Babywearing

Babywearing provides an easy way to integrate baby into your life by offering options to keep the little one close to your heart where they’re comfortable, skin-to-skin to regulate temperature, easy nursing access, and flexibility so you can be hands free for cooking, cleaning, shopping, eating, and many other tasks new mothers may find difficult while adjusting to life with a new baby.

Babywearing is a beneficial type of kangaroo care that keeps babies close, stimulates physical, emotional, and mental development and helps babies, particularly preemies, where studies show they gain weight and are healthier than those who are not worn.

Many moms are getting into the trend of high quality carriers to ensure their child’s safety, but aren’t quite sure which one to buy.  There are a variety of carriers to choose from; finding your style only takes a little bit of research.  It is best if you can try a few before buying them, but here is a breakdown of the basic styles:

Wrap

A wrap is super soft and flexible with a lot of versatility.  There are adjustable types as well as pre-wrapped styles offering something for everyone.  These wraps distribute the weight very well, and have no points that compress the body creating extreme comfort at almost every stage of wearing.

The adjustable types consist of a very long piece of fabric that allows multiple wrapping methods and easily grow with the baby from birth (even preemies).  The pre-wrapped are easier to get the hang of, and have much less fabric, but only fit the baby well at one stage, and may not go between care givers easily because of body shape differences. 

Wraps are often the best for the newborn stages, but are not recommended for back-carrying because of safety. 

Sling

A sling style carrier seems less intimidating than a wrap and is worn over one shoulder and across the body.  These may be a pouch-type of just fabric, or may have a clasp, like a ring, to adjust and tighten to fid the child.  They often require some support of the care giver with an extra hand, but are super fast to get on and off.  Be cautious of low-grade slings that don’t allow the baby’s head and neck to extend or their back to be fully supported.  These may not be great for extended wear because the weight isn’t distributed, but make short shopping trips much easier, and safer, than carrying the baby in the car seat. 

Soft Structured Carrier

These carriers are typically the easiest and support the baby well - especially as the baby gets older and into toddlerhood.  These carriers are often preferred by the dads.  They usually have a large panel of fabric, some adorned with pouches and hoods, and are tied or buckled to stay secure.  These adjustable carriers are excellent for extended wear like hiking, and many are useable from newborn through about 45lbs (though many need a newborn insert for those smaller stages).  Be sure to avoid the “crotch-dangling” carriers that support the baby by the groin rather than separating the legs as they would naturally go when holding your child.  This is especially important for a newborn as it is easy to dislocate the legs/hips and prevent proper physical development.

Once you’ve found the style (or often styles) you prefer, there are just a few basic safety guidelines (which may seem a little too logical, but they need to be pointed out) you’ll want to think about when you wear your baby:

  • Use your carrier according to the manufacturer’s instructions including baby’s height and weight and inspect for defects before wearing.
  • Practice with a doll to get comfortable with your carrier.
  • Be sure baby can breathe - their chin should not fold against their chest & fabric should not cover their face.
  • Be careful of your activity using the same activity precautions as you would while pregnant.
  • Do not wear your baby while driving or riding in a vehicle or sleeping.
  • Be sure baby’s exposed areas are protected from outside elements.
  • Be cautious of what baby can reach, and what can touch your baby especially while cooking or if baby is worn on your back.
  • Be sure anyone carrying your baby can assess risk, knows how to use your carrier, and understands babywearing safety.
  • Position your baby close enough to kiss & in a way that mimics how you would naturally hold them with just your arms.  Baby’s back should be straight & the head and neck well supp­­orted.

So, those are the basics.  My personal favorites are the Moby or Boba Wrap and the Boba Soft Structure Carrier, and if I were going to pick just one, I would pick a wrap like the Moby or Boba Wrap (formerly known as the SleepWrap).  I recommend parents attend a babywearing workshop, or get together with a group of babywearing moms and try on a few styles.