There are a lot of baby carriers available to parents out there and selecting one is not easy, but when you pick the right carrier and use it correctly, it can be a godsend! Unfortunately, figuring out which one to use, and when, is not an easy task.
The benefits of ‘baby-wearing’ are well documented on sites such as AskDrSears.com. They include reduced crying, improved physical, mental and emotional development, improved maternal bond, easier breastfeeding and better care, thereby reducing the incidence of postpartum depression. On a practical note, baby-wearing is convenient and can give you some of your freedom back. Like I mentioned in my previous post about Leah’s sleep habits, we spent the first 3 months of Leah’s life holding her (both when she was asleep and awake). Though this was wonderful bonding time for us, sometimes I just needed to have my arms available to get a few things done around the house. Putting Leah in a carrier gave me my freedom back and it felt amazing.
We started shopping around for a baby carrier while I was still pregnant and purchased the Baby Trekker at the HIGH recommendation of a friend. I also decided to purchase a baby wrap (PeaPodBabe) since I heard they were really useful as well. A friend of mine loaned me her Hotslings baby sling so I had 3 major types of baby carriers to experiment with. So far, I’ve found that carriers vary in effectiveness depending on the size and stage that the baby is in.
Before I go any further, I want to address the recent recall on the Infantino SlingRider. Like all baby products, it is important to know how to use the product properly and the risks involved. It is important to note that the recall was for a bag-style sling which can be more risky due to the tendency for the baby to be scrunched up, thereby compromising the airway. Like stated on thebabywearer.com, I agree that when properly positioned, a baby in a sling is as safe as a baby in arms.
Here’s a summary of what worked for us.
The Baby Wrap
In the first few months of life, a sling is a great option for baby wearing (again when properly positioned). However, unlike some newborns, Leah didn’t seem to like being in the confines of a sling. The first time we put her into the sling she squirmed and clearly wanted out. This was unfortunate since a lot of my friends had great success with going out to weddings and restaurants (even high tea!) with their newborn in a sling. Without this option, we always held Leah in our arms when we were out and about.
At home, we started experimenting with the baby wrap so our arms could have a break once in awhile. It worked because the wrap supported her easily and adjusted to her small size (like a custom fit every time). Plus this super cute video peaked my interest. At first we put her into the wrap in the horizontal position (cradle hold) like in the video but as she got bigger, she preferred being in the upright position (tummy-to-tummy). We only used it while we were at home since wrapping her was tricky. We’d often have to re-wrap a few times before we got it right and in the process of doing so, the ends of the wrap would drag along the ground. The only caveat was that he would only tolerate the wrap during certain times (after being well fed and burped) and not for too long in most cases (3o minutes to an hour).
The Baby Carrier
When we started going out to the mall or grocery shopping, holding her all the time became increasingly cumbersome. She didn’t like being in the car seat (since we were still using the car seat in the stroller), so most of the time I would push the empty stroller while Clayton held her. Again, not the most convenient arrangement, especially when I started going to the mall with my other mommy friends and without Clayton. I didn’t want to use the baby wrap because it would drag all over the floor while I put it on. Instead, we started trying the Baby Trekker baby carrier and it worked out perfectly since she was able to look around (nosy girl!) and I could push the stroller myself since my arms were free. It was so comfortable that we could wear it for hours! Leah would enjoy looking around and often nap in it as well. The only tricky thing about the Baby Trekker brand of carrier is that putting it on is a bit of a two person task. As long as I had another mom or Clayton around to help me it was no problem but if I was home by myself, it was a bit of a struggle. This is why I later moved on to the baby sling.
A baby sling is great because it is very compact and can fit in your diaper bag easily (unlike the Baby Trekker which I always needed to remember to bring separately). If Leah is fussing, I can quickly slip her into it without needing help from anyone else. I used it a few times at home when she started to get clingy and I needed to be able to move about the house. In the modified cradle carry hold she can still look around. Now that Leah has really good neck and back control, I can even start to use it with her in a hip-carry position. The disadvantage of the sling is that it can be tiring and straining on your back once the baby gets bigger. Carrying Leah in the sling (she’s about 15 lbs) gets tiring after 30 minutes. the Trekker on the other hand never got tiring.
In terms of different brands, I can only comment on what I have learned from my own experience and from talking to other moms. I thought I would also mention the Ergo since a lot of my mommy friends have had good success with it (and it’s easier to put on than the Trekker). Like the Trekker, it distributes the weight of the baby well, with the help of a waist strap. The standard Baby Bjorn and Snugli don’t have this feature so once the baby gets to a hefty size, your shoulders will start to ache. A friend of mine even experienced plugged milk ducts from using her Baby Bjorn, so make sure you adjust what carrier you use once your baby starts to get bigger. The Ergo however, does not allow the baby to face outwards which is how we typically use the Trekker. Another mommy friend of mine uses the ErgoSport carrier for all of her baby’s naps, so you can imagine how important comfort would be.
In summary, you will likely find that you prefer various carriers depending on the age of your child and how/when you’re using it. For this reason it is useful to have a few on hand and to try them out with your baby. Buying used carriers (in good condition) or borrowing them from your friends can make this feasible.
For a different perspective, check out a recent article on Baby Carriers in Canadian Family.