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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Babywearing: How to Choose a Baby Carrier, Wrap, or Ring Sling

Babywearing comes in handy for everyone
Last weekend, I attended the Cape Fear Maternity and Baby Expo. I met a lot of expecting mamas who were excited to learn how to use a baby carrier. But one question always comes up when deciding what kind of baby carrier to buy: Which baby carrier is right for me?

Different carriers are better suited for different purposes, and it's nice to have more than one. But the reality is that baby carriers are expensive and we're not all made of money.

Here is a breakdown that lists the types of carriers that work best for different situations.

You have one child, and you get bored easily. You have a lot to do around the house, and you're always moving around.
Everyone can accomplish what they need to when you
sit on the exercise ball with baby in a woven wrap.

If you're planning to wear baby as much as possible at home, you'll probably be more comfortable with a 2-shouldered carrier. It spreads the weight out more efficiently, and your shoulders and back won't get fatigued as easily. A woven wrap is a great baby carrier to wear around the house. Why?
  • A woven wrap holds baby very close to you, eliminating pressure points and the pulling feeling you may get when you wear a soft structured carrier. 
  • It's not bulky at all and feels like a second skin, making it easier for you to reach around baby, bend, and squat (so it's perfect to wear while vacuuming, washing dishes, and gardening).
  • You'll get used to putting it on and taking it off in the comfort of your own home, where you have a bed to practice on and can check your positioning in the mirror.
  • A woven wrap is comfortable to wear all day. You can easily wrap baby in different positions to avoid fatigue from keeping baby in the same position all the time. 
  • You can use a good woven wrap from the time your baby is a newborn well into the toddler years.
My second choice for a carrier to wear around the house is a stretchy wrap. Why?
  • A stretchy wrap, like a Moby, is soft and comfortable, and if you have a smaller baby that likes to be held, you can keep the stretchy wrap on all day and pop baby in and out of it as necessary.
  • Stretchy wraps still disperse weight well and leave your hands completely free to get things done.

You have one child and are content to relax with baby when needed. You want a carrier to throw on to run errands.
A ring sling was perfect before Baby T could reach for the knife.

If you're not planning on wearing your baby all day, you don't have to consider a 2-shouldered carrier as much. In this case, a ring sling might be perfect. Here's why:
  • A ring sling can be used for a newborn or a toddler.
  • You can easily stash a ring sling in your diaper bag, purse, or car.
  • It's easy and quick to get baby in and out of the ring sling.
  • When you're out in public, you can nurse in the ring sling or use it as a nursing cover. 

You don't have a stroller, so you need a way to carry baby when you're out and about.
Baby T in the Ergo when he was a baby

If you need a carrier to use wherever you go, whether it's to run a quick errand, on an airplane for a vacation, or for a walk downtown, you'll want a two-shouldered carrier, and most people would prefer a carrier that is easy to get on and off. A soft structured carrier, like a Beco or an Ergo, fulfills these requirements.
  • Although a soft structured carrier is bulkier than wearing a wrap and doesn't hold baby as close or distribute baby's weight quite as well, it's easy to learn to use and is comfortable for long periods of time.
  • It's extremely easy to get baby in and out without needing a mirror or a spotter (so you can quickly put baby in to run a quick errand or if baby gets fussy on the airplane).
  • It's still small enough to keep in your car, or you can buckle it on without baby in it if baby just wants to be held in your arms.

You have two children and need a way to carry baby when you're chasing your other child.
Nursing Little M while holding Baby T

Depending on the age of your older child and your needs, this depends. If your older child is young and energetic or still wants to be held often, it helps to have a two-shouldered baby carrier so your hands are completely free and you feel comfortable leaning over or picking up your child while carrying your baby. A carrier that can be worn on the front or the back will come in handy, because it becomes very difficult to reach around your baby when you wear him or her in front. And your lap will still be unavailable for your older child if you wear your baby in front.

If you have an older child who won't tug on the tails as you're putting it on, you might prefer a woven wrap. But you'll need time to become comfortable putting on the woven wrap in public, especially if you're putting baby on your back. (Although once baby is there, it is so comfortable and easy to chase after your older child.) You can even nurse in a woven wrap while chasing after your toddler. Believe me--I've done it. If you have a toddler who likes to run away from you in parking lots, you might want a soft structured carrier. You can get baby in and out of it quickly so you can go chase your toddler.

