While most people can understand and appreciate the benefits of babywearing for little babies and their families, there are a lot of good things to be said about wearing big kids, too.
My older daughter (now age 7) was a baby who loved to be worn. She would settle into any carrier I had and snuggle right into me. She went through a few months on "wearing strike" around the time she learned to walk, where she preferred walking to hitching a ride on my back. After the strike was over, she continued to love our daily walks or snuggling in a carrier around the house.
As she got (much) older and (much) heavier, I wore her less, but still found that wearing was a great tool: it was still a convenient way to carry her when I needed to keep her safe or she was tired of walking, it helped her relax when she was fighting sleep, and wearing seemed to bring her some calm and us both some connection, after an all-too-frequent preschool meltdown. In addition, it was still a wonderful way for us to have close interaction - as we took a hike or a long walk, she engaged in the constant stream of consciousness chatter for which preschoolers are famous. And when she was sick, it brought her comfort to be held close to my body. Now a "big kid," she still asks if she can ride on my back, and on occasion I indulge her. She still loves it (so do I!) and it still resets our connection if it's been strained.
Wearing can also be a special tool for parents of big kids with special needs. Parents of kids with low muscle tone, visual impairment, or sensory needs (and many other special needs) may find that using a carrier can be convenient, calming, or enriching for their child. If you have questions about using a carrier with your child with special needs, please consult with your child's health care professionals. Many babywearing professionals will collaborate with health care professionals to help families find the right carrying solution for their child.
Woven wraps and ring slings can be used with bigger kids, for varying lengths of time or dependent on the caregiver, child, and the situation. Many people prefer mei tai or buckle carriers for "big kids." Most toddlers can still be worn in standard size soft structured carriers like Ergo, Boba 4G, Tula, Beco Soleil and Lillebaby Complete. Some caregivers (and toddlers) find "toddler size" carriers to be more comfortable for a variety of reasons (taller and wider panel being the usual reason). Some toddler and preschool carriers are also tested to a higher weight limit than standard size carriers.
Here is a list of some of the current specifically toddler or preschool size carriers (buckle carriers and a couple of mei tais) on the market today. Most of these are only available from specialty stores or direct from the manufacturer.
- Tula Toddler
- Beco Toddler
- Angelpack MAX
- Kinderpack Toddler
- Kinderpack Preschool
- Kanga XT
- Kanga XTP
- Lillebaby CarryOn
- Soul Slings Full Buckle Toddler
- Lenny Lamb Ergonomic Carrier Toddler
- ToddlerHawk mei tai (from select retailers, limited supply)
- Fidella Fly Tai Toddler size mei tai
Remember when we talked about why you should avoid buying a fake or knockoff carrier? The temptation is strong but the risks are not worth it!
So, what do you do if you are a parent who wants to wear your baby, but you are on a limited budget? Everyone is telling you that you need a Tula, or you see woven wraps that you think are beautiful but that price tag is steep!
With all baby carrier purchases, it's important to be informed.
One great opportunity for research is attending a babywearing group meeting. Many babywearing groups have lending libraries where you can borrow a carrier for a month to see how you like it. You can keep borrowing, month after month, in many cases! Sometimes there are fees associated with borrowing, but these are almost always lower than the price of a carrier. Some groups have scholarships for families who cannot afford membership or rental fees.
If you are willing to buy a secondhand carrier, you can often find really great bargains. See this post for more details, including the importance of inspecting your carrier. And DIY is another great option for affordable carriers. Learn more here!
If you prefer to buy a new carrier, there are many great options available in the "under $50" and "under $100" price ranges. If you are coupon savvy or regularly scan the clearance racks and pay attention to sales, you can usually save even more off the list price. Some of the carriers listed below are available at big box stores (or their online versions), some are available from the manufacturers themselves, and some are only available from online specialty retailers. Use caution when buying from Amazon (be sure that the seller is authorized) to avoid ending up with a counterfeit.
Below are just some of the options that retail for under $50 and under $100. There are many carriers that retail for higher than $100 but can be found for less if you buy secondhand. (Boba, Ergo, Beco, and Tula come to mind).
Options under $50 (retail)
Moby Wrap (stretchy wrap)
Boba Wrap (stretchy wrap)
Happy Wrap (stretchy wrap)
Baby K'tan - original (stretchy wrap)
Sleeping Baby Productions - twill (ring sling)
Soul Sling - certain models (ring sling and some lengths of wraps)
Bibetts - linen (ring sling)
Zanytoes - cotton (ring sling)
Wallypop - cotton or linen (ring sling)
Peanut Shell (adjustable pouch)
Seven Sling (non-adjustable pouch)
Infantino Sash (meh dai)
WallyPop - canvas without padded straps (meh dai)
Mothers on the Move, or Mo+M (buckle carrier)
Evenflo Natural Fit (buckle carrier similar to an Ergo)
Infantino (various buckle styles)
Options under $100 (retail)
Stretchy or Hybrid Wraps. These are usually best for newborns and smaller babies. If you plan to wear your child past 15-16 pounds, be aware that you will probably need to buy another carrier then (unless you buy the Wrapsody hybrid, as it can be worn comfortably for much longer). These wraps are snuggly and the carrier can be put on first, then add the baby. Stretchy wraps cannot be worn in back carries (hybrid wraps can).
