A baby is usually at his or her bubbliest with Mom. But, there are other good reasons for keeping your child aloft and with you all through the day. You’re probably asking, just how long can you carry a baby in a carrier? And why would it make a difference?
Carrying your infant or toddler is great for fostering strong bonds between you and your child. That’s because he or she will be participating intimately in your world as you go about, exposed to what you are doing at any given moment. Babies in arms feed, sleep and grow up more beautifully, too.
Wise mothers have good reason to revive their ancestors’ tradition of wearing their babies wherever possible. To help out, we cover in this guide the different types of baby carriers and how these can be useful for handling babies of all ages.
Benefits that carry well
Carrying, or as natural moms might say, “baby wearing”, not only assists with babies’ care and bonding. The obvious benefit is that infants cry a lot less when they are held tight and nice. One report showed that the incidence of crying among 6-week-old carried babies was 43% less than among less fortunate kids:
A comfortably slung baby spends more time in a quiet and alert state. He will see and learn much in the hands of a parent or nanny doing just daily chores. A child borne well will only need to be put down in order to feed, clean up, or sleep, preferably next to his mother.
Carrying also helps to regulate biologically the rhythms of newborns. A child normally senses his mother’s regular breathing when held close to her chest. These motherly patterns can have a calming, balancing effect on a fitful baby, for they bring back the comforting rhythm of sounds and movements that he lived within her womb.
For overburdened mothers, not only can the practice help counter postpartum depression, it can really benefit the parents of kids with special needs.
Slings. Made of long sheaths of sturdy but soft fabric, these are normally worn across one shoulder and over the torso, enfolding infants in a cradling pouch. These typically include a dual ring or else buckle system to tie down the ends as well as resize the folds.
Sling designs such as those of Maya and Ellaroo are available in various fabrics and with or without padding. Many feature adjustment rings or buckles that are used to tighten the pouch and secure the infant. Others will have neither, the cloth ends will need to be tied off to secure the wrap.
These simple carriers are great to wear with newborns since small babies will readily nestle into their soft fabric. Bigger toddlers can also find their way into the folds, as with a hip-style carrier.
Wraps. Typically a one-piece cloth that passes across both shoulders, the arrangement works by literally wrapping both bodies together. These flexible and inexpensive garments will let you secure your infant or toddler in various ways, including some of the most comfortable carrying positions around. A wrap such as those from Boba Wrap and Baby K’Tan can be worn comfortably for a long time and are also very
This traditional design relies on “wrapping” the fabric around both caregiver and the child. ensures a snug fit between bodies. Especially for a newborn as well as premature infants or preemies, the snug wraparound provides support for fragile spines and necks.
A closer center of gravity between both child and wearer leads to lower stress on the latter’s back. Spreading the cloth across larger areas of both bodies works to distribute the load more efficiently, bringing comfort that allows longer use. Some wraps can be more complicated to arrange and also less comfortable than rival designs, though.
Soft-structured carriers. Soft-structured carriers or backpacks are typically square where they contain pouches. Most are based on the traditional Mei Tai-style design from Asia. They typically feature padding that is sewn into the bottom for a more built-up seat, along with dual shoulder straps for the baby as well as buckles in the case of backpack-style designs.
You can easily wear a font-carry backpack with an infant who does not need support for the neck, for structured carriers are generally easier to put on and remove than the other types.
Models such as those from Ergobaby and Babybjorn are ergonomically-designed with many handling conveniences. These can be well suited for outdoor activities, particularly when kids have to be brought around malls and parks for long periods.
Baby carrier designs are produced in a variety of sturdy and breathable materials, such as cotton/cotton blends, linen/linen blends, silk, and synthetic mesh.
A cooler and more open sling is most sensible for use in hotter places, wraps are nice for keeping warm in temperate climes. Popular materials include classic pure cotton with its comfortably soft and breezy feel. There are also elegant and lightweight silk wraps that resist moisture and even fire better, but these can get uncomfortable in wet weather. Organic materials such as breathable bamboo have lately become very popular as well.
Most makers of baby wraps and slings recommend for their fabrics to be hand washed and air dried or else dry cleaned, to preserve elasticity.
Baby carriers and their long uses
Just how long can you carry a baby? For as long as both child and caregiver are comfortable. With carriers that offer healthy support, mothers can carry their babies throughout the day and only stop to feed and clean up or change diapers.
The techniques for securing baby carriers can take some time to get right and will require much practice. But, these do offer a number of versatile positions with handy access, even with heavy toddlers napping.
