Intuitive and easy to use, buckle carriers are definitely the most popular type of baby carrier. They are fast and convenient and they can be super comfortable.
They can also be really uncomfortable. The key with any baby carrier is fit and getting that fit right. Small changes and adjustments in how you are wearing a carrier can make an absolutely huge effects on how well baby's weight is distributed and thus how it feels to wear them. Small tweaks can take a carrier from "gives me back pain within 10 minutes" to "baby felt weightless and I comfortably wore for over an hour".
There definitely is a knack and it can take a few goes to get the hang of optimally adjusting your carrier everytime. This is where face to face help with a consultant (online or in person one to one or at a sling library session) can really make a huge difference and take all the trial and error out of learning to get it right for you - for your individual shape, needs and circumstance. But for those who can't make it to a library, or who have been to mine and appreciate the reminder - here are the main things to consider... the main adjustments you can make to ensure a comfortable carry.
Getting the waistband well positioned and snug is the FOUNDATION for getting the whole rest of the carrier set up well - ensuring baby is safe and comfortable and that your are well supported and the weight evenly distributed. And yet most manuals don't tell you how to work out where to put it, nor give any sense of how tight it needs to be. I talk through this in depth in this video:
Where you waistband goes depends on two things - the size of your baby and your body and it how bears weight most effectively.
Size of your baby is the more obvious of the two and is easiest to see by simply holding your baby in arms. Hold them in arms at the height you'd like to carry them, at the height that ensures their head is at a level you are happy you can see them, kiss them, chat to them, monitor them etc easily. Then observe where their bum is! The waistband needs to go there. So for a newborn or very young baby you will need to wear the waistband a lot higher than you will for a 6 month old or a 1 year old etc. Likewise, when you move to back carrying, again, you may find you need to wear the waistband higher to carry baby at a height they can see over your shoulder. As they grow you maybe able to move this down again.
In terms of your body and your ability to weight bear, most people have a distinct "biting point". A part of their body where if you put the waistband there you will get maximum transfer onto their pelvis and thus optimal weight distribution. Where exactly this biting point is, however, is very individual. And in particular it differs quite a lot between men and women. Men have a lower centre of gravity compared to women, so it's not a surprise that they will naturally carry weight lower too. The trick is to find exactly the right place for you, whatever your gender or body shape is. Best way to do this is to take your hands and press down at different points and feel where you feel the best weight transference onto your hips (watch from 3.42 minutes for this). This is where your waist band should go for maximum comfort for you.
Once you've found where to put your waistband it is also key to get it tightened correctly. It needs to be parallel to the ground and it needs to be SNUG! Too tight and it will dig and be uncomfortable. But too loose and it will dig and be uncomfortable too because baby's weight in the sling exploit the looseness and cause the waistband at the front to sink. Twisting the waistband and causing the digging (watch from 6.06 minutes above for visual of this). It will also be uncomfortable because there will be less weight transference onto the pelvis which will mean the shoulders will carry more weight and the baby will feel heavier. As a general rule of thumb, the snugger the waistband the better weight transference you'll get.
The Shoulder Straps
Once the waistband is set, next thing to check is the shoulder straps. How they are positioned and how they are tightened.
Many carriers will allow you to wear the straps either crossed across your back or in "rucksack" configuration. It is well worth trying both and finding which one suits you best, because most people will find one of the two will suit them much better than the other (you can read more about this here).
Once you've found which one suits you best, then it's all about learning how to tighten your straps effectively.
This might seem obvious but actually it's often not. Inutitively, most parents will simply tug on the strap to tighten it, but as the two videos below show, this doesn't lead to effective tightening. Instead the key is to;
- support baby's weight - so you are not fighting gravity
- move any looseness over your shoulder and across your back to the buckles before tightening it out
- wiggle your shoulder to release friction
As shown in the two video's below.
How to tighten cross straps;
How to tighten rucksack straps
Hopefully these general rules will help act as reminders to anyone who is getting the hang of adjusting their carrier correctly. For more individual personalised help do reach out to your local carrying consultant (or I offer online consultations country wide as well as local face to face consultations), as there is really is a wealth of different ways carriers can be optimised and tweaked to get a really great fit.