This article looks at the common safety features of some of the most common carriers.
Features of safe wraps:
Wraps are one of the most versatile, easily sourced carriers around. Almost any piece of cloth can be a wrap, but there are two caveats: the wrap must be of breathable fabric and the wrap must be both wide enough and long enough. Natural fibers are the best option for wraps, but it is important to ensure that it is not unduly heavy, overheating the baby. The wrap should also be thick enough to bear the babies weight, but since there are no seams, gauze wraps such as Wrapsody can be used successfully for coolness over summer for babies under about 12 months.
The wrap should also be wide enough- some stretchy wraps are very thin, but when sourcing your own woven wrap to wrap a child in from birth to five years, at least 60cm wide is necessary. Around 70cm is a good width. Some wraps are up to 80cm wide.
The wrap must be long enough for it to wrap around parent and child. How long depends very much on both parent, child and the type of carries desired, but any length between two and six meters can and has been used!
Features of safe Mei Tais and SSCs:
Safe mei tais and SSCs will be made largely of quality bottom weight fabric. Seams will be reinforced and straps will be inserted into the body with either internal or external xboxing (stitching shaped like a box with an x in it) or bar tacking. You can ask the vendor if these safety features are included in your carrier. Failure to adequately anchor the straps of the carrier to the body can result in injury. SSCs or half buckle carriers will use good quality hardware as discussed here.
Features of Safe Ring Slings and Pouches:
Once again good quality hardware and breathable fabric as discussed here will be present. Ring slings should be made of one layer of fabric or two sewn together. There should not be two pieces of fabric hanging separately from the rings.
Stitching should be reinforced. Hand made slings of good quality often have 2-3 rows of stitching set several millimeters apart.
The sling should have sufficient dimensions so that it is at least 60cm wide and long enough that when worn there should be at least 30cm of tail hanging beyond the rings.
Any padding should be well clear of the rings and ideally should only be in the shoulder of the sling. It is very difficult to adjust a sling with padded rails (edges) and the adjustability of a ring sling is what makes a safe cradle carry with a newborn achievable (see here).
A safe pouch is one that fits well. It should be quite tight and hang no lower than the wearer’s navel. The stitching on the seam of the pouch should be reinforced- a French seam is general recommended.
Cradle carries for newborns are not recommended in most pouches.
The Work At Home Mum Industry and the DIY Movement
Some of the most important design advances in the babywearing industry have come from Work At Home Mums. Ergo, Beco, Ellaroo, Maya Wrap and Freehand all started as home-businesses and are now global. Making your own carrier or buying one from a WAHM (Work At Home Mum) will allow you to access design features not available on the mass-market at an excellent price. Make sure the carrier you are interested in has the safety features described above, do your research and enjoy your very special carrier. This site has excellent information on making or buying a safe carrier.