6 Types of Ergonomic Baby Carriers
Updated: May 2
Awesome that you would like to wear your baby! It is not only amazing to have your baby close all the time, but it is also very convenient when grocery shopping or doing your regular household chores. When you have decided you want to wear your baby you find that there are many options. Here you can read about each type of baby carrier and what the pros and the cons are so you can decide which baby carrier suits you and your lifestyle best.
Benefits of Babywearing
Babywearing is great to keep your hand free while keeping your baby close but there are more benefits to wearing your baby.
Babies who are worn frequently will cry less. They constantly hear the soothing sound of their parent's heartbeat and breathing which calms your baby as these were the sounds they heard in the womb.
Babies should be worn in an upright position. This will result in less suffering from the discomfort of reflux after feeding.
Babywearing enhances the bond between parent and baby (especially with the partner who did not give birth) which helps the emotional and neurological development. Skin-to-skin contact makes the body produce oxytocin (the love hormone) enhancing the bond with your baby.
Carrying your baby in a wrap or carrier is less heavy on your body compared to carrying your baby in your arms. In a wrap/carrier, the weight of your baby is not in your arms or on your shoulders but your hips.
Babywearing gives you immense freedom. Especially when traveling and hiking. Everywhere we go, we can go with a baby worn in a wrap.
When you are shopping for a way to wear your baby, you want something comfortable for both you and your baby. It should evenly distribute your baby’s weight and shouldn’t put unnecessary pressure on your back and shoulders. But even more importantly, you want an ergonomic baby carrier because it properly and safely supports your little one.
What is an ergonomic baby carrier?
An ergonomic baby carrier should support the natural posture of your baby while encouraging healthy hip development. It should support your baby’s legs up to the backs of its knees, so the legs don’t dangle. An ergonomic carrier has a wide base that is comfortable and supports your baby’s weight so more of it is on their bottom rather than the crotch area. It should hold your baby’s hips and legs in a frog leg or M position. In this ergonomic position, your baby’s bottom is lower than their knees, while their knees and hips are at levels with one another and the hips are spread. This position benefits their comfort and proper hip development. It benefits the wearer's comfort as well as helps uniformly distribute the weight across your hips, back and shoulders.
Why choose an ergonomic baby carrier?
With an ergonomic baby carrier, you are sure that their developing neck, spine, pelvis, hips, and legs are being supported correctly as these are made to provide the best support for babies and babywearers. A baby’s body is still developing. Too much pressure on their spine, joints, ligaments, and/or hip sockets from improper positioning will not only be painful for them but can cause future growth and health problems.
Different types of babywearing carriers
Each of the baby carriers mentioned below is an ergonomic baby-wearing system.
Weight: birth to 20lbs/8kg
Average retail price: €25 - €75.
This carrier is made out of stretchy material. It is a long piece of fabric often made with cotton with some elastane to make it stretchy. A stretchy wrap is first tightly wrapped around the wearer's body before putting the baby in the wrap. This wrap should always be wrapped the same way with 3 layers of fabric crossing over the baby's body. A stretchy wrap is not suitable for back carries as this provides insufficient support for your baby. Once your baby grows you will notice that it may become too heavy to wear with a stretchy wrap and you may want to switch to a woven wrap. My first wrap was a Bykay stretchy wrap which I used a few times and then change to woven wraps as I like those better.
Suitable for newborns due to the flexible material
Easy to use as you first put it on your body and place your baby in the wrap afterward.
Comes in a variety of prints and patterns to suit your taste.
May be too heavy when your baby grows.
Only one type of carry is possible.
Weight: birth to beyond toddlerhood
Average retail price: €50 - €150
Similar to stretchy wraps, woven wraps are also a long piece of material. This wrap is not stretchy but is thickly woven. This increased the versatility of the carrier as it can handle more weight and can be used for back carries. Another difference from a stretchy wrap is that the baby is wrapped onto the wearer. Unlike the stretchy wrap which is first wrapped before putting the baby in. Wrapping with a woven wrap takes some practice. In the beginning, the amount of fabric is overwhelming and it can take a few tries before a certain carry is secure enough to wear safely.
