have gotten more confident adjusting it while she was in it. My favorite use for the ring sling was nursing around the house on extra clingy days when I wanted to be getting projects done, even if that “project” was just eating dinner. Verdict: Get One If Possible
These slings look more comfortable than their basic counterparts with extra padding and a specific section to place baby in. Most even have straps sewn in to ensure the baby won’t go anywhere! I had registered for one, but didn’t receive it, so when I found one at a consignment sale I was excited because regular priced, it was too much ($60) for me to justify spending since I had a plain sling already. I got it when my baby was just 5 weeks old and I envisioned it becoming my favorite, but after I used it just once (uncomfortably btw), I read an article about how some babies had suffocated in that style and never used it again. That incident had occurred with a totally different brand that had since been recalled, but I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I just used one of the other sling styles instead. Verdict: Skip It
These can be used in front and back carries and can accommodate toddlers up to 35-45 lbs depending on the brand. [aside: There's a lot of controversy regarding the issue of outward facing and the width of the seat, and some (like the Bjorn) are sometimes known as "baby danglers" in different parts of the Internet. I feel like anyone who plans to use a carrier for a large portion of the day will research it enough to figure out there are other, better brands out there for them. I don't think we need to demonize any parent who registers for an Infantino carrier (cause that's all the big box stores offer) to use only when taking baby for a walk in the park. That said, once I found out that it could possibly damage my baby's hips or spine, I chose not to use my baby dangler brand since I had other options available.] Soft Structured Carriers are comprised of shoulder straps and a waist strap that buckle and can be adjusted to fit the parent, so a variety of people can easily wear it to carry different sized babies. Adjusting the straps is relatively easy, but it might take a few times before you have a good grasp on which strap controls which section. If only one person wears the carrier (like at my house), once you adjust the straps the first time, you’re done. Unless your baby decides she MUST nurse throughout a garage sale, then you’ll have to readjust the waist strap in order to get her latched on while in the carrier. Just FYI. I use mine for just about anything now that she’s older with total head control and wants to look around all the time. I put her in it to vacuum, cook dinner, go for a walk, grocery shop, and just when she wants to be held but I have other things that need to be done. SSCs are pretty pricey, ranging from $80-$160, but in my opinion, worth it for the ease and comfort. I think having a SSC is the only way I’ll ever get anything done around the house when I have another child. Verdict: Must Have
I loved the Mei Tai the first time I tried it. It’s got the structure of an SSC, but is easily fit by wrapping one set of long tails across your waist and one set across your shoulders. The versatility is really nice because you can easily adjust the waist to allow baby to nurse, or redo the shoulder straps to accommodate your back pain or make the baby feel more secure. Unfortunately, the tails that so aid in its versatility are also a drawback. They’re so long that it’s hard to nicely wrap up for in the car and nearly impossible to fit in the diaper bag. It’s also annoying that they drag on the ground while you’re putting it on, and as a new user, I was never fully confident I was tying her on correctly. Verdict: Don’t Need, But Nice to Have
I’ve discovered that baby carriers are like expensive shirts; some styles fit some bodies better and some days you prefer one over another. And you always want to buy a cute one if you see it on sale!