Before our first little one arrives, we excitedly register for (or order) what we think our bouncing baby will need. Many parents, looking toward natural parenting and bonding with their infant, consider different types of baby wearing options such as slings, wrap carriers, and soft carriers. They may choose one and register for it (because that’s part of the fun of “about to be a new parent”) or they order it for themselves. They wash it and prepare it and get excited to use it. Then someone disagrees; that someone’s opinion is way more important than your thoughts that the carrier is cute or looks easy to use.
When we registered, I didn’t know much of anything about baby wearing, so I registered for a sling carrier that they sold in Target. I washed it, and it shrank. I was forlorn. My sister bought me another one. When my son arrived I had a cute (line-dried) sling waiting for him. My husband and I struggled to put him into it, and he fell asleep after some crying. I figured he would get used to it and it would all work out. Sadly, newborns just do that – they sleep anywhere. But when he got bigger, the sling was just not for him. He flat out refused to hang out in it. Plus it wasn’t padded, and it cut into my shoulders. So I sold it on eBay and went on a hunt.
I found a mei tai type wrap at a used baby store, and wrestled my son into it. He was ok with it for a few days, but it seemed to cut into his chunky monkey legs. I didn’t like that it left red marks on his thighs, so I sold it to fund my next purchase.
Next up, the Moby wrap. The yards of fabric looked daunting, but it was pretty easy to figure out. My husband watched me put it on in wonder (“How will THAT hold him?”), but for a while it worked for us. He preferred sitting facing forward in the “lotus” position, but eventually he didn’t like having his feet and legs all scrunched up. And he wanted to be on my hip rather than facing forward.
We went to a friend’s house and my son was cranky, so she pulled out a larger (and padded!) ring sing carrier and put him in it. He calmed quickly. I wanted it. I borrowed her sling until I found one used on eBay (for $9.99). He enjoyed that one until he could crawl – then any sort of carrier was not his friend because he just wanted to move. I let a friend borrow it and told her it didn’t need to come back. By this point I almost gave up. Heck, he didn’t take a pacifier so maybe he didn’t like carriers either.
Finally I tried the carrier I wanted to try originally (but balked at the price) – an Ergo Baby Carrier. He enjoyed chewing on the straps (made me wish I had bought the sucking pads which I had thought were a silly idea), seemed comfortable, and it didn’t leave marks on his legs. When he got a little bigger he enjoyed the hip and back carrys, both of which the Ergo can do. Now that he’s walking, he prefers to be on his own, but the Ergo is still what I use if I want him to be able to check out what I’m doing but can’t hold him and he can’t walk it.
There are multiple lessons learned here. First, while your comfort (and fashion) are factors in choosing a carrier, your little one’s preference is what’s going to keep them in it (or let them allow you to keep putting them in it). My advice – don’t pre-buy. I know it’s hard. I know. I’ve been there. But the best advice I can give anyone when choosing a carrier is to try it out with your little one before you buy. Go to a store that sells multiple types (if you can) and let your little one’s comfort be the deciding factor. Second lesson learned – your kiddo’s preference for carriers may change based on their age and abilities. Once they start moving on their own, it’s a completely different world and they may not be into a carrier even. It may be a good idea to go in with some friends and rotate around the carriers that are working for your different age groups. Third – some kiddos really just don’t want the carrier. Just as some don’t like to be swaddled, some want to sleep on their bellies from day 1, and some don’t take a pacifier, some simply want the freedom to move and thus don’t want to be confined to your carrier. Don’t feel badly; it’s nothing that you did! And don’t let other “natural mommas” make you feel badly. Fourth – padding is your friend. The more padding something has around the points that it touches your skin, the more comfortable it will be for you.
Each kid’s an individual. They have their own preferences for comfort. That is the main lesson I learned. The choice is their choice, not your choice. Let them show you what works for them.
Liz Wright is a Momma to Silas (14 months), wife to Mike, psychology professor, and doctoral candidate. She lives in San Antonio with her family and their two dogs. She writes about parenting and household issues in her blog Mama Around The House (http://mamaaroundthehouse.blogspot.com/)