Baby Carriers - Choosing the Right Pouch, Ring Sling, or Carrier for You

With so many options out there for baby carriers it is hard to choose the right one for your needs. Listed are all the different types of carriers with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Each carrier style listed below supports the baby rather than having the baby hang at the crotch like most carriers in stores. When a baby hangs at the crotch it effects the spine and can cause damage. The carriers below the baby is supported by having the bum lower than the knees. The baby's weight is on the bum instead of the hip joints and spine. The baby's are also held tight to your body making it easier on your back and muscles. It also leaves them feeling more secure and safe.

Pouches
Styles - Padded - can provide cushioning for wearer and baby
Unpadded - can be more comfortable for some wearers, cooler
Stretch - allows you to keep the baby closer to you.
Non-Adjustable - quickest to get on and learn how to use.
Adjustable(zippers, rings, or snaps) - allows more than 1 sized wearer to use it.
Reversible - gives you 2 pouches in 1, also makes it look nicer when using a shoulder flip.
Fabrics - Cotton, Flannel, Fleece, Organic, Solarveil, Hemp, Mesh, Silk.
Carries - Cradle, Kangaroo/Buddha, Hip, Back, Tummy-To-Tummy.
Advantages - Easiest to learn how to use. Compact. Quick to put on and get a baby/toddler in. Easy to breastfeed with. Deeper pocket allows a nicer fit for the baby without fabric bunching. Inexpensive.
Disadvantages - Most are not adjustable, you cannot use them for different sized wearers. Some babies do not like them. They are worn on 1 shoulder which can cause a strain on the shoulder/back with heavier babies or when wearing for long periods.

Ring Sling
Styles - Padded - Gives cushioning to wearer and Baby.
Unpadded - easier to tighten, not as hot.
Open Tail - Allows wearer to adjust top and bottom rails separately. Can use the tail as a sun shield/blanket.
Closed Tail - No loose fabric to get in the way. Only have to tighten 1 piece.
Fabrics - Cotton, Fleece, Solarveil, Mesh, Silk, Organic, Twill.
Carries - Cradle, Kangaroo/Buddha, Hip, Back, Tummy-To-Tummy.
Advantages - Adjustable. Can be used for different sized wearers. More compact than a wrap. Easy to use.
Disadvantages - 1 shouldered which can cause strain on the wearer. Not as comfortable as a wrap. For some, the rings can slip a bit.

Long Wraps (4+ Metres/Yards)
Styles - 4Metres/Yards up to 9/10Meteres/Yards
Tapered - makes it easier to tie the knot and leaves less fabric hanging.
Stretch - Allows a wearer to leave it on all day, popping a baby in and out as needed.
Woven - Doesn't have the bounce a stretch wrap does.
Fabrics - Cotton, Fleece, Cotton Knit, Organic
Carries - Cradle, Kangaroo/Buddha, Hip, Back, Tummy-To-Tummy, Cross Carries. Advantages - Distributes child's weight over entire upper back. More comfortable. Larger variation in carries you can use.
Disadvantages - Can be trickier to learn how to use. Alot of fabric. A bit harder to breastfeed with. Tied with a knot.

Short Wraps(3-4 Metres/Yards)
Styles - 3Metres/Yards up to 4Meteres/Yards
Tapered - makes it easier to tie the knot and leaves less fabric hanging.
Stretch - Allows a wearer to leave it on all day, popping a baby in and out as needed.
Woven - Doesn't have the bounce a stretch wrap does.
Fabrics - Cotton, Fleece, Cotton Knit, Organic
Carries - Cradle, Kangaroo/Buddha, Hip, Back, Tummy-To-Tummy, Cross Carries. Advantages - Easier to get on than a long wrap. Less fabric than with a long wrap.
Disadvantages - Fewer carries that you can use compared with a long wrap. Only goes over 1 shoulder. Learning curve is harder than with a ring sling or a pouch. Tied with a knot.

