Babywearing: Everything You Need To Know to Wear Your Baby Safely & In Style

Babywearing (or baby carrying) is the practice of carrying your baby or toddler in a carrier. Though it may be new to some of us, babywearing is nothing new historically or globally. For centuries, moms in the West wore their children. And ditto for mamas all around the world today. It’s only in the last few decades that society has drifted away from baby wearing. But these days, natural mamas like us are brining going back to the old tradition of babywearing for a bunch of great reasons.

babywearing historical and international

Welsh mama wearing her baby circa 1905, courtesy of MuseumWales. Inuit woman with baby circa 1906, courtesy Library of Congress.

What are the baby wearing benefits?

The obvious benefit of baby wearing is convenience. If baby is in a carrier you can accomplish daily chores while knowing baby is safe and happy. Also, wearing a baby can allow you to go places strollers can’t ( hiking, stairs, etc.).

But the benefits go way beyond this:

  • Babywearing supports breastfeeding. When baby is held close mom can recognize early signs of hunger more easily and can begin to nurse (right in the carrier sometimes) without baby needing to cry. This awareness of baby’s needs makes for more confident parents and a closer bond as well.
  • Carried babies cry less.  According to one study infants who received supplemental carrying (not only in reaction to fussiness) cried and fussed 43% less overall, and 51% less during the evening hours. (1).
  • May help avoid spinal and cranial deformities. Babies who spend a significant amount of time in car seats and baby swings or other equipment can develop squaring of the cranium or spinal deformities. Properly carrying baby allows for natural development of cranium, spine and postural muscles. (2)
  • Babies who are held close are more able to regulate their own physiological functions (breathing, heart rate, temperature) in response to their caregiver. (3)

Babywearing does take some getting used to!

You’d think baby wearing would be as easy as falling out of bed, right? But like a lot of things with motherhood (hello, breastfeeding!), babywearing can be trickier than it looks.

Yes, babywearing can seem daunting at first. Most baby carriers have a learning curve and they require practice to become comfortable with them.

But once you’ve chosen the right carrier and learned how to use it, baby wearing will become second nature.

There are three main types of baby carriers

Types of baby carriers - ring sling, baby wrap, soft structured carrier.

1. Babywearing slings

A baby wearing sling is a long piece of sturdy cloth that is usually worn over one shoulder and across your torso. Slings are ideal for newborns, as small babies can easily nestle into the fabric. Larger babies and toddlers can also “sit” in the fabric like a hip carried seat. We’ve even seen one particularly crafty mama (safely) use a sling as a back carrier for her toddler! Slings come in many fabrics, padded and unpadded, and with or without rings for adjustment. Some examples of sling carriers are Maya Wrap, P-Sling, and Comfy Joey.

2. Babywearing wraps

A baby wearing wrap is a long piece of fabric that is wrapped around your torso and usually over both shoulders. Wraps are very versatile and inexpensive. A few examples are Moby Wrap, Boba Wrap, and Baby K’Tan.

3. Soft structured carriers

A soft structured carrier is made of soft padded material but is sewn into a more structured seat with two shoulder straps and possibly buckles. These carriers tend to be more ergonomical, so they’re great for outdoor activities and other times when you’re carrying baby for long stretches. Some examples are Ergobaby, Onya, and Mei Tai style carriers.

Are baby carriers safe?

Yes! Each carrier will have it’s own safety guidelines that you will need to review before use, but here are a few general guidelines to get you started:

  • Baby’s airway should be clear. You should not have to move fabric in order to see his face. His chin should not rest on his chest but instead be tipped up. He should not be pressing his face into your chest. In this case you can gently move baby’s head so his ear is against your chest instead.
  • Baby should stay in an upright position (unless  baby is nursing, in which case you can just return him to an upright position when finished).
  • Practice with a spotter. This is key when you’re trying new carriers or ways of carrying. Practice over a soft surface or close to the ground until you are confident with the carrying method.
  • Check your carrier for signs of wear or damage periodically.
  • Baby should be positioned properly. Baby’s knees should be higher than her bottom and legs spread so that her spine and hips are supported for healthy development. (Newborns can be worn in a cradle position as well, but face should still be high and visible).
    • Forward facing carriers and carriers where baby’s legs are dangling should be avoided, as they do not support proper positioning and can lead to hip dysplasia. (4)

Not recommended:

Hip Dysplasia harnesses Hip Dysplasia NR

You can see in the illustrations above how baby’s hips are not aligned properly. This positioning can increase force on the hip joint, which can lead to hip dysplasia.

