A wrap baby carrier is a long, continuous strip of fabric that can be tied on in a variety of different ways to carry baby. They are one of the most versatile carriers, in that you have many options for different carrying positions. Wraps are best suited for front and hip carries. If you are mostly interested in using your wrap for a hip carry, there are shorter wraps available that are perfect for that purpose (called Rebozo length). Back carries are possible with a wrap, but be warned that it is best to use a non-stretchy material (such as a woven cotton wrap) and you will want to have a spotter unless you are an old pro at it!
Above: The Moby Wrap is an example of a stretchy wrap.
Above: The Ellaroo Wrap is an example of a woven wrap.
The Pouch Carriers are especially beginner friendly. They are worn across the body (as you would wear a sash...because, you know, we all wear sashes on a regular basis...). The fabric of the pouch forms a pocket in which you can carry your baby. For infants, they work great for cradle carries. As baby gets a bit older, they may enjoy facing forward in the pouch in a kangaroo carry. Pouches can even be used with older babies for a hip carry. I always keep a pouch in my car for running into the store quickly with the baby. With pouch carriers, sizing can be important, unless you are looking at an adjustable pouch. If you are looking at a sized pouch, be sure to measure accurately to ensure it will fit you properly. If you are shopping while you are pregnant, be sure to allow for your changing size post-pregnancy.
Above: The Slingling Pouch Carrier
Ringslings are similar to the pouch carriers in that that baby is seated into a pouch in the fabric. The difference comes in that with a ringsling, you are able to adjust the fit by sliding the fabric tail through 2 rings (usually aluminum or plastic). This allows the carrier to adjust to a growing baby, or be used by 2 different sized adults. The tail on the carrier comes in handy as a nursing cover, wind block, shade, or even a shield if you are trying to keep curious hands away from a sleepy baby. Ringslings can be used for front carries, hip carries, and even back carries! My husband and I loved our ringsling when Lincoln was newborn. I never did master a back carry, but I do still like it for the hip carry.
Above: The Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Ringsling
My husband carrying our then 2-month old son in the ringsling.
Mei Tai Carrier
(I know I already covered these...but I wanted to include it for anyone who is just jumping in on this post later on...) : )
Mei tais are inspired by traditional Chinese baby carriers. They are made up of a rectangular piece of fabric with 4 straps (one attached to each corner). Mei tais can be used for infants through toddlers and are adaptable for front, back, and hip carries. The weight of the baby is distributed over both shoulders evenly. Mei tais may have lightly padded straps, or may not have padding at all. Whether you go with padding or not is just personal preference. Mei tais are my personal carrier of choice.
Above: The BabyHawk mei tai carrier
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers are similar in function to a mei tai carrier, but with the addition of buckle closures instead of ties. The material is generally a bit firmer as well. Soft structured carriers vary in the type of carries they offer, the material used to make them, the way the weight is distributed, the padding used on the shoulder straps, the type of buckle closures used, and more. There are many types out there, so more than likely there is one to fit your needs! We use and like the Beco Soft Structured Carrier. At this time, we do not carry a soft structured carrier in our store, but we are on the lookout for one to add soon!
Above: My son in the Beco, helping me in the garden (well, what we hope will someday be the garden, anyway...)
I hope this information was helpful as you start/add to/continue your search for a baby carrier! Enjoy babywearing your child!