While the safety commission does not differentiate between types of carriers, there are several styles:
- Bag or sack carriers
- Ring sling
Of the various types of carriers, wraps keep babies closest to their caregivers. They are commonly used in many countries.
a) Front wraps
Front wraps are often used to provide skin-to-skin care for premature and sick babies.
A baby wrap keeps the baby:
- Upright between your breasts.
- Tummy to tummy with you.
- With the head turned to the side with the cheek against your chest.
A wrap can be used over or under your clothes.
A premature baby is best kept next to the mother’s skin. If the baby is in skin-to-skin care, mothers often cover the baby and the wrap with a large shirt to cover the mother’s shoulders and arms.
Every mother and every baby are different. Try on various wraps to see which ones you and your baby like. They can be long pieces of cloth or tubes that are pulled over your head.
If you decide to use a wrap, make sure the baby is positioned correctly and safely. The legs should be bent outward, like a frog’s legs, and not be straight and the baby's head should be safely supported.
b) Back wraps
Wraps can also be used to carry a baby on the mother’s back. Such wraps can be as simple as a piece of cloth. In many traditional cultures in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, mothers work while carrying the baby in this manner and their babies appear to have a decreased risk of hip abnormalities (Gottlieb 1995; Graham et al. 2015).
2) A bag or sack carrier
This type of carrier places the baby in a bag or sack, which is a barrier between you and your baby. This type of carrier provides less head, neck, and back control and a baby can end up curled up in the bottom of the bag with her or his chin on the chest, making it harder for the baby to breathe.
Bag carriers should only be used once the baby has head control and enough back strength to stay upright.
Some bag carriers can be used on the caregiver’s back once the baby has good head control.
3) Ring slings
Ring slings are made of cloth and have a metal or plastic ring to hold the ends of the fabric and create a circle. This circle is placed diagonally around the mother’s body:
- Over one shoulder
- Down and across the mother's tummy
- Around the opposite waist
- Up around the back toward the first shoulder
The sling creates a hammock in front of the caregiver’s tummy to hold the baby. Ring slings can force the baby’s chin onto the chest and make it hard for the baby to breathe. If the hammock is shallow, the baby may fall out. Ring slings should only be used once the baby has head control. At this point, they can also be used to help you carry your baby on your hip.
A baby who has good head control and can sit can be moved to a backpack.
A backpack should have a thick belt, allowing the baby’s weight to settle on your hips and not on your shoulders. The advantages of a backpack over a carrier that keeps the baby on the front are:
- Less strain on your back as:
- The baby’s weight is transferred to your hips.
- You are no longer leaning backward to balance the baby’s weight.
- It is easier:
- To see your feet and move around safely.
- To do chores with your hands and arms as the baby’s body in not in the way.
- The baby is freer to move her or his arms and legs compared with being in a wrap or sack.
- The baby has a better view of the surroundings.
One study found that babies under the age of one in backpacks, when compared with babies in strollers (Mireault 2018):
- Vocalized more.
- Heard more speech from their caregivers.
- Engaged in more speech with the caregivers.
- Engaged in more visual scanning.