There are many different fabrics and brands so try a few to find out which you like best. To accommodate different body sizes of baby wearers and because of different types of carries, woven wraps have different sizing. Sizes vary from size 2 (2,7m) to size 8(5,7m). Most wearers figure out their base size and then go from there to figure out what size wrap they need for a particular carry. I have several woven wraps and most of them are size 7. My man is very tall so his base size is a size 7 (while mine is 6) and I prefer a long ‘tail’ at the end of my knot so we both have enough wraps to choose from. Currently, we only have cotton and linen wraps because even though wraps with wool, silk, and cashmere are awesome they are a pain to wash. Natural materials are much easier.
Versatile. You can wear your baby in a variety of positions: in front, on your hip, or back.
Suitable for newborns to big toddlers
Variety of fabrics. Choose a wrap that is most suitable for you and your baby. If both of you are hot easily a linen wrap may be more suitable as it is thinner while one with wool might be more suitable if you are cold easily.
Adjustability. As woven wraps come in multiple sizes, you can adjust the wrap to the individual wearer's needs and preferences, as well as his body type.
Lots of styles option. Woven wraps come in a great variety of styles, patterns, and designs to suit everyone's style. Some are girly while there are also lots of prints out there that even men would wear.
Newborn-friendly. A woven wrap is suitable for even the smallest of newborns as they allow for a natural rounded back and M-position of the legs and knees.
Comfortable. When put on correctly, they don’t strain the wearer’s back and shoulders as they allow for even distribution.
Practice. To most new parents a woven wrap seems difficult and takes some practice to get used to. Some specific (back) carries may even require a specific tutor to teach you how to do them safely.
An extra layer of clothing. This extra layer of fabric may be too warm for some parents. Especially the ones who live in a warmer climate. Those could opt to go for thinner material like linen.
Washing. If you choose a wrap with sensitive material like silk, washing can be an issue as this can not go into the washing machine and needs to be washed by hand.
Weight: birth to toddlerhood
Average retail price: €35 - €120
A ring sling is a shorter woven wrap. It is usually about 2 meters in length (2 yards). A ring sling has one gathered end with 2 large metal rings attached and is worn across the body over one shoulder while your baby is seated at the opposite side on your hip.
To fasten a ring sling you need to thread the free end (without the rings) through one ring and then tuck it under through the other ring. This way you can adjust it to your body and find the perfect fit for both you and your baby. You don’t have to worry the sling will unfasten itself as your baby’s weight prevents the rings from slipping.
Most people don’t like to wear their baby asymmetrically as they think the weight is distributed unevenly. However, if worn correctly, the weight should rest on your back and hips and not on your shoulders.
More experienced baby wearers are also able to use a ring sling to wear their baby on their backs however, the hip carry is the most popular way of wearing with a ring sling.
Adjustability. A ring sling can grow with your baby as it is easily adjustable with the rings. The same is true for different body sizes for the wearer as both curvy and skinny people can wear the same ring sling.
Great Variety. A ring sling comes in the same variety as woven wraps meaning there are lots of different materials and prints to choose from. Ranging from regular cotton to luxurious silk and from plain colored wraps to intricate designs.
Suitable for newborns. Just like woven wraps, ring slings are great to use on newborns as these can keep your babies back in a natural position.
Easy to use. A ring sling is much easier to learn compared to a woven wrap.
Easy to combine with breastfeeding. By lowering your baby a little in the ring sling you can use it while breastfeeding your baby.
Takes some getting used to. A ring sling is much easier compared to a woven wrap however, it still requires some practice to get used to.
Asymmetrical wear. Even though a ring sling should distribute the weight to the hips rather than the shoulds, it could still be uncomfortable for the ones amount us with sensitive shoulders and or back.
Long. The tail of a ring sling can be very long (although sizes differ) so it may become caught up in something or catch dirt along the way.
