Let’s tackle the stroller and car seat issue first.
First, there’s the convenience factor. A stroller and car seat are large, bulky items that a person must heft into and out of her car (or on to and off of public transit). A fabric carrier, on the other hand, is small, lightweight, and easy to bring with you.
Besides that, though, babies just plain like to be carried. Several studies have shown that babies who are carried are quieter and seem happier. A 1986 study reported in Pediatrics magazine found that “infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43% less overall, and 51% less during the evening hours.” The authors of the study concluded that “supplemental carrying modifies ‘normal’ crying by reducing the duration and altering the typical pattern of crying and fussing. The relative lack of carrying in our society may predispose to crying and colic in normal infants.”
A recent (2013) study by Notre Dame says that, “Breast-feeding infants, responsiveness to crying, almost constant touch and having multiple adult caregivers are some of the nurturing ancestral parenting practices that are shown to positively impact the developing brain, which not only shapes personality, but also helps physical health and moral development.”
Additionally, Dr. Sears, renowned pediatrician, says that babies who are carried not only cry less, but also learn more, are more “organized,” are “humanized” earlier, and are even smarter!
Of course, I am not advocating forgoing a car seat while baby is riding in a moving vehicle. Car seats belong in cars, though. They function best as car seats – and other things like slings function better for baby carriers.
I’ll note here also that I once received an email from a person who lives in Europe. She could not believe that I was implying that people ever would carry around a baby in their infant car seat. It was completely odd to her. She even asked “why would somebody want to haul around such a heavy and awkward piece of equipment?” And I have to say, I agree! (And I also have to say, I have no idea how common or uncommon it is to carry the infant car seat around in Europe.)
Now let’s discuss the front packs. Front packs like a Baby Bjorn, Snugli, or any other similar carriers have their own concerns. Front carriers put your baby’s spine into an unnatural and potentially harmful position. Not to mention – can you imagine how odd it must feel to be suspended by your crotch? (see the excellent images at the Hip Displaysia Institute.)
Additionally, front carriers aren’t as portable as a sling since they don’t squish into your diaper bag very easily. They’re not good for breastfeeding in. They’re not as adjustable (we have a Kelty Kangaroo pack that is too big for me and too small for my husband). They hold baby away from a parent, not snuggled close. And they’re usually outgrown within a year, whereas a sling can last throughout the toddler years.