One of the reasons, why I am so passionate about volunteering at my local babywearing library (Babywearing Nelson) is that a babywearing library gives everyone the opportunity to try different carriers.
Especially in New Zealand there are not many walk-in stores which sell a wide range of carriers. So even, if you do have a store close by, they may only be able to have a small number of carriers available to try.
I personally started using a soft structured carrier (buckle carrier) quite late, when my daughter was about 8 months old already. Other carriers had worked fine for us so far, but we were about to head to Europe to visit our families in Germany and wanted to take a “easy to use” carrier with us, that even the grandparents could use if they wanted to. I was so glad we were able to try various carriers at the library and hire one of them for our overseas trip (check out this post if you would like to get some tips and tricks for babywearing when on holiday). The Manduca carrier was the one that worked best for us at the time. We even ended up buying one as my husband and I both really liked it.
For us, the Manduca carrier was a great fit, but since then I have helped many parents try out different soft structured carriers at the library and lots of them have preferred other carriers.
Every Soft Structured Carrier is unique
The main reason why I recommend trying a buckle carrier before buying it, is that every carrier from each company (and there are a lot of companies who nowadays sell buckle carriers) is different.
Here are some of the main differences and their advantages or disadvantages:
- Shoulder straps can or cannot be crossed
Some carriers let you cross the shoulder straps, by having buckles on them. When front carrying crossed straps in the back will help distribute the weight of your baby more ergonomically. This comes in very handy, when your baby gets older and heavier, but is not yet old enough to be carried on your back.
- Buckles are in different locations
Where the buckles are placed can make a huge difference. However, this also depends on the body shape of the caregiver. Some find that a buckle under the arms is quite comfortable while others feel that the buckle digs into the skin. Some carriers may even have two buckles on each side to tighten the shoulder straps, which makes it easier for front carrying and back carrying alike.
- Waistband either has a buckle or Velcro
Some buckle carriers use Velcro and a small buckle to fasten the waistband of the carrier. I personally prefer waistbands with only a buckle as this allows me to re-tighten the waistband more easily by pulling the strap.
- Carrier has personal fit adjuster (PFA)
A personal fit adjuster is an adjuster buckle which is located on the shoulder straps close to the body panel. The PFA allows you to tighten the top part of the body panel closer to you, which can be very helpful for small babies to keep their upper body in place.
- Body panel can be adjusted to different size babies or body panel is one size
The body panel of a buckle carrier (the square piece of fabric) can either be just one fixed size, the width of the seat can be adjustable, or the seat and the height of the body panel can be adjusted. The most versatile type of carrier can adjust the width of the seat as well as the height of the body panel. This allows the carrier to grow with your baby and will often fit your baby perfectly from newborn until toddler.
- Carrier needs an infant insert
Some carriers have an additional infant insert, which needs to be used when carrying a newborn. These inserts can often be bulky and can make you and your baby hot, when babywearing in Summer. Inserts are mainly used for carriers, where the body panel can’t be adjusted.
Every caregiver and every baby are different
Obviously, every caregiver and every baby are different in their body shape, but also in what type of carrier they will find comfortable. Some prefer soft structured carriers made from soft mouldable woven wrap fabric and others prefer it when there is more structure to it.
I have found that some types of carriers suit petite women better and others are more comfortable for bigger women.
Soft Structured Carriers also have different additional features
In addition to the main features of each carrier relating to how to wear your baby, you will also find that buckle carriers often have other features, which can be quite useful:
- Hood to cover babies head
- Pocket in the waistband for keys etc.
- Loops or straps on the shoulder straps to keep bags or toys for baby in place
Wide prize range
The main question of course is: How much money can, and do you want to spend?
Soft Structured Carriers come in a wide price range from about NZ$170 to NZ$350. This is a lot of money which you don’t want to spend, only to find out afterwards, that your chosen carrier does not fit you as well as you thought it would.
For me, again, it comes down to trying different types of Soft Structured Carriers, before buying one.
If you have a library close by, find out when they have their meetings. You will be able to try different soft structured carriers (or other types of carriers) and you will also be able to hire carriers for a small fee.
Babywearing consultants are another option for trying different carriers. You might be spending a little more money, but you will get one on one support and the consultant might even be able to come to your home.
Which Soft Structured Carrier do you use and what do you like about it?
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