We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a wrap and a carrier in the first part of our Babywearing 101 series. Whether you chose to wear your baby in the first or the latter, it is quite probable that you will have to choose a carrier one day, even if you want to use a wrap primarily. Honestly, I personally do not know any wrap-maniac who does not own at least one carrier. Even I, who loves wraps more than anything, have to admit that there are certain situations in which a carrier is much more handy than a wrap, for different reasons.
Ergonomic carriers are no longer only Ergobaby, Manduca or KiBi. Same as in case of wraps, there is an endless number of carriers to choose from, and they do not differ only in colour and design, but also in material, system of adjusting and wearing, and also in overall construction. Some “carrier theory” will not hurt at the beginning, in my opinion, just as in the article about wraps. To help you better understand, I will give you specific examples of carriers with links to our review, if possible – please, do not think of it as of some kind of recommendation of certain brands from our side; these are actually only random examples I could think of at that moment.
- the ergonomic carrier: this is the main property any baby carrier should have. Ergonomic means that it gives full support to the baby and ensures his/her correct position, and, at the same time, it is comfortable for the wearer. The “correct” position of the wearie is with his/her back bent and “C-shaped” and his/her legs in “M-position”, i.e. the abduction-flexion position with knees higher than bottom. Regarding the ergonomics for the wearer, the shoulder straps should be comfortably padded and the waist belt well-constructed and ensuring enough support when wearing the carrier. Beware! Almost anything could be caller “ergonomic” (and even have the International Hip Dysplasia Institute certification) but in reality, it is not ergonomic whatsoever! In short – how to recognize an unsuitable carrier: the back panel is narrow in the bottom part (i.e. the fabric does not reach “from knee to knee” of the wearie – her/his legs just dangle and have no support; this is where the Czech slang word for such carriers come from – “danglers”), it is usually padded and hard and does not allow the natural “C-shape” of the wearie’s back – on the contrary, the baby’s spine bends to one or the other side in such a carrier. One of the main signs of a “dangler” is that it allows front-facing wearing. This is wrong in all the points I mentioned above, not talking about the psychological aspect – it is said that the wearie is “overloaded” by the visual input that comes into his/her face without any “filter”. The “dangler” also usually lacks the waist belt – therefore, it is not comfortable for the wearer with a heavier child at all.
Ergonomic carrier: “M-position” of the wearie’s legs – knees higher than bottom (Kokon Chick carrier).
- construction of the carrier: classical carriers with a waist belt and carriers without a waist belt, i.e. onbuhimos. I mention this only to be fully comprehensive; most “first-time wearers” will certainly look for a carrier with a waist belt. Onbuhimos are good for short-time wearing of bigger children who already walk.
- different ways of fastening the carrier: buckle (“full-buckle”), mei tai (wrap-like) and half-buckle (also called hybrid) carriers. The waist belt and the shoulder straps of the buckle carriers are fastened, as you can probably guess, with buckles (for example, Manduca or KiBi), while the mei tai carriers have long, wrap-like waist belts and shoulder straps that are tied in a similar way as a wrap (for example, Fidella Fly Tai, Andala Tai, Lenny Lamb Wrap Tai). The hybrid carriers usually have a waist belt fastened with a buckle and the shoulder straps are wrap-like (Rischino Half Buckle that we reviewed some time ago, hybrid Andala, etc.).
- sizes and adjustability of the carrier: non-adjustable (“one-size”), partially-adjustable and fully-adjustable. The non-adjustable carriers do not have any regulation of the back panel in the vertical or horizontal direction (one-size Be Lenka carriers, Roobaby, MoniLu, Donkey, etc.). While it is possible to adjust the partially-adjustable carriers usually in both of these directions, they are not designed to be used “from infant to pre-schooler” – i.e. they are recommended from 6 to 18 months, for example, or better “from size X to size Y” (Moyo, Sestrice, Mia, BIMBI, Madame GooGoo, etc.). The fully-adjustable carriers should fit the baby from birth until pre-school age (very popular Lenka 4Ever, already-mentioned KiBi, or Andala).
