When traveling with a child, one really important tool that you can use is a baby carrier. But with so many carriers on the market, it is important to consider what you want to use the carrier for in order to find the best one for you and your child.
There are many benefits to using a carrier, as opposed to a stroller. They are lightweight and a space saver. It can be easily worn through the airport or can be stuffed into a suitcase for when you don’t need it. Additionally, being handsfree is great when rushing through the airport with luggage, navigating more than one child, or just saving your arms from having to carry Baby. Most carriers are also easy to wash so you can easily clean them when you’re back from your travels.
When picking a baby carrier, there are so many styles to choose from.
The most simple(ish) and often used for newborns or infants. A baby wrap is essentially a piece of long fabric that you tie and knot around yourself to create a pouch on your chest, hip or back where your baby can sit.
It’s meant to distribute the baby’s weight across your shoulders and hips. Unlike other carriers, there are no clasps, rings or buckles that might dig into you or your child’s body.
Just because it’s simple in its design, doesn’t mean it’s the easiest, however. The complexity of tying the wrap can turn some people off.
Soft Structured Carrier (SSC)
The most popular type of carrier for babies, infant through toddler, is the soft structured carrier. It comes with padded shoulder straps and a padded waistband with a soft pouch to support your child. The ergonomic design and adjustable fit generally make them the most comfortable of all the carriers for both yourself and baby. These are also very versatile with different carrying positions depending on the brand.
Backpack carriers are the standard for hiking trips but can also be used for longer days strolling through the city. Backpack carriers have a framed seat that your child sits in on your back. The build of a quality backpack carrier allows for proper weight distribution so your body isn’t in agony after walking around all day.
Shoulder carriers are carriers that allow for toddlers to sit on your shoulders safely with the support of a small seat and leg straps to keep them secured (and to stop them from kicking you!) They are typically the largest and heaviest of the carriers and are reserved for hiking or long days exploring.
The shoulder carrier is great for active toddlers who aren’t content being closely strapped down to you or for toddlers who like to be able to see everything around them.
Buying the Right Carrier
Once you choose the type of carrier you want from the several options, then there are a few other things to consider when choosing the specific carrier from each kind.
First, consider what kind of travels you will be doing and how you will be using the carrier. If you’re an adventure family doing long hikes or long days sightseeing, a soft structured carrier can’t hold up to the build and frame of a shoulder or backpack carrier. If you’re lazing around the beach and doing short excursions, a large framed backpack carrier might be overkill.
Comfort - You will want a carrier that has a breathable material like 100% cotton or mesh. If you plan to use the carrier for longer wearing then you’ll also want one that offers thick padding in the shoulders and waist.
Design - Look for a carrier that holds your child in a way that will keep their hip joints healthy. You want to look for something that puts their hips and legs in an M shape position. Most high-quality carriers are already built with the health of your child’s body in mind but it is good to keep in mind. You'll also want something that is lightweight. If you add the weight of your child, is this something that you can physically carry for a small or large amount of time?
Weight Limits - Each carrier has different size and weight limits so consider how long you want to use the carrier for and make sure to purchase one that fits with those needs.
Cost - Most high quality baby carriers are going to range from $100-$200. You can get cheaper versions, but often at the sacrifice of comfort and support. Considering that you can use a carrier for 3-4 years, it’s a worthwhile investment to get one that’s well made.
As it is when it comes to all baby gear and equipment, it is all about what is right for you and your child.