Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Baby carriers

Ask anyone who's ever used a variety of baby carriers, and they will all tell you a different one is their favorite. In my vast experience as a baby wearer (the word vast being subjective), these are my opionions.

This is the Ergo carrier. By far, the most comfortable "typical" front or back carrier there is (comparing it to a Snugli type carrier). As you can see, I could wear my toddler and my 4 yr old comfortably. Although I always have to have someone else lift the child up high in a back carry long enough for me to pull my pants back up because they always seemed to scooch down when I buckle the kid on. I generally need help with this one, although a more experienced Mom could probably do it alone. In the front carry, you have to buckle the straps up high on your back and I just can't reach them. For a back carry, I need help getting baby in the carrier, although if you had a cooperative toddler (hahahaha), you could do it by yourself. If you're leery of tying on a carrier, and you want more of a typical baby store type front or back pack, this is the one. Yes, your pocketbook might ache at first (about $90), your back will thank you. I have worn a toddler in this carrier for hours and not felt it in my back or shoulders later that day. Not to mention, it is more versatile than just a front carrier, as you can also use it as a back pack, and according to the website, for a hip carry, although I never figured that one out. There is also a newborn insert so that you can use this for really small babies too. There is a pocket on the back for a spare diaper or two, and a smaller pocket on the waist band for cash, cell phone, whatever. The flap on the back of the carrier (I had it tucked in the pocket) does pull up if baby falls asleep too so babes head isn't flopping around, and it comes with it's own carrying case. Ergo

Teagan in the Moby wrap. He really seemed to like this one tonight. Or at least he thought it was cool to hang there and pat his belly. I have to admit, I loved this wrap for infants, it was extremely comfortable and hands free. Plus there are multiple different holds you can use for an infant. I generally stuck with facing in or out, AKA the hug hold or Joey hold. For a toddler, it was hard for me to tie it on tight enough for him to not hang lower, but loose enough to be able to squeeze him in as this brand is stretchy T-shirt like material. Another brand of wrap may work better for a toddler. Wraps do have a bit of a learning curve though as they are basically really long pieces of fabric that you have to tie around you. But, they are lightweight enough that you can leave one on between stops if you are out running errands with baby. Moby Wrap

This is Teagan in my Kangaroo Korner adjustable fleece pouch. I bought this with a gift certicate right before Tatum was born. She was very high needs, demanding to be carried for the first few months. It was the greatest investment ever. Of course, Teagan was so mellow, he just snuggled down and slept for hours in there. I love this pouch for the newborn/small infant stage. I really only used it for that age, because I generally moved on to a sling. But after putting Teagan in it tonight, at almost 2 years old and 22 pounds, it was still pretty darn comfortable. The fleece pouch is adjustable with snaps (and I did adjust the snaps from where they were when he was an infant). It is sized for a right or left shoulder carry. I generally used the cradle or tummy to tummy carry with this pouch. For a toddler, I think you're pretty much stuck with a hip carry. This is probably the easiest carrier since there is no adjusting once you have the snaps in the position most comfortable for your body. You just slide it over your head and arm and drop baby in. Tanya Westerman at Kangaroo Korner was a big help to me when I first started researching sling types. Her website has great suggestions for the type of carrier you want for certain ages, situations. She sells pouches, slings, and Ergos. You can get fleece, cotton, or solarveil pouches. The fleece pouch retails for $60-66. (And Krista, they do have a penguin print!) Oh, and her site has gift cards.
I guess he was about 11 days old in this pic.

Once my kids were past this stage, I moved on to a padded ring sling. I have used an Over the Shoulder Baby Holder for my youngest three, but there are many, many different brands available. I would have to say, a ring sling is probably the easiest to master after the pouch, and pretty dummy proof. Once you have it on, you simply adjust the snugness by pulling the tail tighter through the rings. You can use any carry with this sling too, although I generally stuck with tummy to tummy or a hip carry. With smaller babies, you can snug them in tight enough that it is basically hands free, but with older kids, you will probably need an arm around their back for support. I have always used a padded sling, but alot of people prefer the unpadded slings, like a Maya. I have no pics of this one as it is out on loan right now to a friend with a new baby (well, she's 5 months old now).

I used a Chinese style carrier called a Mei tai on a few occasions. There are many, many different Mei Tais out there in beautiful prints. So picking just one can be difficult. (Trust me, you'll become an addict) I had a Kozy carrier made by Kelley Mason at Kozy. The nice thing about the Mei Tai is Mom and Dad can both wear it. It does not have to be sized to fit or adjusted as it is tied on. I think Dads might be more apt to wear a Mei Tai over a sling just because it resembles a typical baby carrier while a sling seems more "girly". Again, compared to a commercial baby store type carrier, a Mei Tai is much more comfortable. If you check out the website, you'll see you can use it for a front, back or hip carry. I only used it for a front carry because Teagan would get pissed off on my back, and I honestly, never tried a hip carry with it, opting for my sling instead. He and I were comfortable enough with the Kozy though, to spend several hours walking around downtown Boston with it. He slept, and my back thanked me later. Like the Moby, it has a bit of a learning curve for getting it on, and has to be readjusted every time you take baby in and out, so it's not practical to wear under your coat. It retails for about $79. No pics of this one either since I sold it. I think I actually preferred my Ergo over the Kozy, although if I was looking for something more attractive, I would have to pick a Mei Tai.

