When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter in 2013, I had rarely seen baby wearing (beyond romanticized yet racist pictures of mothers from other cultures). But when I read about all the benefits of baby wearing, I knew I wanted to try it!
I bought a few different types of carriers, and I’ll be honest, baby wearing didn’t really work for me at first. But with a little practice, I got better at it, and three children in, I absolutely love baby wearing for all its cuddling opportunities (and convenience)!
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Advantages of baby wearing
Baby wearing is great for both you and your little one in so many ways! Here’s just a few of the advantages.
(By the way, want lots more detail on baby wearing, as well as info on the first two years of your child’s life? Check out Dr. Sear’s The Baby Book, an oldie but goodie (and one of only three books I recommend checking out before birth!).
And are you looking for your exact match in baby carriers based on your style, your baby’s age, and more? Get your baby wearing flow chart quiz!
Baby wearing is great for the “fourth trimester”
When our babies are born, they still have a lot of maturation to do. Their temperature regulation is still not great, and even their breathing patterns and heart rate aren’t completely regulated yet!
But one of the best ways to help your baby with all of these issues is to have them close to you. And the easiest way to allow this closeness without your arms falling off from exhaustion? Having her cuddled up close to you (or another care taker) in a wrap.
Baby wearing encourages attachment
Honestly, how can you not feel attached to a little bundle of baby snuggled right up to your chest?
But even beyond that, there are biochemical responses in both your body and your baby’s when you wear him! Each of you release oxytocin, the “love hormone” that promotes attachment and feelings of well-being, when you’re in close contact (like you are during baby wearing).
Babies who are worn cry less
There’s a phrase that I heard when my oldest was new: Babies who cry less cry less.
While that might sound maddening if you are a lucky parent with a very vocal baby, it actually has a good point.
The idea is that the more responsive you are and the more quickly you meet the needs of your child, the more she begins to trust you and the less frequently she needs to cry. Plus, the more often you successfully meet your baby’s needs, the more confident you’ll be in your parenting abilities, thereby helping you do better the next time. So you both go into an upward spiral of responsiveness and attachment.
And one of the best way to quickly meet your child’s needs?
Wear her! That way, you’re right there with her and can know that she wants something even before she has to work up to crying.
Baby wearing helps physical development, too
Maybe I’m biased, but all three of my children had really good head and neck control at a few months old. I really think it’s largely due to being in a wrap so much. While they’re supported when being carried, they do get a chance to exercise their neck muscles more than they would just lying back in a stroller.
Truth be told, I got less vigilant with each baby about tummy time, partially because they always hated it. But as often as my babies were carried, I feel like this more than made up for it.
Baby wearing is a great start to socialization
Think about what happens when your baby is in a stroller. He is looking at everyone’s knees, unable to see the world around him. If he’s facing out, he really doesn’t get to “talk” to anyone. People might bend down to interact with him, but otherwise, he’s in a very limited world.
But when you wear your baby, he’s up with other people in his environment. He can get your attention more easily, he can see what’s going on, and generally be more interactive.
And if he’s tired or just ready to be left alone, all he has to do is turn his head and snuggle in to your chest. But now it’s his choice to be left alone.
Baby wearing boosts milk supply
Remember how we talked about oxytocin being released during baby wearing? Well, oxytocin promotes milk production!
Plus, you’re likely to feed more frequently since the physical closeness between you and your baby helps you be more attuned to her needs. Not to mention, your boobs are right there. And yes, with a little repositioning, it is totally possible to breastfeed your baby while she’s in a carrier.
Baby wearing is convenient!
While you shouldn’t feel obligated to do all the things when you have a new baby, it’s nice to be able to get some stuff done when you want to. That’s another reason baby wearing is so great. You can vacuum, dust, or even just go for a walk around the neighborhood with a baby strapped to you.
And when you have more than one kid, baby wearing is an absolute must. It’s a great way to practice “benign neglect” (a term I stole from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the second book I recommend before birth) with your baby so you can pay more attention to your older child while keeping your baby feeling safe and happy.
One of my favorite places to wrap my baby? When I go grocery shopping! Especially when my baby is too small to sit up in the seat on a shopping cart, it’s so much nicer to have my baby cuddled up with me while I’m wandering the aisles. And if you’re like me and have too many children to fit in the cart, you can wear one, put one in the cart, and let the third one walk (or be a renegade and let him stand on the back of the cart).
And a baby carrier is often way easier to deal with than a stroller. Have you ever tried to wheel a stroller through a crowded park? Now imagine if you could just walk through with your baby strapped to you!
Baby wearing safety
Before I tell you about all the different types of baby carriers that I LOVE, we should go over safety.
Make sure your baby’s breathing pathway is clear
This is the most important. First, your baby ought to be large enough to be in a carrier before you start (Check the tag from your manufacturer, but 7-9 pounds tends to be the recommendation).
When your baby is in a carrier, make sure that her chin is NOT tucked to her chest. This blocks her airway and can be extremely dangerous.
