- What age is your baby – Do you have a newborn or are you looking to wear it with your toddler? Does your child have any special needs or health concerns to keep in mind?
- How are you thinking you will use it - As an out and about carrier? Around the house? Able to breastfeed in it?
- What is your price range?
Starting with these key questions, you can work through the categories of carriers and make your selection from there. There are five categories:
- Pouch – these are size-specific, one-shoulder carriers that are worn like a sash diagonally across your body. Great for quick trips and minimal fuss, but can be hard to find the correct size and not as comfortable for longer lengths of wearing due to the weight being only distributed on one shoulder.
- Ring Sling – these are generally one size or able to be adjusted to fit a range of sizes and worn in a similar manner to Pouches. They are great for breastfeeding, with newborns and toddlers, and can be wonderful for using when sitting down or when putting on in tight quarters. They can be less comfortable for the same reason as a pouch, and can also feel less secure as baby starts to wiggle and arch.
- Mei Tai – these are usually rectangular or square with two sets of straps that wrap around you and knot to secure. They generally have a lower learning curve and can be adjusted to fit a variety of body shapes. They can be a bit trickier to use with a newborn or small baby due to the fixed size of the body panel.
- Soft Structure Carrier – these are usually rectangular and have buckles attaching the waist and shoulder straps around the wearer. They are generally loved from about when baby is 6 months and up, unless you have an insert or one that features an adjustable base option for use with smaller babies. Some find fit plays the biggest part in whether or not they love this style, since the carrier construction is a more fixed design.
- Wrap – these are long lengths of fabric designed to be used to carry a baby. They have one of the higher learning curves and a myriad of fabric options, but are highly praised for their comfort and adjustability.
The most common carriers that are loved in the newborn stage are stretchy wraps and ring slings. The comfort and the ability to hug baby while providing the necessary support found in these two styles make them an ideal choice for a first carrier.
If you can make it out to a local shop or babywearing group to try a few different styles out, that is often the best way to find out what you love and what fits you best. Check out Babywearing International for a list of chapters nationwide.
TaiLeah Madill is mama to three and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She is passionate about volunteering with her local babywearing group and helping other families enjoy the benefits of wearing their little ones.