I'm really excited to do a post on baby carriers. Why? I wear my kids all the time. It is not at all unusual, in fact, to find me walking around my house with one of my twin girls wrapped up. Sometimes, it's the only way to handle all three kids at once!
When my toddler was smaller - he's a freaking giant now - I would wear him while my wife & I cleaned the house. If I can wear my kid while shampooing the carpets, there's no reason you can't.
You're probably afraid to ask if you're going to look dumb or girly wearing a baby carrier. Short answer? No. Look around, dude. Go to a park or the beach and you'll find dads wearing their babies because really, it's not a huge deal now. It's easy than pushing a stroller, that's for sure! If anything, wearing your kid is about as manly as it gets.
And, practically speaking, it's the easiest way to still get stuff done while keeping your baby calm. I highly recommend it. Honestly, it just feels great to have your kid on your chest.
But I am no expert on baby carriers (although I do often use the Baby K'tan and the Ergobaby). That's why I asked "Dr. Babywearing Dad" David Rose to write today's post! First off, look at the dude. He's pulling that whole baby carrier thing off, no problem. Second, he's tried a variety and uses them all the time. You'll really enjoy this one. Have a guy friend expecting a baby soon? Share this post! - Andy Shaw
Everything You Need to Know About Baby Carriers, But Were Too Afraid to Ask!
By David Rose (Dr Babywearing Dad)
With the exception of the brief cameo by baby “Carlos” in the movie the Hangover, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent the majority of your life oblivious to a popular childrearing practice called babywearing.
I was first introduced to it 3 years ago, when my son was born premature and I used a form of babywearing called Kangaroo Care (a method of caring for premature babies in which the infants are held skin-to-skin with a parent, for as many hours as possible every day) to help nurture him during his critical time in the NICU. (Ed. note – Kangaroo care is one of the very best things a dad can do to contribute in the early months!)
I instantly became a believer in the benefits of babywearing, and ever since then, it’s become an important part of my parenting regime as a way to continue bonding and remaining efficiently active with my kids.
It turns out that babywearing has been around since the dawn of humankind (an educated guess) and is still the cultural norm for a large population of the planet. So what is it and why haven’t you heard of it?
In a nutshell, it’s the practice of using any variation of baby carrier to essentially fasten your little ones to your body as you go about your day. Despite its unrivaled longevity as the de facto baby transport practice of all time, it really hasn’t been widely used in the “industrialized world” until only recently, where it has finally started to gain traction and popularity.
The 5 Types of Baby Carriers
As I immersed myself into the world of babywearing, to my delight, I discovered a wonderful and diverse community of parents who place a premium on having strong family bonds. Additionally there are legions of loyal fans for certain brands of carriers, Facebook groups, Instagramers, local meet-ups, certifications, and local, national and international conferences - you name it, babywearing has it! Because there are so many layers of awesomeness it really can become its own full-blown lifestyle, or at least a supplement to one.
So, how does a dad wade into the shallow end of the babywearing pool? You don’t need your water wings, but it is helpful to start by getting your bearings.
There are 5 basic categories of baby carriers available today:
1. Soft Structure Carriers (or Buckle Carriers) are similarly structured to a backpack. The various designs are generally worn on your front, back or hip and are ideal for older babies and toddlers.
2. Wraps are pieces of long cloth that wrap around your body and your little one. Wrap baby carriers have no clasps or rings and offer many different positions for holding your baby at various ages.
3. Ring Slings are a single piece of fabric with the tail threaded through a pair of rings (like a d-ring belt) to hold your baby against your body.
4. Pouch Slings are a single piece of fabric that form a half-tube that is worn over one shoulder like a sash that secures the little one against your body. Pouch slings cannot be adjusted like a ring sling and must be fitted.
5. Mei Tai (Pronounced “may tie”) is a panel of fabric with 2 shoulder and 2 waist straps that are used to tie the little one to your body.
A full detailed description of these carriers is provided on Babywearing International’s “Choosing a Baby Carrier” page.
