Baby Wearing For The Traveller

Baby-Carriers

Image originally found at http://www.tyckledtales.com

I thought I’d do a post about my thoughts and recommendations for baby carriers. This could be for their general use or for something more specific to the traveller. This is mostly because now my monkey is nearly 2 I’ve become pretty knowledgeable about some of the carriers on offer and i have strong opinions about some of them (good and bad). I also recently had some amazing service from the woman who makes my favourite carrier so I thought it’d be a good time to share my experience of her carriers as although she has a big fan base, I believe she mostly gets her business through word of mouth and I want to do my part as her carriers are simply the best. More on that later….. So, I’ll give a summary of the carriers Ive used, let you know why I either like or don’t like them and try to give them a score out of 10. The thing with baby carriers is that they are probably incredibly personal (which is why my favourite is so damn good as they’re custom made); but this does mean that not everyone will agree with me I’m sure – especially on the ones I either hate or think are over rated. I’m sure some people have had a really good experience with these carriers, they’re just not for me.

Woven Wraps: I never liked the great big pieces of material that you have to wrap around in some special and seemingly complicated way – i wish I did like them as those mums always look so bloody cool and capable – I think if you can master the art of these it’s like some kind of badge to say you’re a parent who can cope with anything; hence, they just made me feel inadequate! Possibly if I’d persevered with them I’d have got the hang of it but I was on my own and they just frustrated me, so I gave up. This led me to try the alternatives, that were as close to possible in that traditional design because I do like the closeness they give and how comfortable the babies generally look in them. I think if I were to have another I might try a big stretchy or woven wrap again or a ring sling but we’ll see.

The Baby Bjorn (stock image)

The Baby Bjorn (stock image)

Baby Bjorn: So the 1st carrier I used after giving up on the big strips of material was the Baby Bjorn – this was lent to me by a friend and it was all I had. They are mid range price, ranging from about £50 but go up to £120. I was lent the Baby Bjorn Active carrier. These are the carriers you see about quite a lot and Dads seem to like them. Baby can face inwards or outwards. I’m not into the judgemental thing over other peoples choices in the slightest but I know the ‘baby wearing’ fan base say that having baby facing outwards all the time can mean they get overloaded with sensory information and it’s better to have them facing in so they can look about if they want but also cuddle up and sleep or just get a break from the constant environmental input they face. I kinda get this argument and whilst she was little I always had my monkey inward facing and when she was bigger I had her on my back so she can also cuddle in. I’ll be honest – I’m not a fan of this carrier at all, I think it’s over rated and over used. The baby’s entire weight is on its crotch which is OK when teeny but I don’t think that’s great as they get heavier. It doesn’t allow for a natural C shape spinal position for the baby either which is the recommendation. Also even when my monkey was small (under 3 months) it wrecked my back. I would get back pain within about 15 minutes of using it, friends have experienced something similar too. I would give this carrier 4/10, maximum. So I moved on…..I wanted something that was more natural and allowed baby to have that natural seated position and I wanted her weight on her bum not her crotch.

Baba Sling: Before I really found something like this I was very kindly given a baba sling as a gift this is a kind of pouch sling. It looks

The baba sling in the hip position - you can even tell from the image that there's pressure on her shoulder during use!

The baba sling in the hip position – you can even tell from the image that there’s pressure on her shoulder during use! (Stock image from babasling site)

great and on paper ticks lots of boxes. They have great PR and a good website. It’s a one shoulder carrier and can have baby in lots of positions that change as your child does. Again – I didn’t really like this in practice. When they’re newborns you’re meant to be able to kind of lie baby down in it in a cradle position but I just couldn’t get monkey comfortable in a safe position; her chin always seemed to be forced to her chest which looked like it was restricting her breathing – something the instruction leaflet warned about. It just made me feel panicky when using it. The instructions were difficult and it was a right faff just to get started. Almost so much so that I sort of gave up – anyone who has kids will testify that in those first few weeks everything can kind of feel like a bit of a stress and anything that made my life harder not easier got chucked to one side. On my own it’s the last thing I wanted and I’m sure that’s the same even with couples who are together at home for the first few weeks. Eventually I went back to it when monkey was bigger and could support her head more and the hip position (pictured) was OK, but when she was bigger, she was of course heavier and this wasn’t comfortable with the one shoulder style after about 20 minutes of carrying her. This sling costs about £70 and I didn’t think it was worth it at all – don’t bother, get something else in my opinion. I lent it to a friend to see if she’d have more luck when she had her baby and she actually had to wait for me to go round and show her how to use it as she couldn’t work the instructions out either. Neither of us are daft – even with baby brains! I don’t think she used it for long if at all…. I’d give the baba sling 3/10 as it was actually less practical than the Baby Bjorn and not worth the money.

