Battle of the Newborn Specialist Buckle Carriers – Comparison of the Ergo Embrace, Baby Bjorn Mini and the Izmi Baby.

While most buckle carriers are aimed at supporting babies from a couple of months old all the way through to toddlerhood, there are relatively few that genuinely fit a newborn well. For this reason many parents start with a stretchy wrap or a Close Caboo for the early days and then move on. But if you’re looking for a buckle carrier that you can use right from day 1 then the three to consider are the:

All three of these are designed with carrying a newborn in mind, so are made from soft, light materials and sized to fit a smaller form snuggly, and prioritise the head and neck support that they need.

So how do these 3 compare? Which one should you go for?

Lets start by taking a look at their basic stats…

Ergo EmbraceIzmi BabyBaby Bjorn Mini
Recommended Weight Range3.2 – 11 kg (7 – 25 lb)3.2 – 15 kg (7 – 33 lb)3.2 – 11 kg (7 – 25 lb)
Realistically works forFrom birth as soon as can open legs at least a little, generally fits from 2.75kg/6lb. Lasts to about 9 months ish.Right from birth, no need to spread legs at all. I’ve even had success with babies weighing as little as 1.75kg (just below 4lb), grows with baby to at least 1 year.From birth as soon as can open legs at least a little, generally fits from 2.75kg/6lb. Lasts only to about 4 months ish.
Number of Carrying positions2 (3)42
MaterialJersey
(79% Polyester, 17% Rayon, 4% Spandex)
Cotton or Cotton with a mesh panel
(Cotton is 100% Cotton)
Cotton, Jersey, or Jersey Mesh
(Cotton is 100% cotton, Jersey is 80% Polyester, 16% Cotton, 4% Spandex, while the Jersery Mesh is 100% Polyester)
Cost£80£80£80-90

Longevity

As you can see of the 3 the Izmi baby fits the earliest and lasts the longest. While none of them are weight tested below 3.2 kg (or rather insured to print any lower than this on the label), the Izmi actually can work for even the tinest babies. It comes with a booster cushion and it’s adjustable width and height means that it can fit smaller babies earlier than the other too. It’s the one I have seen work over and over again on babies born prematurely because it’s so flexible in terms of how it can be used and so working with parents I can usually help them find a way that baby can sit comfortably in this carrier even if baby isn’t yet ready to spread their legs, or has low tone or is currently on oxygen and we need to accomodate for this. By contrast the other two will work once baby is able to spread their legs at least a little and will work right from birth for most babies born at term.

Comparing the Ergobaby Embrace (black), Izmi Baby (purple) and the Baby Bjorn Mini (grey) carriers with a newborn or 6 week ish sized weighted doll

Then at the other end of the spectrum, the Bjorn Mini is the smallest of the 3 or rather has the least capacity to get wider and so this is the one that babies grow out of the fastest. Usually by 4 months or so baby is starting to outgrow this carrier on width and the lack of waist support means this carrier quickly becomes less comfortable for the wearer too. The Embrace lasts a bit longer and will often work to around 9 months give or take. The panel does become a little wider and longer but by 9 months baby will be starting to out grow it and also the stretchy fabric will start feeling less supportive and there will be more pull on parents back. Again the Izmi can out perform the other two – the panel goes much wider than the other two so it can continue fitting babies to around a year and often beyond. However, how long the wearer can continue wearing it comfortably depends alot on fit! If it fits you well and the unpadded lightweight straps sit nicely and flush on your body you’ll be happy wearing this to a year or beyond… if the straps don’t sit well on you and they ride or rouche then very likely this carrier will start getting heavy from 6 to 9 months ish too.

Comparing the Ergobaby Embrace (black), Izmi Baby (purple) and the Baby Bjorn Mini (grey) carriers in a inward facing carry with a 6 month equivalent sized weighted doll

Carrying Positions

In terms of what you can do with it – again the Izmi offers the most options! Offering 4 carrying positions – front inwards, front outwards, hip and back carry. While the Ergo Embrace offers 3 of these. Officially 2 – only the front inwards and front outwards are shown in the manual, but it works just as well in a hip carry as well. The Bjorn offers just the front inwards and front outwards and can not be used on the hip or back. For the parent, the Izmi offers both crossed straps and ruck sack straps (you can read more about these here), while the Bjorn Mini and Ergo Embrace offers just the crossed configuration. It is worth stating that the Izmi works much better in the crossed than the ruck sack but it does offer both.

