Slings, wraps & other baby carriers — Why, How & Where?

August 2, 2011. Posted in: Parenting FAQ

Using a baby carrier can make life easier for you and is good for your baby. Following are some of the advantages of “wearing” your baby (from The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears):

  • It’s convenient. You can breastfeed discretely in most baby carriers while working, getting things done around the house, shopping or eating in a restaurant. If you have a baby who wants to be held all the time, this is an easy way to meet her needs while doing other things.
  • It helps moms care for older siblings. Carrying your baby in a carrer can give you the mobility to care for your older children.
  • It helps some babies to breastfeed better. Some babies, particularly those who are tense or tend to arch their backs, breastfeed better while moving. Also, babies who are slow to gain weight (for no apparent reason) have been known to gain better if carried in a carrier for several hours a day, since proximity to mom encourages babies to eat more frequently.
  • It reduces crying and colic. A 1986 study of 99 mother-infant pairs (reported in Pediatrics) showed that carrying babies at least three hours a day reduces crying and fussing 43% during the day and 51% at night. Babies are happier because they have less need to cry, and parents enjoy their babies more as a result.
  • It enhances learning. Carried babies have enhanced visual and auditory alertness, and increased “quiet alertness” times. Carrying a baby promotes cognitive development and speech development, since babies are exposed to more experiences and conversations.
  • Carried babies are involved in their parents’ world. They participate in life, rather than see it as a spectator.
  • Carrying your baby promotes bonding and enhances parents’ feelings of competence. A higher frequency of feeding and touching stimulates mothering hormones, and frequent carrying encourages and speeds the development of a mutual reading of each other’s cues.

Finding a carrier that is right for you

There are many types of baby carriers. These include adjustable slings with rings (these come padded or unpadded), pouch slings that are not adjustable, asian-style carriers, and wraps that simply tie on.

Look at photos of the different types, and, if possible, try on several different types, brands and sizes of baby carrier to see which suits you best.

Have a baby carrier, but not sure how to use it?

There are many different positions for baby in slings, wraps and other baby carriers – lying down in the cradle hold is NOT the only option: baby can sit up and face the front, sit up and face you, lie down, sit on your hip, or even ride on your back.

Many areas have baby wearing support groups, where you can learn to use different carriers and even borrow carriers to try out.  Breastfeeding support groups (La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA, etc.) can also be a good place to try out a carrier & find out how to use one, since many breastfeeding moms use baby carriers.

See below for additional how-to resources.

My sling experiences

(This was written when my son was one! I carried him in a sling for over 3 years.)

I love my sling. I’ve been using one for the last four years (since my daughter was 6 months old), and I’ve collected several different ones over the years. My son is now one and has been carried in a sling since he was a day old. My daughter rode in the sling until she was three and I was too pregnant to wear it. We don’t go anywhere without the sling. My daughter hated strollers & shopping carts, and I soon found out that it’s much easier to maneuver with a sling than a stroller. I now save the stroller for when I need something for carrying things other than the baby (packages, lunch, etc.), or when we’ll be gone all day (like an amusement park). Both of my children have liked to sleep & nurse while I’m shopping. With my daughter, I started out with a front carrier (which I liked in the beginning), but by the time she was 6 months it was hurting my back and was very hot (summer in central Florida – yuck).

My sling is much cooler than the front pack, doesn’t give me a backache, and I can nurse in it. My toddler can still ride in it (unlike a front carrier) and there are many different positions for carrying a baby/child. I personally know a couple of people who used a sling until their child was 35-40 pounds. You can also use it for a changing pad, a blanket, or for playing peek-a-boo (and lots of other things). We go to Busch Gardens pretty often, and I carry my (22 pound) son in it for 3-4 hours at a time.

……………………………………

When my youngest child was born, I discovered wraps and soft structured carriers (good ones are so much easier to find than when my older kids were little!). I’m a great fan of stretchy wraps for younger babies, and a good soft structured carrier is great for older babies and toddlers. I still carry (and breastfeed) my youngest (at 3 years old & 28 lbs) in a soft structured carrier pretty frequently.

Related articles

Sling/carrier reviews and comparisons

Make your own baby carrier

Various

Adjustable- unpadded

Adjustable- padded

Non-adjustable (also called pouch, tube or pocket sling)

Wraps

 

Asian-style carriers

Other

Babywearing instructions

Various

Adjustable

(if you have any type of adjustable sling, you can use any/all of these instructions)

Non-adjustable (also called tube or pocket sling)

Wraps

Other

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