What is Baby-wearing?
Baby-wearing is the act of carrying your baby in a wrap or carrier which safely secures the baby to your body. You can walk around, sit down, do chores and more with a baby!
Baby carriers have been around for thousands of years. Parents have used bedsheets, scarves, pieces of animal hide, and other fabrics to carry their babies. Baby slings or wraps were hypothesized to even be used in prehistoric times millions of years ago to increase the likelihood of survival from predators.
More recently it has been thought of as a way to soothe and comfort a crying baby, a way for mothers to keep their babies close, and a way to transport them, all while still having hands free for other tasks.
It has gained popularity again in the US and other countries, and now years of research have explained the science behind its magic.
Not only is baby-wearing convenient, but it has proven benefits for mom, baby, and caregivers alike.
Beneficial for Baby
- Reduces crying– A randomized controlled trial shows carrying reduces the duration of typical crying and fussing in the first 3 months. (3)
- Promotes a secure attachment between mothers and infants-infant who are carried can smell, touch, and even taste their mothers on a regular basis and learn to trust that their mothers will take care of them. (4)
- Increases maternal responsiveness to baby’s needs- mothers respond more quickly and affectionately when baby-wearing, further developing baby’s secure attachment. (4)
- May help prevent flat head syndrome– babies who are carried often spend more time in an upright position and less time laying flat. (7)
- Increases vestibular system development– both the horizontal and vertical motion of walking while baby-wearing is not only soothing to a baby (and emulates conditions of the womb), but helps develop baby’s balance and coordination. (5)
- Develops muscular tone and neck strength.
- Helps babies regulate their breathing, heart rates, and temperature. (8)
- Helps babies sleep for longer periods (yay for mom and baby!).
- Reduces overstimulation. Babies that are easily overstimulated by their environment find it soothing to be close to their caregivers and the carrier helps to shield them from light and noise.
Beneficial for Mother
- Great for traveling.
- Great for caring for twins or multiples, keeping hands free for the other child. Even multiple wraps can be worn at the same time. (Slings are good for this.)
- Can reduce postpartum anxiety– research shows recent contact with their infant reduces maternal anxiety. (1)
- Can reduce maternal stress. (2)
- Can reduce postpartum depression. (2)
- Helps with the convenience of breastfeeding– breastfeeding can be done right in the carrier, which also can help mothers breastfeed in public with modesty (or if you want you can whip it out, whatever you choose!)
- Helps safety and privacy of baby (people won’t be as likely to touch your baby if they’re in the carrier)
Beneficial for Partners
- Dad’s, spouses, wives, or basically any other adult partner can participate in baby-wearing.
- This can help facilitate bonding with the baby.
- It is great for moms too and gives them a nice break.
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Let’s get to the main types of baby carriers you can use for baby-wearing.
3 Types Of Baby Carriers
What are they?
They are a long piece of fabric that wraps over and around your torso. It usually is wrapped in front of you, over both shoulders, then passes through the front loop, back around your back, and tied off at the waist. These are my favorite for baby-wearing.
- Fits snugly to your body, has wide straps and even distribution of weight, so it is comfortable to wear all day.
- Very cozy for baby since they are covered with a lot of fabric.
- Good for newborns since they are snug and held tight to the body.
- Most are machine washable (read the directions! but most say wash on delicate, tumble dry low)
- Can wear in different positions based on you and your baby’s needs (see manufacturer’s recommendations).
- Easy to nurse in.
- Can be worn all day and baby can easily come out and be placed back in.
- Highly portable- these are not bulky at all! They can be rolled up and placed in a bag.
- Many varieties- there are stretchy wraps, woven wraps, knit wraps (I love the stretchy Boba wrap).
- It is not recommended for baby to be outward-facing in these wraps (facing away from mother).
- Not recommended to back carry for most brands, however, there are some that are okay for back carrying.
- Harder to take on and of frequently than the structured carriers.
