Trying Out Carriers Without Getting Carried Away

By Kit Donovan September 03, 2021

Babywearing can be one of the most rewarding parenting experiences, whether from a relational perspective of having portable cuddles or a more utilitarian need of being semi-hands free. In many ways it’s the grease that helps make the rest of parenting run a little smoother. When it goes right, it’s absolutely magical. However when something isn’t quite working, oftentimes babywearing just becomes yet another area of frustration and sense of failure in a parenting world already fraught with both.

What many new and veteran parents don’t realize is that we’re set up for failure from the outset. Most parents end up selecting something that looks like “it should work” for a baby registry or are given hand-me-downs from other parents who swear by that particular carrier. Then the carrier(s) sit in a box as the nursery is set up. If they’re lucky, maybe one makes it into the hospital go-bag. But then the wonderful little one arrives, and let’s face it: even if the birth goes smoothly, even if breastfeeding is relatively easy, even IF absolutely everything is perfect (which it hardly ever is) no one has the time, energy, and desire to learn a new skill when you have a newborn. The equivalent is someone voicing that they are excited to have signed up for a half marathon in a few months, then being given a friend’s sneakers that this particular friend wore for their first half marathon, and then not putting on said sneakers until race day when there is no turning back… only to discover the friend has different size feet, the support is weird, and you simply have no clue how to use those particular shoelaces.

So why is it the natural expectation for parents to purchase or request a carrier they’ve never used, wait until baby is here, then suddenly put it on and be perfect at babywearing?

I think we can all relate to the panicked bad day where baby is inconsolable and you Spoiler: it never does under those circumstances. This is why the best time to learn to babywear is prenatally. Parents have a chance to explore the styles of carriers out there and identify what will probably work for their bodies and their wearing context. They can learn the skill of using the carrier without the pressure of simultaneously caring for their baby. If things don’t go as expected, maybe baby was a preemie or there was an unplanned c-section, it isn’t all for naught. Sure, the exact WHAT of the carrier might need to change to accommodate unexpected circumstances, but the skills already built are still applicable regardless!

Of course this approach of setting parents up for success raises a very common question: how are parents, both new and veteran alike, supposed to access all the different styles of baby carrier? Most families cannot afford to blindly purchase one of every style, let alone set aside the time to play with each carrier on top of all other baby preparations and family demands.

Here is where it is NICE to be in the twenty-first century. There is a wealth of resources that help solve this problem, and below I’ll cover options especially helpful for those of us living in the Greater Binghamton Area. In general, babywearing groups on facebook can be helpful; you just have to gain an understanding of how to weed out the non-applicable/incorrect/incomplete information. There are general groups, such as Babywearing 101 and The Carrier Collective, and carrier style groups depending on what you are interested in. (Ring slings, stretchy wraps, woven wraps (which are very different from stretchy wraps!), soft structured carriers, meh-dai carriers, etc.) There are also brand-specific groups for just about every carrier company under the sun. All of these are fine jumping off points, but cannot replace the first hand user experience. Even if you are just excitedly practicing with a stuffed animal or a bag of rice, operating the carrier yourself is invaluable!

Babywearing Basics class gives you an chance to play with all the major styles of carrier available, but after you do narrow down which brands of a specific carrier style appeal the most, you can get rolling a few different ways:

Good Old Fashioned Borrowing

Ask friends/families if you could borrow a carrier you’re interested in potentially purchasing for yourself. Just make sure to set a specific borrowing-time, both for their sanity and to give yourself a use it deadline. Also be careful to consider whether or not the person you’re borrowing from will be offended/confused if you ultimately choose something else. If you don’t know anyone local with the carrier you’re considering, try asking around on social media groups to see if there are any lending/borrowing options. Some styles of carriers, such as woven wraps, need breaking in (a chance for the fibers to soften up) and there are whole groups dedicated to sending carriers on “holiday” for others to enjoy and help share the load of getting the carrier to its optimal usage point.

Try Before You Buy

The retailer Little Zen One offers Try Before You Buy through their Facebook community. You sign up for the carrier you want to try, it gets mailed to you, then you just pay to mail it to the next person. There is a queue, so it’s important to consider how long it may take before your turn comes around.

Carrier Rental Companies

If you're looking for an option that doesn’t have a waitlist, is a carrier rental service with a wide variety of carrier styles and brands. Every rental comes with the manual (either physical or digital copy) and a free virtual fit check.

Carrier Lending Library

NY Babywearing (official facebook group and a separate chatter group) is centered on providing meetings and support in the Hudson Valley through Central NY. Unfortunately, that means the closest meetings are in Syracuse. Due to COVID, there haven't been very many meetings, but they do have a Lending Library and a slew of passionate educators who would love to help! If you're up for a scenic drive, feel free to reach out to an administrator on facebook to learn how you can borrow a carrier!

There are great carriers for certain bodies and certain babywearing needs, but just like running shoes, no ONE pair that can work for every runner.

As always, wherever your carrier search takes you, remember: Babywearing is not one size fits all! A particular carrier may work for your body and your needs for a season of baby’s life… and then you may need to explore new options. Even with carriers designed to “grow with baby,” sometimes it just doesn’t work well for a particular babywearing dyad. There is no perfect carrier out there, despite what marketing tries to tell us.

If you need support in trying to identify what carrier is best for YOU in this season of parenthood, register for a class or private consultation so we can get you carrying comfortably!

Head over to and schedule your consultation with Kit.

More articles you may like:

20 Terms To Know if You're Having a Baby in 2020