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Babywearing: How to find the best baby carrier

Photography by Michael Alberstat Image by: Photography by Michael Alberstat Author: Canadian Living

Family

Babywearing: How to find the best baby carrier

Baby-wearing, or using a baby carrier, is a growing trend that takes its cue from traditional societies in which mothers carry their babies everywhere. "There are many reasons parents choose to baby-wear," says Arie Brentnall-Compton, an Edmonton-based baby-wearing educator and vice-chair of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. "They do it to maximize breastfeeding success, to keep baby closely supervised at all times, to be able to meet their own needs at the same time that they're responding to their baby's need for touch."

But with so many products available, how do you choose a baby carrier that suits your baby and you? Let two words be your mantra: safety and comfort. Here are some options.

Wraps are made form carefully selected or purpose-woven fabric, and can be tied any number of ways. They may take a little practice, says Brentnall-Compton, but then "parents can learn any number of carries to suit their needs."

Ring slings are single-shoulder carriers that use a set of specifically designed rings to adjust. "Once your baby nurses upright (usually by four months), they're the simplest carrier to nurse in," says Brentnall-Compton.

Mei tais feature a rectangular body panel with fabric padded straps on all four corners. Some also have a headrest or pockets for baby supplies. "Mei tais are very easy to learn and tend to be popular with dads, in particular, who like the esthetic and simplicity of them," says Brentnall-Compton.

Soft-structured (or buckle carriers) feature a body panel, well-padded waistband and shoulder straps. "They're especially great from six months and up (once your baby can sit independently) and are well suited to back carries," says Brentnall-Compton.

Safe and sound
Beyond choosing the right carrier, how you use the product matters for safety and comfort. Follow these eight tips for safe carrying.

Keep your child "visible and kissable." Health Canada recommends keeping your baby visible and kissable: The head should be above the sling or carrier, and the chin should not rest on the chest, which can restrict breathing. Monitor your baby often, particularly those under four months of age, to ensure the airway is not compressed.

Don't cover up your carrier. This can lead to overheating and makes it difficult to check your baby's position and breathing. Tyler Goodier, a Health Canada consumer product safety specialist, recommends trading in a sling for a traditional carrier in colder weather.

Learn about proper use. Using a baby carrier isn't as intuitive as people think, which is why products often come with educational materials, such as DVDs or online videos.

Buy from a reputable retailer.
Contact a knowledgeable retailer (and ask if they have experience with or education in baby-wearing) or ask a baby-wearing educator for help choosing the right product, suggests Brentnall-Compton.

Read the fine print. On your product, look for a statement saying that it meets safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Do a regular safety check. Make sure your child is positioned properly and check back regularly. That includes making sure no gaps have opened up between your bodies or that your child has started to slide out. Tighten knots, adjust straps and check buckles to ensure safety and comfort.

Be age- and size-appropriate.
Health Canada advises against using slings for newborns, premature infants and babies with health conditions, or for sick babies who may have trouble breathing. Health Canada recommends that babies be full-term weight (eight pounds) to be in a carrier.

Check for recalls.
A product is fine until it's found to be defective or unsafe. Check recall listings at HealthyCanadians.ca to make sure your carrier meets current safety standards.

Get the lastest inspiration, gear and advice as you journey from bump to baby. We've also got tasty (and pregnancy-friendly) appetizers for a baby shower, and food to satisfy your pregnancy cravings


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Babywearing: How to find the best baby carrier

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