The Best Baby Carriers, From Wraps to Slings & Beyond

Babywearing. It's a practice that's been around for centuries, but today's parents have taken the act of hands-free carrying to a whole new level thanks to modern baby carriers. It's handy, and many would say even necessary gear for parents, but knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. Don't let the numerous choices scare you away from taking advantage of the benefits babywearing can offer.

Newborn-Friendly Baby Carriers: Baby's First Carrier

Want to start wearing baby right away? Carriers for kiddos come in every shape and size, but when it comes to carriers for newborns, you want one that will offer optimal head and neck support. Do your research, and you will safely bond with the help of newborn-friendly baby carriers, or those that may not be suitable for such youngsters early on but can adapt with specified inserts. Not sure where to begin? Look for a newborn-friendly baby carrier that's a lot like her: soft, cuddly, and heavenly to be close to. With that in mind, a smooth, cotton wrap, or sling is an excellent choice. No matter which newborn-friendly baby carrier you select, carefully read the instructions and practice at home with a partner until you are confident you can safely secure baby in the carrier on your own.

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Backpack Baby Carriers: Bring on the Adventure

Need something more substantial that allows you to bring baby and a few essentials? Look no further than a backpack baby carrier. It provides comfort and convenience for long mornings in the park, afternoons at a local fair or festival or even adventurous family vacations hitting the trails. Backpack baby carriers are only an option for transporting babies old enough to sit up and support their head. As with structured baby carriers, you want a model that distributes baby's weight across your hips, so look for one that features thick, padded shoulder straps and a wide, adjustable waist belt, as well as an adjustable chest strap for added support. Another key thing to be on the lookout for is a chin pad for your child so that she can nod off in comfort. When it comes to babywearing, backpack baby carriers aren't for the faint of heart, but when adventure calls, you and baby will be glad you made the investment.

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Get in the Sling of Things

Slings for babies are typically a piece of fabric that fits over one shoulder and cradles your cutie in a "pocket" area. The difference between a sling and a wrap is slings don't have to be wrapped around the body or tied. They essentially look like "loops" you slide over your head, with a deep compartment for baby. Slings for babies are very user-friendly and popular among many parents; just be sure you can see baby's face at all times, and her neck isn't crunched so she can easily breathe. Whichever sling you choose relish in the simplicity and convenience a baby sling offers.

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Structured Baby Carriers: Comfort for You & Baby

If the thought of a baby carrier has you saying, "oh, my aching back," a more supportive and soft structured baby carrier may be right for you. Structured baby carriers support and evenly distribute baby's weight with the help of wide, padded shoulder straps and a sturdy waistband. This ensures baby's weight isn't pulling on your shoulders and neck, or concentrated in your lumbar region, but rather evenly spread across your hips. A structured carrier is a great option not just for back sufferers. If you're always on the go, want to enjoy outdoor activities with your little adventurer in tow, or are a city-dweller whose mode of transportation for you and your mini-me is your own two feet, this style may be for you as well. Structured baby carriers tend to have a few more buckles and clips than slings and wraps but, nothing stands in your way when you have a trusted baby carrier (dance party, anyone?).

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All Wrapped Up

Slightly more involved, but quickly learned, are the wraps you see kiddos bundled up in facing inward or outward. When you first unfurl a baby wrap and attempt to put it on, you may think you're being punk'd. Don't give up. This one continuous piece of stretchy fabric that secures baby to your body takes a bit of practice to master. Consult the instruction manual to perfect your technique. You'll be glad you made the investment because the payoff is worth it. And with some experimentation with different carrying styles, you'll ultimately find the best fit for you and your little one. In fact, a wrap makes a great choice if more than one person in your family plans to wear baby. Don't forget one of the biggest bonuses of most baby wraps: they're super-easy to clean when baby spits up, or worse, suffers a diaper mishap. Similar to a sling, you can just throw them in the washing machine with baby's other (never-ending stream of) laundry.

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