Baby Carrier vs Wrap: Advantages and Disadvantages

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When it comes to a baby carrier vs wrap and the advantages and disadvantages of both, you may be wondering the best way to go. For you and your baby, it will differ depending on how you prefer to wear them or what kind of lifestyle you lead.

For those short on time, you should choose a baby carrier if you want something with more structure and you should choose a baby wrap if you want something more versatile.

There’s no denying that baby wearing is ultra popular, and if you want to jump on the bandwagon (who doesn’t??), you need to find the right way to do it. You have to think about your comfort as well as your baby’s safety.

For moms who prefer more structure (belts, straps, clips, details instruction manuals, etc.) a baby carrier is probably the way to go. However, for moms who want some versatility in the way they wear their baby, a wrap could be the right choice because it allows you to switch up the way you wear it depending on the way you feel or how big your baby is.

Baby carriers come in plenty of different varieties, but they’re more rigid than baby wraps. Early on, baby carriers offered one way to carry your baby. You could buy a baby carrier that allowed you to either carry your baby on your back or on your front.

If you wanted to carry your baby on your back one day and on your front the next, you would need two different carriers. There wasn’t an all-in-one solution.

However, many carriers that allowed you to carry your baby in front would allow your child to face toward you or outward, while carriers that went on your back allowed your baby to face forward only.

These days, you can buy baby carriers that allow you to carry your baby however you want. You can still get carriers that restrict the way you carry your baby, so if you know you only want to carry your baby one way, you can buy a carrier that does that.

However, many carriers will allow you to move your baby from the front to the back, or flip your baby around from facing you to facing outward. They’re much more versatile than they used to be.

One thing all baby carriers have in common is that they’re much more rigid in structure and include many more straps, buckles, clips, and other components than baby wraps or slings. They also only allow your child to ride sitting upright.

Baby carriers are meant to be worn with straps over your shoulders and most have additional straps that secure around your waist as well. The bucket that holds your baby is soft sided, but buckles in place against the shoulder straps securely.

Every model works differently. Some have accessories like umbrellas that offer shade for your baby, some have extra pockets to hold items like your phone or keys, and some may even hold a sippy cup.

While some will have a lot more padding for infants and smaller children, others will offer a more basic solution for older toddlers. Despite their many differences, they all work in roughly the same way.

mom holding baby in carrier

Baby Wrap Overview

Baby wraps are totally different from baby carriers, but every wrap is more or less the same. They’re exactly what they sound like. They’re a large piece of fabric that you wrap around your body and can wrap your baby in to secure them to you.

Baby wraps don’t offer as much structure or stability as a baby carrier does, so some baby wraps are better intended for smaller children, but they do offer more versatility. You can carry your baby in many different ways, including laying down.

There are a lot of different baby wraps on the market, so you have to choose the one that’s right for you. Some allow you to carry your baby in front, in back, on the side, upright, laying down, facing you, facing outward, or all of the above.

While they’re all roughly the same, there are some varieties that allow you to wrap them or tie them in unique ways so you can carry your baby differently. Some are even one long continuous piece of fabric (like an infinity scarf with no end), that allow you to put it over your head like a t-shirt rather than wrap and tie it.

As you can probably tell, these types of holders don’t offer as much structure as a carrier and they also take quite a bit longer to put on. There’s a bit of a learning curve associated with figuring out how to wrap and tie them securely.

Baby wraps also come in a wider variety of colors, patterns, and fabrics, so you have many more options to choose from when it comes to styling and comfort.

Baby Carrier vs Baby Wrap: Side By Side Comparison

Here’s an in depth look at features, giving you a better idea of how baby carriers and baby wraps work. There’s a clear winner in each category, which should help you decide which is the right choice for you and your baby.

Learning curve

Learning how to use a baby carrier takes a little time, but each one comes with an instruction manual on how to assemble it, but it on, and put your baby in it. While they have snaps, buckles, straps, and clips, each one is fairly straightforward.

Not to mention, once you figure out how to do it, it’s pretty easy to remember how to do it the next time. Carriers that you can only wear one way will be easier to figure out than carriers that have multiple ways to wear them.

However, even carriers with multiple ways to wear them go on more or less the same way in every configuration.

Almost every baby wrap on the market has nearly an infinite number of ways you can wrap and tie it, which makes the learning curve a bit difficult. Wraps definitely aren’t for everyone. It can be tough to get the hang of how to wear them, how to get your baby in it, and how to make it secure enough to hold your baby.

Not only that, but it can take some time to get used to wearing your baby this way and feeling comfortable enough with it not to actually support your baby with your arms as well.

Winner: Baby carrier

Ease of assembly

Baby carriers are a true ‘grab and go’ solution. You sling them over your shoulders, put your baby in them, and clip them into place. You can typically do it without a partner’s help, although putting your baby on your back might take a bit more practice.

Baby wraps take a bit more time to configure in the right way, and until you get the hang of it, you may need someone’s help to either hold your baby, or wrap the fabric around you and make sure it’s secure while you hold the baby.

