What’s What in the World of Babywearing: A Summary of Baby Carrier Types
Meh dai? Woven wrap? Full buckle? Half buckle? Reverse half buckle? Ring sling? Stretchy?
Once you start looking into the variety of carrier styles available, it can quickly become overwhelming. There are quite literally, hundreds of brands to choose from. How do you choose?! What will suit my body shape and my needs? As a qualified Babywearing Consultant, I’m here to give you a quick summary of the 4 most common styles of carriers available and what you need to know about them.
Full Buckle or Soft Structured Carrier
Featuring a structured back panel with a waist band and arm straps, the full buckle carrier is a very popular choice of carrier for first time wearers. It’s the easiest to use without much fuss, similar to putting a back-pack on your front and only needs basic skills and knowledge to achieve an ergonomic, safe position. Popular brands include ErgoBaby, Tula, Manduca, Lenny Lamb and Bjorn.
Pros: Quick to put on- great for quick ups. Easy- basic skills and knowledge required.
Cons: Limited adjustability due to only 4 points of adjustment. Can cause discomfort if not adjusted properly or if the incorrect brand/style is chosen for body shape. Some carriers only suitable for certain age groups ie. Birth to 2 years, toddler.
TIP: Look for a full buckle carrier that is adjustable across the base. This will allow a carrier to grow as baby grows!
Woven wraps are woven lengths of material, ranging from 2m to 6m in length. Woven wraps are most commonly made with cotton but can be made from, or incorporate other fibres such as wool, silk, bamboo, linen or repreve. There are many different weave patterns which will result in different wrap qualities, and affect the way the wrap feels and wraps with. A key feature of a woven wrap is the diagonal ‘give’ which allows the wrap to ‘wrap’ securely around little bodies! Popular brands include Lenny Lamb, Yaro, Little Frog, Wrapture, Ankalia & Didymos
Pros: No age or size limit- Suitable from birth into childhood (or as long as child and carer want to wear!). Extremely versatile- there are many, many different tying methods for a woven wrap, from a basic front wrap cross carry to a ruck (on the back) to a poppins hip carry. The variety is seemingly endless!
Cons: Steep learning curve initially- requires a moderate level of skill and knowledge to achieve a comfortable and safe carry position.
TIP: Start your woven wrap journey with your ‘base’ size. Also, choose a wrap with different colours the run length-wise so that you can identify one edge or ‘rail’ from the other!
Another really popular choice with first time wearers. Stretchy wraps are similar to woven wraps, but they are made with a blend of cotton, elastane or spandex. Unlike woven wraps, stretchies have 4- way stretch which make them super comfortable and snuggly. Popular brands include Chekoh, Hug-A-Bub, Manduca and Je Porte Mon Bebe
Pros: A great entry level introduction to wrapping. Very comfortable because weight is spread out across the back and shoulders, and can also be tied to support the lower back and hips.
Con: Suitable only until around 7kg (usually around 3 months of age).
TIP: ALWAYS have 3 layers of fabric across baby’s back for safety and to provide enough support.
I have a lot of love for ring slings… but I only felt that love once I knew how to use one properly! Ring slings are constructed from one piece of woven wrap fabric, secured with 2 rings at one end. Baby is worn UPRIGHT on the wearer’s chest or hip (for older children). Because they are worn on one shoulder they can cause discomfort for those with back or shoulder issues. Once the ring sling is set up, it is the quickest carrier to put on and adjust making it a popular choice of carrier for parents and carers for school drop-offs or quick errands. It is also the carrier of choice for premature babies and newborns.
For older babies, ring slings can be worn very comfortably on the hip or slightly off centre to allow a greater field of vision for those curious kids who like to see what’s going on around them.
Pros: Very quick to put on, adjust and take off. Folds down small so they are easy to stash in the nappy bag or car boot for ‘those’ moments when you need a carrier. No weight or age limit- can be worn from birth right through until childhood. Great for ‘sticky beaks’ and curious kids.
Cons: One-sided carry- might be uncomfortable for extended wear or doing some tasks around the house like hanging out the washing. Steep learning curve- make sure you find an experience ring-slinger or consultant to show you how to achieve a great fit.
TIP: Try ‘flipping’ the shoulder of the ring sling for a better fit and less pressure on the trapezius muscle in the neck. BEWARE: Watch out for ‘pouch’ slings where baby is positioned lying down. Sadly there have been numerous fatalities linked to this position due to the obstruction of baby’s airways. Baby should be positioned in an UPRIGHT position, with airways clear and unobstructed. Follow TICKS guidelines always.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Check out the other carrier types not included in this summary: meh dai, onbuhimo, half buckle and podegai.
by Sarah Pinn , Babywearing Consultant.