Baby Carriers - Compare the Differences
There are so many choices in baby carriers today that it can easily become overwhelming for someone just starting out. Add to that the vast amount of information available online, and it's no wonder many parents just purchase the first or most well-known carrier they come across. Unfortunately, some carriers are not designed for extended periods of use or with an older, heavier baby, and they end up pulling mercilessly on your back and shoulders. Some have so many buckles, snaps, loops and straps that they dig into you, the baby, or both. We've been there, and we're happy to compare baby carriers so that you can narrow down which carrier or carriers might work best for you.
Despite the incredible variety of baby carriers on the market today, nearly all fall into one of four basic styles.
- Baby Wraps
- Baby Slings (includes pouch slings + ring slings)
- Mei Tai Baby Carriers
- Soft Pack Baby Carriers
Baby Wraps, also known as wraparound baby carriers or just wraps, are without a doubt the most versatile baby carriers available. Simple carrying cloths are also the most common traditional baby carriers around the world because of their simplicity and versatility. The caregiver uses a square, rectangular or long strip of fabric to wrap and tie the baby to their body. Knots are used to secure and adjust the carrier to the baby and to the wearer. Carrying scarves can be useful long after your babywearing days are over.
Carry your baby in unlimited carrying positions with a wrap, and one size will fit any babywearer, from Mom or Dad to Grandma or Grandpa.
- very comfortable for baby providing enough support for a newborn or toddler alike
- most versatile, offering unlimited number of carrying positions
- ergonomic support for both baby and adult
- easily adapts to various baby weights and sizes for both front and back carrying, with the right fabric
- one-size fits most carrier
- Wraparound carriers are particularly suited for kangaroo care, the practice of holding premature and full-term newborns skin-to-skin for optimal neurological development.
- lots of fabric can be confusing without adequate instruction in use
- somewhat steeper learning curve - requires practice to become efficient in tying the baby carrier and adjusting to the baby
- some stretch fabrics are only suitable for the first year of babywearing, and are not suitable for back-carrying. Choose a woven or hybird fabric for longer wearing (infant through toddler) and for use on the back.
- can get warm in the summertime (but keeps baby warm in cooler weather!)
Take a wrap baby carrier and sew it together (pouch sling) or add rings to enable easy adjustability (ring slings), and you have our next category of baby carriers. A baby sling is as uncomplicated as any baby carrier gets.
Baby Slings are compact, sleek, and easy to use. Their simple design makes them one of the most popular baby carriers available. We firmly believe that NO new mom should be without a simple baby sling for an easier adjustment to life with baby. You will be an expert at babywearing in minutes!
Using a baby sling or pouch couldn't be easier. Just put it on and take it off like a shoulder purse. The baby pops in and out quickly, making a sling the perfect choice for a little one who wants up and down (and up again!) all day long.
Slings are a favorite baby carrier for carrying a newborn and for nursing hands-free. When paired with a soft-pack baby carrier, you'll have the perfect baby wearing combination from birth to toddlerhood.
When the length of fabric is threaded through the rings, a pouch is formed where your baby will sit. You can adjust the size and shape of the sling through the rings. Baby can be worn snuggled in, facing out in front like a kangaroo, on the hip, or on the back looking over your shoulder.
Sometimes padding is sewn into the sides ("rails") or shoulder of the sling, and a tail is left from the fabric that has been pulled through the rings. Some ring slings include in the tail a pocket to carry your extras while out and about.
A pouch is a tube-style baby carrier, generally one long circle of fabric sewn with a curved seam to provide a pouch for your baby to sit in. There are no rings for adjustment, so usually a pouch sling is sized to fit the individual who will be wearing it. This is perfect for a baby who wants to sit on your hip.
Innovations to the basic pouch sling design have included zippers or snaps to make them adjustable, and a hybrid pouch -- a pouch sewn-in to a ring sling for both comfort and adjustability.
- short learning curve
- very compact, so it will fit into a purse or diaper bag easily
- most loved for the newborn stage - easy transition from snug environment of womb to compact sling
- easy to move baby in and out of carrier
- easiest for hands-free nursing
- pouch has no extra tail fabric to figure out
- tail of ring sling can be used for a nursing cover up
- Sizing is important in a pouch sling for the most comfort. Ring slings make this easier, but some parents find the rings more difficult to adjust.
