Babywearing International, a nonprofit group that promotes baby-wearing through more than 80 chapters in the United States, says that baby-wearing makes for healthier premature babies and more-confident parents. Baby-wearing is beneficial for Dad, as well, adds pediatrician Lisa Lewis, saying it “supports Dad as he develops confidence to care for his new little one.” There are many types to choose from — wraps, slings, mei-tais, soft-structured carriers or frame backpacks — and even variety within the same brand, so go to a store to try one on. Check whether it fits your body type, whether the materials match your climate and whether it’s easy for you to get on. You need to like the carrier you choose or you won’t use it and you’ll miss out on all those snuggles and hands-free benefits.
Ensure, too, that any carrier has been third-party tested to conform with mandatory industry standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
For a lot of parents, baby-wearing is so comforting for both parties that there’s some nostalgia once those days pass. At what other time in parenting can you simply bend your neck to kiss your baby? “I remember trekking in a snowstorm eight months pregnant with a my 2-year-old son strapped to my back,” says Amy Morrison, founder of the parenting site Pregnant Chicken. “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when your kids are tethered to you.”
Recently Lewis, author of the book “Feed the Baby Hummus: Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World,” has noticed many of the moms visiting her practice in Fort Worth using ring slings such as the Sakura Bloom ($88-$340), a choice she supports. “They adjust easily for any size body to carry the baby in a variety of positions,” she says. “A mom who is not comfortable openly breast-feeding can use them as a breast cover, as well.” And, bonus for the minimalist mom: “They are simple to pack in a diaper bag.” Like many carriers, it’s important to learn proper use of a ring sling to ensure that the baby is safely secured, Lewis says.
After road-testing over 20 carriers to date for her job as chief technologist and director of engineering for New York’s Good Housekeeping — and for her job as a mother — Rachel Rothman has a number of brands she recommends based on parent preferences. When her first child was a newborn, though, she says, she loved the Solly Baby Wrap ($65-$75), “though it took several video tutorials to nail it!” It stretches to fit different body types and can be worn in different ways depending on the baby’s size, too.
Morrison, who lives in Toronto, says she was “a big fan of carriers,” adding that “they free up your hands and both my kids loved the closeness.” She recommends Ergobaby’s new Omni 360 carrier ($180). It doesn’t require a separate infant insert, so you can use it from birth to toddler, or from 7 to 45 pounds. “I also love that it can be adjusted to fit many body types,” she says, “so if your partner is large or petite, you can use this carrier comfortably. You can carry your baby on your chest facing in, on your chest facing out, on your hip or on your back — it’s a very flexible carrier.”
Sometimes classic is best. Jessica Hartshorn, the entertainment editor for Parents magazine, used the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One ($128.62-$189.95), the “original structured baby carrier,” with her kids. More money gets more structure in a carrier and more bells and whistles, but Hartshorn is a big advocate for not buying the most expensive item every time you purchase a baby product. “Look at your budget and be realistic and don’t feel bad about not being able to afford the best in every category,” Hartshorn advises. Sometimes, too, deals can be had for carriers on sites such as Craigslist and OfferUp, or from group baby-gear sales in your area.
Joanna Goddard, founder of the women’s lifestyle site A Cup of Jo, was overwhelmed by the options when choosing among baby carriers. She decided she needed to focus on three priorities — “for the carrier to be safe, comfortable and easy to put on.” Ergobaby’s Original carrier met her criteria ($115-$120). “Padded straps go over both shoulders,” she says, “and it sits on the hips, so the weight is distributed ergonomically.” The “Ergo” as it’s nicknamed, is machine washable, too, for cleaning up sticky kid moments. “I loved wearing my little one on walks around town,” Goddard says. “It was such an important part of our baby days.”
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