Friday, January 20, 2012

My Current Thoughts on the Baby Carriers in My Stash

Thanks to a friend's "prodding", I thought I'd share about some of my various baby carriers and what I do and don't like about them. It's no secret that I have quite a stash....or that there's a few more I'd like. That's what happens when your passion is also turned into your hobby. :-) You might not believe it, but I'm actually not a spender...I rarely spend money (besides on groceries) and when I do, I agonize over whether I should or not and weigh all the pros and cons. I'm just not the type of gal that likes to go out shopping and come home with a bunch of stuff. I own the shoes and clothing I need, and don't often add to the collection. So baby carriers are my one weakness...although I still don't add to my collection very often, or without significant thought. There.

As a disclaimer, I think I have a tendency to go through seasons- and what I'm loving right now might not be what I'm loving in six months or years. So, this post is in no way comprehensive...down the road, I'll learn better how to use certain carriers, I'll explore new ones, I'll possibly have different physical issues and strengths, my daily circumstances will be different, my babies will be different....etc. I'm just sharing what's worked for what so far in my babywearing journey- which hopefully has many years left!
Currently, I wear Vivi only occasionally- usually when she needs some close mama-time. Especially if Timothy happens to be sleeping down. Otherwise, I might meet her needs in other ways, such as reading to her on my lap.
I tandem wear sometimes- again, it generally corresponds to Vivi’s needs. I tandem wore almost daily the first month or so (once I was getting around), because Vivi had greater needs through the adjustment period. We would often go for a tandem walk. Now, she loves it when I take her outside and hold her hand, helping her walk around on her own. I tandem wear at the store occasionally, but not ever time. Vivi likes the cart a lot- sort of a “graduation” aspect to it all, I think. :-)
I wear Timothy a greater part of the day. He’s just starting to nap down more, so I can probably count on him napping down once a day, or every other day. He usually takes about 3 naps…and then typically falls asleep for the night either nursing or in a carrier, and stays with us for the night. Except occasionally, when I can leave him on the couch and creep away with just Ben for a while. (actually, I think we might be moving in the direction of that being the norm….he’s growing up!) I’m also hoping to be able to get to one of his naps being consistently down, so I don’t have to forfeit all Vivi’s naps once Ben starts student teaching. (she still requires being nursed to sleep at naps) Timothy sleeps really well on me, typically. He’s starting to get to a point of not being able to fall asleep in chaos, but generally Vivi’s (and others’) noises don’t bother him once he’s actually asleep, when he’s snuggled on me. That’s a totally new- and very nice!- playing field. When Timothy’s awake, I vary between wearing him, holding him, and having him on the floor with Vivi and I when we’re playing. We also have a bouncy seat he sometimes goes in when we’re playing/reading, folding laundry, or when I’m going to the bathroom. Vivi’s finally getting predictably good at “playing” gently with Timothy, which is so fun to watch and be a part of. She loves bringing him toys and piling up the blanket with her favorite treasures. So….he’s definitely down more than Vivi was, but, in correlation with his needs, is still up the majority of the day, in one form or another. Consequently, using supportive carriers is just as important with him as it was with Vivi- maybe more, since he’s heavier.
2nd time around, I’m still so grateful for baby carriers and how the enable me to meet my baby’s individual needs. Timothy’s really different from Vivi, but still has reasonably “high” touch needs, and doesn’t just fall asleep at the drop of a pin. Baby carriers enable me to meet his needs and Vivi’s and usually get everything else done, too, since he sleeps well in them. (not that all our days go that smoothly and no one ever has to wait to have a need filled!) I’m grateful for the legacy my mom gave me and the jumpstart into babywearing- our days would be much more difficult to balance if I wasn’t a full-time babywearer! :-)

