Some baby carriers are designed specifically for newborns; others will last right through to pre-school aged children. It’s never too late to get your first carrier. I see many people with two year olds who haven’t used a carrier before but are wanting something to help carry their little one on their back for dog walks, or as a back-up if legs get tired out. There are SO many options out there, with options suitable from prem babies right up to options that tend to fit best from 2+ years. Here are my tips for choosing a carrier:
1. Think about what features you’d like:
Many people choose something like a stretchy wrap or ring sling for the early days, then look at more structured carriers like buckle carriers or tie-on carriers from 4-6 months onwards. Or they get one of each at birth, with one wearer choosing to use the stretchy wrap, another the buckles, then as baby gets older they both use the buckles. There are lots of options and combinations and different things suit different people, with my buckle carriers also suitable from newborn – it really depends on personal preference. Woven wraps are another option suitable from newborn right through to pre-school.
With some carriers you may have options to face outwards, do a hip carry or carry baby on the back. Have a think about whether you’re really just looking for something for the first few months, or you’re wanting something that will see you through to when your baby is walking and beyond.
2. Think about your budget
A decent stretchy wrap will start from around £35, with comfortable buckle carriers available for between £50-£160.
It can be really tempting to buy something cheaper, especially if you’re not 100% sure how much you’ll use it. However, buying one that’s TOO cheap is likely to mean you have a carrier that’s not so comfortable for longer periods of time/as baby gets heavier and, consequently, you use it far less than a comfier option.
If your budget is tight, it’s worth looking at pre-loved carriers. There are many selling groups on Facebook where people list their used carriers for sale. Many carriers do hold their value very well (some even selling for more second hand than they cost new!) which can also make the cost of buying new seem more affordable (as you can sell your carrier on again afterwards).
3. Try Before You Buy
Choosing a baby carrier is a bit like choosing jeans; they all fit different people differently. What one person loves and finds fits them and their baby really well may be totally wrong for another person.
At South East Slings, I retail all my baby carriers and wraps on a ‘try-before-you-buy’ basis, meaning you have up to 2 weeks to use the carrier as much as you like, to ensure it’s right for you. If you like it, you keep it. If you don’t, simply return the carrier for a refund of the purchase price, minus the 2-week hire fee.
4. Visit a local Sling Library or see a Babywearing Consultant – in person or online
There are lots of Sling Libraries around the UK where you can get help and advice on choosing the right carrier for your particular needs, with the option to try out different carriers.
There are also many Babywearing Consultants, in the UK and around the world, who can give you a more personalised service in a one-to-one setting. Most will give you the option for them to come to your home, or for you to come to them, at a day and time convenient to you. Consultations generally cost between £15-£50, depending on length of time, distance the Consultant needs to travel and geographical location.
Consultations can be totally invaluable; helping you not only find the right carrier for you but also giving you the time to ensure you’re using it comfortably and confidently. Very often you’ll end up saving the cost of the Consultation – or even more – as you may find the carrier that fits you best is much less expensive than the one you were originally looking at.
Consultants and Sling Libraries carry a wide range of carriers – many not available in High Street shops or large online stores – so it can be really beneficial to get some expert help and advice to help you choose. My consultations are available online as well – meaning anyone can access my help, regardless of where they’re based.
5. Remember the key safety points
Whichever carrier or sling you choose, ensure it meets these safety requirements:
- Is baby held as tightly as a cuddle in arms?
- Are baby’s face and airways clear and unobstructed by material?
Until baby has full head control, the most important safety consideration is that baby can breathe unobstructed, and will continue to be able to do so whilst carried. Carrying baby as tightly as a cuddle in arms ensures they can’t slump and their chin won’t drop onto their chest.
Ideally, the top edge of the carrier should sit at the nape of baby’s neck. Once they have full head control the top edge of the carrier can sit (between nape of neck and baby’s armpits) to give them more visibility and freedom of movement. It should always support baby securely and snuggly. As they get heavier this will also benefit the wearer, as baby will feel lighter and more comfortable if they’re held nice and close.
6. Listen to your body
As a new Mum, your body has grown and carried a baby for nine months. Whatever your birth was like, this will inevitably have affected your body. Listen to how your body is feeling and, if necessary, gradually build up your time spent babywearing.
A well fitted baby carrier will support baby so they feel lighter than being carried in arms, but even so – especially if you’ve had surgery, complications or a very long labour – you may not feel up to carrying baby all the time (in arms or with a carrier). There’s no prize for having baby attached to you 24/7 so take it easy and, if you need to, take your time to build up to carrying for longer. This also applies if you’re babywearing an older baby or toddler for the first time.
7. Be open minded to different options
Try not to be swayed by friends’ recommendations – however well-meaning. This is your body and your baby. Just because your friend tells you their [insert name of carrier] is THE best thing ever, this doesn’t automatically mean it will be the best option for you. It might be, but you may find something else that fits your body shape and your baby better, so try to be open minded when it comes to choosing.
8. How a baby carrier or wrap fits your body is everything
Following on from the above, the key things are that the baby carrier or wrap fits your baby safely, feels comfortable on your body, and is easy for you to use without assistance. If you’ll be sharing with a partner, then how easy it is to adjust between you is also relevant.
Making sure the carrier is adjusted to optimise comfort is SO important. Small tweaks, tips and tricks can make a world of difference to how a carrier fits and feels on your body.
9. If baby cries when they’re put into a carrier, it’s very unlikely to be the carrier that’s causing it
Once you’ve ruled out the obvious causes such as baby being hungry, tired, just having filled their nappy/about to fill their nappy, there are a number of things to check that could be causing baby to be unhappy:
- Is baby held securely? If baby is held too loosely they won’t feel safe and they’ll let you know! Put your arms around baby as if you’re holding them in arms. Do you need to lift them/bring them closer to you? If you do, the carrier needs to be tighter.
- Check baby’s position in the carrier. Ideally baby’s bottom will be lower than their knees, with a gentle curve to their spine. If they are more ‘straight’ in the carrier there could be pressure on their stomach (which is likely to be less comfortable – especially if they’ve recently fed, or if they suffer from reflux). Applying a gentle pelvic tilt can often solve this problem; making baby more comfortable by removing pressure from their tummy
- Babies like movement. This is a new experience for them, and you’re probably a little bit nervous as it’s the first time you’ve done this. Going for a bouncy walk up and down the corridor/outside can often calm an unsettled baby. Quite often after a minute or two they’ll be asleep!
You can see videos demonstrating all of these checks on my YouTube Channel.
10. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again
I truly believe that there’s a baby carrier out there for everyone. If you don’t get on with the first carrier you try (it may be one that’s been passed down to you by a friend, something you’ve picked up second hand, or something you’ve bought in the shops) don’t give up! Just because one didn’t work out so well for you doesn’t mean you can’t comfortably carry your baby hands free. This is when going along to a Sling Library or seeing a Babywearing Consultant can be really beneficial to help you work out the option that suits you and your little one best.
Roamy Hunt is one of the UK’s most experienced Babywearing Consultants. She runs Roamy Hunt Consultancy and South East Slings and has been empowering people to carry their babies safely, comfortably and confidently since 2011; offering Consultations in person and online, plus retailing carriers on her try-before-you-buy scheme.
Follow her on Instagram and Facebook (consultancy, South East Slings) and Subscribe to her YouTube channel to see the many different instructional videos she’s produced. To purchase carriers on try-before-you-buy visit southeastslings.co.uk and for Consultations and other services visit roamyhuntconsultancy.co.uk