How To Choose The Best Baby Carrier For You
Most parents-to-be spend a lot of time researching and shopping for strollers and car seats, and rightfully so. Those two items, along with the crib, are probably the most important big purchases for a new baby. Once your baby comes home, though, you’ll quickly realize that there are (many!) smaller and no-less-important purchases you need to make. Case in point: the baby carrier. Sometimes you will find that you need to carry your baby hands-free, whether it’s for a quick trip out when a stroller’s too cumbersome, or while doing light chores around the house.
Parents around the world have worn their babies for centuries, and both scientific research and mom wisdom will tell you that there’s great benefit for both parent and child in keeping your babies snuggled right next to you. This closeness—in a carrier or sling, babies can hear their parents’ heartbeat and feel the rhythm of their breathing—strengthens the parent-baby bond, and is a helpful transition for newborns just getting adjusted to being outside of the womb. And the carrier isn’t just for parents—other relatives and caregivers can bond with your baby this way too.
Why Get A Baby Carrier?
There are plenty of reasons why a baby carrier, wrap, or sling can come in handy. Here are just a few.
Convenience: Multitasking is the name of the game for every new parent, and being able to wear your baby while you are doing things like folding laundry, brushing your hair, or even just having a snack is a total win. Lightweight and portable, baby carriers also make trips outside the house easier. If you live in a city and take public transportation, it's much easier to hop on a bus or train wearing a carrier, and not have to deal with folding and lugging a stroller. A stroller is also a hassle is you’re going somewhere with crowds, stairs, or narrow passages. A carrier is a convenient and safe way to be on the go with baby in tow.
Nursing: A sling can be useful for breastfeeding, keeping your baby well positioned, comfortable, and undistracted by outside stimuli. Many carrier designs also include adjustable hoods for added privacy.
Soothing: What’s the instinctive thing parents do when their babies cry? Pick them up and hold them. It should come as no surprise, then, that wearing your baby in a carrier, wrap or sling is simply an extension of that technique for soothing. Many parents find it can be a surefire way to help calm a crying infant, or bring on a much-needed nap. Some babies will even nap better in a carrier. Try what makes sense for your situation, and you’ll soon find out what works best for your baby.
Exercise: Carrying an additional 10 or (many) more pounds on your body while you’re taking a walk or doing errands can help you burn a few more calories. For new parents with little time to make it to the gym, you can consider it as part of your workout.
Things to Consider
Since the BabyBjorn—the granddaddy of them all, which you probably knew about even before you became a parent—was introduced in the 1970s, there has been a huge boom in the different styles of carriers available on the market. Whether you want to wear your baby on your back or on the front; in a sling or in a backpack—there are so many options to keep your baby with you, and your hands free for the million other things you need to do.
So how do you choose the right one for you and your baby?
- A lot depends on your baby’s habits; some infants simply will not like to be carried in certain styles or positions—and will loudly let you know it. And babies’ preferences will change with age. Infants are meant to be carried facing you; as they get older they will want to be carried facing out to the world, or even on your back for a view from high up. Consider how you like to carry your baby; many carriers will offer a variety of ways to wear them.
- Generally speaking, look for ergonomic, lightweight, and supportive carriers and wraps. Carrying even a small baby around for long periods of time can be taxing on your back and shoulders. It’s important for you to be as comfortable as your baby is, so consider features like padded shoulder straps and multi-position waistbands. Those features will help ensure that the baby's weight is evenly distributed and not straining your back or any other part of your body.
- Some parents have concerns that improper positioning in baby carriers can increase the risk of deformed hip joints or hip dislocation for babies. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute recommends that babies ride with legs spread apart, thighs supported, and hips bent. Test out some carriers and find the one your baby is most comfortable and well positioned in.
- Finally, check out the accessories that come with a baby carrier. They may not be the first thing you consider, but items such as teething pads and bib come in handy, especially if your baby is cutting teeth. The shoulder straps are easy access for babies looking for something to gnaw on, and having pads that you can easily remove and wash will help keep germs away from baby and your carrier clean.
Want to narrow down your options even more? Let’s take a look at carriers for some specific needs:
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- Best Baby Carriers for Hot Weather