- The number one rule of babywearing safety – protect baby’s airway. This is particularly important for babies under 4 months and doubly so for low-birthweight babies or those with breathing issues. Baby’s airway is like a straw; bend it (chin to chest position) and no air can get through. Baby should ideally be in an upright tummy to tummy position (unless nursing) with her head turned to the side and facing slightly up. The carrier should never cover baby’s face.
- Regularly check your carrier for signs of wear and defects. When purchasing a carrier ensure the maker is compliant with industry safety standards (new carriers should come with a product registration card). When buying used, ask questions about where the carrier is from and its condition. Finally, be wary of “too good to be true” deals.
- Ideally a baby carrier supports baby just as your arms would – in an upright tummy to tummy position with the knees slightly higher than the bum (a sit squat position) and the carrier offering support to the knees. This position can be achieved in a front, hip (for babies with trunk control), or back (for experienced wearers) carry.
- Many carriers are not one-size-fits-all in that they may fit certain wearers better than others or may not be suitable for both newborns and toddlers – there is no one best carrier!
- Wraps: Wraps are pieces of cloth in varying lengths. They can be used for front, back, and hip carries. Wraps are the simplest carrier in terms of structure, but may take a bit longer to learn to use. Wraps are a good choice for someone who wants to do many different carries with the same carrier.
- Meh Dai/Bei Dai: Meh dai are soft bodied carries with a tie waist and shoulder straps that come around baby and tie. They can be used for front and back carries (it is possible to hip carry with some meh dais). Meh dais are a good choice for someone who likes the adjustability of a wrap, but wants something slightly faster to get on. A podaegi is a related carrier – basically a meh dai without waist straps. An onbuhimo is also similar to a meh dai but has rings at the waist instead of straps; the shoulder straps are threaded through these rings.
- Buckle/Soft Structured Carriers: SSCs are soft bodied carriers that have buckle waist and shoulder straps (there are some versions that have either a tie waist or tie shoulder straps); they are used for front and back carries (there are some that can hip carry as well). SSCs are a good choice for someone who wants a quick carrier that doesn’t require long fabric or straps to deal with.
- Ring Slings: Ring slings are one shoulder carriers – a piece of cloth threaded through rings; they are used primarily for hip or tummy to tummy front carries (experienced wearers can back carry an older baby/toddler with a ring sling). Ring slings are a good choice for someone looking for a quick and compact carrier.
- Pouches: Pouches are a piece of fabric sewn in a loop that forms a pouch for baby to sit in; they are a single shoulder carrier and can be used for hip and tummy to tummy front carries. Pouches are a good choice for someone looking for a quick and very compact carrier.