A couple of days ago I came clean about not buying a stroller for my baby. In short, I'm not convinced that I need a stroller and carrying my baby just seems simpler.
That is, until you try to decide which carrier is the right one for you. Just like with cloth diapers there are just too many options. When choosing a stroller at least every one of them will have the same basic configuration: wheels, a place for the baby to sit, a handle to push it. Not so with babywearing options: every brand touts its individual benefits, forums are full of mums decrying one option and praising the other...who knew there were so many ways to carry a baby?
Of course, you could just hold the baby in your arms without a carrier. As much as I'm convinced by the science behind it I know that this would be a bit too much for me: I'm pretty certain that at some point I'm going to need both my hands to do something and, if baby refuses to be put down, not having an appropriate carrier leaves you in a bit of a bind.
Lucky for you, I've done the research and I'm going to try and make it simple and break the carrying options into three broad categories.
Ring slings: these are relatively short pieces of woven material with two rings sewn into one end. Pros: versatile, lots of holding positions, least bulky option for stuffing in your bag. Cons: placing the baby in the sling can be tricky at first, having the whole load on one shoulder might not be that comfortable for mum over long periods. Popular brands: Didymos, Maya Wrap.
Structured carriers: these look like a backpack for your baby. Pros: very comfortable, very easy to use, good for long walks. Cons: bulky, limited carrying options, supposedly some brands are ergonomically bad for the baby. Popular brands: Ergobaby, Manduca.
Wraps: a simple long piece of woven or stretchy material. Pros: comfortable, no hard bits, large variety of positions. Cons: you need to learn how to wrap the material around you (but putting the baby in place is supposed to be easier than a ring sling), stretchy wraps only suitable up to a certain weight, kind of bulky to take with you. Popular brands: Moby, Didymos
Of course there are variations on these themes (the Asian-inspired Mei Tai, pouches, forward-facing structured carriers) but they still fall into the three basic categories: short piece of cloth with a fastening device, backpack, long piece of cloth.
So how do you decide which one is best for you? Each of these three options will be more suited to a specific situation (hiking! twins! toddlers!) but let's just assume that, like me, you're a first-time mum expecting a new baby. I would go for the soft wrap: you still have time to practice wrapping it around you (with or without the help of a stuffed toy) and it's soft and comfy for both you and the baby. The ring sling and structured carrier each have their benefits, but I can't imagine myself feeling comfortable around the house basically wearing a bulky backpack or trying to fit a squirming newborn into a fiddly ring sling.
Perhaps next time I will come clean and admit why I ended up purchasing a wrap, ring sling and structured carrier...