So you are new to babywearing and you’re about to have a baby or you have a newborn or your sister has a new baby or your friend is pregnant and wants to know about carriers… whatever the scenario, there is a number of options to choose from.
Ideally, your very best option is to get to a place where you can try a number of styles and brands and different things before you make a decision of what’s going to work best for you.
In lieu of that, where do you start? The market is overwhelmed with different options nowadays, particularly with buckle carriers alone, which can make it confusing or lead to people feeling overwhelmed for choice. It is common place to ask for recommendations from friends and family, which may be helpful if you can try the option they like for yourself as well but otherwise is limited in its usefulness.
It’s because carriers are like jeans, it’s a common comparison because what fits you best and what preferences you have are very much individual. What your friend find works best for them, may not be the same for you. I also commonly get asked, ‘what is the best carrier?’ but unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer to that question. The best one is the one that fits your needs.
The key for anything beyond your own personal comfort is to look for something that is ergonomic for you both. As the wearer, consider your posture when you are trying something on, is the carrier pulling you in the wrong places? Yes, try something else.
For our babies, ergonomic carrying is that which supports the natural development of their back, spine and hips, one that makes sure their airway is clear and pelvis tucked, which we commonly check by asking, “are their knees higher than their hips?”
As a very broad overview, you have four different kind of categories if you like…
There are wraps including both stretchy and woven, one shouldered options like ring slings and pouches, there are things like meh dai or onbuhimo which for this purpose I will just lump into one broad ‘other’ category and finally there are your buckle carriers, which is the types of the ones with the big marketing budgets that are more commonly recommended probably because they are rather familiar given they usually resemble a kind of backpack design.
Once you kind of get an idea of what kind of style you might be looking at, within those different style categories, there’s also a number of brands and different options. So it can get quite overwhelming or confusing if you’re new to carrying. If there is sling meet in your local area, that’s your best bet to find out a variety of different options.
Alternatively, on my Patreon account you can sign up to check out a virtual sling meet of sorts and see a further breakdown of each of these – https://www.patreon.com/babywearingwithjess
In lieu of that, here is a bit of a quick outline of each of your different categories:
Wraps – stretchies:
Stretchy wraps are great for newborns, perfect for that fourth trimester phase they are soft and snuggly. You can pre tie them and rock around all day, lifting and securing baby in and out without needing to take it off!
When it comes to stretchy wraps, they are not all created equally. If you are yet to invest, I would suggest you look for something with a ‘two way’ stretch. SnuggleBug is an affordable NZ brand, Boba is another great option. If you want something super lush, Island Customs bamboo blend is a definite fab of mine that you can get customised with beautiful handwoven prints on the front and all sorts.
The extra stretch in a two way, as opposed to a one way stretch, affords you some extra room for error. You don’t have to be as precise with your tying to make it comfortable. A one way stretchy, the likes of Moby is still very common in the marketplace due to their huge marketing budgets. It’s very common for me to come across these and other one way stretchies. The fact they only stretch one way doesn’t make them any in any less useful or inferior in anyway, it just makes you have to be a little more precise with your finishing and the way that you tie your carrier.
Wraps – woven:
These have probably the highest learning curve, but with that comes the greatest flexibility and endless range of options. Woven Wraps come in a huge variety of different blends and compositions, weights (GSM) and lengths and beautiful patterns colours and designs. They deserve more than one post to themselves and are great for newborns through to carrying adults if you wanted. Second hand is great for woven wraps around things because someone else has done the hard work of breaking the carrier for you and you can find many bargains in today’s market.
One Shouldered carriers:
The likes of your pouch or ring slings fit in this category and are renowned for being awesome for quick ups and downs among other things. Pouch slings are fitted to the wearer using a ‘seat belt’ measurement from your shoulder to your hip bone. As such they are not a great option if multiple wearers are going to use them as they may need more than one size, in saying that, they are often inexpensive and compact when not being worn making them a common favourite as a backup in your bag option for many.
Ring slings are similar in that they act like a pouch around you over one shoulder but they are adjustable. Essentially a long piece of fabric with two rings sewn into one end, the pouch is looped around. Open tail ring slings like this, particularly those made with a woven fabric are amazingly versatile. You can wear a tiny newborn and a five year old in the same sling without taking it off and only needing a little bit of adjusting.
You can purchase locally converted ring slings from places like K.I.Designs, Aroha Textiles or Island Customs or purchase brands such as Diva, Soul, Didymos, Girasol which are affordable options. Second hand woven converted ring slings are a great option, sometimes they are more soft and squishy this way because someone else has done the hard work of breaking them in for you.
Meh dai (and others):
Only clumped together as these styles are much less common in the new Zealand marketplace, there are other incredibly useful options like Meh Dai. These are somewhere in between your buckle and wrap options. Essentially a rectangular piece of fabric with a waist band and straps sewn in, it affords you some of the benefits of a woven wrap (like getting a younger babe on your back, mouldable carries and fancy finishes) with the accessibility of less of a learning curve. Again a great option from newborn right up to school age or older, you can do a front, hip or back carry.
Some common brands of meh dai’s in New Zealand among others are Kozy Carrier, Diva Essenza, Fidella, Soul as well as conversions made by talented NZ brands like Tangelo Craft and Island Customs. Again the second hand market is a great option however there are more home made options common in this category, which is fine if made well but maybe something to consider. Online, avenues like the NZBWMP Sales group on Facebook, which has a strict criteria for sellers is a great place to look.
Onbihumo is another ‘other style that has seen increasing interest from western markets in recent years. It is a buckle carrier in its modern form and I sometime would include it in that category for demonstration purposes, the only difference is, it doesn’t feature a waistband. These are typically recognised as coming into their own with an older babe in a high back carry but can be used on your front as well.
In New Zealand we commonly see are Soul, Sakura Bloom, Lenny Lamb or Didymos. Again talented NZ converters, like Island Customs can convert these to your request.
As I previously mentioned, buckle carriers are the most commonly known of carriers when it comes to the mainstream public and babywearing. They are the most similar to something that we can all understand and recognize which is a backpack. They have a buckle around our waist and they go over our shoulders and clip behind your shoulder blades. Now days buckle carriers alone are an overwhelming category of choice! There are so many brands and is very dependent on the individual and the individual fit of the carrier as to what will work with you work for you. Some brands have a bigger marketing budget than others and as such are more well known than others. But that doesn’t mean that they’re superior in anyway or even that they going to get the best fit for you.
Your best option is to try a few different styles either ask your friends who may own a couple of different brands go to a shop which has a variety of different options to sleep still have a great range will see someone like a consultant who can or sling meet where someone can show you impartially a range of options which you can then get an idea of if they fit best for you.
Some commonly known brands in the New Zealand market are Manduca, Tula, Boba, Soul, Ergo, Lilliebaby, Lenny Lamb, Beco, just to name a few which is similar to the tip of the iceberg. You can also buy specially converted NZ made options in this category as well!
On my Patreon account you can follow along for a further break down of each of these categories, where I can highlight the differences and variation in the options available to you on the market and answer any questions or make videos as requested. Consider it the online version of me holding your hand through a carrier selection or your intro to babywearing (or consider it a place you could potentially upskill or learn some tricks or tips you are hoping for, or even just a way to support me making more online content 😉)…
If you’re currently pregnant and wanting to get a carrier for when your baby arrives, rings slings or a stretchy wrap would be my best suggestions for the fourth trimester particularly. That initial phase when your baby is adjusting from being in the womb to being in the world. Beyond that your preference and individual choice will have a large part to play and what you choose as the babywearing option is best for your dyad. If you’re unable to get to a meet hopefully this outline at least provides you some idea of the variety of options available to on the market.
Your best option still is to try before you buy so you don’t waste money or investment in choosing something that isn’t great for you. Borrow from friends, visit a sling meet, hire online, find a store or consultant that can help you explore options, some can come to you!
You can see on the Slingababy NZ website where there is a map of the many various local sling meets around the country or where you can find a consultant such as myself who can help you and assist you in your decisions about carrying your child. Pregnancy is a great time to learn about your variety of options and what might be a preference for you.
However, there is no time that is too early or too late to learn about babywearing. Sometimes occasionally carrying my preschool in a carrier has been a lifesaver for me despite the fact he’s three and a competent walker!
While it might initially seem overwhelming, the choice that you’re afforded to and babywearing options in the market nowadays means that there is you’re sure to find something that will work for both you and your child. And if you need some more support, it’s available to you in a variety of ways.
If it still seems overwhelming, I very much recommend seeking out a consultant in your local area or feel free to message me or follow along for more info on my Patreon account – https://www.patreon.com/babywearingwithjess