Baby Bjorn One Review

There are some carriers I have in the library because they fit a wide range of people, are very versitile and are generally brilliant.  And then there are ones that are a bit different and I have because they are good for a specific situation or a particular subset.  The Baby Bjorn One definitely fits into the latter catagory.  It does not fit a wide range of people, it isn’t particularly versitile but there are some for whom this is the right choice.

It’s also a carrier that is asked for ALOT!  Which is understandable, because it’s readily availible in high street stores and one you often see out and about.  But it’s also one I see brought to troubleshooting sessions over and over again.  Often its possible to tweak it and get a better fit but sometimes it just doesn’t fit well and ultimately something else ends up being better.  And of those who come asking for the Bjorn One who haven’t yet bought one, the vast majority opt for something else following trying a range of different options on.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Bjorn One only fits a relatively small range of people really well.  There are two main reasons for this

  1. The torso of the carrier is very long. The Bjorn One has a fixed panel that runs between adult and baby between the waist strap and the shoulder straps.  The panel doesn’t adjust, only the shoulder straps and unfortunately this panel is very long.  Generally if you are below about 5’8” (172cm) and/or have a shorter torso this panel will be too long for you.  It’s still possible to wear the carrier – either by scrunching the panel or by dropping the waist belt to your hips rather than your waist but the result will be a less good fit and will be less comfortable for you the wearer.  If you drop the waist band this will put more pressure on your shoulders and is likely to give you back ache, while if you scrunch the panel it will be more comfortable except that you might feel the rouched panel material against your (and your baby’s) tummies.  Which is a little non-ideal.  Consequently, anyone over about 5’8” tend to find this carrier far more comfortable than anyone under this height.  In fact this carrier can be good option for the very tall – 6ft and over, because the shoulder straps can go pretty long and accomodate taller frames.
  2. The panel running between adult and baby tends to sit over breast tissue on women.  This can be very uncomfortable for new mothers, particularly those who are breastfeeding.

Consequently, it is often the case that the Bjorn One works alot better for men than women.  This is not an absolute, there are some taller woment who it does fit well and isn’t uncomfortable over boobs and conversely there are men for whom it doesn’t fit at all well… but it’s really not at all uncommon for couples to come to me for help with their Bjorn One baby carriers and for the dad to say he is pretty comfortable, while the mother is experiencing back pain and/or discomfort when her boobs are feeling full.

But for those who it does fit, the Bjorn can be a great choice.  In particular parents who love it love it because;

  • You fit the parent first and then the baby slots in after.  Compared to carriers where you do the straps up around you and baby, some parents find they feel more secure getting baby in and out.  This is particularly true of those who are very nervous about using a baby carrier.
  • The Slide and Release buckles.  While most carriers use standard buckles, the baby Bjorn have these special buckles that involve overshooting then sliding back.  They then have a seperate button that needs to be pressed while sliding the buckle the otherway again.  The advantage of these buckles is that because they need very specific movements they can’t be undone by mistake or by a parent who is on “autopilot” … you have to think about it!  Again for nervous parents this adds to a feeling of security and safety.  Although its worth saying while some parents find these buckles really inutitive to use, others find the sliding past really tricky and can’t seem to ever get the hang of them!  So this is definitely a marmite feature.
  • The straps are not overly padded and not too bulky on the shoulders.  Which can be a draw for slimmer taller people who can find more bulky padding a bit too much.

20180305_174345The Baby Bjorn One offers 3 carrying positions. Baby facing parent on the front, Baby facing outwards on the front and a back carry.  Although in practise, while the 2 front carrying positions are pretty straight forward, the back carry is a bit more tricky! Because of how the straps are configured, to get baby onto your back on your own you need to first place baby on your front and then get your arms out (walk like an Egyptian method – one over, one under) swizzle baby around to your back then put your arms back in.  Its a mega faff, and most babies complain alot during the process!  The lower waist band position of the Bjorn One also means this carry is pretty low and so its harder to monitor your little one once they are back there.  Consequently, Bjorn don’t recommend the back carry position before 12 months.

