What age is the child you wish to carry?
Woven wraps, mei tais, ring slings and pouches can all be used from newborn to two or three years of age; stretchy wraps are often most useful in the first few months; soft structured carriers have different periods of use depending on design – some come ready to use from newborn to toddler-hood, with others you need to buy an insert so that you can use them with new babies.
Newborns: Stretchy wraps and ring slings are ideal for newborn and young babies who need to be cradled.
6-12 Months: Many find moving to a mei tai or SSC works well if you want to be able to be able to easily get your baby in and out of a carrier, or if you want to carry for a longer period of time. Others move on to a woven wrap at this stage and some have both!
Learning to walk: Ring slings are great for toddlers who want to walk a little bit and then be carried again as your child can be lifted in and out easily, and the sling left in place or folded up in your bag for when needed.
- Are you going to carry for long periods of time?
If you are using a sling as your primary way of transporting your baby or are carrying a child for a long period of time each day, it is worth thinking about choosing a two shouldered carrier such as a wrap, mei tai or soft structured carrier to give the broadest distribution of weight.
- Are you going to be sharing the carrying?
If you are going to be the only user of your sling then you can choose a sized pouch, or a wrap that is exactly big enough for your needs; if you are going to be sharing between different users, you may want to choose a longer woven wrap; a ring sling rather than a pouch; or a mei tai all of which offer more flexibility. Some soft buckle wraps can be used with extension straps so different sized wearers can share the carrier- if you and your partner are very different in size then check that the SSC of your choice will fit both of you!
- Do you have neck or back problems?
Often those with back, shoulder or neck pain will prefer a two shoulder carrier, so would choose a wrap, mei tai or soft structured carrier. Others who have issues only on one side find that a one-shoulder carrier used on the non-affected side provides the most support when carrying their children. If you have pre-existing problems hiring and trying first can help prevent you making an expensive mistake.
- New or Second Hand?
There are bargains to be had as many people buy carriers and never really use them. The problem is with buying online is that postage can be pricey and you don’t get the opportunity to inspect before you buy. It is therefore worth going to baby sales or looking on local for sale boards if you are looking for a bargain.
Soft stretchy wraps tend to be used for a few months only and are therefore worth thinking about getting pre-loved. If you are buying any carrier with buckles check these are all in working order as in the main repair would be difficult. Check the stitching on mei tais and buckle carriers to make sure there are no loose ends or unstitched areas. Inspect the stitching securing the rings on ring slings as this is where the load will bear. The one carrier that can often be better second hand is a woven wrap as after a few washes these become softer and easier to tie.