Baby Carriers: A learning process
I am pretty sure I have owned almost every baby wearing device (Baby wearing is strapping your baby into a carrier on your body rather than carrying them in your arms. It leaves your hands free while still keeping your baby close and secure.) out there from an old fashioned Snugli, to a trendy Baby Bjorn, to a homemade sling. I’ve tried them all and had minimal luck getting any of them to either fit right OR for my babies to actually like them enough to stay in them more than 5 minutes. I think that someone who baby wears successfully needs to offer a class to teach those of us who just can’t seem to get it right to do it correctly! FINALLY, with Isaac (my youngest), I have found a few that have worked well. However, as soon as I find something that works, his development changes and he decides he wants something different. Then I’m on the hunt again! There are so many out there that it’s overwhelming and confusing, so I decided I am going to try to review the ones I have used and give my honest opinions based on fit, ease of use and, the most important aspect, how much my baby liked it!
Early Adventures in Baby Wearing
When Jonathan (my oldest boy) was born, I didn’t know much about baby wearing. I figured you just carried your baby around for the most part. I had a lot of friends who had crotch danglers (more on this term later) - so this was my “norm”. I did have one friend who had a sling, but she didn’t live close by, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then I had a colicky baby and was willing to try ANYTHING to help him sleep more.
Snugli Baby Carrier Review - Be it Brief
I had a Snugli I had been given, so I started there. It was free, so why not? The Snugli that I had they don’t even sell anymore. It wasn’t comfortable and it was next to impossible to get Jonathan in it without being a contortionist. I gave up on that one within about 5 minutes of finally getting him into it (with help from my husband- who worked full time. So, clearly that wasn’t an everyday option).
Infantino Baby Rider Review
I went to Target and perused their selection and ended up with an Infantino Baby Rider. The reviews on the box were glowing (yes, yes, yes - I know the testimonials on the box are clearly the best ones they have ever received. I was desperate and cheap! ). This HAD to be better, right? Well, it was BETTER than the Snugli. I could get him into it on my own without much discomfort, but he didn’t feel at all secure in it. He must have felt the same way because he cried the entire time I had him in it. Strike TWO!
Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier Review
My final attempt with Jonathan came in the form of an $80 Baby Bjorn that many of my friends had and swore by. It had better back support, so it was supposed to be more comfortable for the wearer. It may have been more comfortable for me and he did feel more secure in it, but, again, he cried the entire time he was in it. If he was going to cry anyway, I figured I may as well keep it and get some work done while he cried. But, it was pretty clear he was miserable. So, after about a week of having a baby scream into my chest while I attempted to rock him and pull dishes out of the dishwasher or vacuum, this too was retired. Eventually, the colic stopped and Jonathan just became a hip attachment, so no other carriers were purchased and life went on.
An Introduction to Slings and Mei Tais
I knew that with my future babies, I really did want to try to wear my babies. By then, I had researched enough to know that babies who are worn tend to be happier babies and cry less. I NEEDED to make this work so that we didn’t have to live through 6 weeks of colic again.
Crotch Dangler Baby Carriers
The carriers I had used with Jonathan are considered “crotch danglers”. What that means is that the baby hangs from you by their crotch instead of a natural seated position. It is not comfortable for baby and it’s not good for their hips at all. Obviously anything used in moderation isn’t likely to be a problem, however, since it is advocated to wear your baby as much as possible in those first few months, moderation may not be practiced and these types of carriers have been associated with hip dysplasia in small babies.
Homemade Baby Ring Sling Review
For these reasons and because they were supposed to be more comfortable, before Micah was born, I had decided to purchase a ring sling. I practiced with baby dolls and flailing kitties to be sure I could get him into it on my own. Then came the real baby. To be fair, this was a sling I ordered on the internet that a stay at home mom home business made. It wasn’t a name brand Maya Wrap, Over The Shoulder Baby Holder (a friend had one of these - they are padded) or even a generic Nojo (which I have since tried - I am way too short for padded slings. You can’t pull them tight enough and I even have some extra fluff in my mid region. I don’t recommend them if you are under 5’4”.).
The first time I put Micah in it, we were strolling around the yard. The ring kept slipping and slipping and slipping. I kept tightening and tightening and tightening. Finally, once it slipped so far that had I not also been holding him due to said slippage, he would have fallen out onto the ground. It scared me enough that I never touched that sling again. I am assuming it was made of the wrong type of fabric. So, the moral to this story is if you buy a sling that isn’t mass marketed, make sure you know what it’s made of and talk to people who have used this product before you to make sure you aren’t paying for something you can’t use, or, even worse, may be dangerous to use.