Recommended:

Hip Dysplasia harness RHip Dysplasia R

Here you can see how pulling fabric up to baby’s knees creates a seat for her, and helps with proper hip alignment.

When can I start wearing baby?

Right from birth! Slings and wraps are ideal for newborns (check the manufacturers weight guidelines) and can be used as baby grows through toddlerhood.

How long can I wear my baby?

As long as you both want. If baby is in a carrier that supports healthy positioning, you can continue to wear her for as long during the day as you are both comfortable, and up until baby hits the weight limit (which is often around 40 lb!).

What baby carrier is right for me?

If you’re not sure which carrier will work best for you, your baby, and your lifestyle, consider joining a baby wearing group to try on a bunch. Take a look at Wrap Your Baby or Baby Wearing International for local babywearing groups.

Also check with local or online retailers who may have a rental program for trying new carriers. Don’t forget to ask other mamas who may have carriers they aren’t using that you could try out.

What are the benefits of babywearing? Which baby carrier is right for you? Where can you find the best deal on new & used wraps, ring slings, and carriers?Consider these questions when searching for a baby carrier:

  • Is the carrier comfortable for you and baby?
  • Does it support babies natural spine and hip development?
  • Are you able to get baby into the carrier on your own?
  • Can baby nurse in it?
  • How long will baby fit in it?
  • Can it be used from birth?
  • Does it help increase skin to skin contact?

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/277182552049774415/

How much are baby carriers?

It depends. A new carrier can range in price from $30 to upwards of $200. The most economical choice is the wrap style carrier, which is usually priced around $40. Soft structured carriers range from about $60 to $160. Slings really run the gamut in price.

If you’re looking to save a few bucks, buying used or making your own is a good alternative (tips on how to do this below).

Best place to buy a new baby carrier?

If you’re lucky enough to live near a store that sells a variety of carriers, that’s probably your best bet. There you’ll be able to try on a variety of baby carriers and select the one that works best for you and your baby.

If, you need to buy online, Amazon is always a great option. Amazon has a ton great baby carriers available to purchase. If you know which carrier you wish to buy, you may be able to buy directly from the manufacturer’s website too.

Where can you buy a used baby carrier?

You can also get great quality baby carriers for a good price if you consider buying used. Ask friends or visit local resale shops. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for check online baby resale sites for gently used carriers (many of these sites also offer a rental program to try out new carriers).

Check out:

A word of caution

Counterfeit baby carriers (especially the Ergo baby carrier) are popping up all over. If you do buy a used carrier, it’s a good idea to buy from someone you know or to ask for proof of purchase, as you can’t be sure of the quality and safety of a counterfeit.

If you are reasonably familiar with a sewing machine, you can pretty easily DIY a carrier. Here are a few tutorials:

Here’s what other natural mamas have to say about babywearing…

  • My daughter was a high needs infant. She wanted to be held all the time, so wearing her in the sling and moby allowed me to (somewhat) live my life hands free. It also helped us bond and helped with nursing because she was always so close. Once she was old enough to go on my back in the ergo is when babywearing really saved the day. I could finally do dishes and laundry and cook with her close and content. My daughter is now one and I watch a two year old. I clip the ergo around my waist and let it hang behind me all day because I’m constantly tossing one of them into it. I beieve my daughter is so well adjusted partially because of babywearing. I cant imagine parenting without it. – Karina Marie
  • We used the Moby Wrap with my daughter. She did not enjoy being in it until she was 3 months or so and could face outward. You’d think a newborn would love the closeness it provided, but she hated being in it as a newborn. If I had any advice it would be don’t lose hope in baby wearing just because your newborn doesn’t like it. I got a lot of use out of my Moby in the later months and we really enjoyed using it. – Makenzie Eyler
  • I’m a foster mom. Last year we got a 6 month old preemie who had been left in a baby swing with a bottle propped most of his short life (the rest spent in a nicu). He didn’t want to be held, he was sleeping like a new born and really didn’t want to be held when feeding. (reactive attachment disorder) My double ring sling became his new home. Having him on me skin to skin as much as possible, started a healing process that woke him up. We saw him start coming to life, interacting with the world. Baby wearing is a life giving, nurturing, most powerful act. – Erin Beyer
  • My little boy NEVER liked it, even if I took classes to make sure his position was correct. I would have love to carry him, but I think the most important is to adapt and respect every baby and their differences. – Genevieve Lemelin
  • The Moby saved my sanity with my newborn son. Wearing my son calmed him and in doing so gave me a chance to breathe, collect myself, EAT, and move forward. I was an anxious new mommy with a colicky baby; babywearing was a Godsend to both of us! – Brianna Turner
  • I used the Moby ALL the time with my son. He napped in it every afternoon while I walked on the treadmill until he was about 18m. I loved our special snuggle time. I also put him in it wherever we went (grocery store, mom’s group, etc.). He has always been and still is (almost 4 years old) my big snuggler. – Mary Holleboom Voogt
  • I didn’t wear my daughter very much, since she was my first. But as she got older we loved the simplicity of our ring sling vs a bulky stroller. I’m looking forward oto baby wearing with my soon to come second baby, to be hands free with my toddler! – Josh Heidi White
  • I feel like I missed out on baby wearing! My daughter would only sleep if I was holding her. I tried three different types and brands of wraps and slings (and I watched how-to’s on putting them on properly) but they all put strain on my back or shoulders. I couldn’t wear it for more than a few minutes. And she weighed 6lbs!!! Haha – Caitlin Brookes
  • Baby wearing saved my breastfeeding relationship. We had a rough birth and my daughter suffered some injuries due to an emergency forceps delivery. Because of her bruising and trauma we had trouble nursing. After CST and a lot of patience she finally latched while I had her in a front carrier. It was a magical moment after being an exhausted mother who exclusively pumped for 3 months. – Maura Wharton
  • I am a Mama of 3 and I cannot say enough amazing things about bwing! I wish I had the means, because I would totally be the Oprah of babywearing; “You get a wrap, you get a Ring Sling, you get a SSC!” I buy a stretchy wrap for all my expecting friends..they are the gateway carriers. – Deidrea Haysel