- only one-shouldered support, so a sling is less comfortable for extended wearing or for heavier babies and toddlers
- a pouch is less versatile for carrying in different positions
Sling Baby Carriers Compared
The Mei Tai baby carrier is comfort and fashion all in one. Mei Tai is pronounced "may tie" and is also referred to as an Asian Baby Carrier. Unlike wrap and sling carriers, a Mei Tai adds padded shoulder straps and a waist straps to a small, square body to give the Mei Tai unlimited options for carrying positions. Because the adjustability is in the long straps, a Mei Tai is a one-size fits most baby carrier, easily shared between Mom, Dad and other caregivers.
We LOVE this baby carrier in particular for its versatility in the extremely varied weather of Canada. It can easily be adapted to use over light clothing in the summer time, or over a big, bulky coat when you need to keep warm during a blustery winter day.
Mei Tai Baby Carrier is comfortable and versatile like no other baby carrier. You have complete control in the positioning of the baby within the carrier, based on how you tie the straps. Baby likes to be tucked in and hidden? No problem! Your toddler wants to be propped up to see the world? A re-tie here and there, and you're set! Baby's arms are out and he can watch as Mom goes about her day. This adaptability means it is easy to get a comfortable fit on any wearer.
This soft, strappy baby carrier is easy to use, comfortable for you, fun for baby, and stylish. What more could you ask for in a baby carrier?
- our favorite for back carrying a young baby (less than one year), especially when there is a second child to attend to
- weight is evenly distributed over both shoulders and hips
- very supportive
- very versatile, offering unlimited number of carrying positions
- can be used front and back with a newborn to 30+ lbs (3 years or more)
- big variety of beautiful fabrics available
- higher resale value
- not as heavily padded as most structured carrier (but this can be an advantage for a parent that wants less "bulk"!)
- straps are long and can drag on ground when tying (difficult in the rain or slushy weather)
Mei Tai Baby Carriers Compared
Adding a few buckles and snaps to a Mei Tai, and some extra padding and structure will eventually give you a soft-pack or "buckle" baby carrier. Soft pack baby carriers include the popular Ergo Baby Carrier, a favorite for Dad, as well as the hip-carrying baby carriers that are gaining in popularity for toddlers and older babies. Just because baby is getting bigger, doesn't mean you have to stop carrying them!
A structured baby carrier evenly distributes the weight of your baby across both shoulders and hips, making it comfortable to carry for long periods of time. Most parents find they can carry a baby, especially a heavy toddler, the longest in a structured carrier. Our best-selling Ergo Baby Carrier can be used with a baby more than 40lbs!
Because the tiniest babies need more support for head and neck, a structured soft pack carrier is best for an older baby with head control (3 months+).
With their comfort, ease of use and mainstream appeal, it's easy to see why soft-pack baby carriers are so popular among parents. If you do a great deal of walking or hiking with your baby, this is the baby carrier to choose.
- easy to use
- ergonomic, so weight is evenly distributed to hips
- very supportive
- usually Dad's favorite
- high resale value
- not usually recommended for newborns who cannot hold their heads up well (3 months +)
- does not fold compact for travel or in a diaper bag
- can be more expensive due to the amount of workmanship required in their manufacturing
Soft Pack Baby Carriers Compared
Interested in learning more about Babywearing? Continue with our Tutorial using the links below.
- Baby What?!? A Short History of Babywearing
- Advantages of Babywearing
- Baby Carriers - Compare the Differences
- How to Choose a Baby Carrier
- Beginner's Most Frequently Asked Questions - coming soon!
- Baby Carrier Safety
- Babywearing Hints, Tips & Tricks - coming soon!
- How to Use Your Baby Sing or Carrier (product specific guides) -coming soon!
- Babywearing Stories - Real parents share the Joy of Babywearing! - coming soon!
After reading through our articles, if you still have questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. At Parenting By Nature we provide on-going customer support throughout the entire time you use our baby carriers!