Mei Tai Style Baby Carrier Review
After this failed attempt, I had another friend who offered to make me a Mei Tai style carrier. These are akin to what you see in Asian movies where the mothers take their babies and essentially tie them to themselves (usually on their backs) so that they can work in the fields and keep their babies with them. I had MUCH more success with this carrier, but I didn’t get it until Micah was about 6 months old.
We were fortunate that Micah did not have colic. He was a generally happy, easy going baby. So, I didn’t feel the need to get another carrier right away with him. The Mei Tai is great for older babies because they are comfortable in it, it has lower back support so it is comfortable for mom and it can be worn on your front or on your back. They can be a little complicated in this traditional form (newer Mei Tai style carriers like the Ergo are a little easier to put on), but it wasn’t too bad and I liked that I could adjust the straps for my height because there was no padding or buckles to stop me from being able to pull it tight. Overall, I liked it a lot for him in the stage he was in, but I didn’t see it as being a viable option for a tiny newborn. So, with my next baby, I started the hunt again.
7/26/12 Update - More Reviews of Baby Carriers
Baby Carriers for Newborns
When I found out I was pregnant with Elijah, my third, I was pretty disheartened with the whole baby wearing thing. I couldn’t figure out why everything I tried either made my baby or me miserable. Why did people rave about happy babies and how comfortable this or that carrier was and I couldn’t find a single carrier that I liked for a newborn (the stage when baby wearing is the most important and most HELPFUL for mommy!)? I got on the internet and started researching like crazy before Elijah was born to see if maybe I was missing something. This was in 2007 and “crotch danglers” were still what was sold.
Baby Bjorn Carrier - Take Two
I decided to give an updated version of the Baby Bjorn a try. They were supposed to be more ergonomically designed and I found a good price on one. I had the Mei Tai to use later, so I reasoned that it would be short term use and wouldn’t hurt him. I didn’t have high expectations anyway because nothing else had worked well in the past. I am still not sure why I spent the money because, once again, he hated it. Admittedly, this one was easier to get the baby in and out of, but it still hurt my back after 5-10 minutes and my baby screamed in it.
After this, I honestly gave up. I was done spending time and money worrying about this, so Elijah stayed in my arms. It meant I didn’t get as much done as I should have, but he was happy and that’s what matters.
The Fourth Time’s the Charm!
With my 4th and final baby, I started asking friends who had had success with baby wearing what they used so that maybe I could be successful this time! I had three other kids to take care of, so baby wearing was not just something that sounded like it would be beneficial to my baby, but was also a necessity if I wanted to care for all four children!
The added benefit of asking around meant that I got MANY donated carriers to try out and use as needed! I was given a Nojo Ring Sling, a Seven Sling and an Ergo initially. I also purchased a Moby Wrap, which I had heart GREAT things about. Trying these carriers out actually FINALLY solved my main issue for me! I am too SHORT for most carriers! This was proven as, recently, I was given a Baby K’tan carrier (size Medium - I am currently a size 10/12. In theory, it SHOULD fit) and a Maya Ring Sling. So, in order, here’s my review of each of these baby carriers:
Nojo Sling Baby Carrier Review
The Nojo is a padded ring sling. That’s great for long term wear IF it fits you right. All that it meant for me was that I couldn’t tighten it enough, so the baby sat way too low. This sling has a little too much “structure” for me anyway. I like something that moves with the baby and this one has very specific padding, so you have to keep the baby in certain positions so that the padding won’t come in contact with his/her face. To me, that’s not really safe, so I probably wouldn’t have used it much even if it had fit right.
Seven Sling Baby Carrier Review
The Seven Sling is just a ring of fabric. I washed it and dried it in hot water to try to get it tight enough and it sort of worked a few times, but then it would stretch out again. Again, my torso just isn’t long enough! I did use this one the most and, ironically, you can usually get these for under $15 (free, but you pay $11+ for shipping) on their website if you search for promo codes online. If you want to get one of these, I suggest that if you are less than 5’3”, you go down a size from what the website suggests and you should be okay. For the price, I still think they are a good option and you don’t have much to lose!
Ergo Baby Carrier Review
The Ergo Baby Carrier isn’t great for a newborn without the newborn insert, so I put this one away for later use. I did use it later as he got bigger and, again, I am just too short. The straps are padded, so you can’t tighten it beyond a certain point. My baby sits slightly low and I end up with a sore back. However, I will say that of all of the structured carriers I have tried, this one is, by far, my favorite. It is very comfortable for my little guy and he stays very happy in it. They are pricey, but this one I would highly recommend. It had a little carrying pocket good for keys and either a credit card or cash and has a fold out head support to keep out noise and other stimulation while your baby is sleeping. Of the pricier carriers I have tried, if it fits you right, this one is worth the money you will spend on it. I still use it even though it hurts my back after a while (I just don’t wear it too long) because Isaac is so happy in it and it doesn’t get ridiculously hot.