How about you? Did you babywear?

What was your go-to type of baby carrier? Share with us in the comments below!

 

References

  1. Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648 <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/77/5/641.abstract?sid=a39c5a21-2706-490d-a82d-1d544614dfe5>.
  2. timothy littlefield, et al., “car seats, infant carriers, and swings: their role in deformational plagiocephaly,” journal of prosthetics & orthotics 15 (july 2003): 102-106 <http://www.oandp.org/jpo/library/2003_03_102.asp>.
  3. Susan M. Ludington-Hoe, “Evidence-Based Review of Physiologic Effects of Kangaroo Care,” Current Women’s Health Reviews 7 (August 2011): 243-253. <http://eurekaselect.com/88428>.
  4. “Baby Carriers, Seats, & Other Equipment.” Hip Health in Baby Carriers, Baby Seats, and Other Equipment. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <http://hipdysplasia.org/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip/prevention/baby-carriers-seats-and-other-equipment/

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36 Comments

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  1. Must have! All my mom friends said you have to get the 360 and I’m so glad I did! Best purchase we made. My babe loves looking around at everything at the grocery store, zoo etc. and I forget she’s even there most of the time!

  2. Hi, I was looking for a detailed post on babywearing when I came across your article…. Thanks for sharing it.
    But I really wanted to understand are these carriers available in India and also where can I buy them here.

    • Buying online is probably your best bet.

  3. Babywearing is so great! This article could use with some serious updating though 🙂 Some of the words and companies you mention are outdated or no longer exist. There are many, many more options than listed here, especially through social media sites. You don’t mention woven wraps, which I would certainly recommend to those serious about babywearing beyond the newborn days. There is a lot out there, and finding a local group is a great introduction to babywearing and other families nearby.

  4. My husband and I have had a few arguments about whether to get a baby carrier or not, and this article really put my mind at ease. I showed it to him and he reluctantly agreed to have one, although when he has the child he says that he won’t use a carrier. We’ll see how long that lasts.

  5. I love babywearing, and my daughter does too! She is only 6wks old and the various carriers have been a lifesaver – she falls asleep as soon as I put her in the carrier! It has been great for visiting friends, church, or just going out to eat or to the grocery store. Plus, strangers don’t try to touch your baby when she’s in a sling, lol. I have 2 homemade ring slings, a boba-style wrap (my fave!), and a lillebaby carrier (will be awesome for when baby is bigger – it has great back support). My daughter is in a ring sling as I type this 🙂

  6. wearing my LO from day 6, started with a walk in the neighborhood in sling ring, now we (me and my hubby) wear her in the house since she doesn’t like being put down other than at night, still in “fourth trimester”. Baby wearing is sanity saver, hands freer and the next best thing after breastfeeding connection! + i get the feeling being still pregnant (which i miss sometimes) but at the chest area now 🙂

  7. me too! i have been baby wearing since baby’s first month. we’re both comfortable and everytime she’s in my SaYa, she fell asleep. many told me she looks uncomfortable but I told them this is more natural baby wearing than other carriers, mine is made of cloth.. made in the Philippines. Now my baby is at 9mos i still baby wear her. i dont care if others would say she dont look good in it but she liked it.. we both love it. I could also feel closer to my daughter and even go to places handsfree.. I encourage other moms to babywearing too. Happy babywearing to all of us! God bless..

