Child Carriers – How to choose the right Baby Carrier or Backpack

Getting Started

Of the many products out there promising to aid new parents, a child carrier is, without a doubt, one of the most essential. It frees up the hands while simultaneously allowing you to soothe your new bundle of joy. What’s more, research suggests that “wearing” your baby expedites bonding, reduces colic, and improves the quality of baby’s sleep. The kind of carrier you choose will depend on a number of variables, including lifestyle, parenting philosophy, age, and your child’s temperament. When it comes to carriers, kids can have strong feelings about what they like and don’t like. If you purchase a child carrier only to realize that it isn’t the right style for you and baby, don’t sweat it.

Child Carrier Types, which is right for you?

Baby carriers have been around since women first had children and needed to free up their hands for day-to-day tasks while keeping an eye on baby. The Asian Style Baby Carrier, or Mei-Tai style has received continued use over centuries, while other sling-style carriers were used by the ancient Mayans and Egyptians. Modern parents are rediscovering child carriers, and can choose from many styles, both traditional and high-tech. If you’re a rookie parent, you may find the array of child carrier choices bewildering. We’ve devised this easy-to-follow guide to help take the guess work out of this all important purchase.

Baby Slings

Baby Slings

What it is: This type of carrier was one of the first ever invented, and maintains an easy-to-use simplicity. It’s essentially a pouch sewn from fabric. The biggest benefit of a baby sling is versatility – it allows you to carry your baby in a variety of positions. Newborns, for example, can lie fully reclined and are able to nurse and nuzzle for optimal bonding. Older children can sit upright in the carrier and watch the world go by while enjoying the security of body contact with mom and dad.

CPSC Educates New Parents on Safe Babywearing, click here for details

Upside:

They’re relatively inexpensive and come in a variety of patterns and colors, from simple and sedate to fun and funky. This may seem like a minor detail. But the job of parenting is so all consuming that many parents lose their sense of self. And in a small way, the style you choose helps you remember that you are your own person in addition to being someone’s mother or father.

Downside:

With a sling, the weight is distributed to only one shoulder, which may not be comfortable if your child is a heavier baby/toddler. Parents with back conditions might want to consider a front carrier, which more evenly distributes weight.

Baby Wraps

Baby Wraps

What it is: The wrap is a close cousin of the sling. However, it provides a more custom fit because you literally tie the fabric against your body and then slip your baby inside. It’s a particularly good option for babies who enjoy being swaddled. And, unlike a sling, you can carry your baby against your chest, or when he or she is older against your back. Wraps are generally made with stretchy material, and so easily adjust to people of varying shapes.

Upside:

It can be folded quite compactly and tucked in a diaper bag without taking up precious space for other essentials like diapers, wipes, and binkies.

Downside:

Initially, you may need to practice to find the best way of making the baby wrap work for you. While the first time you use the baby wrap requires a bit of trial and error, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wearing baby in no time. Like slings, wraps distribute weight on only one shoulder, and so might make carrying heavier children more difficult.

Front Carriers

Front Carriers

What it is: With a front carrier, your child sits upright in a padded seat that’s attached by a waist belt and two over-the-shoulder straps. These shoulder harnesses are designed to crisscross at the center of your back, a design innovation that helps better distribute your child’s weight. If you plan on using this type of carrier with a newborn, choose one that allows you to place the baby chest to chest with stiff support behind her tiny head. Once your baby is able to hold her head up unsupported (around three months) some front carriers offer the option of turning your child around so he can face outward.

Upside:

The front carrier is probably the most sophisticated in terms of ergonomics. In fact, some models like the Baby Bjorn Sport employ additional padding and a second set of harnesses to keep those hard working muscles from ending up in knots.

Downside:

Breastfeeding a baby while in a carrier, while not impossible, can be somewhat challenging.

Baby Backpacks

Baby Backpacks

What it is: These carriers look and function in a manner similar to a traditional camping-style pack. But instead of providing space to store your clothing and gear, they feature a comfy and secure seat for your child. Some backpacks employ a lightweight frame to help distribute your child’s weight evenly over your back, shoulders, and hips. But unlike front carriers, baby wraps and slings, a backpack is not suitable for newborns or young infants. In fact, your child must be able to sit up on his own before you can put them in a pack.

Upside:

All baby carriers allow you to carry your child hands free, but with a baby back pack you free up your torso as well. This is particularly helpful when you want your front available for daily tasks that require more mobility. While you might not clean the house in these, they’re handy for hiking, shopping trips, and walks around the block. Another plus: carrying a child on your back is easier on your body than strapping them across your front, especially as they grow bigger (and heavier).

Downside:

Backpacks are bulky. They take up a lot of space, and even the most compact model isn’t going to fit inside your diaper bag. For everyday use, consider a sling or wrap, both of which are more compact for packing.

