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Have you seen parents and caregivers out and about, yielding a number of different brightly colored and printed baby carriers? If so, you’ve also probably seen a variety of types — from backpack-like carriers to wraps.

So what’s the deal? People say that wearing your baby may help with anything from baby’s health to their mood.

Beyond that, baby wearing can make life much easier in the fourth trimester and beyond as you learn to navigate the world with a little one in tow. In fact, different cultures around the world have been practicing baby wearing techniques for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. And if you have a properly fitting carrier, it doesn’t need to be a pain in your back.

Read on to learn how to baby wear, plus the benefits and safety concerns of baby wearing, and what to look for when choosing a baby carrier.

If you talk to a baby-wearing parent, you may be inundated with a seemingly endless list of benefits. But are any of them backed by science?

While research is still limited, there’s a growing number of people who suggest that baby wearing has benefits for both baby and caregiver.

Reduces crying

Figuring out how to get baby to stop crying is one of the more challenging parts of parenting. While baby wearing won’t put an end to all of baby’s tears, some say it may help reduce crying and fussing.

Researchers discovered this hack back in 1986. In their randomized controlled study, they found that young babies who were carried cried and fussed less than babies who weren’t.

Additionally, carrying babies for 3 hours a day was seen to reduce crying and fussing by up to 51 percent during the evening hours.

This was a relatively small study group and specifically on carrying, rather than wearing. More research with a larger, diverse group is needed to better understand the connection between baby wearing, and crying and fussing in babies.

If you’re looking for ways to reduce crying in your young baby, baby wearing may be worth trying. It’s low-risk and may provide additional benefits to baby.

Promotes health

There’s growing evidence around skin-to-skin contact and the benefits it can have on babies, especially premature babies (babies born before 37 weeks) in the hospital.

Premature babies may gain some of those same benefits from a wearing practice called kangaroo care.

Studies show that wearing baby close, particularly with a special carrier designed for skin-to-skin contact, may help regulate baby’s heartbeat, temperature, and breathing patterns while they’re in the neonatal intensive care unit.

More research is needed to fully understand this connection, but some researchers suggest the need for increased kangaroo care, especially for the care of hospitalized premature babies. It’s less clear if these findings apply to babies once they go home.

Assists with breastfeeding

While there’s some speculation that baby wearing may promote breastfeeding, the research just isn’t there yet.

But if you’re a breastfeeding parent and practicing baby wearing, it’s possible to breastfeed while baby is in a carrier. That can make it easier to feed baby on the go or to practice demand feeding.

Regular breastfeeding can help maintain or improve breast milk supply.

Enhances connection

Let’s face it: connecting to a young, pre-verbal baby can sometimes feel challenging. The good news is, for baby, the simple act of being held can help strengthen that bond and connection.

Baby wearing may help support this bond. It may also make it easier for you to begin to read your baby’s cues with more confidence.

For example, you’ll likely notice certain movements or noises that help you understand if baby is tired, hungry, or needs a diaper change. This connection can extend to anyone else who wears baby as well.

Benefits from improved parent-baby bonding may extend into teen and early adult years, too. This isn’t to say that baby wearing will instantly create a bond that will have long-term benefits — or that it’s the only way to create a bond — but it can be an early first step toward developing this type of bond with your child.

Of course, if you choose not to do baby wearing, there are still numerous other ways to bond with baby — for instance, baby massage.

Eases everyday life

There’s another potential benefit to wearing baby on those days when they just want to be held. It’s hands-free!

Using a baby carrier can make it easier to go about your daily tasks with both arms and hands available.

You can fold laundry, read a book to an older sibling, or even go out for a walk downtown. The possibilities are endless — well, almost. Maybe save deep frying food or skateboarding for when you’re not wearing baby.

As with many baby-related activities, there’s a right way and wrong way to go about baby wearing. And the differences between what’s safe and what isn’t may sometimes be subtle.

Most safety concerns revolve around keeping baby’s airway clear, along with supporting their back and neck.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with what the baby-wearing community calls T.I.C.K.S.:

  • T: Tight. Baby should be upright and tight enough in a carrier that they’re held safely against whoever is wearing them. This helps prevent accidental falls.
  • I: In view at all times. Baby’s face should be visible to you so you can monitor their breathing. You can also keep a better eye on your baby’s mood if you can see them.
  • C: Close enough to kiss. Can you lower your head and kiss the top of your baby’s head? If not, you should reposition them in the carrier until they’re high enough to kiss with little effort.
  • K: Keep chin off chest. Look at your baby to ensure there’s a gap of about two fingers wide under their chin. If they’re in a good upright position with their spine curved and legs squatting, it’s less likely that their chin will drop.
  • S: Supported back. While you want your baby to be secure, resist over-tightening the carrier over their back. You should have your carrier tight enough that there’s no gap between your baby and your body, but loose enough that you can slide your hand into the carrier.

