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baby carrier

How to Buy a Baby Carrier

Wearing your baby frees up your hands (trust us, you’ll appreciate that!), helps you bond with baby and can be awesome for those times she needs extra soothing. Here’s what you should know before you buy a baby carrier.

Photo: Courtesy of the Manufacturer / The Bump

TYPES OF CARRIERS

Front Carrier

How it works: A front carrier has a fabric seat for baby and two adjustable shoulder straps. If your baby hasn’t mastered head control -- which usually doesn’t happen before six months of age -- you’ll need to add an infant insert to give baby extra support. Newborns face in toward you, but once they have head control, they can face out.

Pros: Easy to put on; adjustable for use by multiple people; baby’s weight is distributed more evenly, which is good news for parents with bad backs or shoulders; with many of them, you can unbuckle to put a sleeping baby into the crib or stroller without waking him.

Cons: Tough to nurse with it on; might seem too big and bulky for a newborn; must have infant insert to use with a newborn.

Sling

How it works: A long, wide strip of fabric wraps around your body and over one shoulder. A knot or ring sits in front of your shoulder and holds the sling closed. Newborns are placed in front, facing you, in a soft pouch above your waistline and just below the bust.

Pros: Easy to nurse baby discreetly while wearing it; can be used with newborns (they’re carried in the fetal position); can hold baby in multiple positions as he grows.

Cons: All the fabric can overwhelm petite moms; may be uncomfortable to wear an older baby, since there’s only one-shoulder support; might take a while before you get the hang of putting on the sling correctly; no safety restraints, so when wearing baby, you should stick to less strenuous activities, like walking; there have been reports of babies suffocating when used improperly, so you’ve got to be extra extra careful.

Wrap

How it works: It’s similar to a sling, but here, you (literally) wrap a wide piece of fabric around your body and over both shoulders, securing with a double knot. Baby sits upright just under your chin.

Pros: Easy to nurse baby discreetly while wearing it; can be used with newborns; very versatile -- you can configure it a number of ways; easy to adjust.

Cons: Can be confusing to get on and off; may not be comfortable to wear bigger kids, since there’s no padding or extra support.

Backpack

How it works: A framed backpack carrier has a metal frame with a fabric seat where a child with full head and neck control sits (it’s not for newborns!). A belt around the waist or hips offers extra support and distributes your baby’s weight evenly. An urban carrier is similar to a traditional backpack but has a structured frame to support your kid. Since they’re less bulky and more lightweight, they’re ideal for everyday use.

Pros: Can carry kids up to 50 pounds or more; good for vigorous activities, like hiking; easily adjustable for parent and child; comes with a kickstand for easier loading and unloading; some models come with extras such as a compact fold, removable diaper pack and rain hood.

Cons: Can’t be used with small babies; even though baby’s weight is more evenly distributed than with other carriers, an older child will still feel heavy to carry after a while; bulky and can take up a lot of storage space.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CARRIER

With all the options out there, finding the right carrier can be pretty overwhelming. Our advice? Try on several different types in the store -- preferably with baby -- to see which works best for you both. (Warning: You may end up taking home a couple of different carriers.) Note how much support each carrier offers -- look for straps that are wide and well-padded or carriers made of sturdy fabric.

Once you’ve narrowed down your selections, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How easy is it to put on and take off? Can you do it by yourself? With one hand?
  • How easy is it to put the baby in and take her out?
  • Can you adjust the carrier easily?
  • If you plan on breastfeeding, can you nurse while wearing baby?
  • Is the carrier easy to clean?
  • Will baby sit comfortably in the carrier? Is the fabric soft and breathable?
  • If you’re looking at backpack carriers, does it have a five-point harness that fits snugly?


Plus, more from The Bump:

Best Baby Carriers

Sling Safety

Breastfeeding Gear

watch: more tips for choosing the right baby carrier

-- Bonnie Vengrow

See More: Baby Gear

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