The Happy Mom’s Guide to Baby Wearing
We’re in San Diego, California, and I want nothing more than to hit the museums, the Botanic Garden, the Self-Realization Meditation Gardens in Encinitas, and especially the farmer’s markets! My son doesn’t quite yet crawl at this time but he’s sitting well and scooting across the room. Oh yeah, and one more thing…he’s teething! With a vengeance. And what more is that he has thrush and an ear infection. The only thing he wants to do in life is nurse and be in my arms.
Do I sit at home and get bored out of my mind? Absolutely not. I pack my little one up in a baby carrier and hit the town! He’s eight months old and at this stage in his development, I’m an Ergo-baby evangelist. So we go to the botanic gardens and a sculpture garden. He’s so drowsy and exhausted from being up all night teething, but he loves the fresh air and he doesn’t want to do anything but sit plopped squarely across my chest, with tons of suckling throughout the day!
I’ll never forget this day; he spent 6 hours in my Ergo carrier. I walked at least 6 miles in gardens and along beaches; something he’d never sit still for any other time. It was great medicine for him…and me!
Fast forward a few months to when my son is a year old. He’s wiggly, restless, unable to sit in high chairs for long and starting to reject the Ergo pack for around town. I need to run some errands, but he won’t stay still in my arms. What now?
This is when I began carrying him on my shoulders. He loves being up high and he’s still, in a sense, directly on my person where he’s most comforted. The added bonus? My arms don’t get tired!
Finding your perfect baby-wearing solution is key. It changes based on the baby’s age, your location and terrain, how many hours he will spend in the carrier, his size, and your own physical stamina. Strollers are big, bulky, and often your son or daughter won’t even let you put them in there without wailing!
Let’s start strolling with this no-fuss baby-wearing guide!
Until my son was 3 months old, our jam was the Nesting Days Swaddle, whether it was to walk around town or in the grocery store. Then by the time my son was 3 months old we loved walking around town in the Ergo.
Other moms love to use Wraps that look like lightweight blankets or long scarves with their little ones.
The first time I wore a baby (a toddler, actually) I was hiking down a steep mountain in Colorado after having suffered all summer with excruciating back pain. I was pregnant and asked my friend if she’d let me practice hiking with her toddler. Little did I know, my baby-wearing experience wouldn’t be comparable for years. However, I found my sporty friend’s Ergo baby carrier to be delightful and the child felt like a natural, comfortable extension of my own body. This is precisely what you’re looking for.
Baby carriers are one of the most important things you’ll purchase for you and your baby so I highly recommend testing these out before you buy one. In fact, there was an 18-month period when my son would and I never enter an airport without one! Traveling by tramway in Europe or by train in Asia? You will receive looks of disdain with your stroller and your carrier will make it infinitely easier to get on and off platforms and up steps.
For the record, one of the only “product reviews” I’ll bore you with in this book is for carriers. That’s for a few reasons, which include:
Finding The Right Baby Carrier For Your Baby… Today
1. This Guide is meant to provide you with a general idea of what to look for, and what to watch out for. There are hundreds of different carriers and designers. But carriers are one of those baby items that you’ll probably want to switch out as your baby grows. If you’re like me, you’ll invest in a half dozen before your baby turns 1. Thankfully, there’s a pretty easy resale market for carriers because they don’t get really banged up and filthy because their sole purpose is to nestle your squeaky clean bundle of sweet-smelling deliciousness. Check your local moms’ Facebook group, local classifieds, or library for opportunities to buy and sell carriers with other parents.
Choosing A Baby Carrier With The Right Bells And Whistles
2. There aren’t nearly as many baby carriers (worth mentioning) as there are strollers, car seats, or even sippy cups. I’ve picked the best and favorites of moms for many years running. I’ve tried most of these or had my friends submit their experiences for these reviews.
Baby Carriers Are The Most Important Item To Travel With
3. Next to diapers, baby carriers are the item I used most during travel. I mean, it literally can make or break a vacation, as well as your back! Getting a carrier that’s not only comfortable for your baby but comfortable for you is critical. But that’s also contingent on where you travel! As you will read, I did a lot of big-city sightseeing as well as mountain travel while my son was under two years old. I had two entirely different carriers for these totally divergent terrains. Read on to find out why.
Newborn Baby Carriers
For the traveling caregiver, there’s nothing better than a newborn baby. They want nothing more than to stare at lights, focus on new sounds and smells, and smell the sweet aroma of their caregiver. They’re fine facing in (belly-to-belly with their caregiver) and for the nursing momma, there’s no easier way to provide meals on the run.
Newborn carriers give you the opportunity to keep your baby snugly on your chest with the added benefit of being hands-free. Want to browse a gift shop or cook a nice meal? Newborn carriers will allow you to hold your baby without tying up your hands. Despite what naysayers put out there, newborn carriers will provide you with some of the most liberation you’re going to have for the next several years!