MOBY WRAP

I loved my (homemade) moby wrap for about two weeks after Timothy was born. Then he was 11 1/2 lbs, and we haven't used it since. If you have itty-bitty babies, it's nice. It's easy to use and accurately adjust; when you're just learning to wrap it's nice to have something that you fully put on before inserting baby. I first used it when Timothy was a couple days old- long before I was even able to get around much. It snuggled him in close, which he liked, and enabled me to stay caught up on thank yous or have my hands free to interact with Vivi. I used it interchangeably with the ring sling, using each a couple times of day at least. Another thing that was nice about being able to put it on fully before putting baby in, and take baby in and out while leaving it on is that if I just got Timothy in and he started crying, I could take him out without undoing all the time I spent wrapping, and try putting him in again once I felt like I had a better handle on what he needed. (For a mama who doesn’t like to let her babies cry and stands on her head and way over-works to make them happy (especially in the early days, when you’re totally still figuring them out), that’s a pretty big plus. It’s easy to not want to put the effort into putting a carrier on when Timothy’s fussy because of the chance of him screaming in it and feeling like I need to take him out and try something new. Because, as it happens, so far I’m two strikes for two on having a baby who, when fussy, calms down while being worn, However, on the down side, by the time Timothy was 11 lbs, he was heavy enough to stretch the wrap out enough while in it that it was really too loose if I took him out and put him back in.
All-in-all: if you have tiny babies, you might love it. If not, or your babies have a record of growing quickly….it’s probably not worth the money, even if you make one yourself. With small babies it is nicely supportive, because of going across both shoulders….it also snuggles the baby in well, keeping them close to you and fully supporting their head/neck, especially while sleeping. Overall, woven wrap is way more supportive.

RING SLING
I love my ring sling. It’s versatile and easy to get on and off. It’s also easy to adjust for nursing, typically. I’ve had discomfort issues with it with Timothy, though…I think if I had a size large (instead of medium) I’d use it more, as I’m usually (easily) able to get my mom’s large slings to work comfortably. Timothy’s a big baby- but still without the body control of a much older baby- which can make it a little difficult to fanangle him, especially in a smaller sling, into a nursing position. Another issue I’ve had is due to how strong and wiggly he is, if he’s tired and unhappy, for instance, he throws himself back and/or arches his back a lot, which calls for readjusting the sling. Not a big deal (and I don’t feel like he’s in danger of falling out, because our bodies are very in tune with each other), but eventually it gets to be a pain to constantly readjust until he settles down/falls asleep. This isn’t a problem with a woven wrap.
I anticipated it being my primary carrier with Timothy for the first handful of months, and that hasn’t been the case. Timothy’s really taught me that while what carrier works depends a lot on each mom, it also depends hugely on each baby. Not only their likes and dislikes, but also their size, physical ability, etc. 15lbs isn’t totally huge (I still enjoy comfortably wearing Vivi in spurts, who’s 27 lbs- and also tandem wearing), but when you wear most of the day, it does get to be a lot, and optimal support counts. So my woven wrap has become my best friend.
I still love my sling for it’s easy on-and-off, so I tend to use it if I’m not sure how great my chances are of getting Timothy to sleep, or if I know I won’t be wearing for very long (say, an hourish or less). I love it for shopping, because I can quickly get it on in the parking lot- a major plus particularly right now when it’s a bit frigid. If I didn’t have the sling, I would probably be tempted to wear a lot less, so don’t get me wrong…I love my sling. It’s great when I need to make breakfast or lunch or just want to vacuum the house- all stuff that’s generally under a half hour. Or if I just need some“where” to put him while I’m helping Vivi with something….and putting him down isn’t an option because he’s fussy.
When Vivi was just a bit younger and lighter, I loved the sling for hip carry for her. When she hit the stage of wanting up and down a lot, it was a perfect way to hold her when she needed it without spending a lot of time fiddling with a carrier. That way, it wasn’t disappointing when she wanted down 5 minutes later. I also had zero issues nursing her in it at a year and beyond. I still can carry her in it- but at 27lbs, it’s a load on one shoulder and putting her on my hip feels slightly lopsided.
Timothy’s in the sling as I write, bouncing on a ball….because it’s late at night and I’m tired and I’m really hoping we’ll be crawling to bed at some point- hence, he won’t be sleeping an entire length in here.
All-in-all: it’s a great carrier and I wouldn’t want to do without it. I probably use it daily, and like the wraps, I like that it forms to his body and supports him pretty well (unlike SSCs at his current stage where he doesn’t have perfect body control). If you like to babywear, but aren’t an addict (i.e. you wear a handful of hours a day or less) and/or your babies aren’t beastly, chances are high this could be a great all-around carrier for you.

