* Introduction: “Wearing” Your Baby
Using a baby carrier is called “babywearing.” Cute, right?. Some people may find babywearing weird, “crunchy,” or whatever. But it’s awesome. It’s just like carrying your baby, but the baby is strapped to you, so your arms don’t get tired and your hands are free. Very cool. If you’re planning to have a baby sometime soon, you really should give it a try.
Here’s a quick overview of the the basic types of carriers -
Baby Bjorn - Very popular and well-known. Baby can be carried front-facing (with his back to you). Some people find this to be a great idea, because it lets the baby get a full view of everything, but not everyone agrees. The baby is essentially suspended in a shell, and this puts pressure on the groin area, which some believe is not good for the baby. Another minus is that they can only be used up to 22 lbs.
Wraps - You wind a stretchy piece of fabric around and around you and the baby. It’s typically used for newborns and younger babies. (The popular Moby wrap can be used for babies up to 35 lbs.) I was intimidated by them - I just kept imagining myself all tangled up in one. But many parents use them, and they do look neat. If I have another baby, I may give these a try.
Slings - As described, these are fabric slings in which the baby is carried. I’m not too familiar with these, because right around the time my baby was a newborn, there was a recall on one brand of slings (the Infantino) which frightened me from considering them. However, many moms do use and like these. They are typically used for newborns.
Soft Structured Carriers - These are made of sturdy padded fabric, with straps that typically go around your waist and shoulders, and can be used up to 40+ lbs.
The two most popular types of soft structured carriers are the Ergo and the Beco Butterfly II. I own both, and wanted to share my experience with them.
An Ergo is a Soft Structured Carrier, and can be used from 7-12 lbs. (with an optional infant insert, sold separately), and from 12-40 lbs.
There are currently three different types of Ergo carriers: (1) the Original, which also comes in an organic fabric version, (2) Performance, and (3) Sport. I have the Original Ergo in the camel color.
I am very enthusiastic about baby carriers in general, and soft structured carriers in particular. I would highly recommend them to any new parents out there. If you find the right one for you, it seriously makes life your life soooo much easier. I can’t imagine being without mine.
In addition, I think a soft structured carrier is a must when traveling. We went on an international trip for two months while our baby was 6-8 months old, and using a carrier made our lives about 100 times easier for both us and the baby. Strollers are great, but there are many places where even a compact umbrella stroller can’t be used (places without elevators, crowded street markets, rural areas with unpaved roads, etc.) and carrying the baby in a carrier was a lifesaver. I was able to carry the baby in my Ergo for hours everyday without getting tired at all. It was so comfy and perfect. And when I needed to pack or carry the Ergo, it is lightweight and takes very little space.
In fact, it was during my travels that I “discovered” the Ergo. I was using a Beco Butterfly II Carrier, but I had a constant problem with the webbing straps on the shoulders cutting into the baby’s face and mouth. It was so awful and I was so frustrated by this that I marched into the next baby shop I saw, and impulsively bought the Ergo. They only had two selections in stock, the Original in black and camel. I bought the camel. I even paid more for it than I would have in the U.S. - about $160. Still, it was the best decision ever, and one of the best baby-related purchases I’ve ever made.
As soon as I bought the Ergo, I put it on right away, and put my baby in it. She settled in immediately and went right to sleep. During the rest of our trip, she spent many hours in the Ergo, and she remained very content.
We’ve had our Ergo for a year, and both my husband and I still use it every day. I expect to continue to happily use it for a long time, until our baby hits the weight limit. (She's currently 18 months old, and weighs 24 lbs.)
* Beco v. Ergo: Simplicity / Ease of Use
The Ergo is very easy to use. First, you put on the waist strap. Then you pop the baby in, slide on both shoulder straps, then buckle the back. Done. It’s so easy I don’t have to think about it. It’s so easy that I can do it in my sleep. (Sometimes that is the case … er, almost.)
I use the Ergo for short trips (e.g., quick stop at the bank), as well as on long trips. I use it several times a day, just to give the baby’s hands a good wash at the kitchen sink. (Toddler hands do get grubby.) My point is - it’s that easy. It’s as easy as just picking her up, but so much more comfortable to carry her because your hands are free and your arms don’t get tired. My husband nicknamed our Ergo the “roo pouch.” It really feels as if I’m just popping my little joey into my kangaroo pouch and hopping away. It could not be easier or simpler.
