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Up Close and Personal: Choosing a Baby Carrier or Sling

At Born, we believe that physical closeness between a parent and their child is incredibly beneficial.  According to experts human contact is essential to a baby’s development, and we have seen this when working with parents, as well as in our own parenting experiences.  Physical closeness comforts your baby, encourages interaction, and it helps you develop a close and loving relationship -  all of which is good news for your baby, and for you! Being close to your baby tells your body to produce Oxytocin, widely recognized as the love hormone, and this creates a sense of bliss and oneness.

Let’s be realistic, though, it’s not practical – or indeed possible – to spend all day holding your baby in your arms.  Lovely as it is to cuddle your baby, trying to get on with daily tasks while doing so only leaves you with one hand free, and can often result in a sore back and aching arms.  That’s where baby carriers come in.  A baby carrier allows you to stay close to your child, while freeing up your arms to carry out everyday tasks.  As you clean the house, cook, walk the dog and go to the shops, your baby can smell you, feel you and listen to your heartbeat. For your baby, this is soothing and reassuring, and it makes your baby feel safe.

 

As if that wasn't enough, a baby carrier gives you the freedom to visit places that pushchairs won’t reach. Think of walks in the country, think sandy beaches, think of a trip up the Statue of Liberty. It can also help distribute your baby’s weight evenly – giving you a happy back, as well as a happy child.

Whether you’re expecting a baby, you’re a new parent or you simply fancy a change to your existing 'get out of the house with the baby' options, let us guide you through choosing the perfect baby carrier for your family.

Your Baby Carrier and Sling Options

SOFT CARRIERS

These is a structured carrier made from soft fabrics, worn buckled or tied around your shoulders, back and hips – usually

with padded, adjustable straps.  Your baby sits in an upright position against your chest or on your back. This promotes healthy hip, pelvis and spine growth, and can help ease the discomfort of colic or wind.  It also helps to prevent flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly).

Soft carriers are usually machine washable, and easy to pack away.

 

Suitable for:  All babies from birth depending on the style of carrier you opt for. Some soft carriers come with infant inserts, to support the head of your younger baby.  Can be used until your baby is around three years old.

Hip carrier  A hip carrier allows you to carry your child as you would naturally. You wear the carrier over your shoulder, with your baby sitting on your hip.

Suitable for: Babies who can sit unaided, and support their own head and neck.

Back carrier   This is worn like a rucksack. It usually has padded adjustable straps and a waist belt, to distribute your child’s weight evenly. Back carriers are typically made from tougher fabrics, and some are supported by a metal frame.

Suitable for: Your older baby or toddler, when they can sit unaided and support their head and neck.

SLINGS

A sling holds your baby very close to your body – providing warmth, comfort and reassurance. Slings come in a variety of different forms, including:

Wraparound Fabric Slings  This is a long, wide piece of fabric that wraps around you and your baby. It enables you to carry your baby in a reclined or upright position, and distribute your baby’s weight evenly across your waist and shoulders.

Ring or Pouch Sling   A ring or pouch is worn diagonally across one shoulder. Your baby sits against your chest or hip in an upright position, or lies in a reclined position for sleeping or breastfeeding. These slings are simple to use, and easy to put on and take off. With a ring sling you can tighten and secure the fabric by pulling it through two rings to form a loop.  I found a ring sling fantastic for when my children were toddlers and wanted to be carried and the next minute wanted to walk as they can be lifted in and out in seconds.

Suitable for: Newborns through to toddlers

Choosing the Right Carrier for Your Family

Not only does your baby carrier need to be right for your baby, it needs to be right for you. Here are some of the practical and lifestyle factors you may want to bear in mind:

Who will be using the carrier? If it will be you and your partner, make sure the carrier is adjustable to suit both of your builds. Also think about its colour and design: would your male partner be happy sporting a floral pattern?

How heavy is it? Think about the weight of the carrier versus your strength. For example, framed back carriers are usually much bulkier and heavier than other types of carrier.

Do you have back or pelvic problems? Look for a carrier that distributes your baby’s weight evenly – for example, a wrap or a soft carrier.  You may find one shoulder slings such as ring slings and pouches less suitable.

Will you need to put it on alone? Work out how easy it is to put the carrier on, and put your baby into it. Some carriers will allow you to do both single-handed, others will not.

When, where and how often will you use it? For example:

If you like trekking or long walks: a back carrier is likely to be the best option for your older baby, and a wrap or soft structured carrier for your younger baby.

If you plan to use the carrier for breastfeeding: a sling will be your best bet. It facilitates quick and easy access, and can be used to cover baby from crowds and keep them focused on feeding.

If it’s only for occasional use: consider a carrier that’s easy to slip on, and simple to use.

If it’s for full-time use: consider investing a bit more in your carrier. Opt for one that distributes you baby’s weight evenly across your back and both shoulders, to ensure maximum comfort.

If you like getting out and about: think about buying a carrier that’s lightweight and easily collapsible.

Would you like the carrier to be a long-term investment? Consider whether you’d prefer to buy a multi-stage carrier (such as a sling) that adapts as your baby grows, or multiple carriers to suit your baby’s changing needs.

Ease of use: how much time are you willing to invest in learning how to use your carrier? If the answer is ‘a lot’, your options will be much wider. But if you’d prefer a carrier that you can just strap on and start using, a pouch or soft carrier may be for you.

