How to get a great fit with your Buckle carrier

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.

The Waistband

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.

-Madeleine

PS – Carriers shown in the videos are the Ergo Omni 360 and the Beco Gemini, both available to purchase through the Sheen Slings shop and both available to hire to try before you invest.

Carrying Stories – Mairi: 1 boy, 4 slings and a whole lot of practise

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Mairi’s story….

Pre-pregnancy I’d never even heard of a baby wrap let alone know there was a
whole industry dedicated to them. Sure, they cropped up on my radar during
pregnancy but in all honesty, I thought they were a bit of a gimmick: an earth mother
hippy kinda thing. Fast forward to life with a 3-day old baby who when wasn’t feeding
or sleeping, just wanted to be held, and baby wraps started to look very appealing.

One-way stretchy wrap: the baby box wrap

In Scotland, all expectant mothers are given the Scottish Baby Box which contains a
range of baby items including a one-way stretchy wrap. I tried this wrap, with the
instructions given on how to tie it, when James was a few days old and I wasn’t
feeling it. I remember it feeling bulky, heavy, and loose. After airing my complaints on
Instagram, Laurna from Coorie in with Love got in touch to offer some advice and
arranged to send me the Joy and Joe Bamboo wrap to review. Long story short. I
was hooked, and I’ve been carrying James in some form of carrier ever since.

Photo 1

Joy and Joe stretchy wrap

The two-way stretchy wrap was brilliant for a young baby and it’s a good if you’re
new to it. It’s lightweight and really really comfortable, and only took me a couple
attempts to get a good secure finish. I think because I liked it so much, and my
confidence using it was pretty high from the start, James took to babywearing really
well. No matter how cranky or tried he was, he’d instantly calm when placed in the
wrap which made outings significantly easier; and we got a newfound freedom as a
family because we were no longer restricted with a cumbersome pram. Plus, you get
to hold hands with your partner when your babywearing (and also carry a travel
coffee mug, priorities right?) which ain’t so easy with a pram. When James was in the
wrap I could brush my teeth, make lunch and eat it with both hands, and I also
managed to master the art of going to the toilet with James strapped in (the glamour
of parenting eh?)
Photo 2

Mamaruga Zen sling

As James was getting older, and I knew I wanted to start doing back carries in the
future, I took advice from Sheen Slings and invested in a Mamaruga Zen Sling. The
Zen sling feels like a soft stretchy carrier but has that sturdy reliable feeling with all
the buckles, and it’s adjustable so will grow with your child. I started carrying James
in this when he was 4 weeks old and I’m still using it now he’s 2+ years.Photo 3

At the same time I also invested in the Boba hoodie, which can be worn over the
child in a front or back carry, and frankly is a necessary purchase when you live in
Scotland. Granted we don’t use this hoodie anymore, James is just too big, but I did
use it a lot in that first year and a half.

photo 4

Firespiral Size 5 Woven Wrap

Woven wraps, as I’m sure most parents who’ve never used one will agree, are
intimidating: all that fabric and a complicated tying process. It doesn’t help that you
never see a parent in a fluster using a woven wrap, they always look so confident
and competent. When James was around 1 and a half, I was mad keen to try a
woven wrap but I don’t have a local sling library nor do I know anyone who has one.
Sheen Slings kindly agreed to post me one but this did mean I was
on my own trying to master it.  If you can get a demonstration or a one-to-one consult
for a woven wrap then do. That said, I did manage with (a lot of) YouTube tutorials.
By the time I was sending it back I was ordering my own.

I’ve been using my Firespiral Size 5 for over a year now but unlike my other carriers,
I still wouldn’t say I’m confident using it. After a lot of trial and error I find a ruck carry
most comfortable for us but this type of carry isn’t proving ideal for a toddler who is
constantly wanting up and down when we go on walks. So again, on the advice of
Sheen Slings I’ve ordered a couple sling rings so I can start doing hip carries which work better for contrary kids. What I like about the woven wrap, is that I can see us
using it for a couple more years and if we do have a second child, I know I can also
use it from newborn too, so it is a smart purchase in the long term.

Photo 5

I’m happy with my mini sling collection, but in retrospect I do wish I had a local sling
library to try out different carriers before I bought my own. Particularly the Zen sling.
It was only when visiting Madeleine for a long weekend and getting the opportunity to play with her sling library (honestly, I was a kid in a sweetie shop), that I found I really
liked the Caboo DX Go as an alternative: I found it a lot comfier to wear, particularly
when James was sleeping, and it was easier to use because it didn’t feature buckles.
It also folded up smaller in the changing bag. I’m still debating whether or not to buy
one.