Comparing the Ergobaby Embrace (black), Izmi Baby (purple) and the Baby Bjorn Mini (grey) carriers in a forward facing carry with a 6 month equivalent sized weighted doll

Ease of Use

When it comes to ease of use – the Ergo Embrace and the Izmi baby are similar in terms of how you use them. You pop the waistband on, pop baby in and then bring the panel up over them and fasten the straps around both of you. Its very simple. The Bjorn Mini is a little different… instead you fasten the carrier to you first and then pop baby in and all the clips to secure baby are on the front where you can easily see them. It is fab for anyone who is really nervous, or has difficulty doing up buckles at their sides. I hestitate to say the Bjorn Mini is easier though, I hestitate because experience has taught me that some parents definitely find it easier, while others find it more faffy and much harder. The clips are quite different and they are a bit marmite… some people find them really inutitive and others can’t fathom them!! So it can be easier but also it can be harder… it really depends on how your hands work, what feels easier to you personally. I very much recommend trying and seeing! I have to say I have had a good number of parents who have been worried about how to fasten the straps on the Embrace or the Izmi and assumed the Bjorn will be easier and thought they should just go for that and then when they’ve tried found that actually the Embrace and Izmi are way easier than they were anticipating and preferred the more flexible and comfortable fit they offered. So it is defintely worth trying each on if you are unsure.

Fabric

Here the Bjorn Mini offers the most choice. It comes in 3 different fabrics – a super soft polyester jersey, a mesh jersery fabric (also polyester) and a cotton. The cotton does feel a bit robust compared to the other two, but the other two are strokably soft and the mesh really breathable too. The Ergo Embrace comes in a polyester jersery that feels quite similar to the Bjorn Mini jersery fabric. It is very soft and molds around baby beautifully. The Izmi comes in a light weight cotton – it is a much softer, less robust cotton than the Bjorn Mini cotton finish, it definitely moulds nicely around baby. It isn’t quite a soft as the jersey fabric of the other two, but it also doesn’t have the give of the other two either so can feel a little more secure. The Izmi is also availible in a mesh where the central portion of the panel has been replaced with mesh. Again not quite as soft as the Bjorn mesh but this is both a plus and a minus as it has less give too.

Price

When it comes to price they are all much of a muchness at £80. However, when you factor in how long they will last and options offered, it is hard to see the Bjorn Mini as good value compared to the other two. It is also worth noting that whichever you opt for, many parents do ultimately end up moving onto a bigger more robust buckle carrier around 4 months or so anyway. So, really none of them offer quite as good value compared to something like the Close Parent Caboo or a Stretchy wrap that costs between £40-55 and last for the same period. Or the Calin bleu stretchy wrap that costs just £25! Another option can be simply to rent for the period you need it. I offer 3 month long term hires, so you could hire an Izmi Baby Carrier, an Ergo Embrace or a Baby Bjorn Mini for the whole 4th trimester period for just £40 and save yourself needing to purchase your own and save the rest of the money for the next step purchase that should hopefully last baby from a few months all the way into toddlerhood.

-Madeleine

Comparing the Ergobaby Embrace (black), Izmi Baby (purple) and the Baby Bjorn Mini (grey) with a newborn doll

High Shoulder Carry with a Lightweight Buckle carrier

One of things that I love about being a carrying consultant is that I get to go off manual. I get to apply my knowledge of how carriers work, of infant positioning and development and I can use that to go off piste when needed.

A couple weeks ago I had a client come to me for help troubleshooting as her little one was really unsettled in their Ergobaby Embrace. She was following the manual to perfection, positioning was fab but baby was unhappy. So we put the carrier down and I asked her to show me how she held her little one when he was unsettled, how he liked being held in arms. She immediately popped him high on her shoulder.