Soft Carriers
Styles - Asian Baby Carriers - 4 straps to tie to hold the baby. Tied with a knot. Korean Carrier - 1 long strap, tied with a knot.
Constructed Carriers - Use buckles, velcro and snaps.
Onbuhimo - 1 strap and rings. Tied with a knot.
Podaegi - A small blanket with a strap. Tied with a knot.
Fabrics - Canvas, Twill, Cotton.
Carries - Front(facing out), Back, Hip.
Advantages - Quick to get on. Not as bulky as a wrap.
Disadvantages - Most cannot be used for hip carries or for laying down carries. Can be difficult to breastfeed with a small infant.

Hip Carriers
Styles - Hip/Waist belts and buckles.
Fabrics - Canvas, Hemp, Cordura
Carries - Hip, Front(not all hip carriers), Back(not all hip carriers)
Advantages - Easy to get on. Not alot of fabric.
Disadvantages - Can only be used for babies who have excellent back and neck control. Most cannot be used in any carry other than the hip. Some are not handsfree.

In general,

It's all a matter of personal preference.

Which Carrier? This is always the big question, which one to get. The options are numerous. If you are new I suggest starting with a pouch. They are the easiest to learn with and are inexpensive so you can move up to ring slings, wraps, and soft carriers without having spent alot of money on the pouch. Pouches, Ring Slings and Wraps all have the same basic idea behind how to use them, they are just secured differently. If you buy one and find it does not work, do not give up. Some carriers are not well liked by some babies and wearers. There is a large market for used carriers and you can get your money back and try another one. Soft Carriers are the closest to mainstream carriers like a snugli or Baby Bjorn. They are relatively easy to use and have the look of them but also have the added advantage of wider seats so the baby is supported and not just hanging from it's groin.

Fabrics? Some people like the woven fabrics of a wrap better than a knit. Some people choose a specific fabric due to a specific outing they are attending. Flannels and heavy wovens and cottons are not a widely used during the summer months as a lightweight cotton, solarveil or mesh sling would be.

Mesh slings are good for pools, lakes, the beach and the shower. Solarveil are also good for them but have the added advantage of sun protection.

Tying Methods? Some people find the knots in a wrap to be bothersome. Rings are easy, but some have concerns about their babies hitting their heads on them. Snaps and zippers in an adjustable pouch give it more uses, but it isn't as easy to adjust as a pouch with ring slings.

Padding? It can be a huge advantage, but also a disadvantage at the same time. Leg padding helps keep red marks from material cutting in away, shoulder padding helps keep strain off your shoulder, top rail padding can be used as cushioning for the baby's head, but padding can also be hot, make it harder to adjust tightly and make things more uncomfortable. If you have a sling with padding and are having difficulty with it, look closely at how it is made and see if you can remove some(or all) of the padding and re-sew it shut. If you find the unpadded sling is hurting you, you can either sell it and get one with padding or see if the sling maker has optional padding available.

Accessories? Depending on the sling maker, some comes with various accessories. You can get built in diaper bags, toy hooks, pillows and pockets. If you find a diaper bag is too cumbersome to bring along, a sling with pockets will probably be useful. Toy hooks can keep a fidgety baby occupied. Pillows are helpful in pouches if you have a small baby or a newborn. They can prop the baby up so they don't look so "lost" inside the sling. Pillows can make a difference in whether a newborn likes or hates a pouch.

Lastly, if you buy a sling and are having problems getting it to work do not hesitate to ask questions. There are many ladies quite knowledgeable about babywearing here at Mothering, but you can also contact any LLL(or other breastfeeding group), Midwife or Doula and they should be able to point you in the right direction on where to go for help. You can also find babywearing classes in most larger centers. A little help can make the difference in becoming a babywearing family.

Carrie Hirtle
Mother, Doula and Owner of Natural Blessings an Attachment Parenting store specializing in Baby Carriers, Cloth Menstrual Pads, Breastfeeding Supplies and a variety of other products for moms and tots.

I am a Childbirth Educator, Childbirth Doula and Lactation Counsellor specializing in Natural, Drug Free Childbirth. For my services visit Natural Blessings Childbirth Services.

For more information on my products or services email me at [email protected]

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