Baby K'Tan - Breeze, Organic, Active, or Print models
Wrapsody Duo (can be worn in water or on land)
Babylonia Tricot Slen
Ring Slings. These are wonderful for newborns through toddlers. Sometimes thinner slings will not be as supportive or comfortable for wearing a larger baby or toddler. Many of these are slings offered from woven wrap companies, but others are from companies that specialize in slings.
Comfy Joey (linen)
Sleeping Baby Productions (certain materials)
Lil Peepers Keepers (some models)
Fidella (some models)
Soul Sling (some models)
Bibetts (wrap conversion)
Wallypop (wrap conversion)
Mei Dais/Beh Dais/Mei Tais. These carriers are also very versatile, for newborns through young toddlers. They are adjustable between body types as well. They can be worn on front, back, and hip, and are fairly simple to learn to use.
Wallypop (models with padded shoulder straps)
Soul Slings Meh Dai (some models)
Lenny Lamb Wrap Tai (some colors)
BaBy SaBye (some models)
Buckle Carriers. These carriers are generally best once baby is past the newborn/small infant stage. They can be worn with baby on front and back. I recommend trying them on before buying (or buying from somewhere that has a generous return policy) if possible, because they all fit a bit differently. Each person has a different body shape and size, and buckle carriers are like jeans - they don't fit everyone the same!
Easy Feel (read my review here)
Action Baby Carrier
Soul Slings (some models)
Pognae Baby Carrier
Bitybean (a compact, narrower carrier, can be used in water)
Boba Air (good for travel, packs down very small)
Woven Wraps. These are incredibly versatile, from newborns through toddlers (and even preschoolers or big kids). They can be worn with baby on front, hip, or back, in a variety of ways to accommodate for different people's body sizes and comfort. There is a learning curve to using them but they can be the only carrier you'll ever need.
Little Frog (some models)
Tekhni (budget line)
Wrapsody Breeze (gauze wrap - read my review here)
Fidella (some models)
Babylonia BBSlen (certain sizes)
Lenny Lamb (some models)
Many thanks to this wonderful source: http://www.bwiaustin.org/babywearing-on-a-budget/
Special thanks to the babywearing families who graciously shared their photos for this post!
What are some of your favorite baby carriers for families on a budget?
What if I told you that there was a wonderful type of carrier that is:
Would you jump at the chance to try it? Guess what? There is! It is the mei tai.
A mei tai (pronounced "may tie"), simply put, is a baby carrier constructed of a panel (often rectangular) with four straps, one strap at each corner. Two of the straps are tied around the waist, and two of the straps go over the shoulders, cross the wearer's back, and back around to the front, where they may be tied. For a back carry, they may go over the shoulders, cross the front (some men prefer this way) or straight down like backpack straps, back across the baby's back, and back around to the front where they are tied off. The mei tai originates from China, and this source tells us the name means "to carry on the shoulders with a strap."
Adjustable, Easy, and Versatile
Mei tais are much more adjustable than buckle carriers, which are more "fixed." For a newborn or small baby, you can safely and easily narrow the bottom of the panel, if needed to provide a comfortable seat without spreading baby's legs too far. You can roll the waist to make a shorter panel so baby isn't swallowed by the panel like he would be in a standard size buckle carrier. You can change the angle and function of how the straps cross over and support your baby so you can easily and comfortably trade a mei tai between wearers. Mei tais are generally easier to use than wraps and ring slings, and fairly comparable to buckle carriers for ease of use.
Mei tais can be used as baby grows. You can change how the straps support your baby. If you want to venture away from front carries, you can do a hip carry that is generally more comfortable than doing one with a buckle carrier, and you can do a back carry high enough to allow baby to peek over your shoulder while awake, or to rest his head on the back of your neck when he falls asleep. If you want to have only one baby carrier for newborn through toddler days, this might be a great option for you!
Types and Brands of Mei Tais
There are very simple mei tais, made from canvas or other heavy cloth, with minimal padding. Some mei tais have padding at the waist or on the shoulder straps, and some have wide straps that mimic the function of a woven wrap. These are typically made with woven wrap material, though occasionally linen or other fabric that performs similarly. You will occasionally see a few extra features on both types, including headrests, sleep hoods, toy loops, infant inserts, cinching mechanisms, and more.
Some of the more commonly available and popular simpler canvas mei tais are: Catbird Baby, BabyHawk, and Infantino Sash. Catbird Baby and BabyHawk are generally described as more comfortable and able to be used longer than the less expensive Infantino. All of them function the same and are perfectly safe when used correctly.
There are a variety of easily obtained mei tais made from wrap material on the market. Currently, these include: Soul's Soul Tai, Girasol's MySol, Didymos' DidyTai, Babylonia USA's BBTai, Fidella's Fly Tai, Lenny Lamb, Chimparoo, Topatop, BaBySaBye. and more! The price point on these is comparable or a bit higher than the higher quality canvas mei tais. Many of these have wide straps that can provide extra support around your shoulders and under baby's bottom.
In summary, if you are looking for a carrier that is adjustable from newborn through toddler wearing, adaptable to various body types, and fairly easy to use comfortably, consider a mei tai!
Beth. The babywearing lady.
copyright 2016 Beth Secrist
All photos used under the Creative Commons license through Flickr. Photography by: littletuesday12