They call themselves, “A second womb for newborns 8 to 18 pounds.”Say no more! I spent a lot of time researching a swaddle that wasn’t complicated to tie (see: Moby), looked good (c’mon, I’m a mom but I’m not dead, here!) and in which my little one would be comfortable. I settled on the Nesting Days Swaddle.
The Nesting Days Swaddle is a tank top that I basically plucked my little bundle of joy into whenever I had to use both hands or walk around, say, the grocery store. While traveling, I could count on my son snoozing sweetly in his Nesting Days Swaddle if we had a long layover or, God forbid, got stuck in a foreign airport overnight. (Yep, this happened when he was only 11 weeks old!)
The Nesting Days Swaddle is:
• Ergonomic (read: insanely comfortable)
• Easy to use (although the first time you use it you may feel a bit like you’re in a corset)
• Adorable (it’s a tank top with a kangaroo pouch)
• Easy-to-nurse with
I used to look at the Baby Björn and think, “yuck! That looks so hot and uncomfortable,” until a friend of mine put my infant in while we were taking a walk near a river. It was cold outside at the Björn really swaddled my baby and kept him in a wiggle-proof position. This, however, is why I wouldn’t put a child in a Björn past infancy; there’s little room to wiggle. It’s great for wee little lazy newborns.
The Björn is also good for newborns because it supports the baby’s whole head, so you aren’t constantly trying to hold it in your hand. (Which defeats the hands-free thing, now, doesn’t it?) Once my child turned three or four months, this was a no-go. This carrier isn’t as easy for facing a child out and he was a wiggle-worm by that time, needed a more soft-structured carrier.
Day Trip Carriers
Who hasn’t looked at photos of dads carrying their infants in the Moby and thought: this is the ultimate mom-porn. At under $50, The Moby Wrap is one of the most popular baby carriers on the market. It’s a long piece of fabric that distributes the weight of your baby across your back and hips. You can carry a child up to 35 pounds in it, although by that point they’re getting pretty wiggly!
There are dozens of varieties of the Moby Wrap and it’s perfectly adjustable to fit most heights and weights. It’s also machine washable. If you spill as much coffee as I do on your wrap, you know that this can be a really big deal!
Slightly more expensive than the Moby (but infinitely more sturdy a design) is the Ergo. I’m specifying my review to the Ergo 360, which is designed to keep baby cool and comfy for moms on the go, even while working out or hiking.
Unlike the Baby Björn (which was, at one point, the bees knees of baby carriers), my son stayed cool and contented in the Ergo 360 with a baby insert for hours upon hours. However, because my son was a small baby he looked like an uncomfortable Starfish in his Ergo until he was at least 4 months old. I know there’s an infant insert, but we found it too cumbersome for us so we stuck to our Nesting Days Swaddle and a Baby Björn until he was old enough to sit in the Ergo facing out without suffocating on the carrier.
I began carrying him in the Ergo 360 at approximately 11 weeks when he was pretty good holding his own head up. I didn’t like the infant insert because my son always wanted to move his limbs a bit more than the infant insert allowed. Plus, I found the infant insert to be a bit clumsy. The other disadvantage with similar packs such as the Björn is that babies get hot—like a furnace hot. The Ergo pack seems to breathe better and give the babies more room to move.
The Ergo is also great as a front, side, or back carrier. I’m not enchanted with the side carry – probably because I’m petite and it feels like I get really off balance. The back carry is okay once the baby is 6 months old, but I can’t see what he’s doing and he prefers the view from my front, as it is. As my baby grew to over 20 pounds, the Ergo was still fantastic because I wasn’t exhausting my neck and shoulders. The weight really is distributed well and I never fatigued. Having suffered with neck and back pain my whole life, this was a miracle for me.
The main disadvantage to the Ergo/Ergo 360 is that they are carriers—that’s it! There’s no place for a cell phone or keys. There’s an extremely odd zip-pocket on the front of the carrier that really is so hard to get to and clumsy to store things in that I can barely squeeze lip gloss in it. So, I pair it with a fanny pack or my Osprey removable backpack every time.
Secondly, the Ergo doesn’t have a built in sun shade, which means that you are responsible to carry the sunshade, which they call a “sleeping hood” and they don’t provide pockets with which to carry such things.
The Björn killed my friends’ backs who tried hiking with it. Reality is that most carriers really put too much pressure on your shoulders. The Ergo, however, is based on backpacking technology and it’s designed for long treks, even uphill ones! The babies are in a soft carrier, not a hard hiking pack or backpack and they are close to you. These are wonderful benefits, made even better by the added comfort around your neck. You will not feel like it’s about to break!
Another consideration to make with carriers is the size of the caregiver. The Ergo is good for small caregivers as well as slightly larger ones, as the waistband is designed pretty wide. If you’re worried about it not fitting, I’d go try one on before buying it or getting the specs from the website before you order. I’d provide specs here, but they change so frequently as the models are updated that it would likely be outdated when you started your decision making process.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about the Ergo is that it is surprisingly comfortable, both high on the waist or low on the hips depending on where you’re traveling and how your hips feel. If I’m running up and down stairs in a large city, for instance, I carry my son high on my waist so that my legs can get a fuller stride.