- shoulder straps of the carrier: not wearable crossed, wearable crossed and designed to be worn crossed. The most common carriers on today’s babywearing market are not designed to be worn with shoulder straps crossed (Lenka 4Ever not wearable crossed or RooBaby, for example) – the straps being straight or “banana-shaped” (i.e. bent to fit the shape of the wearer’s back). The carriers with the shoulder straps wearable crossed also have straight and padded shoulder straps, but they have an additional buckle enabling to unbuckle and cross the shoulder straps on the wearer’s back (Manduca, KiBi, Isara, Aloe, etc.). The carriers with the shoulder straps designed to be worn crossed have wide and flat shoulder straps, sometimes it is not even possible to wear them “normally”. If it is possible to wear the shoulder straps in the non-crossed position, it is usually not ideal – the main purpose being the possibility to wear on the wearer’s back (for example, Kokon, Lenka 4Ever with wide shoulder straps, Moyo Cross).
Carrier with wide shoulder straps designed to be worn crossed (Adjustable Lenka 1).
- material of the carrier: made of fabric, made of wrap, and combined (made partly of fabric and wrap). The fabric many carriers are made of is usually strong cotton canvas (KiBi, Manduca, Isara, Kokon, for example). Less frequently, you can come across carriers made of linen cloth – Aloe is the top producer of this kind, or there are some linen carriers in the Kokon’s offer (specifically, Kokon Chick). Generally speaking, the fabric carriers are usually more resistant, however, the back panel embraces the wearie slightly worse (of course, it depends on the sewing pattern and compliance of the material itself). Wrap conversions are made of baby wraps, i.e. material primarily designed to be used for babywearing. Generally speaking, wrap is a more pliable material than an ordinary piece of fabric, it embraces the wearie better, and some even say that shoulder straps and waist belts made of wrap are more comfortable for the wearer (for example, Be Lenka carriers, MoniLu, Storchenwiege, Kavka, Sestrice, etc.). Many manufacturers (mainly small producers) offer (for the time being) the possibility to make a carrier from your own wrap. Therefore, you would have an original at home – a carrier most probably unique in your neighbourhood. Combined carriers have the back panel made of wrap and the shoulder straps and/or waist belt made of fabric (KiBi, the wrap conversion).
As we have already discussed in our story Choosing Your First Wrap, it is very important to ask yourselves what you actually expect from the carrier. Similarly to the wrap-choosing situation, I usually hear: “We need a carrier suitable from birth, lasting as long as possible.” However, this requirement is even more complicated here than in case of wraps. To be clear at the very beginning – an ideal universal carrier simply does not exist (although some manufacturers try to claim otherwise). Usually, there is a problem at the beginning of the babywearing career – there is hardly an adjustable carrier which would fit a tiny weak newborn (the best of the best could be recommended from 2 months of age / 62 cm of height). Before buying a carrier, you should know the answers to the following questions:
- Since when do you want to wear your baby? Do you really need a carrier suitable for a newborn or are you willing to bridge the 2-4 months’ gap otherwise (using a wrap or a borrowed/rented newborn carrier) and buy your ideal carrier later?
- Do you want one single carrier for the whole babywearing career or are you willing to replace your carrier from time to time? In case of choosing a carrier for a bigger child, do you want to use it for his/her younger sibling in the future?
- Are you the only wearer or does your partner/wearie’s grandma/anybody else want to use the carrier as well?
- Do you need the carrier for the case of emergency only (walking the dog, quick shopping) or are you going to go on longer trips?
At the same time, you need to figure out which technical features you want your carrier to meet as to the manipulation, adjusting and comfort. This area is exclusively individual – we highly recommend you to try the carrier before buying it.
- Hard or soft waist belt. In case the waist belt does not fit you, it can significantly influence the overall comfort (or better – the discomfort) of the carrier. Generally speaking, we can say that hard waist belt fits tall slim figures and frequently men, whereas soft waist belt fits more feminine curves and shorter people (me being a weird natural phenomenon – with my 155 cm of height, I definitely prefer hard waist belts). Based on experience – hard waist belt is better for wearing on your back. Carriers with hard waist belt are, for example, Manduca, Tula, KiBi, Kavka, BIMBI, Madame GooGoo, Sestrice, Isara, RooBaby, MartyS, and let’s say that we can also include MoniLu and one-size Lenka carriers (which are halfway between hard and soft). Carriers with soft waist belt are, for example, Lenka 4Ever, Donkey, Andala, VeKa, MoYo, Rischino, Lenny Lamb, Kokon or Aloe. Both hard and soft waist belt are offered by Zumbucca.
