Yes, you need a stroller if you have a baby. But
that stroller won't take you and your new sidekick to all of the
places you want to go.
Parents have a dizzying array of options when it comes to
wearing their babies, and it can be tricky to know where to start
the process. However, once they find a baby carrier that works for
both parent and child, families will find that they are free to
explore places they may not have anticipated.
Why wear your baby?
Babywearing has numerous physical, logistical and
emotional benefits. Ellen Sternweiler, mother of three and owner of
Bellybum Boutique (bellybumboutique.com), has plenty of babywearing
experience, both as a parent and a retailer. She wants new parents
to know there are practical and ergonomic solutions out
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of babywearing is the
ability to be hands-free. ™This is particularly useful when you are
trying to wrangle multiple kids or when you have a baby who only
sleeps when they are in movement and you need to get work done,∫
Farrah Brown, a Wheaton mother of a 6- and 4-year-old,
became hooked on the emotional benefits of babywearing while using
a ring sling with her son.
"I just loved the feeling of holding him close and being
able to cuddle and comfort him,"says Brown. "Plus, I truly believe
in the advantages of having your baby close. Being physically close
to mom and dad gives baby a quiet confidence to learn about his
In addition, babywearing oftentimes is just a better
logistical choice than a stroller.
"Strollers just don't fit everywhere! They can be
cumbersome, heavy and tricky to maneuver through crowded
restaurants, sidewalks, stores, street festivals and other
child-friendly places such as museums," Sternweiler
Choosing a carrier
When it comes to choosing which type of carrier works best
for you, Sternweiler says there are a number of considerations to
take into account.
"I recommend waiting until your child is born before
choosing a carrier. Different carriers are better for different
situations and different sized children. I wouldn't necessarily
recommend the same carrier for a 5-pound baby as I would for a
Also, consider whether you only want your child facing you
or whether you would like an outward facing option, she says.
Wraps, while easy to master and more cost effective, tend to be
"You want a carrier that distributes the weight of the
baby evenly across your shoulder and loads the majority of the
weight low and evenly on your hips. Avoid carriers that have no
waist belt or support," she says.
Chicago mom Eva Ho bought an Ergo Baby carrier before her
son was born, but she didn't find it comfortable to use and settled
on a ring-style sling when her son was a newborn.
"The Sakura Bloom is my favorite brand. I have three of
them and they are beautiful,"says Ho. After her son was about 9
months old, Ho switched to a mei tai style carrier because she felt
it was more secure and she could wear her baby on either her front
or back. She likes the BabyHawk carrier for larger
Ho advises first-time parents to try a variety of different
carriers before making a purchase. At the Chicago Chapter of
Babywearing International, she attended meetings and for a
small deposit was able to try out various carriers.
Brown suggests borrowing a carrier or two from a friend or
going to a store that will let you try a couple of styles to see
what you like the best before you make the investment.
"Carriers that are one-size-fits-all (like ring slings or
wraps or structured carriers) are easier to start out with since
you can adjust as you go and not have to worry about getting the
right size. Stretchy wraps and ring slings are great for newborns.
Woven wraps, soft-structured carriers (like Ergo or Becco) and ring
slings are my favorites for all ages,"says Brown.
Now where to?
"Before you use your carrier for an all-day trip to the
city or the Shedd, wear your baby to the grocery store or a quick
trip so you can get used to the feeling and make adjustments as
necessary," Brown says. "I always wore my babies around the
house, not just when we went out. Trying out a new carrier in your
home will help give you the confidence to use it when you are out,
Ho has worn her now 3-year-old son to a variety of places,
including Hong Kong. She recalls being able to eat in French
restaurants while her newborn peacefully slept in his
Ho believes carriers offer kids a better perspective than
a stroller to actually see the attractions at destinations like the
zoo, museum or aquarium.
"Using a sling or a carrier instead of a stroller allows
you to move around in places that would be so difficult to navigate
with a stroller like stores with tight aisles, public
transportation, places with lots of stairs but few elevators such
as museums," says Brown.
All experienced babywearers agree: there is nothing like
having your baby close to you.
"Having your baby right by your face where you can just
look down, touch, see, feel and smell their head and feel their
breath is just one of the most delicious, special, fleeting moments
you get to experience as a parent," Sternweiler
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.
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