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7 Things to Look for When Buying a Baby Carrier or Baby Sling

(An Article by Jane Rosenberg of My Favorite Baby Carrier, which specializes in the Ergo baby carriers and accessories.)

Like a lot of Moms, I tried several carriers before finally finding one that works for me. I immediately shared my find with my friends and they are thrilled with it as well. During my carrier discovery process, I feel like I learned a lot. And since I wish I knew then what I know now, I thought I would share my experiences with you. Because it was these learning experiences that led me to the carrier that I love - The ERGO Baby Slings.

Here's what I've learned:

1. NOT ALL CARRIERS ARE COMFORTABLE TO WEAR. I learned that even a tiny baby can seem pretty heavy after carrying her around for a while. Personally, I didn't think that carrying my daughter in a sling, with all her weight on just my one shoulder, was very comfortable. And by the time she was 16 lbs. I found that carrying her in the Baby Bjorn was causing pain in my shoulders and upper back and even a tingling sensation in my neck. I now realize that a truly comfortable carrier, like The ERGO Baby Carrier I now use, has two padded shoulder straps and a padded waist/hip belt. This configuration distributes the baby's weight in a way that our bodies can handle it. When you think about it, it is not unlike what a hiker would look for in a good back pack.

2. CARRIERS THAT HAVE YOUR BABY HANGING BY HIS CROTCH MAY BE UNHEALTHY. I had heard that jumpy seats and walkers can be bad for babies' developing bodies, but now there are claims that certain carriers can cause spinal stress. A friend of mine told me about this concern and once I started reading about it, it made sense to me. Apparently the main concern is using a carrier which has your baby dangling by his crotch, e.g. in many of the front infant carriers and even some back framed carriers. Apparently this position can put stress on the spine affecting the development of the spinal curse and possibly spondylolisthesis (slippage of the vertebra). Most of the ones that allow the baby to face forward in front, e.g. the Baby Bjorn, have them dangling this way. Even though this doesn't seem to be a widespread concern yet, it does make sense to me that this position is not a natural position for a baby to be held in. And that's why I like that The ERGO Baby Carrier positions newborns in a sling-like position, until they are able to control their own heads, then in a natural seated position.

3. CARRIERS SHOULD BE EASY TO USE. I just assumed that if I had a popular carrier that everyone else seemed to be using, I should be able to figure it out too. To be honest, I probably just didn't get enough practice with the sling, since my baby didn't like it. And I did find the Baby Bjorn fairly easy to put on and take off. But the Tough Traveler framed back carrier was another story. It just always seemed like such an event to load and unload my daughter. First of all, she didn't have a lot of patience while I was buckling her in and that made the process take even longer. Then, once she was in, I had to heft the whole thing up onto my back which was sort of tricky, especially when we were traveling and I put everything under the sun in that massive storage pouch. Once it was on my back, I was okay, but as she got older, my daughter wanted to get in and out more often and that became rather frustrating for me. I love my ERGO front/back carrier, made of soft fabric with no frame, because I can load and unload my daughter quickly and easily without ever taking the carrier off. And when she is not in it, I can wear it like an empty knapsack - very light.

4. CARRIERS SHOULD ACCOMMODATE A RANGE OF AGES AND SIZE. For the longest time I just assumed that there were infant carriers and then toddler carriers and you just had to buy both. I had no idea there were carriers out there, like The ERGO, that can be used for BOTH infants and toddlers. Not only does that mean you only have to buy one carrier (quite a savings), but if you have two kids, you can use the same carrier for either of them and the other can either walk or sit in the stroller - I would much rather push a single stroller than a massive double one.