Photo 6

I guess the benefit of a sling library is that you not only get to try a variety of different
carriers, but you can try them with different sized dolls to understand how the carrier
will feel as your child grows. After all, what feels brilliant to wear when your child is 6
months old may not feel so good when they’re 2 years old. So whether you have a
sling library just down the road, or you follow them on Instagram (or like me your pal
has their own company and you can pick their brain incessantly about all things
babywearing) then get in touch with them for advice, and invest in the right carrier for
you.

-Mairi of http://theweegiekitchen.com/

FAQ – Help my carrier is too big for my baby: Fit tips for fitting a newborn baby into a Buckle carrier (shown with the Ergo Omni 360)

Many carriers are sold as fitting from newborn all the way through to toddlerhood.  However, some of the adjustments required to truly get this amount of flexibility out of a carrier aren’t always obvious or well explained in manuals.

In this video I demonstrate how to “shorten” the back panel on a carrier by simply sitting baby deeper into the carrier.  This is one of the easiest adjustments to make and one that often makes a huge difference to how well a carrier fits a smaller baby.

 

I demonstrate using the Ergo Omni 360 because a) this is a very popular carrier, but also because b) it has a very long back panel so does often need shortening using this method!!  But the same method will work with essentially any buckle carrier.

-Madeleine

 

How to thread a Close Parent Caboo

While the Caboo comes already threaded, you may need to re-thread following washing or if it becomes very twisted.

Here is how to do it:

  • Start by finding the cross and placing this on your back with the two rings hanging down behind your back and the long straps coming up over your shoulders on either side
  • Locate one ring and bring it to your side, then take the strap coming over your opposite shoulder across your body to meet it
  • Bring the strap through both rings from underneath to over, then open the rings and bring the strap back through the other way dividing the two rings.
  • This side should now be securely threaded, repeat on the second side
  • Adjust tightness through the rings and then your ready to carry baby!

 

Further inspiration on how to carry baby and photo tutorials for 9 different ways you can use the Close Caboo can be found here.

-Madeleine

 

Why I don’t think you should buy a baby carrier before your baby is born…

IMG_1598I love that babywearing has grown in popularity over the last few years!  I see so many parents absolutely loving snuggling their little ones while getting stuff done… and it’s fabulous.  But one of the downsides of this growing popularity is baby carriers are now on almost all must have lists of things to buy before the baby arrives.  And here is a the catch: carriers (particularly buckle carriers) fit a bit like jeans – different brands and different styles fit different bodies.  In fact it’s worse than jeans because as well as needing to fit the parent it must also fit the baby, and fit how you want to use it, fit your lifestyle and fit the personal preferences of your little one!  All of which is almost impossible to tell before baby is born because it’s very difficult to try a carrier on when you have a bump in the way and how can you know how you are going to use it or what your baby’s preference is going to be before they’ve even entered the world?

You just can’t.  Fun fact – more than 60% of my clients are people who purchased a carrier before their baby was born and then were really dismayed to find that it didn’t work they way they thought it would.  Maybe it was a carrier that advertised from birth but in reality doesn’t work well until more like 8 weeks, maybe that it turned out not to fit them well, or holds baby only in x position but baby prefers y position or maybe its a case of the carrier is absolutely fine but the instructions and YouTube videos were so bad they couldn’t figure out how to get it comfortable but a few tweaks and a different method for putting it on has made all the difference.

The key here is to learn from this – babywearing is AWESOME but it needs to work for you.  The best way to see if a carrier works for you and avoid wasting your money is to try it with your baby and for that your baby needs to be here.

IMG_1852But “I want to wear my baby right from day 1” I hear you cry!  Yes! Yes I do want you to be able to do this too…  So here is my advice.  Don’t buy a buckle carrier yet, but do invest in a newborn specialist sling!  Or better still rent one.  Something like a Stretchy Wrap or a Caboo.  Or if you don’t like the idea of one of these a Ring Sling, a Woven wrap or a really specialist tiny buckle carrier like the Izmi Baby.  These are fab options that work right from day 1 and fit a huge range of people.  They can be tried on and learnt in advance as they offer a much more flexible fit.  And they don’t cost the earth to purchase, and in fact you needn’t buy one of these at all as Sheen Slings and many other Sling Libraries offer long term loans on Stretchies, Caboos and other newborn specialist slings which can save you from needing to buy something that you’ll only use for a few months.  So you can save your money for the big investment sling once your baby is a couple of months old and is here to try on with.

-Madeleine