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A couple decades ago, as the oldest child in a family with several younger kids, I thought carriers were for lazy people who didn’t want to hold their babies. I could have held my younger siblings all day long without complaint (and I did, as evidenced by my enormous biceps for my miniscule frame). However, many years later when I had my first child, I realized that being a big sister with no real responsibilities was quite a bit different from being a mother who had to juggle the thousands of small tasks that go unseen in addition to caring for a brand new person.
During my first pregnancy, I received a Baby Bjorn as a gift and a 30 year old hand-me-down Snugli from my mother-in-law, both of which I used on occasion with great success. However, it never occurred to me to use them on a daily basis during the newborn period. However, after reading Dr. Sear’s book on attachment parenting, I decided to give baby wearing a real shot when my son was about 3 months old. After much research and reading of online reviews, I ordered an Ergo Carrier and my life was changed. All of a sudden I could go anywhere, anytime. Once I figured out how to get him on my back at about 7 months, I could do practically anything. Even after I had another child, when my 30 pound two and a half year old firstborn was tired or having a rough day, into the Ergo he went for some mother-son bonding time. Somehow even after a long tiring day filled with whininess (his) and impatience (mine), as soon as he was in the carrier where I could lay my cheek on his head and smell his hair, I was filled with a sense of nurturing, peace, and calm. I couldn’t live without my Ergo.
By the time I became pregnant again with my second child, I was completely carrier obsessed. You’d think having done so well with my Ergo purchase, I would consider myself good to go, but there were two problems. First, the Ergo requires a special infant insert to use with children under 4 months which I didn’t have. Second, I’d gone a little crazy researching carriers and decided I needed to try several others to really know which one was the best. Fortunately, I have a very tolerant and patient husband, who makes enough money to indulge my crazy ideas despite not understanding them. I acquired a Beco carrier and a Moby Wrap as (requested) gifts at my baby shower. I made my own non-stretchy woven wrap, and then I bought a Maya wrap ring sling off ebay as an early Mother’s Day present to myself. I also decided a Mei Tai Kozy Carrier would be a great “emergency” carrier to leave in the car, so I bought that one as well.
The result of this second child carrier experiment was that I was completely in love with the Moby Wrap which I wore practically every day of my daughter’s first 6 months of life. After 6 months, despite all the other carriers I had purchased, I went back to my Ergo as my go-to carrier. By the time my third child came around, still not satisfied, I decided there might exist improvements to my favorite carriers (the Moby and Ergo), so I bought a K’Tan which is very Moby-like, but easier to put on, and a Boba 4G, which is very Ergo-like, but has extra features like an insert for smaller babies and footstraps.
What have a I learned from my carrier obsession?
- There’s no such thing as a perfect carrier. There are lots of really great carriers out there. However is there one carrier than I can use comfortably from birth through 3 years old, that I can nurse discreetly in, that is easy to get the baby in and out of, is easily transported when not in use, and can be used for multiple types of carries? Not that I’ve found. There are some carriers which are ideal for newborns, some that are best-suited for big kids, and some that are great for the in-between stages. Some are comfortable, but hard to put on. Others are easy to put on, but are either not entirely comfortable or are hard to nurse in. That’s why I love having so many carriers. In my experience, there is a perfect carrier for every situation, it’s just not always the same one. (Thankfully, I could definitely get by with 2.)
- Different kids have different preferences. In addition to there not being a “perfect” carrier, it’s important to recognize that some kids like carriers more than other kids and that each individual kid may have carriers which they like and dislike. There’s no such thing as a magic bullet carrier for a newborn/6 month old/2 year old/etc. that a child of that age is guaranteed to like. Just as kids like to be held different ways in one’s arms (inward/outward, legs tucked in/legs out, upright/lying down, etc.) they like to be held different ways by different carriers. My second child got stressed out whenever I faced her outward, while that seems to be my current 4 month old’s favorite position.
- Any carrier is a good carrier. Despite the fact that no carrier is perfect and kids have different preferences, what I’ve also learned is that I can make basically any carrier work if necessary. The older a child gets, the more accepting they are of multiple different carries and types of carriers. However, even in the newborn stage, I never gave up on a carrier just because my babies expressed a strong dislike of being in that carrier once or twice (or more). I kept trying and eventually he or she would always learn to tolerate the carrier for at least a short period of time. Being able to rely on a carrier from time to time was so important to me that I basically would not take no as an answer and if I was only able to have one carrier, I would do whatever I could to make it work for us.
- For nursing mothers, being able to breastfeed in a carrier will make you a superhero. The younger a child is, unfortunately, the less likely this is to work in every circumstance. For example, there were times when my newborns would decide to scream their heads off while we were in the checkout line at the grocery store and there would be absolutely nothing I could do about it. However, generally speaking, if I’m able to nurse in a carrier, I feel like there isn’t anything I can’t handle. Grocery shop with a 4 month old, 2 year old, and 4 year old? No problem. The 4 year old walks or hangs on to the edge of the cart, the 2 year old sits in the cart, and the baby goes in a carrier. Baby starts to melt down? No problem. Latch him on, toss a swaddle blanket over him, and we’re good to go. Take away my carrier and ask me to grocery shop? Ha ha ha ha ha.
As you’ll see on my Best Baby Carriers page, if I could only have 2 baby carriers to last me from birth through toddlerhood, personally I would choose the Moby or K’Tan and Boba 4G or Ergo. If I was only able to pick one carrier to last me for all ages, I would chose the Beco Gemini. If I had an extremely limited budget, I would make a stretchy wrap for about $20. However, these choices would obviously not be ideal for everyone. Feel free to read my review of each type of carrier to see my personal opinion of the pros and cons of each.
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