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Before You Buy a Baby Carrier

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Baby carriers are incredibly handy for busy new parents. Carriers let you keep baby close while getting other chores done, and save your weary arms when you're out and about with baby. Choosing a baby carrier can be hard, though, given the wide variety of baby carrier styles available. Here's a quick rundown of baby carrier styles to help you choose the baby carrier that will work best for your lifestyle.

Traditional Front-Pack Baby Carriers

Classic front-pack baby carriers are easy to use, adjust easily for either parent's height and size, and can be found in most stores. Baby can face forward or towards the parent. Men often prefer the simple look of the front-pack over other baby carriers. Most front-packs can only be used one way, and some are too bulky to fit easily in a diaper bag. The weight limit is usually 20-25 pounds. Some new front-packs can be converted for use as a backpack baby carrier.

Backpack Baby Carriers

Backpacks are a popular choice for outdoorsy parents who want a rugged baby carrier that lets baby participate in outdoor family fun. These feature-packed baby carriers often have sturdy metal frames, extra-padded straps, sunshades, cushy seats for baby and more. While backpacks are very nice for long trips, they are less convenient if you need to get baby in and out of the carrier a lot. Most backpack carriers can't be used for newborns. The weight limit is usually around 40 pounds.

Unpadded Sling Baby Carriers

Unpadded slings are increasingly popular because they fit a wide range of people, stash easily in a diaper bag and come in a huge range of fabrics and styles. Some unpadded slings are shaped to be used only as a hip carrier. Others have adjustable rings and no shaping, and can be used on the hip, to cradle baby, to hold baby face to face, or even to wear baby on your back. Slings take a bit of practice to use, which puts some parents off. The weight limit varies from 30-40 pounds.

Padded Sling Baby Carriers

Padded slings are comfortable to use thanks to the padding along the edges and on the shoulder portion. Padded sling baby carriers are available in many stores and come in many fabrics and colors. Adjusting and using these baby carriers is slightly more difficult than unpadded styles, and they take up more space in a diaper bag. Baby can be carried on the hip, at the chest, in the cradle hold or on the back. Some parents find padded slings too bulky or hot to use comfortably.

Asian-Style Baby Carriers

Asian-style baby carriers come in a few styles and lots of different fabrics. Asian-style baby carriers are usually tied on with long cloth strips attached to the corners of the baby carrier, which is often a simple rectangle of quilted fabric. Asian-style baby carriers can be used on your front or back, and baby can sit facing you or facing away. While these baby carriers are wonderful for newborns and smaller babies, older babies and toddlers often find them too restrictive.

Which Baby Carrier Should I Choose?

The best way to buy a baby carrier is to try several on, preferrably with a baby inside, and decide which is most comfortable for you. Ask other parents which carriers work for them, and what they like or don't like about the baby carriers they use. Many parents who use baby carriers a lot end up with several styles. You may also prefer a different style when your baby grows from newborn to wiggly toddler.

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