There’s a lot of different types of baby carriers:
- There are carriers, which are sometimes called pouches. These are usually soft semi-structured carriers that allow baby to face in, and then graduate to other carrying positions including forward facing and on your back. You normally slip your arms into the straps, like a rucksack.
- There are slings which is a long fabric strip worn across one shoulder.
- There are wraps, which is a long fabric strip that’s wrapped and tied around your body.
- There are also backpack carriers which have a rigid frame and keep little one high on your back. These are most useful for hiking.
Some baby carriers can be used from newborn, although all baby carriers have a minimum weight limit. Most baby carriers will last up to 2-3 years.
Pros and cons
Pros of baby carriers are:
- They give you your hands so you can get stuff done.
- Some babies feels snug, cosy and content which can mean less crying.
- Baby wearing can increase the bond between baby and parent.
- They’re more convenient than using a bulky pram and you can get places much easier, i.e. navigating public transport or busy shops.
- They take up way less space than prams.
- They’re usually easy to adjust so can be worn by multiple carriers, i.e. mum, dad, aunty, etc.
- They’re quite affordable.
- Some support easy breastfeeding, i.e. you can breastfeed in it without taking it off.
- They’re a good workout thanks to the extra weight you’re carrying around.
Cons of baby carriers are:
- They can be quite tricky to master.
- Not ideal in hot, sticky summers.
- Safety – carrying your baby is riskier than popping them in a pram as you’re at risk of falling, slipping, etc.
- Safety – there are concerns around babies suffocating in carriers if they’re incorrectly positioned.
- Safety – baby carriers can put baby at risk of hip dysplasia.
What to consider when buying one
There are no Australian safety standards for baby carriers. Other standards you can look for are the European standard EN 13209-2 or the US standard ASTM F2236.
To keep baby safe in a carrier, avoid pressing baby’s face against the fabric or your body, and avoid positioning them with a curved back with their chin tucked against their chest.
Slings can be a safe way to carry your baby, if used correctly, but they can pose a suffocation risk, especially to babies under 4 months. To use a sling safely, check out Product Safety Australia’s TICKS checklist:
T – Tight: Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you.
I – In view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down.
C – Close enough to kiss: By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head.
K – Keep chin off the chest: A baby should never be curled so that their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing.
S – Supported back: The baby’s back should be supported in a natural position so their tummy and chest are against you.
Another safety consideration is hip dysplasia, which is where the thigh bone misaligns with the hip bone. You might know babies experiencing mild cases. It can be made worse by poor positioning in a baby carrier which lacks enough hip support or if it keeps hips too close together or spread too far apart.
Quickly following safety is comfort. Structured carriers should have thick padded straps and waist bands for support. Ideally, they’re adjustable to fit you, and a range of babywearers, perfectly.
Wraps and slings should use breathable fabric that evenly distributes baby’s weight across your body.
Age and weight range
Baby carriers are most useful when baby is small and immobile. When you’ve got an active toddler, they probably don’t want to be constrained on mum. Choosing a carrier that’s suitable from newborn without requiring a separate insert is helpful. Note the minimum weight limit: most of them are from 3-3.5kg. To get the most out of your investment, some baby carriers will handle up to 20kgs, which is around 3 years.
Because babies are messy, it’s important to have an easy-care baby carrier. To us, that means machine washable. Bonus points for being tumble dryable or quick dry, especially as your baby carrier can become a treasured, well-used item that you need. A lot.
What you get if you spend more
More carrying positions
Most baby carriers offer 2-3 carrying positions. Usually front facing-in, front facing-out and back. Spend more and you’ll get more carrying positions, usually thanks to ‘hip seats’ which allow baby to perch on a padded seat strapped around your hips. Which is a great feature if you’re planning to use the carrier as baby gets older and heavier.
Some carriers offer upgrades to different fabric. Normally, it’s mesh-like fabric that’s lightweight and breathable. Most carriers are made from cotton, which is renowned for its lightweight, breathable nature anyway. This mesh upgrade could provide extra ventilation on hot summer days.
More structured support
The most affordable baby carriers are wraps, coming in under $100. This means they don’t have any shoulder or waist straps or bucket seats for baby. Instead, baby is literally tied to you. If they’re well-designed, they should be as comfortable to use as a structured baby carrier.
Comfort isn’t the only consideration with a structured vs non-structured baby carrier. A structured one can be easier to use – you simply put your arms through the straps, pop baby in, do up the straps and you’re on your way. In comparison, a non-structured one needs you to learn how to correctly and safely wrap baby up in it – no buckles, clips or straps here.
Teething pads and dribble guards
If baby is teething and producing rivers of drools, teething pads and dribble guards can be a useful feature. They’ll protect the carrier and your clothes from mess and should be easily detachable and washable. They’re not essential though.
When you’re wearing a carrier, you might find it hard to reach into your bag or pockets. A storage pocket on the carrier means you can always keep all your essential small items in easy reach . Again, a nice to have but not a must-have.
Covers or hoods
Shading baby from the harsh Aussie sun is a key consideration. Most carriers have a built-in shade that you can pull up and over baby. Others come with a separate sun cover or hood, which tends to be a more expensive, yet less convenient feature – seriously, who needs something else to not lose?
Editor and co-founder, Cosier
Cosier is your modern guide to shopping. We help you buy better which means buying less – it’s good for you, your wallet and the planet.
Each week we set out to find everyday products for your home that solve your needs. Our guides feature key findings and need-to-know facts so you can make a quick, confident buy – because who’s got time to waste trawling the shops when you can shop from the comfort of your PJs?
With Cosier, you’ll find products that are a great fit for most Aussies. Products that have more to offer than trending on social media, flashy features or a rock-bottom price. Products that will last and won’t end up in landfill. Products that are truly worth buying.
Sarah is a Cosier co-founder and editor. She’s obsessed with all things digital (including but not limited to animal-related content and using GIFs in messaging apps) so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to move into the world of online shopping. She devotes way too much time trying to find unique things online that are made in a planet-friendly way. Shopping local gives her the warm fuzzies too. She firmly believes in slow fashion, only buying second-hand books and that savoury scones are not a thing. She’s also convinced the 90s are 10 years ago.
You may also like to read: