In May 2018, we enjoyed taking part in a challenge for European Babywearing Week, which involved exploring the various types of carriers out there. For people new to babywearing, the range can feel bewildering and it’s hard to work out what might suit you and your child. So using the challenge as our starting point, here’s our Suffolk Mobile Sling Library guide to the main types of carriers out there (and in our library stock).
We’re going to start at the beginning. The first way we all hold our brand new babies…
Everything we do with slings aims to replicate in-arms carrying. Carrying in-arms is not a less worthy cousin of babywearing. Rather, it is the original and the best way of transporting a small person about.
Being carried has such a range of benefits for children. In newborns, being held on an adult’s chest helps them to regulate their temperature and breathing. Babies and toddlers love being held up at the level of the adults around them, so they can see more of the world and be involved in conversations and interactions. Being carried or worn helps children to develop physically, mentally and emotionally.
From birth, babies are primed to be carried and have reflexes which help them to hold on and save themselves if they start to slip. With conscientious carrying, these instinctive reflexes can be developed into deliberate clinging, so that children can be active (and therefore less heavy) participants when they’re being carried. Curious? Mel Cyrille (the babywearing consultant who trained each of us) has written a fascinating book on the subject, detailing how to carry babies and children in a way that helps them to develop their clinging skills, and without causing damage to your body. She also runs courses for parents and educators about in-arms carrying, and Gina is soon to be a trained in-arms peer supporter!
These are ideal for newborns as they support babies all over, giving them that familiar feeling of being entirely enveloped, as they were for so long in the womb.
We support lots of parents to learn how to wrap and tie these, which isn’t as complicated as you might think. One wonderful thing about a stretchy wrap is that you can get baby out and then pop them back in without taking it off yourself. Another great thing is that the wide stretchy fabric which embraces the wearee so snugly, also spreads wide over the wearer’s back, making it a really comfortable carrier.
We can offer help if you are struggling to use your stretchy wrap or think you and your baby are ready to move onto your next carrier. We also offer a special stretchy wrap hire deal for those parents who would like to hire a stretchy for the first few months.
Woven wraps are long lengths of woven fabric (usually cotton, but sometimes blended with wool, hemp, silk, cashmere or linen). They can be used right from day one with a newborn, up through toddlerhood to school age children. They are the most versatile type of carriers, which you can tie different ways to support your small person on your front, hip or back. Because you can tighten each strand separately, you can get the most comfortable carries which remain supportive and comfortable for a really long time.
As with all types of sling, there is a learning curve, but we love them and think they are so worth mastering. Plus, they’re SO BEAUTIFUL!!
From newborn to preschooler, ring slings are great for long carries with teeny-tiny babies, or quick ups for older babies and children. With a ring sling, you can carry your child on your front, hip or, if you’re more experienced, your back. They’re nearly as versatile as a woven wrap without having to wrap and they fold away small, so they’re perfect for stashing in a bag or under a buggy as a “just in case”.
Jen always has one in the boot of the car for the seventy billion times a year she manages to leave the house without a carrier. Unless it’s been packed in the sling library suitcase by mistake…
Meh dai / mei tai / bei dai carriers; call them what you will, they’re a type of carrier with a panel for your small person to sit in and ties which you tie around your waist and across your back or front.
They’re a perfect balance between the simplicity of a buckles style carrier and the comfort of a woven wrap. The pliable fabric wraps snugly around you and in some brands the ties are really wide (they call them “wrap straps”), enabling you to spread the passes over your back and around your baby’s bottom and back. All this makes for a really comfortable carry, even over a long period of time. There are also half buckle carriers, with a buckled waistband and wrap straps; handy because you always know which bit to untie first!
Some are adjustable so you can use them with a newborn, while others are available in larger toddler or preschooler sizes. Wear your child on your front, hip or back, and enjoy the cuddles!
Soft Structured Carriers (Buckles)
Buckles! Actually, soft structured carriers is the official term for this style of carrier, to differentiate between these and structured backpack hiking style carriers. They’re the most popular type of carrier here at Suffolk Mobile Sling Library and we have a large range, including sizes suitable for newborns right up to pre-schoolers.
They’re user friendly, in that all adjustments are done with buckles and webbing and they can be used for front or back carries. Some can even be used for hip carries, so those nosy little people can see their adult and the world around them. They also come in a vast range of designs and fabrics, from plain neutral colours, to brightly coloured designs, ones made from woven wrap material and even mesh ones for hot weather.
Ergonomic buckles carriers are much cheaper than the average pram, but they are an investment, so it’s worth trying some different styles to find one that suits you and your small person. That’s where your local sling library comes in; try out as many as you like to find which one is the best match for your family before you purchase!
Onbuhimos are a style of carriers which originated in Japan for back carries. They’re distinct from other carriers in that they don’t have a waistband, so you can achieve super fast carries in one of these. A favourite way for our smalls (and our bigger smalls) to get up, is to daredevil them up – which is always a crowd pleaser for those passers by who aren’t used to seeing small people flung on backs. Never seen us do it? Check it out in this video from Wrap Them In Love.
Like a ring sling, an onbuhimo folds up small so you can keep it handy in a changing bag. You can get buckled and non buckled options in a wide variety of patterns and colours… but as you can see from our photos, we only have one in our library stock at the moment!
So there you have it! A whistle-stop tour of the wealth of carriers available to help parents and carers to keep their children close as they whizz out on school run, wander along beaches, wash up, explore woodlands, cook dinner and generally get on with life!