Palm and Pond Mei Tai

Palm and Pond Mei Tai

Mei Tai Sling: I was then recommended trying a Mei Tai style carrier so I ordered a Palm and Pond Mei Tai sling from Amazon. This cost £24.99 and was the best sling up until now. The mei tai is traditional Asian inspired sling and comes in all different kinds based around one general shape. There’s some info here and you can see how to use the sling… http://www.meitaibaby.com/index.html Baby has a natural C shape spinal curve and their weight is on their bum. It has a main panel and 4 long, usually padded ties that go around your waist and over the shoulders. Baby can be carried on the front or back once they can sit up alone. Because I am prone to back ache which is worse with front wearing, I had monkey on my back as soon as she was big enough and this worked perfectly for me for quite a long time. It was great value, comfortable and secure. It’s the style I’d probably go with for front wearing from birth if I decided not to brave the ring sling or woven wrap. With the palm and pond, the only thing I found was that once she got heavier and heavier the ties weren’t padded enough and so they dug into my shoulders. This eventually got uncomfortable so I had to find something different, but had I owned this from birth I’d have got amazing value out of it for the money as I got decent value out of it anyway. It also showed me that what I needed was a waist and chest strap to distribute the weight more evenly. I even managed to sell it on Ebay for £20 so managed to make most of my money back. For those other single parents out there or just parents who generally spend the day alone, I was shown this youtube video for instructions on how to get baby on your back and into the sling with no help – it’s the technique I use to this day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfck0-x7Z3E I used the mei tai all the time and used to walk for at least  45-60 minutes before my back started to ache a bit – but I would consider going for this long about the normal time you should carry a weight for before having a rest. If I can use a carrier for an hour before needing to take baby off then I’m happy. I would give this carrier 8/10 – just because it didn’t quite work for me as baby got heavier – really though, considering the low cost if I’d had it from birth I’d be giving it a 9/10.

Madame GooGoo Full Buckle: Whilst taking my monkey to nursery in the Mei Tai I saw a woman using what looked like a great carrier – it was the mei tai

One of the fabulous Madame GooGoo creations

One of the fabulous Madame GooGoo creations

style but had a full buckle arrangement so a proper waist strap with buckle and a chest strap – kind of like the hiking rucksacks but using the traditional style. It looked amazing and the baby looked super happy and comfortable so I asked the lady where it was from. She told me it was a Madame GooGoo – I had to double check that name with her as it sounded strange and I’d never heard of her. I couldn’t find a website and eventually had to look on Facebook where I found her page. The lady who makes these carriers is called Aga and she operates from Poland. I can’t stress enough how amazing they are. However, after seeing the carrier in person I was hoping to get one pretty quickly as my Palm and Pond was getting uncomfortable. I emailed off and got in touch with Justyna who I think runs all the admin side of it. I explained what I saw the lady wearing and said I really wanted the waist and chest strap as I knew this would give me the back support I needed as I seem to have a fussy back that aches relatively easily and quickly given half a chance. What I found was that Aga makes all the carriers to a specific size, so the main panel is made to be suitable for the size of your baby, and the rest of it is custom fit to your size. They’re adjustable within a range and if you and your partner want to use the same carrier then she can make one that adjusts to fit you both. She does have certain ones in stock but unfortunately none were my waist size so I had to book in for a sew date. BUT this meant I got to choose all my material (there’s some really fabulous materials to choose from too!) and pick everything I wanted in regards to the style. For my 1st carrier I chose a black

