My neighbor has a 2 week old who is still pretty small (don’t think she’s hit 7lbs yet) and she wants to do a carrier (especially when walking her lab/australian shepherd mix). I got her a mei tai type carrier (though the pouch seems much smaller than when I had a baby hawk), and i think she has an ergo type one also. I still need to help her figure out the mai tai wrap in general, but she is worried about which one gives the best support for this newborn time. Thoughts on how to use what she has best or other carriers that are better for this (and future) stage?
First of all, Michelle, you are an awesome neighbor! The gift of babywearing is one that just keeps on giving, for years. Your instincts are good - the mei tai is a great sling for longer excursions. While I love my one-shoulder slings for quick trips, carrying the baby’s weight spread evenly between both shoulders and the hips makes for a much more comfortable long-term wearing experience.
I’ll make a compilation of some good babywearing options in case we need to refer back to this subject in the future! :)
If you’re new to the lexicon of babywearing, QuirkyBaby.com has an excellent little resource page with everything you need to know to educate yourself on the ins and outs of various carrier types. TheBabywearer.com has a exhaustive pictorial guide on Correct Positioning in various carriers. It’s definitely worth checking out if you are new to babywearing and want to make sure you’re carrying your baby safely and securely!
The mei tai style carrier is great for newborns. Thicker shoulder straps and waist support make it very nice for longer stints of babywearing, too, like dog walking. You can wear very small babies tummy-to-tummy (with legs curled up inside the carrier), in a slightly cradled position, or even front facing. Newborns can ride quite high in the carrier - up near the mama’s collar bone. Older kids can ride tummy-to-tummy with legs frogged out, on the hip, or like a monkey on your back.
If you’re not intimidated by extraordinary lengths of fabric, the wrap style carrier could be for you. It is infinitely adjustable and extraordinarily cozy. Moby wrap is probably the best known brand, but the less expensive Sleepy Wrap has a lot of fans, too.
An alternative for the wrapping-impaired is the Baby Ktan. Its two loops of stretchy fabric are basically like a pre-wrapped wrap.
Non-stretchy, woven wraps are much better for larger babies. Often the stretchiness of the stretchy wraps will turn into saggyness all too quickly once a toddler gets in and starts wiggling around. Didymos, Dolcino, and Ellaroo make some beautiful woven wraps.
Soft Structured Carrier
The SSC is my favorite carrier for long-wearing. I just did a 12-hour stint at Disneyland, carrying my 22 pound 7 month old in our Ergo the entire time. Yes, I was tired at the end of the day, but I wasn’t aching or sore! She rode on my back, on my front facing-in, side-cradled and nursing, and in my own custom-ride: a kind of side-saddle half-facing out position. The Ergo totally paid for itself that day!
Naturally, I’m going to recommend the Ergo. It’s a great carrier; it’s what I know (I’m on Ergo #2). You can buy an Infant Insert for newborns, but I’ve never bothered. With a bit of creativity with the sleep hood, you can fashion a perfectly functional additional head support, and with their legs frogged up inside, they’ll do just fine. Then again, I’ve never had terribly small newborns, so if you’re starting with a 6 pounder, you might want to try the insert!
The Beco Butterfly and Gemini carriers come in a variety of beautiful fabric prints. The Butterfly has an infant insert that allows teenier babes to ride a bit higher in the carrier. The Gemini allows for an ergonomically correct outward-facing carrying position. The Gemini just came out, and if it had been available when I was shopping for a sling this time around, I would have been sorely tempted by it! I liked the Butterfly I tried for a day or two, but not more than the Ergo - it was just a bit too strappy and buckly for my tastes.
The Pikkolo is similar to the Gemini, in that it allows for a front-facing carry. I’ve never tried this carrier, but it has a huge cult following amongst babywearing enthusiasts. It also has some great fabrics.
Why not the all-too-popular BABYBJÖRN?
1. It lacks the hip belt of other, superior carriers. The full weight of your baby hangs from the upper middle back.
2. The weight limit is 22 pounds. Other carriers last clear into the toddler years (I recently carried my 50 pound 4 year old in my Ergo!)
3. The baby is suspended from his/her crotch. Some detractors claim this can cause developmental issues; I just think it looks super uncomfortable!
That said, the new BabyBjorn Comfort Carrier has a waist belt and gets decent reviews even from die-hard Ergo and Beco lovers. It has a much lower maximum weight capacity (30 pounds) than other SSCs and it doesn’t come in the great variety of prints and colors like the others listed above.
(This pro-Ergo article comparing and contrasting the Ergo and Bjorn is very nicely done.)
This category of sling is great for quick trips into the grocery store, or any time you’re not planning an extended time of babywearing. It’s definitely worth having one around in addition to the Ergo or what have you, in case you don’t want to hassle with buckles and adjustments.
I love my Maya Wrap. It’s fantastic for holding a newborn close under your chin and just as great for a bigger baby facing out in front, or on your hip. I have even worn my toddler on my back with the ring sling! The trick with the ring sling is to use it to hold the baby against you, not to use it to suspend the baby from your body. If you wear it like a sack, your shoulder and back will ache in no time, but worn properly, you can be quite comfortable.
Hotslings are a good brand. The caveat with the pouch sling is twofold: You need to choose one with a little stretch to the fabric, and you can’t expect it to be comfortable for very long. I keep a pouch style sling in my car for emergency purposes only. I much prefer the adjustability and comfort of the ring sling!
Where to buy
I’ve linked to carriers that are all available on Amazon.com (if you purchase through my links, you help support my blog!). However, one of my favorite online babywearing shops is Attached to Baby.