So you’ve decided you’d like to use babywearing as a tool for your parenting. Firstly, you’ll want to decide on a type of carrier or carriers you’d like to try out. The absolute, hands down, best way to try a variety of different carriers out, is to see if there’s a local babywearing meet in your area. There, you can try out a variety of different carries, and see what could be the most suitable to your needs. You can also get valuable one-on-one and in person advice from someone who is experienced in babywearing. And as an added bonus, babywearing meets are a great place to meet other parents and caregivers.
But it isn’t always possible or practical for everyone to get to a babywearing meet. If you’re unable to make it to a meet, you can perhaps get some assistance from these brief descriptions on some of the types of carriers generally available in the babywearing market, either brand new through various online vendors, or secondhand.*
- Look for an upcoming Education article in our Journal on where and how to purchase carriers, coming soon.
A wrap is a piece of specially woven material, designed to carry your baby. They come in a variety of lengths - generally ranging from a size 2 to a size 8 (although it is possible to purchase shorter and longer than these). There are two types of woven wraps - machine woven (MW) and handwoven (HW).
Woven wraps are best known for their versatility. With one base size wrap, for example - that is, a wrap that is a particular length based on your size and build - you can do a multitude of different carries and finishes, carrying on your front, hip, or back. Woven wraps are generally suitable from birth up until toddlerhood, and even beyond. They come in a myriad of designs and blends- from a simple 100% cotton to the more delicate triblends, which can include fibres such as hemp, tencel, egyptian cotton, merino wool, silk, or cashmere - just to name a few!
Ring slings are also found in the same two types as woven wraps - MW or HW. Ring slings are extremely beneficial for newborns, as they are simple to loosen and tighten, but are also just as versatile for the toddler. They are an excellent choice for their compactness - ring slings are easily transportable in a small bag, as they are generally not much longer than 2 metres of material.
Ring slings are a great option if you’re wanting ‘quick ups’ - that is, the ability to frequently pop your wearee in and out of a carry. This certainly comes in handy with a young child wanting to experience their independence, but also needing to be carried from time to time.
Stretchy wraps are made from a lengthy piece of jersey fabric, which is stretchy in nature. Although they have the capacity to carry up to 12kg, they are exceptionally beneficial for the newborn and young baby phase. Stretchy wraps are designed to be worn tightly, like a piece of clothing such as a close fitted t-shirt. They have the ability to be pre-tied, which provides the wearer with the ease of being able to put the carrier on prior to leaving the house - a bonus if you’re a bit shy about tying a carrier in public! This is especially helpful during the learning phase of using a wrap - many new wearers feel more comfortable learning how to use their carrier in the privacy of their home. Stretchy wraps are a budget friendly choice for those wanting to try babywearing. They are also an excellent idea for a gift for an expectant or new parent. Stretchy wraps are available to purchase via the brand new and secondhand markets.
Hybrid wraps are extremely similar to stretchy wraps in design. They are named ‘hybrid’ wraps because they are made from a hybrid of jersey cotton and regular cotton. Hybrid wraps have the best of both the stretchy and woven wraps, in that they provide the close-fit of a stretchy wrap with the additional support of the regular cotton.
These are potentially among the most popular of the types of carriers due to their ability to provide the wearer with a quick, supportive option for babywearing. There are a large variety of buckle carriers available in both the brand new and secondhand babywearing markets; however, generally speaking a buckle carrier consists of a backpack-type set up, that has shoulder straps, a waistband, and is secured in two points at the chest and waist by buckles.
Buckle carriers aren’t always a ‘one type works for everyone’ though, as they can vary in terms of sizing, and ability to adjust to the wearer’s needs. Be mindful of this when doing your shopping!
Meh Dais originated in China, and have a long history in the world of babywearing. The Meh Dai design consists of a square or rectangle panel, with four straps coming off each corner of the panel. Similarly to wraps, Meh Dais are extremely versatile in nature, providing the wearer with the option for use as a front, hip, or back carrier. There are a variety of Meh Dais available through the different avenues of the babywearing market, from different manufacturers.
Onbuhimos are a type of carrier that originated in Japan. Similarly to the Meh Dai, it is made with a square or rectangular piece of material - but instead of having four straps, it simply has two padded straps which go over the shoulders, a padded waist, and rings at the bottom of the panel. Modern style Onbuhimos have buckles; some have no rings, depending on the manufacturer.
As with all things babywearing, it’s always best to try on a variety of carriers to establish which best meet you and your family’s needs. It isn’t uncommon for avid babywearers to own more than one type of carrier, depending on their personal requirements from a carrier. Individual body shapes and physical requirements should be considered also, when choosing a carrier. At the end of the day, babywearing is the practice of keeping your child close to you - regardless of the carrier used to do so. Enjoy your journey and #wearallthechildren!
Ankalia’s online journal is written and edited by white Australian women. As such, our articles are written from our cultural standpoint.
To understand and improve our knowledge of the practice of babywearing across a varied dynamic, we may seek input from our friends and peers who identify as belonging to culturally and linguistically diverse groups, and groups who are marginalised within our society.
We aim to be insightful, meaningful and respectful of those who identify as belonging to these groups at all times. If we publish something that you feel is inappropriate or offensive, please bring it to our attention promptly. We are still learning and are mindful of our privilege.