Intro to Baby Carriers
On this page we give you an introduction to baby carriers, including the benefits of using carriers with your baby, a brief description to the different types of carriers, and how to use your carrier safely.
Benefits of Baby Carriers and Baby Carrying
Baby carriers make life easier All babies want to be held at some point: with a baby carrier you can do it more easily and comfortably and most carries leave you with both hands free to get on with other tasks or looking after older children. Many parents with two or more children find a baby carrier invaluable in giving the younger child time being held close while getting on with the fun things their toddlers and older children want to do. Getting on and off buses, in and around shops, up and down stairs are all so much easier with your baby in a sling than in a pram or pushchair.
Being carried has benefits for babies Research has demonstrated a range of benefits for babies who are held and carried in slings:
• babies who are carried more cry less – and babies who cry less in the first few months cry less over their next year
• babies who are carried more have better regulated respiratory rates, heart rates, and internal body temperatures
• babies carried in slings experience human touch and movement, with benefits for their physical development as they adjust to the movement and learn to hold their heads up (holding your baby while moving counts towards 'tummy time')
(Adapted from Blois, 2005: see Links & Resources for more information)
Baby carriers are comfortable for you and your baby The baby carriers we have here at Closer to You are comfortable to use for you and your child. They are based on traditional carrying methods from around the world and spread the weight of your child across your body as you carry them. They hold your baby close to your body, ensuring their weight does not sag away from you. They are all designed to use with your child supported in a healthy hip position, with support going knee-to-knee and promoting a healthy position for their hips and back.
Guide to Carrier Types
In this section we will introduce the main types of carriers and look at how they are used.
Mei Tais / Meh Dais and Buckle Carriers
One major kind of cloth carriers are carriers with a fabric body and four straps - these include mei tais / meh dais, buckle carriers and half-buckle carriers. They are sometimes referred to as soft carriers or Asian-style baby carriers.
Mei Tais / Meh Dais were originally a traditional Asian carrier. They are formed of a fabric body with four straps coming from the corners: the two shorter straps are tied round the waist and the two longer go over the shoulders of the wearer and then around the baby. The weight of the child is spread to the waist and shoulders. Mei tais / meh dais can be worn on the front, back or hip; most often front or back. In front and back carries the mei tai / meh dai is worn over two shoulders.
Many modern mei tai / meh dai designs have now been developed. Modern mei tais / meh dais vary in the size of the fabric body, amount of padding in the straps and angle of straps. They can be used from newborn through to two or three years of age.
Buckle Carriers, also known as Soft Structured Carriers (SSC), are one of the most variable types of sling, they range from some with long straps which are tied on in a similar manner to a mei tai, to others with buckles on straps.
They also range in which materials are used in them; some use heavier canvas, others use soft cotton or padded material. Some buckle carriers are designed for use from 4 or 6 months of age, it is important to check the individual descriptions from manufacturers or retailers. Most buckle carriers are designed to be worn over two shoulders, on either the front or back of the wearer, though some can also be used on the hip.
Wrap carriers, also known as wraparound carriers or wrap slings, are usually made of long pieces of material which wrap around the wearer's body and are tied on.The fabric makes a pocket of fabric to carry the child and can be made of stretchy or woven material.
Stretchy wraps are soft and comfortable, and are easy to use as the child can be popped in and out of the wrap with little or no tightening or retying required. Due to the stretchy nature of the fabric, many parents find these carriers work best for smaller or younger babies, up to around 9-12 months. Stretchy wraps are straightforward to learn to use, as there is one basic carry which is used for most carrying position.
Woven wraps are made from woven materials with a small amount of give or bounce, with much less stretch than a stretchy wrap, meaning they are very supportive. Woven wraps can be worn on the front, back or hip. In many carries the wrap will go over both shoulders of the wearer giving great weight distribution. The lack of stretch means that in many ties woven wraps must be tied round the baby, rather than pre-tied and left in place. It can take a little longer to get the knack of woven wraps, but they are one of the most versatile, comfortable and long-lived of cloth sling types, and can be used from newborn to two or three years.
Woven wraps come in different sizes: some are designed to give the full range of carries, and the length varies for different body sizes. Another type of woven wrap is a rebozo, which is a shorter wrap designed to be used mainly in hip carries, very similar to the carries used in a pouch or ring sling.
Ring Slings, Pouches & Hip Carriers
Ring Slings and Pouches are two kinds of baby carrier which are worn over one shoulder. Hip Carriers include a range of carriers which carry the baby sitting over your hip area.
Ring Slings are made from a piece of fabric with two rings at one end. The fabric 'tail' threads through the two rings, and then back through one ring – this provides the tension to hold your baby safely in place. The rest of the fabric forms a pouch where your baby can lie, sit or be held upright depending on their age and developmental stage.
Ring slings can be used from newborn to two or three years; older babies and toddlers will most often be carried on the wearer's hip. Ring slings are worn on one shoulder only, some wearers find that with a larger or heavier child the weight distribution is not as good as for two shoulder carries; this is offset by the speed and simplicity with which a ring sling can be put on.
Pouches are simply a tube of fabric which you fold in half and put over one shoulder, forming a pocket of fabric where your baby or child can lie, sit or be held upright, again depending on their age and developmental stage. They are similar to ring slings in the range of carries which can be used. They also are used over only one shoulder, so again have the same trade off between speed and simplicity of use vs. the spread of weight over the body. Many pouches come in different sizes, and getting the correct size is crucial to getting a comfortable and supportive carry with a pouch.
Hip Carriers vary widely in their design - some have waist bands and then support over one shoulder; others have a small seat or shelf style support.
Safe Use of Baby Carriers
Cloth baby carriers and slings are very safe to use, as long as they are used correctly and some basic safety rules are observed.
The top two safety concerns are:
The top two safety concerns are:
- making sure baby will not fall out of the carrier
- making sure that baby's airway is supported and they can breathe easily - check this by making sure baby does not have their chin pressed on their chest and their face is not covered
These are some great safety leaflets - you can print any of these out by clicking on the image to download. If you need more information about safe use of carriers please do Contact Us to book a Carrying Consultation or to receive help via phone or email.
A.B.C. Quick Babywearing Reminders
The T.I.C.K.S. Rule for Safe Babywearing
French Babywearing Consultants leaflet
Click on the small images to get all 4 leaflet pages - or click here to download a printable doublesided PDF: French Consultants Leaflet