By Jen McLellanUpdated Feb 02, 2021
Mia O'Malley, founder of @Plussizebabywearing on Instagram, Sling: @Nalakai_co. Photo: @LindsayDonnellyPhoto
Carriers with lots of straps and buckles, or impossibly drapey and long fabric wraps, can look intimidating to anyone who’s never tried one before. (Add in the stress of a crying baby as you’re trying to follow the instructions and I get it—it’s not easy!) But I’m here to tell you that babywearing is indeed for everybody, and that means Every. Body.
Don’t be fooled by 90 percent of the babywearing images you see on Instagram—it isn’t only for thin parents.
Mia O’Malley, of Plus Size Babywearing on Instagram, started her account in 2018 to encourage plus-size parents to try wearing their babies.
“Babywearing helped soothe both my baby and myself through postpartum—it’s a big transition from one body to two,” says O’Malley. “Babywearing gave me the freedom to move around, and it gave me confidence in my plus-size postpartum body."
For O’Malley, being able to babywear is about more than just a new parent’s ability to soothe a fussy baby or toddler, or to have their hands free during the exhausting, 24/7 newborn stage. It can also be transformational and empowering.
It filled me with pride in what my body is capable of," she says. “My whole life, finding clothing that made me feel good has been a struggle. This time, my baby was part of my style, and he was the best thing I’ve ever worn! It helped me step into my power as a mother, knowing that I could do anything, and I could do it all with my baby. Babywearing didn’t just help me carry my baby, it carried me as well.”
With the right wrap or carrier, plus-size parents can enjoy the many benefits of babywearing, including bonding, the calming snuggles and leaving the cumbersome stroller behind while running errands or walking around the neighbourhood.
Finally, we’re seeing brands like Baby Tula and WildBird offering inclusive babywearing options, and they’re also proudly displaying plus-size parents babywearing in their marketing materials and on their own websites. These images go a long way to help parents of all sizes to feel seen and represented in what babywearing can—and does—look like.
Laura Brown is a baby carrier industry expert and the founder of Babywearing Help, an interactive directory to find local babywearing support. During her ten years in business, she has also done thousands of in-person fittings for caregivers and babies of all sizes. “There is a carrier for everyone, and my biggest piece of advice is to be open-minded about what carrier style may work best for you,” says Brown.
The size-inclusive carrier that works for others may not be the best fit for everyone. Your best friend might talk nonstop about her ring sling, but maybe you’ll find you’re more of a buckle carrier fan.
Brown also teaches parents the “visible and kissable” reminder: keep your baby at kissable height so you can kiss the top of their head (they shouldn’t be too low on your torso), and make sure their face is always visible and not buried deep in your chest or clothing.
The carriers and wraps we’ve selected below don’t require an extender to fit parents of most sizes. Each one is highly recommended by plus-size moms and baby-wearing experts like Brown and O’Malley. Our advice is to try different types of carriers until you find what works for you and your little one—we hope it becomes your new favourite.
The Ergobaby Omni carrier is a buckle carrier, so you’re ready to babywear with just a few clicks. Omni is a favourite of plus-size babywearers because of the accommodating length of the adjustable straps. With padded shoulder straps and a thick waistband that goes all the way up to 58 inches, many people think it’s comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Brown finds the Omni carrier easy for parents of size to customize. “With buckles on the front, this carrier makes it easy to loosen and tighten, plus it gives the option of crossable straps, so you don’t have to reach behind your back to clip,” she says.
Structured buckle carriers are pretty user-friendly and don’t require watching a lot of tutorials or practice to feel comfortable baby-wearing. Wraps, on the other hand, definitely have a learning curve, but don’t let that scare you away! You’re raising a tiny human; you’re capable of tasks far more complicated than learning how to tie a wrap properly.
O’Malley encourages new parents to have an open mind. “Structured carriers can be uncomfortable on your abdomen if you’re sitting down on public transit, or to breastfeed or bottle-feed. Wraps, ring slings, and Meh Dai babywearing options can be more comfortable when sitting for people in larger bodies.”
We like the Boba wrap for many reasons—one being that parents who weigh well over 300 pounds routinely recommend this wrap. It’s especially cozy and comfy during the first few months of your baby’s life. (You may want something a bit more supportive as your baby grows.)
We get it—a suitable carrier or wrap is a big investment. You might only be able to purchase one for both you and your partner to use. While wraps are customizable, they take far more practice to master, and you might feel more flustered than effortlessly confident. Baby Tula’s easy-to-adjust straps on their buckle carrier can go from being worn on someone who’s a size 16 to a size 26 with a few quick tugs and pulls.
The Free To Grow carrier can be your one-and-done purchase because it’s safe for babies all the way from 7 pounds to 45 pounds.
$86 CAD, amazon.ca or $34 USD, amazon.com
A Meh Dai wrap is a type of wrap that has a square or rectangular body panel with four straps. (Meh Dai is a Cantonese word. It's also sometimes referred to as Beh Dai in Mandarin, and incorrectly referred to as a Mei Tai wrap—but that's an outdated term.) This style of carrier easily ties around your body so you can create the perfect fit for your unique body type.
“Because buckle sizes are based around our average dress sizes, the custom tightening of a Meh Dai makes it easy to get the perfect fit,” explains Brown. “You can tie the waist as high as you need to, in order to keep baby at a kissable height, and it’s easy to secure by crossing the straps in the back and bringing around to tie in front.”
Carriers can be costly, especially if you’re not sure what you and your baby will prefer. That’s why the Infantino Sash Wrap and Tie is a popular choice: it’s an affordable brand and their Meh Dai is easy-to-wear, buckle-free and recommended by many plus-size moms. While it’s readily available in the US, Canadian parents may have to do a bit more scouting, or order from Amazon in the US and pay for shipping and import fees.
$70-90 USD, wildbird.co
All of the carriers we’re listing in this plus-size babywearing resource can work for petite parents, but we’ve found that ring slings are a popular choice for those who are short in stature. You can customize it to the size you need, so if you have a short torso, you’ll be just fine. Many moms find ring slings much easier to learn and use than fabric wraps. (There are plenty of wonderful tutorials online.) Plus, ring slings aren’t just for newborns or infants—they work all the way through toddlerhood.
Jen McLellan is the founder of plussizebirth.com and the host of the Plus Mommy Podcast.