WOVEN WRAP
Alright….my latest addiction. Timothy has totally made me a wrapper. The wrap is my favorite carrier for exercise and long periods of wearing- i.e. naps. It’s ultra supportive, so comfortable, and supports him perfectly. It’s only downside is the amount of time it takes to put on, but the more I do it, the faster I’m getting, anyway. Nonetheless, I probably wouldn’t be motivated to wear as often for the short periods if the woven wrap was my only carrier.
I recently found a new reason to fall even further in love with my wrap- back wrapping! Unlike SSCs, it totally supports his head and neck (even when they aren’t tucked in the folds of the fabric), so he stays completely nuzzled on my neck or back, depending on where I have him. A week or so ago, at first with the “help” (direction? I think I mostly just needed someone to tell me I could do it and that he looked good in it…and to help work out any kinks) of a friend, I back wrapped Timothy. Instant love. My only issue with it is if I don’t catch his nap just right, and he’s pretty fussy/over tired, I don’t like that I can’t put my arms around him and comfort him as I lull him to sleep….I almost always end up switching to front wrapping if he doesn’t fall asleep peacefully. Back wrapping is really awesome for so many reasons- cleaning bathrooms, mopping, giving Vivi a bath and any other bending chores are SO easy. I forgot just how easy they are- it’s pretty awesome. It frees up my whole lap for Vivi, enabling her to get as close to me as she wants- and enabling me to interact fully with her, without reaching around Timothy. It’s sort of like waking up one morning and discovering you’re super fit- way more fit than you ever were. Except I’m not. :-) It means no food-spills on Timothy when I’m eating or cooking. No risk of burning, either. I like interacting with him when he’s awake, so I enjoy front-carrying (and it’s fun to soothe him asleep in front sometimes), but if he’s just going to be sleeping anyway, it’s nice to be able to snuggle/touch him, and practically still have my whole body free. He usually nuzzles right into me and falls fast asleep. He’s also woken up happy and content on my back several times, now, and enjoyed looking around from his new little perch. If I had back-wrapped with Vivi as an infant, I could’ve stayed caught up on weeding our garden. (Theoretically. I’m not guaranteeing it would’ve looked perfect! But it would’ve been theoretically possible, something it wasn’t when I always had her in a front carry, which prohibited me from getting into a lot of the garden spaces very well- especially with the bulky ergo.)

I anticipate continuing to use the wrap a great deal with Timothy. I love it for front and back....the support is amazing, and I love how snuggly it is. I hardly ever leave the house without it, and would highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind a learning curve thrown into babywearing.

