Types of Carriers

There are a lot of different types of carriers out there, and new ones are being created each day. If you are at one of our meetings, you will hear about the most common types of carriers: woven wraps, stretchy wraps, ring slings, mei tais, and soft structured carriers (SSCs). However, you may come across other types of carriers that you’ve never heard of, or seen. Most carriers fall into one of these categories:

Alyssa amauti

Amauti baby carrier coat

Rachel amauti

 

  • Babywearing Clothing: Throughout history, people from many cultures simply wrapped their clothing around themselves and their babies. The African Kanga, Japanese Obi, Welsh Shawl, and Mexican Rebozo are all examples. Many of these traditional clothing baby carriers are still available for retail. Some other types of babywearing clothing are hitting the market now too, kangaroo care shirts are an example of these. (Note. Not all traditional, cultural carriers are categorized as babywearing clothing. Cradle boards, for example, have their own category!)
    • Amauti Coat: (Amauti Baby) Traditional Inuit coat with a back carrier built in. Used with newborns and up. For use in winter or cold weather climates only. Beautiful, expensive, and custom made. These only do back carries.
    • Kangaroo Care Shirt (Nuroo, Vija Designs) A stretchy shirt with a built in baby carrier. Meant for kangaroo care with preemies and newborns. Holds baby similarly to a stretchy wrap. Not for older babies or toddlers
    • Rebozo: We see these sometimes at meetings. These are a traditional Mexican shawl that doubles a a hammock, baby carrier, backpack, or whatever is needed. A rectangle of woven fabric, when worn with a child this carrier is knotted over one shoulder to work as a sling. Some people purchase short woven wraps with the purpose of doing a Rebozo carry.
Heather frame

Framed Hiking Backpack

 

  • Frame Backpacks: (Kelty, LittleLife, Deuter, Osprey) for the outdoorsy family, framed backpacks protect the baby from harm. They are comfortable for a day of hiking, and often sold at sporting goods stores. Use with older babies and toddlers. Interior frames (with the frame inside the material of the backpack) are becoming more popular than exterior frames. These tend to fit people with longer torsos better than people with shorter torsos.
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A Mei Tai being used in a front carry

  • Soft Unstructured / Asian Style Baby Carriers: A rectangle or square of fabric with ties that secure baby to you. These are unpadded and not structured traditionally, however western customization can make for more variations. Easily adjustable to different wearers. Mei Tai (pronounced “May Tie”) is popular, others include Hmong, Onbuhimo, Podaegi, Chunei, and Bei Bei.
    • Mei Tai: (Catbird Baby, BabyHawk, Kozy) an easy to use Chinese carrier for all different ages, comfortable for short or long term carries. An unpadded waist strap is a plus here, the bottom can be rolled up to make a smaller body size to fit a younger infant.
    • Podaegi: (FreeHand) A Korean carrier that is traditionally worn on the back. It is basically a blanket with a long strap over the top. The strap goes over the wearers shoulders and back under the baby’s bottom. It is used for newborns and up. Narrow blanket Pods have become more popular in the west because they tend to be airier.
    • Onbuhimo: (FreeHand) A Japanese carrier that is very similar to the Mei Tai, except, instead of  bottom straps it has two loops that the top straps are threaded through.
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An ergonomic SSC, KinderPack, being worn on the back

  • Soft Structured Carrier (SSC): Easy to use and position baby. Great for travel, can be used from birth until toddler depending on the carrier. Often padded for greater comfort. Usually uses buckles or snaps to secure baby safely. Easily adjusted between wearers.
    • Front pack: (Bjorn, Britax) A usually front only carrier that does not use an ergonomic seat. Better for short periods of wearing with smaller babies.
    • Structured Hip Carrier: (Scootababy, Mei Hip) A carrier for parents and babies who love hip carries. Structured with one shoulder strap. For babies 6mo+.  These can also be used on the front or back, but they do hip carries the best.
    • Ergonomic: (Ergo, Beco, Boba) A front/back carrier that hols baby in an ergonomic position. Best for older babies and toddlers, although can be used with younger infants with an insert). Comfortable for both baby and wearer, these can take the place of a framed backpack. Men tend to prefer these types of carriers because they work more like a backpack.
    • Half Buckle: A structured waist supports baby’s weight, and mei tai shoulder straps allow for easy adjustments
    • Reverse Half Buckle: Structured shoulder straps provide total comfort, while a tie waist allows you to place the waist wherever you want
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A traditional, open tail ring sling being used with a newborn