- Moby Wrap– stretchy and heavier than the Boba Wrap
- Boba Wrap (my favorite)- very stretchy and provides lots of support, they have add-ons like the “hoodie” that goes over them for cold-weather wearing
- Baby K’tan– not very stretchy, comes in different sizes, good if you can’t figure out how to wrap the fabric, since it is pre-wrapped, and you just slip it on.
What are they?
They are long pieces of fabric which have two rings that you feed the fabric through, and wear your baby in a sling-fashion over one shoulder.
- Have beautiful fabrics and designs.
- Can wear baby in the front, on the hip, and in the back.
- Good for nursing in.
- Good for hip-carrying toddlers.
- A great option for carrying twins (use two slings).
- Asymmetrical carrying over one shoulder means the weight of your baby is not distributed evenly and can cause back pain if worn too long.
- Takes practice to learn to use.
- Maya Wrap
- Hip Baby Wrap– I recommend getting a striped ring sling since you can see what section of fabric you are loosening at the strap based on the color.
Soft- Structured Carriers
What are they?
They are padded pieces of fabric that usually have adjustable straps like a backpack.
- Can wear baby in a variety of different positions- back, front, inward, and outward-facing.
- Most are machine washable but not recommended to tumble dry.
- Quick to get on and off once you know what you’re doing.
- Can be very pricey.
- Bulky straps on petite or small frames.
- Most do not recommend using for babies under 7 lbs (so no preemies).
- Material is durable, but may be considered rough on skin and has hard plastic buckles (think backpack material and straps).
- Not as much head support for newborns as stretchy baby wraps.
- They don’t provide as much privacy for nursing.
- ErgoBaby– this one we have and love it. I do prefer our Boba Wrap, however, as I find it to be a more comfortable fit for me and baby
- Baby Bjorn
- Baby Tula
Always bend at your knees– when leaning over to pick something up off of the floor ALWAYS bend at the knees to reduce strain on the back, and place your hand on your baby for support.
Keep it snug like a T-shirt– babies should never be “loose” in the wrap, they can slump down and it can restrict their breathing
Use the “M” position– The International Hip Dysplasia Institute advises baby’s knees should be above hips “M” position while being carried. This is a natural position for babies and supports healthy hip development.
Make sure baby’s spine is shaped like a “J” position, not a “C” position. In other words, the top of upper part of the back should be straight, not slumped.
This is used with permission of the UK Sling Consortium. For full pdf version, click here.
Tight– carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby. Loose fabric is a safety hazard, and if your baby slumps down it can restrict their breathing.
In view at all times– Be able to view your baby without moving fabric. You need to make sure they are able to breathe safely.
Close enough to kiss– you should be able to tip your head forward and able to kiss your baby on the head
Keep chin off chest– Do not have baby’s chin curled down so it is touching their own chest, as this can restrict breathing.
Supported back– baby should have their back supported in a natural position and they should not be slumped down. Test this by pressing against your baby’s back. They should not “un-slump” or move closer to your body.
Tips for baby-wearing:
For wraps, put them on before you leave the house, and then it will be easier when you get to your destination.
It’s not possible to spoil a baby! Carry them as much as you and your baby are happy with it.
Wear a nursing camisole because you will get warm, and it is easier to nurse!
Anybody can wear a baby! Try it out!
Is baby wearing safe?
Yes! Whichever one you choose, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines. Always consult with your pediatrician if your child has any health issues.
When can I start baby-wearing?
Right from birth! Always ask a doctor if the infant has any health issues.
Are there cons to baby-wearing?
It can be tiring to wear a baby all day, and not all babies like carriers. It may be necessary to try a few out to find which one is right for you and your baby.
How do I wear a baby wrap?
I think videos are the easiest way to understand how to tie a baby wrap, ring-sling, or to adjust straps properly if you are wearing a soft-structured carrier. IF you’re interested in a particular kind or brand, watch the manufacturer’s video before you buy it. The Boba Wrap has an excellent website with instructions and videos, for example.
