As you can imagine, the world is a strange, noisy, uncomfortable place for a newborn fresh out of the womb. Studies have shown that babies who are able to feel the warmth of their mother and listen to her heartbeat, thrive. It is a way for a mother to keep her child close to her, warm and cuddled for extended periods of time. In addition to the comfort that it brings to both the mother and child, it also allows the mother to have her hands free so that she can continue with her daily activities.
When I first decided to try baby wearing, I didn’t realize how many options I would have in choosing a baby carrier. Often, specialty baby stores will carry different types of carriers that you can try out before buying one. For our family, getting a baby carrier was exactly what our colicky baby needed. It allowed us to carry her around while going grocery shopping (which otherwise would have been a nightmare with a screaming newborn). It also allows hands-free nursing, and can be very discreet if you need to nurse when out in public. My husband and I have a big difference in height, and we knew that we would both want to carry the baby. What worked out best for us was buying 2 different types as we each had our preferences. I highly recommend that you do this, as opting for a carrier that doesn’t fit well can give you such a negative experience that you may decide to give up on the whole idea. Some carriers, as you will see below, can be interchanged quite easily, but others are very specific to the size of the adult carrying the child.
You might want to decide a few things before you start:
1. How long do you expect to carry your baby (as a newborn only, or all the way into toddlerhood)?
2. Will you be sharing the carrier with someone else (husband, grandparents)?
3. When will you carry your baby (at home doing chores, for a short period time, or when going out shopping or for a walk for longer periods)?
Here are some of the more common types of carriers seen today:
Pouches and slings
By far the best type of carrier to start of with if you are a first timer is the pouch (eg. Peanut Shell, Hotsling). It is very simple to figure out and can be used in a variety of different carrying positions from kangaroo, to forward-facing, hip carry and even back carry. Getting the baby into the sling is no hassle at all – and this is great when you have a squirmy little baby who is yelling and you don’t have time to figure the carrier out. There is no adjusting required – just put the baby in and you’re all set.
It is very important to make sure that you get the right size of sling. You can find out your size by measuring yourself as per the sling specifications. If the sling is too high, your baby won’t get comfortable, and if it rides too low, you will end up with back pain.
Ring slings work in a similar way, except it is made up of a long piece of fabric that is threaded through 2 rings. This requires some adjusting once the baby is in to make sure that she is all snug. It can also be used for the same positions as the pouch. And as for the pouch, make sure that you measure your self correctly to determine your size.
This is a long piece of cloth that is generally tapered at the end. The material is wrapped around the mum and baby and tied in a knot. The great thing about these, is that one size fits all. It allows for a lot of positions and variety, and is also the best choice for mums with preemies when doing ‘Kangaroo Care’ (skin-to-skin contact with baby on mum’s chest). It does take some getting some used to and may require some practice. Because there is a lot of fabric, keep in mind that when wrapped around you and the baby, it can get warm, so if you live in a warm climate, it may not be the best choice.
Asian-style back carrier
The most popular type is the Mei Tai. It consists of a square piece of fabric with 2 waist straps at the bottom and 2 padded shoulder straps on top. The straps are fairly long which makes this a great carrier to share amongst people of different sizes. The baby can be worn in the front, and when she older, on your back (almost like a ruck-sack). This sling affords great comfort and is considered very ergonomic because of its even weight distribution for both the adult and the baby.
This is similar to the Asian-style carrier, but instead of straps that tie, this carrier has buckles. A great design and very ergonomic, as the name implies for both baby and parent. It has less fabric to deal with. The only position that you cannot do with this carrier however, is forward-facing infant, so if you feel that this important to you, then you may need to consider another. This carrier however can carry a child up to 40lbs, so it will last for a long time.
Some of the more common carriers out there today are the Baby Bjorn and the Snugli. Whereas all the carriers listed above support the child completely under her rear-end, these carriers support the child in the crotch area. Those who have used it often love it as it is so easy to use. The buckles are easy to snap into position which is great if the baby happens to fall asleep in the carrier and you wish to put her down. Some critics and experts say that this position of a baby weight bearing on the crotch area puts too much pressure on a baby’s developing spine and can cause damage in some cases either by altering the growth of the normal curvatures of the spine or by causing a spondylolisthesis (a condition in which the vertebrae of the spine shift).
Whatever carrier you decide to use, make sure that your baby is safe at all times. Remember that a baby in a carrier has access to all sorts of things that are now at her level, so make sure that she is not grabbing the hot drink or knife that you left on the counter-top.
Enjoy the close touch and nurturing that comes with baby-wearing – it is a time in your child’s life where you can get all the cuddles you could ever want!
For more information, check out the following websites:
Umm Yusra is a baby wearer and trained physiotherapist.