Baby carriers aren't new, but they definitely feel new for many of us in the United States. As an alternative to strollers or carriages, some parents choose to use baby "carriers" to transport and hold their babies, whether they're at home or in public. Baby carriers come in different styles, with the three most popular being slings, wraps, and soft-structure carriers.
The concept of "babywearing" in the US goes back to Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician who popularized the concept of "attachment parenting" through his book "The Baby Book" in the early '90s, though families have been "babywearing" across the world for centuries before that.
Of course, a major plus of babywearing is that any adult can do it: A mother, father, aunt, uncle, babysitter, or so on can practice baby carrying, so long as the carrier is the appropriate size and fit. This makes babywearing an attractive option for parents who want to lighten the load of child-rearing or domestic duties at home.
Baby carriers also offer eco-conscious parents a way to cut down on the plastics often associated with traditional seats and strollers. Carriers can also be reused with relative ease. For the crafty parents, there are plenty of tutorials available online for creating your own carrer, though you'll want to ensure your creation is safe and durable before use.
Babywearing is a great option for many families, but may not be right for all kids. Talking to your trusted medical professional about the pros, cons, and possible dangers of babywearing is a great starting point, as is educating yourself about the risks of babywearing and how to keep your baby safe, should you experiment with baby carriers.
Slings are most commonly used with young babies. It is basically a long swathe of fabric that is worn cross-body and attached over the shoulder. As explained at The Mayo Clinic, care should be taken that baby’s face is not covered and that their head doesn’t flop forward. With babies younger than four months, slings can pose a suffocation risk if used incorrectly. If your baby was born prematurely, has a cold, or was born at a low weight, definitely talk to your doctor before using a sling.
Higher end slings like Tula, which are actually slings made from handwoven wraps, are popular choices, as are slings from Seven.
There are stretchy wraps which work great for newborns, but tend to sag and get loose once the baby is heavier. And there are woven wraps, which are made of cotton, linen, bamboo, or blends that have have a lot less give than stretchy wraps. They are often suitable for older babies right on up to toddlers and preschoolers.
Wraps have a very loyal following, with people building a stash of sometimes dozens of different weaves and patterns. Babywearing groups even have lending libraries that allow members to "check out" a wrap for a period of time. One of the most popular wrap brands is Tula, which specializes in beautifully handwoven wraps.
Soft-structured, or buckle carriers, are gaining popularity and are becoming easier to find since big box stores started carrying a few different brands. They strap on and have a top and bottom, or waist and chest, buckle closure. The are easy to put on, easy to adjust, and easy to wear, no intricate wrap origami necessary. Many can be worn either in a front carry or back carry, and can generally be used from newborns to kids around 50 pounds.