“What should I put on my registry?” This question is often met with some kind of response about a baby carrier. While babywearing may seem like a trend that has recently found popularity among new parents, babywearing has actually been around for centuries, and with good reason.

If you consider the biology of a baby, they are classified as “carried young.” This means that human infants are akin to apes and marsupials who are carried around by, and kept in close proximity to, their mother. Unlike “cache” mammals who leave their young for long periods of time throughout the day, like deer or rabbits, human infants require frequent nurturing, feeding, and contact. Babywearing allows parents to meet that biological need for closeness while also allowing them to do other things like care for older children or attend to things around the home.

The benefits of babywearing don’t stop there though. Babywearing helps to strengthen baby’s muscles and even counts as “tummy time” because of the workout the baby gets in supporting its core muscles while being worn. It helps promote healthy brain development. It can increase responsiveness from the caregiver. Bonding and attachment can also be strengthened through babywearing.

So, then the question becomes, “Well, which carrier should I get?”

That is a complicated question. There are multiple styles of carriers and the preference for style varies from person to person. While I might prefer a woven wrap, my best friend my like a ring sling, and my neighbor may reach for a soft structured carrier. And within those categories (and there are more than that) there are many options to choose from.

Let’s break it down then. Before we can choose what type of carrier is best for us, we should be aware of what our options are.

Stretchy Wrap: A stretchy wrap is a long piece of fabric which you tie around yourself to secure baby to your body. Made from material that has some stretch to it, these wraps typically are used with newborns through about 6 months old. Once baby reaches about 30lbs most parents find these wraps to be unsupportive, noticing a sag in the material or that it becomes uncomfortable to wear. Some parents are intimidated by the idea of learning to use the stretchy wrap however once you know what you are doing, many parents really enjoy the comfort these wraps provide for both parent and baby.

Woven Wrap: Similar to the stretchy wrap, a woven wrap is along piece of fabric, either hand or machine woven, and used to secure baby to your body. Woven wraps can be used with babies starting from birth, however, can last well into childhood. Many parents enjoy being able to wear their babies and toddlers on their back, a carrying position which cannot be done using a stretchy wrap.

Ring Sling: A ring sling is a mid-length piece of fabric with two rings on one end. The fabric goes through the rings and the material rests over one shoulder. Baby is held in an off-center position on the front or on the parent’s hip. A ring sling can be used with newborns through toddlerhood, or as long as the parent finds they can support the weight on their shoulder(s).

Meh Dai: A Meh Dai, or a Bei Dai or Mei Tai as it is sometimes called, is a panel of fabric with long wrap-style straps which get tied at the waist and around parent and baby. The Meh Dai is an Asian-style carrier which is lesser known by parents. However, the ease of this carrier, and wrap-style straps means that anyone can pick up this carrier and be able to use it. It can be used with newborns through toddlerhood, although some minor adjustments may need to be made to accommodate small babies. This carrier can be used both on the front and back of the parent.

Soft Structured Carrier: Possibly one of the most popular styles of carriers, this is often what parents think of when they hear about babywearing. This is a backpack style carrier which can be worn on the front or back of the parent, has a buckled waist band and backpack style straps. There are nylon adjuster straps on multiple spots and some carriers have multiple ways to adjust the fit of the carrier. Many soft-structed carriers require the use of an infant insert for small babies. While this style of carrier is quite popular among parents, some find that it can be hard to make them comfortable since they are limited on how they can be fit for each body.

Hybrid Carriers: Hybrid carriers are a combination of carrier styles. It is typically a soft-structed carrier or Meh Dai design with adjustments made to them. For example, there may be backpack style straps with a ring sling or woven wrap style waist. Or a buckle waistband on a Meh Dai style carrier.

Most parents don’t realize but there is more to babywearing than just popping baby into a carrier or wrapping them up in some fabric. To ensure proper fitting, comfort for baby and parent, and knowledge of different ways to support baby in a carrier, it takes guidance and support.

Typically, the next question I get asked, after “What carrier should I get?” is “How do I wear my baby safely?”

Safety is a major concern for parents with all products that they use. This is why it is important for parents to use quality products and to be educated on how to ensure proper fit for the carrier they choose to use.

Yes, you can read the user manuals for the carrier, and you look up videos on YouTube, but to get the best support you should check out some of Nashville’s local resources.

Happy babywearing!