  • Sling: a piece of fabric that is looped around the body, usually over one shoulder. Strains shoulder if worn for extended periods of time
    • Pouch Sling: (Hotslings, Slinglings) A loop of fabric folded to create a pouch. Easy to use, but sized by the wearer, so they cannot be shared between caregivers unless everyone is the same size. Not great for newborns.
    • Adjustable Pouch: (Zolowear, Mama’s Milk) A pouch sling with some adjustability in length to help get the right fit. Not nearly as adjustable as a ring sling
    • Bag Style Pouch: (Premaxx, SlingRider) NEVER USE with babies – babies have died in this type of carrier, giving all carriers a bad name. These carriers are non-adjustable pouch slings with elastic edges and a deep pouch. They lay very low on the wearer’s body, certainly not keeping baby “close enough to kiss.” The deep pouch curls baby’s body into an unsafe position, and the elastic edges close over baby’s head to prevent fresh air from entering the carrier.
    • Ring Sling: (Maya Wrap, Sakura Bloom) Easily adjustable to different wearers, features a ring over the shoulder, which material is threaded through. Works well for newborns through toddlers. AKA traditional or open tail ring sling.
    • Close Tail Ring Sling (Hava, Sling EZee): Similar to an adjustable pouch, this is a ring sling with a strap to adjust instead of the rest of the fabric. Does not adjust evenly like an open tail ring sling, and can be tricky to use with a newborn because of that. Some (like Balboa Baby) have extra padding and elastic edges that can create more slack.
    • X-Sling (Cashmere Cuddles, Michiko Baby): These are not very common in the US. This carrier has a loop over each shoulder, and is sewn together in the middle. This makes an X on the wearer’s front and back. Baby is slipped in to the X for an easy two shoulder carry. Usually not adjustable.
    • Stretchy X-Sling: (K’tan, Blue Celery, Caboo) Like a X-sling, except that the material is stretchy. These can be used to hold one or two babies. Holds baby like a stretchy wrap without the tying. Great for newborns, generally too stretchy for older babies and toddlers. Most brands are not adjustable.
Kokadi Erdvogel woven wrap (size 5)

A woven wrap back carry

  • Wrap/Wraparound: a long piece of fabric that is wrapped and tied around the wearers body. Baby is slipped into the fabric for a secure hold. Distributes weight evenly for long carrying. From birth until 40lb +. Easily adjusted for different wearers. Can carry two babies at once.
    • Stretchy: (Moby, Boba) A carrier made of a length of 4 way stretchy fabric. These ones are popular and easy to adjust, great for newborns. They tend not supportive enough for older babies and are hot in warm weather. Front and hip carries only.
    • Hybrid Stretchy: (Wrapsody) A stretchy wrap with 2 way stretch. Tends to be more supportive than a normal stretchy, and can do back carries. These can be slightly diggy though and require more precise wrapping.
    • Simple Piece of Cloth: Exactly what it sounds like, a sheet, blanket, shawl, or length of fabric wrapped around wearer. As long as you test the seams and body, then it is perfectly safe for baby.
    •  DIY Wraps: Pieces of fabric, often Jersey, Osnaburg, and cotton jacquard, that are cut and hemmed to a babywearing wrap size.
    • Woven: (Didymos, Storchenwiege) If you were going to have only one carrier, this would be it. Woven carriers are stronger than stretchy ones, meaning no need to adjust tying during the day. Can be used from a newborn to as long as you feel like wearing. These have a steeper learning curve than other common carriers but they are the most versatile. Woven wraps come in sizes for a variety of carries.
    • Mesh/Gauze Wraps: (Wrapsody, BabyEtte) Somewhat stretchy and cool for summer. Many prefer to use a lightweight woven wrap when it gets hot. The mesh ones are often used in water. Less supportive for heavier babies.
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A wrap conversion SSC in a front carry

  • Wrap Conversions: (Didy Tai, Two Mommas Designs) These aren’t really a different type of carrier. Wrap conversions just use woven wraps as the fabric to make other carriers. Most commonly you will see unstructured carriers, soft structured carriers, and ring slings made as wrap conversions. Since these are usually custom made, wrap conversions often have many options for additional padding, different sizing, and different strap styles.
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10 Years Old – 2,000 Members Strong!

Happy 10th Birthday to us! We’ve grown to 2,000 members strong on our Facebook group!!!

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To celebrate we want to give you a little history of babywearing in Chicago. Pay attention because there will be a quiz! (kidding!) People have been babywearing in various ways for centuries, but it is unusual to see carriers in modern western culture. Strollers came into fashion and babywearing went out. Now we are seeing a rise in babywearing love, and it is fantastic!

