Soft Structured Carriers (SSC) or Buckle Carriers are the most common type of babywearing carrier and the type that is the most diverse. If a friend tells you that a specific carrier is “the best” it doesn’t necessarily mean that this carrier will also fit you and your baby. With so many good companies out there selling great Soft Structured Carriers it is not easy to choose the one that is best for you and your baby. And apart from all the great functions those carriers come with you may also want to consider the looks.
I started relatively late using a Soft Structured Carrier, my daughter was already 8 months old by the time I tried one from my local library. I also had friends suggesting carriers that they have liked and after trying different carriers found one which works best for my husband and myself.
What is a Soft Structured Carrier?
A Soft Structured Carrier always has the following features:
- Padded waistband with a buckle (or sometimes velcro and a buckle)
- Padded shoulder straps (some with a buckle for crossing the straps)
- Back panel (often comes with a hood)
- Chest clip (to hold shoulder straps in place)
- Wide seat which supports baby from knee to knee
But Soft Structured Carriers also have other features that sets them apart from others:
- Some are made from a woven fabric, which makes them very soft and pliable
- Some let you cross the shoulder straps for a better weight distribution
- Some have an additional lumbar support
- Some let you carry baby outward facing (away from your body)
- Some let you adjust the back panel so that it will fit from newborn until toddler
- Some will need an infant insert
Which Soft Structured Carrier is best?
The carrier that is best for you and your baby is the one that fits you both best. In order to find out which carrier you should buy, I highly recommend finding a Babywearing Library or a Consultant near you so that you can try on different carriers.
Or perhaps you have some friends with different carriers. Ask if you can try them (preferably friends with a similar body type as yourself).
When trying on a carrier you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Where are the clips for the shoulder straps positioned? Can I easily reach them?
- Are there any hard parts under my arm pits or at my breasts?
- Can I cross the shoulder straps? (This will distribute the weight much better.)
- How is the padding of the waistband and shoulder straps?
- Does the carrier fit my baby now and how long will it fit my baby?
Which Soft Structured Carrier is easiest to put on?
This depends very much on your own body type. Carriers that are easiest to put on by yourself will have their clips in positions where they can be easily reached.
If there are clips on the shoulder straps for crossing the shoulder straps on your back, it is helpful if the clips are very close to the back panel (under your arms or even right next to your breasts) which means they will be easily reachable. This also ensures that tightening those straps will be easy as well.
For the chest clip it is very helpful if both or at least one of the straps can be made quite long for clipping behind your head. Once the chest clip is clicked it can then be tightened. You should also look for a chest clip that can be moved high up or low down without any trouble.
I personally find Velcro for the waistband quite annoying, as I like to readjust my waistband as needed, which is hard to do with Velcro. But others may not have a problem with this.
Can I put a newborn in a Soft Structured Carrier?
YES and NO!
This depends on the Soft Structured Carrier you own. There are more and more carriers out there now which can be adjusted and used from newborn right through to toddler age. Some, but not all of those carriers are: Tula Free To Grow, Boba X, Soul AnoonA and Soul AseemA.
There are also a number of carriers, which can be used from newborn if a special infant insert is being used: Ergobaby, Boba 4GS, Tula Standard and Manduca.
Is a forward facing carrier bad for my baby?
No, in general it is not bad for your baby.
However, there are a few points you should be aware of when carrying forward facing:
- Make sure you use a carrier that is designed for forward facing such as Lillebaby or Ergo 360 (check the instructions for the carrier)
- Your baby should have good head control (around the age of 4 months)
- Try to wear baby forward facing only for short amounts of time (otherwise it may get overstimulated)
- Check on your baby regularly (it is harder to see your baby when forward facing, so you need to check on your baby more often to see if she gets tired or hungry)
- Make sure you protect your back and stop carrying your baby when it gets too heavy (when forward facing your baby is out of line with your centre of gravity, therefore it will be harder on your back)
Why should you choose a Soft Structured Carrier?
- Easy to use for first time babywearers
- Easy to adjust through straps
- Baby can be put in and out of carrier quickly
- Can be used for front carries, hip carries and back carries
- Distributes babies’ weight ergonomically (in particular if shoulder straps can be crossed)
- Lots of different options can be overwhelming
- Needs to be adjusted between different caregivers
- Often quite bulky
- Not every carrier fits every person (it is best to try different carriers before buying)
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