Tula, Ergo Baby, Boba, Beco, Lillebaby, Cuddly Wrap, Sakura. Woven wrap, soft structured, mei tai, stretchy wrap, sling. What are the differences? What does all this mean? There are just so MANY!
There are so many brands that it is hard to know which one is the right one for you, your baby and lifestyle. Here are the basics of choosing a baby carrier that fits your lifestyle, your baby and YOU!
Our first recommendation that we make is to have one carrier for the newborn stage and one for the older baby/toddler stage. The needs for a newborn and older baby/toddler are much different. Newborns love to be close. They love to feel warm, hear your heartbeat and smell your body. They came out of a tight, closed up, dark space where they heard primarily your voice, listened to your heartbeat and cuddled up tight. Which is why we love recommending a stretchy wrap, woven wrap or sling for the newborn stage. The wraps and slings bring baby nice and close to you with a soft fabric. They keep them warm, well bundled and cozy. As babies age, they like to move more and see what is going on. They want more autonomy and as a result we recommend soft structured carriers where babe can be worn on the front or back.
The stretchy wrap is my favourite newborn carrier because I find it distributes the weight nicely and has a relatively simple learning curve. Keep in mind that stretchy wraps will only work well for the first 4-6 months (but boy will it be worth it!).
The ring sling is all around handy carrier to have in your "stash" (this is a word that avid babywearers use to describe their collection of carriers). Slings are fantastic in the newborn stage and work well as baby ages as a hip carrier. Since they are one shouldered some people find that they are not as comfortable as a woven or stretchy wrap or a soft structured carrier because they do not distribute the weight evenly (I agree!). However, they can be rolled up easily in your purse and once you get the hang of using one it can be put on quickly to soothe your baby or to run into a shop. We love our True North Ring Slings - they are made in Canada with the softest linen!
Soft structured carriers, or as I like them to call them back pack style carriers, are a multi purpose carriers with clips, buckles and straps that can be worn from newborn right up to 45 lbs (more or less for some brands). They are an all purpose, universal carrier that works well for most families.
They can be worn on the front or back (usually on the back once the baby is more than 6-12 months old). I still use one of these with my almost 4 year old when we go on long hikes. We use the same one for our 1.5 year old much more regularly (while cooking dinner, teething, out for a walk in the woods). View our soft structure carriers HERE.
In an ideal world, it would be great to have a stretchy wrap, ring sling and soft structured carrier. If you have a budget for this type of arrangement you will love having the choice of which carrier to use and when. But alas this is not possible for everyone, nor does everyone necessarily want that many carriers. One is often enough for many families.
How do I decide which brand? That is a tough question and one that we get asked often. If you are lucky enough to live in Kingston, we have a wonderful Babywearing Tutorial and Loan Program whereby you can learn about all the styles in store and then try out 2 carriers in the comfort of your home.
If you are shopping online, we are more than happy to discuss with you via phone 613 344 0390 or email firstname.lastname@example.org which one might be best for you.
There are many factors to consider - size of your body, size of your baby, lifestyle, etc. Here is a quick run down of how each one stacks up:
Overall, the Tula Free to Grow is a carrier that fits most easily and can be used with baby from 7-45 lbs truly and comfortably. The infant insert is incorporated into the design and fits newborn babies beautifully! I can't tell you how many parents with new babies we have fitted in this carrier and it just cradles the baby perfectly.
The Lillebaby is a supportive carrier with many additional features. If you are simplistic parent this is not the carrier for you, there are too many bells and whistles. If you are a bells and whistles kind of person, then this carrier is for you. If you have back problems as well the added on Lumbar Support will treat your body very well! While this carrier does offer many features one of the drawbacks I find is that it is very bulky and big. Smaller, petite frame? This may not be the right fit for you (consider the Tula Free to Grow or Ergo Original instead).
The Ergo Baby 360 is designed well for smaller babies and the first 1.5 years! If you are not planning on carrying a toddler around, then this trim carrier will do you well in the first year of their life! If you are looking for a carrier that will last until babe is 3 or 4, look towards the Tula Free to Grow or Lillebaby.
The Original Ergo Baby Carrier is our most basic and affordably priced carrier. I used this carrier for all 4 of my children and it did the job - well! Nothing fancy except the giant pocket at the front.
As an example, a family that lives in a downtown core without a vehicle may want to have at least two carriers. They may want a soft structured carrier that has a tall back and wide base so that it can accommodate larger children (since they may be doing lots of walking) and a secondary carrier such as a sling for quick trips. Whereas a family with a vehicle who doesn't spend much time outdoors may not need the same features. They may just want a carrier to use casually around the house when their baby is younger as they will be using their stroller as the baby gets older.
If you would like to purchase a carrier on your own without assistance, we are CONFIDENT that you will be happy with ANY of our choices. All of these brands are well tested, well loved and extremely reliable brands. That way we can help you make the best decision possible for your family - after all we have fitted new moms, dads and even grandparents with thousands of baby carriers over the past 8 years!