[ My million-dollar idea - I’m going to create a baby carrier and name it “Roo Pouch” and make millions. Nobody steal my cool baby carrier name! ]
Putting the baby down when she’s sleeping is also easy as well. I simply slip my hand inside the panel and cradle the baby with one hand - reach back and unbuckle the back with the other hand, and the carrier just falls away. Lay the baby down. The end.
With the Beco, you have to undo two shoulder buckles and each requires both hands. So, I have to support the baby in the crook of one arm, while undoing one buckle. Then I have to switch arms and do the other buckle. No matter what, this is just more challenging while juggling a sleeping baby in your arms.
Either that, or you have to undo the Beco with the baby inside and put the whole thing down. This sounds like a good idea … until you have to figure out how to pull the Beco out from underneath a baby asleep in its crib. Yeah, good luck with that.
* Other Features
Unlike most other soft structured carriers, the Ergo has two pockets in the front - an open pocket, and a zip pocket. This is very handy - you can carry baby stuff like pacifiers and wash cloths, or you can just put your wallet and keys in there and not have to worry about a purse.
Ergobaby sells strap covers called “sucking pads.” While our baby no longer chews on the straps, I still use the sucking pads - I have two sets and wash them often. They provide a soft, clean surface for the baby to lean her face on. There are two types of Sucking Pads, regular and organic. I prefer the organic version, because the organic version is secured with snaps, while the regular version is secured with Velcro. (Lint tends to get trapped in Velcro strips when washed frequently.)
* Disadvantage of the Ergo
The one problem I have with the Ergo is that the panel that holds the baby is a bit short, so there is no support for her head/neck area. Other carriers (e.g., the Beco, Babyhawk) has a higher panel. While this is not a problem during front carry, some are worried about it for back carry.
It’s my only complaint about the Ergo.
From the FAQ on Ergobaby's website:
[ I feel like I have to bend forward to feel like he is sitting upright...it feels like he could flip out backwards, what am I doing wrong?
The shoulder straps may be too loose. If you are in an upright ‘normal’ stance, i.e., not leaning forward or backward to balance the added weight of your child on your body, then you have the carrier correctly positioned. If not, tighten the shoulder straps so that your baby is being held closer to your body. With their legs down around your waist and their body strapped close to yours, your child is secure in the carrier. ]
* Beco v. Ergo: Looks / Material
The basic Ergo is made of a canvas-type cotton material, which looks very casual. My husband described it as looking like I’ve stuffed the baby down the front of my overalls, and that’s an apt description. Other soft structured carriers like the Beco and Babyhawk feature a lot of pretty prints and colors. (Babyhawk even lets you design your own, and they have a huge selection of prints and colors. Very pretty!)
The design and color options for the Ergo have been limited until recently. Most Ergos are solid-colored. They had some print options on the hood, and a couple of embroidered versions - but none were as sleek and pretty as the other brands. Currently, they offer a special Petunia Picklebottom print edition that are actually the prettiest Ergos I’ve seen. But otherwise, the Ergos have been the plainest of the soft structured carriers.
* Other Types of Ergobaby Carriers
Since I bought my Ergo, ErgoBaby has come out with two new types of carriers: the Sport and the Performance. Although I haven’t used them, if I were to purchase another carrier today, I’d probably like to try one of the new types.
Caring for the Ergo
From the website:
[ All of our products are machine washable. We suggest infrequent washing, as we have not used fixatives in our dyes, and the carrier and accessories are 100% cotton. General washing instructions are: Gentle detergent in cold water, non-chlorine bleach, hang to dry or dry on low heat, and remove from dryer before seams are completely dry. And sucking pads are an ideal solution for keeping teething babies happy and the shoulder straps clean! ]
I’ve machine-washed the Ergo about 8 times during the past year - and the Ergo remains in fine shape. No problems.
Do I recommend the Ergo? Yes, absolutely. It’s easy to use, and makes your life as a new parent so much easier. In my experience it is one of the best of its kind. I would only change one thing about it - the length of the panel for better neck/head support while back-carrying.
My Ergo has been a lifesaver many time over - not just during our travels, but for every day I spend with our baby. I expect to get many years’ use from it, and for hours every day. It’s just so easy to use and so comfortable. I only wish I bought it sooner.
(Click here for my review of the Beco Butterfly II Carrier.)
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Amount Paid (US$): 160
Age Range of Child: 12 to 36 Months