One of the top questions we hear is “what carrier should I get?” While it seems like there should be a fairly straightforward answer to this question, there are so many factors to take in to account when choosing a carrier. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide.
1. What age is the child that you want to wear?
- This is important because there are some fantastic carriers for newborns that may not be that awesome for toddlers. There are also some carriers that are awesome for bigger babies/toddlers, but not necessarily newborns. For instance, newborns love love love ring slings and stretchy wraps, and they are soooo comfy… but many parents find that they aren’t as comfortable once the little one is not so little anymore. They can absolutely still be used for toddlers, just not for extended periods of time typically. And on the other hand, soft structured carriers are a nice back wearing option for toddlers, and while they work with newborns, they’re not necessarily the most comfy.
2. Do you want one carrier to last from newborn to toddler?
- If you’re looking for a one carrier does all the ages, there are several. Woven wraps, soft structured carriers, mei tais, hybrid stretch wraps, ring slings, etc. are all good. So you want just one to last all the time, now you need to ask yourself…
3. Are you looking for quick and easy?
- If ease of use is something that is important to you, then you could narrow down the list a little bit to ring sling, soft structured carrier (SSC), and potentially a mei tai (although some people still find the mei tai to be “too much” work). Some people prefer the ease of buckles, which makes the choice fairly simple at this point.
4. How long will you wear baby for at a time?
- If you are the type of person who wants to wear your baby all day, then you’ll likely want something that goes on both shoulders. This means a mei tai, SSC or a wrap. Wraps are particularly nice because they distribute the weight across your entire body. They are hands down the most versatile carrier on the market. However, if you said “yes” to “quick and easy”, then you may not love a wrap, regardless of how comfortable and long lasting it can be.
5. Is ease of breastfeeding important?
- Some carriers are easier to breastfeed in than others. Don’t get me wrong, you can breastfeed in basically all carriers, but if you’re looking for a carrier that can support a cradle hold easily, that would be a ring sling. You can also achieve this in a woven wrap, but it’s not as easy as a ring sling when it comes to breastfeeding.
6. Will you be sharing your carrier with your partner?
- Take in to account your partners size when deciding on a carrier if you plan on sharing between you two. Some carriers fit petite people better than other carriers, and some carriers are more adjustable to go between sizes.
7. What will you be doing while babywearing?
- Are you looking for something to wear while grocery shopping, cooking, typing at work, doing yoga, hiking, skiing (yes, this does happen, and typically only by very experienced skiers), or simply to pace the house, sooth the baby, go for walks outside, or even shower. What you plan on doing while babywearing will influence what carrier you purchase. This also falls in a similar category as “how long will you wear baby”, but it also takes in to account the conditions. An example is, if you plan to use your carrier for quick ins and outs to the grocery store during the winter, think about how you will get the carrier on in the wet parking lot without getting your mei tai straps soaking wet. There is a way, but it can be a little tricky if you’re just starting out. You basically do it while either fully or halfway in your vehicle. The point is, it’s worth thinking about it ahead of time.
8. What is your budget?
- Carriers range from about $50 up to an insanely ridiculous amount of $2000. Don’t let that scare you, the $2000 ones are actually made out of unicorn hair and gold woven together, then sprinkled thoroughly with faerie dust. We’ll save those ones for the collectors. Your average in store wrap will not usually go above $300, although a custom hand woven may be closer to $600. Figuring out your budget ahead of time will help you narrow down your options.
If you’re going in to a brick and mortar store to purchase a carrier, whoever is helping you will be able to narrow down carrier choices, but it will help if you know the answers (or are at least thinking about the answers) to these questions before you go. Also, it is hard to get everything out of one carrier, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting 2 or 3!
And of course this is where your local babywearing group comes in to play. Use the resources available to you and try out as many carriers as you can before purchasing. Go to a meeting and chat with people about what they like, and why they like it. And lastly, choose a budget and stick to it. It is easy to go a little nutzo when buying carriers, and a necessary item can quickly turn in to a collection. There’s nothing wrong with collecting carriers, just be warned, it can escalate quickly. 😉 When I first posted on-line in 2005 wondering what carrier I should get, the response I got was, “don’t ask which carrier you should get, ask which carrier you should get first.”
Happy carrier shopping!