Two other sites I like: Firefly Baby Jennifer is my neighbor and sells Ergos, Mei Tais, wraps, and ring slings on her site.

Free Hand Baby There are a few different types of Asian carriers on that site, including a Mei Tai, Podegi, and Hmong. I have thought about a Podegi. It is similar to a Mei Tai (although Korean, I think), but with one set of straps to tie around. It seems like it would be quicker to get on, only having to tie one set of straps.

So, my suggestions?

A pouch or a ring sling is the absolute easiest carrier to put on and get baby into, especially if you are doing it by yourself. Small babies are very snug when dropped down into the pouch, but older babies will probably need one arm around them for support. I LOVED my pouch, and swore by my ring sling so much that I loaned it out to a friend who registered for an infantino sling from Target. I couldn't let her do that. :op

A wrap is very comfortable, hands free, and offers more variety of carries than a Mei Tai or Ergo. But there is a learning curve since you have to learn how to tie it on, but once on, you don't need to readjust, even if you take baby in and out. The stretchy fabric kinds may not work well for a toddler.

A mei tai is a comfortable front or back carrier that comes in a multitude of decorative fabrics (if you're looking for a "pretty" carrier). It also has a learning curve as it has to be tied on, but you can pass it back and forth between caregivers without worrying about it being too small or too big. It is alot bulkier to wear without the baby in it though, as compared to the Moby or other wrap style carrier.

The Ergo is THE ABSOLUTELY MOST COMFORTABLE BABY CARRIER if you want a "typical" looking store bought carrier like a Snugli, Infantino, Baby Bjorn, etc. There are a few straps and buckles to get figured out, but it is pretty easy once you do.

Okay, an additional note at the request of my sister. Apparently, Guangzhou gets pretty hot. In my opionion, a solarveil or mesh pouch would be pretty light weight, and again, very easy to get on and off and take baby in and out of. And, it's going to give you more face to face time which is important for bonding. The Ergo is very comfortable for long hours of carrying, but, your back or front is going to sweat, and it's more work to get baby in and out of. For more info on slings for climate see Weather


Lee-Anne said...

THANK YOU for your pearls of wisdom Carla! I've only heard good reports about the MeiTai! But before I heard those good reports, I bought myself a "Quinny hip carrier". I'm expecting to be allocated a 1+ year old child, so thought the hip carrier would be better? If worse comes to worse I'll be suring the net for a nice funky MeiTai!
Lee-Anne (Australia)

Stacy said...

Thanks for putting all of this out there. It is so confusing for us first-timers. This is a great resource.

Doris & Dan said...

Thank you for posting this! I am printing it for future reference/shopping.

Keep smilin!

Catherine said...

Thanks for the great tips!

The Mommy said...

Thanks! I'm a friend of Krista's and was just asking about this on our single mom board the other day. I'm really wanting a pouch as I'm quite likely to have a preemie (well
..actually for sure she will be born by 36 weeks my doc said today) and they just seem like they would 'fit' better with a tiny baby and also she is due in summer and I just can't stand the thought of all that fabric involved with the sling I borrowed ...will save it more for Fall. Thanks again!

Shandra said...

Good reviews. I love my ergo.

Traci S. said...

We brought our daughter home from China last August. I have a VERY BAD BACK! I have been a restaurant manager or nurse most of my adult life. That equates to years of abuse on my back.

I did not go to China with any dream of carrying our daughter. We did buy an Ergo for my husband to wear our daughter. However, with the wonderful, wonderful, can't-say-enough-about-it Ergo, I carried our 18# daughter in a front carrier during the ENTIRE two week trip.

Even when many other parents were giving into the stroller due to the heat, I held out. My back didn't hurt, she was unbelievably confortable and we loved the experience of the Ergo.

Did I say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!?

Traci (adoption friend of Krista's)

TaiwanMommy said...

Thanks Carla-

I'm a mother to 5, anf habe had a few of these pupies myself. I'm glad you wrote this!

I'm my experience the ring sling and pouch carriers are NIGHTMARES if you have back issues that are centered on the shoulders/neck/upper back. The wrap style are the only thing I can use.. even the snugli/ergo types don't distribure weight well enough.

I bought 6 yards of guaze-y fabric (the same stuff we all had shirts made out of, way back when!) at Wal Mart for $1/yd (I'm cheap) and tied my girls on. No back pain, total comfort. Even my 40 lb 3 year old can ride with out killing me.

Of course, we look a bit like conjoined mummies in plaid.. but who cares!?