With so many types of baby carriers to choose from, how is a parent to decide which one to buy for their child? When I worked at a maternity store in Canada, we helped customers narrow down their choices with a few simple questions, which I’ve summarized into a flowchart below. The following is intended as a very general guide; it’s important to do your own research, talk to other parents, and try out lots of different carriers – preferably with your child in them, otherwise with a weighted doll – and see what works best for you.
Baby carriers can be grouped into a few broad categories:
- Wraps (stretch and woven)
- Slings (pouch and ring)
- Asian carriers (also known as mei tai carriers)
- Soft structured carriers (front-facing and in-facing)
Many companies claim that their products can be used from infancy through to the toddler years, but in my experience most parents buy at least two models of baby carrier to suit their child’s evolving needs.
Start by answering the following questions:
If you have a child under 6 months:
- Babies under 6 months need head support, should face in, and be snuggled close to Mom or Dad for skin-to-skin contact. This comforts them and promotes bonding.
- For first-timers, a sling carrier is generally the easiest to maneuver into a breastfeeding position; many moms also find them more comfortable since women are stronger in the hips. Of course, many moms successfully breastfeed with other types of baby carriers.
- Wrap carriers are fantastic for skin-to-skin contact. They involve more of a learning curve than other types of carriers, but can also double as a piece of fabric to lay your baby on when you’re out and about. Stretch wraps are appropriate for babies up to 20lb while non-stretchy woven wraps can accommodate toddlers and even twins. They’re beautiful, versatile, strong, and come in different sizes. They’re also expensive; a classic Didymos woven wrap, which we sold at my store, retailed for around CAD 200.
If you have a child over 6 months:
- Soft structure carriers provide more support for babies and toddlers over 25lb and are thus more comfortable for the wearer.
- Do your homework if you’re considering a front-facing baby carrier such as the Baby Bjorn; there has been a lot of debate over whether they’re good for your child. Opponents cite overstimulation and bad positioning as reasons not to carry babies facing outwards while others say it’s fine in moderation and should take into account the child’s preferences. In any case, carrying a baby over 25lb in a front-facing position is likely to strain on the wearer’s back. If your child still wants to be able to look around, try an alternative position such as a high back carry or inward-facing front carry with the head rest down.
- Asian carriers are basically rectangular pieces of fabric with four ties. They’re inspired by traditional Chinese carriers, and can be used in the front or back. They’re a good middle ground for parents who want the simplicity of a soft structure carrier and the snug fit of a wrap carrier.
Where to buy baby carriers in Beijing:
- Counting Sheep stocks Baby Bjorn, Stoke, and Ergobaby soft structure carriers and Hotslings sling carriers.
- baby international stocks Ergobaby, Todbi, Baby Bjorn, Minimonkey, and Stokke sling carriers as well as Minimonkey sling carriers.
- Mothercare has its own in-house brand of soft structure carriers; models vary by location. Ask to see ying’er beidai (婴儿背带) in-store.
Though many baby carriers are available on Taobao, I would hesitate to trust the quality and safety of these products. Besides, it’s always better to try them in person; this is an accessory you could be wearing nearly every day for the next few months, so it’s worth investing the time and money to find one that you, your partner, and your child love.
Just don’t get this SWAT-looking "tactical" baby carrier.
Sijia Chen is a contributing editor at beijingkids and a freelance writer specializing in parenting, education, travel, environment, and culture. Her work has appeared in The Independent, Midnight Poutine, Rover Arts, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @sijiawrites or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.