Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wearing Baby

Warning: This turned into a rather lengthy post. If you don't care about baby carriers, then move along. I'll be back again soon...

I'll be honest. The whole concept of "babywearing" didn't seem like it would be a good fit for me. The term really made me think of two things.

  1. A George Carlin bit where he talks about his grievance with parents who "wear" their babies saying, among other things, "It's not camping equipment, it's a baby."
  2. And this:


But then Scout arrived, and there were days that she did.not.want.to.be.put.down. And I discovered that it was basically impossible to do anything (eat, cook, garden, laundry, sew, knit, read) without free hands. The interwebs are full of people who are seriously passionate about baby wearing, and they have a jargon all their own. I barely touched the surface in my research, and was, frankly, a little intimidated. I think that if we lived in an urban area where we used public transportation or could walk more places, a baby carrier would be much more useful. But we drive most everywhere we go (the mall, the grocery, etc.). Hangs head in shame. Despite my hesitations, I gave in to using a baby carrier and discovered that if I carried Scout two things would happen: (1) she would almost always immediately fall asleep and actually take a nap (for hours) and (2) I could get so much done. I could eat, wash dishes, do laundry, sew, knit, and on and on. The proverbial light bulb turned on. So, in the interest of consumer science, I give you my review...

The Moby.

The Moby Wrap is uber popular on the interwebs and around town. It's essentially 5 yards of high quality jersey (knit) fabric that's been serged around the edges. That's all there is to it. You take the 5 yards of fabric, do a little origami, and then slip the baby between you and the fabric. Sounds easy? Well, I found wrangling 5 yards of fabric to be tricky. In fact, I washed it and could barely get it folded back up let alone properly wrapped. I had given up on it quickly after Scout was born. But then I saw my cousin's wife carrying their baby and they both looked so comfy and he was cozy as could be. So I gave it another shot. It took online videos to even begin to figure it out.

Here we are in the bathroom mirror. Please ignore the toothpaste splatter.

I was able to get Scout loaded. Barely. But I'm still not sure I did it right. Here's the thing, you need to get the proper tension on the wrap. If it's too tight, there won't be enough room to slip her in. If it's not tight enough, she won't be secure. I couldn't get that part right, and therefore I never felt comfortable being hands-free. The deal with this is that if I wanted to carry her around the mall or the grocery store, I would need to wrap myself up in the Moby at home and then slip her in once I arrived at my destination. I can't imagine wrangling that much fabric in a parking lot.

Bottom line: It's so confusing to me and just not a good, practical fit. I'll be finding a new home for the Moby. It should be said that the issue here is 100% operator error.

The Ergo.

This is a soft-structured baby carrier (as opposed to a structured or frame carrier that looks more like camping equipment). It's ergonomically designed and allows the wearer to wear the baby facing forward on the front or on the back. It buckles, rather than wraps and ties, and it's fairly easy to get on and off once you make the initial adjustments. For newborns, you are supposed to use their special infant insert. The first time I used it was when Scout was just a few weeks old. She was comfy in it, and I was able to plant our garden while "wearing" her. The Ergo also has a sun hood that snaps onto the shoulder straps to protect baby's head from the sun, and to provide added support if baby is sleeping. But it was so hot even on a mild day, and the infant insert deal only made it hotter and a bit cumbersome. So I put it away.

Ergo Front 03
The front. The sun/ sleeping hood snaps to the shoulder straps and folds into a pocket when not in use.
You can also see the front zippered pocket.

Ergo Back 01
The back. There's nothing between you and the baby. The baby just rests between the gray fabric and your body.

Ergp Infant Insert

The puffy infant insert/ coccoon.

But I tried it again one fussy evening. She immediately fell asleep cozy as could be. And I could have easily worn it for hours and done just about any task.

Seriously. I need to clean the mirrors in my house.

But babies are little furnaces, and we were both sweaty messes when I took it off. This is the Original Ergo and it's made from high quality, stiff canvas, which is great for strength and durability. The Performance, Sport, and Organic models are made with different fabrics which they claim to be more breathable and/or softer. They also have an "Options" model that comes with different fabrics that can be added to the outside. In retrospect, I think it was the postnatal haze that convinced me to order this version with the embroidered stars and all. I would probably pick a different fabric if I reordered today. I would probably spring for this one. Or this one.

Bottom line: It's super comfortable for both baby and mom, but it's a bit bulky and stiff (due to that canvas). The Ergo also has a pocket on the front that would be good for carrying keys or a small wallet. Overall, I really like it, and think it's easy to use, at least in a front carry (Scout's still a little floppy to be strapping her to my back) and it's very, very comfortable. I'm wondering if I would like it even more in a different fabric.

The Beco.

This is really similar to the Ergo. Aestethically, I think it's superior to the Ergo because it comes in lots of fabric choices. The Beco has 2 major styles: the Butterfly and the Gemini. The Butterfly is very similar to the Ergo with a few distinctions. The Gemini, which I didn't buy, includes the option of carrying baby facing forward (like a Baby Bjorn only in a more comfortable position for the baby). When I bought the Ergo based on the glowing reviews online, I almost bought the Beco because it came in pretty colors and patterns. (This probably says a lot about me.) But after sweating in the Ergo for a week or two, I decided to give the Beco a chance.

Beco Butterfly 2 Front 02

In case you are wondering, this is the 'Niko' design.

First, I love the design of the Beco. The Beco, like the Ergo, also comes with a snap-on sun hood. But unlike the Ergo sun hood that slides into a built-in front pocket, the Beco's sun hood detaches completely and slips into a pocket on the belt. The Beco doesn't include a front pocket for keys or wallet.

