How to choose the right baby carrier for you
There are so many different kinds of carriers that you can use with your baby. Finding the ‘right’ one can be a challenging task and differs from mum to mum and baby to baby. What works for me, or for my first baby may not work for you, or even my second baby. I have had many conversations with other mums, countless hours researching and even more actually using all the different carriers trying to find the perfect one. What I discovered? There isn’t a perfect one, just a perfect one for different ages/developments or certain activities. Here is what I have found from research and trial and error.
If you are a follower of mine, you will know that I am a mum to two beautiful preemie babies. One a 29 weeker and the other a 33 weeker. Although there are so many awful, and life altering things about having to spend weeks on end watching your tiny little one fight for their life. There is one silver lining – you got so much free and amazing information. From free first aid classes – to grief counselling and what I found most interesting is that they would go through the different baby products and tell us which ones to use, and which ones to stay away from.
The number one thing they wanted us to avoid using is anything that holds the baby’s weight in between their legs and forces their hips out. Devices like jolly jumpers, excersaucers, walkers (which are illegal in Canada anyway) and baby carriers that force the baby’s knees out, anything with knots or buckles are to be avoided in carriers.
So with the wonderful information I received I took to the Internet. I did a lot of research on carriers like boba/ergo, wraps, and slings. And I have narrowed it down to my top 3 favourites, all are good for different reasons and some for different stages of development and/or size. My favourites are Moby Wrap, Ring Sling and Boba carrier (They have a few options themselves on different types).
I decided to start with a Moby wrap. There are many other types of wraps that are similar if not the same, and so popular you will be able to find a used one locally for a fraction of the cost new. What I loved about this is that YOU wrap it, you can change the snugness, you can make it how it fits your changing body, changing breast size, changing clothes/coats and most importantly you change it to your changing baby. I have a unique situation in my babies were about 4 pounds when I brought them home, and when I wanted to ‘babywear’ them. I didn’t feel comfortable, nor would they fit, in a carrier more like an Ergo or Boba or even a sling of sorts.
When I started them in the Moby wrap, I watched a few YouTube videos on how to wrap it, and how to use it for a very small baby. Once you do it once, it really is easy to use, and easy to wrap. I had to take a trip into the mall right after I brought my son home from the hospital (which was still a month before he was even due to arrive). During this trip I had to take him out of his car seat as we were told (yet another awesome thing I learned) is to not have him in his car seat for longer than 1.5 hours for an increase risk of him having an apnea episode and of course to avoid the “flat head” that so many preemies get. He was so small, and the way he was wrapped that most people didn’t even know I was carrying a baby. From the odd looks and comments I got I think most thought I was just an ill shaped woman with odd breasts. Even with all the funny looks and comments I loved having them close to my face, and I could hear and feel them breathing (which as we know is an important and scary part of a preemies struggles).
The wrap style carriers are great for skin to skin (kangaroo care), breast feeding on the go, the compact size when it isn’t in use, and above all, just the cozy feeling you have while holding them. They just melt right into you and form to your body. It is a natural position for them, perfect for settling newborns, as it feels like they are still in the womb, they are close to your heart and and hear and feel YOU breath. For tiny babies until about 4-5 months this is honestly my favourite type of wrap.
Once they get a bit older, can hold their heads up, and are a bit more interested in the world around them. The stretchy, cozy feeling of the wraps start to be a bit of a challenge to hold determined babies in. My girl (who was a difficult baby to begin with) is determined and when she wanted to start looking around she would push out and I didn’t feel like she was as secure. And although you can wear them on the back, I never mastered it and I never felt like they weren’t secure enough.
When they got older I switched to a Boba carrier. We lovingly call it the “Boba backpack” and even now my 4 year old will go in it during long walking days at the amusement park or zoo. It’s just like giving a piggy back ride, but SO much easier. You can wear them on the front or the back, they even have little stirrups for when they get bigger and their legs don’t dangle down. There is a pocket for your phone, keys, money, etc as well as a removable little hood to block out the sun, rain or wind. It is compact, light and comes in some pretty cute colours and patterns. You can get a little insert for when they are really little so you can skip the wrap route all together if that’s what you choose. The carrier supports (and has padding) all under their legs up to their knees, giving them lots of support and in a natural position that won’t affect their development or growing bodies.
So our family found a great wrap that is perfect for tiny babies, one that grows with the child and now we needed one to help make my life easier. My second baby was also a preemie (not nearly as early as Hayden but still had her own challenges). She only wanted to be held, she had terrible gas and wouldn’t take a soother and couldn’t suckle on me because my milk flow was insanely fast. She was uncomfortable, and miserable most of the time. She did not like to be alone, even now at almost 3 she is my little shadow.
The lovely phrase “sleep when you baby sleeps” goes out the window with your second (or more) child. Whenever you get that demanding, sensitive, screaming baby to sleep, you run to the other to finally get some quality time with them. The problem with our lovely girl is that she wouldn’t sleep. She would scream, SCREAM bloody murder if we put her in the car seat, swing, floor, crib, anywhere that was not MY arms. I needed to find a way that I could just wear her, let her fall asleep, and then be able to remove her easily, quickly and quietly from the wrap without waking her up.
I researched ring slings, slings, homemade vs. Buying, slings with padding vs no padding. I finally decided on the HotSlings version because I thought it was best of both worlds. It’s a sling that can adjust but does not have a ton of excess material like a ring sling does. I measured my body, and I made my order, and it was perfect, she loved snuggling in it, she loved being carried in it, and being able to see everything that I was doing, but she also actually fell asleep in it on a regular basis, without me having to sacrifice my time with my oldest. I just went about my day with her in her happiest of places, and my son happy I was with him. When I knew she was asleep I was able to stealthily remove her and the sling and position her in a moving swing and she would actually sleep for longer than 20 minutes. It was a miracle. A most glorious and surprising miracle. Because she was such a fussy eater, I never mastered the breastfeeding while on the go aspect of the sling, but apparently it can be done.
The sling was awesome at first, and then she she grew, I grew, clothes got thicker and the sling just wasn’t as adjustable as I once thought. And although I loved it, I feel like I would have had more versatility if we got the ring sling. I love that it goes from infancy in a natural position (like you are cradling them) to an extra support if they are on your hip. I chose this version thinking that the extra fabric would get in my way, but now looking at it, I wish I had it, I wish I had the versatility.
Whatever you choose to do, to baby wear or not, to use it only while out and about, to use when they are tiny, or as they get older, the decision is yours. You need decide what is important to you, and to your baby. I loved baby wearing, simply because it made life easier, and I loved having them close to me.
Figure out what is right for you, what is right for your baby, and what it right for your family. This is just what worked for us worked for us.