By Laura Belin

You've been reading up on the physical and emotional benefits (and convenience!) of babywearing, and you want to give it a try with your child. But you have no idea what you'll need, and once you start exploring the many websites that sell baby carriers, you become even more confused.

What you need depends on many factors, including your budget, the age of your child, whether you want to learn to tie a wrap and what kind of activities you plan to do while you are wearing your child. Here are some thoughts on different carriers, based on my own experience with them.


I believe that a sling or pouch is essential gear if you have a newborn or young baby. You can hold the baby in a cradle position while keeping your hands free, and the weight is distributed well across your back, so your neck and arms do not get tired. Your baby feels the closeness, can hear your heart beat, senses your smell, and often goes right to sleep if you walk around for a few minutes. Although I never got the hang of nursing in the sling, many women learn to do that, and they can nurse in public without anyone knowing—even while grocery shopping!

Slings and pouches are easy for dads to get the hang of as well, and it really helps with father/baby bonding. If mom and dad are fairly close in height, one size will work for both of you. We invested in two slings because I am not even 5 feet 5 inches, and Kieran is over 6 feet. It was worth it, because Kieran used his sling a lot, and he would have been much less comfortable using my sling.

Once your baby is a few months old, he may not want to be carried lying down (although he will probably continue to take naps in the sling). You can put an older baby in a front-facing "kangaroo carry" or, when head control is very good (4-5 months and older), on your hip. I continued to carry David in the hip straddle while shopping and doing other things until he was at least 18 months old, and many people can still hip straddle their two-year-olds. I lost track of how many people told me, "He's so quiet!" It was because he was content in the sling.

So, the bottom line is, it's not hard to learn to use a sling or pouch, and it will last a long time.

What kind should you get? You can find reviews of many brands at www.thebabywearer.com. With slings, the main issues are, is it adjustable (usually with rings), and does it have a padded shoulder and/or side rails. I prefer an adjustable sling, particularly with an older baby, although in the very early days it can be easier to learn with a non-adjustable sling (such as the New Native Baby Carrier). I also prefer padding for carrying a heavier child on my hip, although many women prefer to have less bulk with an unpadded sling. We used the "Sling-ezee," available in many patterns for about $45 at www.parentingconcepts.com. It's an adjustable ring sling with padding. You can buy nice locally-made Wallypop ring slings for under $40 at www.thestorkwearhouse.com.

As for pouches, I did not have one, but two of my friends swear by the Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch. This is perfect for a newborn but can still be used with an older baby on your hip. Because it's got rows of snaps, your baby will not grow out of it quickly. At $55-$60, it's not cheap, but one of my friends says she would have paid $300, given the amount she used it, how much her baby loved it, and how easy it was. I've noticed that several other brands of pouch are highly-rated at www.thebabywearer.com. If your baby is born during the summer, though, you might find the fleece a bit too warm, and I don't think the stretchy fleece pouch is as easy to breastfeed in as a cotton ring sling would be.


I wish I had discovered these when David was very young. A wrap is a long piece of fabric that can be tied in many different ways to keep your baby on your front, hip or back. A newborn or small baby can be wrapped securely and very comfortably for both of you. The baby settles into a nice nap with her tummy against your chest, and you can go for a walk or get a lot done. Older babies can be carried in a less constraining way.

The more I have read on this subject, the more convinced I have become that a wrap is superior to more popular front-carriers such as the Baby Bjorn or Snugli. The problem with many front carriers is that the baby is dangling from the crotch, putting a lot of strain on the spine. A wrap keeps the baby in a seated position, with knees bent and legs at the right angle from the hip.

Most brands of wrap come with instructions. Certain manufacturers include instructions for carrying a baby facing outward on your front, but other manufacturers (such as the Didymos) specifically discourage carrying the baby facing out, on the grounds that this does not support the spine and does not keep the baby in the proper seated position.

You can read reviews of many different wraps at www.thebabywearer.com. There is good information as well at www.childrensneeds.com, which carries many of the high-end wraps. The price varies considerably, from Moby Wrap and Solarveil, which cost less than $40, to Ellaroo, which costs $60 to $75, to the imported Didymos and Storchenwiege, made of beautiful organic fabric and costing $120 to $135. You can by the Moby and locally-made Wallypop wraps from www.thestorkwearhouse.com.

The less expensive brands are made with less pricey fabric, and often come with less-complete tying instructions. Moby Wraps are very soft and great for young babies, but I've heard they become too stretchy once the baby is over 20-25 pounds and are therefore not good for carrying a toddler on your back. If the wrap stretches too much, your baby will sink down, putting more pressure on your neck and shoulders, which is the opposite of what you want. Solarveil is light and breathable, but may not be as sturdy as some of the more expensive brands. Ellaroo is made from woven cotton fabric and is very breathable, but not as smooth and soft as a Moby Wrap. It has some give but is not too stretchy. Detailed tying instructions can be found on a website.

Some of the websites call the Didymos the "Mercedes" or "Rolls Royce" of wraps, and the fabric is gorgeous. The tying instructions are also the most detailed, with tons of options and photos to help you learn. The fabric is not too stretchy—I have had David on my back comfortably for more than a hour for many long walks, and he did not sink down. The biggest problem is the price, although I've heard of people getting them for much less on eBay. The second-biggest problem is that the back carry is difficult, if not impossible, to manage when you are on your own. I've read some complaints that the Didymos fabric is too warm, but we used ours all summer long with no problem (the fabric I chose is light-colored).


At www.thebabywearer.com, you can find reviews of various hip carriers. I am biased against investing in one of these, because it's an extra expense and the sling or pouch works well for this purpose. However, if you decided not to bother with a sling, you might find these useful, particularly if you get one with a good thick waistband (to take the weight off your neck and shoulders). Many babies and toddlers enjoy the view, and if you have a good carrier you won't have the load on your arm, and you won't have to lean over to balance the weight.

I bought a Hip Hammock (now made by Playtex) for a friend of mine, and she and her mother-in-law use it all the time. Although I do not know anyone who owns a Mei Hip, I noticed that it gets rave reviews at www.thebabywearer.com (where you can also find the vendor who makes and sells them).


If you buy a wrap, you don't really need a separate front and back carrier, because a good wrap will be very comfortable for carrying a small baby on your front and can carry even a 35-40 pound child on your back. However, we found it impossible to tie David securely on my back in the Didymos without my husband's help. We got a frame backpack for Kieran, which is comfortable, but not convenient to carry around.

Some women I know like Asian-style carriers called mei tai or podaegi (a popular brand seems to be the Kozy, which costs about $55). You'll have to look at the photos at www.thebabywearer.com to see what these look like. They have no frame—just soft fabric with thick straps. The baby can be tied on your front or your back.

I decided to invest in a backpack that I could use by myself, and that would fold up into my bag if David and I were out and not using it for the whole day. I settled on the Ergo (about $80 to $90 at www.thestorkwearhouse.com or www.ergobabycarrier.com), because it keeps your child in a seated position. Supposedly it can be used even for preschoolers weighing 50 pounds. You can also use it as a front carrier for a younger baby, but it's really not for babies under 3 months old, because they need to have pretty good head control.

If you decided not to bother with a wrap, you could get by with a sling or pouch for the first few months, then get the Ergo or an Asian-style carrier to use on your front and back. As I mentioned above, I do not recommend carriers that have the baby dangling from the crotch (Baby Bjorn, Baby Trekker). I don't deny that many babies love to be carried in these, but I think those same babies would equally enjoy other carriers that would put less pressure on their developing spines.