However, baby can be carried on the front from 3.5kg.  The one contains an built in infant insert which acts to raise the height of the baby within the carrier.  The width of the carrier also adjusts through ‘locking’ zips at the bottom.  In practise the carrier still feels a little large for the smallest newborns but works for most from around 6 weeks onwards.  Then as baby grows the infant insert can be unzipped, and the zippered base can be made incrementially wider so the carrier can grow with baby.  Generally speaking it fits baby reasonably well up till about 18 months give or takeHowever, many parents move on from this carrier earlier than that (more like 11-15 months ish), simply because front carrying becomes heavy and many parents struggle to back carry with the One.  So instead they often move onto a bigger carrier than is easier to get baby onto the back with.

The forward facing carry can be used once baby has full neck control and is tall enough that their face fully clears the top of the carrier.  Unfortunately, a hip carry position isn’t really possible because of how the straps are configured.

Another thing to consider is the material – Bjorn has a number of finishes for this carrier but the standard one at least is pretty rigid and not entirely soft!  Many parents don’t like how “hard” it feels for a newborn.  However, this is something Bjorn have improved on and their newest models are softer and they do also offer a mesh which is softer and lighter and some parents prefer for this reason.

Finally – do consider if you think you’d like to breastfeed in a carrier.  Because the Bjorn has material running between you and baby, it is extremely hard to breast feed in this sling without taking it off first because part of the carrier sits over the boobs.

All in all the Baby Bjorn One can be a good option for parents with longer straighter/flatter torsos and particularly those who are more nervous about babywearing but it is very worth trying on before you buy, and comparing to a few other brands as it certainly doesn’t fit everyone.  It works well from around 6 weeks to somewhere between 1 year and 18 months, which is a smaller age range than many of its main competitors and at a cost of £139 it is maybe not quite as good value for money as other similar carriers from brands such as Ergo and Beco.

The Myth of the “BAD” Carrier

At least a couple of times a month a parent comes in and says they have a Baby Bjorn or other narrow based baby carrier which they were using, perhaps not comfortably but happily using nonetheless, but now they are worried because they heard that it was “BAD”, “Bad for their babies hips” or even worse that it was “dangerous”.  Once a parent even dissolved into tears because they thought they’d damaged their baby.  As much as I love the internet, I really wish people would stop using it to scare parents.

It is well past time to bust the myth of the BAD carrier. Time and time again I hear sentences like “I’ve been told the Baby Bjorn is bad and only the Ergo holds baby correctly”.  While there are differences between narrow based carriers and more ergonomically designed wider based carriers (of which the Ergo is just one of a great many!)… the most important thing is baby positioning and NOT the carrier they are in.  It is more than possible to get good positioning in a narrow based carrier if you know what you’re looking for, equally if you simply plonk your child in even the most brilliant wide based carrier with no idea what you are looking for it is certainly possible to end up with a suboptimal carry.

 

So as a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s take a look at what I mean!  My models are the wonderful Cat and William, and William is just 8 weeks old in these pictures (albeit he is quite a tall 8 week old).  Looking first at a narrow based carrier – here we have used the Baby Bjorn Original carrier.

 

The first two pictures (on the left) were taken just plonking poor William in without paying any attention to his positioning.  Note how his legs hang straight down and this in turn pulls his spine straight.  This means he is bearing the weight of his legs and the weight of his body is resting on his upper thighs and crotch.  Developmentally his spine should be curved into a c shape so the carrier is currently artificially straightening him out.  None of this is dangerous, it’s just all less comfortable for him.  It’s also less comfortable for his Mum as all of his 6kg is resting solely on her shoulders and upper back only.

Now let’s compare this to the two pictures on the right.  Here we have thought carefully about William’s positioning, and how to achieve a better position for him.  First and foremost we have tucked his pelvis so that his weight is resting on his bottom and not on his inner thighs.  To do this Cat literally reached inside the carrier and swept downwards and toward herself to tilt his pelvis such that his bottom is right in the base of the carrier.  Then, because the carrier isn’t wide enough to continue to support him in this position (he could easily re-straighten from this point), we have used a scarf to support his legs in this “spread squat” position.  By supporting his legs so his knees are at least as high as his hips (or higher), he is bearing none of the weight of his own legs and all of his weight is resting quite comfortably on his bottom.  The other knock on effect of this more tucked position is allowing his spine to adopt its natural curved c shape and consequently bringing his head to rest comfortably on his mum’s chest.  The addition of the scarf seems like such a tiny change, but you can see from the photos what a massive difference it makes to how William’s body is positioned in the sling, and consequently to his comfort levels.  And not only his comfort, the scarf also helps give his Mum support at her waist helping to distribute baby’s weight better.