Another great design

Another great design

background with brilliant rockets and spaceships and little planet Earths all over it, with a hood which had a rainbow striped material inside it. I had black velvet shoulder straps and waist strap too. I also had extra bum darts and padded sides for extra comfort around monkey’s legs. To have all this custom made for me and monkey plus postage cost me £108 – this can change depending on what you go for design wise and where you are in the world but I think it’s roughly around this price. This was still less than the most expensive Baby Bjorn and I was happy to go for it and pay the money. It’s the best money I ever spent!! It’s the most comfortable carrier and Monkey loves it – she bounces away, falls asleep and basically is such a fan she kicks off if she has to go in the pram now. I can wear the carrier for about 90 minutes by which time I’m ready for a rest anyway. In its current size which was a 15″ back panel I reckon it would have done me from her being about 6-8 months old until now and she’s nearly 2. Admittedly she’s not exactly a huge kid but still. I think the weight limit for a standard carrier would be around 25kg, but Aga also makes pre-school carriers for toddlers if carrying works for you for this long, I suspect their weight limit will be higher due to the larger back panel.

Because Aga is so busy and popular the only downside was that I had to wait a bit for an available ‘sew date’ – although they did slot me in as soon as they could. Whilst I was waiting a friend lent me a Littlelife Explorer rucksack carrier … more on that in a second though. I give the Madame GooGoo carriers a big fat 10/10 – can’t recommend her enough. She also makes the Mei Tai style or anything else you might want, but the full buckle style suits me the most. Find her on Facebook here… http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madame-Googoo-baby-carriers/145687608816099?fref=ts or if you don’t do Facebook you can email her at info@madamegoogoo.com – say you want a carrier and they’ll take you from there.

Little life Explorer Rucksack: Well as I mentioned, whilst waiting for my Madame GooGoo a friend lent me the Littlelife Explorer rucksack – these seem

Littlelife Explorer

Littlelife Explorer

really practical and they have a rain cover, space for stuff underneath, you can attach toys and they seem pretty comfy compared to some. Baby seems to be sat on their bum but very straight so I don’t think you get that C shape curve. For me it hurt my back within about 20 minutes, I think the rucksack is just too heavy on its own without the baby even in it. Also as monkey got heavier it got harder to lift it up safely and put her on my back as you put baby in the carrier before you put it on your back. It does have the waist and chest strap for even weight distribution but like I said, it’s just too heavy. I see a lot of guys with these and I think they just have more upper body strength to deal with them, but not for me. It costs around £100 – due to this I’d give it 6/10 as that’s a steep price to pay if you find it is too uncomfortable to actually use like me – I have a friend who used it regularly though so maybe I’m just a wuss 🙂 So, back to Madame GooGoo and what prompted this post – I recently went out with my monkey to the outdoor playgroup and on the way home I put her on my back and didn’t notice that a shoulder strap was twisted. Now monkey has the tendency to excitedly bounce away on my back when she sees a bus or a lorry or a dog or another baby or ….. you get the picture. This is fine and Madame GooGoo carriers can easily

The design of my lovely new carrier by Madame GooGoo - I had limited choice as I needed one of the ready made ones so I went with something different to my 1st one and had lovely blue caravans to remind me of my wish to travel!

My lovely new carrier by Madame GooGoo – I had limited choice as I needed one of the ready made ones so I went with lovely blue caravans to remind me of my wish to travel!

cope with this but the added pressure on the twisted strap meant that by the time I got home the actual velvet had ripped. I was truly gutted – I now have a kid who hates the pram and no carrier, I also know it would be complete luck if Aga had an in-stock carrier in my size and monkey’s size. I nearly cried as I really didn’t want to wait 2 months for a new carrier plus it was the day before our trip to Carlisle and we had lots of Roman discovery trips planned and a pram wasn’t going to cut it even if I did convince her to go in it. So, two things – first of all a friend very kindly lent me her Ergo Baby carrier that was boxed up as new and waiting for her to give birth. I know how precious the new baby stuff is for your first baby so I was unbelievably grateful to use this in Carlisle (more on the Ergo Baby carrier in a minute). Next I emailed Justyna with a panicked desperate email to see if they could help. Monkey was about a month off me ordering her a new size carrier anyway as she’s grown quite a lot and I wanted one to see us through until she’s properly independently walking at a quicker than snails pace (toddlers have no sense of urgency)! This meant I didn’t mind getting a new one; I was incredibly lucky and there were actually some ready made ones in our size – next up Justyna asked me to send her a picture of the damage to the old carrier as I’d asked if they could fix it. It’s such a beautiful carrier and I want to be able to lend it to friends or sell it on or even use it again myself in the future (you never know). Once she’d seen the damage and verified that I bought the carrier direct from them and not 2nd hand she told me they’d make a new strap and fix the carrier for free and cover all my postage. As you can imagine I’m totally over the moon with this and it just means I’m even more impressed with this lovely lady and her business practice. I think 11/10 is more justified too 🙂

