Types of Baby Carriers (contributed by Chris Molnar)
Babywearing is not only a wonderful bonding experience for parent and child, but also a practical method that lets mom (or dad) keep two hands free while caring for baby. If you're curious about babywearing, but not sure where or how to begin, the choice of different baby carrier styles can be intimidating at best. First, we'll look at some of the general benefits of wearing your baby and then delve into the different available styles of babywearing.
Benefits of Baby Carriers
The term attachment parenting was first coined by Dr. William Sears, a prominent pediatrician. According to Sears, a strong bond with parents during a child's developmental stages, like one created by babywearing, will lead to secure, healthy, and empathic emotional relationships in adulthood. And though babywearing is common practice in hundreds of cultures, the method has fallen out of favor in most of the Western world.
The claimed benefits of wearing your baby in a carrier include a sense of calm for infants, greater social interaction for children, private and convenient breastfeeding and, of course, that deeper bond cited by Dr. Sears.
Baby Carriers - From Wraps to Packs
There are five major types of baby carriers - these are the pouch/sling, ring sling, mei tai, wrap, and front pack or back packing styles. We’ll go into each of them.
Pouch/Baby Sling Style
The pouch or sling keeps the baby positioned on your body and is very simple to use. It's also a favorite among mothers who like the ease and privacy it provides for public breastfeeding. The sling style of wearing your baby is quite versatile and suitable for newborns, and most can also be adjusted into a hip carrier for older children. While the sling method has its benefits, one major drawback is that all the weight is focused on one shoulder, and this can become difficult or uncomfortable as your child grows. Also, sizing is important, so most sling or pouch style carriers can't be shared among adults of different sizes.
The ring sling baby carrier has all the benefits of the baby pouch or sling style, but it's adjustable – meaning both mom and dad can wear it once they learn how to use it. The “tail” of the sling, or the fabric that loops out of the ring, makes for a great privacy screen while breastfeeding.
The mei tai is also known as an Asian Baby Carrier (or ABC). The mei tai is basically a rectangle of fabric with four straps, two for the shoulders and two for around the waist. The straps are criss-crossed and tied for security. When using a mei tai baby carrier, the weight is distributed more evenly and the adjustable mei tai can easily switch from a front carrier to backpack carrier style. While they're not recommended for newborns, a mei tai is versatile enough to last into toddlerhood.
The wrap style is the most versatile and comfortable of all carriers, as it allows for a nice two-shoulder method that helps distribute the weight. However, it can be intimidating for beginner wrappers. Essentially, the wrap baby carrier is a large piece of fabric and the babywearer must learn the different wrapping styles. So, while it has a huge range of styles (hip carrier, back pack, front carrier), these do need to be learned.
Back Pack (or Front Pack) Baby Carrier
Perhaps one of the most successful styles in North America, the back pack method of wearing your baby has been popularized by well-known brands like Baby Bjorn and the Ergo Baby Carrier. Most child carrier packs are structured, meaning you are limited to the number of ways you can wear them, but they're designed for comfort and stability. While you can purchase deluxe-style hiking baby carriers, there are also a number of smaller versions that are more suitable for everyday use.
Whatever method or style you choose, know that babywearing is an excellent alternative to a simple stroller, and the bonding benefits and emotional development for baby are definitely worth it. Enjoy this time and stay close!
About the Author: Chris is a new dad enjoying the time he spends with his daughter. He is the editor of a website with reviews and resources on baby carriers and tips on wearing your baby.