Baby carriers allow you to carry on with your normal day to day tasks and hold your baby at the same time. Being carried around is often soothing to a new baby, and if you need your hands free at the same time, a baby carrier can be the answer. There are many different types of baby carrier that can be used both inside and outside the home.
Many new mothers believe that babywearing can help to forge close bonds between mother and baby and some carriers can be used from soon after birth. Fabric wraps are comfortable for both mother and baby and keep the little one close and well supported.
However, they can take a little practice to put on and initially you might need some help from another person to get the material wrapped around you and the baby securely. Stretchy fabric wraps also have the advantage of being light and you can also position your baby so that you can breastfeed your little one.
Inward facing baby carriers
Inward facing baby carriers are usually suitable for newborns but you should check the manufacturers’ recommendations for minimum weight before using them for tiny babies. These carriers offer the support that small babies need for their head and neck as well as keeping them close and comfortable.
Front-facing baby carriers
Once your baby can support their own head well, usually at around five months old, they are ready for a front facing baby carrier. Front facing carriers allow the baby to look around and see all kinds of stimulating sights as well as to exercise their arms and legs. Tired babies can always be returned to the inward facing position for a nap.
Front-facing carriers can be used until the baby is too heavy to be comfortably carried on the front.
Back baby carriers
You will probably want to change to a back carrier by the time the baby weighs around 16 lbs. Back carriers can be used until the age of about three years. They are excellent for going for country walks where pushchairs would be unsuitable and they allow the little one to have a great view of their surroundings.
These can also be used when your baby grows slightly heavier, but are not generally suitable for using for a long period.
Choosing a baby carrier
Think about what you want the baby carrier for before deciding which type to choose. If you want to keep your newborn close to you throughout the day, a wrap will probably be the design of choice. If you simply want to use the carrier for occasional shopping trips, a lightweight carrier may be preferable.
It is important to ensure that the baby carrier you choose will provide the support your baby needs for their head and neck. It will also need to keep their legs in the correct position, so make sure that it will support the thigh and allow the hips to sit comfortably. Further advice on this subject is available from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
A baby carrier also needs to be comfortable for you to wear and some designs may suit some body types better than others, so try a few different designs to see what works for you.
You may also want to ensure that you choose one that is simple to use, especially if you are alone, and that any clips are easy to fasten and unfasten.
Temperature is also important, and a lightweight baby carrier will be easier to use for extended periods than a heavier one.
Some baby carriers are designed to be used over a long period as the baby grows and these can be a more economical purchase than buying a sling carrier for a newborn and progressing to a structured baby carrier later on.
If both you and your partner are planning on using the baby carrier, the design will need to suit you both and the size will have to be easy to adjust. The straps should be comfortable and wide enough to ensure that the weight of your little one is distributed evenly and does not place excessive strain on your back, shoulders or neck. Make sure that the carrier is well padded around areas such as the leg holes and headrest so that the baby will also be comfortable and well supported.
How long can you keep the baby in a carrier?
Small babies will need to be fed and changed regularly, every two to three hours at first, so you will be changing their position then. If your baby is in a wrap or a sling, ensure you check them frequently and always ensure that their face isn’t pressed against you or the carrier.
Older babies can stay in a carrier for longer, but should not be kept in the same position for too long without a change. Some carrier manufacturers publish guidelines and you can usually tell if a baby is unhappy or needs a change.
As with any baby equipment, carriers need to be maintained in good condition to ensure that they are safe and fit for purpose. Carry out regular checks on clips, buckles and the fabric itself to make sure that nothing is becoming worn and potentially dangerous.