Having a child is an exciting time in one’s life. There are many choices to be made and at the end of the day you have to make the best choice that fits your wants and needs. Once baby arrives you learn their wants and needs and also start making choices based on that.
When you’re strolling through the baby stores making your registry or just browsing around you may end up near the baby carriers and wonder “Should I get a baby carrier?” and “Which carrier should I get?” It can be a guessing game, you could google search, or ask some friends. At the end of the day knowing some of the basics of baby carriers may help you understand your options a bit more.
Should I get a baby carrier?
Yes. Although I am biased being a babywearer myself I really do believe every parent could potentially benefit from using a baby carrier. Some of the benefits of using a carrier are: being hands-free, helping baby and caregiver bond, and allowing caregivers to get out of the house a little easier. You don’t have to use a baby carrier all the time but having a baby carrier that you love can truly help you in the times you need it.
Which carrier should I get?
Normally when you’re at a baby store (Target, BRU, etc.) you will see soft structured carriers, harness carriers, stretchy wraps, and meh dai’s “mei tai’s”. All of these options are fine options. There are also Woven Wraps and Ring Slings that aren’t normally at mainstream stores. Let’s go over the types of carriers available to you.
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers (SSC’s) also be known as “buckle carriers.” They have a padded waistband with shoulder straps that clip in the back. This allows the carrier to be more fitted per user. Depending on the brand SSC’s can be used for front, back, and hip carrying. There are some SSC’s that do allow forward facing out positioning, as well as, insert-less options for newborns. Overall SSC’s are simple to use.
Harness carriers look similar to SSC’s as they also have buckles. The harness part goes over both shoulders, then baby is put in, and the body panel buckles up over babies back. The two positions for this carrier are front facing and forward facing out (per manufacturer recommendations). This type of carrier is not for hip or back carrying.
Bei Dai/Meh Dai – “Mei Tai”
From Asian Mom Support Network:
Bei Dai/Meh Dai (bay-dye/meh-dye) – China
Meh dai (Cantonese) or bei dai (Mandarin) are rectangles of fabric with straps at the top and bottom. Meh dai means “back carrying strap” where “meh/bei” means “carry on your back,” and “dai” means strap. Using the syllables paired with other words to create mash up names is inappropriate.
The spelling “mei tai” does not reflect accurate pronunciation in either Mandarin or Cantonese, so we recommend ”bei dai” or “meh dai” for this carrier.
For more accurate information on East Asian Traditional Baby Carriers please go to this link.
As per my personal opinion on Meh Dai’s, I highly recommend them. You can use Meh Dai’s from birth and do front, back, and hip carries (per manufacturer recommendations).
Stretchy wraps are long pieces of fabric that feel like the fabric of a t-shirt. This type of carrier allows a front carrying position. The K’tan shown in the right picture above is a double loop stretchy carrier giving the level of comfort a stretchy wrap would with the elimination of needing to wrap. There is a learning curve in using either of these carrier choices but once learned it is a nice option especially in the newborn days.
A woven wrap is a piece of fabric that can come in a variety of lengths and fabrics. You can use a woven wrap for front, back, and hip carries; for newborns, toddlers, and children. There is a learning curve to woven wraps but just like anything practice makes perfect. Woven wraps aren’t commonly found in stores but ask an educator and surely they can help route you in the correct direction.
A ring sling is a one-shouldered carrier that can be used from birth. It is fabric with rings securely attached at one end. The fabric is threaded through the rings to adjust to the wearers body. You can use ring slings in an offset front, hip, or back carry (as needed). Ring slings are great for quick up and downs, a run to the grocery store, and a great carrier to keep in your diaper bag. If you’re pregnant and have an older child that likes to be carried then you may like using a ring sling for that child (as seen above).
Get hands on help!
Now that you know your choices you may want to try them out before you purchase one. Getting hands on experience and learning how to use each type can help you figure out which one you like best.
Check out Babywearing International of Oahu. They offer free monthly meetings to give you hands on help.