Babywearing. You might notice that I do that, just a little bit. Many people approach me while I'm wearing asking about what carrier I'm wearing, how long did it take me to learn, etc. If you know me in real life, you know babywearing is a huge part of my parenting.
I have a few friends that are expecting their first babe and I want a way to share my knowledge, with them, their friends, and whomever may come across this blog. I have been wearing for 3 years and 8m at the time of this blog post. When I got pregnant I knew I wanted to wear and thought sure Ill do a Moby and maybe an Ergo or something- little did I know that was tipping the edge of my toe in a deep, deep pond. Two kids later I know what I like, the pros and cons of each carrier for me, and what I wish I could go back and tell my first pregnancy self.
The basics: the best carrier is the one you wear (safely).
If I had to boil it down to a pick two: I would say that every parent needs a skin to skin/kangaroo care 'carrier' and a ring sling.
Hand to the fire pick one: a ring sling would be my go to.
Let me explain....
Skin to Skin/Kangaroo Care
There are numerous research articles out there showing the enormous benefits of skin to skin for newborns (and beyond) but the basics are increased bonding, calming, temperature regulation, increases Milk production, and encourages baby's growth. You can Google.
Why a specific skin to skin 'carrier'? Because they are so easy and comfy! When I was a new mom at home with a tiny baby all I wanted was to have him laying on me while I sat on the couch, and I wanted to be able to eat. Easier said than done- slippery little babes! I had a Moby and a Boba (stretchy wraps that can be used for skin to skin, are advertised to be the comfy newborn wrap) and had watched the YouTube videos. Let me tell you- they are not that easy. Did you know a Moby is a about a woven wrap size 8(5.5m) which is super long. Longer than most people need by a whole meter or two. That’s a lot of stretchy fabric to figure out.
A skin to skin carrier is a shirt- so no bits of side boob are exposed when you check the mail (Amazon prime is your friend) and you can be comfortable without feeling more awkward than you already do postpartum in big undies, pads (bleeding? That hasn’t happened for 10 months....) and just general new parent-dom.
So a super comfy shirt. That you stick baby in. Designed to let baby have a seat (a place for their bum to rest and support them- no a normal shirt can’t be made into a kangaroo care shirt) and you can move around. You can’t have dance parties or go walk a mile while holding dumbbells in each hand. But you can check the mail, do a short walk outside with a hand on baby, chase older children, eat lunch, go to the bathroom with a sleeping baby and not worry about them waking....the list goes on.
Skin to skin/kangaroo care shirts are NOT hands free baby carriers. Safety always! A short walk, not even walk, a slow stroll is more appropriate to say, around the block where you have a hand on baby would be ok. Running errands not ok.
Eventually you’ll want to venture out of your wonderfully comfy newborn snuggles cave and see the rest of civilization (read visit Target, because who knows how many new things have come in since you’ve been gone). My absolute favorite recommendation for newborns/infants/babes and that you can easily grow into is the ring sling.
A ring sling is a piece of fabric that has two aluminum rings sewn on one end and open on the other, similar to a D ring belt. The ends are threaded through the rings to make a sash and baby goes in the pocket. This design allows for front and hip carries (and back although not ideal) and easy up and down and adjustments. These features make a ring sling ideal for newborns who are rarely the same position for a long time and ideal for toddlers/bigger babes who want down to explore the world. A ring sling is also my FAVORITE to nurse in.
So Many Options!! How do you know what to pick?
A note on safety- all baby carriers- especially wraps and ring slings look like they can be easily done on the cheap as a DIY. Be weary (theres actually new guidelines in place preventing this and increasing safety in the babywearing world). Ring slings are made with fabric that stretches on the diagonal only which makes it safe to hold the weight of your child. The rings used are aluminum rings specifically made and designed and tested to hold the weight and pressure of a sling. Make sure your ring sling has at least 3 rows of tight stitches at the shoulder seam.
The things to consider when purchasing after ensuring safety.
1. Shoulder style- pleated, hybrid, gathered, floating gathered- the shoulder style ensures comfort while wearing. Slimmer wearers may like a pleated or hybrid shoulder while larger wearers may like a gathered and floating gathered
2. Size- this is how long your ring sling is so that it fits around you and baby, and how much tail (whats left after going thru the rings) youll have left. Sleeping Baby Productions has an amazing ring sling resource (and is also a great place to purchase). I prefer a mid length tail so I have room to adjust up and down for nursing and have tail I can use to cover if I want (great for pop offs and for when getting the hang of latching)
3. Material- what is your sling made of? Is it a fabric ring sling (linen, bamboo, twill) or a wrap conversion (WCRS) There are pros and cons of each type of fabric. Know that with any ring sling or wrap broken in is always better- so don't be afraid to get used (or send to someone to break in, or belly wrap with!)
4. Looks- you want to enjoy the look of your ring sling so you will enjoy wearing it! I consider my wraps/carriers an extension of my wardrobe. Taking aside that colors don't have gender...if you are having a boy but love wearing pink- go for a pink sling! If you love blues and dark hues and are having a girl- rock the blues!
Where to Buy?
This all depends on your answers to the 4 main considerations for purchasing ^ Ideally get to a local babywearing meeting, either independent or through Babywearing International or meet up with a babywearing consultant so that you can try on different shoulder types and feel different fabrics.
Used is great in babywearing world because someone has already done the work of making your carrier soft and smooshy. There are many Facebook groups including Babywearing on a Budget, The Babywearing Swap, High End Babywearing Swap. There are also Facebook groups for specific brands with for sale posts.
Brands- a few personal favorites- there are many out there, these have lots of in stock options and I've had personal experience with them.
Kokoskaa (they're on a slight break for personal reasons but have many in stock options, love their water slings!)
Other Options for Babywearing (this is a whole other post....)
The other main types of carriers are woven wraps, stretchy wraps, Asian style (meh dai, onbuhimo) and buckle/ soft structure carriers (SSC).
Woven Wraps- another favorite of mine as there is so much versatility!
Stretchy wraps- can have a learning curve (tricky to get tight enough for people new to wearing), are often more fabric than you need, REQUIRE 3 passes to be over baby to be safely worn, can get saggy at 15-20lbs (especially if you're not comfortable tightening), can be hot
Asian style- these can be very budget friendly, are able to be shared among different sized caretakers, easily adapt for newborns, takes making a seat out of the equation. Onbuhimo are not ideal for newborns
Buckles- highly popular, not ideal for newborns, many require extra padding for newborns, not easy to transfer between caretakers, stiff/not breathable, not one size fits all for comfort.
*the XOXO baby carrier is a wrap/buckle/meh dai hybrid where you have the convenience of a seat with a buckle waistband and the versatility and comfort of a wrap for the body and straps. This also allows for easy sharing between care takers.
Where do you go from here- thats another post!