A brief introduction to baby carriers

I received this question (paraphrased) from a reader the other day:

I have been searching for a suitable baby carrier or wrap for my seven month old baby. Most of the stores I found online were American and many of them only ship within America or are expensive.

Can you suggest where to buy a carrier that’s not too expensive and can ship to Toronto? Which baby carrier would you suggest for a 7 month old in the house and for walks?

Thanks for asking this question! I get asked this a lot in person whenever I’m out carrying my baby or toddler in a carrier, and every time it happens, I feel so awkward answering because I’m honestly still a beginner when it comes to babywearing. Both my girls are really active kids who actually don’t like to be carried for long periods of time and prefer to be crawling or running around. I use baby carriers for when I need my hands free, or for when we’re walking outside or in a mall or store.

Anyway, for a seven month old, there are a few options, depending on your preferences. The most common are ring slings, woven wraps, or soft structured carriers.

Ring slings

Ring slings are perfect for newborns, but can be used at any age for quick carries.
Ring slings are perfect for newborns, but can be used at any age for quick carries.

I find ring slings are good for quick up and down carrying. I use my ring sling when I have to carry Merry from the car to a building and then put her down again. (This is normally such a short trip that I just carry her in arms, but if I park far away or if Pippin is threatening to run off in the parking lot, or if I just have a lot of bags to carry, it comes in really handy to pop her in a sling.)

I only use it for short time periods because the weight is all on one shoulder, but with a light baby you could wear it longer. Maybe up to an hour before it gets uncomfortable.

Pros: It’s quick to put on and adjust — it literally takes seconds once you get used to it.

Cons: It gets uncomfortable after a while. You are also limited to carrying the baby either in front or on the hip (not on your back).

Popular brands: Maya Wrap, Sakura Bloom, or any wrap conversion ring sling (a woven wrap that has been cut and made into a ring sling).

Woven wraps

Woven wraps can be used for pretty much any carry you can imagine.
Woven wraps can be used for pretty much any carry you can imagine, and with babies of any age.

Woven wraps (non-stretchy wraps) have a much longer learning curve but are more versatile. You can do any type of carry with it, which might come very handy with a seven month old. I often carry Merry (who is also seven months old) on my back when I’m working around the house or playing with Pippin, so the ability to do a back carry with a carrier is a must for me.

Pros: It’s the most versatile option — if you’re only going to buy one carrier for newborn through toddlerhood, and you want it to last through multiple babies, a woven wrap in the best bet. It’s the easiest carrier to get a perfect fit for any baby and any body type. You can tie it in a way that distributes the weight across your back, you can do one shoulder or two, you can add a chest pass for more support — you can really do anything with the right length of fabric.

Cons: There’s a learning curve, but with the right teacher it’s not as hard as it looks. Most cities have a local babywearing group with qualified instructors that can help you get any carrier working for you (whether it’s a wrap or any other style of baby carrier). Woven wraps are also pretty pricey depending on the wrap you get. Some wraps go for up to $1000! But you can get lots of great wraps around the $100-200 price point, and there are really good budget wraps that get the job done under $100.

Popular brands: Chimparoo, Ellaroo (I have one of these), Uppymama, Girasol, Lenny Lamb, I could go on forever.

Soft structured carriers (SSCs)

Soft structured carriers are easy to use, but not always so great for newborns.
Soft structured carriers are easy to use, but not always so great for newborns.

Soft structured carriers are like the Ergobaby carriers you’ve probably seen. Some people call them backpack-style carriers. There are other brands like Tula and Beco as well.

SSCs are really easy to use with almost no learning curve, but they often don’t work very well for newborns, so if you’re planning to have another baby, you might need a different carrier or you might have to buy an additional insert for newborns. I personally find that these carriers are just too big and clunky for a newborn — I much prefer the cozy fit of a sling or wrap for that tender age.

They’re also harder to get a good fit. A woven wrap or ring sling adjusts perfectly to any body type, but you will find that one brand of SSC fits better than another. You really need to try on a few different brands in a store or at a local babywearing group meeting (or be prepared to buy and return until you find one you like).

The Ergobaby is generally the mainstream choice, but if you can afford it I would recommend trying out a Tula — many people find it more comfortable, and the larger panel fits babies longer.

Pros: There is almost no learning curve at all.

Cons: Sometimes they just don’t work with your baby or body type. They aren’t the best choice for a newborn.

Popular brands: Ergobaby, Tula, Beco, and others.

What do I use?

I use my ring sling if I only need to get in and out of the car and I need extra hands.

I use either my wrap or my SSC (equally) at home to put Merry or Pippin on my back when I need to get things done.

I use my wrap when I’m out walking for a long distance without using the car at all. I put it on at home and take it off when I’m at my destination. I still haven’t figured out how to put my wrap on without the ends dragging on the ground (I can do it in a pinch but it’s not easy).

I use the wrap when I need to put Merry to sleep and Pippin needs my attention at the same time (Merry never sleeps in the SSC, whereas Pippin loved to sleep in it — every baby is different).

If I could recommend two, I would recommend the ring sling and SSC — the ring sling for the newborn stage and the SSC for older infants and toddlers.

But if I had to recommend just one, I would recommend the wrap because it does both jobs perfectly, with the disclaimer that you will most likely need some help to get the hang of it.

Where can you buy baby carriers?

You can buy carriers at a few specialty in-person baby stores like Snugglebugz and Ava’s Appletree, or online stores like Parenting by Nature.

But more commonly people use buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook since carriers have such good resale value. If you’re in Canada, check out the groups Canadian Babywearing on a Budget and Babywearing in Canada Swap and Chat. Outside of Canada, you can probably search and find one for your area. Even within Canada there are smaller groups for individual cities.

These groups are excellent, not just for buying and selling, but also for tips and techniques, and general advice about babywearing. If I’m ever having trouble with a carrier, these groups are my go-to for advice and troubleshooting, and I learned how to use a wrap from one of the local group meetings.


I hope that answers your question!

Comment below if baby carriers help you get things done while keeping baby close! Which carriers work for you and which don’t?

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9 comments

  1. The first way of carrying is super cute. And the 2nd one is actually a tradtional way women carry their babies in Africa actually its how the lady who took care of me at times carried me lol. As the mother or caregives does her daily work with the baby on her back it bouces the baby keeping them calm and also helping them sleep. Liked this post 🙂

  2. Very interesting post indeed! Picking up the baby for a long distance, whilst travelling is really tough work so these are very easy ways of doing the same! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. I love baby wearing, its really a life saver when you have a toddler running around and u need you hands free. I went straight for a soft structured carrier to avoid having to always something.

  4. Interesting lesson. And very well written.

    I actually prefer holding babies but admire those who carry them so skilfully. And yes carriers come in handy for when you needs the hands free.

  5. I wish I had invested in a woven wrap when I had my first child, but now my third is almost one, it doesn’t seem worth it! I’ve used baby bjorn structured, moby wrap and a Mei tai. All are good in certain situations at certain ages, but I think a woven wrap would have been a better ‘all-rounder.’

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