Introduction Into Babywearing
Getting into babywearing can be overwhelming; the various carrier types can make it difficult to take the plunge into the babywearing world! There are so many things to consider: the functionality of the carrier for your family, your budget, your body type, your preference of brand, etc. So, to kick off International Babywearing Week, I am going to start with the various carrier types.
Buckled Carrier or Soft Structured Carrier (SSC)
Carriers like Ergo, Beco, Tula, Kinderpack, etc. These carriers are fully structured and fasten onto the body using buckles (hence the name). They are quick and convenient to get the baby on and off. Some buckle carriers are able to accommodate a newborn (like the beco Gemini) but most require an infant insert or a cleverly rolled receiving blanket under the newborns bum. Different brands fit different ways, some brands are great for some body types while uncomfortable for other body types. Soft structured carriers are typically made from cotton or canvas (although some are converted from woven wraps) with padded waists and shoulders. Buckle carriers are a very practical (and conventional) gateway into babywearing.
Carriers like kokadi, tekhni, natibaby, pavo, etc. Woven fabrics of various materials form a continuous, long fabric wrap. Woven wraps can be made from cotton, silk, hemp, bamboo, linen, wool or blends of these listed materials. Wovens are “sized”, ranging from 2 meters (size one) to 6 meters (size eight). Different sizes enable you to wrap in different ways. Woven wraps are great for newborn to preschool age. They provide amazing support and snuggly comfort for baby, while allowing you to find the right carry for your body type and comfort level. Woven wraps have a learning curve, they require patience and practice to get it right, tight and comfortable. But! Once you get it, they are extremely supportive, snug and allow you to get creative with your babywearing.
Ring slings are similar to woven wraps in terms of material and support (and brand). They are one shoulder slings fastened with metal rings that keep the fabric in place. They are quick to get baby on and off, like a soft structured carrier, but provide more of a personal fit and the snuggly comfort for baby, like a woven wrap (since it usually the same materials). They typically come in a small, medium and large or one size. The size will depend on your body type and how long you like the left over tail from the shoulder, to be. The one shoulder style can be hard on someone with back problems. Despite this, they are a great place to start. With ease of use on your side, you can get a feel for different materials without yet jumping into the overwhelming world of woven wraps (until you are ready, of course).
Carriers like infantino, babyhawk, freehand, bamberoo, etc. Mei Tai’s provide the ease of soft structure carriers with some of the dynamic abilities of a wrap. The body panel resembles a SSC with floppy fabric straps that allow you to wrap around your body for added comfort and support. With a mei tai, you need to consider what you will want to use it for, for example, having the option of back carrying, to take into consideration strap length for your needs. The fabric is typically cotton, although there are some constructed from woven wrap material. They are breathable, customizable and a great option in between a soft structured carrier and a wrap.
Carriers like comfy joey, hotslings, slinglings, and zolowear. Pouch slings are exactly like they sound, a pouch style where you pop the baby in and out. Typically they use one shoulder and have many of the same capabilities of a ring sling. The main difference here is sizing. Pouch slings require you to choose a size, which is not always easy to do. Each manufacturer has different guidelines in how they size and careful attention should be paid to these guidelines to end up with the correct fit. They are very easy to use, once the sizing is right and another very typical gateway into babywearing.
Carriers like moby, boba, k’tan, etc. Stretchy wraps are probably the most typical way a family finds themselves introduced into babywearing. This is a long fabric wrap, like a woven, but it is made from a stretchy material. These are great for newborns, kangaroo care with preemies, and twins (since you can wear both in the one wrap). They are easy to learn to use and very forgiving in the early learning stages. While they are great in the early days, you will find that they are not supportive enough for older babies, as stretch does not allow a lot of comfort with so much weight. Also, you cannot do a back carry with stretchy wraps, therefore these are typically short term wraps for the fresh baby stage.
Now, we have covered the basic carrier knowledge, the different types with some pros and cons to each. Throughout the week, we will have posts talking about different carriers, ways to travel while babywearing, benefits of babywearing and different cultures that have long time ties to babywearing. At the end of this week, I will come back to discuss some tips on how to pick a carrier for your body type, which is by far the most important thing when it comes to babywearing. If you and your baby are not comfortable in the right carrier for you both, then you will not be able to enjoy all the great things that the babywearing world has to offer.
We want to hear about your babywearing experiences! Do you babywear? What are your favorite carriers?
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