Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buying a baby carrier -- tips to make your purchase successful.

Choosing a baby carrier can be a daunting task, however, I promise you, a baby carrier will be one of the best purchases you make.

We have four children, and I can honestly say we have rarely relied on a stroller as a method of getting around with any of our babies. A baby carrier is much more practical than a stroller -- nothing to fold down and lug around, no need to worry about navigating small stores or narrow doorways, and it's well-suited to around-the-house use (let's face it, some babies require constant motion all the time, not just when you're out and about!).

If you're in the market for a baby carrier, I cannot stress the advantage of buying a baby carrier in-person rather than online. As babywearing becomes more mainstream, you've probably noticed that most baby stores are starting to stock a selection of slings. If you're lucky enough to have access to a store that is staffed by people who use baby carriers, then you should consider yourself lucky! Hands-on instruction is much more useful than an instructional CD, although not everyone has access to such stores.

Another potential resource to learn about baby carriers is local babywearing groups - you may be able to connect with local moms who can show you their own slings, as well as provide advice by sharing their own experiences with babywearing. A great place to find local babywearing groups is, which has forums where you can search for local babywearing moms; alternately, if you have a local La Leche League group, that's also a great place to meet babywearing moms.

I also cannot stress enough that if you are still expecting, you should wait to purchase a sling until after your baby is born. Some carriers, like pouches for example, are sized to the user's frame -- obviously, when you've got a beautiful, blooming belly, your body is a different shape than when you're not pregnant. Size issues aside, you won't know how you really feel about a specific carrier until you have a real, live baby -- your baby -- to put in the carrier. Weighted demo dolls may give you an idea of how a carrier feels to wear, however, a demo doll doesn't squirm or fuss, so you won't have a true sense of how you feel about putting the carrier on and getting your baby into it. Your baby will also have a say in how well a carrier works for you both. For example, some babies clearly prefer a reclined position over an upright position, or vice versa, but you won't know what your baby's preferences are until she's in your arms. Some carriers are better-suited to different carrying positions, so waiting until after baby is here will ensure you select a carrier you're both happy with.

If you're worried about getting out and about after your baby is born, don't worry, you will have lots of friends and family eager to help out in exchange for snuggle time with the new baby. If you're more comfortable shopping with assistance, take them up on their offers to help and bring them with you to try on baby carriers. If you're at a store with a good selection of carriers, it may take a few attempts with different slings to see what works for you both.

It helps to have an idea of what your needs are before you start shopping for a sling:
  • Do you want to share the sling with your partner? If there is a signficant size difference, a sized sling may not be a good choice.
  • Do either of you have back or neck problems? If so, a two-shouldered carrier would be a better choice than a one-shouldered carrier. A two-shouldered carrier will distribute the weight more evenly across your back and shoulders. A carrier with a waist belt is also a good choice for anyone with back or neck problems b/c the waist belt takes the weight off your shoulders, and puts it on your hips.
  • For what purpose are you buying the carrier? Around the house, or long walks with a dog? Two-shouldered carriers are better suited for extended periods of use.
Once you have purchased a baby carrier, make sure to read or view any instructional materials that came with it.
When you want to begin using the carrier, do it when your baby is happy, for example, after she's been fed. Don't try to start figuring out the carrier with an already agitated baby. Once you've got your baby in the carrier, move -- motion will help to settle her, I promise!
With patience and practice, you will learn to love your baby carrier, and you will enjoy a pleasant babywearing relationship for years to come.

As my youngest (and last!) child is moving from babyhood into toddlerhood, I'm starting to get nostalgic about our babywearing years. Practicality aside, wearing my babies has helped to foster a close bond -- there is nothing like having a sweet baby nestled against you. When people say enjoy the baby years because they go by so fast, they're not kidding!

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