The number-one thing that I heard was YOU NEED SEVERAL! One carrier isn't going to suit every purpose, every child, or every stage (allthough they all claim to). The basic categories are WRAPS, SLINGS, and SOFT-STRUCTURED CARRIERS (SSC).
And my choices are...drumroll please...
Moby Wraps in a back carry and a front carry
Wraps are usually just big pieces of fabric without buckles or straps. They're great for newborns, usually super versatile, and pretty comfortable. I see these everywhere with tiny babies in them, but no so much with older kiddos. The only complaint I hear is that it takes a few minutes to get baby wrapped up every time. I'm going with the Moby Wrap, the one recommended most often for itty-bitties.
Zolowear ring sling. A mom at the ICAN meeting had this pattern and I loved it!
Slings go over one shoulder, and can come with our without rings. Moms in my mom's group swear by ring slings. They're infinitely adjustable and make great nursing covers too. I had a pouch (non-ring) sling for Bianca, and it was hard to get it comfortable...she either felt too loose or too tight. Another problem I had was the fabric bunching up over my shoulder and digging in...YEOWCH! This time I'm going with a ring sling from Zolowear. The shoulder is padded and wide and won't bunch up. Slings of both types need to be fitted very well in order to work properly, so they're usually a one-wearer thing (unless mom and dad are the same size!)
SSC are the ones that moms and dad can both wear (yes, dads can wear slings but I don't see it all that often--a sling fitted for mom usually won't fit dad as well). The baby looks like they're in a backpack, but they can be in the front and they can face inward (facing in is recommended for babies until they're 6-9 months or so). This is the hardest choice, because it's the biggest investment and it will probably be the one we use until the little bugger is 2. The main ones out there are Mei Tai, Beco, and Ergo. (MTs are less structured, so not technically a SSC, but the idea is the same). I'm leaning toward a Beco...it seems better for smaller babies, supposed to be better for moms and dads with narrower shoulders, and yes, I think it's cuter than the Ergo! But the MTs seem so soft and comfy too. Did I mention how cute they all are? Mei Tai is actually a style, not a brand, so there are many companies and work-at-home-moms making awesome Mei Tais...(like Glory Mei Tai and Baby Hawk) just to make things a little more difficult! You can get custom ones too! I can see how some moms get "carried" away, hee hee.
Tomorrow Steve and I have a "baby shopping" date booked. Among other places, we're headed to Blooming Kids, an "upscale" baby resale shop in North Tacoma, and hopefully they have a few carriers there so we don't break the bank! http://www.babycarriers.com/ is another good resource for carriers and information.