SSC (soft structured carrier)
I really like soft structured carriers for their support (putting the weight on your hips with the waist belt feature) and ease of use. It only takes a few moments to get one on. It was my go-to carrier during pregnancy, when just the idea of exerting energy to get Vivi in a carrier sounded exhausting. I love it as a 2nd carrier for tandem wearing. I still enjoy using it to put Vivi on my back- especially since she isn’t likely to stay super long, and therefore it’s hard to want to spend the time back wrapping. I’ve also used them some with Timothy. I still prefer the wrap for sleeping, and in general with him, but if he’s wide awake and I just need to wear him for a little bit while completing a task, I’ve often reached for one of my SSCs.
I have an ergo, which I used with toddler siblings when I lived at home, and we’ve owned since before Vivi was born. I used it exclusively the first month or two of her life, because I was already totally familiar with it, and I needed ultra-fast with her. It worked well for nursing, too. However, it was bulky, and kind of a pain to have a separate infant insert. Hence, I didn’t use it with Timothy as an infant, and don’t plan to with others. Ben did, though….guys like buckles. It’s seen a ton of use, and will continue to. Now that I have a beco (see below), it’s more officially “Ben’s carrier” and something I just use occasionally.
I also have a beco butterfly, which Ben got for my birthday in November. I’ve really liked it so far. Overall, I’m pretty sure I like it better than the ergo, but I feel like I’m still figuring it out, since it’s only recently starting to work well for Timothy. I like that I can put it on and easily get Timothy in and out- I’ve used it for shopping once or twice, and this was nice since, if I wore one, I could put it under my coat and still get him in, and it didn’t take very long at all to get us situated. With 2 non-walkers, I need to get Timothy securely in a carrier in the parking lot, so I can carry Vivi easily without risk of dropping anyone. :-) (Side-note: Vivi isn’t exactly a non-walker anymore! She took her first steps about a month ago, and is slowly gaining confidence and walking more. She has yet to take off 100%, though she loves walking holding my hand, even outside and on rough ground.) I also like that if he does fall asleep in the Beco, I can also take it off without taking him out- I’ve used this feature a couple times when he fell asleep on walks, and it seemed like he would get too hot in his snow suit bundled against me- so I put him and carrier on the bed and he slept through the transition. I also like that I can put it on Vivi (like pants, sort of), and then hoist her and carrier up on my back, so I don’t have to bend way over to get her on, when I have Timothy in the front. I also really like that it’s higher than the ergo, so Vivi can’t lean as much- I was using the ergo for her recently after mostly using the beco lately, and noticed a huge difference in how my back felt- I’m pretty sure it was a carrier difference. I don’t love that there are more buckles and adjustments to deal with. One is particularly hard to adjust because of how they have it wrapped, and so I’m not sure that I’ve yet hit on the perfect adjustment- I’m too lazy to keep playing with it, and especially to have to find different spots for Vivi and Timothy.
Overall, I think I would tend to recommend the beco over the ergo to people now. I would also strongly suggest checking out the Boba 3G- which I haven’t tried and don’t own, but have heard some pretty rave things about. (Sorry if you’re one of the people I’ve sold on the ergo! :-) It’s still a great carrier…and I wouldn’t have any issues with mine if other companies hadn’t come out with other ones. If you are able to get an ergo cheaply (definitely more likely than getting one of the others cheaply, being more popular) and are interested in a SSC, go for it. But if you’re going to pay full price anyway, definitely consider other options.) 

ETA 5/4/20112: I don't like my beco as much as I had hoped to.  No matter what I try, I can't fall in love with it as a back carrier.  I think it could have to do with the fact that my kiddos are big?  I've heard it works better with smaller kids....  It's still quite comfortable for the front.  Now that Timothy and Vivi are both pretty big (22 and 27lbs respectively) I adore it on the front for tandem carriers.  I put it on (since unlike most SSCs you put it on first, then pop baby in), put Vivi on my back in the mei tai with straps crossed in front under the beco, then pop Timothy in.  It avoids the issue of dumping Timothy out on his head while trying to get a really good carry with Vivi. I briefly borrowed a Boba (2G, I believe) from a friend, and loved it.  Seriously, truly loved it.  No learning curve.  I would love to own one someday, although I'm hanging on to my beco for now since it was a gift from hubby and we love it for tandem wearing, which we are back to doing almost daily....so we'll see when/if the Boba happens.  :-)  The ergo will stick around for Ben- he found that the Boba wasn't quite as adjustable as the ergo, and consequently the chest strap was in his neck when doing back carries- he wears it rather low.