And while your focus should be on your baby, be sure that the carrier feels comfortable for you as well.

Improperly-positioned carriers may give you back issues or create other areas of soreness or injury, especially with long periods of wear.

Baby wearing may not appropriate for all parents of babies, depending on different medical conditions. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your pediatrician or primary care physician.

Also, be sure to follow all instructions for your specific carrier, including weight restrictions.

There’s no shortage of baby carriers on the market. What you ultimately choose will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • the age or size of your child
  • your body type
  • your budget
  • your personal preferences

Try before you buy

Some local baby wearing groups or baby shops offer a lending library of carriers. They can also help you learn how to use different carriers.

If you don’t have any groups of stores near you that offer a lending library, you can also ask around to see if anyone you know has a carrier they can lend you.

Soft wrap

This long piece of cloth is typically made from a cotton and Lycra or Spandex blend. You may also hear it being called a “stretchy wrap” on occasion.

A soft wrap is worn by wrapping around your body and then placing your infant inside of it. Due to the nature of the fabric, this type of carrier is more appropriate for younger babies.

There’s a bit of a learning curve on figuring out how to tie this type of wrap. This is where baby wearing groups or online videos may come in handy.

It’s a good idea to practice with a small pillow or doll first, before trying out the carrier with baby inside.

Popular soft wrap carriers

Woven wrap

A woven wrap is similar to a soft wrap in that it’s a long piece of fabric that you wrap around your body. You can find these in varying lengths to suit different body shapes and sizes, and carrying positions.

The difference between soft and woven wraps is that the fabric in a woven wrap is stiffer and more structured, and may allow you to more comfortably carry larger babies or toddlers.

Many people find woven wraps comfortable, but it can be difficult to learn how to tie them properly.

Popular woven wraps

Ring sling

This type of carrier is worn on one shoulder and made of sturdy woven fabric.

After you put it on, you open the fabric to create a pocket near your abdomen. Then you place the baby inside and gently pull on the fabric near the ring to adjust and secure.

Ring slings are very portable and easy to use. However, you may find the pressure on one shoulder uncomfortable, especially if you have a heavier baby or are using the carrier for an extended period of time.

Meh dai

Pronounced “may tie,” meh dai carriers originated in Asia. It involves a panel of fabric with two straps to go around the waist and two more to go around the shoulders. These straps are often wide and padded for comfort.

Meh dai carriers can be worn on the front, hip, or back. They’re suitable for newborns to toddlers, and are adjustable enough to allow multiple caregivers to use them.

Although you can use these with larger or older babies, you may find this type of carrier uncomfortable with babies over 20 pounds.

Popular mei dai carriers

Soft structured carrier

These simple-to-use carriers incorporate straps, buckles, and padding to get an adjustable fit for a variety of ages — infant to toddler and beyond.

There are even brands that make infant carriers and toddler carriers to accommodate different heights and weights (up to 60 pounds).

A soft structured carrier may be worn on the front of the body, and some allow for hip- and back-carrying as well.

You may not be able to use this type of carrier with the youngest infants without some type of newborn insert.

Popular soft structured carriers

How you use your carrier will depend on the type you choose. Be sure to read all the manufacturer instructions before using your carrier.

It may even be a good idea to contact a local baby wearing group to find out about classes or individual sessions that will help you learn how to use your carrier in the safest way for you and baby.

Tips

For newborns

  • Newborn babies can be worn right away provided there are no medical concerns and the baby weighs around 8 pounds or more.
  • You may find a stretchy wrap more comfortable for this stage. If you do a soft structured carrier, consider using a newborn insert for the best fit.
  • Always make sure you can see your baby’s face while carrying them until they’re at least 4 months old.

For seeing the world

As baby becomes more aware of their surroundings, they may want to face out and see the world. To do this, you can use a stretchy or woven wrap, and tie a front-carry hold with it.

You may also choose to use soft structured carriers specifically designed with a front-carrying option, like the Ergo 360.

For when they’re a little older

Older babies and toddlers may also be ready to ride on your back.

  1. To begin, clip on your soft structured carrier and place your baby on your hip with their legs on either side of your abdomen.
  2. Slowly shift the carrier to your back while holding both straps tightly and guiding baby with your other hand.
  3. Then put the straps on your shoulders, clip in to place, and adjust for comfort.

How to baby wear with twins

Twins? You can wear them, too!

One of the more simple ways to do this is by investing in two soft structured carriers and wearing one baby on the front and one on the back. This may not work for young babies.

There are also tutorials you can find online on how to tie a long woven wrap carrier for twins. You may want to have your partner or a friend help you the first few times.

Baby wearing is much more than a trend or fashion accessory. It can help you keep your baby close, and has the added benefit of carrying your baby while also freeing up your hands to get stuff done.