Q: What is your favorite baby carrier and why?
A: Let me start by saying I have never met a baby carrier I did not like. I firmly believe that each baby carrier is suited to some parent/baby pair out there. Everyone has their own preferences and mostly it is not about quality, just a matter of opinion, or sometimes just a matter of habit and familiarity. I love the huge variety of soft carriers out there and I get a kick out of trying all the fabulous new innovations. What I like conceptually however and what I actually grab when we leave the house are often two different things. Even though I have a mountain of carriers to choose from, I do indeed find myself reaching for the same few carriers. I find I have different favorites for different purposes (household chores, walking, traveling) and certainly for different ages. My youngest child is 6 months old and my favorite carrier for her right now is my good old ring sling.
Here she is in my beautiful silk ZoloWear sling. I love the versatility of my ring sling. I find it perfect for meeting the ever changing needs of my younger babies without ever having to take them out. I find it so convenient when we are out for extended periods of time because I can start her in the tummy to tummy position which she loves for quite some time, then when she has had enough I can loosen the top rail and lay her down in the fabric to discretely nurse her. At this point she usually dozes off and then I just retighten the sling and I haven’t missed a beat. Once she is asleep reclined, I can swing her to my back if I want to. Also, with these young, smaller babies (mine are usually under about 15 pounds at this point) I do not mind the weight and I am comfortable for long periods even though this is a one-shouldered carrier.
Just today I went up to my children’s elementary school for the end of the year parent teacher conferences. I had little Julia in tow so I grabbed my ring sling. I wore her in the hip carry into the building. As always when I trot out my sling covered baby, people commented on how cozy and happy she looked. Fifteen minutes into the first conference she got restless so I laid her down in the sling and nursed her with the tail of the sling offering us privacy. By the end of the conference she was full but obviously sleepy and increasingly fidgety. That is usually my cue to walk around a bit to settle her to sleep. As we stood in the hallway waiting for the second conference I positioned her reclined in the sling, head out away from the rings and began gently swinging her back and forth. I continued this standing for the first part of the second conference until she closed her eyes. I then gingerly sat with her asleep in the sling for the rest of the conference. She slept great, in fact she is still asleep draped across me lap still in the sling as I type this…making those sweet baby sleep noises.
Based on wearing my four children over the past seven years, here is the pattern that has emerged. I have focused on the first group in this post and will address the other two in future posts:
0-6 months: My favorites are the ring sling for outings, stretch wraparound carrier or mei tai for walks where I anticipate baby sleeping for the duration, and a traditional quilted Korean podaegi for early back carries.
6-12 months: Around nine months or so, I find myself reaching for my pouches instead of my ring sling. I start using my mei tai more often. Although I do like the soft structured carriers (SSC) I have tried I am just a creature of habit and end up reaching for my mei tais.
Toddler: Pouch, mei tai, rucksack carry in a woven wraparound carrier. When I carry my two year old, I reach most often for my mei tai. Yes, I have worn them together using two mei tais, the toddler on my back and the newborn on my front, but sheesh is that heavy! I only wear both if I can see no alternative and the screeching is intolerable. Mostly, they just take turns.
In the interest of brevity, I will limit myself to just a few favorites in each of these categories in no particular order. I do not mean to imply an inferior product by leaving out any carriers.
You can find a more complete list of all the carriers I have tried and what I like about them here. So this is the long answer to the question of my favorite carrier written when my youngest is six months old. Ask me again in six months and I will bet I have another answer. How about you? What is your absolute favorite carrier? Have you found that it changes over time as your baby grows?