Types of Infant Carriers

A semi-comprehensive list of infant carrier types:

Hard Carriers:
This type of carrier separates the body of the caregiver from the infant. The infant-in-the-carrier becomes an object which can be set down, moved, and picked-up without having to handle the infant. The infant will be unable to sense the caregiver’s body, such as breathing, heartbeat, smell; depending on the construction and use of the hard carrier, the infant may not be able to see or hear their caregiver. Conversely, the caregiver may not be able to sense non-crying cues from the infant while it is in the carrier. However, if the infant is situated in an upright position, they may still receive some vestibular benefits of being worn on the body of a caregiver.

The rigidness of a hard carrier can leave its mark on the infant’s body, by holding the infant in pathological positions, for example, a legs together position of cradleboard may exacerbate hip dysplasia or by having the head repetitively secured in one position may create a flat spot on the infant’s skull, also known as plagiocephaly, (which in some cultures is intentional).

Hard carriers may be used to create a microclimate for the infant. For example, the Saami cradleboard shelters the infant from the harsh climate of extreme northern Europe. 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 an infant from injury in the event of a crash or a fall. Some cradleboard styles include protective devices, such as a metal hoop projecting out around the infant’s head.

  • 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. The infant’s proximity to the caregiver’s body allows for non-crying communication to be quickly recognized and addressed which reduces crying. The carriers allow for varied ergonomic positioning of both caregiver and infant as the carriers can be adapted for carrying different sized infants by many sizes and shapes of adult.

Soft carriers rely on the thermoregulation and reflexes of the caregiver to protect the infant’s body from the environment or injury. An adult caregiver’s body will control temperature more efficiently than an infant’s body. As the infant becomes part of the caregiver’s body (and spatial awareness) the caregiver can intuitively protect the infant’s body from minor falls as the caregiver will react to protect themselves, e.g. throwing hands out to break their fall; running away from that suspicious looking gang of mimes.

  • 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

Hybrids:
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, the bit that surrounds the trunk of the infant, yet unlike hard carriers, is not rigid enough to hold the infant when not being worn by the caregiver. Unlike soft carriers, hybrids do not allow the infant to change limb position, as they are usually designed with arms and leg holes, though some allow for the harness to be tilted for horizontal carries. They are notorious for not providing support for the infant’s legs, allowing them to dangle, and for not being practical for older infants due to the size of the harness and the weight of the infant.

  • Narrow-Base Harness Carrier

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