I have had a lot of friends recently ask me what carrier would be best for them, to use when their baby arrives. (I LOVE being asked this, as it means more babies being up close with their parents, where they want to be – it isn’t nicknamed the 4th trimester for no reason hehe) Sometimes, this can be a hard question to answer, as everyone is different, and everyone wants different things from their carriers.
Firstly, I recommend getting along to a baby wearing meet if you can. This will allow you to touch and feel different carriers and see what you like best. You can learn what other people found to be good and bad about each carrier, and sometimes even test one out.
For those of you who cannot make it to a meet, or want some more information before you go, I will talk about the three “main” talked about options (Hug-a-Bub, Ergo and BabyBjorn), and then talk about benefits of some other options. But the first thing to learn and become familiar with is the TICKS guidelines for baby wearing. This ensures baby is kept safe while being carried.
Hug-a-Bub (aka sleepy wrap, moby wrap, or stretchy wrap)
If you are unsure you will be wanting to wrap, but love the idea of the closeness and “extended cuddles” (as I like to refer to it as) that wrapping provides, a stretchy wrap is an awesome way to go for a newborn. While it can be fiddly, really hot (think wearing a cotton blanket), and annoying if you need to put it on in a car park where you happened to park in a puddle and its raining (yes, talking from experience!), it is more forgiving than a wrap in regard to your wrap job, and it’s just so cuddly and soft – newborns just seem to really snuggle in with them.
- Is “poppable” meaning it is easy to get baby in and out, in and out, and in and out again, without having to take off and/or put back on
- Suitable for prem and little babies
- Can use for different carries – facing in, facing out, and hip carries
- Keeps baby close and snugly, and allows them to keep a natural position while being carried
- Can breastfeed (discreetly when you get the hang of it)
- Can be used to keep baby warm
- Can be rolled up and kept in the bottom of your pram/large nappy bag in case of an “emergency” (aka baby is unsettled)
- Can be quite warm and cause sweatiness for both you and bub
- Some people can be overwhelmed by the amount of fabric you need to deal with
- You need to learn how to wrap it and tie it
- Can take some time to get ready before it is ready to put baby in it
Caboo – If you aren’t sure about wrapping, or your partner isn’t interested (*ahem* like mine *ahem*), there is a great alternative called Caboo, made by Close Parent (on a side note, I LOVE that they included the TICKS guidelines on their website). It pops over your head, you tighten it with help from the rings and pop baby in. This is awesome for a quick carrier, or to use when out and about (to miss the muddy puddles while trying to wrap). There are now two versions of this carrier (mine is similar to the standard one, but was called a Close Carrier when I bought it) a deluxe and standard one. I haven’t seen the deluxe one, but it does look rather cool too. It has the same stretchy fabric used with a stretchy wrap, but takes away the need to wrap. This is my partner’s favourite carrier, and the only one he will use without me needing to beg. I have both a Hug-a-Bub (HAB) and a Close Carrier (CC), and I felt that I could get the HAB tighter than the CC, but this was a personal preference (and could be one of the reasons I like wovens now so much, and never presented a problem)
Bali Baby Stretch – If you are worried about the heat of a stretchy wrap, there is a “hybrid” version called Bali Baby Stretch made by Wrapsody/GypsyMama (I do believe there are other brand that makes hybrids, but this one is known for being one of the cooler “stretchy” wraps you can use). A “hybrid” stretchy wrap is called this as they see it as a middle ground between a woven wrap and a stretchy wrap. You can apparently also do back carries in a hybrid stretchy wrap, although I haven’t tried one. There is a list of instructions on their website, as well as a table of carries that can be done with level of experience and babies developmental and physical age.
Possibly the second most known baby carrier, due to the amount of celebrities photographed wearing one and, I believe, there is some sort of issue with patents and/or insurance for other carriers to be sold I the USA or Canada, as I often read that other Soft Structured Carriers cannot be sold to people residing there. These are a great option for ease of use, as well as being able to use them for a while, as your child grows. To use an Ergo with a newborn, they recommend buying their infant insert to be able to position them in an optimum way, to insure their airways are kept clear and their legs are comfortable.
- Easy to find, and easy to find support for use
- Relatively straight forward to use
- Can be used from newborn (with insert) to toddlerhood
- Can be used to do front, back and hip carries
- Provides optimum seat for baby
- Cannot cross straps over back, if you have bad shoulders/back
- Some people find it hard to reach the middle strap to click up
- There are a lot of fakes out there, which do not have the same safety testing and requirements that Ergo Baby meet (so beware of where you buy them from)
- Requires insert to use with newborn, which makes it warmer to wear
- Toddler can out grow it, especially if they are tall, as it has a “one size fits all” approach. So can have the carrier only going half way up a toddler’s back or not providing knee to knee support for your toddler.
Manduca – Manduca carriers include a newborn “insert”, and also allow for extension of the back, which was incredibly handy for me, as I had to have the back extended for my toddler and my newborn (when using the newborn attachment) as I have tall kids. I loved the cross over on my back, as it allowed for me to be able to carry Ballina Boy for even longer and my partner used our Manduca to carry our toddler on his back up to the top of Mt. Warning.
