Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Which baby carrier should you buy? Not as simple a question as you might think! Part one - Safety, comfort and quality

Its a question I get asked a lot: "You have lots of baby carriers - which one should I buy?"

Sounds simple. But isn't.

Choosing a baby carrier is a very individual thing. It will depend on the age and size of your child now - and how long you would hope to wear them into the future. Your body size and shape - and that of your partner and other family members who plan to use it. Your climate and lifestyle. Aesthetics. Your child's preferences and behaviour. Your budget.

The most important questions to ask are actually about the carrier itself - is it safe and is it comfortable?

For safety, the international T.I.C.K.S. guidelines have been adopted around the world to promote safe babywearing:

Everyone who carries your child in any type of baby carrier should be made aware of these guidelines. Avoid any product that doesn't allow your baby to be worn on your chest as shown. Obviously, wearing your baby on your back requires some modification but the key factors remain the same.

With regards to comfort, most people who ask me about that do so from the parent's perspective but the child's comfort is even more important! There are carriers that provide optimal comfort and support for your baby - and others that don't. 

It not only makes sense to make sure your baby is carried comfortably but it also important from a long-term health perspective. Babies hips are particularly vulnerable and frequent or long-term use of some styles of carrier could lead to ongoing issues. 

Once you have established that the carrier you are considering can be used in safety and comfort for your child, its almost time to start looking at your options! 

But first - you get what you pay for.

There are several issues in the unregulated, global nature of baby carriers that you need to keep in mind. Firstly, counterfeit versions of popular products are a huge problem and unwary parents buying bargains can end up with poorly made copies which are likely 
  • made with inferior material and parts – particularly the buckles
  • not product tested for safety standards
  • not covered by any Product Insurance
  • not covered by Product Warranty
Secondly, even with the best intentions, some manufacturers are simply unaware of recommendations for making and selling carriers. Simple products like ring slings or mei tais may look easy to sew and many a mum makes a small income selling online or at markets. The consumer who doesn't know what to be looking for or has no way of checking before the purchase is delivered may be at risk of hidden weakness in seams, unsafe hardware or incorrect fabric or thread used in sewing. The weight of a sleeping baby or heavy toddler may lead to failure of the carrier and risk of accidents.

It simply isn't worth the risk

If you are buying a hand-made carrier, be aware of the key points of the construction and ask questions until you are happy you are buying a safely made product. For example - mei tais generally have an internal layer where the weight is borne and should be triple-stitched in an "X-box" where the straps join the body. This will be beneath the decorative layer in most cases and you may only be able to determine it is used by asking.


If you do not feel confident to determine safe construction before buying online, then sticking with the name brands from reputable retailers may be safer in the long run.

The US baby carrier industry now has mandatory regulations for anyone making and selling ANY baby carrier. In Australia, the ACCC is currently assessing the industry and it is likely similar regulation will come into place. These actions are in direct response to infant deaths and are intended to protect both consumers and manufacturers/retailers.
DEC 2013: Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is undertaking a consumer survey on parents’ perceptions on using baby sling carriers. The survey is being overseen by the Queensland Consumer Products Injury Research Advisory Group, of which the ACCC is a member. For more information and to participate in the survey, visit the QUT survey website.
When your budget doesn't stretch to the cost of a brand-new, reputable brand of baby carrier - consider instead buying a used one through buy, swap and sell groups who insist on validating not only the products but the people offering them. eg Babywearing Buy Swap and Sell Facebook Group

Before your baby is born, perhaps ask for contributions towards the cost of your carrier in place of sundry small items at your baby shower, as a workplace leaving present or as a large item gift from family. 

So - you know about safety, comfort and quality - next: What types of carriers can I choose from?

Disclaimer: This information is offered as a guide only. Ultimately, your choice of baby carrier and how you wear it is your responsibility. 

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