In this first installation I will be giving an overview of babywearing and a comparison of some of the very basic characteristics of each type of carrier. In future posts (which I actually hope to bang out in the next few days, but you know, #life) I will go more in depth on the pluses and minuses of each type of carrier, plus a few of my favorite examples.
First, my babywearing background (aka "why should I listen to this chick?").
Back in 2006, when I was pregnant with Isabel (my oldest), I bought myself two babywearing devices- a Baby Bjorn Active and an Ultimate Baby Wrap (which is a stretchy wrap, similar to a Moby but with rings at the end).
The week before Isabel was born I tried out the Ultimate Baby wrap. I only had the directions it came with. I didn't have a YouTube video, a helpful friend, a babywearing group... not even an overbearing relative to help me. I got so frustrated I threw it out. Not even joking. I literally threw it in the trash. Hormones, amiright?
So Isabel came and I gave the Bjorn a try. I was not impressed- within 5 minutes of putting it on my upper back hurt, and I didn't like the way Isabel's arms and legs just kind of dangled out in space. I was ready to write off babywearing forever.
Thank goodness for Amber and Moms Joining Moms, which is a group run by Loma Linda University's Perinatal Institute. For starters, she introduced me to several of the topics that I eventually became passionate about and seriously influenced my parenting philosphy. But more pertinent to this post, she introduced me to the world of ergonomic carriers.
What does ergonomic carrier mean? Ergonomic, when applied to anything, means that it is designed to provide optimal comfort and reduce stress to the involved body parts. When applied to baby carriers, it includes several types of carriers (many of which will be summarized in a chart later in this post).
My first ergonomic carrier was a Peanut Shell pouch sling (Peanut Shell, as a company, still exists, but unfortunately their stellar pouch sling is no longer in production). Again, I had no help in figuring out how to use it, which was really unfortunate. I managed to make it work, but looking back now I could have gotten so much more out of it had I known how to use it right. Even so, I loved being able to be at least somewhat hands free while still holding my baby. But Isabel was an extremely independent toddler, so I didn't feel the need to expand my carrier stash as she got older.
Fast forward a few years- I'm expecting my second. I decide to use cloth diapers (this is relevant, I promise). As I was researching cloth, I stumbled upon a local meetup group that had regular get-togethers and a very active online discussion board all about cloth diapers... and baby carriers. That turned me on to various types of carriers and also introduced me to different local vendors I could shop from, so before Oliver was born I bought a Baby K'tan (which is like a pre-tied stretchy wrap) and a ring sling, and shortly after he was born I made myself a Mei Tai and WON a Moby. I felt like a babywearing master- I thought I had so many carriers! (me now laughs at this thought)
I started putting Oliver on my back all the time, but I didn't like the way the ruck straps dug into my shoulders (and I didn't know about tying tibetan then, although I doubt my DIY Mei tai had long enough straps). Eventually I finally bit the bullet and bought an Ergo.
This was a big deal. This was before Tula or Kinderpack were nationally known- Ergo and Beco were really the only names in the game at the time, and I felt like pretty hot stuff. Plus it was more comfortable for back carries and SO much easier to use.
I wore Oliver in that Ergo until he was nearly 4 (shhhhh... he was probably past being too tall to be in it safely, but I didn't know that at the time, and he was never a leaner thank goodness).
Fast forward again another two years. After much, MUCH thought on the matter I bought a woven wrap. Then I joined BWI (babywearing international, a volunteer run group that promotes safe babywearing) and the rest is history.
It is no secret that I practice attachment parenting with my own kids, but I think it is to peoples' detriment when they brush babywearing off as something only AP parents do. Anyone can, and should, wear their baby- if only for those first few months before baby is mobile. I could go on for hours about why wearing your baby is better than pretty much all other means of baby conveyance available. Beyond being beneficial to both baby's development and mother's post birth recovery, it is easy, it is convenient, it is lighter than carrying around the "baby bucket," it is less bulky than a stroller, and it is far better for baby physically, developmentally, and emotionally than leaving them in any other device. It can be as simple as keeping a pouch sling in the car for errands and as cheap as a $20 Infantino Mai Tei. You don't need a "stash" of different carriers to choose from, you only need what works for you and your family. Which leads to my chart (look ma, I made a chart!).
I made this handy dandy chart to summarize (and in all fairness, sometimes overly so) the major types of carriers on the market today, which should help provide at least some guidance as you navigate these waters. Over the next few days I hope to post more specifics on the different carrier types.
Posts on Specific Carrier Types: