There are many different types of baby carriers; they come in a range of types, brands, styles, sizes, prices and quality. This is just a brief overview of the different basic types of carriers to give you a rough idea of what you might want to look for.
Soft Structured Carrier with Buckles
These are the most commonly used type of carrier, they include brands such as Baby Bjorn, Ergo, Manduca. They come in a very wide range of prices from under $50 to over $200. The comfort and weight limits of these carriers can vary greatly, be aware that while two brands might look very similar they might have different weight limits and this will affect how long you will be able to use them. Different brands and models are more suitable to taller or shorter parents, new babies or toddlers. Some carriers come with newborn inserts, which make a carrier suitable for carrying bigger babies and toddlers, also safe and comfortable for new babies. Some soft structured carriers can be used on the front or back, front only, or can also be forward facing.
These are fabric carriers that have long ties instead of buckles – they are basically a square or rectangle of fabric, with four long strips of fabric attached at each corner which tie around the wearer. Not all Mei Tais are the same, they come in a variety of sizes, shapes, styles and quality. Some have wider straps for more evenly spread weight distribution, or padded shoulders for comfort – the size of the central piece of fabric determines whether it is suitable for smaller babies or toddlers. Mei Tais come in a range of different fabrics, such as canvas, cord, denim, as well as soft cotten and colourful fabrics, they can also be converted from woven wraps (see below).
A wrap is a long piece of material that when wrapped around you and baby to hold them to your body, this is one of the most versatile type of carrier as it can be worn many different ways, for different ages, in different positions depending on what is most comfortable for you and baby or toddler.
Stretchy wraps are usually much less expensive and usually made from a stretchy cotton – like jersey knit. They are suitable for newborns and little babies, though as baby gets heavier they do start to drag downwards and become uncomfortable and unsafe to continue to wear. Stretch wraps can only be safely worn with baby on the front. They can also be cheaply and easily made from fabric purchased from a a fabric store.
Woven Wraps are made from a woven fabric, either cotton, linen, wool, or blends. Woven wraps are very supportive and comfortable when worn correctly. They can be priced anywhere between $100-$1000 – with a few less and more expensive options outside of that range. Read more about Woven Wraps.
There are a few different types of slings. The simplest type being a loop of fabric that goes over your shoulder down to your hip, no clips, buckles or extra fabric so these are to size and must fit correctly to be safe (Click here to watch T.I.C.K.S youtube clip if you are unsure what “safe” baby wearing entails)
Buckle Slings are slings are a loop of fabric with a buckle and strap which can be loosened and tightened to adjust to fit baby and are easier to get baby into a safe position than a sling that can’t be adjusted. (note: in this picture baby is feeding, if baby wasn’t feeding they would need to be adjusted a little higher and not facing inwards for safe baby wearing.)
A “K-tan” seems to be somewhere between being a sling and a wrap, the catch phrase for this carrier is “A wrap without all the wrapping”, it’s made of two joined loops of lightly stretchy fabric that can be worn in different ways for different types of holds depending on your baby. I’ve never personally encountered this type of carrier, but I have a user review :
Ring Slings are often made out of a woven fabric, so they are firm and supportive, with two rings at one end which the fabric is threaded through which holds the ends together, but it can be adjusted easily, ring slings are usually more supportive and comfortable with heavier babies and toddlers than a buckle sling.
“About the baby ktan: I really like this baby carrier, due to the fact that unlike most sling-style carriers it distributes weight across both shoulders, so I can wear it for several hours. I like how versatile it is too, it can be worn front, back and side as well as inward and outward facing; none of the structured carriers I’ve found are as versatile. It folds up small enough to stuff in a nappy bag or leave in the glove box of the car and it’s quick and easy to put on. It’s not really suitable for older babies or toddlers due to the stretchyness of the fabric, but it’s great when bub is small.”
There are still lots of variations on these carriers to choose from, try to think about what’s going to be most comfortable for you, how long you are going to be using the carrier (both the duration of each wear and also to what age you might want to keep wearing baby) and if possible borrow a carrier off someone else so you can get an idea of what you are looking for in a carrier and what will suit your own needs and budget.