Car seats and strollers are great, and there’s a time and place for both. But ask any parent what one of their top baby gear items is and I guarantee they’ll tell you a baby carrier. Baby carriers allow you to keep your baby close and content and your hands free so you can hold and bond with baby while going about your day normally. With a baby carrier, you can finally load the dishwasher and go on a hike to work off those last few pesky pounds of baby weight that won’t magically disappear.
But how do you choose the right baby carrier? I mean, there are so many types, brands and features out there it’s almost too intimidating to start looking. It’s really not intimidating, though. Once you know what qualities to look for, and decide which ones matter most to you, you can purchase the best baby carrier for your parenting lifestyle.
Is your baby carrier safe?
When it comes to kids, safety always, always comes first. To be sure you’re baby wearing safely, follow the T.I.C.K.S. Rule:
- In view at all times
- Close enough to kiss
- Keep chin off the chest
- Supported back.
Choose a baby carrier that does all of the above. It needs to have a seat and straps that keep your baby secure, as well as belts, buckles and/or snaps that are sturdy and work properly. Only when your baby is secure will he or she feel safe inside the carrier and will you feel safe carrying them in it.
Is it comfortable?
If your baby carrier isn’t comfortable—for you and for baby—you won’t use it.
For your comfort, look for one that has wide, padded straps that are also adjustable. All this will keep you from having neck, shoulders and back pain during and after babywearing. For your baby, find one that has padded leg holes that aren’t so small they’ll constrict your baby’s legs, but not too big either. You might also consider getting a baby carrier with a padded headrest since your baby will likely be sleeping in it quite a bit. And a comfort consideration for both of you is the fabric. Be sure to choose a comfortable fabric and one that’s a lighter material (and a lighter color) if you live in a hot climate, plan on babywearing outdoors during the summer, or are prone to sweating.
Is it convenient to wear, use, and clean?
The best baby carrier should make your life as a parent easier, so get one that’s easy to use and easy to clean.
Parenting is hard: With what seems like hourly feedings and regular diaper and outfit changes, you’re going to be moving your baby in and out of a carrier often. You don’t want a carrier that’s difficult to put on and take off, especially if you’re going to be alone and one-handed most of the time while using yours. Get one that’s simple to use; one that doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to put on, put your baby in and out, and take off yourself.
Convenience also includes cleaning the carrier. Babies and toddlers are messy, so try and buy one that’s either machine washable or that you can easily clean with a wipe or damp cloth.
Is your baby carrier versatile?
Variety is great for you and your baby. It gives you options so the two of you are always comfortable and content, and it allows you to effortlessly switch things up for whatever the baby is feeling (because their moods can change quickly) or whatever you need to do.
If you want to babywear from infancy up through toddler years, you want a baby carrier that will grow as your baby grows. It should give you a variety of holding options, i.e. front wearing, front or inward facing, backpack style and hip carry. And if you plan on breastfeeding, opt for a baby carrier that is nursing-friendly and makes doing so easy.