Many, many years ago, not long after the invention of the Ergo, a group of plucky mothers decided to defy the norms of their time. The Midwest was a peaceful place of good manners, fried food and strollers. Caregivers of all kinds lived happily. It was a simpler time. Giant Graco strollers fought for room amongst a sea of running toddlers. If you needed to carry your baby, by God, you used your arms. Young children were tied to a line and marched from place to place. That is, until these fearless women paraded in with their spit up covered peasant tops, and against all odds, fought for the right to #wearallthebabies.

City Slingers

A City Slingers Meeting, 2007

Ok, it probably wasn’t that dramatic. There were baby carriers commonly in use in 2004 – pouch/bag slings, front packs, and framed hiking carriers probably being the most popular. You just didn’t see them much. The women mentioned above started the City Slingers back in 2004, and their group was small. They spread the love though! They got the word out and the message grew.

By 2007, peasant tops were out of style, but babywearing was in! Lake County Babywearers was born as more Northsiders wanted to experience meetings but did not want to have to drive into the city for them.

2008 was a big year for the City Slingers – they organized themselves, trained their leaders and joined Babywearing International! Now with liability insurance, Babywearing International of Chicago became the first area BWI group and one of the first BWI chapters.

Within a few years, both Lake County Babywearers and BWI Chicago were overloaded with requests all over the near Northside for meetings. The two groups had friendly leaders and an awesome idea. Why not merge (they were so close together after all) and have more leaders, a larger library, and the ability to serve more people. In 2011, BWI of Chicago and Lake County Babywearers merged and adopted the name name to BWI of Chicagoland.

BWIC old

Though the Northside was taken care of, the Southside suffered. They wanted to wear, too! But to wander into Cubs territory? No way! Think of the children! It’s a long hike from the far south suburbs to the Northside for a meeting, so Babywearing South Chicago and Kankakee Area Babywearers were both born in 2012. It’s pretty incredible; they both have several hundred members now in just two years!

Babywearing everywhere was growing by leaps and bounds. Where Babywearing International had only a dozen or so chapters a few years ago, they were quickly gaining to almost 50! Non-affiliated groups were popping up everywhere too. BWI of Chicagoland was now so large that it encompassed the city, north suburbs to WI, and they wanted to move west as well. It was a huge area and difficult for the leaders (who were spread out themselves), to accommodate so many eager people. A few of the leaders broke off in 2013 to form Babywearing International of North Central Illinois to meet the growing needs of the area. It just didn’t make sense to try to cover such a huge area with only one group. North Central Illinois was able to pick up where the Chicago group left off and expand further to support more people.

In May 2013, Babywearing International of Chicagoland had 845 members, a large amount that had quickly grown. Now, exactly one year later we are 2,000 members strong! Babywearing took off in this city in the past year, and we are in the process of training more leaders and adding more locations to accommodate our growing group. We couldn’t be happier with how fast and the group has grown – it’s more than doubled in just one year!

Babywearing South Chicago is looking into becoming BWI affiliated as well, so soon we may have 3 BWI groups and 2 non-afilliated groups in the area! Altogether, we are serving more than 3,000 families! Keep spreading the babywearing love!

Wondering which of the five Chicagoland babywearing groups is closest to you? Take a look at the map: http://tinyurl.com/illinoisbabywearing

Babywearing International of Chicagoland – Cook & Lake County

Babywearing South Chicago – Will, S Cook (below I-55), Lake IN, & Porter IN counties

Babywearing International of North Central IL – McHenry, Boone, Kendall, Kane, Winnebago, DeKalb counties

Dupage Slingers – DuPage County

Kankakee Area Babywearers – Kankakee County

Update: Since this post, both Babywearing South Chicago and Dupage Slingers have joined Babywearing International. So, they are now known as Babywearing International of South Chicagoland and Babywearing International of Dupage County.

Babywearing in Summer!

Sara and her son Ronan in their Wrapsody Water Wrap

Babywearing is hot in general, but how do you combat extreme heat when you have literally tied a little space heater to your chest? In Chicago we see highs in the 90s to low 100s, and humidity levels that make the rainforest seem like a desert. Combine that with a sweaty, needy, hotbox and… Wait! Where are you going?

Overheating can be very dangerous for babies, especially for infants under 6 months, who lack the ability to regulate their own temperatures. Use common sense and go back inside when baby seems to be overheating. Take breaks from the sun when you can and make sure both baby and you stay well hydrated. Don’t feed a baby, less than 6 months old, water without your doctor’s permission, and don’t add excess water to their formula, or any water to expressed breastmilk. Use sunscreen according to the directions, and according to your pediatrician’s recommendations, to prevent burns. Take your baby out of the carrier if it seems to be causing them to overheat.

