Choose the Right Hands-Free Baby Carrier


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If you think you — and your little one — would enjoy a baby carrier, but you’re a little overwhelmed by the options, keep reading for a mini tutorial. We cover the pros and cons of the wrap, sling and carrier styles available online and in stores. See which one might be a just-right fit for you and your babe.

IT’S A WRAP: Wrap-style carriers

Overview: As the name implies, this carrier is an extra-long piece of cloth that can be wrapped and rewrapped, while holding baby close to mom. Wraps are made of a variety of materials, from light, stretchy fabrics to heavy, woven textiles.

Best for: Wraps hold newborns and babies weighing as much as 20 pounds. Because the fabric length can be draped in a variety of ways, wraps work for both parents when couples are different heights. Wrap baby on your front, back or side; twins can go on both back and front. Pros: Need to wrangle the toddler away from a cat or get a few loads of wash done? Wraps offer a hands-free option. Parents with back problems may like a wrap’s even distribution of baby’s weight.

Cons: Long cloth lengths can make you feel like a 3-year-old wrapping a gift, unless you get hands-on help and instruction. Wraps have a learning curve. And it’s almost impossible to nurse in a wrap; baby needs to come out first.

THE SLING’S THE THING: Ring slings

Overview: This traditional baby carrier is a long piece of cloth looped into rings and worn over one shoulder. Extra fabric hangs down from the rings and can be used to provide nursing privacy.

Best for: Most slings are designed for babies up to 40 pounds or so, with weight limits varying by brand. The sling increases skin-to-skin contact for preemies or difficult nursers, and twins can lay side by side. Pros: A sling’s main benefit is in its flexible use for multiple ages: Newborns recline in front, and toddlers sit on the hip, depending upon how the sling is worn. Parents can choose from a dizzying array of sling fabrics (including silk and linen), and discreet breastfeeding is easy.

Cons: Some women don’t like the ring sling’s pull on their necks and shoulders. Ring slings tend to be plagued by an unstylish rep, partially due to those tails of cloth, and most dads aren’t hip on ring slings.

POUCH & GO: Pouch slings

Overview: It’s like a sling, but without rings or a tail. A piece of fabric sewn in a loop, the pouch is a fixed length and may require measurements to get the right size.

Best for: Pouch slings are fabulous for babies with enough upper body control to sit up on mom’s hip. Babies can ride on the hip or up front, kangaroo-style.

Pros: Pouch slings are sleek and stylish, without a ring sling’s extra fabric and rings. And pouches tend to come in trend-setting patterns that complement urban wardrobes.

Cons: Most types are a fixed length, so you can’t adjust as you lose weight or when your infant gets bigger. And your partner can’t wear the same sling, unless your weight and height are the same.

FRONT & CENTER: Soft-style carriers

Overview: Two brands dominate this market: Baby Bjorn and Ergo. Both offer a soft sheath with a stable, secure seat for baby and wide, soft backpack-style straps.

Best for: Bjorns are for infants weighing up to 25 pounds, while the Ergo can tote babies through toddlers up to 40 pounds. Bjorn babies can face either toward or away from the parent on the front. Ergo-ported infants can go on the back, front (facing inward only) and hip.

Pros: Dads dig the muted tones of Ergos and Bjorns and both go on quickly. Parents love the Ergo’s built-in zippered pouches, and the adjustable straps and waist-extension clips work for many body types.

Cons: Many parents stop using the Bjorn early on, due to back pain or because baby becomes too big too quickly. The Ergo doesn’t seem to cause similar problems. Colors and fabrics are limited, and neither are nursing friendly.

I’LL TAKE A MEI TEI: Mei tei carriers

Overview: Pronounced “MAY tie” (not “my tie,” like the cocktail), the mei tei is made of a fabric rectangle and four corner-located straps that tie around mom and baby, origami style.

Best for: Mei tei carriers work for babies and toddlers of all sizes, using front, back and hip-carrying positions. Very young babies tend to sink into the mei tei, but many parents love using them for all ages.

Pros: Mei teis have all the pros of a wrap-style carrier, but are easier to put on and often come with padding in the shoulders. Some mei teis offer padded headrests for babies, and there’s not as much hardware as in an Ergo. They’re nursing friendly, with plenty of privacy.

Cons: You’ll need to get some help to tie these pretty packs, since there’s no one “right” way to put them on. The accent straps and bows can feel fussy for some parents.

PACK YOUR PROGENY: Backpack-style carriers

Overview: Like an external-frame back-pack, these carriers (Kelty is a common brand) hold a sitting child inside a perch.

Best for: Often, they’re for the tech-attracted guy in your life. Backpacks are also for babies older than 6 months with stable head control. They can carry kids up to 40 or 50 pounds.

Pros: You will never have to nag your husband to wear it. Pockets and packs transform it into an all-in-one catchall, and the all-weather hood is particularly attractive for rainy or sunny climates.

Cons: They’re often difficult for shorter people (even with adjustments), and the large frame feels unwieldy. Be prepared to apologize when you accidentally whack fellow pedestrians.

Lora Shinn is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.

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June 2019

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124963.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
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Come out to the millpond and fish the old-fashioned way - we'll provide you with a cane pole, tackle, and bait, along with basic instructions and assistance with identifying fish species....

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Martha Kane
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Bees are really important in our gardens! Read The Honey Robber and the Bee by Eric Carle and discover the world of bees and honey! Find your fellow bees by following your sense of smell, make a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

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Enjoy an out-of-this world space spectacular event. Preschoolers and their families are invited to fly in for space-themed games, crafts, and more. No registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy giant checkers, giant jenga, bubbles, and special art activities in Downtown Park. All other permanent games (ping pong, bocce ball, chess) will continue to be available.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Join Optimist Aquatic Center as thousands of kids and adults around the world unite for the world's largest swimming lesson. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will celebrate its 10th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Optimist Aquatic Center
5902 Whittier Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Enjoy magic, storytelling and origami with Yasu Ishida. Grades K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an indoor/outdoor vendor market with food trucks, coffee, live music outside and plenty of fun for all ages.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Pine State Coffee
1614 Automotive Way
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

More information

How many fireflies can you catch? Sign up for an evening of summer fun as we catch and release lightning bugs. Explore what gives them a special glow through hands-on discovery, games, and more!...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead State Historic Site
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

DIY Fest returns with more than 30 artisans and family-friendly activities to support the mission of Durham 150, the anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Durham. 

Cost: Free

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The fair is for women thinking about getting pregnant, currently pregnant, or recently post-partum. Triangle-area organizations will have tables at the fair to share information about resources...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Cooperative Extension
721 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: March of Dimes/Duke Family Medicine
Telephone: 678-246-9027
Contact Name: Courtney Simpson
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Ages 5-8 embrace science and nature while developing skills and knowledge about the natural world. Register online. Choose course #124927.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Enjoy all-things blueberry, food trucks, pie-eating contests and more at Vollmer Farms' annual Blueberry Festival. The Back-40 Country Playground will be open and features a...

Cost: $12 advance tickets, $15 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 NC Hwy 98 East
Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
Website »

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Enjoy a movie under the stars and play games at 7:15 before the movie starts. 

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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