Choosing a Baby Carrier
Before buying a baby carrier, consider your lifestyle: A committed baby-wearer who opts for a carrier over a stroller most days will want one that gets high marks for comfort over long periods of wear. A new mom who wants a carrier "just in case" or for short periods of use may not need a pricey, ultra-adjustable model. Also consider how long you plan to carry: If you see yourself carrying your toddler, buy a carrier with a higher weight rating that allows a variety of positions. This will keep your child from getting restless and help keep carrying comfortable as your child grows.
Here are some other baby carrier tips:
- Always follow directions. Baby carriers are generally very safe. However, the improper use of carriers, and wraps and slings in particular, can lead to a dangerous situation called positional asphyxiation. This can result in suffocation. Be sure to keep your baby's face in clear view, consult your doctor on use with very small newborns, and read and follow all instructions for your carrier.
- Support is key. The weight of the baby should be distributed evenly between your hips and shoulders. There should be good head support for infants, and the baby's hips should be fully supported. Experts recommend carriers that keep hips flexed instead of allowing legs to hang straight, which can interfere with hip development.
- Look for padded, breathable fabric. In order to be comfortable, a baby carrier needs good padding on the shoulder straps, the hip belt and the area where the baby's head lies. However, it should be made from a breathable fabric to allow body heat to escape so baby and parent don't get too hot.
- Try before you buy. If a baby carrier is too complex, it won't get used. If possible, try it before you buy it. This includes putting it on and bending and lifting and reaching with the carrier on. It should also be easy to insert and remove the baby, ideally without waking a sleeping child. Some carriers also allow nursing mothers to breastfeed – if that's a priority, test it out. Be sure you can return the carrier if it doesn't work out.
- Check adjustability, especially for multiple users. Many carriers accommodate a range of sizes, but others come sized just like clothing. If mom, dad, grandma and auntie all want to get in on the baby-wearing action, pick a carrier that is highly adjustable for a range of users.
- Consider a gender-neutral design. Baby carriers are incredibly durable. All of the baby carriers we reviewed get high marks for long-term use, even after repeated washings. If you're planning to have more children, think about picking a fabric that will work for a boy or girl, as well as for the man or woman carrying it.