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You Can Use a Baby Carrier or You Can Carry Your Baby

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I'm not a baby wearer. I've tried, believe me I've tried. I've been through pouch slings, ring slings, padded ring slings, homemade pouch slings and even a wrap. I don't know if it's the chest, the fact that Emmitt is friggin huge or what...I've simply NOT been able to make it work.

I've got an Ergo on the way for what may be one last try, but the first five months, I've had to either carry him or use the baby carrier.

That's why it's irked me more than a little bit this past week when I've seen a few comments to the effect of how bad people feel for all those poor babies in the baby carrier and "why don't those mom's carry their babies??!!"

Well, there are a few reasons.

1.) Some of us have baby carriers because *gasp* we have cars. I know it's an amazing thought, but sometimes, when you live in Ohio and there is occasionally 18 inches of snow, it's easier to put Emmitt in his carrier while in the warmth of the house before covering him with a blanket and then with the cozy that attaches over the carrier. Believe me, this is one million times easier than forcing him into an infant snowsuit and then lugging him out to the car while trying to lock the front door, open the garage and get both he and Nora into their seats.

2.) Emmitt often sleeps while I run errands. I'd like someone to explain to me why it's better to WAKE HIM UP, take him out of his infant car seat, put him into a sling, run inside the grocery store for ten minutes and then run back out to wake him up AGAIN as I put him back into the car seat than to simply lift the car seat from the car to the shopping cart and then back to the car. Is it REALLY better for my baby for me to wake him up twice rather than to let him peacefully slumber in the cozy confines of his carrier?

3.) Not every baby likes to be held. While Emmitt LOVES to be held (which is why I tried so hard to get the hang of a sling) Elnora did not. She would sleep peacefully in her carrier while I was out or if we were in church, she would NEVER sleep in my arms. In fact, she'd squirm and fuss until I put her down.

4.) There are instances where it is NOT easier to use a sling than a stroller. If I'm headed to the mall to try on clothes it's far more logical to put Emmitt in a stroller than in a sling. If I put him in a sling that means putting him on the floor of the dressing room while I try on clothes. Do you really want to put your baby on the floor of a dressing room? Even if you put a blanket down first? Again, why not let them peacefully hang out in their stroller?

Now let me be clear...I know the benefits of baby wearing and I believe in them. I think that some babies do amazingly well in a sling and some moms would never get any work done without them. I love the idea of a sling in urban areas where you walk everywhere or take the subway. So much easier than wrangling a stroller into a cab or on the subway. I'd love to be able to use a sling or carrier when we walk downtown to the farmer's market in the summer.

I don't dislike slings. In fact, I very much hope that this Ergo does the trick because I'm planning a business trip to New York in April and would LOVE to be able to use the stroller or Ergo as the situation dictates.

I simply think that some people need to think before they speak. Baby carriers are not evil. Moms that use baby carriers are not neglectful. Slings are not for every mom and every baby. They are not a requirement for breastfeeding. (In fact, if you're built like me I can't even FATHOM how you would nurse in a sling.)

Slings are a wonderful tool that serve a great purpose. Kinda like baby carriers... ;)


  1. Blogger K | 5:45 PM |  

    I didn't start using a sling/wrap until Henry was nearly 5 months old. I couldn't get the hang of it early on -- I hope with the next baby to try earlier. But slings are just a tool -- great if it works. I'd never trade my car seat, stroller or swing for all the slings in the world!

  2. Blogger heidi | 6:18 PM |  

    It's like everything else: whatever works best for you. I love babywearing, but I'm sure Molly's not in her sling as much as many babies are. And that's peachy. I totally hear you with the baby carrier/car issue.

    FWIW, I wonder if Emmitt would like a Mei Tai. You can wear it with him facing out to see the exciting wonderful world. I have scoliosis and it is very comfy on my back, so it might work well for a chunka baby. (Mine's a little petite eensy girl.)

    Or you can just hold and cuddle him alot & continue to enjoy your stroller:)

  3. Blogger Casey | 6:30 PM |  

    Have you tried a mei tai carrier? I have one and love it.