- Shoulder straps. Nowadays, the probably top-selling carriers are without the possibility to cross the shoulder straps. What I am not really sure about is whether they are really comfortable for all their owners. Mainly wearers used to wraps could appreciate the possibility to cross the shoulder straps (together with the possibility of wearing “normally” – you can recognize this type of carrier easily as it has a buckle to fasten the shoulder strap to the back panel). For me, the most comfortable are those carriers designed to be worn crossed, because the weight of the wearie is spread ideally and the carriers are (unsurprisingly) the closest to wraps. On the other hand, carriers with wide shoulder straps are not really ideal for wearing on your back, and some models even do not enable it at all (the chest buckle is missing). Similarly to the waist belt situation, it is obviously the best to try all the possibilities first.
Carrier with a hard waist belt (Kavka).
Before I start discussing particular situations, let’s get one thing clear – a truly ideal adjustable carrier from birth to pre-school age does not exist, therefore do not expect to read any recommendations for such in this story.
1. I want to start using a carrier as soon as my baby is born
In case you really want to start using a carrier as soon as possible, you will have to accept that it will probably not last very long. Of course, it depends on the brand and type of carrier you choose – generally speaking, 6 months or size 68, more or less. The suitable carriers are quite specific in many ways, adapted for wearing the tiniest little babies – therefore, it is not really possible to use them for toddlers, due to both size and comfort.
In this category, there are all the types of carriers available – full-buckle, mei tai, and half-buckle. Very often, experienced wearers (including us) recommend a kind of classical carrier for newborns, half-buckle Storchenwiege – the waist belt is fastened with a buckle (the waist belt itself being quite different from the traditional idea – its construction is adapted for little babies, its construction and adjusting is different from other adjustable carriers), and the shoulder straps, designed for being worn crossed primarily, are to be tied.
Carrier suitable for newborns (Storchenwiege).
Carrier suitable for newborns (Caboo).
Many mei tais are also recommendable for the youngest babies, especially wrap conversion mei tais. As they are by definition the closest to wraps, they nicely embrace and support the baby. In any case, you should choose the smallest size (for example, Fidella Fly Tai size Baby or mei tai Love & Carry, which is small enough to be used for a newborn).
Recently, quite a lot of better or worse full-buckle carriers for newborns have been introduced on the babywearing market by traditional and established manufacturers. Let’s face it – this solution is not really ideal as these carriers fit babies around 2 months of age the earliest … for example, MartyS Bebé Mini or MoniLu UNI Start. On the other hand, these carriers will fit you as well as your baby much longer than Storchenwiege, up to about 1 year of age.
From the category of “suitable for newborn”, I have to mention two more carriers which somewhat stand out – Caboo and Emeibaby. These two are seemingly similar (sling rings are used for tightening), however, their material and construction differ significantly. Caboo is, in principle, a pre-tied elastic wrap, which makes it ideal for wearing the smallest babies (I personally do not see advantage over the elastic wrap, but, on the other hand, I also do not see any reason why to talk somebody out of it). Emeibaby is a perfect carrier, its smallest size being suitable even for newborns. The carrier is made of wrap, the waist belt is hard, and it can bear even heavier load without any problems. On the other hand, the adjusting is more complicated (mainly for the first time and even for experienced wearers), and the price is not really affordable either.
One more comment on carriers suitable for newborns – some of them possess the so-called “infant seat”. The most notorious example is Manduca, where the infant seat is integrated. This is what I wanted to warn you against – the infant seat does not allow you to position your baby correctly, especially baby’s hips are in a wrong position, and the usage is generally not recommended. Moreover, even the manufacturer of Manduca himself recommends a widget called “size-it” instead, which serves for narrowing the back panel so that a little baby could be worn in the carrier. Although Manduca really tries hard, it is not a carrier suitable for newborns – it is too tough and inflexible.
