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Choosing a Baby Carrier

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care

Most parents find a baby carrier to be invaluable during the first year of their baby’s life. There are many types and styles to choose from. The different types of baby carriers fall into three main categories: slings, front packs and backpacks.

Slings

These are made of fabric and are available in a wide variety of styles. They "sling" sash-style over your shoulder to hold baby in front of you. Slings offer many benefits to both baby and parent. Here are some of the most commonly cited by experienced sling-users:

An important note about baby slings: They can be confusing to use at first, and your baby can slide out of the bottom if not positioned correctly. Try to find an experienced sling-user, a how-to video, or a knowledgeable sales clerk to help you master the art of baby slinging. Your local La Leche League leader may be able to offer pointers, too.

Slings are very much worth the effort. I bought a sling when my second baby, Vanessa, was born. I couldn’t figure it out, so I left it in the closet. When my third baby, David, was born, I attended a mother-baby class, learned how to use my sling ¾ and was immediately hooked! I used slings extensively with my third and fourth babies and found them to be a marvelous baby care tool.

Parent Tip

"I put my newborn in the sling so I could sit in bed at night with my toddler and read books. It kept us all together, my hands free and gave reading time to BOTH boys!"
~ Amy, mother of AJ (4) and Ryder (2)

Front Packs

Front pack carriers are similar to slings in use but are more complex in their structure. They have a seat that attaches to the front of you with straps that crisscross behind you; these straps secure the carrier to your body. Here’s what you need to know about front packs:

Backpacks

A back carrier is similar to a camping backpack. It has a seat for your baby that attaches to your back with a frame and straps that cross over your shoulders. A few things to know about backpacks:

How do you decide which carrier to use?

No single baby carrier is perfect for all parents. Every parent has different needs, preferences and proportions. Many people actually begin with one type of carrier and move on to another when their babies get older.

First, think about how you plan to use a carrier. Will you use it primarily at home, instead of a stroller while away from home, or both? Do you already have a stroller, or must your carrier fill all your baby-carrying needs? Defining its purpose will help you choose which carrier is best for you. Read the package information (or talk to other parents who own a similar carrier) to learn which purposes it serves best and to determine if it matches your needs.

The very best way to decide? Try carriers on ¾ either at the store or with a friend who owns one. Actually putting your baby in the carrier will give you the best idea as to fit, but if you are shopping without your baby (or don’t have your baby yet!) try using a stuffed animal from the toy department.

Parent Tip

"A baby carrier can help new adoptive parents to decline politely those who want to hold your baby while he still needs exclusive Mommy or Daddy contact. The carrier can be especially helpful in difficult situations such as visits to your child's orphanage or former foster parents."*
~ ¾ Laurel, mother of 16-month-old Crystal

This is also an excellent idea for parents who blanch at the thought of their tiny newborn being passed around the room from person to person!

Points to consider when purchasing a carrier:

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

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