By Jennifer Pinarski
“What baby carrier should I buy?” is the question that Natalie George, owner of Go Green Baby in Kingston, Ont., gets asked most often. Parents may want to wear their baby for any number of reasons: to bond, to continue their active lifestyle, or to simply get things done around the house (which is the reason George says many parents come looking to buy a baby carrier). It’s a question you think would be easy to answer, given the wide selection of baby carriers on the market, but George points out each carrier has advantages and disadvantages.
“I start by asking what their budget is, what their lifestyle is like and whether or not they would like to have another baby,” she says.
From there, it’s a matter of trying on different styles and brands of carriers for fit and comfort. Often parents will come looking for a specific carrier because they have read positive reviews or like the way it looks, but after trying out a few, will buy something completely different.
“Trends change all the time in baby carriers, and it’s important to not let your purchase be driven by fashion,” George urges.
Canadian Babywearing School co-founder Arie Brentnall-Compton has seen how babywearing has changed—and for the better, with products that are ergonomically correct and also easy to use.
The Edmonton-based babywearing educator hopes to help more families wear their babies safely. One of Brentnall-Compton’s priorities is reassuring parents that the practice is safe and practical.
“Babywearing is the biological norm and baby carriers are a safe way to meet both the baby's and mother's needs,” Brentnall-Compton says.
Both George and Brentnall-Compton recommend that parents ask for help when choosing and learning to use a baby carrier, so they are able to use it correctly and safely.
BABYWEARING SAFETY BASICS
Brentnall-Compton reminds parents that even if they look similar, every product on the market varies a little; and some instructions, unfortunately, are poorly written. If you still have questions after reading the instructions, ask a local babywearing educator or the retailer you bought the carrier from for a one-on-one lesson.
The very small risk of falling is 100-per-cent preventable, says Brentnall-Compton. Learning to use your new carrier can be intimidating, so have another person nearby to help at first, and remember to keep one hand on your baby while putting them in the carrier.
Make sure you can see your baby’s face at all times and that their head and neck are completely supported, and uncovered by blankets or extra fabric from the carrier. You should be able to place your finger between the baby’s chin and chest.
“In the industry, we like to call this Visible and Kissable, which means an adult who is safely wearing a baby should be able to see their baby’s face and kiss the top of their head,” says Brentnall-Compton.
Also check out these winter babywearing tips from momstown Edmonton
BABY CARRIER COMPARISONS
These soft and cozy baby carriers are made from a stretchy knit material that is comfortable for both mom and baby. George says this is the most “womb-like” carrier, as babies are worn high and snug against a parent’s chest. Includes brands such as Moby, Wrapsody and Boba.
Best for: newborns
Easy to clean
Instructions can be poorly written, resulting in babies being improperly carried. Ask for help from a babywearing expert when you are learning how to use your stretch wrap.
Fabric can only safely support newborns and babies up to 12 lbs, therefore additional carriers need to be purchased.
Must be tied tightly to work properly.
Photo: Cuddly Wrap
These are beloved for their ease of use, gorgeous fabrics and flexibility, since babies can be worn several ways. While ring slings can be used with children weighing up to 35 lbs, Brentnall-Compton recommends them for newborns and then for short-term carries with older babies. Includes brands such as Maya Wrap, Chimparoo and Sakura.
Best for: newborns
Easy to use
Great variety of fabric and print choices
Comfortable on post-partum bodies
Should not be used by parents who have chronic back, shoulder or neck pain or who are being treated for shoulder injuries.
Photo: Maya Wrap
Stretch wraps and woven wraps may look similar, but with one big difference: woven wraps won’t stretch. The combination of durable woven fabric and carefully sewn seams and hems results in a baby carrier that provides fantastic stability. Includes brands such as Chimparoo, Tula, Girasol, Ellevill
Best for: newborns, older babies and toddlers
Widest variety of fabric choices and fabric blends (cotton, linen, wool and silk)
Easy to clean
Wide price range making it an affordable addition to your carrier collection
Versatile: can be used for front, hip and back carries for babies of all ages
Can be challenging to learn to use since the stiffer fabric is more difficult to wrap and tie
The origin of this Asian-inspired baby carrier dates back hundreds of years, and its popularity has exploded in Western culture because of its ease of use and flexibility. Includes brands such as Babyhawk, Chimparoo and Infantino’s Sash.
Best for: newborns and older babies
Easy to use
Wide choice of patterns
Versatile: can use used for front, back and hip carries
Not widely available
Buckle (soft structure) carriers
By far the most popular style of baby carrier, it’s also the one that Brentnall-Compton sees used incorrectly most often, especially by parents of newborns. “Newborns especially need to be carried high and tight and I’ll often see babies carried too low. Remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific carrier to make sure that you’re wearing your newborn correctly,” she advises.
Best for: older babies and toddlers, families that only want to buy one carrier.
Ideal for families with active lifestyles
Easy to use when manufacturer’s instructions are correctly followed
Most expensive type of carrier
Requires adapter or insert to safely wear small babies and newborns
Not one size fits all. Try on a variety of carriers for fit and comfort prior to purchase