Posts Tagged ‘mei tai’

What Carrier Should I Get??

February 4, 2010

This is a question that I’m asked all the time: what carrier is going to work well for me?

Well…if I could answer that in a simple word or two, you wouldn’t be asking me! But I do have some simple guidelines to help you decide. Of course, if you’re local to me, call or email for an appointment and we’ll sort it out in person. If you’re out of the Seattle area, you can find a local babywearing group, another babywearing junkie, or take advantage of our fantastic return policy (30 days for a full refund, minus shipping).

So, you’ve got a newborn. And she doesn’t want to be put down. Ever. Well, biologically, that’s her job. She knows that she needs to for survival, and so her greatest desire is to stay with you. You’re food, warmth, and you smell really good (baby does not care if you haven’t showered today). So, you might want to go for a walk, or eat a sandwich, or go potty, or chase a toddler…you NEED a carrier.

Or, you’ve got a 9 month old who’s all of a sudden scared of new people, new situations, and pretty much anything that’s not mom or dad. Oh, and he’s going through a growth spurt, learning to crawl, and teething. You NEED a carrier, too!

What carrier will work for you will depend on several different scenarios, including the age and size of your baby, the length of time you expect to wear him/her, your own physical abilities, and of course, personal preference.

Ring Slings:

Ring Slings are great for newborns as they position them upright, which so many newborns love (helps with digestion, especially for reflux/colicky babies). They’re quick to put on once you learn how, and easy to take off when you’re ready. It’s one of the easiest carriers to learn how to nurse in, which makes it particularly convenient for moms of more than one child. Ring slings also work well as the baby gets older. They can sit on your hip and see the world around them without facing directly out. Not only is this more comfortable for you (and your kiddo), but it allows your child to lay down her head and fall asleep when she’s overwhelmed with that big world out there.

Ring slings may not be ideal for you if you’ve had back, neck or shoulder trauma in the past. If you’re thinking, but what about that long tail? It’s kind of hippy dippy! I have to admit, when I first started babywearing, I shied away from ring slings for that very reason. But, the tail can be wrapped around the rings, tucked into the carrier, used to cover a sleeping baby or cover a baby as you run to the car in the rain, and I like to believe it hanging all long and pretty makes me look taller and thinner! Don’t know if that’s true, but I’m rolling with it! They also “fancy” up a plain outfit…ring slings make sweats look good!

Pouch Slings:

Pouch slings are super easy to use, and really quick to put on. They’re ideal for a slightly older baby, one who’s ready to see the world and hang out on your hip. Because they’re so quick to take on and off, they’re great for running errands, and for that baby who likes to be up and down and up and down and up and down…Pouch slings are great for babies 4 months and older, once they can hold themselves up pretty well and are ready to sit on your hip.

They’re not the ideal carrier for newborns, as it can be challenging to get a newborn properly positioned in it. Additionally, many newborns dislike the cradle carry, which is just about the only way to wear a newborn in a pouch sling. Like the ring sling, these are not great for parents with back, neck or shoulder trauma. Pouch slings also MUST be sized correctly to be both comfortable and safe for parent and baby. Because of this, most families will need to own more than one pouch sling to fit both mama and papa (and any other caregivers) properly. Good thing we’ve got some serious steals on pouch slings right now…

Wraps:

Stretchy wraps, or the Wrapsody Bali Baby Stretch Wrap (my all time favorite, and a hybrid, rather than a full stretch) are excellent for younger babies, but work great for bigger babes as well. Because these wraps stretch only in the width, they offer a lot more support than many of the other stretchy wraps on the market today (which have 4 way stretch, and will stretch out in the length). Wraps offer the most versatility of wear: baby can face in with legs in or out, can face out with legs in or out, can sit on your hip, can ride on your back, and can be used with no minimum weight limit all the way up for 30 pounds, making them perfect for preemies. Wraps are super comfortable, offering full body support for you and baby. They’re perfect for parents with body pain, like fibromyalgia or MS.

What’s not perfect about wraps? Well, they’re long. And that can be overwhelming. Most parents get the hang of it in just a few days/wearings, but can feel like it’s a lot of fabric some days. Wraps can be pre-tied, making errands a lot quicker, and they’re really snuggly at home with baby, when you know you’ll be wearing for a length of time.

Woven wraps feature most of the same pluses and minuses of the stretch wraps, but they can comfortably support a much bigger child. Parents who need to wear an older child (maybe due to low tone, or just a super whiny 4 year old) would do well with a woven wrap.

Mei Tai:

Mei Tais (may-tie, not my-tie, those are drinks…) offer a lot of the same benefits of the wraps, but can be a lot less overwhelming to wear. A newborn will be snuggled deep in the mei tai, offering the ultimate of swaddled snuggliness while a bigger kiddo will be able to have arms and legs out and be free to see the world with you. It will offer plenty of support for the parent, with wide straps and a waist strap that helps distribute some of the baby’s weight onto your hips. Though the straps are long, once you get the hang of wearing it, you can tie a mei tai up in a matter of seconds. Mei tais can be worn on the front, the hip, the back, and some brands (like Cat Bird Baby) can even be worn with the baby facing foward.

A mei tai might not be right for you if you feel insecure with tying your carrier, or like the idea of buckles (discussed below). It may not be right if your baby really prefers some freedom at the newborn stage, and isn’t keen on swaddling or being tightly snuggled (in that case, a wrap might be better). An “off the rack” mei tai might not be for you if you’re very small or more generously sized. The straps are a “standard length” and may not offer enough support for bigger parents, and may be overwhelming for tiny parents. They seem to fit mamas sized 4-16 best, and dads up to at least a size medium, depending on how broad those shoulders are.

Soft Structured Carrier:

This is where it all gets a little tricky…soft structured carriers (like the Pikkolo, Ergo, Beco, Boba, Oh Snap, etc) are awesome for bigger kids. And I do mean AWESOME. But for smaller babies, under 15 pounds, and newborns will little core strength, they’re just not ideal. The Pikkolo will do. It’ll totally work…it has a taller body and will support a small babe well. It can also cinch at the base, allowing a newborn to have legs out (which many, but not all, enjoy). The others in this category do not allow for a newborn to have legs out, which requires that the newborn (or smaller baby) froggy his legs. Not all kids like this. Some of them (Ergo in particular) have a short body, and will not support a newborn’s head, or the torso of a very tall, young baby. Yes, there is an insert, but it can be cumbersome, challenging to use, and honestly, if you have to stick something extra in it, it’s probably not the right carrier for this phase of baby’s life.

BUT, once your baby hits about 15 pounds (give or take, of course), the Soft Structured category is amazing. They’re supportive, comfortable for both of you, and “industrial strength”. They’ve seen me through a zoo trip with a three and a half year old who didn’t want to walk anymore, and helped me bowl with a 6 month old on my back (asleep!). But for a newborn, I recommend something much snugglier.

So, in the end, is there ONE carrier that’s perfect for you? Maybe. But more likely, it’s going to be more than one…if really pressed to make a choice, I’d suggest a ring sling (for ease of use) and something with 2 shoulders (so a wrap, mei tai, or even soft structured carrier). I think with two carriers, you’re likely to be a very happy parent. Plus, if one gets spit up on or pooped in, you’ll have an alternate!

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