Many users consider baby wraps as the most comfortable among the different types, for these can be worn for the longest time in cooler settings. Slings are preferable for extended use in warmer climes, although some of the more open and lightweight structured carriers are comfortable enough for long hours of outdoor use in mild weather.
For newborn to 5 month-old infants
The muscles of most babies’ necks will develop sufficient strength to hold their heads for only around 4 months after birth. Most will normally prefer a wider stance while sitting from that point on.
This is why the most appropriate carriers for newborns up to 5 months of age are usually sling and wrap types. These are worn with the typical newborn snug in the fold, which allows the baby to curl up in a cradle position while support is provided for fragile necks. Slings are also a better match for nursing mothers as the cover will help them to be more discreet as they breastfeed.
For premature infants, the recommended carrier is a wrap from the likes of Baby K’Tan and Boba. These have stretchy fabrics that snugly embrace small babies. Less elastic cloth can be more challenging to arrange for tinier newborns, while slings typically have too much cloth that can readily overcome a smaller infant.
Soft-structured models cannot enfold a baby’s body as cozily as slings or wraps. With infant-friendly designs, a smaller seating area can be typically configured for use by babies under 5 months of age, since their legs cannot be spread comfortably.
Of these designs, only the Manduca features supportive bracing for the neck that can compare to that of an infant’s wrap, while the Pikkolo needs to have its sleeping hood improvised to secure enough support.
For 5 to 18 month-old babies
Five months after birth, the typical baby will have gained enough strength to control their neck. Infants at this age need much sleep and will continue to nap during the day.
Unlike the curled-up positions that a younger infant would assume, staying upright would now be preferred. A decent carrier for a baby of this age must be able to assist the parent in handling an increasingly heavier and alert child with comfort and safety.
For a 5 to 18 month-old baby, a soft-structured carrier is usually recommended, especially for a toddler who has to come out often. These types include sturdier Mei Tai-style designs like the backpack- and hip-style carriers from Ergobaby and Manduca, both of which can handle babies weighing from 22 to 33 lbs.
Slings with adjustment rings are ideal for wearing nursing infants. But as children grow, they will eventually exceed weight limits for comfortable wear over periods longer than 30 minutes at a time. These are still good for occasional short use and as cover for discreet nursing.
Wraps typically offer better ergonomics than most slings and will remain comfortable to use as a baby grows heavier. These can be somewhat inconvenient to manage for a child who comes out frequently, though.
For 18 to 36 month-old toddlers
Toddlers in this age range appear to have boundless levels of energy for playing at all times. Carrying is about the only practical way of keeping them from tiring out while getting some needed nap time. A well-designed carrier is great for this purpose.
At 3 years, a toddler could weigh anywhere from 26 to 40 lbs. A well-designed model will allow the wearer to handle that weight with less strain. With back panel and weight distribution features, ergonomic backpacks such as the Boba 4G and Baby Tula with their front carry designs are better suited to heavier babies.
Slings with pouches and rings are still useful for carrying heavier toddlers for short periods or as cover for discreet nursing. But, do remember that these garments are not structurally designed to handle such weights.
For older toddlers
For 3-year-olds, short naps will still be common. Although toddlers will need to be carried less as they continue to grow, a carrier can smoothen life before they are finally weaned off their daily naps, particularly when shopping or traveling.
The typical 3-year old toddler weighs about 33 lbs. and the typical 6-year old can weigh up to 44 lbs, which is a big load to support. Decent carriers will reduce the load on the shoulders while evenly redistributing the rest across the hips.
Taller back panels ensure that the baby’s head is sufficiently immobilized so that the child will not readily lean to the rear and even fall out, even if the child were to arch backward. Wider seats distribute weight not just across the baby’s buttocks but along some of the upper thighs as well.
Certain models also add built-in features that can provide greater comfort to an older toddler. For example, Manduca’s Baby Carrier features deeper seating, while Boba’s has foot straps on which toddlers can rest their feet.
Differences in the designs and materials of sling, wrap and structured baby carriers are slight. Choose among types that are suited for your baby’s age level and pick a model that wears comfortably and looks fine. No one type is necessarily better than any other in all situations, it all boils down to your personal preferences and situation.
Carrying babies can be very enjoyable and convenient, so parents tend to buy more than one type of baby carrier over the years. The health and development benefits of carrying them as they grow up make for happier and smarter kids in the end.