Parents today have many choices when searching for ways to carry their children easily and comfortably. Besides strollers and infant carriers, which are also car seats, baby carriers typically consist of front carriers, slings or wraps, and baby backpacks. While these all vary dramatically in construction, they share the same basic goal of securely strapping your child to either your back or your chest. Many parents utilize baby carriers to more easily care for their child while keeping their hands free, and others use it as a part of attachment parenting, which emphasizes regular physical contact with your child.
Front and Back Baby Carriers
The front carrier, which may convert to a back carrier, consists of a fabric seat that is attached to straps that cross the chest and back, and attach around the waist. Infants as young as one week can sit in the front baby carrier, facing the parent’s chest. A flap can be flipped up to support the infant’s neck and back, and leg holes allow the baby’s legs to dangle. Soft fabric helps to keep the baby ventilated and comfortable. When the baby is able to hold his head up unassisted, he can be turned to face out, and the support flap can be folded down so he can see the world from the safety of his baby carrier. Carrying a baby, even a newborn, can get uncomfortable after a while, so most front carriers feature padded shoulder and waist straps, as well as a means to adjust straps for different sized babies and parents. Most front carriers are easy to care for, and can be machine washed. Front baby carriers range in price from $15 to $160 US Dollars (USD), and can accommodate children up to 25 pounds (11.3 kg).
Slings and Wraps
Slings, or wraps, have existed in cultures around the world for millennia. Basic models are simple fabric bands that slip over the head, over one shoulder, crossing the chest and back, and resting around the opposite hip. Babies are then placed either in the front or back. Slings are especially accommodating of newborn babies, as they place them in a very natural sleeping position, curled up against their mother’s chest. These types of baby carriers are very versatile, and can be used for a number of carrying positions, including a cradled position on his back, facing his mother’s chest, sitting up in a forward, or kangaroo position, sitting up facing his parent’s chest, and resting on his parent’s hip.
Slings can accommodate children up to 36 pounds (16.3 kg), or until the parent finds the child too heavy. They can be made out of many different materials, but cotton is typically used due to its versatility, durability, ease of care and comfort. Some slings may feature padded areas for the baby, padded shoulder, adjustable shoulder strap and pockets for pacifiers or other necessities. Slings that don’t feature adjustable straps may come in small to extra large sizes. Many moms opt to make their own slings, but many are available, typically from around $30 to $150 USD.
For hiking, or outdoor activities that may require a parent to carry his child on his back, baby backpacks are the preferred type of baby carrier. These look like typical hiking backpacks with internal or external frames, but also feature a section for a child to ride comfortably and securely. For children from six months of age (preferably if they can sit unassisted) up to 50 pounds (22.7 kg), baby backpacks function not only to carry your child, but they also accommodate hiking gear and supplies in generous storage compartments. They often feature a stand to hold the child up when not strapped on your back, a canopy to provide shade and a five point safety harness for the child. Functioning much like traditional hiking backpacks, they have padded shoulder and waist straps to help distribute the weight comfortably. Depending on the brand and features, baby backpacks range in price from $100 to $200 USD.
Written by O. Wallace
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