Full Buckle Wrap Conversion – there are lots of different places that make these. A “full buckle” refers to a carrier that has buckles to close, similar to the ergo. A lot of people find that full buckles are more comfortable than an ergo, either because they are hand made, or because of the fabric used (most use woven wraps which can feel more supportive and soft). Some ones to look at can include wearababy’s Wompat, Tula Baby Carriers, Jumpsac, or for an Australian made one you can try to score a Maddimoo or Beetlebums
It would seem that a lot of people think this is an “essential baby item”, without even knowing the term “baby wearing”. This is probably due to marketing – I think all the baby stores I have been to carry these, and there are “knock offs” available at the super chain stores too. I haven’t ever owned one, as after reading some reviews of the “hug a bub vs baby bjorn” and then later “ergo vs baby bjorn”, I decided to go with a Hug a Bub, but from what I have heard, they can be tiresome on your back and shoulders and uncomfortable once your baby has a bit of weight to them. Personally, I think there are better options out there than the baby bjorn. It doesn’t seem as though it gives you a long period of use, and it doesn’t seem to have the same resale value as other carriers have, if either of those things matter to you. It does, however, seem to be a “gateway” to babywearing, for people who would have otherwise known nothing about it, and I know a few people love the option of being able to face baby out in the carrier (note, there is also a carrier made by Beco that can do this, that is designed to provide better comfort for you and baby, also allowing for it to be used with larger kids past infancy). It also is a well known brand, so many people feel as though they can trust it. But as with any recommendation, if someone is recommending it to you, find out if they have tried others and what their comparison is.
Here are some links to some safety concerns people have about using a Baby Björn (which I have also found is addressed on their FAQ on their website too, for the other side of the argument)
A blog post by Dinker and Giggles – Safe Babywearing Hip Health Illustrated
Blog post by MT Whole Health – Baby Wearing Safely
A blog post from Becoming Mamas – Looking Beyond the Björn
Comparison image of Ergo and Baby Bjorn that has gone around
If you have been given a baby bjorn, or already have one from a previous child, I found this really helpful blog entry from Canadian Babywearing School on how to get the bjorn more comfortable
- Easy to find
- Lots of people have tried them, so can easily find advice on how to use
- As lots of people have used them, and they are only really used with babies, it is easy to pick one up second hand (usually for pretty cheap) or be loaned one.
- It is highly regarded as uncomfortable, especially for long time periods (e.g. longer than 20minutes)
- Gets more uncomfortable as baby grows, making it hard to use in to toddlerhood (from what I can find, it suggests that the weight limit is 11-12kg)
Beco Gemini if you want to have the option of facing out, or any other carrier, really.
Other Carriers You May or May Not Have Heard Of
A soft structured carrier, also fitting under the umbrella of Asian style carrier.
Asian-style carriers (or ‘ABC’-Asian Baby Carriers) consist of a rectangular panel with wide straps. The Mei-tai is the most popular type of Asian-style carrier, it has four straps (one at each corner, and the top two straps are longer). The Podaegi and Onbuhimo are less common, they only have two straps but are just as comfortable when worn properly. All can be tied in a variety of ways to suit one’s needs/comfort, and may be worn on the front, back or hip.
Also included under the title of Asian-style carriers are ‘Soft-structured carriers’ like the Patapum , Beco, Manduca and Ergo. These are based on Asian-style but go a step further with buckles, pockets, hoods and wide padded waistbands. – NZ Slingbabies
Some brands I recommend, especially for the early days, are the MySol and DidyTai. They are both adjustable, allowing you to use them from birth to 15kg. I have written a comparison of them here. There are other brands that you can use, but I found these both to be the most adjustable, allowing you to use them with small babies, and as your baby grows. Both are also made from woven wraps, by the manufacturer of the wrap (Girasol and Didymos). Tinoki and Nurture Nest regularly stocks both these brands.
One shoulder carrier adjustable with the use of metal rings. These are also pouch slings, which are sized and non adjustable, and a buckle sling, which is made with a buckle instead of rings, and while may seem less daunting can become uncomfortable due to the buckle.
Wraps that are woven, either by hand or machine, that has a slight diagonal stretch, but otherwise no stretch. Commonly made from cotton, bamboo, linen, wool, silk, cashmere or a blend of two or more of those fibres.
For more information on woven wraps, check out my blog post “How to Use Woven Wraps”
Further Information and Links
For sourcing a second hand carrier in Australia and NZ, go to the Baby Wearing Buy Sell Swap group (BWBSS), on Facebook.
For finding your local babywearing group in Australia, you can try looking on KangaCollective, SlingMeets, or BWBSS.
A further list of babywearing terms and definitions, you can find a list here, created by Babywearing International.
Some online stores located in Australia (some have a shop front and/or run demonstrations) – Karri Tree Lane, Finely Woven, Tinoki, Wrap ‘Em, Nurture Nest. Tinoki also hires out carrier packages (“trial packs“) so you can figure out what you like most before committing to something.
For more information within New Zealand, check out Slingbabies, they have group meets, a sling library, and information on carriers. They also have a great Facebook page
While trying to find links and research, I discovered a comparison table, I think I may have looked at before (but may have included different carriers, as it was a while ago). This may help people, but could also be slightly bias (as I think they sell carriers) too, but helps to learn more brands and what other people think are their pros and cons!
The Portable Baby’s Carrier Features Guide
I actually found an awesome comparison sheet made by BWBSS’s blog, Babywearer’s Circle, of soft structured carriers available in Australia. They have a lot of them on there, which is really useful too.