Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oh How I LOVE a Back Carry!

I love babywearing. Plain and simple. And I especially love it when you get to that point in your baby's development and your babywearing ability when you can back carry.  Back carrying takes babywearing to the next level in my mind.  It gives you even more freedom to move around and get things done and still have your baby or toddler safe and secure on you in a carrier.  And it gives your baby a whole new view of their world! Babywearing is of course a skill and does have a learning curve to it and back carrying takes some practice to get it just right.  Using an appropriate baby carrier is always the first step and here are my opinions of the three kinds of carriers I use for back carries:  a soft-structured carrier (the ERGObaby), a Mei Tai, and a woven, non-stretchy wrap.

A soft structured carrier is a great option for back carrying.  There are some excellent carriers on the market these days in this category, but the most popular one by far is probably still the ERGObaby.  The Ergo has been on the market for almost 7 years and has been tweaked a bit here and there, but still has the original structural design that is tried and true and ergonomically correct for babies.  Here is what the ERGObaby website has to say about it:
ERGObaby’s baby carrier design supports a natural sitting position for babies, eliminating compression of the spine and hips that can be caused by unsupported suspension. The baby carrier also balances the baby's weight to parents' hips and shoulders, and alleviates physical stress for the parent.
I have used an Ergo for both my kids and as far as wearing them on my back comfortably for LONG periods of time (anything over an hour) and also for traveling, I think the Ergo is probably the most comfortable and convenient carrier to use or take with you.  I wore my 28 pound, 23 month old daughter in it today for a 2 hour babywearing walk and never felt like it was causing stress on any part of my back, hips or shoulders. And she was so comfy in it that little Miss "I NEVER nap in the morning" slept for a good hour in it!

My one criticism of the Ergo is the shorter body on it. For most babies the back comes up to just at or under the armpits or shoulder blades.  I personally would not use it for back carries until my child was at least 9-12 months old and did not run the risk of arching back in the carrier and at least had better muscle development around the spine.  This is just my personal opinion, the manufacturer states that you can use it from 6 months. And again all of this is dependent on your baby and all baby's develop differently.  The ERGO does come with a sleeping hood for baby, but I find it a little hard to put the hood up if baby falls asleep while you are carrying them on your back and always end up asking for help with it.

Our first ERGObaby Carrier, DS is 9.5 months old.  

If our looking for something that has all the same benefits of the ERGO, as in supporting a natural sitting position and balancing baby's weight to the parents hips and shoulders, but has less buckles and snaps, then a Mei Tai or Asian-Style baby carrier may be what you are looking for.  The Mei Tai is a traditional baby carrier used in a lot of Asian countries and there are many different brands and styles now available in the North American market.

All Mei Tais have the same general structure of a rectangle body panel with two shorter waist straps and two longer shoulder straps.  The Mei Tai is a very versatile carrier and can generally be used from newborn to toddlerhood and as a front, hip or back carrier.  It is also a very easy carrier to get on and off as a back carry.   I wore my daughter in our Mei Tai for a 4-day Folk Festival adventure last year and seriously could not have survived that weekend without it. We would walk from stage to stage and up and down a HUGE hill multiple times a day and each time I would have to get her into the carrier on my back and then down again and it was fast and fantastic.  I also really like that a Mei Tai is essentially a one size fits all carrier and can fit me, my husband or even grandma when she wants to try it out!  One of the things that some people do not like about Mei Tais is crossing the straps across your chest when doing a back carry.  There are other options to this though and tying the straps like a back pack (under your arms) is one.  My new favourite Mei Tai at the moment is one I got from my good friend at Cosy Baby, Happy Mommy.  She makes the shoulder straps of her Mei Tais slightly padded AND extra wide making them very comfortable to wear when crossed in the front-even if you are bigger in the chest like me! 

DD and I in our Cosy Baby Happy Mommy Mei Tai-notice the wide straps!
And finally what I have found the be the most addictive of the baby carriers and my go-to carriers most days now for back carries....the woven wrap!

I will fully admit that I did not use my beautiful Storchenwiege woven wrap to do a back carry more than once or twice with my first born.  I never fully got the hang of it and could not get it tightened enough to make me feel comfortable wearing him in it on my back.  Like I said before babywearing is a learned skill and I guess at that point I still had a lot to learn!  When I started my business (I own Natural Urban Mamas), I realized that I would have to get a lot better at this and have since taken a Babywearing Educator course and with the help of my incredible mentor, Arie Brentnall-Compton of Tadpoles and Butterflies, I have discovered how much I LOVE, love, love doing back carries with woven wraps. 

For one thing, these carriers are beautiful!  The quality and craftsmanship of most of the European woven wraps is unparalleled and one can go a bit crazy for these carriers (I now have 5!).  And the versatility is also amazing, pretty much any carry you want to do can be accomplished with a wrap.  And there are different kinds of back carries you can do as well.  The most common is the Ruck carry and this can also sometimes be the most elusive for some people, but once it is mastered it is simply awesome and can be done quickly and easily regardless of where you are (you can often see me doing it in the parking lot before heading into the grocery store!).  I also like the Secure High Back Carry with a wrap as it provides 2 extra layers of support and the straps are securely crossed at your sternum. 
Our Babyette Gauze Wrap tied in a Secure High Back Carry.
Rucksack carry in our Ellevil Jade Woven Wrap
Back carrying in a wrap is a learned skill and that would be the one drawback with these carriers.  If you do not want to invest the time or effort into learning to do this kind of carrying, then a wrap may not be for you for back carrying.  If you do want to learn more, I have attached a few resources at the bottom of this post and I would also suggest you find a local babywearing group or meeting and get some advice or hands-on instruction from a seasoned babywearer or babywearing educator.

Like the Mei Tai and the soft structured carrier, using a wrap for back carrying puts baby in the right, seated, knees above hips position and provides you the wearer with properly distributed weight across both your shoulders and your hips.  And in the end that is what is needed when doing any kind of back carrying, what you choose to use as your carrier is dependent on personal preference, lifestyle and often budget.  I have used all three of these types of carriers with my kids and think that there is a time and place for each one and I personally like to switch it up and wear a different one every time!

For more info on how to do back carrying with a woven wrap see the following resources:

And there you have it everyone, my take on back carrying with the three main types of carriers designed for just that purpose.

Happy Babywearing,


Funky Mama Bird said...

I love a back carry as well. I wear my toddler in both a mai tei and a woven wrap on my back but am jonsing for a Boba carrier. He's so tall that I think I really need a designated toddler carrier soon!

natalie said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Natasha! I have never tried an Ergo and am very much a wrap novice, so I really appreciate you bringing your experience in for this post. :) Also, I love the pictures, especially the adorable (and very coordinated!) last picture!

Kasondra said...

I LOVE my Ergo! Back carry in it is the only way I can wear my son right now with my growing belly. My husband loves to wear him too (he prefers front carry) I did a few back carries when he was 6mo or so...but he was the size of a 9 month old at the time.

Beth said...

This is great! I've been a babywearing mama for 10 years and only got into back carrying with my last DD... I'm loving it!
I look forward to starting with a newborn right from the beginning!

hannah said...

Thank you for your kind words about the ERGObaby carrier.
As a token of our appreciation, we'd love to offer you a small gift. If interested email reviews@ergobaby.com for details.
In any case, we truly appreciate your support. Thank you!