This is such a common position for parents to hold their little ones when they are unsettled. I have so many photos of my husband and I carrying my son in this position when he was sad. We used to call it “the bouncy shoulder”. It pretty much never failed at calming him down and settling him!!

And so it got me thinking – there must be a way of facilitating this with her carrier. So while she calmed down her little one, I got a bit creative and worked out how to support a high shoulder, burp type position with an Ergobaby Embrace. And you know, it worked pretty well! Mum tried it and baby was instantly happier, instantly more settled.

Here is how to do it;

While I have shown it with the Ergo Embrace as this was the carrier my client had, this carry should work with any lightweight buckle. Particularly any that offers the option to wear the the carrier “apron style”. By this I mean that the panel hangs down from the waistband and then goes round baby’s bottom and back up (rather than one where the panel comes straight out the top of the waistband). Just because the apron style means you can sit babies bottom lower that the waistband, which is useful if like me you have boobs and thus are constrained in where you place the waistband to either above or below your boobs (for comfort reasons!). If you don’t have boobs and wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing the waistband slightly lower on your chest then essentially any carrier will work as you can simply place the waistband at the height you need to get baby where you want them on your shoulder. Other apron style lightweight carriers that do work well for this carry include the Kahu Baby carrier, the Izmi baby carrier, the Marsupi, and Meh Dai carriers (like the Hop-Tye and Didy-Tye) work really well for this too.

Being brutally honest, while this carry was more comfortable than I expected it to be, it isn’t the worlds most supportive position for a long period of time. The carry is very high so the weight it all on your upper back, so this will start to feel heavy quicker than compared to wearing the waistband at your waist and transferring more of the weight onto your pelvis.

But, what it is good for is those moments when you need it. When baby is really unsettled and unhappy in another other position, but your arms are knackered from the holding or you need your arms to get something done. Then when baby is more settled or has fallen asleep it is actually a simple job to loosen the straps and slide the baby and whole carrier back down to a more normal and more supportive carrying position. Or likewise once you’ve finished the thing you needed to do you can go sit down and rest! Either with baby still in the carrier or slipping it off and cuddling them as needed.

For my client, I viewed this carrying position as a “circuit breaker”. I see this regularly with so many parents; what happens is baby cries in the carrier (maybe they are tired, hungry, unsettled etc) and parent is worried they’ve done the carrier wrong or that baby doesn’t like the carrier so parent quite naturally and quite understandably becomes tense. Babies are amazing at reading their parents emotions and picks up on their parents tension and worry, and they don’t like seeing their parent tense so they cry. And then parent is more worried because baby is crying more now, and baby senses parent is more worried….. and on and on. It very quickly becomes a viscous circle. Then next time parent picks up the carrier they start feeling tense and worried baby won’t like it before they even put it on…. and so the viscous circle continues. Until we find something to break the cycle. In this case this high shoulder position – one baby is used to and loves and parent feels confident baby will like – was able to break the cycle, and I very much hope will later open up all the other positions to them too.

So many of my consultations are about working with parents to find the circuit breaker, the thing that breaks the cycle. For many it is simply going through their carrier in detail, step by step, allowing them to gain confidence using the sling and knowing that their baby is comfortable and supported and safe. For others its something else – each consultation is different, because we are all different!

If you’re feeling stuck please do reach out as I honestly, finding the solution that works is my absolute favourite part of this job!

-Madeleine

How to tighten a stretchy wrap without taking it off.

Ever had it where you tied your stretchy, put your baby in, started walking and realised baby is slowly migrating down your chest, sinking lower and lower? Let’s be honest it’s happened to all of us! And you know that its a sign that you’ve tied the wrap too loosely and that next time you should tie it tighter BUT that doesn’t help you right now!! Because really taking the whole wrap off, putting baby down and re-tying would be a massive faff!

