There are three main types of baby carriers:
- A soft padded carrier (pouch), worn on your front.
- A sling worn across your front
- Backpack carriers usually have rigid frames and are suitable for older babies and toddlers.
Soft baby carriers and slings
- A soft padded carrier allows your baby to snuggle up in the face-in position. Many carriers also allow you to position your baby face out, which allows more freedom of movement and visibility for an older baby.
- A sling usually offers not just the vertical face-in and face-out positions, but also the “peapod” position, where a young baby is carried wrapped around or across your body.
- The extra material in a sling carrier allows you to breastfeed a baby, which is a bit awkward in a pouch.
- A sling can be too bulky for smaller babies, can take longer to learn to wear correctly, and some people find them uncomfortable.
What to look for
Different styles of baby carrier suit different body shapes and sizes, for both parent and baby. Try on a few different ones in the shop.
- Can you put the carrier on and take it off easily without assistance? Clips and buckles are usually easier to do up and release than straps that tie up.
- Broad, well-padded shoulder straps that cross at the back help distribute the weight. The straps shouldn’t pull too much on your neck or shoulders.
- A broad hip or waist strap will take some weight off your shoulders and limit sideways movement of the carrier, adding stability.
- Are the straps fully and easily adjustable with one hand? Do they obscure baby's vision or cut into their face?
- Does the carrier support baby sufficiently without restricting head, leg and arm movement?
- Younger babies have little or no head and neck control and need adequate head support.
- Older babies need a facing-out option.
- Well-finished inside seams so they don't rub or chafe the baby.
- Clear and concise instructions, for example, a DVD.
- Useful features include a “dribble-guard” to protect your clothes, a pouch for your wallet and a rain guard or sun cover.
- Consider the season you’ll be using it. Lightweight carriers with a more open design or breathable fabric will be more comfortable for the baby in warmer months.
- Useful for older babies and toddlers for activities like shopping, on the beach or bushwalks.
- Can feel uncomfortable unless you use them regularly and have developed the necessary strength and stamina in pace with your child’s increasing weight.
What to look for
- Try on several packs with the child inside.
- Check several examples of the model as quality of construction can vary.
- In a mild climate, a simple design that leaves limbs free is more appropriate than a very complex design.
- If people of different heights and sizes are using the carrier look for a model with an adjustable frame.