When you first have a baby, a lot of things you used to be able to do without thinking about too much, like picking up your dry cleaning, or going to the grocery store, become much more involved events, requiring preparation, planning, and equipment. So whether you’re hiking across town on foot, or just bringing Baby on a routine trip down the street, there’s a good chance you’re going to use some kind of device to carry them, instead of just freestyling. Which device, though? That’s the million dollar question.
Keeping it classic: the carriage, stroller, or pram
- Pros: If you use a classic, carriage layout, you get to look Baby in the eye while you walk. But whether your stroller faces in or out, it’s easier on your back than a carrier or sling, and can have lots of storage space to make carrying all of the things that Baby will need for a big day out a breeze. They can also be used to travel pretty quickly, and make a handy cart for those groceries if Baby starts getting fussy on the walk home and wants a cuddle.
- Cons: Proponents of carriers and slings say that the physical distance between you and Baby doesn’t add to parent-child bonding the way ‘wearing’ your child in a carrier or sling does. On a more practical level, strollers can be big, hard to store and hard to maneuver through crowds or bring on public transportation. And if Baby decides mid-ride that they would rather be held by you or (when they're older) walk or toddle along, you’re still stuck carting it home with you.
Simple but elegant: the baby sling
- Pros: Slings keep Baby close to your body, which promotes parent-child bonding and helps them feel safe and secure. The shifting of position the sling requires can also help prime Baby for strong muscular and skeletal development. Makeshift versions can be constructed using a sheet, a long scarf, or t-shirts, in a pinch.
- Cons: Using a sling improperly or without fully following or understanding the instructions can carry some pretty serious dangers, including increased risk of hip dysplasia and the risk of suffocation, especially in babies three months or younger who haven’t developed much control over their neck muscles yet. Slings can also be harder on their carriers, due to less padding, less weight displacement, and unequal weight distribution between shoulders.
Option C (none of the above): the carrier
- Pros: Carriers cause fewer risks to Baby than slings, while at the same time providing a lot of the same benefits of slings, including physical closeness and bonding. The padded straps and waist-belts help to distribute Baby’s weight in a way that’s easier on your body, and many are adjustable enough to be used as Baby grows and changes for years.
- Cons: Especially in the summer, the physical closeness of slings and carriers can lead to overheating. As Baby grows, even with better weight distribution, carrying them for long distances can be tiring. Some carriers can also seem needlessly complex and difficult to put on, especially if you’re not used to them.
Whether you come across your one true stroller, or baby carrier, and never stray again, or you keep a handful of devices around to switch between depending on the situation, the important thing is to find the solution that’s safest and most comfortable for you and for Baby.
- Rochelle L. Casses. “Infant Carriers and Spinal Stress.” Continuum Concept. The Liedloff Society for the Continuum Concept, 1996. Web.
- Jay L. Hoeker. “Is it safe to hold a baby in a sling?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 12 2105. Web.
- “Baby Carriers, Seats, & Other Equipment.” International Hip Dysplasia Institute. International Hip Dysplasia Institute, 2016. Web.
- “Heading Out With Baby.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 1 2010. Web.
- “Starting breastfeeding – the first feeds.” Ministry of Health. New Zealand Government, January 20 2017. Web.