Baby Carriers

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Juggling all your baby gear is a big feat on top of keeping baby safely at your side. We gathered some new parents to help us test out several different brands and types of baby carriers, with help and buying advice from parenting experts.


The Basics

  • The most important thing to look for when buying this big ticket item is a sign that ensures the model was tested and approved for safety.

  • A carrier is useful for comforting a baby, for freeing up your hands and other things but at the end of the day only a stroller really lets you put the baby down. You first need to decide if you’ll need one or both.

  • For the safest ride possible, follow these tips:

    • Always adhere to manufacturers’ age and weight restrictions.

    • Some carriers may only list maximum weight, but some babies, newborns in particular, may be too tiny to fit safely in many carriers, and could potentially fall out through one of the leg holes!

    • Watch out for sharp edges or closures that can scratch the baby.

    • Do not wear the carrier and baby while cooking dinner, drinking hot liquids or riding in a car or on a bike.

    • Don’t leave a sleeping baby in a carrier. Even if the carrier is freestanding, the baby may move and topple the structure.

    • Be sure to ask your doctor how soon you can use a baby carrier after a c-section.

    • Check the carrier periodically for ripped seams, missing or loose fasteners, frayed fabric or straps.

  • There are a variety of carrier styles on the market, each with their own pros and cons:

    • Front/soft fabric carriers are built for babies 8-35lbs and are useful for short shopping trips and doing chores. They allow a child to rest upright on your chest, facing in or out, with his arms hanging free. Newborns should always face you, but once your baby can support his head, he can face forward. Some soft carriers can also be worn as hip saddles or backpacks, but be sure it’s comfortable for your back.

      • Pros: hands-free, baby is secure, newborns are close enough o hear your voice and heartbeat, are relatively slim for easy manoeuvrability, work well if you’re also pushing another child in a stroller, are less cumbersome than backpacks.

      • Cons: larger/older babies get heavy after a while. If you are not between 5’ 4” and 5’ 9”, or if you’re heavier, you might have a hard time fitting the straps.

      • Must-haves: padded, non-slip, adjustable shoulder straps that distribute weight. A padded seat, back rest, leg holes, and head rest, all adjustable. Elastic tabs or other system to shrink leg holes for newborns. Snaps, buckles, etc. you can operate with just one hand. Machine washable.

    • Slings are good for newborns to toddlers up to 30 lbs and are made from simple fabric wrapped diagonally like a sash around your torso, forming a pouch for baby. Fabric should be season-appropriate (heavier for winter, lighter for summer). There are about 6 different ways to hold a baby in a sling, but follow manufacturer instructions.

      • Pros: generally less expensive, allow for discreet nursing, good for travelling, easy to pack, and you can see your baby easily.

      • Cons: some parents feel the need to keep a protective arm around the sling. The look is slightly bulky and a similar silhouette to being pregnant. Some babies find the hammock too confining.

      • Must-haves: adjustable straps held on by non-slip rings or buckles. Shoulder padding.

    • Back/framed carriers give sitting babies to toddler-sized children a bird’s eye view from a seat perched on your back like a backpack. Materials and construction range from simple to complex. Some even convert to strollers.

      • Pros: good for hiking, provide good weight distribution, work well beyond baby-size.

      • Cons: not good for babies less than 5 months old, may cost the most, may be difficult to put on by yourself with the baby in it, can’t see baby, requires a lot of strap adjustment if sharing the carrying between two different people.

      • Must-haves: padded shoulder straps, a free-standing frame, a folding mechanism with no pinch points and a lock-open feature, a safety belt for children, adjustable chest and hip belts for parents, durable and easy-clean fabric.

Other Considerations

  • Start slowly with your carrier to build up the back and leg strength needed to carry your child around for a good portion of a day. And be careful bending over – be sure to bend at the knees, not the waist, to protect your back.

Be Aware

  • Be careful if you are borrowing from a friend or buying used – some models have been recalled or discontinued due to safety concerns.

  • Monitor product recalls through organizations such as Consumer Products Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov).




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