  8. I have been trying to wear my now-2 month old since birth but her head isn’t supported enough. I have a baby Katan.
    She was born 6 lb 14 oz and is now 10 lb 5 oz. maybe she’s too small?

    • It’s hard to help without seeing her. Do you have a local babywearing group or LLL group? If not I would say just make sure the carrier is tightened properly.

    • I have a baby ktan too. My daughter was born 2 weeks ago and I’ve tested it out, she seemed pretty mesmerized while in it but I noticed her head needed more support too. I came to the conclusion that she may just be too small for it still, shes 6lbs 8oz, and the baby ktan says its for babies 8-35 lbs. However, if your baby is 10.5 lbs already, she should be okay in it… I used the newborn kangaroo wrap position outlined in the book, I imagine thats the best way for now. I think the more we wear it the more relaxed and comfortable they will become. Nothing comes easy at first, but the more we practice it the more easy and comfortable it becomes!

  9. I fully plan on doing baby wearing, even breaking in my wrap now with belly wrapping for a lovely case of diastasis recti. And I can’t wait for the fight with the inlaws about carrying my daughter too much. They are firm baby swing believers, and I have personally seen horrible negative effects of babies left in swings with propped bottles! I thank my lucky stars with the man I married who is very supportive in my mothering decisions, because I have a reason behind every choice I make, and it’s all with out little girls best interest at heart. He has made it perfectly clear, however, that he requires buckles if he ever does the baby wearing. Lol. I’ll make a hippie out of him yet!

  10. I am going to attempt this with my son once born! I have both an Ergo Carrier (more for dad when hiking) and a mobi wrap (purchased for 6 bucks at my local goodwill!). I am saving this so I can remember how to support them properly when in the carriers.

  11. Baby wearing is incredible. We have a moby and when my LO (she is 6 weeks old) is grumpy and over tired I pop her in it.
    I had abdominal surgery so it’s been a life saver as I haven’t had to lift bulky pram out of my car.
    I was a bit scared to use it to begin with but went to my local sling shop called slingtastic in Wilton nr Salisbury and Sarah was amazing at building my confidence and I haven’t looked back since! I even take her up to see my horses!
    💗👶🏻baby wearing

  12. I have all 3 types of baby wearing carriers – Solly Wrap, Sakura Bloom Ring Sling, and the Beco Gemini. LOVE them all as each has their uses. Baby wearing is absolutely fantastic. The closeness you feel and the fact you have both hands free is fantastic. My girl hated it at first – but I stuck with it. She’s a hot baby – so stripping her of her clothing helped a ton.

    • THIS IS SUPER HELPFUL! Thank you! I feel like my LO hates it too and she is a hot baby so I will try stripping her down too. THANK YOU!

  13. I have a ring sling for my little boy and it’s a life saver because he doesn’t want to be put down when he sleeps – he will just wake straight back up! So I use my baby carrier for letting him sleep in as I do chores!

    For the mums that say baby hates the carrier, unless my baby is tired he can be the same! Kicking and acting annoyed! He likes to play and stretch out when he is awake and cuddle up when he is tired – so I would recommended putting baby in when they are ready for a nap, then bouncing around with some water running (white noise) and let them sleep in it, then you can get things done and they will accociate it will sleepy time 😊

  14. I have the Boba Wrap, however, it’s summer and I find it really hot to carry my one month old.. Even in the house, I get hot easily with the body warmth and fabric around me. Any suggestions on how to baby wear when it’s hot and when you get hot easily? I’d love to baby wear but I just haven’t done it much because of this. Thanks!

    • Hi Kayla- there are many lightweight options in wraps and slings, like polyester mesh (great in the water, too!) and cotton gauze.

    • I would recommend a linen or linen blend wrap or ring sling. It’s very breathable and strong. It’s not stretchy so you wouldn’t use it the same way but on youtube look for wrapyouinlove. She has a ton of wonderful tutorials that will show you how to safely wear in a woven wrap and rs.

  15. Baby wearing saved my life for my first child, but even more with the second one. I have a wrap and an Ergo Baby and both are great. My Daughter who is almost 3 still like to be on my back with the Ergo. My son, since is able to walk, he does not really want to be restraint on mama. I’m a big fan of baby wearing and I will do it again if I would have a third one!