SSC (Soft-Structured Carrier) or Buckle Carrier
Weight: 7lbs/3,5kg - 50lbs/22kg
Average retail price: €100 - €150
The is the most well-known type of baby carrier out there. An SSC has a padded waist belt that is fasted around the wearing with a buckle. The panel at the back, and holds and seats your baby. When you put it around your waist, a pouch is created where your baby will sit. If you put on the carrier correctly, your baby should be supported from knee to knee. The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable to suit all different body types and sometimes there is also a chest buckle to keep the shoulder straps from slipping off.
Most SSC comes in different sizes because for a newborn you will need a smaller size compared to a one-year-old. Although sizing is often mentioned in the weight of your child, how they are supported in the carrier is more important. Your baby should always be supported from knee to knee. Anything less can put too much strain on the hip area. This means that a tall skinny baby might be worn in a larger size carrier just to be sure there is proper leg support. Most SSCs are made out of cotton canvas which is great for breathability but a woven wrap can also be converted into an SSC if you are or know someone handy with a sewing machine.
Important: Avoid soft structured carriers with a narrow seating area. In this case, the baby’s weight is mostly on the crotch area, and their legs dangle. These are not ergonomic carriers as this position strains the baby’s spine, and doesn’t support his legs from knee to knee. It puts lots of pressure on their hips and may hurt their development. And, most importantly, it’s not comfortable for the baby.
Adjustability. The waist and shoulder straps are easily adjustable to suit any body type.
Easy to use. As there is no need to tie anything making it a very user-friendly carrier.
Easy to share. Because of its ease of use and adjustability, this makes it easy to use by other caregivers.
Great Variety. Just like woven wraps come in a great variety of patterns and colors, so do SSCs. Your choice becomes even greater when you are considering converting a wrap into a carrier.
Pricey. The starting price of an SSC is usually higher compared to a wrap.
Weight: birth to 44lbs/20kg
Average retail price: €40 - €100
A mei Tai looks like a cross-over between a woven wrap and an SSC. There are no buckles so both the shoulder and the hip straps need to be wrapped and tied. These straps are sometimes padded for extra comfort. For someone new to babywearing, this is less intimidating compared to a woven wrap as there is already a defined seat for your baby.
Easy to use. Much easier to use compared to a woven wrap as there is less tying involved.
Adjustable. All straps need to be tied around your body making it easily adjustable to suit different body types.
Versatile. A Mei Tai can be used for small babies with a front carry while a Mei Tai is also suitable for a one-year-old and a back carry.
Great Variety. Just like woven wraps, they come in a great variety of patterns and colors. Your choice becomes even greater when you are considering converting a wrap into a Mei Tai.
Comfortable. Just as comfortable to wear as a woven wrap without much of the hassle of tying.
It takes practice. Even though it is less complicated compared to a woven wrap, there is still a learning curve on how to tie a Mei Tai correctly.
Weight: - Your baby needs to be able to sit on their own and have good neck control.
Average retail price: €200+
This type of carrier is more common for male caregivers as it feels more familiar like a backpack. A backpack carrier usually has padded shoulder and waist straps and an extra chest strap. To make wearing more comfortable and to distribute your baby's weight evenly. As these are rather large, there is often sufficient space for storage like small toys, a water bottle, and some snacks. Another great feature is that this type of carrier can stand on its own making it easy for your child to get in and out.
Easy. Your child can get in and out on its own. You just have to put the carrier on like a backpack.
Well-equipped. They usually have lots of storage pockets for water bottles and snacks
Good weight distribution. Due to all the straps, the weight of your child can be distributed to your liking making it great for long walks.
Great for curious toddlers. Compared to a carrier, your child is a little higher giving them a great view of their surroundings.
Heavier. Compared to the other types of carriers, a backpack carrier is heavier because your child is further from your body making it heavier to carry.
Big. This is very bulky compared to the other carriers making it harder to store or carry with you when your child wants to walk on their own.
Heavy. Because this carrier has a frame it is pretty heavy even when there is no child in there.
I hope this overview gives you a better understanding of the multiple types of carriers and I hope it guides you in your babywearing journey. Be sure to try multiple types and brands to find out what you and your little one prefer.