Baby Carriers 101

11 January 2023 | Before Your Baby is Born | By Lisa H

There are so much information out there about baby carrying as well as brands and models, so we are very happy that Dörte Hacker shares her know-how about baby wearing and slings with us in this article. 

A mother of two, Dörte is an independent baby wearing consultant and physiotherapist in Berlin Friedrichshain. Since she herself enjoyed baby wearing so much with her children and appreciated the advantages it gave her as a city dweller, she was eager to learn more and to inspire and guide other parents.

So after the birth of her second child, she trained to become a babywearing consultant. She feels that her physiotherapeutic background and the subject of baby carrying complement each other perfectly, so that she can provide very individual advice. By the way, she rarely used her stroller ;)

Who should try baby wearing?

Not every family needs a baby carrier, it depends on what the family's daily routine is and whether the parents want to carry. For example, baby wearing works well for the following scenarios:

  • You live on the top floor of an apartment building and without a carrier, you would have the groceries in one hand and the child in the other.

  • Smaller household tasks can be done effortlessly with the child in the carrier.

  • An older child is taken to daycare or school. For this, the stroller would first have to be carried downstairs and assembled. The carrier provides a quick remedy. 

  • Using public transportation and moving around on city streets is often easier with a carrier, since a stroller needs space or families depend on there being a (working!) elevator at subway stations.

When can parents start baby wearing?

A baby can be carried from the day of birth, as long as mom and baby have no physical limitations that interfere with carrying.

If it is possible for the mom to have a recovery period after birth, that's great. Ideally, wait 6 weeks before you try baby wearing. However, this is not realistic in all cases and families, so listen to your gut.

What are the rough types of baby carriers?

There are roughly three types of carriers:

  1. Slings (wraps) - To be tied completely

  2. Half-buckle carriers - abdominal belt with buckle, straps to be tied

  3. Full-buckle - abdominal belt and straps with a buckle

From birth, I would recommend carrying with the sling, because it adapts well to both the baby and parents. However, in the beginning it takes some practice and patience to master the tying technique (a babywearing consultation or help from the midwife can provide good support here in the beginning). If parents feel overwhelmed or annoyed at the very sight of a sling, then a carrier will also work right from the start. 

Whether parents choose a half-buckle or full-buckle carrier depends on how secure the parents feel - for some, a buckle feels safer than a knot. So again, it's an individual decision.

When is a good time for a session with a baby wearing consultation and to purchase a carrier?

The time of pregnancy can be used to look at different carrying systems: what might suit our everyday life, what appeals to us, what doesn't? To get informed, advice can be useful, as well as recommendations from friends and acquaintances.

I recommend deciding on a product after the birth, because only then is it clear whether the baby can be carried at all, how big the baby is and what the current daily routine is like. 

How does a babywearing consultation work with you?

I will come to your home with several carrying systems and together we look at what suits you best. Then we practice (first with a doll, then with the baby) the respective tying technique, so that at the end of the consultation you are confident in using the carrying system. 

I also offer group consultations, following the same above structure.

What if we or the baby do not like carrying?

Then you don't carry. Baby wearing is not for everyone. Some love and want a stroller, some a baby carrier, some both. You as parents are the experts, and I can advise you on this as well.

Carrying should not be a hype that everyone goes along with. Carrying should be fun and fit into your everyday life. 

What are the no-go's when it comes to baby wearing? There are always questions about certain brands or ways of wearing...

I can think of two specific scenarios:

First, the direction the baby faces in the carrier - inward or outward facing. And second, the support of the baby's hip.

As for the carrying direction, I always recommend the inward carrying direction (belly to belly) for healthy children. The reason for this is that the little ones are confronted with a huge amount of input, from which they have to protect themselves in the outward direction. Likewise, they find it difficult to fall asleep in this position, even if they are feeling very tired.

However, if the parents feel that their child would like to see more, then it may be time to start back carrying.

However, if the baby has special needs, then it may even be important for them to be carried outward facing for some time during the day, depending on the medical (neurological) cause.

As for the second scenario, the carrier should always support the baby's hip position so that it resembles an 'M' shape. If it does not, the baby's feet should be supported.

What other information is helpful for (expectant) parents on the subject of baby carriers? 

I recommend not protecting yourself fully with too much information, as it usually leads to even more confusion. One of the most important questions in advance could be, do I/would we like to carry at all? Is this a good fit for us? If yes, get more information. 

If no, don't bother with the topic any further. It may also be that you first say no to carrying and then take a stroller and want to try carrying weeks or months later. Everything is allowed, everything is right and everything will come in due time. 

Thank you, Dörte, for these valuable tips!

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