You only want to buy one carrier. Ever.
This is a tough call. It is a very personal decision, and everyone is different. I think if I had to only buy one carrier, ever--and I cringe at the thought--I would buy a soft structured carrier or a woven wrap. But I would probably lean toward the soft structured carrier with an infant insert. Here's why:
  • Both types of carriers can be worn on the front or back.
  • Both are super comfortable when you have to wear baby for a long period of time
  • Both can be used until baby is about 40 pounds (and definitely not a baby anymore).
A woven wrap is better for a newborn than a soft structured carrier, but a soft structured carrier is better when you have an antsy baby who wants to get up and down. I'm very comfortable putting my baby in different carries using a woven wrap, but even so, sometimes the soft structured carrier is just easier. I like having both, because if I know Little M is ready for a nap and he'll be worn for a long time, or if I'm going outside to help Baby T ride his bike, I'll put Little M in the wrap on my back, and it's even more comfortable than wearing him in the Ergo. But when I go out, and I know my friends will want to hold Little M or he might want to get down and go exploring, I'll put him in the Ergo because it's so easy to get him up and down, up and down. But I just started using the Ergo more than the woven wrap when Little M was maybe six and a half months old.

There are pros and cons to every carrier you buy. Ideally, I would suggest having two carriers that you can alternate between or use for different purposes. Your child might prefer one carrier for a few months and then seem to hate it for a while. If you've gotten used to wearing your baby, it will be nice to have a different carrier to try out. Also, I have only tried one Mei Tai, and the straps weren't padded, so it digs into me like crazy and I can't wear it.

What's your favorite baby carrier? Mei-Tai-loving mamas, give me your recommendations!!


Mallory said... Best Blogger Tips

I love this post! We are thinking about trying for baby #2 and I know that baby is going to end up in a carrier a lot. Everyone tells me I should get an Ergo because they are so comfortable. Right now I have a sleepy wrap, a sling style that's like one big circle of fabric(I don't know what it's called) and Infantino Eco Sash. I used the sleepy wrap a lot when Aubrey was tiny and I liked it. It was just a little complicated at first. The circle one, I still use as a hip carrier. The Eco Sash is the one we used the least. said... Best Blogger Tips

@Mallory: Not that you asked,.... but I feel like the Infantino Eco Sash is a lot like the Ergo. It's kind of like a cross between a Mei Tai and the Ergo, and looks like it's pretty quick and easy on and off.

I wear my kids a LOT, even when they are older, so I swear by an easy on easy off carrier like that.

If I were you, though, I would invest in a woven wrap. If you were able to get comfortable with the Sleepy, you can wrap a woven the same way, but you can do a lot more with it and it's a lot more supportive than a Sleepy. I love my Didymos woven wrap - it's reeeeeally long, but I can play with just about every type of carry, and it's the only carrier I could nurse in because my boobs are too saggy for upright nursing!

Alicia said... Best Blogger Tips

Just read this post, but I'm still torn between a woven wrap for back wearing and an ergo. My son is 6.5 months old, we had the ring sling but I found it hard to wear him in it all the time and it doesn't work well for the hip carry because he is so antsy. He moves a lot but does like to be held. Can you help me make a decision between the wrap and the ergo? said... Best Blogger Tips

@AliciaI would say if he moves a lot, go for the Ergo. It's easy for him to get in and out of, and as he gets more mobile, he might be even more antsy. Also, a squirmy baby is harder to get into a back carry in a woven wrap. Go for the Ergo now, and get a woven wrap if you have any more kids. ;)

Alexia said... Best Blogger Tips

Great post!! I'm going to show this one to a few friends who are questioning which carriers will be best when their babies arrive.

I am loving my mei tai right now. I borrowed a Baby Hawk from my baby wearing group and fell in love. So easy to get on and off and I can put my sleeping toddler in it and grocery shop with ease. I just found a really excellent and less expensive version on Etsy. The shop is

I loved my ring sling when my daughter was younger. Though my Ergo is so great to use during longer walks, hikes and adventures. And my husband adores the Boba we have. But one I still haven't tried is a woven or a stretchy. I know I'll try a Moby with my second (I had a Baby K'Tan and didn't love it), but what is a good entry level woven. I'm intimidated by the sizing and the prices. Anything moderate I can try?

Wrapguy said... Best Blogger Tips

Excellent post Tmuffin. There has obviously been a lot of thought (not to mention time and effort) gone into this post and it certainly shows you know what you are talking about when it comes to baby carriers.
I love the way you have broken it down to specific needs, that is very helpful to anyone looking for a baby wrap.
Personally I am a big fan of the Beco Gemini and I agree with you that if you could only buy one, go for the soft structured carrier - I would go for the Beco. I have to say though, I am also a fan of the Moby wrap so thank God I don't have to stick to only one :-)

Gaby (Tmuffin) said... Best Blogger Tips

I love hearing other people's experiences with baby wearing! Thanks for commenting, everyone.

In regards to a good entry-level woven wrap, the Didymos is my favorite. It's not too stiff, and it's not too slippery when you're wrapping. I have a size 6, which is super duper long. But I'm also not super skinny, and my favorite back carry is the chunei double hammock with a tibetan tie, and that uses the entire length of the wrap. I didn't mind the extra length: I wanted something I could play with since it was my first one. I would personally recommend a super long woven, but lots of fabric bugs some people, so it's definitely a personal decision.

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