The Types of Baby Carrier – Which is Best for You?

the types of baby carrier
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Baby carriers come in a few different varieties. This post will outline the types of baby carrier there are and which type tends to be best for different uses.

Broadly there are 4 types of baby carrier

  • Wraps
  • Slings
  • Mei Tais
  • Carriers

But you could also include:

  • Hiking Carriers

As a separate category.

Let's see what the differences are for each. 

Wraps

Wraps, like the name would suggest, are a large piece of material that you wrap around your body and around your baby’s body to secure them to you.

You can create a wrap out of blanket of course, but commercial wraps tend to be:

  • Designed to be much easier to wrap
  • Made of material that is stretchy yet soft for comfort and security

Each brand of wrap will tie slightly differently but here’s an example of how a baby wrap is tied.

The advantages of wraps are:

  • You tend to be closer to your baby in a wrap compared other types of carriers and its easy to do skin-to-skin time in them
  • Easy to wash in machine
  • Suitable for newborns
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    Versatile – can often be used as a wrap, a sling and a blanket
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    Can often conform to a wide range of baby and mom/dad shapes and sizes
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    Can often be setup so that your baby’s legs are either inside or outside the wrap
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    Can use for breastfeeding

The disadvantages are:

  • Usually harder to setup – requires practice and patience
  • You’re relying on your wrapping skills for the safety of the baby – though there usually instructions on how to wrap that will come with your wrap
  • Usually not suitable for toddlers
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    Can only be worn on the front – not on the back
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    Excess material can drag on the ground, depending on the wrap and the person wearing it

Slings

There are actually two different types of slings that you can get – ring slings and pouch slings.

Ring Slings

Ring slings are closer to wraps than pouch slings in that they still require quite a bit of setup on the part of the mom/dad.

Ring slings consist of a piece of fabric that is threaded through two rings (hence the name). The fabric is wrapped around one shoulder of the adult wearing the sling and around the back and then wrapped around the baby and threaded through the rings. Then you can pull it through the rings to the desired tightness and secure the sling.

The advantages of ring slings are:

  • Easier to breastfeed than a wrap or carrier
  • Easier to setup than a wrap
  • Often good for hot weather
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    Easy to adjust if you need to at some point, after the initial setup

The disadvantages are:

  • Not as secure for newborns as a wrap or carrier – overall doesn’t feel as secure
  • Still requires some practice to setup
  • Rings can become uncomfortable on your shoulders – particularly with bigger babies or after wearing for a long time
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    Can be harder to wash than wraps, because of the rings
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    Can only be worn on the front – not on the back

Pouch Slings

Pouch slings are easier to setup than a ring sling or a pouch, in that they have a built in pouch already.

Like the ring sling, a pouch sling is worn over one shoulder, but there are no rings that you thread the pouch sling through. It is just one piece and you just throw it over your shoulder. The baby is then placed into the pouch that is already there. 

Some pouch slings are adjustable to make it tighter or looser as needed. 

Typically, babies lie in a cradle position in a couch sling rather than upright but you can set baby up in an upright position, but it takes a bit more setting up to do – only you know if you are comfortable doing it this way or not.

The advantages of pouch slings are:

  • Easier to setup than a ring sling or wrap
  • Easy to carry when not in use (very portable)
  • Easy to wash
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    Usually quite reasonably priced compared to other types of carriers

The disadvantages are:

  • Important to have the right size for you baby, especially if it isn’t adjustable
  • Not ideal with newborns
  • Not as secure as a wrap or carrier
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    Can be hard on the shoulders if worn for a reasonable period of time
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    Can only be worn on the front – not on the back

Mei-Tai Carriers

There are a few varieties you can get, but the basic Mei Tai carrier is essentially a rectangular piece of material with a strap on each corner (4 straps). Two of the straps are really long and the other two are shorter. 

These are Asian style traditional carriers that are simple, but also versatile. 

The advantages of Mei-Tai carriers are:

  • Relatively easy to use
  • Can be used as a front carrier, back carrier or hip carrier
  • Switching being different carrying styles can allow you to wear it for longer with less fatigue
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    Can easily conform to a wide range of baby and mom/dad sizes/shapes
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    Can continue to use even as a toddle/pre-schooler
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    Reasonably priced

The disadvantages are:

  • If you decide to stick with Mei Tai, you’ll likely need to get a new one when baby gets bigger (but you can keep using it when they are bigger, but you’ll just likely need to get a bigger one)
  • Takes a little bit of practice to use (though relatively simple)
  • Some cheap Mei Tais can be a safety concern (cheaply sewn on straps)

Carriers

Finally, we come to carriers.

I suppose we could call everything above carriers, but what is commonly called a carrier is this type. These can also be called structured carriers

These carriers essentially have a seat in them, that your baby sits on.

They are easy to use, you just strap them to yourself, sit your baby in them and buckle up the straps. You will likely need to make adjustments for a better fit, but most come with a lot of adjustability.

There are many different kinds of carriers and they are all slightly different to set up, but here's an example of how to set up one of BabyBjorn's carriers. 

The advantages of structured Carriers are:

  • Typically, the most secure type of carrier
  • Typically, the easiest type of carrier to use
  • Can wear for a longer period of time
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    If you get a newborn insert you can typically use these form when they’re a newborn until they’re 2+, without having to get anything different 
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    Depending on the brand/model, they are often versatile and can go on the front (facing inward or outward), back and hip
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    There are a lot of accessories made for these types of carriers to add functionality

The disadvantages are:

  • You’re not as close to your baby as you are in something like a wrap
  • Harder to clean than something like a wrap or a pouch sling
  • Do require an infant insert/newborn insert for newborns
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    Most expensive type of carrier

Hiking Carriers

Hiking carriers are designed for bigger kids and have a frame and a solid construction. They’re only made to be used on the back.

They are like a hiking pack that’s designed to carry your toddler/pre-schooler.

The advantages of Hiking Carriers are:

  • Can be used on longer hikes with bigger babies/kids
  • Have pockets to carry other things in them
  • Usually come with a hood/sun shade for rain and sun protection
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    Often double as a seat
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    Can put your baby/child in them whilst they’re setup as a seat and then hoist them onto the back

The disadvantages are:

  • Can’t be used with small babies
  • Can only go on the back
  • Aren’t portable at all, quite bulky and heavy
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    Since they already weigh a lot they can be very heavy once baby/child is in them
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    Usually quite expensive
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    Really only if you are going on hikes, so quite a specialized item

FINAL THOUGHTS

So, there you have the different types of baby carrier – all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.

Which one is right for you, will depend on your own personal preferences, your babies size/age and your confidence level with carrying your baby.

Of course, you should always follow the instructions and safety guidelines given by the manufacturer, regardless of the type of carrier that you choose.  

I hope this has helped you to better understand the different types of baby carriers.

2comments
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Ruth - September 11, 2018

That was a very informative article. Thank you for taking the time to not only show how to use each baby carrier, but also explaining the advantages and the disadvantages of each type of baby carrier.
I didn’t realize there was so many different types of baby carriers.
Good to know, especially for first time moms and dads who want to get the best baby carrier for their specific needs.

Thanks
Ruth

Reply
    Avatar
    The Baby In Motion - September 12, 2018

    Hi Ruth 

    Thanks for your message. I’m glad it could help. Yeah plenty of different ways to carry your baby these days, which is great as everyone has their own preferences and priorities when it comes to baby wearing. 

    Reply
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