Winner: Baby carrier

Styling

Baby carriers are ugly, per se, but they definitely don’t come in a very wide variety of options. Most are black or gray. Some come with subtle patterns, lining, or variations in color. A better way to describe carriers would be simple and understated.

Baby wraps, on the other hand, come in an endless number of colors, patterns, and fabrics. You can choose nearly anything you want, and you can even get more than one to match all the clothes in your wardrobe. Although, that would get expensive.

While you could go for the simple and understated look, you can also go bright and bold. There are definitely more styling options here, but sometimes it comes down to personal preference.

Winner: Baby wrap

Comfort

While styling may be a personal preference, comfort definitely is. Baby carriers offer padded straps that are generally a bit more comfortable than wraps because they offer more support for heavier children. They also feature more padding and support for your child, so it can be more comfortable for them, too.

However, because of the wide variety of fabrics in wraps and the endless ways in which you can wear them, you’ll likely find a way it’s comfortable for you. Some parents report that they’re not quite as comfortable, but it’s largely due to the way it’s wrapped, so trying a new configuration could solve that issue.

Winner: tie

Versatility

While there are some baby carriers on the market that will allow you to carry your baby in a variety of different ways, most only offer a few different options. A select few only offer one way, but that’s more rare than it used to be.

Some parents prefer the simplicity of only one way to carry, simply because it’s easier to remember how to wear it, it’s faster to put it on, and it gives their child something familiar that they remember every time they are worn.

However, if you’re looking for versatility in baby wearing, a baby wrap is the way to go. Baby wraps allow you to wear your baby however you want to wear them. You can wear them facing you, facing outward, sitting up, laying down, in front, or behind you.

You can follow the instructions the manufacturer provides or you can make up your own way to wear them. Just be sure that however you wear your baby is secure.

Winner: Baby wrap

Stability and security

As you can probably imagine, a baby carrier is much more secure than a baby wrap. Your baby is buckled into a soft-sided compartment where they simply can’t fall out. Once you secure it to your body, your baby will be safe and you won’t have to worry.

A baby wrap, by design, is meant to be flexible and versatile. It will take some time to get used to it, and if it’s not wrapped correctly, you could risk dropping your baby. They’re also not strong enough for larger, heavier babies.

Winner: Baby carrier

Weight limit

Baby carriers are often rated to carry children up to 35 pounds, and some of them can carry even more. Baby wraps, unless wrapped incredibly tightly, will not carry that much weight, and even if they do, won’t be very comfortable for anyone.

Winner: Baby carrier

Washable

Both baby carriers and baby wraps come in materials that are machine washable. If this is an important feature to you, do your research and read labels to ensure that you get one that you can throw in the washing machine when it gets dirty.

Babies spit up, drool, poop, and do all kinds of other unspeakable things. If you happen to get your baby carrier or wrap dirty, it’s best to ensure you can clean it easily, because you’ll have too many other things to worry about.

Winner: tie

Stand Out Features

It’s fairly obvious that there are quite a few differences between a baby carrier and a baby wrap. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, and at this point, I think there are some stand out features of each that are worth noting.

Baby carrier

  • Back support: With solid straps that rest secure on your shoulders, a baby carrier offers much more back support for parents. Parents who want to wear their babies but already struggle with back problems will likely benefit from this type of baby wearing because of the additional support benefits.
  • Backward carrying: Medical health professionals suggest that you shouldn’t carry your baby on your back until they’re at least a year old. At one year of age, you may feel more comfortable using a baby carrier that offers more support, since you can’t see your baby as well.

Baby wrap

  • Easy nursing: Baby wraps make breastfeeding a breeze. It’s a lot easier to adjust your baby in a baby wrap without taking them out of it. Most wraps will also double as a cover so if you’re baby wearing and breastfeeding in public, you already have all of your supplies with you.
  • Closeness: Nothing really matches the closeness you’ll feel to your infant when wearing them under a wrap. It mimics how they felt in the womb, and it’s the perfect way to carry them for the first few months. They’ll feel the same bond with you that they did in utero, they’ll rest much easier, and they’ll likely fuss much less in public, which makes running errands so much easier on a new mom.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a fantastic opportunity to bond with your baby and nurture them by keeping them close to you, you can’t beat baby wearing. A baby carrier and a baby wrap are both fantastic options for you and your baby, so no matter which one you pick, you and your baby will get the opportunity to grow closer.

Use a baby carrier if:

  • You like the rigid structure and support it gives your baby
  • You need the extra back support you get from firm shoulder straps
  • You want to be able to carry your child up to 35 pounds or more
  • You want something that’s easier to put on quickly when you’re on the go

Use a baby wrap if:

  • You like the variety of styles available
  • You want the versatility of baby wearing that they offer
  • You want something that will hug your tiny infant in a way that will make them feel more comfortable
  • You want something that will make nursing easier, no matter where you are
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