The Moby Wrap Baby Carrier Review
I REALLY wanted to like this carrier! It’s not structured at all and is very versatile. It has gotten rave reviews for use with newborns and you can tie it as loose or tight as you need to, so my vertical challenges wouldn’t be an issue with this one! There’s one thing I didn’t factor in. This carrier is essentially a LONG piece of fabric that you tie and then wrap and wrap and wrap some more to get the desired fit. We live in South GA where we don’t really have a winter (at least we didn’t this year). All of that fabric coupled with 60+ degree temps equaled one hot mama (and not in a good sense!!!) and a sweaty, uncomfortable baby! I used it a half a dozen times and ended up selling it for half of what I paid for it.
Making Your Own Wrap Baby Carrier
Thank goodness for the free carriers or I’d really be broke from this journey!!! My recommendation would be that if you have ANY sewing skills at all, find the measurements (Here, I’ll help! LENGTH: 5 meters (~5 yards, 18 inches) WIDTH: 23" MATERIAL: Cotton jersey) and just make your own rather than spend $45-$50 on a new one. (Ironically, I ended up trying my Mei Tai - made by a friend - again with my newborn and was able to make it work pretty well! So, that ended up being my newborn carrier after all! I wish I’d tried it with my third baby, but I assumed it wouldn’t work well for a newborn).
Baby K’Tan Baby Carrier Review
The Baby K’tan is more like a pouch because it is sized and can’t be adjusted (a problem for me!). A good friend loaned this to me to try. It said a medium should fit a size 10-12 - exactly the size I currently am. BUT, to be fair, it does say in the instructions and on the website that if you are less than 5’2”, to go down a size. I am 5’2.5”, so borderline. Clearly, I should have gone down a size because it wasn’t nearly tight enough. I tried putting it in the dryer as she suggested to tighten it up, but that didn’t help. I even tried (Lisa don’t kill me!) soaking it in really hot water and then throwing it in the dryer to try to shrink it up a little - no luck. Still too loose.
So, while I like the concept of it and think maybe it could have worked had it fit right (and I think it would be a GREAT alternative to the Moby in a hot climate because the “Breeze” model has meshy type panels to let it breathe and holds the baby similarly). If I could try a small, I suspect I would like it. But, just beware to make certain you get the right size! Measurements might be helpful and the website doesn’t have measurements - just size comparisons. They do have a liberal exchange policy if it doesn’t fit correctly (I wonder if they’d let me exchange my friend’s?!?! LOL). My friend who loaned this to me is considerably taller than me and she loved it so much that she ordered a second after leaving hers behind on a trip. So, clearly it’s a good option! I just didn’t have one that fit and was too cheap to spend the money to try again on a smaller size.
Maya Wrap Ring Sling Baby Carrier Review
I’ll admit I had to have a tutorial from my friend who gifted this to me on how to correctly use it! Slings can be tricky to learn how to position and tighten properly. However, once you get it, you get it. A HUGE benefit, in my opinion, to a sling over other carriers is that they are quite quick and easy to get the baby in and out of. I also think they are the most comfortable for baby because they conform to the baby and basically just support them (replacing your arms) so that your hands are free.
As with anything, you have to be cautious and not just assume your baby is safe in there because there have been reports of babies suffocating in them (I see that as being a lot more likely in a padded one for reasons I previously mentioned), but most “baby wearers” tend to practice attachment parenting and are very attentive to their little ones. So they would likely notice if something was wrong with the baby’s position and would adjust.
Now that I have finally figured out how to use it (and practice a lot), the Maya Wrap Ring Sling has become my new favorite baby carrier and I can see why they’ve been successfully selling slings for a long time now (15 years and going strong!).
My youngest (my sweet Isaac) is now just over 8 months old and I am using the sling in a hip carry for him. He is old enough that he wants to be able to look around, but it’s nice to have the use of my hands when I need them and he’s attached to my hip! And, best of all, I can make it as tight as I need to in order to make sure he is secure and can’t wiggle his way out (he’s an expert wiggler!).
Research Baby Carriers Before You Buy!
I am lucky to have friends who loaned me many of my carriers, so I didn’t spend a lot of money to test out the ones I tried, but I still spent probably close to $200 on baby carriers that didn’t work for me. I would recommend really spending a lot of time searching the internet for reviews of different carriers. Look for what people recommend for your build, your height, your weight and read testimonials to make sure you are getting the right baby carrier for you. What I like may not be what is comfortable for you, but reviews like mine would have been helpful to me when I was looking. And, also keep in mind that the carriers I reviewed are far from the only ones out there. I’ve also heard wonderful things about Beco baby carriers, Rockin Slings and Bamberoo Mei Tais, among others! Just be careful - much like cloth diapering (again, another blog, for another day!), baby carriers can become addicting and expensive!!! Do your research first and your wallet will thank you!