How to Choose A Baby Carrier



How to Choose A Baby Carrier

By April MacKinnon - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

History of Babywearing

Babywearing is an ancient art, practiced for millennia in cultures around the world. Adapted for modern society, the term "babywearing" was coined by renowned attachment parenting advocate and paediatrician, Dr. William Sears.

Recently, there has been renewed interest in natural and attachment parenting techniques including the family bed, extended breastfeeding and the practice of wearing your baby. Enjoying time with your baby while leaving your hands free to go about your day, tend to older children, or help calm a fussy baby are just some of the benefits of using a baby carrier. Parents who carry their babies experience a deep parent-child bond, while promoting positive cognitive development – sling babies are smarter babies!

Scientific research has reported that babies who are carried for at least 3 hours a day cry dramatically less – 43% less during the day and 51% less at night. Babies love the closeness of a carrier and enjoy the comfort, familiarity and safety of the relationship they form with their caregiver.

Babywearing has also been shown to enhance mental development by allowing baby to remain in a calm, "quiet alert" state - the optimal state for learning. Carried babies are exposed to a wide range of experiences and are engaged in the world around them. Infants make eye contact with their parents to learn social cues and learn to assess a situation. This is particularly pertinent while baby is being worn in a "tummy to tummy" position. Dr. Eveline Kirkilionis, author of A Baby Wants To Be Carried, describes forward facing positions as "overwhelming…In this position the baby cannot make eye contact with his or her parent to evaluate facial expressions, social cues, and so forth to make assessment of the situation."

Babywearing also has benefits for the new mom with reduced incidence of postpartum depression. Although the basis for this is still unknown, it is suspected that both a reduction in baby’s crying and possible hormonal stimulation play a part.

Carrier Styles

There are four major styles of baby carriers – the "simple piece of fabric" or wrap, pouches, ring slings and mei tais. Each style has a multitude of variations on the theme. The major difference between these carriers and more commercially popular Baby Bjorn or Snuggli-type carriers are baby’s knee position relative to their bottoms. The most developmentally appropriate position for your baby is to have their knees level with the base of their spine. This prevents spinal compression caused by many popular mainstream carriers as a result of baby being "suspended" by the base of their spine – at the crotch. Health practitioners suggest choosing a carrier that properly supports a child’s entire bottom.

Features of Each Carrier Style

Each of the four styles of carriers is infinitely versatile and is appropriate for use from birth to toddlerhood. The choice of styles is largely based on personal preference, and many parents will tell you the carrier they reach for first depends fully on the situation presented.

Each baby and caregiver is a unique team, so the choice will depend on many factors including the following:

Wearer’s size and build:

  • Are you looking for a carrier JUST for you? Do you have a partner or relatives who would like to share a carrier?

Lifestyle:

  • What activities are you planning to do while wearing your baby?
  • Do you have other children requiring your care and attention?
  • What types of conditions will you encounter – rugged terrain, weather conditions?
  • How important is the style of the carrier to you?

Baby’s Personality:

  • Some babies love to be cradled, others prefer to be upright. It is impossible to know which your baby will be before he or she arrives, and while all carriers allow for multiple wearing positions, carriers tend to have specific strengths in terms of positioning for very young babies: Non-adjustable pouch slings and wraps are great for cradling, ring slings can provide more of an upright position as well as a cradle position, mei tais allow for upright positioning.

Pouch Sling

Fitted, sized for one babywearing caregiver.

  • Carrying Positions: cradle, “Buddha”, front/side facing, hip carry, back carry.
  • Age Range: Newborn to toddler. Particularly useful during newborn stage (cradle hold) and 12-18 months (hip carry).
  • Weight Range: Up to 35 pounds.

Ring Sling

Adjustable for multiple caregivers.

  • Carrying Positions: cradle, “Buddha”, front facing in and out, hip carry.
  • Age Range: Newborn to toddler.
  • Weight Range: Up to 35 pounds.

Mei Tai

Adjustable for multiple caregivers.

  • Carrying Positions: front facing in, hip, back carry (no assistance needed).
  • Age Range: Newborn (depending on type of mei tai) to toddler better suited to babies with head and shoulder control.
  • Weight Range: Up to and beyond 40 lbs.

Wrap

Adjustable for multiple caregivers, including those with special needs.

  • Carrying Positions: cradle, front facing in and out, back carry (with assistance).
  • Age Range: Newborn to toddler. Best suited for newborns and younger babies.
  • Weight Range: Unlimited.

Which Is Right For Me?

We believe that a carrier should be easy to use, functional, versatile, well-designed and safe. Baby slings (either pouch or ring) are a favourite baby carrier for carrying a newborn and nursing hands-free.

Very active families who engage in outdoor activities such as hiking and cross country skiing will most likely benefit most from a wrap or soft pack-style carrier such as a mei tai, which is easily adjusted to accommodate more layers (babies in snowsuits) while being ergonomically designed for comfort. A wrap will serve this same purpose while providing appropriate head and neck support for a newborn. Most carriers can also be worn under a coat provided enough air circulation is available for the baby. A sling is indispensable for quick in-and-out carries, such as running errands or walking from a parking lot to a building, for example. It is also handy for keeping your baby happy and close while chasing your toddler at home!

Baby Slings, also known as pouch slings, are compact, sleek, easy to use, and their simple design makes them one of the most popular baby carriers available. We believe that every new family should have some type of baby sling for an easier adjustment to life with baby. Baby Slings are as uncomplicated to use as it gets – they can be put on and taken off easily.

Soft pack baby carriers include the traditional Asian-style baby carrier called the mei tai and the newer “strap and buckle” version of the mei tai. Structured baby carriers evenly distribute the weight of your baby across both shoulders and your hips which makes them one of the most comfortable baby carriers around. Typically, best for an older baby with head and shoulder control, most parents find they can carry a baby the longest in a pack-style carrier.

 
© 2007 by April MacKinnon. May not be copied or reprinted without permission.

About the Author: April MacKinnon, Owner of Nurtured Products for Parenting (www.nurtured.ca) and Anointment Natural Skin Care (www.anointment.ca).   April is mom to two children, a SavvyMom Mom Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner for Atlantic Canada (2008).  Nurtured began as an online company in 2006 and has grown to include a retail location in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 2009.

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