  16. My only regret was not using these sooner. I used them with my third and fourth child. My third son, I used the wrap. My fourth was not comfortable in the wrap until he was about 5 months. When he was about 3 months, I used a “soft carrier”, he seemed uncomfortable in the wrap because his legs were spread to far apart. I am guessing now that he is a little bigger, it’s more comfortable for him. Either way, love them!!!

  17. Hi Mama! Thank you for all the great info! My husband and I have not started trying to conceive yet, so I guess i’m doing early research lol! I love what you said about the Ergobaby in an old blog and I’m definitely going to get that one. But I was wondering about how convenient it is to breast while wearing (is it possible), or if your going to have a long day of visiting on the couch with family in an Ergo baby is it comfortable to sit in? I’ve heard of these unadjustable pouches, it’s almost like and infinity scarf. I was wondering what you thought of these? They look really comfy for newborns and to breastfeed in. I really appreciate all of your opinions and advice! Thank you!!!

    • I love the ergo! We use it so much. And it never hurts my back! I didn’t really think to bf in it until around 7 months. But ever since it is our go to bf cover when we grocery shop. If I put the head cover over her you can’t see at all and now that she’s 20 months she has gotten very good at helping herself while riding in the ergo.

      • My cousin’s 18 month old has been ‘worn’ since birth with various slings etc. he shows few signs of wanting to investigate independantly, not crawling, no interest in pulling up. He has yet to stand on his own. He has no interest in doing these things mostly because he is seldom put down. When he is on the floor or crib he howls. His mother rushes to pick him up and carry him around. Should we be concerned?

  18. We love babywearing! We have a very well loved Boba 4g but I also have a ring sling and a moby wrap (the latter I rarely use). It makes my life so much easier. I especially love back carries in the Boba.

    But I must say that your statement about narrow based carriers causing hip dysplasia is not true. I don’t personally use those types of carriers but Babywearing International does not condone them.

    • That last sentence didn’t make a lot of sense. What I meant was that Babywearing international does not condemn them.

  19. I love the Ergo 360! Ergonomic and you can have your child front facing, which is key for when I have my daughter in it and I am busy with tasks around the house – she loves to observe. If she falls asleep, I can change her direction.

  20. Unfortunately, I have 3 different carriers, the 3 types you describe, and at 7 months old my son still hates every single one. I am 100% sure this is because he can’t wiggle as much as he can when he is in our arms. The carriers do not allow for much freedom of movement and as much as he is a high needs baby and wants to be held 75% of the time he protests and exhibits all of the “I am done” signs after he is in the carrier for about 3 minutes. I tried everything. I walked outside, I did laundry, I got help wrapping and slinging, nothing worked. It always seems like he wants to be able to see everything I am doing and also look wherever something else happens, while being able to twist around too. I thought when we could do hip carry with the ergo he would be happy but he doesn’t like how his legs have to be positioned just so. When I hip carry with my arms he is constantly readjusting himself, kicking his feet and stretching his legs. My mom says “he’s a little monkey!” I imagine you get what I mean. He also hated being swaddled since day 1. I had help too, since I read online that I was probably doing it wrong if he didn’t like it, but no, he really didn’t like it.
    I still try several times a week, hoping one day he will decide he likes it, but with every new milestone that allows him to be more independent the less luck I have with getting him in it at all.
    Love this post! however I would add the sleeping baby productions ring sling.

    • Valerie! I’m so impressed by your perseverance! Each baby is so different. Griffin didn’t like being worn that much either :(! Paloma is good with it though so maybe with baby number 2.

  21. I can’t tell you how many times older women have looked at , y carrir and jealously/resentfully said, “we didn’t have those when my kids were little, we just had to carry them, etc.” I try to explain that they have been normal in other cultures for a very long time, but they don’t seem to want to acknowledge that it could have been an option for them. 😉 anyway, I love my Beco Gemini and use it everyday. It takes a couple weeks to work up your babywearing muscles and then the soreness stops for me.

  22. I am looking forward to baby wearing! I am down to just a few weeks before our first comes to the world! We live in Honduras and so the Moby Wrap (i believe) will be great for when we go on outings or travelling somewhere. While the Ring Sling will be great for when we travel on the plane to visit the States this summer!

    • Exciting! Wishing you a wonderful birth, mama 🙂

  23. Definitely. I’ve been a big believer in baby wearing since my oldest was born 16+ years ago. And now with my 7th, a 27weeker preemie, it’s once again saving my butt!

    • Hope your little one is doing well, Carrie!

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