Multi-Position Carriers

Multi-Position Carriers

This carrier is the most versatile option because it’s designed to allow parents to tote around children in a variety of ways. Some carriers, for example, convert from sling to a front carrier. Others function as both a front carrier and a frameless backpack. The specifics of how and to what extent the a carrier converts will vary by brand and model.

Upside:

How you carry your child depends a lot on his moment-to-moment needs, and a multi-position carrier helps cover your bases. For example, if you’re trying to get your child to fall asleep you’ll want a carrier that allows your child to face inward. If he’s able to look around, he’s more likely to be over-stimulated and less likely to fall asleep. However, it’s nice when the same carrier allows baby to face forward for times when you’d like him to engage with the outside world.

Downside:

Some, but certainly not all, multi-use carriers try to be too many things at once. As result, they function well in a pinch, but frankly, don’t do the job quite as well as a carrier designed for one particular set of circumstances.

Hip Carriers

Hip Carriers

As the name implies, this device allows parents to carry their children on the hip. This is perhaps the most natural way to carry an older infant because it simulates the way a parent typically holds the child when they support them in their arms.

Upside:

A hip carrier helps distribute weight by allowing the child to wrap his legs around your torso rather than allowing the legs to dangle in mid-air as would happen with a front carrier.

Downside:

You can’t use a hip carrier until your child can sit up on his own, which doesn’t typically happen until at least six months.

Types of Activities

Child carriers are practical in a variety of situations. Before you decide which carrier to buy, you’ll want to think long and hard about how and when you plan to use it. To help you achieve this goal, we’ve provided you with a list of common activities you can do with your child carrier, along with advice on which style works best for each circumstance.

Baby Wearing

Attachment parenting is a philosophy that holds that babies bond better with their parents and ultimately feel more secure if they spend long periods of time being carried around by the parents. The easiest way to accomplish this is to literally wear your child as you move through the routines of daily life. We Recommend: Slings and wraps are usually the carriers of choice for baby wearers. They allow for optimal body-to-body contact. They also allow babies to nurse comfortably and discreetly. This is an important benefit as attachment parenting also encourages parents to use nursing as a way to both nourish and soothe a crying child.

Hiking

Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to put the breaks on nature walks and other outdoor adventures. But if you hope to bring baby along, you’ll need to make sure that you and he are both comfortable, and that can only be accomplished with a specific type of child carrier. We recommend: Without a doubt, you’ll want to invest in a quality backpack. For quick outings, a frameless backpack takes up less space and is easier to store. But for longer journeys, you’re better off with a framed pack. This helps distribute your child’s weight, allowing you to walk longer distances before becoming fatigued.

Light Walking

Some folks climb mountains with their children. Others are content to climb escalators. Still, even the urban adventurer can benefit from the right kind of child carrier. Whether you’re planning on using it for quick trips to the grocery store, or a jaunt to the local coffee shop, the right carrier will get you and your bambino from point A to point B without having to rely on an unwieldy stroller. We Recommend: For quick trips around town, you’ve got plenty of options. A front or hip carrier works wonders for toting around young infants. But if you’re buying for a child that’s getting up there in terms of weight, a light weight backpack may be a better bet, especially if you’re planning an all day outing.

Wading in Water

Children love water play. And they happily splash around long before they can achieve buoyancy. Until then, they need close supervision. By placing your child in a child carrier, you’ll always know exactly where he is. Holding your baby would accomplish the same thing, but then you’d be short a set of hands. This can be particularly problematic if you’ve got an older child in the pool that also needs to be watched closely in and around water. And, well, frankly a wet baby is a slippery baby. But if he’s strapped to your chest you don’t need to worry about losing your grip. We recommend: Any carrier can withstand a splash here and a sprinkle there. But if you choose one made of Neoprene, or Neoprene blend, you can be sure that the carrier will dry quickly, without leaving behind water stains. You also won’t have to worry about the potential for mildew.

The Right Fit

You already know enough to check the specs to make sure their child is the appropriate weight and height for a given child carrier; however, you may also need to make sure the carrier you want is a good fit for you. If you have a long torso or petite midsection, you maybe find shoulder straps to be too short or too long, respectively. You can alleviate this problem by choosing a carrier with adjustable straps, or by measuring your torso and then reading the fine print to determine if a particular carrier fits you.

How does one measure their torso?

It’s easier than you would think, but you may need a friend to help. First, ask someone to locate your 7th vertebra. You need not have a degree in anatomy to find it. Just bend your chin to you chest. The first big bulgy bone that sticks out of the back of your neck, closest to your head, is the 7th vertebra. Once you’ve located it, run a tape measure from this bulging bone down to top of your hips. If you rest your pointer fingers on the top of your hip bones and wrap your thumbs around the back, your assistant can gauge how far down to drop the tape measure. Check our specs guide to make sure your body measurements work with the child carrier you have in mind. Of course, even if it fits, it’s possible that you simply find the carrier you thought you loved to be uncomfortable. Don’t sweat it. ChildCarriers.com makes it easy to exchange or return unwanted merchandise. Our goal is to make sure you love every baby product you own.