Now let’s take a look a wide based more ergonomic carrier.  Here we have used the newest Ergo model – the Ergo Omni 360.

Again the first two pictures (on the left) were taken just plonking William in, and generally putting the carrier on in the manor most parents do if they haven’t ever been professionally demonstrated a buckle carrier.  You will note the base of the Ergo Omni is much wider and thus William’s legs do not hang down.  But if you zoom in you will see his knees are pointing downward and his weight appears to be resting on his thighs rather than on his bottom.  Likewise, again his back has been artificially straightened out by the carrier.  In this has happened in part because his pelvis is not tilted toward his Mum, and partly because the waistband is too low with respect to Mum – which has ment baby is too low and due to this is straightened out as Mum tightens the straps.

 

By contrast, the two pictures on the right show optimal positioning.  Again we have performed a pelvic tilt – sweeping William’s pelvis toward his Mum so that he sits directly onto his bottom in the base of the carrier.  We have also raised the carrier’s waistband so that it sits on Cat’s true waist, rather than her hips.  The result is that we can see William’s legs are in a beautiful spread squat, weight is firmly on his bottom and not being carried in his hips or thighs and his back is once again in a beautiful c shape with his head resting comfortably on his mothers chest.  So much more comfortable.  And likewise Mum is more comfortable because, by having the carrier tight and on her true waist, William’s weight is transferred onto her hips.

Again small changes have made all the difference!

While I have shown just two carriers here, the same applies for literally any carrier on the market.  It matters less WHICH carrier you have versus HOW you are using it.  

Don’t get me wrong here – I am not suggesting we all go out and buy Bjorn Originals! There are big big differences between narrow and wide based carriers, in terms of how easy it is to get a great positioning for your baby and a comfortable carry for you.  And in terms of how long those carriers will last you.  Most narrow based carriers such as the Bjorn Original only really work from around 4-6 weeks until around 5-6 months after which they generally become too heavy and too uncomfortable even with the scarf trick.  Whereas the vast majority of wide based carriers will last well until around 2-3 years of age.  In fact you can just how well they fit a 3 year old here.  These wide based carriers do vary in terms of how well they fit a newborn, with many working best from 4-6 months but there are an increasing number on the market that do fit newborns well such as the Ergo Adapt, Ergo Omni, Izmi, Mamaruga Zen sling and Tula free to grow to name a few.  Hence I would always advise anyone purchasing a new buckle carrier to purchase a wide based carrier.

However, many people are given second hand carriers by friends, and often these are narrow based carriers such as the Bjorn Original (in fact, I would say nearly 50% of the time someone brings a sling that they have been given to one of my sessions its a Baby Bjorn Original!).  While I wouldn’t advise spending money on one of these, anyone who is given one shouldn’t feel bad using it.  Yes it won’t last as long as a wide based carrier, and yes it won’t be as comfortable for you as a wide based carrier but it does give you a flavour for carrying your baby!  Following the advice above will make it more comfortable for you and your baby and gives you time to see how carrying your baby works for your family and how it can help you and then you can spend the money on buying your own carrier safe in the knowledge this is something that you’d like to do!  In fact, I have worked with a great many parents who have used a newborn sling such as a stretchy wrap or a Caboo around the home for the fourth trimester period, then used a gifted Bjorn for a couple of months for out and about when their little one is starting to grow out of the stretchy or Caboo developmentally and then move onto a wide based buckle carrier around 5-6 months when baby fits into these better.  Moral of the story – used correctly with a little help from a scarf, a narrow based carrier can have a time and a place.

There is no such thing as a “Bad Carrier”, only poor positioning or a carrier that that doesn’t fit well.  No matter what carrier you have (or if you haven’t bought one yet) the best thing you can do, is go along to a sling library or visit your local consultant and get advice on how best to fit your carrier to you and baby.

-Madeleine

 

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