Carrier choice:

  • Soft structured carriers (SSC) are usually fairly cool. Any heavier fabric SSC may be a little more uncomfortable than one with a lighter fabric or a breathable panel, but just because you have a heavier SSC doesn’t mean you can’t use it comfortably in the summer. Infant inserts, on the other hand, can cause overheating. Use caution with infant inserts and speak to one of our VBEs if you have a younger baby and an SSC in the summer. There are often tricks to remaining cool that we can help you with, depending on the brand of carrier
  • Asian inspired baby carriers, such as meh dais and onbuhimos, tend to remain nicely cool in the summer. The exception being where they are made out of a heavy fabric or cover most of the body (as in a traditional wide blanket podaegi).
  • Woven wraps – depending on the weave and fiber content, woven wraps can be a cool choice but also can be extremely suffocating. If you have a warmer wrap, try one layer carries and use shorter wraps so there is less excess fabric. If you have only long wraps, still aim for one layer carries that eat up some of the length, like a Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) with the passes bunched.
  • Stretchy wraps – Most stretchy wraps are very warm and don’t breathe well. However, there are some brands that are thinner and more airy, such as the bamboo blend ones I’ve seen out there. So check with us on your stretchy if you have questions. You have to have all three layers of fabric over baby with any stretchy wrap so choosing the right stretchy for summer wearing is important.
  • Ring slings are your summer friend! By their nature, ring slings have only one layer of fabric, and it is often a very breathable one, like linen or cotton.

Planning on hitting the pool or beach this summer? There are some great carriers specifically made for water usage you can find! Although you can often use regular carriers in the water, they will become heavy and the colors may fade or bleed in water. Additionally, chlorine can damage the sewing on a carrier making it structurally unsafe. The most common types of pool carriers are mesh or solarweave ring slings and wraps but there are other types as well.

***For safety reasons, use caution in the water, and don’t attempt to actually swim or go in deep water with a child tied to you. Nor should you wear a baby on a boat or anywhere else a safety device is needed that babywearing would interfere with.*** 

Remaining Cool:

You don’t need a special carrier for warm summer wearing. There are a few tips for staying cool in the heat no matter what your carrier is:

  • Dress for the weather. Remember that your carrier is another layer. It’s fine to dress baby in just a onesie and diaper, or just a diaper, when you’ll have another layer over them (watch for sun exposure though).
  • Dress yourself for the weather. Wear moisture wicking clothing and make sure you and baby aren’t skin to skin. When your skin meets you both get hotter. Wear a thin shirt with a higher neck to keep you both from sweating.
  • Dribble water on their heads, arms, legs, and any other part sticking out. Some people I know carry around a spray bottle to add a little mist, but letting a few drops drip from your water bottle works as well.
  • Cooling towels! These became popular a couple years ago and really hit the babywearing community last summer. You can find them in big box stores and online. Some name brands are Frogg Toggs and EnduraCool but you can find generic brands at the dollar store even! They are similar to a chamois – you get them wet, and the evaporation technology keeps them cool for hours (or even days!!). Lay them over baby’s legs, dab baby’s cheeks, and the back of baby’s neck. We just got back from the desert, and this is what helped the best to keep baby from overheating. Do not put the cooling towel between you and baby though. They work by evaporation and if the towel is between you two then it can’t evaporate so it will not work.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible. The sun is hot and it’s not great for the skin anyway. Keep baby in a hat to block the sun and put a light, breathable blanket over baby (but not over their face!)
  • Since sunscreen isn’t recommended in large amounts for infants under 6 months of age, try to keep younger babies in the shade as much as possible. This is easier said than done, especially if you have an older child to chase after. There are a few companies that make carrier covers that are 100% UVA/UVB. Monkey Pocket and Rain or Shine Kids makes them, and you can sometimes find old Peekaru ones that were discontinued. Bjorn makes a UVA/UVB cover that fits over their carriers too. Outfits that have sun protection are also recommended; rash guards and UV blocking clothing are fairly easy to find these days but we can help you search if need be! A light blanket as stated above can help too.

*A note about sunscreen: Sunscreen is going to be a necessity on any day for a baby older than 6m (and even under 6m according to the AAP), but it can stain your carriers. Follow the general guidelines for using sunscreen by applying 15 minutes before going out. That should be enough time to protect your carrier.

Shameless plug: Don’t forget about your local lending library! If you need to borrow a carrier for a vacation or want to use something lighter in the summer without actually buying a new carrier – check one out from the group! You can borrow one carrier a month for $30/year.

Happy wearing, and stay cool!