Choosing what’s right for your baby

When you’re thinking about which carrier to buy, your baby’s age and weight are going to be key. Here are our recommendations:

For use with a newborn: Choose a wrap, pouch or ring sling. These enable you to carry your baby in a fully reclined position for breastfeeding, or in an upright position. Wraps, pouches and ring slings support your baby’s head, neck and lumbar region.  They can be used for skin to skin time and kangaroo care too.

For use with an older baby: Once your baby can support their own head and neck, you may want to switch to a soft carrier, hip carrier or back carrier. These allow your baby to sit upright against your chest, hip or back.

For use with a toddler: You will want a back carrier which supports your child's weight over both your shoulders for carrying for longer periods, although smaller/lighter toddlers can be carried on the hip in a pouch or ring sling.  Do make sure you swap the shoulder you put the sling on though to avoid strain.

Features to Look For in a Carrier or Sling:

Lumbar support: effective back support can be a godsend – especially if you plan to use your carrier frequently. It puts the weight of your baby onto your hips where your centre of gravity is so you should not feel the weight on your shoulders or upper back.

Wide, padded straps: on a soft, hip or back carrier, these will help distribute your baby’s weight and increase your comfort.

Adjustable: if more than one person is likely to use the carrier, make sure it can be adjusted to fit easily every time you put it on.  

Storage pockets: these can help reduce the number of other bags you have to carry – freeing up your hands. Some carriers offer optional back packs and pouches to add to your carrier.

Collapsible: the smaller you can fold your carrier, the easier it will be to transport when your baby isn't in it.

Well-padded leg support: to help ensure your baby’s comfort.  Your baby's legs should be supported right up to and under the knees, allowing them to sit rather than dangle in the carrier.

Accessories?

Once you've chosen a carrier, consider whether you’ll need any add-ons. For example:

Weather/rain  cover: this is poppered, buckled or tied onto the carrier, to help protect your baby from the elements. When it’s cold outside, it can also help to keep your baby warm.

Teething pads: this will give your baby something to chew on, and protect your carrier from those sprouting teeth! A detachable teething pad also saves you from having to wash the whole carrier.

Baby insert: if you’d like to use a soft carrier from birth, a padded insert can provide the necessary head, neck and hip support. Check whether this is an option on your preferred model.

Why Born?

At Born, we pour heart and soul into choosing the best carrier for your baby, and for you.  We are one of the few stores in the UK where you can come in and try a variety of high-quality carriers, receive experienced help in using your carrier or sling, and also be reassured that we only sell carriers we have used and loved ourselves!

  • You can come into our stores and get a sling consultation to make sure you buy the right carrier for you and you or baby.  We will not push a sale on you.
  • All the carriers we sell adhere to T.I.C.K.S. – a guide to baby carrying co-written by our buyer Becky Ward and now widely recognized as the minimum standard for all baby carriers worldwide.
  • All the carriers we sell are ethically produced, safe and ergonomically healthy for you and your baby.
  • Once you have bought your carrier, we are happy to continue supporting you using it.  If you are finding it tricky learning a new carrying position, just come back to one of our stores and our staff will be happy to help.  

When you’re choosing a baby carrier, it’s important to try out a few different styles. You need to make sure that your carrier is comfortable, that you’re happy putting it on and taking it off, and that it suits your lifestyle and needs.

Whether you are buying online, or from one of our stores , we will always be on hand to offer our advice. With more than 12 years’ experience behind us, we’re in a great position to help.

FAQs

Will my baby be safe and secure in a carrier?

Yes. We recommend following the T.I.C.K.S guide  to safe babywearing.  Please make sure you read the instructions included with your carrier before use.  

Can I carry my baby if I've had a cesarean?

Yes. You can usually carry your newborn baby in a carrier just one week after a C-section. To resume carrying an older baby, you will need to wait four to six weeks. Listen to your body - if you feel any discomfort then stop using the carrier. Tie any wrap sling straps clear of your wound.  We recommend using a ring sling or pouch after a cesarean operation rather than a carrier than puts pressure on your scar. 

Will my baby be able to breastfeed in a carrier?


Yes. A wrap, pouch or ring sling will be your best option, as these allow you to carry your baby in a fully reclined position against your chest.  You can also, with practice, feed your baby in an upright position.  Remember that feeding in a carrie is both advanced breastfeeding and babywearing, so be patient and practice at home/sitting down first.

Can I carry my twins in one carrier?

For safety reasons, we do not recommend carrying two babies together in a sling.  It is harder to ensure that both babies are in the correct position when doing so.

  • Buy two carriers: you can use one, and your partner the other
  • Put one baby in a carrier, and the other in a pram or pushchair. If you switch them around every now and again, both babies will have the chance to be close to you
  • Once your babies are able to support their own heads and necks, you could carry one baby in a wrap on your front, and the other in a soft carrier on your back

For how many years can I carry my child in a carrier?

You can do this for as long as is comfortable for you. Many parents use a soft carrier or hip carrier until their child reaches two or three years of age.

Want to learn more?

To find out more about the benefits of ‘babywearing’, take a look at the following resources:

The School of Babywearing - for classes in using a sling.

Big Mama Slings - online sling information and shop, run by our buyer Becky

Sling Meet - meet up with other sling users and get help with your carrier.  Lots of local groups

Sling Guide - reviews of slings and carriers


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