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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

SortaCrunchy Q&A #3 - Choosing a baby carrier

I need more coffee, ya'll. Or more sleep. Somethin. I am so sluggish these days! I feel awful that I am not making my bloggy rounds to see what everyone is up to this fine week. I am just plum worn out. I hope to be up for more socializing very soon . . .

In the meantime, my next SortaCrunchy question is from Elle of A Complete Thought. (VERY insightful and informative writer, by the way. I highly suggest you check her out!) She asks, "I was a baby wearer as well. I loved the soothing aspect for both mama and baby. What benefits would you discuss with a new mama debating whether to Bjorn or sling?"

It's funny, just this very morning at playgroup day at the gym, a mama asked me this question!

Let me start by saying that babywearing is one of those practices that I was sorta forced into by my lovely high needs oldest daughter. She just would not lay in that stinkin' infant car seat (we call it the bucket) while I grocery shopped, and it all it took was one trip through the aisles with her precariously clutched against my chest with one hand while I dragged the cart with the other for me to decide I had to find a better solution. I had registered for a Bjorn, but never received one. I'm a (wo)man of means by no means, so I had to settle for a cheaper knock-off. It worked okay . . . for about a month. Then my shoulders started to ache within fifteen minutes of wearing Jabba the Baby (D weighed fourteen and a half pounds at two months and eighteen pounds at four months!), and by the time I had made my rounds through the grocery store, I would be close to tears.

Again, I knew I had to find a better solution. By sheer chance miracle, I saw a post on my mommy message board about Lucky Baby pouch slings. By this time, D was five months old and could easily ride on my hip, so I ordered one, and my love for babywearing began!

To get back to Elle's question, the biggest benefit, in my opinion, to choosing a non-structured carrier instead of a Bjorn-style carrier is that you will be lucky to get six months of wear out of a Bjorn. A non-structured carrier (pouch sling, mei tai, wrap, ring sling, or soft structured carrier) will take you well into toddlerhood. I was wearing D in our Ergo right up until I got pregnant with AJ. Certainly, any new mama may want to choose the more mainstream and widely available Bjorn and it will work fine while the baby is little. But if she is already planning to spend close to $100 on a carrier (or someone is buying one for her), I highly recommend researching non-structured carriers as an alternative.

(Side note - there are some concerns about structured carriers having some negative impacts on a baby's development or possibly contributing to hip dysplasia, but this would generally only happen if baby were worn for hours on end for several months in such a carrier. Interestingly, there is evidence that a non-structured carrier will contribute positively to a baby's developing spine as is evidenced by this article.)

My personal recommendations, you ask? I will tell you my two very, very favorites are the above-mentioned Ergo and our Mei Tai Baby. Neither of my girls have liked be worn in the cradle carry which is a popular way to wear newborns in a pouch (like Lucky Baby or Hotsling) or ring sling (like Maya Wrap or Taylor Made). Both the Ergo and Mei Tai Baby allow me to wear them upright which is the three of us seem to prefer. I prefer the Mei Tai Baby over the many other makers of mei tai carriers because 1)it has the adjustable bottom which makes it easier to wear newborns and 2) you have the option of ordering one with removable panels so when you tire of the print, you can switch the panel out for a totally new look! So, those are my favorites, but there is great big (overwhelming) world of choices out there.

Again, returning to Elle's question, here's what I would advise a friend who is looking into buying a carrier and wants to go a different route from a Bjorn. (JB and KM, this is for you!)

1) Register for an account at Once you have registered there, you have access to the plethora of carrier listings and reviews. HUGE help.

2) Sign up for a Paypal account. If you decide to buy a brand new carrier and want to shop from a parent-owned business, there are some who can only accept payments from credit cards through Paypal. You can link your Paypal account to your checking account as well which works out nicely if you are paying cash for your new carrier.

If you decide you want to buy a used carrier, you will most likely need a Paypal account to pay the seller. More on that in a second.

3) Start browsing stores that sell carriers. There are many. Many. Many. Attached to Baby is a great resource. Fox Den Lane is another good one. Then there's Mamas Milk.

Readers - where do you like to shop for carriers? Who would you suggest?

Browsing these stores will give you a good idea of what style of carrier you might like and how much they run brand new. If you are buying new, then you may just find the carrier of your dreams while you are window shopping one day!

4) I have only purchased a few of our slings brand new. I am a bargain hunter and hate to pay retail when I can find it for less somewhere. Two places you can shop for gently used slings are Ebay and the For Sale or Trade Forum at thebabywearer. Ebay - ehhhh. I am not a good Ebay shopper and never seem to get quite as good of a deal as I think I am going to. If you are a good Ebayer, maybe you will have more luck than I have had. I prefer the FSOT forum.

5) If you are shopping the FSOT forum, it may be intimidating at first because most every listing will use abbreviations. What you can do is use the "search forum" feature to search only for the specific carrier you are looking for (for example, do a search in that forum for "hotsling").

If you are going to buy from FSOT, make sure to read through the stickied post called "FSOT rules and helpful hints."

Speaking of abbreviating, I should wrap this up. (Get it? Wrap?)

Here's a neat blog I just stumbled across as I was preparing this post - will have to check it out: The Baby Carrier

Would love to hear from anyone who wants to share their babywearing favorites! I am always up for some babywearing chit-chat!