You’ve just had a baby. You’re no longer working. You’ve just forked out all your savings on a cot, car seat and pram. There’s not a lot of spare cash around and then you see wraps and carriers selling for more than $150 and you feel like it is out of reach for you. Don’t despair, there are cheaper options.
One of the misconceptions about babywearing is that it costs a lot of money. Sure, you certainly can spend a lot of money on high-end wraps if you want to, but by no means is that the only way to carry your baby. You don’t need an expensive stash of different carriers to be a ‘real’ babywearer – anyone can babywear, even on a tight budget.
First though, consider this. Wearing your baby in a carrier is a legitimate way to transport your baby, comfort your baby, and bond with your baby. Try not to listen to people who say you can’t spend that much money on “a piece of fabric”. If you can spend a few hundred dollars on a pram, it is perfectly reasonable to spend a similar amount on a baby carrier (if you can afford to) that you may end up using more often than you use your pram (I certainly do!).
That said, sometimes there isn’t a couple of hundred dollars in the bank account, but your baby still cries and wants to be held, and you can’t get anything done.
So, what are your options?
From newborn to around 8 kilograms, a stretchy wrap is a wonderfully comfortable and snuggly way to carry your baby. While new ones can be a bit expensive, there are often second hand ones available through Facebook groups, eBay or Gumtree for $50 or less. Some brands to look out for include Hug a Bub, Moby and Boba wrap. Another option is to buy some cotton jersey from a fabric store and make your own. You’ll need about 5 metres in length and you can then split it down the middle and make two wraps, it wont fray so no hemming required – go halves with a friend in the cost!
Ring slings are also suitable from birth, and being a relatively simple construction with a shorter length of material they are often cheaper than long wraps or structured carriers. When looking for a cheap ring sling though, there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to avoid the bag or pouch style slings with padded rails, these can be quite hard to adjust and hard to keep baby in a safe position. A ring sling should have rings made from a continuous piece of aluminium, with no visible join. Consider how long you want to use the carrier for. Some cheap cotton ring slings will be fine for a small baby, but you will probably find it uncomfortable as baby starts to get heavier, which will mean you either stop wearing or have to buy something new – spending a bit more initially on a ring sling made from a woven wrap can be a better long term investment. Woven wrap ring slings can be purchased for as little as $74, check out my useful links for vendors.
Mei tais can often be picked up cheaper than a buckle carrier, and can also be easier to learn how to use than a wrap. A basic mei tai such as the one by Infantino is under $60. Baby Hawk and Kozy mei tais should also be available for under $100, or maybe even less second hand.
While not specifically designed for babywearing, there are a number of materials available from fabric stores that could be used for that purpose. I’ve already mentioned cotton jersey, but once bub has outgrown that, there are cotton options like osnaburg or even all linen. There are downsides to this: it probably won’t be as comfortable as a wrap made for babywearing, particularly as baby gets heavier, and you can’t be sure that chemicals used in the manufacture of the fabric are safe for children, but it can be a cheap way to see if babywearing is for you. Keep in mind, unless you find yourself a fabric on the bargain bench, it might not actually be much cheaper than buying a woven wrap, which you can pick up for under $100.
If you can sew, making your own ring sling is not complicated; there are instructions online. You can get a size 5 or 6 woven wrap for under $100 and chop it in half and make two ring slings – which is excellent value.
I don’t know about you, but I would have loved my friends or family to pool together and have purchased me a carrier as a gift for my newborn that I might not otherwise have been able to afford. Two hundred dollars is a stretch for a lot of people’s budgets, but if 10 friends chuck in $20 you can get just about any sort of carrier that you’d like – and I reckon that’s better than another pair of baby socks, muslin wraps or onesies!
And a final word on buckle carriers
Buckle carriers (or soft structured carriers/SSC) are very popular due to their comfort, convenience and ease of use. If this is the type of carrier you are looking for, please be aware that there are many counterfeit Ergos on the market, sold mostly through eBay, for prices well below recommended retail. They seem to be too good to be true, and they are. Fake Ergos have not been safety tested to meet the required standards for baby carriers, may use fabric that contains unsafe chemicals and dyes and buying one supports the unethical practices of counterfeiters. The only way to know if an Ergo is real is if it was originally purchased from an authorised retailer.
Baby Bjorn is another popular buckle carrier and probably one of the most well known babywearing brand names. While expensive new, they can often be picked up cheaply second hand (particularly early models). Baby Bjorns have been given a bad rap in the babywearing community over recent years, mostly due to the less than optimal position for baby’s legs and the ability to carry baby facing out. And while it is true that ideally baby’s legs would be better supported in an ‘M’ position like in an Ergo and that facing out isn’t something I would recommend, Baby Bjorns are safe (if TICKS guidelines are followed). So if you’ve been given one or can pick one up very cheaply then don’t be afraid to use it – keeping your baby close is the key, however you make that happen! But be aware that the other major drawback of the Baby Bjorn, particularly the early models that you can get cheaply, is that they won’t be very comfortable for you once baby gets heavier – so do consider some of the other options I’ve outlined above.
Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!