Emeibaby carrier – sling rings used for tightening.
2. I want to start using a carrier when my baby is 2-4 months old
In this case, incredible possibilities suddenly open up for you:
- One-size carrier. Three different sizes are typical of most brands, usually called “mini – midi – maxi” or “baby – middle size – toddler”. However, you can come across different variants of this system, using numbers, for example (sometimes, it seems a bit illogical, so don’t let it fool you). You could have already read our (i.e. Linda’s and my) philosophical view on one-size (non-adjustable) carriers in our story about Be Lenka Carrier, middle size. In a nutshell, these carriers are usually more affordable, easier to adjust, less “faulty”, and fit accurately the child in the particular age/size group. Besides Lenka, the most popular one-size carriers are, for example, Tula, MoniLu, Lenny Lamb, Donkey, or our local endemic carrier RooBaby.
One-size carrier (RooBaby Mini).
- Nastavitelné nosítko. V tomto případě v nabídce výrobce většinou najdete dva velikostní modely; zde je již “značení” variabilnější – například “standard” a “toddler”, přičemž se většinou svým věkovým/velikostním určením překrývají. Mají regulaci šířky sedu i výšky zádové opěrky, ale rozpětí nastavení není takové, aby se nosítko dalo nazývat “rostoucím”, tedy od kojeneckého až do předškolního věku. Takováto nosítka mají v portofliu například Sestrice, BIMBI, VeKa, Aloe, Moyo, Mia, Kokon, Isara a mnoho, mnoho dalších… Když jsme u toho, dala by se sem zařadit i již zmiňovaná klasická Manduca (a ne, size-it opravdu nepočítám a neřadím Manducu mezi rostoucí nosítka zcela záměrně!), vzhledem k možnosti prodloužení zádové opěrky pomocí zipů a použití originál rozšiřovače.
- Partially-adjustable carrier. In this case, you would find two models in most manufacturers’ offer – the naming system varies more; for example, “standard” and “toddler” are frequently used, their suitability for certain age/size overlapping mostly. It is possible to adjust the width and height of the back panel, but the range is not wide enough to call the carrier “fully-adjustable” (meaning “from birth until pre-school age”). As examples of such carriers could serve Sestrice, BIMBI, VeKa, Aloe, Moyo, Mia, Kokon, Isara and many, many more … Speaking to that point, even Manduca could easily fall into this category as the back panel could be lengthened using the zipper and widened using the original extender (and no, I certainly do not count the “size-it” and do not classify Manduca as fully-adjustable carrier!).
- Fully-adjustable carrier – i.e. a carrier suitable for the major part of your babywearing career. The back panel is adjustable in a really wide range and there are many different adjusting systems. The width of the back panel is most often adjusted in two ways – either by a cord (as the careful reader already knows, I kind of dislike this system, but it is most common), for example, Lenka 4Ever, Andala, Zumbucca or Rischino; or by a Velcro (MoniLu UNI, Kavka, adjustable Lenka carriers) or studs (KiBi or the Indian Soul AnoonA). The cord-adjusting-system requires soft waist belt, whereas the Velcro- or studs-system are usually used with hard waist belts. Mexican Indajani carrier has a very interesting and perfectly functional system of extenders. The length of the back panel could by adjusted by a cord again (Andala, Rischino), or by straps (absolute majority of fully-adjustable carriers). It is definitely worth mentioning the very specific snap-hooks-system the KiBi carrier has.
Fully-adjustable carrier (Lenka 4Ever) – width of the back panel is adjusted by a cord, height of the back panel is adjusted by straps.
Fully-adjustable carrier (MoniLu UNI) – width of the back panel is adjusted by a Velcro inside the waist belt.
Recently, high-quality and more affordable fully-adjustable carriers increasingly appear on the babywearing market. Therefore, it gets more and more difficult to find valid arguments for buying a one-size carrier. We leave it to your discretion. Nevertheless, there is one situation in which I would strongly oppose buying a fully-adjustable carrier – that is when you want to buy a carrier for an older child, i.e. 1 year old or more. In case you do not expect the carrier to serve his/her younger sibling as well, I would recommend you to buy a one-size model (middle size or toddler, according to the height of the baby in question).
