Ever tried balancing grocery bags, pocket book, a squirming baby, and a cellphone, as you search for your key? Tough stuff! Well, with the help of a baby carrier the scene can be made a whole lot easier.
There will be plenty of times when you’ll need a hands-free way to keep your baby close, and an infant carrier or sling is the perfect solution. Whether shopping, sightseeing, or taking a walk to view the fall colors, you can comfortably bring your baby along in a sling or carrier. With so many products on the market, it can be difficult to decide which is right for you.
Infant slings have been around for thousands of years, and they’re how most mothers in the world transport their babies. Until 1733, when the first baby carriage was invented, every parent used a sling. This old trend is back in for trendy moms. They’re still made much as they’ve always been—of a long piece of sturdy, flexible cloth and a fastener that allows you to get your baby in and out. Some slings have a buckle that allows you to adjust the sling based on how old your child is and what’s most comfortable for you. Others can be ordered in sizes to match your child’s age or weight.
Today’s baby slings offer something that traditional slings haven’t: a safe and convenient way to “wear” your baby in great colors and patterns that fit your personal sense of style. For versatility, look for slings that are made to be worn as a cradle, as a front carrier, and on the hip later on. The best baby slings have a touch of elasticity for easy wear.
Slings can be used from the time your baby comes home from the hospital. Some parents (and babies) like the close tummy-to-tummy contact that slings allow, especially for infants. They come in both subdued styles and colors and bolder choices for the modern mom. Slings can be rolled or folded flat for easy carrying or storage when not in use.
While they allow you to create a variety of different ways to wear your baby, it may take a while to master the art of the sling and for parents to feel confident that their baby is secure in their handiwork. Also, most aren’t made to use as a back carrier.
Some products, like the CuddlyWrap, combine the best of both worlds. These baby sling carriers allow you to wear your child in multiple ways. It can be positioned into a carrier style or a sling style, depending on what’s comfortable for you and your child.
Baby carriers are harness-like products that provide a structured ride for your baby. Some infant carriers are made only of cloth, while others are constructed of a plastic or metal frame overlaid with padding and cloth for both durability and comfort. Many carriers have padded shoulder straps and/or waist straps, but the quality of the padding varies by company and product. If possible, feel the padding for yourself to ensure that it’s adequate. Remember that your eight-pound baby will be 30 pounds before you know it! For maximum convenience and longer usage, select a product with a seat height adjustment so that you can adjust it as the baby grows. If you need a place for your cell phone or money, look for a carrier that provides pockets.
Though they’re not necessarily more secure than slings, some parents feel better placing their baby in a structured carrier. They also can easily switch from front-carrier to back-carrier.
Carriers can seem complicated to adjust or put on. Choose a product with easy on and off features and one that’s easy to adjust for your comfort as well as your baby’s comfort. Infant carriers can feel binding and uncomfortable to some moms and some products aren’t made for newborns, so check the manual that comes with it. Another thing to keep in mind is that carriers may not come in hip hues and patterns.
For hikes, jogging or long walks look into outdoor baby carriers in a backpack style. They’re made specifically for outdoor treks with your child and provide great support for longer outings. Some even provide a canopy or rain visor for your baby. Select a lightweight carrier to keep the weight down and ease the burden on your back.
Additional Tips:Make sure you’re aware of the age, developmental, and weight restrictions of your carrier or sling. Using your product for a child who’s too young or too heavy could put your baby in danger.
Look for items with easy-to-clean material—preferably machine washable—for the inevitable spills and stains.
Choose a carrier with ventilation holes to keep your child comfortable.
The Bottom Line
For easy, hands-free carrying of your baby or toddler, choose a sling or carrier that matches your lifestyle, needs, and taste. Make sure you understand how to wear it for the safety of your child and your back.
Our Mom Expert
Caron Webber, 37, is the mother of five children, ages 2 to 12.
“We’ve always used baby carriers for our kids, but I had been afraid to try a sling. When I saw a friend of mine with a baby sling a few years ago, I asked her to show me how to use it. It was a lot easier than I thought, and I really liked the idea of keeping my newborn close to my body. I bought my own sling for the last baby, and now I’m the one showing other moms how to use a sling!”