Baby carriers are lifesavers for some new mothers who would not otherwise leave the house in those early weeks after birth. Instinct tells new parents to keep their baby close at all times. The stroller or infant car seat can seem so big when your baby is only six days old. But after a week in the house, any new parent will start to get a little stir crazy and want to show off their baby. You can push your newborn around town in a stroller. To ensure ease of mobility and meet that instinctual need for closeness, a fabric baby carrier that cuddles your baby against your chest is the perfect choice.
Baby carriers are comforting for you and your baby. They allow close contact, offering both of you the reassurance that you are close to each other and safe. They also free your hands for other activities. Many parents find that shopping or doing housework is easier when their baby is carried along in a carrier. Babies like the rocking motion of being carried and will often happily fall asleep in them. Some doctors believe that baby carriers can also help lower the risk of postpartum depression for moms by keeping baby close and encouraging interaction.
Baby carriers are usually one of the primary tools for travel during the first several months of your baby's life. By the time your baby weighs fifteen or twenty pounds, they may be too heavy to carry in a front carrier, depending on your strength and energy. When your baby weighs close to 20 pounds and begins to sit up, it may be more comfortable for you to move to a baby backpack. By this time, many babies want a little more freedom to look around and explore and find baby carriers to be restricting and frustrating.
A baby carrier consists of two padded, adjustable shoulder straps supporting a deep fabric seat. Most baby carriers are "drop-in" style carriers. Newborn babies face inwards to snuggle against your chest and sleep, while older babies face outwards so they can look around and take in the world. Your baby is worn very close to your body—which can get quite warm. The close proximity can make breastfeeding in a baby carrier a little awkward, but not impossible.
It is always a good idea to try on a baby carrier before you buy it to make sure it is comfortable. You want your baby's weight distributed equally across your shoulders and back without pulling on your shoulders. Look for wide padded shoulder straps and a padded waist belt. The leg holes should be padded or elasticized so they don't constrict your baby's legs.
The carrier must hold and support your baby securely. Your baby will probably fall asleep while in the carrier, so make sure your baby carrier has a sturdy padded headrest that will support your baby's head and neck. Put the carrier on, adjust all the straps, then give the seat and the straps a good tug. All straps, buckles, snaps, and belts should remain securely in position.
You want to make sure you can slip the carrier on and off by yourself. It may be you and your baby most of the time and you don't want a carrier that requires two adults to get you in and out. Some baby carriers are designed to unbuckle from the harness so you can easily remove your baby and the carrier without much disturbance or difficulty.