How to Feed While Baby Wearing?
I would recommend watching a video. The Boba Wrap has a video on their website that demonstrates how to breastfeed in a wrap
Where should I buy a baby carrier?
If there is as story near you where you could try a few on, that would be the best option. However, not all stores allow this and you may not have a store near you to check the out. Amazon has a lot of options that you can check out online. If you buy with Prime, then there are free returns if you do not like the product.
Can you baby wear too much?
Not really. As long as you and your baby enjoy it, it is beneficial for you both.
When to stop baby-wearing?
When it is no longer comfortable for you and your baby, or when they exceed the weight limit you should stop babywearing.
Best baby carrier for newborn?
This depends on your baby’s weight and your comfort level on wearing a wrap. The soft structured wraps usually have weight minimums of 7 or 8lbs, so if your baby weighs less than that you should not use them. I did not find the soft-structured carriers good for young babies in general without neck support. I found the ring sling to be very hard to learn at first, but you can carry your baby in a cradle which is good for a newborn because it provides neck support. Personally, I preferred the Boba Wrap for both my 5lb preemie newborn and my 9lb full-term newborn because it provided a snug fit, with good head support.
Which baby carrier is right for me?
It depends on what you are looking for, and what feels right for your baby. You could find a local baby wearing group using wrapyourbaby.com or join a Facebook group. Ergobaby has an online resource list of babywearing groups by state.
Will my baby like to be in a carrier?
Not all babies like to be held in a carrier, 100% of the time. Sometimes my baby is wiggly and wants to get out and I just read her cues to see what she wants. I’ll guess though that some point during the day your baby will want to be snuggled close to you. Try different positions, different times of day or a different wrap, sling, or structured carrier. Babies like movement too, so walk around because that is soothing to the baby. If they don’t like it initially, try patting, swaying, and gently bouncing the baby.
My baby does not like when I sit down when I’m carrying her in the wrap, and I can only sit down if I’m sitting up pretty straight, or she is in a deep sleep. The point is, don’t give up right away! All babies are different, so you just need to find what works for the both of you.
- Lonstein, J. S. (2007). Regulation of anxiety during the postpartum period. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 28(2–3), 115–141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2007.05.002
2. Bigelow A, Power M, MacLellan-Peters J, Alex M, McDonald C. Effect of mother/infant skin-to-skin contact on postpartum depressive symptoms and maternal physiological stress. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012 May-Jun;41(3):369-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2012.01350.x. Epub 2012 Apr 26. Erratum in: J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012 Jul-Aug;41(4):580. PMID: 22537390.
3. Hunziker UA, Barr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 1986 May;77(5):641-8. PMID: 3517799.
4. WIlliams L, and Turner, P. Experiences with “Babywearing”: Trendy parenting gear or a developmentally attuned parenting tool? Children and Youth Services Review. 2020 May;112. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.104918
5. Antunovic, E. (2008). Strollers, Baby Carriers, and Infant Stress: Horizontal Versus Upright Transport in Early Infancy. recuperado el, 20.
6. Campbell-Yeo ML, Disher TC, Benoit BL, Johnston CC. Understanding kangaroo care and its benefits to preterm infants. Pediatric Health Med Ther. 2015 Mar 18;6:15-32. doi: 10.2147/PHMT.S51869. PMID: 29388613; PMCID: PMC5683265.
7. Persing J, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, Section on Plastic Surgery and Section on Neurological Surgery. Prevention and management of positional skull deformities in infants. Pediatrics, July 2003;112(1):199-202.
8. Susan M. Ludington-Hoe, “Evidence-Based Review of Physiologic Effects of Kangaroo Care,” Current Women’s Health Reviews 7 (August 2011): 243-253 <http://eurekaselect.com/88428>.