When I was pregnant with my first baby I bought a nearly-new BabyBjorn ‘miracle carrier’ from Gumtree for £65. It looked comfy and safe. I thought my husband would look very dashing with a baby dangling from his chest. The only problem was working out how to use the bloody thing.
By the time I came to use it I was too sleep-deprived to fathom it, and too worried about whether my baby could breath to enjoy wearing him in it. Not exactly miraculous.
Since then I’ve tried hundreds of different baby carriers, wraps, or ‘slings’ as they’re generically called. As a qualified Babywearing Consultant (yes, it’s a thing) I have helped over 250 families to choose the right baby carrier for them.
Choosing a baby carrier is a lot like choosing shoes: it’s about a good fit, personal preference, and it is always worth trying before you buy.
So what are the do’s and don’ts of buying a baby carrier?
Don’t rely on big brand names.
We’ve all heard of BabyBjorn because they have been around forever and have a big ol’ marketing budget. Does that mean they’re the best? No. My current favourite carriers are ones you may never have heard of, like the Hanababy, Sleepy Nico, and Connecta and there are heaps of others on the market.
Don’t assume the most expensive one is the best.
They’re usually not.
Don’t rely on Google, Mothercare or John Lewis.
While trusted search engines and high street stores are the obvious choice, you’ll likely still be directed to the biggest, longest-serving and priciest brands. Some of these manufacturers haven’t updated their original designs in line with current knowledge about mums’ and babies’ physiology. They already sell so many that they don’t really need to.
Don’t buy a suspiciously cheap one from eBay or Amazon.
It may not have been thoroughly safety-tested. The fabric dyes used may not be safe for baby to suck on. There are fakes around, imitating – in some cases very well, unfortunately – well-known brands like the Ergobaby. If a price seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t worry if your friend lends you ‘the comfiest sling ever’ but you hate it.
Just like shoes, what works for one person may not work for another.
Don’t be surprised if your friend lends you a practically new one and you don’t like that, either.
If it’s practically new they probably never used it themselves. That might tell you something about how useful it was. Many parents come to me for advice having been given older-style high street carriers with narrow bases, which are not optimally designed to support baby’s growing body.
Don’t think babywearing is just for hippy parents.
Don’t put up with shoulder or back ache.
A sling that is fitted correctly should not hurt, even if you are carrying a heavy toddler or preschooler. If in doubt, ask your local babywearing educator for help. Or get some tips from babywearers on facebook.
Don’t assume fabric wraps are too complicated.
Stretchy fabric wraps can be pre-tied so you can just pop baby in and out through the day. Genius. Other woven wraps may take a bit of practice, like most aspects of parenting, but they are ridiculously comfy.
Don’t think you have to face your baby outwards when they reach a certain age.
Chances are it will make your back ache eventually as the weight of a wiggling 7 month old pulls your weight forward.
Don’t rely on the instruction manual.
YouTube videos can be far more helpful. The videos from Wrap You In Love are particularly brilliant.
So what should do you do before buying a baby carrier?
Do find your local Sling Consultant, Sling Library or Sling Meet.
There are babywearing educators like me all over the country who can help you choose a baby carrier and get it to fit comfortably and safely. Lots of us offer one-to-one consultations, run social events (Sling Meets) or lending libraries. We’re very friendly creatures and always happy to talk about slingy things.
Do stick to the TICKS guidelines for safe babywearing.
These are very important: always wear your baby upright, with their tummy against your chest (when front carrying), with the whole length of their back supported, ensuring their airways are open. The whole of the carrier needs to be fitted snugly around you both so baby can’t slump down inside it. Never let baby’s chin slump onto their chest. Baby’s face should always be uncovered, with baby positioned high enough that you can easily kiss the top of their head. Read the full TICKS guidelines here.
There are loads, but you only need one. Or two. (Or 60 in my case, so come to think of it, maybe I’m the wrong person to ask which ‘one’ to buy…)
Do look for pre-loved slings for sale on Facebook.
Slings can keep their value more than other baby gadgets. You can also find some great bargains. There is a real community feel to the babywearing ‘buy, sell and trade’ pages on Facebook, making them more reliable than eBay and local selling pages. ‘Slings and things – FSOT (for sale or trade) and advice’ is a great place to start.
Do make the most of the snuggles.
You will not spoil a baby by carrying them. When they are good and ready they’ll happily to wander off across the playground. And probably make a dash for it across Tesco’s car park. Wear your baby for as long as you both enjoy it.
About Hannah Wallace
Hannah lives in South London with her husband and two young sons. She loves her boys, eating cake, babywearing, salsa dancing, having a good rant, large glasses of red wine, talking about theology and having uninterrupted time in the bathroom.
Hannah is also the Founder of Wear My Baby, a Babywearing Consultancy and Pop-Up Shop based in South West London – www.WearMyBaby.co.uk
Image: Hannah Wallace