Once my son’s feet were hitting my legs as I tried to ascend a mountain or climb a boulder, I knew that my Ergo 360 was about to be retired to a sport hiking pack for my hiking expeditions. The decision wasn’t easy, because I wanted one with the bells and whistles of sport child carriers. It had to be lightweight, have cubbies and space for everything, and also have a “kickstand” so if I wanted to rest and baby was sleeping, he could keep napping. The choices are fantastic, too!
This child carrier thought of everything. It has a built-in sun shade that’s been a life-saver for sudden rainy hikes in Aspen, a diaper changing pad, and even a removable backpack that I’ve been known to combine with my Ergo 360 to give myself some extra storage.
In the Osprey Pack, your child sits on a seat about midway up your back with his or her legs dangling to either side. He sits high so that he sees everything as you trek. The carrier is only 7.6 pounds but feels weightless. The enormous compartment underneath the child has been great for my muddy cleats on hikes that require me to put on and remove spikes from my shoes (without muddying up our extra scarves/gloves, etc.) There are ample pockets and loops on this pack for me to stash doggie bags, lip gloss, mittens, and even bear spray.
I love how easy it is to stow my water bottle in this pack without having it dangling on my hip or chest (which after a few minutes becomes like Chinese water torture), and the removable backpack has been invaluable for times we hike in places Aspen, San Diego, or Chicago and then want to hit the farmer’s market with something more low key like the Ergo (which doesn’t have any real storage to speak of). Don’t make the mistake of carrying too much of the weight in your shoulders with this pack. I found that my son was pulling my ponytail in the pack so I made the shoulder straps loose, which ended up in sore shoulders and neck. The majority of the burden should be on your hips.
Many moms I know love their Keltys, so I had to include a short review! Although I’m an Osprey girl, I have seen many rave about the slightly more affordable Kelty. Kelty figured out a lot of the same features as did Osprey for making hiking with kids fun—and comfortable! With its built-in sunshade, it’s also similar to Osprey, but it is several pounds heavier and has a smaller compartment for the child, which has to be considered. However, it’s usually sold for up to $100 cheaper. So…
Plus Sized Moms
Plus sized moms needn’t shy away from baby wearing. Although many carriers and slings look like medieval torture devices, they’re generally very friendly for all body types.
A friend of mine loves the Ergo because of its even weight distribution and ability to be fastened quickly as opposed to a sling that requires somewhat of a trapeze performance in order to adhere. Still, the belt doesn’t stretch extremely far, making it not an option for fuller mommies and daddies.
Wraps can be uncomfortable because you’re required to fasten them tightly, as opposed to a belt or strap device (such as the Ergo) that has Velcro or belts holding the child securely in place. The benefit to a carrier with belts or straps is that you are able to loosen them easily when you need your skin to breathe. And the last thing you want when trudging through provincial streets in the summer is to wear something that makes you feel like you’re fastened to a bungee cord.
Carriers with belts or straps, however, have a more limited circumference than fabric carriers. Fabric carriers are more flexible on sizing for larger mommies and daddies.
Similarly, petite moms often feel like their babies are dangling in packs too far down to get a good stride, especially when climbing stairs or hiking vertically. For petite mommies, you can carry your baby on your back or invest in a Ring Sling which assists in keeping your little one higher up on your chest.
Ring slings are popular among mommies and daddies who don’t want tight straps or fabrics around their waists. The ring sling holds your baby off your shoulder on the caregiver’s front, usually to the side. You can carry children up to toddler age and for pregnant mommies, this is a great way to carry a child without having them kick your already bustling bump.
As an added bonus, the Tula Ring Sling has a variety of fabrics that aren’t merely beautiful; they look like a gorgeous scarf or wrap that actually makes your outfit look spectacular! The only downside is that when you’re traveling with a Ring Sling for many hours, you’re going to need to pack more than a diaper and a couple wipes. Without a pocket on the Ring Sling, you’re going to have to tote a fanny pack or diaper back with you, making the arrangement a bit clumsier and clingier than you may desire. Beware that once a baby is bigger, all their weight is on one shoulder which can be cumbersome, and even pretty painful.
There are “Original” Baby Björns still sold that allow you to carry a small child without a waist strap. Yay! Waist straps tend to make us feel like stuffed sausages when we have our baby weight around our magnificent middles. The Björn is good because it distributes weight on the shoulders, back and neck more than the hips. This is good if you don’t want to worry about straps and belts around the hips and waist, which, again, only stretch to a certain body type. Beware, however, that your hips can sustain a lot more weight for longer and without fatigue than your shoulders, back, and neck, so the Björn isn’t good for all-day treks or long hikes.