Ergo Baby Carrier Just before I finish I’ll quickly round up with the Ergo Baby carrier-  these come so highly recommended online I was

The Ergo Baby carrier - you can see in the picture that it's quite low down on her back

The Ergo Baby carrier – you can see in the picture that it’s quite low down on her back

actually quite pleased I got the chance to try one out. They are a good carrier and sort of seem similar to the ones Aga makes – the basic model is suitable from birth up to 20kg and can be worn on the front and back. However even though they say they’re suitable up to 20kg I found that when monkey was on my back the carrier only came halfway up her back – looking at pictures on their site this seems kind of standard. What I found was that this means monkey can move about and sway around a lot more. She’s not in danger of falling out or anything but it does mean I was put off balance a lot and this puts extra strain on my back. This led to my back aching quicker than it does with my Madame GooGoo. Also because monkey isn’t quite as secure she won’t sleep in the carrier, whereas with Aga’s carriers the panel goes right up to her neck and the hood provides neck support (if you go with a no hood design you can have an added curve at the top just for neck support) – I think this makes monkey feel more stable so she goes to sleep really easily in the Madame GooGoo carrier. The Ergo baby carrier costs between £70 and £160 depending on the style you go for – I have other friends who use it and from what I gather it’s a great baby carrier from newborn when you’re carrying baby on your front, especially when they compared it to the Baby Bjorn. However for me it just didn’t match up to the quality of Aga’s wonderful creations, it can cost more and you don’t get the awesome individuality that comes with all the choices of fabric you get with Madame GooGoo carriers. I’d give the Ergo Carrier 7/10. Good for wee ones, not so good for toddlers.  My friends may disagree with this but their babies are still wee, I reckon once they get bigger they might have the same issues I did with it.

IMG_0985

Sorry about the poor quality image – it’s quite hard to take a back selfie in the mirror!

Conclusion: You may be wondering why on earth someone would try as many carriers as this – why not just give up and stick with a pram? I’ve been wondering this myself as I write this and actually see how many carriers I’ve used. However, there’s something special about carrying your baby about, it creates a great bond and closeness you just don’t get with a pram. Also it genuinely is so much easier (especially if you live in a block of flats, or a big city, or anywhere with steps) to just get them in the carrier and leave. In Glasgow it rains a lot – monkey hates the rain cover and I also get wet, usually the wind blows my hood down and I don’t like losing my peripheral vision so this means with the pram we both get wet. Using a carrier, means I use a big umbrella and we both stay nice and dry. It also means we can easily go to places with stairs (hidden gem restaurants that always seem to be in a basement). We can go to a museum and now she’s running round I can just run with her rather than trundle after her with the cumbersome pushchair. Buses, subway systems and any transport is loads easier too. The only thing I use the pram for now is if I go to the supermarket with her as it’s good to stash heavy stuff under, but I try and do those trips when she’s at nursery to be honest! If travelling about I’m guessing baby carriers are the way forward. Madame GooGoo carriers would be perfect – comfy for parents and babies and they can be stored in a bag when not in use (unlike the hiking carrier style). You may also wonder what I would do if I had all this knowledge right at the start… I think, (because I hate to be beaten) I would possibly try and master the woven/stretchy wrap to start with. But be warned , if you go this route it WILL take time and patience. It will be worth practising around the house to start with, only when baby is in a calm mood. Then when you’re a seasoned user, venture outside. I’d then get the woven wrap converted into a Madame GooGoo full buckle carrier  as this is a service she offers. If I didn’t go that route I would get a Madame GooGoo normal mei tai at the start (she also makes these – the woman is a genius I promise) then get the full buckle style when baby is big enough for back wearing. I’m not sure I’d bother with a pram next time as I never use it anymore! I really hope this has been useful to people anyway and happy baby wearing!!