Broadly speaking there are 5 main types of baby carrier - stretchy wraps, woven wraps, ring sling, meh dai and buckle carriers (or SSC - soft structured carriers). The first step in finding the right carrier for you is usually figuring out which type of carrier would suit you best and then worrying about individual brands after. Here we will look at each type in turn...
1. Stretchy Wraps and Stretchy Carriers
Perfect for newborns and the 4th trimester. Stretchy wraps are simply a long piece of stretchy fabric that you pre-tie to yourself and then simply pop your baby in. Stretchy carriers such as the Caboo and the K'Tan give a very similar carry but much of the tying has already been done for you.
- Pros are that they are easy to use, super soft against newborn skin and akin to being swaddled to parent. They fit a very wide range of body types and are comfortable enough to use around the home for as long as you like.
- Cons are that babies often grown out of them developmentally after a few months, roughly when they grow out of swaddling. (although if this puts you off many sling libraries including ourselves offer very cost effective long term loans to save you needing to buy your own).
My Top 3 Stretchy Picks;
For more on the differences between stretchy wrap brands please read our comparison article where we take a look at 16 different wraps. To understand more about the differences between one way and two way stretchy wraps click here.
Examples of Stretchy carriers include;
- Close Parent Caboo (Click here to learn more the Caboo, or here to see a comparision of different Caboo models and here to see 9 different ways you can use a Caboo)
- Konny Baby
Please note both the K'Tan and Konny baby are sized carriers so its imperative you purchase the right size for you. It's often difficult to share these across both parents or carers and for this reason we don't currently have either of these in the library, instead preferring the Caboo which offers families a more flexible fit.
2. Woven Wraps
Perfect for newborns all the way until you no longer wish to carry (preschooler or beyond). These are simply a long piece of woven (non stretchy) material that can be tied around you and baby.
- Pros are that these are the most versatile of all carriers, they are the one true one sling fits all carrier. Great for bad backs as you get a perfect fit every time. No limit on what you can do with them - front, hip and back carries - only your imagination!
- Cons are that they sweep the ground if wrapping out and about. They are not as intuitive as a buckle carrier to learn, they can be just as easy once you've done it a few times.
Woven wraps come in a range of sizes, thicknesses and fibers and it can be well worth trying a couple to get a sense of what you like. One of the best ways to learn to use a woven and/or to give wrapping a go is to book a private consult, come along to one of our introduction to woven wrap workshops, see if there is a sling meet near you or make use of our "Give Wovens a Whirl" package to learn with me online. Either way you'd get a chance to try different techniques out for yourself and to try a range of different wraps and see what works for you. Brands we recommend can be seen here and the full list of woven wraps in the library collection can be found here.
3. Ring Slings and Pouches
Can be used from newborn to toddler. Ring slings are a bit like marmite... people usually either love them or hate them. Ring Slings consist of a length of woven material with rings sewn into one end. The rings acts instead of a knot to secure and adjust the sling, creating a loop of fabric that slips over 1 shoulder. Pouches are simply a loop of fabric that slip over one shoulder, they do not adjust so it is important to purchase the right size for you.
- Pros are that they are very fast and and easy to use. They fold up very small to fit in a change bag and are perfect for quick ups and downs.
- Cons are they are less supportive as one shoulder carry only and have the steepest learning curve - very very easy to use once you have the knack but can be a little counterintuitive at first.
Ring Sling Brands include;
- Melliapis Gauze Ring Sling (review)
- Many woven wrap brands (including Didymos, Girasol, Firespiral, Hoppediz, Bebe Sachi and Jacq and Rose).
- JPMBB little wrap without a knot
Pouch Brands include;
Please note most pouch slings are sized so again it is imperative you purchase the right size. This often makes it difficult for partners sharing the same sling and so we don't currently have these in the library and instead recommend the Mini Monkey Mini Sling which is a fully adjustable pouch and offers parents a more flexible fit.
4. Meh Dai and other Asian style carriers.
Work best from roughly 2-3 months old (although some do work from newborn too) through till around 2 years old. Meh Dai consist of a panel and 4 ties. There are also half buckles which have a buckle at the waist and ties across shoulders and around baby.
- Pros are that they are very versatile offering front, hip and back carries. They are a half way house between a woven wrap and a buckle carrier - offering the more intuitive ease of use of a buckle carrier combined with the perfect fit each time of a woven wrap. Again this is a good choice for bad backs.
- Cons are that they sweep the ground if putting on out and about.
- Hoppediz Hop-Tye
- Didymos DidyTai and DidyKlick (review)
- Limas Baby
- Manduca Twist
- Storchenwiege Baby carrier
5. Buckle Carriers (also known as Soft Structured Carriers or SSC).
These are the most popular type of carrier and most readily available on the high street. While many are suitable from birth generally buckle carriers work best from 4 months onward until 2 or 3 years old.
Pros are that these are very intuitive and easy to use, although like all of the above it take a couple of goes to really get the hang of adjusting optimally.
Cons are that these have more of a fit issue, and depending on the fit can be harder on weak backs.
Often when a parent is experiencing back soreness while carrying a few small tweaks to how the carrier is tightened makes all the difference. That is because while buckle carriers are the most intuitive to use when it comes to achieving a safe and secure carry.... to be completely comfortable over longer periods of time it is imperative that the carrier is optimally tightened and this takes can take a few more goes or a bit of help to find the right set up for you. If you are struggling it can be well worth booking a consultation - whether in person or online - as more often than not a few tweaks can make all the difference.
There is also a HUGE amount of variation between different buckle carrier brands, and each brand fits differently because of how they are made - angle straps are sewn in, position of buckles, thickness of padding ... etc etc etc. Different brands fit different bodies better or worse so it is really really really worth trying on a good few brands before committing. Carriers are like clothing - just as you would try a pair of jeans on before purchasing it is key to try any carrier on and find the one that is giving you, baby and partner the best fit.
You can see videos of how to use Buckle carriers in the following positions by clicking through to hyperlinks below
- forward facing carry
- hip carry
- back carry
- front carry fit tips for a newborn
- Fit tips for parent comfort
Our Top Picks are;
- Beco Gemini (review)
- Ergobaby Embrace (review)
- Ergobaby Omni 360 (review and comparison)
- Ergobaby Omni Breeze (review)
- Izmi baby carrier (review)
- Kahu Baby Carrier (review)
- Manduca XT (review)
Additionally in the library we have the Baby Bjorn the One, the Harmony, the Move and the Mini, Beco Toddler, Caboo DX Go, Connecta Toddler and Preschooler sizes, Ergobaby Adapt, Izmi Toddler, JPMBB Physio Carrier, Mamaruga Zen Sling and Zebulo, Manduca First, Neko Switch Toddler, Scootababy hip carrier, Sleepy Nico, Tula Free to Grow, Tula Explore and Tula Todder... and more! Full upto date list can be found here.