Types of Infant Carriers

A semi-comprehensive list of types of infant carriers:

Hard Carriers:
This type of carrier separates the body of the caregiver from the infant, reducing caregiver responsiveness to non-crying cues. The infant in the carrier becomes part of the object which can be set down, moved, and pick-up without touching the infant. The infant is unable to feel or hear the breathing, heartbeat, or digestive sounds of the caregiver; they may be unable to smell or hear the caregiver as well.

Hard carriers may be used to create a shelter for the infant separate from the caregiver. For example, the Saami cradleboard acts as a microclimate for the infant to exist in, sheltered from the harsh climate of extreme northern Europe. The rigidness of a hard carrier can strain the body of the infant,  potentially forcing it into pathological positions, for example, legs together position of cradleboard may exacerbate hip dysplasia or not being able to change positions may create a flat spot on the infant’s skull (plagiocephaly). However, if the infant is situated in an upright position, they may still receive some vestibular benefits of being worn on the body.

Some hard carriers are designed with protection from impact in mind. For example, the primary purpose of car seats and framed hiking backpacks is to protect the body of the infant from traumatic injury. Some cradleboard styles include protective devices as well.

  • Cradleboards
  • Chairs
  • Baskets
  • Framed Hiking Packs
  • Car Seats with handles or harness

Soft Carriers:
These carriers make the infant an extension of the caretaker’s body. Infants worn in soft carriers move through the world as part of a member of the community, not a separate object. The infant’s proximity to the caregiver’s body allows for non-crying cues to be quickly recognized and addressed. The carriers allow for ergonomic positioning of both caregiver and infant as the carriers can be adapted for carrying any size child or even other objects.

Soft carriers rely on the thermoregulation and reflexes of the caregiver to protect the infant’s body from the elements or trauma. The caregiver’s body will control temperature more efficiently than an infant’s body. As the infant becomes part of the care giver’s body (and spatial awareness), the caregiver can intuitively protect the infant’s body from falls, or environmental threats as caregiver reacts to them to protect themselves.

  • Clothing
    • Shawl
    • Belt or Sash
    • Cloak
    • Coat
    • Overalls
  • Bags
    • String/ Net
    • Other soft bag held on the body
  • Non-Fabric Straps
    • animal
    • plant
  • Simple Pieces of Cloth
  • Slings and Pouches
  • Traditional Structured Carriers
  • Soft-Structured Buckle Carriers

This category includes carriers that take the rigid-limbed-doll idea of an infant’s body used in hard carriers and translate it into a soft carrier. The infant is still separated physically from the caregiver’s body by the harness, yet is still being worn on the caregiver’s body. Unlike hard carriers, these carriers do not allow the infant to be sat down or moved around like an object. Unlike soft carriers, hybrids do not allow the infant to change limb position, as they are usually designed with arms and leg holes. 

  • Narrow-Base Harness Carrier

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