The weight limit of your baby carrier is something one might not think about on a daily basis, but it is an important feature to consider when you are choosing your baby carrier. The weight limit the manufacturer suggests and the actual weight limit your body is able to tolerate can be quite different. A lot depends on the type of baby carrier and whether it uses one or both shoulders to help bear the weight of the baby.
Doing a quick search of name brand baby carriers I found that a majority of them say their carriers are good for carrying children up to 35 – 45 pounds. I’m sure that technically all the baby carrier could hold up to 45 pounds(or more, some are tested to be able to hold over 100 pounds) it probably wouldn’t be too practical or easy to carry a child that large. Let’s look at each type of carrier and the weight limits.
This would include baby carriers such as Ergo, Beco, and Boba, plus others. These are baby carriers that are worn like a backpack on your front or back, or sometimes on your hip. They have shoulder straps and waist strap. They have buckles to attach the baby carrier to your body. The weight of the baby is carried on your shoulders and your hips. Most of them have an upper weight limit of 45 pounds.
These are similar to Soft Structured Baby Carriers (SSC) in that they have straps to attach the baby carrier to you, but these carriers tie on instead of having buckles. Some of the brands are Babyhawk, Kozy Carrier and Mei Tai Baby. You can wear your baby on your front, back and hip. The weight of your baby is carried on both shoulders and around your waist or hips. The weight limit for mei tai baby carriers are between 35 and 40 pounds.
Ring Sling Baby Carriers:
Ring slings are a length of fabric threaded through 2 aluminum rings to create a pouch for your child to sit in. The weight of your child is carried on one shoulder and across your back. You can carry your baby on your front, hip and back, although I personally haven’t been successful at a back carry with a ring sling, I have seen pictures of people doing it. A lot of manufacturers suggest 35 pounds as the weight limit, although you may not find carrying 35 pounds on one shoulder very comfortable for very long.
Pouches are nonadjustable (usually) tubes of fabric to carry your baby on your front or hip. They probably also “could” be used for a back carry, but I would be wary of my baby potentially falling backward since you wouldn’t be able to see them and there is no way to make sure the fabric is really tight around them. Hotslings and Peanut Shell are popular brands. Most pouches have a 35 pound weight limit and the weight is carried the same as a ring sling, on one shoulder.
Stretchy wraps are long pieces of cloth with stretch to them, like a t-shirt. Moby and Boba Baby Wrap (formerly Sleepy Wrap) are two popular brands. These baby carriers are wrapped around your body to secure your baby. Many of them say you can use them until your baby reaches 35 – 45 pounds. The weight is carried across your back and somewhat on your shoulders. Many babywearers suggest only carrying your baby in a stretchy wrap up to about 20 pounds. After that stretchy wrap carriers tend to sag a bit too much after a short time of wearing and stop being very comfortable.
Woven wraps are also long pieces of cloth, but they do not stretch (as much) like stretchy wraps do. However due to the type of woven material, they are pretty heavy duty. Didymos, BB Slen and Girasol are brands of woven wraps. I would say the upper limit of comfortable carrying is the same as the other carriers, up to 45 pounds, but I wrapped my 8 year old, 60 pound, daughter on my back and she was very secure. I even had her lean backward (over the couch!) and she stayed put. I wouldn’t want to carry her for a long time in the woven wrap as she was heavy on my hips, but it was doable.
Why should I care about weight limits?
The weight limit of a baby carrier is important because the manufacturer is giving you information about their carriers to help you keep you baby safe. Remember, babywearing is a learned skill and it’s up to you to wear your little one safely. You must use the carrier in the manner in which it was intended and follow all directions to keep your child safe. There is the possibility if you carry a child that is over the weight limit of the baby carrier, that the fabric or seams of the carrier will become stressed and tear. It is very important for you to check your carrier preferably before every time you wear it, but at least once a week to make sure there are not any rips or tears on any of the load bearing areas of your baby carrier.
What about minimum weight limits?
Many of the baby carriers have a minimum weight limit of 7 pounds. They also caution against wearing a premature baby because those babies who are extra small and not as developed as a full or near term babies have even less ability to be able to move themselves to a better position if they need to. Ultimately, it is the parent’s choice whether or not to wear their premature baby, as “kangaroo care” is well known to help premature babies, and I can think of no better way to provide skin to skin contact than wrapped carefully next to a parent’s skin. Extra caution must be taken to be sure the baby’s airway is open.
Paying attention to the weight of your child and the upper weight limits of the baby carriers will help you decide which carrier to use with your baby. You must also know your own body and what it can handle. Some people can easily use a ring sling with a toddler, but another person would have a hard time with that much weight only on one shoulder. Other people like the soft structured carriers, while another prefers the weight distribution of a woven wrap. Some of this is trail and error, so it’s great to find a place that sells a variety of different baby carriers or to find a babywearing group in your area to help you figure out what is best for you.