Here is how to tighten your wrap without taking baby out:

You’ll notice the key thing is to support baby’s weight while guiding the fabric under baby’s leg. Simply pulling on the straps won’t work, because the combination of baby’s weight pulling against the elastic material and the friction at baby’s legs will stop the fabric from being tightened… hence why you need actively lift baby and guide the fabric under their legs.

It is a faff! Although less of a faff than taking the whole wrap off and on again!! And of course the long term solution is to learn to get the tightness right at the start (you can see tips on how to do this is carry #1 here), but for those days when it has got loose… it is really useful to know how to fix it!

-Madeleine

How to do a Hip Carry with a Buckle carrier

Many of us naturally will carry baby on our hips when carrying in arms, as doing so gives one arm free for making lunch and puts baby in a position where they can see what we are doing and and chat to us while we potter about.

Ever wondered if you can carry your baby on your hip in a buckle carrier?

Many baby carriers do offer this option (but its not always wonderfully clear or even in the manual).  Here is my method, shown with an Izmi Baby Carrier but this same method will work just as well with an Ergo Omni, Adapt orEmbrace, Connecta, Kahu Baby, Mamaruga Zen or Zebulo, Beco Gemini, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Manduca, JPMBB, Sleepy Nico and many others.

 

Developmentally, the hip position is one that works best once baby has “some” head control… so generally around 2-3 months onwards.  It is an absolutely great position for “nosy” babies who want to see everything while still getting a good view of their caregiver.  It’s a great position for communication and shared moments.  As such, hip carries can be a great alternative to forward facing, as it gives baby the same view but makes it easier for them to see you, for you to read their cues and also for them to tuck in and relax ready for a nap when needed.  It can also be less harsh on the parents back compared to forward facing.

Happy hip carrying!

-Madeleine

Carrier shown here is the Izmi Baby carrier and is available here.

 

Ergo Baby Embrace Review

The Embrace is the newest carrier from Ergo Baby.  Unlike their other carriers that work best from 2 or 3 months ish right through to 2.5 years… this carrier is designed to really fit that newborn and younger baby stage.  It works really well right from birth and will last you till around 1 year ish give or take.

One of the reasons this carrier works so well for newborns is it’s made from very soft, slightly stretchy jersey material.  The whole carrier is very lightweight and is designed to mold around both your and babies body… like a stretchy wrap or Caboo but with buckles. Because it is so lightweight it folds down into a really compact bundle, perfect for popping into a changing bag or under the pram.

The other reason it works so well right from the beginning is that this carrier has 2 height and width settings.  This comes from simply rolling the waist band 2 turns towards you (as shown in the video below), which both shortens the carrier height and brings you to a narrower part of the panel.  The adjustment isn’t smooth, just these 2 smaller or bigger settings but because the material is so soft this smaller setting does work really well on almost all newborns.  Ergo recommend the Embrace can be used from 7lb (3.2kg) and I have certainly got a great fit on several babies who were just a few weeks old even as low as just shy of 6 lb (2.7 kg).  Then as baby grows the waistband can be unrolled to the larger setting, typically around 2 months ish.

The Embrace offers 3 carrying positions.   You can see my full tutorials on all the positions this carrier offers (including a 4th I made up!) here.   On the front facing inwards toward the parent, on the front facing outward toward the world and on the hip.  Interestingly Ergo haven’t included the hip position in their manual, but it is actually a position this carrier does really well!  The front facing inwards position can be used right from birth, and is really snuggly, a good position for a sleepy baby and comfortable enough for a long nap!  The Hip position can be used from when baby has some head and neck control but it needn’t be as reliable as needed for the outwards position, this can be a really great position once baby goes through that big developmental leap around 4 months and transitions from being a baby who is quite sleepy interspersed with periods of ‘quiet alert’ to a full blown ‘nosy’ baby who wants to see anything and tries to resist sleep where possible!!  Because it is a position that allows them to see more while still supporting them in a position where they can tuck in a sleep and support their neck as they start to tire!  The front facing outwards position can be used once baby has really strong head and neck control.  Which is typically anywhere between 4 and 5 months depending on the baby – you can read more about how to tell if your baby is ready for this position here

