The third baby is the hand-me-down kid, which I know well as the youngest of three sisters and the mom of three daughters. When the littlest in our line-up arrived in September, we had all of the baby goods we needed from strollers to swings, and bins of clothes for every size and season. But the one thing on my wish list was a new baby carrier. With a newborn joining us for daily jaunts to the bus stop and errands galore, it would be great to ditch the stroller and go hands-free as much as possible.
I tried babywearing with my older girls, but my experiences weren’t the best. Our old-school front-style carrier was quite literally a pain in the neck and back, too. I registered for a sling, but never got the hang of it which was probably a good thing as it was recalled in 2010. Though intrigued by the convenience of babywearing, I was also a bit skittish about actually buying one. My recon missions on the web were overwhelming—the market is saturated with different styles of carriers and a good one is pricy (generally over $100). I wanted to be sure I was going to love (and use) the carrier I picked and it wouldn’t end up in a Goodwill pile in a few months.
Enter Soft and Cozy Baby, the Hampden mainstay for all things baby related, including babywearing (and cloth diapering, but I’ll let someone else tackle that one!). Staff member Melinda Brussard walked me through the various types of carriers in the hopes of finding the one that was just right. After nearly two hours (and a few snack breaks for Bea), I felt well initiated into the world of babywearing.
The first in the line-up was a gorgeous and absurdly soft Sakura Bloom ring sling. Made from luscious Irish linen in vibrant colors, this sling could easily pass for a swank accessory for mom (infinity scarf, anyone?). But I was still a bit apprehensive. When wearing a sling in the past, I was afraid that the fabric would shift and the baby would slip out. I worried that a sling wasn’t supportive enough for my back or my snoozing babe. Turns out I was wrong on all counts. Bea snuggled up froggy-style on my chest and stayed asleep through the transition from stroller to sling. It was easy to adjust the two rails (insider speak for the sides of the sling) and Bea felt secure on my chest with no back pain. I loved the portability, and I can’t say enough about that insanely soft Irish linen. Ultimately, I decided against the sling because I wanted a carrier that both my husband and I would feel comfortable wearing, though I haven’t ruled out asking Cupid to please send one of these my way in a few weeks.
Next, we moved on to a traditional Asian style mei tei carrier that can be used as front or back carrier. The FreeHand Mei Tai has long straps that tie around the waist and shoulders with no buckles, making it easy to customize to your size. I loved the fabrics and the price (well under $100), but I felt a bit like Houdini tying and untying the knots. Also, the weight goes up to 35 pounds which is fine for most babies, but possibly a challenge for my big girl who was pushing 15 pounds before her 2-month appointment.
The Boba and Ergo (pictured above) are the leaders of the pack amongst soft carriers. Friends rave about the Ergo, and rightfully so as the cushy straps are super comfy and the added touches like the nap hood and front key pouch are convenient. The extra accessories are pretty cool, too, especially the cocoon-like blanket that snaps over carrier and baby. The Boba is newer to the scene, but has a similar band of devotees. The many pluses include the extra length in the body to better support the baby’s head and the foot straps to provide leg support as your child grows. The Boba can be adjusted easily for infants so there are no extra inserts required, and comes in the most fun patterns (hello, bright and colorful Kangaroo print – pictured below!).
I brought home the Boba and the Ergo for a weeklong test in the real world. Would my back survive walks to the bus stop? Check. Would Bea chill out in the carrier during the post-work and pre-dinner shenanigans involving homework, dinner prep, and endless snack requests? Check. Could I quickly maneuver her out of her car seat and into the carrier while navigating the dreaded Trader Joe’s parking lot? Why, yes, even that was a success. But there were some challenges. Fumbling around with the back shoulder strap took some practice. Good placement of this strap is key—too high, and you carry the baby’s weight in your neck.
But here’s the strange part—though I really liked both carriers, at the end of the week I wasn’t swooning over either. When I returned to the store, Melinda adjusted the straps for me and we tried them out again. I was ready to concede that one had to be good enough until staff suggested I try the Beco Gemini. It was heavenly, thanks mainly to the straps that can cross over in the back. It has the higher length like the Boba and cushy straps like the Ergo, making it the perfect compromise. The only downside is there’s no pouch for storing keys or a phone, but that’s why we have pockets, right?
I think the most important thing I learned during my weeklong adventure in babywearing is that not every carrier works for every mom…or baby. So, what worked for me and Bea may not be the best solution for everyone. But the good news is that the staff members at Soft and Cozy Baby have extra reserves of patience to answer questions, offer opinions, and make sure that all of your straps are adjusted right to create your optimum babywearing experience.
(cool) tip: Many of the soft carrier companies offer mini carriers for pint-sized siblings to tote around their beloved baby doll (or, in our house, stuffed Elmo) in a carrier just like mom does. Soft and Cozy carries these, too, and they are simply adorable.Editor’s Note: Many many thanks to the staff at Soft and Cozy Baby for their help with this article! Thinking about babywearing? Stop by Soft and Cozy Baby on the Avenue in Hampden for a consult. They’ll help you find the one that’s perfect for you!