I think I'm wearing her a bit high in this picture, but I assure you, she is comfortable. I'm still getting the kinks worked out...
But the key difference between the Ergo and the Beco... The Beco has a piece of fabric between you and the baby.

Beco Butterfly 2 Back 01

Beco Butterfly 2 Back 02

Essentially this means, you can preload the baby and then slip the carrier on. The advantage to this is that it would be much much easier to put the baby on your back. I'm not ready to wear Scout on my back (floppy).

Beco Butterfly 2 Baby loaded 01

Scout's all ready to hop aboard.

But with the Ergo, I would definitely need help (or to grow an extra arm) to get the baby on my back. This design also allows for the carrier to be switched from one person to another without disturbing a sleeping baby. Overall, it feels cooler to wear. I mean, you're still wearing a little baby furnace attached to you, but a bit less bulk and softer fabric seems to help.

I carried Scout around the fabric store last weekend using this. The women working were super curious and impressed. I quickly and easily slipped Scout into the carrier in the parking lot. She promptly fell asleep, and snoozed through the store and multiple people commented on how comfortable she was and how secure she looked.

Bottom line: Really my only complaint is that there is no pocket. It's really not a huge deal. I think the Beco is a bit more comfortable for someone who is short-waisted like me, and it's very easy to get baby in. You can either put the carrier on and then the baby or you can put the baby in the carrier and then put it on. Another advantage of the Beco is that there is no need to purchase a separate newborn insert as it comes standard. Ultimately, the Beco is more comfortable for me, the fabric is softer, and it seems a bit less bulky. That being said, I haven't worn it for extended periods of time, but it seems to be just as comfortable as the Ergo.

I'd like to try the Beco Gemini (because I'm wondering about wearing her facing out at some point), a different style of Ergo, or even other brands to complete my review and determine which of these are worth their price tag (...like Olives & Applesauce, Boba, Pikkolo, Babyhawk Oh Snap). But honestly, I think I've probably hit my limit on baby carriers, at least from a financial perspective. I could be convinced otherwise. And should I have the opportunity to try any other varieties, I will certainly report back. For now, I think both the Ergo and the Beco will get regular use around here. I think Rykert would like the Ergo in the fall when it cools off a bit.

The Bottom Bottom Line

I would completely recommend that any new mom find some kind of babywearing apparatus. Like I said, these babywearers are a passionate bunch and information abounds on the interwebs. There are tons of different varieties available though the jargon is a bit intimidating. Slings, wraps, soft structured carriers, mei tais, "crotch danglers," and on and on. These carriers were not cheap, but after doing some research and looking at a lot of reviews and prices online, I think you definitely get what you pay for. This thing is going to be holding your most prized possession, it's not the time to cut corners on quality. I was able to get the Ergo for a crazy good price thanks to a diapers.com discount and rebate. But because I had to have this particular pattern, I paid full price for the Beco. Though it did include free shipping via pony express. Understandably, not all babies are keen on being held this way and it may not be comfortable for everyone. Scout could decide at any moment that she's done with this business and scream anytime we we pull one of these out.

But how do I schlep all of the baby stuff?

The one question that remains is this... If you are carrying your baby like this, you are presumably not also pushing a stroller. So what do you do with all your stuff? Carrying a diaper bag and carrying baby in a carrier would make me look very sherpa-esque. The Ergo company markets a changing pad purse type thing and a clip on bag. Otherwise, at least for us, I don't think the carriers replace the need for a stroller to go out for extended periods of time. They just provide an extra way to tote baby in and out of the house in comfort.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Update:  I had the chance to review the Ergo Sport.  Please read the details here.

4 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

RadioactiveUnicorn said...

This is great, thanks for posting it!

Webbies said...

I liked the Hotslings and actually ended up getting one in a larger size in a gender appropriate fabric for my husband as well so that he could enjoy babywearing for our girls. I was the most comfortable with these for the delicate baby phase (if you check out the instructions on the www.hotslings.com you can see the cradle carry), but also used the hip carry as the girls got larger. Our "go to" for ease of use has been a Baby Bjorn (sporty edition that has a more breathable material). We also have the Kelty carrier now for hiking and more outdoorsy activities with toddlers that has a sun shade. I am all for baby carriers.

And as for the MOBY? I bought into the hoopla of all of the reviews and such (who writes those anyways)...found it to be totally unwieldy and returned the thing!

BTW, there is babywearing forum on yahoo that is des moines babywearing group where people locally actually discuss different carriers and such. And every now and then, they meet up and bring all sorts of different carriers and let people try them and teach babywearing techniques. I know you are not exactly "in the area", but it may be of interest to you. Also, they sometimes sell gently used items to each other.

L said...

@RadioactiveUnicorn - I can't wait to see pictures of you carrying Audrey in the near future.

@Webbies - Thanks for the information. I really wish there was a place around here where you could try these things on before you purchased, but I don't know of any. Perhaps a group like that would be great!

Anonymous said...

As a crazy passionate babywearer...what do you do with all the crap you have to bring? Bring less. 90% of the time, I dont take a diaper bag into the store...heck 60% of the time I am likely to forget diapers...especially since I'm on baby #3! I would only carry what I truly needed into the store. 1 diaper, a small pack of wipes, and a paci. When you are are going to be in somewhere awhile...bring the bag. I prefer messenger style bags but if you are only carrying the baby on the front a backpack will be fine.

I promise when you breeze by all those people who have to leave their stroller outside of a place you will feel justified...even if you do look sherpa-ish.

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