While I think the hip and the front facing inward positions are really great, I can’t help feeling the facing out position on this carrier is more of a gimmick/marketing trick than anything else.  It does work pretty well with a plastic doll, but I have my reservations about how well it works on live wiggly babies.  The reason for my reservations is that facing away is a position that puts more strain on the parents back than any other position because babies centre of gravity is pulling away rather than toward parent… this is true of any carrier but this is likely to be exacerbated in the Embrace because its made from stretchy material… so as baby wiggles and bounces and strains to one side etc this additional strain is going to be magnified by the fact the material will stretch with baby.  Personally, I wouldn’t buy this carrier to forward face.  I would buy this carrier if I wanted an buckle option for a new newborn.  Then as my baby grew I might use the forward facing position to see if baby liked being carried like that, then if they did I could buy a bigger carrier (something like the Ergo Omni or other such forward facing buckle carrier) that would offer me support, and if they didn’t when I came to upgrade to another carrier I could instead look at the huge range of amazing carriers that don’t offer forward facing safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t really use it anyway.  

You can see these positions in action here:

And in my full tutorial videos here.

The position this carrier doesn’t offer is the back carry.  Sadly this carrier isn’t really designed to be used on the back as there isn’t a chest strap.  Added to the fact that the weight limit is 11.3 kg (25 lb) and that the stretchy material won’t feel as supportive as the child gets heavier this carrier this is definitely a carrier that most parents will move on from within the first year.  However, if you are looking for an buckle option to use right from the beginning this is a pretty good option.

So what are the cons?  Firstly, the extra soft jersey material is prone to bobbling.  I have two of these in the library and one has gone a little bobbly and slightly worn looking already after only 6 weeks worth of hires.  Doesn’t affect use but might bother some people!  The other thing worth considering is that because this carrier works best for newborns to the first 6 or so months, it doesn’t actually add a lot more longevity or functionality that a Caboo or a Stretchy wrap but is a bit more expensive than either of these options.  At time of writing the Embrace costs £79.90 verses £40-45 for a good quality stretchy wrap or £55 for a Caboo Lite.

How does it compare to other carriers? The two carriers on the market that this is most similar to are the Izmi Baby Carrier and the Mamaruga Zen.  The Izmi like the Embrace is really designed to support right from newborn, even the smallest babies.  Like the Embrace it offers front inwards, front facing out, hip and it does offer back as well.  In fact generally the Izmi will last a little longer than the Ergo Embrace as it offers a bit more flexibility.  And with its infant seat pad it can be used earlier with smaller newborns even many babies born prematurely too.  But it is made of a slightly sturdier cotton so some parents will prefer the softness of the Embrace and the slightly more padded waist band.  You can see the Izmi and the Embrace compared in more depth hereThe Zen Sling is made from a very similar ultra soft jersey as the Embrace, and has a very similar slightly padded waistband too, so is definitely one to consider if you are looking for a carrier like this.  The Zen sling has the benefit that it works really well from a couple of weeks old all the way to 2 years of age!  Offers front inwards, hip and back carries and has a brilliant system for adjusting the height and width of this carrier giving an absolutely perfect fit for the child as they grow.  Unlike the Embrace however, the Zen doesn’t offer the forward facing position and while it does offer a more flexible fit this comes with more straps to adjust and some parents prefer to have less to adjust.

All in all, the Ergo Baby Embrace is a great option for newborns and little babies.  It won’t last as long as many carriers on the market but what it does do well is that first bit.  Very few buckle carriers truly do newborn well and so is a good option for those looking for a buckle carrier rather than stretchy wrap or Caboo for this first bit.  Cost is £79.90 and these can be purchased from Sheen Slings webshop here, or by arrangement at sling library meets, consults, workshops or doorstep collection.  Or for a more eco choice you can hire one for the full 4th trimester period instead and save purchasing a carrier for when your ready to move onto a longer lasting next step option.

-Madeleine

If you found this article helpful and would like to help support Sheen Slings in producing content like this and keeping it free and accessable for all please consider contributing here.

