When I was still pregnant with Ruby, I didn’t make a conscious decision on whether to use a baby carrier or a stroller. I guess I just pictured myself as a momma swinging her baby on her hips (What was I thinking?!). I’ve heard from some pretty militant moms who embrace baby wearing and who have strong opinions about the best way to do so. I make no such recommendations in this post. I do enjoy wearing Ruby and thank everyone who have given me the various baby carriers I will review below. It is, for me, the most convenient way of getting around especially in Tokyo (some train stations do not have elevators and carrying a stroller up and down the stairs is just punishment). I love the convenience, the ease with which I can breastfeed, and the physical closeness. Baby carrying is not for everyone and I have some friends who suffer from back problems that make it impossible for them to do so. In this post, I would just like to share my experience of using the various baby carriers and what I like and don’t like about them for the reference of moms who are in the market for one.
The Next9 Ring Sling
I was gifted with a lovely dark green Next9 Ring Sling at my baby shower and it turned out to be one of the most useful things for a mom to a newborn. I carried Ruby fresh out of the hospital in that ring sling and have been using it a lot afterwards. Ruby fits very snugly in it and when she lies sleeping in it, she looks like a sweet little pea pod. As she grew bigger, she was able to sit in it with her chest towards me. She can easily see out and watch the world around her. Of all the carriers I’ve used, this ring sling is the easiest to get Ruby in and out of – no need to fumble with any straps or buckles, which is a plus when she’s already sleeping and I want to put her down on the bed. It is also the easiest carrier to adjust – by loosening the rings, I can lower Ruby to my breast when she wants to nurse, and then raise her up again after she’s done for burping against my chest. It has a pocket on the tail which I use for keeping Ruby’s burp cloth and a soft toy or two. I have also used the tail to wipe off Ruby’s snot every now and then. Of all the carriers, this is the most lightweight, the coolest (literally because it’s just a piece of cloth and no warm padding and this is the most comfortable carrier in the hot sticky summer; it’s also the easiest to wash and dry) and the most stylish. It is the only carrier that people have said “Suteki!” (“Beautiful!”) to. If you want what me and my husband call the “granola look”, definitely go for the ring sling.
The downside of this carrier is that I’m not able to do the complete hands-free carry as advertised. I still keep one of my hands free to support her weight and keep her in. At the same time, my hand support eases part of the weight off my shoulder. According to the instructions, one should spread out the cloth at the back to distribute the weight evenly, but despite this, I still feel most of the weight on my shoulder. I also do not feel confident about doing a back carry – Ruby can be very squirmy and she has managed to ease her way out of the sling several times.
I’ve only recently stopped using the ring sling as Ruby has become too heavy for it and her weight was just eating into my shoulder. I believe Ruby has fond memories of the green ring sling – every now and then she will point to it and want me to carry her in it even though she’s become too big for it. I will definitely use it again when Little Two comes this December.
Combi Compact Baby Carrier
This one was passed on to me by a friend who moved to Thailand and I got it before Ruby was born. I never cared to use it because it looked complicated and the instruction booklet was in Japanese. One day, I decided to sit down and learn how to use it and found this instructional video on YouTube. It didn’t look as bad as I thought! I didn’t bother with the newborn insert anymore as I was happy enough with the ring sling and Ruby was big enough not to need it anymore at that point.
One distinct advantage the Combi carrier has over the ring sling is that it secures the baby — there’s no way Ruby can squirm her way out of this one and so it is a carrier that I can use while biking or when I need both hands. Compared to the next two carriers that will be reviewed below which are also quite secure, the Combi carrier is much lighter, and I also find it easier and quicker to strap Ruby on to me. I can unhook the clips and transfer Ruby directly onto a supermarket cart still wearing the Combi as it’s not at all bulky. Another advantage that revealed itself when I became pregnant is that I could still use this carrier (doing the back carry) without any part of the carrier touching my expanding belly area as the straps just ride on the upper chest and upper back.
This carrier though has several drawbacks. Ruby has a harder time looking out whether in the front or the back carry as the head support blocks her view, and she can be quite unhappy about that. When I do the back carry, the straps and the clip presses awkwardly against my breasts (my breasts can’t decide whether to stay together under the clip or separate and slip in between the straps!). Compared to the ring sling, the Combi distributes the baby’s weight on both shoulders instead of just one, so in that sense, it is more balanced but then both shoulders can feel fatigued as the shoulder straps are not padded enough. My back also feels tired after a long day of carrying Ruby on the Combi. I learned another point of concern quite recently although I admit it didn’t bother me for the longest time I was using this carrier: Ruby’s legs dangle down in the Combi carrier. Apparently, such a position can cause hip dislocation. The proper position is the frog position as encouraged by a hip carry on the ring sling or by the Ergo.
I still use this carrier for quick trips to the grocery on my bicycle. I find myself reaching for this carrier especially as I enter late pregnancy.
Deuter Kangaroo Baby Carrier Backpack
We inherited our Deuter backpack from a friend who moved back to Germany. I never used it until one day, I told my husband about it and he was ecstatic. It was almost exactly the carrier that he used with his first daughter. The Deuter is essentially a backpack of the mountain pack kind, with sturdy metal supports built in. It has a compartment that opens up with a seat for an older baby (I’d say about six to eight months and up) and a compartment for stuff.
My husband likes how the metal supports and the hip straps distribute the weight evenly on his back and hips. He also likes the fact that he can just store all the baby things he needs in the backpack – and I like it that I don’t have to carry a diaper bag with me. Ruby seems to enjoy riding the Deuter backpack as she has a clear view of the world from where she sits. However, it is not the most comfortable carrier for when she falls asleep – her head hangs about with no support. I tried using the Deuter once and it was comfortable for about 10 minutes after which I just found it too unwieldy and heavy. I find that Ruby at almost 2 years old is too big for the Deuter so we have stored it for later use with Little Two.
Ergo Classic Baby Carrier
This is the only baby carrier that I actually bought. Here in Tokyo, I’d say about 95% of baby wearing moms and dads use the Ergo. It’s so common that they try to put a unique touch to their Ergos with colorful detachable/interchangeable patches on the shoulder straps (I think they’re only sold in Japan). I never paid much attention to the Ergo until I tried it myself, did the back carry, and found Ruby suddenly weightless (almost)! The shoulder straps were so comfortably thick, riding nicely at the edge of my shoulders and pulling them back (no awkward breast separations), and best of all, Ruby’s weight was sitting squarely on my hips. It truly lives up to its name of being the most ergonomic baby carrier. Ruby can look out quite happily, and when she falls asleep, there is a hood I can attach to support and keep her head from rolling about. I tried looking for a secondhand Ergo but got offers that were surprisingly expensive for secondhand (I guess that just goes to show how popular they are here), along with warnings of many fake Ergos so I just decided to buy a new one in the US.
I do noted some difficulties with the Ergo once I started using it. I got it at the peak of summer and realized how hot the Ergo can get. It also takes a while to learn how to wear Ruby with ease, especially with the back carry. One time, my husband almost dropped her on her head while trying to take her out of the Ergo from a back carry. While she sits comfortably in the back, Ruby seems unable to decide where to keep her arms. Unlike the Combi, the Ergo’s hip strap feels a bit constricting on my pregnant belly, no matter how low I wear it, so I’m not sure how late into my pregnancy I’ll be using the Ergo. Other than that, I’m happy with my purchase and look forward to using the Ergo with Little Two, but probably when he’s bigger as I don’t think I want to spend for an infant insert (Then again, I wonder how a folded up towel will work as an insert?).