Make sure legs are in a W position
This is one of the biggest reasons that I recommend a quality carrier, instead of the cheapest one you find in a big-box store. This is a mistake we made with our first child. Check out the pic:
Don’t be distracted by the weird face my husband is making (typical). Instead, notice my daughter’s legs. See how they’re just hanging down?
That’s bad. In fact, it can contribute to hip dysplasia.
Now contrast with this picture of my son in his mei tai:
You see how his knees are actually above his little bottom? That’s what we mean by the W shape. This position supports your baby’s hip development much better.
Babies ought to face in towards you
I know, there’s all the adorable pictures of babies facing outwards, checking out the world. But the problem is, this carry goes against your child’s natural spine curvature. You’re really better off just not doing this.
Don’t back carry until at least six months
While some carriers aren’t designed for back carrying at all, it’s never a good idea to put your infant on your back until he’s at least six months. It’s just better to have an eye on your younger baby.
Best carriers for your situation
Different ages and sizes of babies do better in different carriers. And on top of that, different carrier types lend themselves better to different situations. So after having experimented for five and a half years, here’s my comprehensive list of the best carriers.
(By the way: I know we all want to save money. But a baby carrier is not the item to do it on! Not only can the wrong carrier damage your baby’s hips, but I’ve found that cheaper carriers cause more back and neck strain for me, leading to soreness and even killer headaches after wearing. So make the investment now and your back will thank you later.)
Best soft stretchy wrap – The Boba wrap
My very favorite carrier for a newborn? A stretchy wrap. It keeps your baby all snuggly and safe beside you, and it’s soft yet supportive.
Plus, it’s really comfortable for you! Since it’s basically really one long piece of fabric, you can adjust it to whatever size you need.
I recommend the Boba wrap as my favorite stretchy wrap. Why it instead of the better-known (and easier to find in-store) Moby? The Boba wrap is lighter weight and cooler in the summer, and it holds its shape better before stretching out. This makes it easier to pop baby in and out of the wrap as needed, so you can just leave it tied on even when you’re not wearing yoru baby.
Once the Boba does feel overstretched, though, no problem. Just wash it and dry it and it’ll be good as new (like a pair of jeans tightens up in the wash).
The Boba works well up until 7-9 months of age, depending on the size of your baby. After that, it starts to sag and just doesn’t work as well. Plus, you can’t wear your baby on your back in a Boba.
Best soft structured carrier: The Manduca
Another good choice for newborns? The Manduca. If you’re intimidated by complicated ties (although it actually gets really easy with a little practice!), the Manduca is for you. It is a soft structured carrier, meaning it has lots of straps and adjustments so you can get it to fit you and your baby perfectly. Plus, it comes with an insert to make sure your tiny newborn fits comfortably.
And the best thing about the Manduca is its versatility. While it’s wonderful for newborns, it also works well up through the toddler years (the zipper you see on the back panel in the picture below shows how the carrier expands for your growing baby).
The Manduca is great for both front and back carries. I like to have my little guy on my front for quick trips, but when we’re walking a longer distance, a back carry is easier.
My husband loves to wear this carrier as well. I can’t tell you how many trips we’ve made through the zoo, taking turns with this carrier. And because the adjustment straps are so simple, we have no problem swapping back and forth.
Best Meh Dai / Mei Tai carrier: The DIDYMOS
I’ll be completely honest, the brand of meh dai I use and love seems to have gone out of business! But the DIDYMOS looks to be a great alternative.
The meh dai is different from the other options because it is “partially structured.” It has a sturdy yet soft rectangular panel with a long strap sewn on each corner. Your baby sits in the panel and you tie the straps securely around you.
I use my meh dai for both front and back carries, and I love how adjustable it is since it has no buckles.
Best carrier for the beach or a water park
I got the Beachfront Baby wrap when we went to the beach when Budrow was only three months old, and I’m SO glad I did! This wrap, with its mesh, quick-drying fabric, is perfect for going out into water with your child (like hip-deep, don’t try to swim in it).
The Beachfront Baby wrap is also great for taking a shower with your baby. Sometimes, when you desperately need a shower but no one is available to hang on to the baby, this can be a great option. So just wrap up your baby, hop in, and sud up!
BONUS: best coat ever for when you’re baby wearing and it’s cold!
This didn’t make a lot of difference to me when I was in Georgia and had a baby in July, but you better believe I was all about this coat (that my in-laws thoughtfully got me) when we moved to Pennsylvania!
Modern Eternity makes a coat with a panel that lets you zip it all the way up while baby wearing!
And if you’re still pregnant, this panel can be flipped upside-down to allow room for your growing baby (no more snapping the top few buttons of your coat with your pregnant tummy hanging out!).
And yes, it still looks good even if you are sans baby. Just remove the panel.
Which baby carrier is for you?
We’ve covered a LOT of options today. It’s so hard to choose the best baby carrier! In fact, I’d argue there is no true “best,” but it comes down to your needs.
That’s why I created a flow chart that will tell you the PERFECT baby carrier for you! It’s like a quiz designed to help you choose. Just subscribe to grab yours and find your baby carrier!