And yet, one argument for one-size carriers came into my mind – the absolute majority of experienced wearers (having their second, third, etc. child) prefer one-size carriers, although some of them used a fully-adjustable model for the first offspring … Needless to say that these experienced women know what they are doing. 🙂
One-size carrier (BOBA Carrier 3G Soho).
Let’s stop at the latter two points for a little while – a carrier for more wearers and a carrier as an emergency means of transport. It is quite understandable that a carrier being used by more wearers should be as simple to adjust as possible, and, at the same time, as durable as possible (so that no part wears down quickly). In this regard, I am willing to bet my freedom only in case of Manduca, which has been used and re-adjusted regularly for a year and half in our household – the carrier is still in perfect condition. Otherwise, I would certainly also bet on KiBi, Tula or RooBaby (I hope I will not offend the other manufacturers, but I have not tried it and I know of nobody who did in my neighbourhood). As far as the carrier for emergency use is concerned, I would definitely vote for something absolutely simple – chop, chop, and let’s go – no messing about with crossing the shoulder straps and unnecessary adjusting. You do not really have to take your absolute comfort into consideration, not speaking about pointless wondering about the carrier being “from knee to knee” even in your child’s 3 years of age.
Fully-adjustable carrier (Indajani).
To conclude, I have to comment on two, quite fundamental, matters (which have already been mentioned in our two previous stories choosing a wrap or a carrier).
Firstly, do not completely and literally believe what the manufacturers say on labels or their websites. The recommended age / size / measurements are largely very exaggerated numbers (for the sake of more successful sale, of course). In this case, experience is the best teacher – ask your fellow-wearers, read reviews (not only here on this blog, you can find numerous reviews on babywearing groups on Facebook, in your regional babywearing group or in “Nosíme děti”, i.e. “We wear our babies” or “Moderní nosičky”, i.e. Modern wearers, for example), try and test the carrier yourself, compare it to other available carriers, and only after then create your own opinion and decide. It may also be good for you to consider whether a 6-months difference in the length of usability really plays a key role – in the category of older children, I mean – that is 2 and half years or 3 years of age. Are the measurements of the carriers really that different or did the manufacturers just guesstimate? What is the real difference in the height of a two-and-half-year-old and a three-year-old (a well-grown 2-year-old can be as tall as smaller three-year-old)? Will my wearie be willing to be worn at the age of 2 and half or 3 years?
Secondly, keep your eyes wide open when buying your carrier, especially when you buy a second-hand piece. Of course, the safest thing to do would be buying the carrier in verified e-shop, specialising in babywearing. On contrary, beware of giant wholesalers (like the one with the annoying green alien) – they very often offer many good as well as many really bad non-ergonomic carriers! Similarly, smaller e-shops with goods for children (not specializing in babywearing) may also be a misstep. Discount web portals should be avoided completely – there are often imitations of poor quality offered. And, of course, avoid Aliexpress as well – the cheap fakes of Manduca and ErgoBaby are nowadays almost indistinguishable from the originals, using materials of poor quality and potentially harmful to your baby’s health.
Second-hand carriers should be bought only on verified second-hand marketplaces in babywearing Facebook groups. I would be very cautious about websites like letgo, bazos or vinted, as well as on traditional “web portals for mums”. Inadequately low price and the popular phrase “inappropriate gift” should be a warning sign to you – it has the stench of swindle! Frequently, the sellers offer the real ergonomic carriers, but there are also many of those which do not really fulfill the criteria of babywearing ergonomics at all. There is a lost of appropriate and inappropriate carriers in the Facebook group Nosíme děti (i.e. We wear our babies) – if you do not find your carrier there, it does not really have to mean that it is inappropriate; it could be a brand not-yet-tested by the admins of the group (this applies particularly to foreign manufacturers and new products).
That’s all I wanted to tell you about carriers (for now) 😀 Who got through to this spot – I have an important message for you: there is nothing like the ideal carrier as there is nothing like the ideal wrap. Do not spend too much time choosing – take the one closest to the ideal so that you and your baby can enjoy the splendour of babywearing as soon as possible!