First time mum & baby carrying – Guest Blog by Cat Lamin

Getting around with a newborn can be hard work. You spend months researching the best carry cot only to discover that your post-birth recovery means that using it is out of the question. Or maybe you live on the third floor and can’t get it up and down the stairs. Perhaps you’re just not confident enough at steering to risk your brand new little one rattling around inside. Whatever your reason, sometimes the carry cot isn’t your best option and that’s when carrying might come in to play. 

There are so many options for baby carrying and so much confusing advice that knowing what to get can be a little overwhelming and that’s where sling libraries can be really helpful. 

For the majority, sling libraries are run by enthusiastic individuals who have a passion for baby carrying and are keen to help and support parents in finding the best route for them and Sheen Sling Library is no exception.

We visited Madeleine at her home for a private one to one session when I was around 37 weeks pregnant. We knew that we both wanted to carry our little one, but we weren’t sure what the best option for us was going to be; we’d also been given a sling ring which we couldn’t quite get our head around so I sent over an email and off we went.

The first thing that Madeleine explained to us was that a lot of carriers claim to be for newborns, but most aren’t suitable for the first few weeks and if you want to get carrying right from the get go, you need to look at stretchy wraps, caboos and slings. She recommends coming back once your little one is three or four months old so that you can look at more rigid carriers and figure out what suits your lifestyle best. The idea is that by then, firstly your little one can hold their head up a bit and secondly, you’ll know how much you use your sling, which will help inform your choice of what to buy next.

The second thing we learned was that everyone is different and what suits one person might not suit another so you’re better off trying out lots of different ways of carrying to find what you’re most comfortable with. The joy of the sling library is that Madeleine has around 100 different carriers to try so there’s no shortage of ideas and she even offers short term loans so you can really get your head around what works.

Madeleine has a selection of ‘newborn’ dolls which weigh about the same as an actual baby so if you’re still pregnant you can at least get a feel for how the different carriers work – she recommends that for slings and wraps it’s fine to try them on while you’re still pregnant, but that it’s not worth trying on a rigid carrier until post birth as you need to find what fits your body best once you’ve lost the bump.

IMG_4813We brought along our sling ring to try out and agreed that, while it was a lovely idea, it didn’t really suit either of us so we quickly moved in to stretchy wraps and caboos. I have to admit that I thought we’d end up going with a caboo, especially as the stretchy wrap looked like some sort of origami torture, but we both fell in love with stretchy wraps on first try. There was something very special about the way the baby sat in the stretchy wrap and since neither of us struggled to get it on, we decided that would be the way forward. All credit to Madeleine who got us both to try several different textured wraps and made sure we were comfortable with tying it in before we left. My other half fell in love with a bright red Izmi wrap and we decided that since we’d only need it for the first three or four months, we might as well hire it from Madeleine rather than buying one that will sit in the drawer afterwards and never be used again. We were so grateful that hiring was an option and is well worth considering if you know you’ll only use it in the short term! 

IMG_4864Our little one was born on 8th July and by 10th July his dad had already tied on the wrap and taken William to meet his aunty Jacky for lunch at the local pub; it was great for daddy and baby to have some skin to skin time so easily. It has been a lifesaver for us both – when my other half went back to work it gave me the freedom to get things done while he slept on me. When the baby has been inconsolable and I’ve not slept, his dad had been able to put him in the sling and get on with work while he and I both slept. In fact, I’m writing this post right now with William in the sling as I sit on the bench on Twickenham riverside. It’s safe to say we use our sling nearly every single day and I would definitely recommend looking into getting one.

IMG_5372It’s also been interesting for me as a number of the other mums & dads from my Bump & Baby course have since gone to the Sling Library and, while everyone is happy with their carriers, we’ve all formed different opinions and chosen different options. I can’t stress how valuable it is to try things on and see what suits you best.

After two months with our baby, we’re big carrying fans now and can’t wait to go back to try on some more rigid carriers so that we can decide what our next step in baby-carrying is going to look like. I will be sad to give up the sling, but I’m looking forward to having a quicker option for getting our baby strapped on and ready for adventures!

– Cat Lamin of https://catlamin.com