“Babywearing” is a word that does not usually feature in the vocabulary of people without small children. Initially it sounds ridiculous, and conjures up images of babies as fashion items, but the imagery quickly wears off and it’s just another word in the rapidly acquired language of parents (see also: poonami).
I’ve already written about our ring sling, but the chief babywearing equipment in our household is definitely our Ergobaby carrier. This fits into the soft structured carrier category, meaning that it has no frame (so it’s less bulky than those heavy-duty outdoorsy ones), but does have adjustable straps and buckles (the “structured” part).
I did quite a bit of online research before buying our carrier, but minimal real life research. Most babywearing experts will tell you to go to a slingmeet so you can try before you buy. Personally, I think that’s great advice if there’s a convenient slingmeet in your area… But convenience is something that takes on a new meaning once you have a real, live, squirmy baby on your hands. If it works for you, definitely hit one up; people have different preferences and that’s why slingmeets are a thing. But if it doesn’t suit, read a few reviews and go with your gut.
My main source of information was the Consumer report on baby carriers, which I read before the Little Monkey was born. I looked at the ratings and the two that came out on top were the Manduca and the Ergo. I had already worn a Manduca to carry my nephew, and found it fine, but the report suggested that the Manduca may not be as comfortable for taller people (like my husband). So we went with the Ergo.
Original Ergobaby Carrier
Value for money
The Ergobaby original is a well-designed and comfortable soft-structured baby carrier with a convenient pocket. It can be used for front, side and back carrying, and can be used from birth, but for little babies the optional and slightly awkward infant insert is needed.
The carrier is pretty easy to use, though it can take a wee while to get the hang of wrangling squirmy limbs and buckles. For a front carry you do up the big clip around the waist, perch the baby in front, then do up the strap across the shoulders and tighten everything up. It gets a bit more complicated for small babies (up to about four months, depending on the size and strength of your baby) as you need a separate infant insert, which isn’t totally intuitive. And back carrying is possible, though as with any non-framed carrier you have to work out a way to get the child onto your back safely (totally doable… Just awkward at first).
Instructional videos make learning to use the Ergo easy – the Ergobaby channel is pretty comprehensive, and beats reading the instruction manual (though I am the person who reads all that stuff anyway. Why? I don’t really know. Maybe one day I’ll win some kind of golden ticket for it).
It’s very comfortable once you have it adjusted correctly. Comfort can differ from person to person, but if you don’t find it comfy check the fit before giving up. Again, online videos are helpful for this, and the NZ Babywearing Marketplace Facebook discussion group is great for tips and advice.
Want to know what I think the standout feature is? The pocket. I didn’t think it’d be that handy to begin with, but it really is. It’s big enough for a mini pack of wipes, a disposable nappy, a hat, baby sunnies, and my phone and keys. Which means that for short outings I am happy to risk leaving the house without a nappy bag. And that is pretty awesome. Ah, the [illusion of] freedom!
It also has a hood, which is pretty useful for helping alert babies go to sleep. The Night Owl currently sleeps through two playgroups a week in ours, and blocking out the sight of the big kids is a required step in getting her to drift off.
Downsides: the infant insert is my biggest grizzle. It’s not very intuitive to use, and though I watched all the how-to videos, and know I had it right, it still always seemed a bit odd. Also, as an unattached accessory, it’s pretty easy to drop. Ours has landed in the gutter more times than I can count, and we lost the first one altogether when I left it on top of the car and drove away. This resulted in much angst, an abandoned outing and desperate sourcing of an alternative one. Not ideal. Parenting devices should all be foolproof, given that we are likely to be operating them in a desperate, sleep-deprived haze.
Not specific to this carrier, but if you wear your baby while eating they will likely get covered in food. Or maybe that’s just me… But I do now strategise my food selection if I am babywearing and dining simultaneously. Takeaway coffee cups for the win!
Carriers do tend to come with a solid price tag, but I think it’s well worth the money (though as always I recommend waiting for a sale if you can). How useful a baby carrier is to you will depend on your lifestyle, but for us it’s an essential, and the Ergo suits our family very well. I use ours most days, sometimes multiple times. Our stroller, though great, can sit unused for weeks at a time — so on a cost-per-use basis this wins by a long shot.
Awesome or Average: Awesome
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