For right now, I’m going to focus on providing an overview of how to select a good Soft Structure Carrier. SSCs are a good entry point into babywearing as they closely resemble the familiarity of using a backpack and come in a variety of styles and price ranges.
New Carrier Purchase: The 5 Critical Factors You Need to Consider
I’ve tested and reviewed many SSCs and developed a list of 5 critical factors you should consider when looking to purchase a new carrier.
1. Safety: There is no compromise with safety – it is the most important factor. Don’t be fooled by nice looks or gadgetry – if it’s not safe, do not use it, end of story. Here’s what I’m looking for in terms of safety:
· A structural design that keeps the little one in a safe position (head, neck, spine and hips are fully supported, with no obstructed airways)
· Strong, durable fabrics that won’t rip or tear
· Straps that are securely anchored with reinforced stitching (x-box)
· Buckles and straps that are all high-quality hardware
· Other safety requisites like elastic safety loop on the waist belt.
2. Kiddo Comfort: Let’s face it, if the kid is not comfortable you’re not going to be wearing them for very long! Here’s what I’m looking on behalf of our passenger:
· Effective back, head and neck support throughout
· M position seating to alleviate pressure on hips (Ed. note: That means their butt is positioned below their knees, which hang off to the sides.)
· Comfort padding in key pressure points, such as under the legs, or head rests
· Soft fabrics, with nothing scratchy or that rubs against skin – there should be no indentions or irritation on the little ones skin
· Optional carrying positions to find the best fit for the passenger
3. My Comfort: Ergonomics are essential for a babywearing dad and especially for those of us who are the active, on-the-go sort. Here’s what I’m looking for in terms of my comfort:
· Flexibility with strap configuration to dial in a comfortable fit. Look for at least 2 to 3 adjusters per strap.
· Multiple carrying positions – this is helpful if you get fatigued wearing them in one position, you can take a break and switch to another. Also if you have both toddler and infant passengers you may find certain carrying positions will work better for one or the other.
· Support in all of the key pressure point areas, which are typically the shoulders, upper and lower back and hips. Look for extras in the category like extra lumbar support padding
· Generous strap padding
· No rubbing, scratchingor pinching against my skin of any sort
· Materials that are comfortable to the touch
· An overall snug and secure “fit”.
4. Build (Style/Functionality/Design): The ability to bring together a bunch of fabric, straps, buckles, etc. into one cohesive and functional unit is certainly a bit of science, but most definitely it’s an art. A good carrier should be able to combine:
· Quality materials
· Great looks/styling
· Meaningful and functional purpose of all parts/pieces
5. Value: The final consideration is value which I determine as the cost divided by quality – basically, are you getting what you pay for. An excellent value carrier is one that meets or exceeds your expectations in each of the other 4 factors while remaining at a price point that seems proportional to you. For the most part the SSC market is fairly flat with the majority of manufacturers offering products with safety comfort and build quality at comparable pricing.
At the end of the day, finding the right carrier for you is a matter of personal preference, or perhaps your woman’s personal preference - haha – but seriously, those Tula moms (including my wife) don’t mess around!
Another important suggestion would be to visit a local Babywearing International (BWI) chapter where they can offer hands-on and individualized training/tutorials.
Also, many BWI chapters have what’s called a “lending library” where you can “rent” any carrier for a month, which allows you to try a few out before you buy one. Also, make sure you take some time to visit the Babywearing International website for a ton of additional information and educational materials. Additionally, many retails stores who sell baby products will have demo carriers that you can try out and usually the folks who work at these stores are very knowledgeable about babywearing.
Babywearing is a really awesome way to be an engaged, caring and present father to your little ones. It will create memories of closeness, protection and comfort that will last a lifetime. They don’t stay little forever so I encourage you to not miss out on this wonderful way of parenting.
About the Author:
David Rose is a dad, hubby, entrepreneur, babywearing enthusiast, undercover hippie and Pacific Northwest Dweller, sharing his big ol’ slice of life ala mode. Follow him on Facebook: DR Babywearing Dad and Instagram: DRBABYWEARINGDAD where you can get access to a number of his baby carrier reviews and featured posts.