Modern baby carriers come in a wide variety of styles to suit every taste and budget. Choosing which carrier to purchase can be an overwhelming task because there are so many excellent options in a bewildering range of styles, colors, and sizes. Most Babywearing International chapters maintain lending libraries where members and meeting attendees can try on (or borrow) a large selection of baby carriers to see what works best for them.
Some considerations when selecting a baby carrier:
How long do you plan to babywear?
Will you use it primarily during the first few months or do you prefer a carrier that will last through the first year or even longer?
Who will use the carrier?
Will it be exclusively used by one caregiver or do you want something that can be easily exchanged between caregivers with minimal adjustment? Some carriers are size specific and cannot be shared between caregivers of different sizes whereas others can fit a wide range of individuals.
Do you want to purchase only one carrier for your entire babywearing time?
Are you open to more than one carrier for different situations, ages, and stages?
What is your budget?
Most good quality, ergonomic carriers cost between RM250 to RM1000+ so there are options at every price point. Used carriers can be a budget-friendly option too.
BWI recommends purchasing a carrier from a manufacturer that complies with all United States safety standards and labeling requirements for your own safety and protection.
Most baby carriers fall into one of five types: Wraps, Ring Slings, Pouch Slings, Mei Tais, or Buckle/Soft Structured Carriers.
Wraps are the most traditional and simple of all carriers. They come in a variety of lengths and fabrics such as knit jersey (ideal for newborns), gauze (good for warm weather), cotton, linen, wool, and other fabrics. Wraps can be used to carry an infant, toddler, or child in a variety of positions including front, hip, and (if made of woven fabric rather than knit jersey) back carries. Wraps are infinitely adjustable to meet the specific needs of the individual wearer. Learning to wrap may seem intimidating at first but can be mastered with practice. The beautiful fabrics used in many wraps make them an aesthetically pleasing style of baby carrier. Their lack of hardware makes them ideal for snuggling newborns but wraps are wonderful for babies and toddlers of any age.
A ring sling is a modern adaptation of traditional one shoulder carries found in Mexico, Indonesia, and other cultures. A pair of metal or nylon rings are securely attached to the end of a roughly two-meter-long piece of fabric. The tail end of the sling is threaded through the rings to adjust to the wearers body. The weight of the child in the carrier secures the rings against slipping. Ring slings are available in a variety of fabrics from basic cotton to luxurious silk. The long tail of the sling can be used for many things including a sun shade, nursing cover, light blanket, or hand hold for older children when your hands are full. Ring slings are excellent for newborns and for toddlers who want quick up and down carries.
A pouch sling is a simple tube of fabric worn over one shoulder like a sash and used much like a ring sling but without the ability to adjust the size of the sling each time it is used. Pouch slings are sleek, easy to use, inexpensive, and convenient to stash in a diaper bag or glove compartment. However, because pouches are sized they are hard to share between caregivers and must be correctly fitted for safety and comfort.
The Chinese mei tai (pronounced “may tie” not “my tie”) is the most popular of a group of modernized traditional Asian-style baby carriers. It has a panel of fabric with two shorter straps that go around the waist and two longer straps to wrap over the shoulder. Modern mei tai straps are often padded or made very wide (known as “wrap straps”) to provide extra comfort for the wearer and they are often made of attractive fabrics. Because they lack buckles and are tied to create a custom fit each time, mei tais are easily shared between multiple caregivers. They are easy to learn how to wear and can be used for front, back, and hip carries. Mei Tais are ideal for older babies and toddlers but can also be safely used with newborns.
Soft structured carriers (SSCs) offer a mix of comfort, convenience and accessibility that is appealing to many caregivers. Most feature a thickly padded waistband and shoulder straps for a comfortable, ergonomic fit and can be used for front, back, and sometimes hip carries. The straps typically are adjustable for a custom fit and often these carriers have additional features such as sleep hoods, front pockets, adjustable seats, etc. SSCs have a low learning curve because they go on and off like a backpack but offer the same skin-to-skin benefits of wraps, slings, and mei tais. Some soft structured carriers may require the use of a special infant insert below a certain weight and size but most quality, ergonomic carriers can be used well into toddlerhood. There is a soft structured carrier for every taste, budget, and body type making them the most popular style of baby carrier on the market today.