Babywearing 101

by Giselle on March 9, 2010

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So, you’ve decided you want to babywear, but when you begin looking for a carrier, you are overwhelmed by the many type of baby carriers there are. What’s a wrap? What is a buckle carrier? What’s the difference between a pouch and a ring sling? All these babywearing101questions and more become so much clearer once you know the basic carrier types. There are six basic types of carriers. They are woven wraps, stretchy wraps, ring slings, pouches, mei tais and buckle carriers.

A woven wrap is a long piece of fabric used to carry a child in various positions, including hip carry, back and front carry. It’s often chosen for its versatility, as well as support and weight distribution on the wearer. The lengths vary from short to long and choosing the length for you is determined by your body size and the carries you’d like to do with the wrap. A woven wrap is the most versatile baby carrier and it can be used fro newborn through toddler hood.

Stretchy wraps are a long piece of fabric (usually comes in one size fits most) that, unlike woven wraps, has stretch to it. It’s similar to t-shirt material and is often used with newborns and young babies. It is used mostly as a front carrier and while there may be instructions on using it as a back carrier, it is not recommended, as there’s not enough support in the stretchy fabric to do a back carry safely. Stretchy wraps are a favorite for newborn babies and can be used through toddlerhood if wrapped tightly.

Ring slings are one shoulder slings made of a long piece of fabric that is attached to a pair of rings. It is adjustable and can be worn by multiple care givers. Ring slings can be used from newborn stage through toddlerhood. For newborns, these work well in either a cradle style carry or upright. Ring slings are particular great during the stage when a child wants up and down often, because it’s easy and quick to put on/take out a child as needed. Ring slings can be used as a front carrier, a hip carrier and also a back carrier (recommended with a child that has good head support). The tail of a ring sling comes in very handy as a burb cloth, a nursing cover and a sun protection cover for child.

Pouches are one shoulder baby carriers that can be used from newborn through toddlerhood. They are very easy to use, as you basically put it on and then slip baby on without the need to adjust. But, because they are not adjustable, it is important to purchase the right size for your weight, height and measurements. Pouches are compact in design, small enough to fold into a diaper bag quite easily, and come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Mei tais are Asian-inspired carriers that consist of a rectangular (sometimes square) body and has four straps attached – shoulder and waist straps. It is used as a hip, front and back carrier and provides two shoulder support. Mei tais can be used from newborn stage through toddlerhood. Mei tais with headrest gives the head support needed by newborns and also for toddlers who fall asleep in carriers. The learning curve of a mei tai is shorter than using woven wraps and mei tais provide similar support and comfort. Because it is easy to adjust (just tie as tight as needed for your shape), it is a good choice when used by more than one caregiver.

Buckle carriers are soft structured carriers inspired by mei tais but with side release buckle closures. They have a main supportive panel, padded shoulder straps and can be used on the front, hip and back. These are easy to learn to use, since you simply just buckle on, adjust and go!

Now that you know the basic baby carriers, you can narrow down which one(s) would work for your particular babywearing needs. And you can do that so much easier now that you understand what each one is. Happy babywearing!

Giselle, mama to three small kids and blogger at www.nurturebabynaturally.com.

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Giselle (3 Posts)


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie March 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Thank you for sharing this info – I have a stretchy wrap & haven’t had too much success with the back carries – I didn’t realize you weren’t supposed to use them that way! I will have to look into a woven wrap, but I thought it would be more difficult, since you can put the stretchy wrap on without the baby in it – do you think a woven wrap is more difficult to use than a stretchy wrap?

I also have a ring sling, but my 2-month-old is more comfy in the stretchy wrap for now. I used the ring sling a lot when my son was a toddler – especially to run into little stores on shopping trips.

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Giselle March 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Carrie, with a woven wrap you can do all the carries that can be done with a stretchy wrap and then some. You can also pre-tie it, similarly, to a stretchy wrap. You have a lot of use left on your stretchy wrap, since you’re son is only 2 month, but if you’d like to do back carries, you’d want to look for something else, like a woven wrap or mei tai (both can also be do-it-yourself projects if you sew) or buckle carrier.

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Jen, mom of DS March 10, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Buckle carriers are okay, but don’t give you the closeness of the less technogolically whiz bang. I just love the basics of the wrap, and no plastic! Why risk you child’s psychological health and happiness for the convenience of some man-made buckle and i do mean MAN made.

I am so glad you didn’t list things like those baby bjorns. That’s not even babywearing! Why not just carry your baby around in a plastic sack! LOL

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Giselle March 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Jen, there are buckle carriers that do give you the closeness. I know what you mean about brands like Bjorn, where the baby is not positioned ergonomically, but brands like Beco Baby Carrier and Catbird Pikkolo (there are others toos) are completely different than the Bjorn. And they are owned by mothers. :)

Like you though, I’m partial to wraps.

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JPMA March 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

JPMA’s goal is to get safe products in the hands of parents and caregivers, and we thank you for sharing this message about juvenile product safety!

- JPMA Public Relations

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Larissa April 6, 2011 at 7:32 am

Goodness! I’m getting prepped for a friend’s upcoming baby shower and I’m finding (not ever having been pregnant before) that there’s a lot of lingo and info to know about. That for providing the low-down on the wraps. It’ll help in the decision making process.

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