Baby wearing has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years. Moms and dads all over the world have worn their babies for millenia, and now it seems millennials are catching on! (Ha! See what I did there?)
Wearing your baby - or, carrying them without using your hands - has so many benefits for both parent and child! It soothes your little one while keeping you hands free to do other tasks. As babywearing has become more commonplace, so have baby carriers! The market now has so many options - Tula, LILLEbaby, Ergo, Wildbird, Moby, Boba - it can be a bit overwhelming! And how does one properly wear a ring sling or a wrap anyway? What makes soft structured carriers so different? Allow me to explain.
One of the most straightforward ways to carry your little one, ring slings are so handy (and super cute!) It's made of two parts - a set of sturdy rings (usually metal), and a swath of fabric attached on one end to the rings. To wear it, carefully thread the fabric evenly upward through both rings, then loop the end back down between the two rings. This process creates a locking effect that allows you to tighten the fabric without it falling loose later on.
Ring slings are easy to use and vary in weight and sturdiness, so you don't have to be overheated while carrying your baby. They come in a variety of fabric types and solids or patterns/prints, so every parent can find one that they love! Like all baby carriers, it's important that the baby is close enough to kiss, their seat is secure, their knees are above their bum, and their airway is clear. Popular ring sling brands include: Wildbird, Maya, Sakura Bloom, Tula, and Moby.
I am both intimidated by and in love with wraps. The hardcore babywearing mamas I know swear by them because, unlike ring slings, they offer a wide variety of carrying positions. Wraps are the OG of baby carriers - they're closest in design to the ways parents have worn their babies throughout history and across cultures. A wrap is just like it sounds - a piece of fabric that you wrap and tie around your body to create a seat for baby. If you're really into origami or hair-braiding, wraps are the carrier for you!
Just like ring slings, wraps come in an impressive variety of fabrics, weights, lengths, and prints. Length of wraps vary to accommodate parents of all different shapes and sizes, as well as more complex wrapping techniques. Here's why wraps kind of intimidate me - I've used them before, but only one or two different styles of carry. Ingenious parents have created myriad wrapping patterns to follow - some are modified to fit differently or to accomplish different purposes. For example, wrapping in a Back Wrap Cross Carry creates a secure seat for wiggling toddlers, while making carrying for longer periods of time easier on parents' bodies. Rucksack carries also hoist toddlers onto the back - they're simple with few steps, but maybe not as comfortable to wear for hours on end. Many parents swear by handmade wraps available on Etsy or from small business, but more readily available wrap brands include: Moby, Boba, Solly, or K'tan (a modified wrap).
Soft Structured Carrier
Let's be honest, soft structured carriers are the most like "I've got my baby in a backpack". They're high tech with a huge variety of features. Some are designed for lumbar support for the carrying parent, others are meant to be extremely breathable so baby or dad doesn't overheat. Soft structured carriers have straps and a seat - most secure around the wearer with velcro and/or buckles.
Soft structured carriers tend to be more user-friendly, at least for newbies to the babywearing game. They don't require you to remember any steps or patterns, and they work well beyond just inward facing front carries. You can even hip-carry your toddler with a carrier like this! I have tried each of these options, and my soft structured carrier is the easiest to wear for long walks or hours on end. I also like that it allows me to wear my baby on my front, but facing outward. We both win - I get my hands free to work, and my baby gets entertainment from watching me wash the dishes!
No matter which carrier you choose, be sure to follow the instructions and practice safe babywearing! Enjoy those snuggles and having a spare hand!
Send me pictures of men wearing their babies in a favorite carrier for an upcoming article! Twitter: @pi3sugarpi3 with #RealMenWearBabies