5. A CARRIER'S SIZE AND WEIGHT CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE. I can certainly understand why avid hikers might want to consider purchasing a serious framed backpack baby carrier - they have very comfortable shoulder and waist/hip belts as well as considerable storage areas. But what are the rest of us doing walking around the mall with a big old framed backpack carrier on? My guess is that, like me, most people aren't aware that there are other options - namely frameless front/back carriers like The ERGO. I will never forget the day I took my framed back carrier to Sea World. My toddler wouldn't get in the carrier even once. So there I was, lugging that bulky thing around in the humidity, chasing her, picking her up to look at things, and then, sitting in crowded bleachers at the shows, with no place to store the thing. No longer do I have to make the big decision whether or not to bring my carrier. If she doesn't use it, it's no big deal, because The ERGO is not only light (about a pound) but way less bulky (it folds up to easily fit in a knapsack or in the bottom of a stroller).

6. CARRIERS SHOULD BE ADJUSTABLE TO FIT ADULTS OF VARYING SIZES. My husband and I are not that different in size, but he has a rather long torso and I am all legs. Though our framed back carrier would adjust to accommodate both of us, it was not a quick and easy adjustment. Now, on the occasion that my sister, brother, or a friend watches my daughter, it's nice to be able to easily adjust my ERGO carrier it to fit their bodies which differ greatly in size.

7. CARRIERS SHOULD ALLOW YOUR BABY TO SLEEP PEACEFULLY. When my daughter was an infant, she fell asleep in the front carrier all the time and it was never a problem, because either she was in a position of leaning into me comfortably, or I could easily hold her head steady. I really didn't give the sleeping issue much thought when I purchased my framed back carrier, but soon learned it was a problem. I walked quite regularly with friends and though all of us had different types of framed back carriers, we all faced the same dilemma - when our children fell asleep, their little heads got bounced all around, often waking them up and making them cry. We tried using little pillows, rolled up blankets and towels, blow up airline pillows, and nothing worked to stabilize their heads for any period of time without constant readjustment. And, though we could try to help each other's child to sleep more comfortably, it wasn't something we could do on our own. So, if I was shopping alone and my daughter fell asleep, I would often have to solicit the help of a friendly looking soul to stabilize her head with a sweatshirt or jacket. The sleeping baby hood that is part of The ERGO Baby Carrier is probably my very favorite feature. It cradles my daughter's head so it doesn't wobble around and she can sleep peacefully. Best of all, I can attach it without assistance!

As you can tell, I am thrilled that I have now found what I feel to be the best baby carrier out there. I like it because it is comfortable, ergonomically designed for a growing baby, light and easy to use, adjustable to fit any size adult and any size baby or toddler, and it allows the baby to sleep comfortably while in it. It even has the added perks of allowing the baby to nurse in it, it's washable, and it has storage compartments. Until I stumbled upon it, I didn't even know that frameless front/back carriers like The ERGO even existed. Now, as you can tell, I am rather enthusiastic about my discovery.

For several months I sang its praises to my friends and acquaintances. Also, no matter where I went, Mothers came up to me and asked me about my carrier. Eventually, after discussing it with my husband, who just happens to be an internet retailer and website designer, I decided to open my own internet retail store selling my favorite baby carrier. After a great deal of thought and pondering over what to call my new business, I decided on Other names I came up with were catchier or cuter (e.g. got a few votes from friends and family), but this name really fits how I feel about the product. It is my favorite carrier and I really wanted to share it with others.

If you are interested in learning more about The ERGO Baby Carrier or in ordering it and trying it out under our 90 day money back guarantee, check out my site. I hope you will be as pleased with the ERGO as I am.

Oh, and just so you don't think I am completely biased, I would like to share some of my customer experience with you. I have about an 8% return rate. I don't know the reason for every return, but the main reason seems to be that the baby doesn't like it. Several Moms have told me that their babies have been used to facing forward in their infant carriers and since that is not possible with the ERGO (because it is ergonomically designed and therefore doesn't hang the baby by his crotch) they are not happy. It is very rare that I get a return because the Mom doesn't like it, though a couple of women who referred to themselves as "big bosomed" said that the chest strap was too confining. Then there have been a handful of returns due to duplicate shower gifts. I also have some women who said they had difficulty loading their babies into the back position. It does take practice, but usually people who follow my pictured instructions are able to learn to do it. I encourage customers to contact me if they are having trouble and I'm guessing that most of those I spoke with or emailed must have then figured it out, because I never heard from them again.