Are you celebrating? International Babywearing Week is generally celebrated the first week of October, but this year dates are flexible, and celebrations are held throughout October. Babywearing is a great way to keep baby close. But to do baby-wearing, you’ll need know the four basic babywearing options, the pros and cons for each one, and some general criteria no matter which option you choose.
Trained babywearing consultant Samantha Bunnell, RN IBCLC, articulated the 3 “Fs” of buying any babywearing device:
- Function: what will it do? What do you want it to do, e.g., easy on, easy off?
- Fit: Who will be wearing it? Will it adjust to fit other caregivers? Will it “grow” when the baby grows?
- Feel: Do you feel confident your baby is secure in it? What’s the learning curve for using it?
Types of babywearing devices
Samantha said that although there are hundreds of babywearing options, there are only four different types of baby-wearing devices.
Woven wraps are exactly what they sound like. They are very long pieces of woven fabric (about 5.5 meters, i.e., 6 yards long) that wrap the adult and the baby together. Sometimes, the fabric has a little stretch to it. There are many examples. I like the Moby.
To me, the biggest advantage of a woven wrap is that it will fit even the most slender, petite caregiver or the king-sized caregiver. Similarly, it will fit a newborn or a toddler.
The biggest disadvantage is that it takes a lot of practice to tie it securely. I admit, I wasn’t very good at it!
Sling (or Ring Sling)
The sling or ring sling is made of a long piece of non-stretchable fabric. (I would guess maybe a yard or so long.) The free end threads through the ring. The ring or rings fasten the fabric snugly so it creates a little pouch for the baby.
In terms of babywearing options, a major advantage of the ring sling is that it’s easy to use. In fact, Samantha said she always recommends the sling as a “beginner” carrier for parents. It works well for different caregiver body-shapes, and it can be used for newborns as well as older infants. Popular versions include the Moby Ring Sling and the Mebien.
A major disadvantage is that it does place a fair amount of strain on the wearer’s back. People with back trouble might want to avoid this.
Soft-structured carrier (SSC)
Soft structured carriers have wide panels, pads, straps and buckles. They resemble a backpack for books or camping. Sometimes, they have a metal frame.
A major advantage of SSCs is that they help the caregiver to feel secure; they are fully adjustable and will fit multiple caregivers.
They can be used for newborns, but they require a special insert until the baby has substantial head control (around 4 months).
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of this babywearing option is that they are much pricier than other types of carriers.
The Mei Tai is like a cross between a wrap and an SSC. It has the long fabric, but also the straps. There are two straps that tie: those at the shoulder and those at the waist, which make it fully adjustable for different adult body types. There are a variety of brands of Mei Tai style carriers including Infantino.
A major disadvantage is that these are less “growth” friendly. Few are suitable for newborns, but they are great for infants who are 6 months old or older.
No need to use just one babywearing option
There are lots of babywearing options, and sometimes two carriers may be the best for you and your baby. Babies grow and preferences change, both for parent and baby! Jennifer Canvasser told me how she used a different type of carrier for each babywearing each of her twins because one baby was smaller and weaker than the other.
Reap the benefits of babywearing
My mother used to tell me how silly it seemed that parents were carrying their babies “in plastic buckets.” At the time, I figured she was old, and I dismissed her comment. Later, I thought she was insightful.
Consider how difficult it is to get a plastic baby carrier onto a city bus. Try pushing a stroller through a crowded street. Or, consider the developmental impact that containers have on babies. Any of the babywearing options described here will help you avoid these problems, and instead, reap the benefits.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had an entire community of parents wearing their babies, as described in my interview with Dr. Rosie Knowles? Read more about the importance of babywearing in Dr. Knowles’ book, “Why Babywearing Matters”.
What type of babywearing option do you prefer and why? Tell me in the comments below