About 3.5 years ago, while pregnant and researching baby gear like there was no tomorrow, I stumbled upon the "new and improved" Baby Bjorn Active Carrier, which includes added lumbar support (a necessity for anyone with a bad back like me!). Given the rave reviews on the original Baby Bjorn carrier, I thought the new product was a "must-have" and bought one. While the carrier was used a few months for carrying our first daughter, I found it too uncomfortable for me once she was over 10 pounds and left it for my husband to use.
Recommend this product?
Fast forward a few years and this time around, while pregnant with my second child, I see that a whole new world of soft structured baby carriers exist. While I won't be tossing the Baby Bjorn Active Carrier (it did cost me $60!), I suspect I'll be using my Beco Butterly II carrier much more as I've read many rave reviews of that product and picked it up a few weeks ago. I'll have to write a review on that product later after I get in at least a few weeks of carrying my second daughter (who's scheduled to be born next week!).
About the Product
Soft structured baby carriers have an advantage over traditional baby carriers in that there is no folding/wrapping/tying and it's much faster to put on and buckle baby in. For this particular one, Baby Bjorn has designed it so that it's basically a harness that goes around the adult wearer and a second harness that straps the baby to the adult harness. They advertise it as being suitable for babies from newborns up to 26 pounds. Frankly, we stopped using it once she hit 15 pounds or so.
Note that the Baby Bjorn Active Carrier carrier only allows a front carry, which means you can't switch and carry your child on your back. However, you can choose to have your baby face inward or outward. Newborns are only supposed to be carry facing inward, as they need more neck support. Once your child can hold her head up herself, then she can face outward and see where you're walking.
The carrier has several adjustable buckles that strap the carrier to the adult (i.e., around the waist) and then buckles/sliding mechanisms that hold the baby in (i.e., four buckles/snaps/sliding mechanisms near the adult's shoulders and ribs).
The entire front contraption that hold the baby can be unbuckled/unsnapped from the main adult harness part, so if your baby is sleeping, you can unharness her completely and gently lay her down (versus lifting her out of the harness).
If you look at photos of the Baby Bjorn Active Carrier and compare it to the original, you'll see the biggest difference when you compare the backs. The Active version has semi-triangular piece in the middle lumbar portion of your back. The various buckles allow you to tighten the adult harness portion to provide more lumbar support.
It's machine washable in case of spit-up, blow-outs, and other accidents.
There were several things I did not like about the Baby Bjorn Active Carrier, but let's start with what I did like and why I ended up keeping it instead of just selling it on Craigslist.
First, I liked that the Baby Bjorn Active was easy to use and didn't require wrapping/typing/folding. I had started with a Hotsling pouch (which my daughter just didn't like) and then moved on to a ring sling (the Ultimate Baby Wrap, which required too much fiddling when you've got a cranky baby). The Baby Bjorn Active involved buckling and minimal adjustment (provided my husband hadn't used it before me and adjusted it to his body).
Second, I liked that it is unisex and wasn't too "hippie-looking" that my husband would refuse to wear it. Some of the other baby carriers look a bit too girly for his taste, especially the ring slings with the long tails (the leftover fabric that hangs below). He was more than willing to wear this, especially since it was blue (his favorite color) as opposed to pink, purple, or some floral pattern (like my other carriers).
Now why the low rating? First, the lumbar support only works if you cinch it really tight, which means it's not very comfortable for the parent and you feel like you're wearing a corset.
Second, the fabric that serves as head support for a newborn is supposed to roll down once you turn your baby forward-facing so she can see out. However, it regularly flipped up and hit my daughter in the face. I was constantly pushing it back down and even tried twisting the straps multiple times (more than the one twist they advise) before buckling to keep it flat.
Third, while some babies need to be upright (like those with reflux), the way your baby is positioned in the Baby Bjorn Active (i.e., hanging by her crotch with legs dangling) puts a lot of stress on her hips and possibly her spine. Some experts have discouraged use of the Baby Bjorn because of the risk of hip dysplasia. For me, I just found it wasn't comfortable to have her feet dangling and kicking me.
Finally, and most importantly, the Baby Bjorn Active carrier puts all the weight of your baby on your shoulders and back. It causes too much strain once your baby gets past a certain weight. For us, when our daughter surpassed 15 pounds, I could no longer carry her in this carrier for any length of time. It was best for those newborn days when she was only 8-10 pounds and the wide shoulder straps really did help spread the weight. My husband was able to wear it for a few months beyond that for short walks to our local park, but ultimately I find it to be far too expensive for such limited use and would not recommend it to other parents.
If you receive a used one for free or under $40, then it's worth using the first couple of months. I found mine at Marshall's for $60 but that's still too expensive given its limited use. I also see them on my local Craiglist for $75 and up. There are much better options out there for parents who wish to wear their infants/children and have their hands free to take care of older children or just get tasks done around the house.
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Amount Paid (US$): 60
Age Range of Child: 0 to 12 Months