MEI TAI

Honestly…I haven’t used this one much lately. I have a Kozy Carrier, and I do like it. But I find my soft structured carriers to be more supportive, generally, so I tend to just use those. I was thinking recently, though, that it could be really nice for tandem wearing, because you can put the straps where you want them- I have issues with everything being rather uncomfortable and straps falling off my shoulders and others digging into my neck when tandem wearing with a SSC and something else. So I’m hoping to give this a shot soon, and it just might become a frequently-worn carrier.
I also liked it during my 2nd trimester of pregnancy, because it’s easy to put on, but didn’t have the issue of a belt going right around my bulge and just making me look fat.

WRAPPING IT UP (no pun intended)
Saying much here would probably be repetitive of what I’ve said elsewhere in the article, so I’ll just sum up really quick. If I absolutely had to pair down my collection and could only have a few carriers, I would currently choose a ring sling, woven wrap and SSC. I use each of those often enough on a regular basis to completely merit their staying around.
What’s your favorite carrier(s) and why?

7 comments:

  1. Fun, fun! Yeah, as you know, I definitely like my Boba better than my Ergo... :)

    What back carries do you do with Timothy and your wrap?

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    1. Yeah- I'm looking forward to your eventually-promised article on the boba and your more thorough evaluation. :-) I'm very curious to try it... ;-)

      Just one of the many things my scatter-brain didn't think to add, along with plenty of other things and organizing the article better, etc., etc. My brain's been way too mommy-ish lately! ;-) Anyway....so far, we've just done the double hammock. I really like it- to my surprise, every time I've put him in I've been able to do it successfully on the first try. Didn't expect that, since I felt like I never fully mastered it with Vivi (probably didn't help that I was pregnant during the whole of our experiments, and I'm sure Timothy being lighter and easier to move around helps, too.) I've loved how secure it is and how quickly I got totally comfortable doing it- prior to trying, I wasn't sure about tossing such a "little" one over my shoulder. :-)

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  2. My favorite carriers would be Sleepy Wrap for the first 3-4 months, ring sling for newborn to 20ish lbs. (for my small frame, having any more weight than that on one shoulder is just too much), and an Ergo from 3.5-4 months to somewhere between 30 and 35 lbs. I liked a mei tai best when I was pregnant, because I could put the waist strap ABOVE my belly for a comfy back carry.

    The Sleepy Wrap doesn't have the same issue with stretching out like a Moby or homemade stretchy. I've heard many people say that they have to retie their Moby if they take the baby out and want to put him back in, but I didn't have to do that with the Sleepy Wrap. I used it to about 13 lbs. If I have another, I'm kind of interested in trying out the Boba, but convincing DH that I need ANOTHER carrier is difficult. I really want to try a toddler/preschool size Kinderpack, but even my 2 year old doesn't want to be worn much anymore and the Ergo still works for when she does for short periods of time.

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    1. Rachel- good to know about the Sleepy Wrap for recommending to others. Mine didn't have stretching out issues initially (as far as, with taking baby in and out), but def. did by the time he was 11lbs. At any rate....13 lbs still isn't big enough to do much for me. ;-)

      LOL...well, hopefully you can convince your husband sometime! ;-) I've seen a little of the Kinderpacks....which look interesting, but I like the flexibility of less specialized SSCs to fit any age. It's kind of hard to buy different carriers of one type for different ages! :-)

      I enjoyed hearing what carriers you like...and I agree on the mei tai! What kind of ring sling do you have?

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    2. I have a Sleeping Baby Productions remake of a Maya Wrap. Basically, Maya Wrap sold what was left of their old-style slings (before they padded the shoulder, I think) to SBP, and she remade the shoulder in her own shoulder style.

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  3. I would love to see these all in action! I'm much more of a show-me instead of a tell-me learner. :)

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    1. Mandi- then you need to come over and play! With baby carriers, it's so much easier to figure out what works for you in person. Anyway....you should come over sometime and try out my stash. Or come with me to a babywearing meeting and try other wearing fanatic's goodies. :-)

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