Baby carrier review
Before choosing a baby carrier, I highly recommend (if possible) going to your local baby boutique to see if they have models you can try on. The salespersons can help you figure out how to get into the various contraptions–a big bonus if you think something looks interesting but you feel you would have no idea how to put it on. Many places also have baby dolls that can go in the carriers, so you can really feel like you’re simulating the baby wearing experience. It really is worth it to do this.
I have four baby carriers. Yes, four. It sounds excessive, I know. But I used each one for a specific period of time and/or purpose. The following is a rundown of what I used, when, and why. (Although, to be honest, if I had followed my own advice (see above), I admittedly might have had up to 50% fewer carriers.)
The Kangaroo Korner Sling
OK, so I got this one because my sister had it. And maaaaybe it was seeing my baby nephew all cuddled up in his (which incidentally made me want to have kids) that made me want one too.
Description: Sack-like pouch that is all one piece of fabric. It goes over one shoulder and has rows of snaps to adjust the size.
Sweet spot: The newborn stage. I can’t even tell you how many naps E took in this one. Millions. She was very comfy cozy all snuggled up to me, no blankets necessary because the whole sling more or less swallowed her up. (Aside: I was at a restaurant in the south once and E was sleeping in the sling; a little girl came up to me and asked me what I had in there. I was tempted to answer “a ferret.” But I didn’t.)
However, I could still use it when she got much bigger, though in a much different way–she would sit in the bottom with her legs wrapped around me, sort of like how you carry a baby on your hip, but supported by the fabric of the sling.
Cons: The downside to this carrier is that it’s not very comfortable for the wearer–or maybe I just had the wrong size. It didn’t distribute weight very well and it was always slipping off my and my very tall husband’s shoulders. Not good for walks.
(Disclaimer: I know that a lot of slings went under fire for suffocation risks recently, and I couldn’t actually find Kangaroo Korner’s website anymore–it seems to have disappeared, so I wonder if they went down with the sling ship, so to speak. But it still seems to be available for sale on the Internet, so who knows.)
I tried this one on at my friend’s house while pregnant, using a pillow to simulate baby. I was all set to get the Ergo (see below) but found I couldn’t click the strap in the back. So this seemed like a good compromise–the same basic shape and some similar padding as the Ergo, but you tie it on.
Description: It’s really pretty, with gorgeous reversible fabric fronts to choose from. The shoulders are heavily padded, and you can wear it frontsies or backsies (on you, not the baby). You tie it on at the waist, put baby inside (“froggy” for little infants and legs poking out for bigger ones), flip up the front panel, put the straps over your shoulders, cross them, loop it under your arms and then waist, then loop it back around and tie it. It’s less complicated than it sounds, and there are youtube videos demonstrating how to do it. (Note: If searching in youtube, be sure to include “mei tei” [the name of the traditional Asian carrier under the brand name "Baby Hawk"] otherwise you will be looking at young birds.)
Sweet spot: Great for out and about, after the baby can hold her head up, but before she gets too heavy.
Cons: It’s not an issue of padding, it’s the tying-on aspect–the straps get looser the heavier the baby and the longer you wear it. Having a chunkier baby, I unfortunately had to abandon this one sooner than I would have liked.
This one I got soon after E was born. I needed something between the sling (which wasn’t good for walking around with) and the Baby Hawk (which I felt E was too little for at that point). It was one of the ones I tried on my local baby boutique and I’m glad I tried it on, because I would have dismissed it as too complicated otherwise. The salesperson helped me tie it on and put E in it (it also came with an instruction booklet, plus there are also youtube videos on how to do it).
Description: It’s a long piece of cotton fabric–available in UV protection too!–that you tie on in a looping and crossing sort of way. I’m not even going to try to describe it, just refer to the video! You can wear baby facing you or facing out, though I found the outward-facing hold a little awkward and maybe less secure-feeling, but I could have just been doing it wrong.
Sweet spot: Especially terrific in the first 3 or 4 months (though I used it long after that)–you can really kangaroo snuggle your baby in it. E also took many many naps in this one. It’s much more hands-free-friendly than the sling and you can go for walks and such in it. It’s a great combo of snuggly and convenient.
Cons: While it does have a weight limit of 35 lbs., I found that, as with the Baby Hawk, something that you tie on just doesn’t stay tight the heavier the baby. We outgrew it too.
As I mentioned, I was not sold on this one at first. When I tried the Baby Hawk on at my friend’s house, I also tried on her Ergo, but found I could not reach my arms back far enough to click the straps in the back. But as I cycled through my various baby carriers and as E got heavier, I decided to retry the Ergo because I had heard they were very comfortable.
Description: Structured something like a hiking pack, these have padded straps on the bottom and the shoulders and really distribute baby’s weight very comfortably. The straps are very easily adjusted, exactly like a backpack, and it clips up top, so it’s really secure. You can wear it on your front or on your back, with baby facing you either way. There’s also a hood of sorts that snaps on to the straps, so you can protect your baby from the sun or cue her that it’s time to have a rest.
Sweet spot: Bigger and/or older babies and toddlers. E is going to be 2 in a few days and we still use it regularly because it’s still comfortable for both of us. You can use it with infants if you use the infant insert, but I’ve heard mixed reviews about it.
As for the not-being-able-to-reach problem, the trick is this: Loosen the straps all the way out, fasten the bottom, put baby in, fasten the top, then tighten the straps. Et voila!
I also learned how to breast feed in the Ergo, which was very convenient–you just loosen one of the straps so the baby is sitting a bit lower and latch her on.
Cons: They are pretty expensive, but you can find used ones on craigslist relatively easily (which is what I did).
As I mentioned, I liked all my carriers for different reasons, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably just go with two: The Moby and the Ergo, because they were the most comfortable for both E and me over a longer period of time. I actually wish I had gone to the boutique and tried on a bunch with a salesperson to tell me exactly what to do for each thing, so that’s my advice to you! And just think of all the carriers I *didn’t* try on! Maybe for next time round…