  4. Blogger Cairo Mama | 12:03 AM |  

    Slings are simple contraptions, but hard to learn to use. I had a ring sling, but couldn't get it situated properly. For the first few months, I just held him in my arms constantly, but I used the carseat carrier for trips to the store because it is easier to put the carrier right into the shopping cart and not wake him up.

    I was determined to learn how to use my sling and I got it to work a few times, but my baby likes to stand and kept trying to stand in the sling (at 3 months) and wouldn't cooperate. I made a tube sling and it worked easier than the ring, but Ian's attempts to stand resulted in the same problem.
    For the first three months of his life, I was in Pennsylvania where you have to use a car to get anywhere and he was light enough to use the carseat carrier. Over here in Cairo, I don't have a car and the streets are treacherous for strollers, so I really needed a baby carrier.

    I ordered a Beco and an Ergo. They are both soft structured carriers. They have a waist strap and a chest strap and work much better than the Bjorn (which I also have). I wrote about it here:

    The Beco works better for me because it is smaller and a bit lighter, but my boobs aren't that big and my baby is slender. I think you will really like the Ergo, you can learn to use it by yourself in minutes. The Ergo comes with a great instructional dvd, but you really don't need the dvd to figure it out. The Ergo is bigger and I think it will accomodate your chest and your baby. I believe both products have extensions, though. It is very secure for a squirmy baby. I have taken Ian to Petra and Jerash in Jordan and to the camel races in Qatar in the Beco and it was great. I use it everyday now. If Emmitt is fussy when you put him in, just start walking and pat him on the back or bum and he will most likely calm down. My baby is not a calm, patient, or easy going guy. He wants to be up and he wants to see, even though he is facing towards my body, he can still see and is still upright.

    You might like a mei tai as well, but the Beco and Ergo are easier to use and easier to get on and off.

  5. Blogger RuralMama | 6:07 AM |  

    I agree that carriers and strollers are not evil. That said, I hope the Ergo might work better for you than the slings. I finally broke down and bought one, after trying and failing to get used to various slings. We *love* ours. I am too well-endowed on top for slings to work well, but I don't have that problem with the Ergo. We have used it quite a bit, from age 7-ish months, to age 16 months now. My only beef with it is its tendency to make my postpartum belly more obvious.

  6. Anonymous Csara | 9:13 AM |  

    I never could get comfortable using a sling with my son. He's also huge and although I'm not a DD, I was pretty darn close when I was breastfeeding so maybe that was an issue for us too. Not sure, but we did really like the Ergo carrier.

    Good luck!

  7. Blogger nurturing notes | 9:15 AM |  

    We never got a baby carrier because I always saw people carrying the baby in their arms and their stuff in the carrier! If I lived in the northern US, I would definitely use one. I have been tempted to get an old one and keep in in the back of my van for grocery store trips, but my Mei Tai has worked well for me.

  8. Anonymous Mary Jo | 9:18 AM |  

    Here's my problem with baby carriers . . . I know women whose babies never leave them. Ok, not necessarily the carrier, but the carrier, the swing, the bouncy seat, etc, etc, etc. I wonder if the comments you hear are directed at this kind of problem.

    I had trouble with the sling, too. By the time he could hold his head and support some of his body weight, I loved to carry him on my hip with the sling for support.

    This is not to say I didn't also love the convience of the baby carrier. Sleeping babies should not be woken with out cause! I used to walk the mall with DS . . . and one trip with the sling was all it took to know that walking (for exercise anyway), was better done without a baby strapped on!

    I'm with you . . . don't use a hammer to drill a hole! Use whatever tool is right for you.

  9. Blogger Jennifer | 11:42 AM |  

    Is this seriously an issue? My son never liked being held, it never occurred to me that when I used the carrier or stroller that someone would question me for not wearing him. Who knew?!
    I'm expecting #2 in May and hope for convenience sake that she'll like the sling. Although, I'm sure I'll use the heck out of my double stroller and infant carrier.

  10. Anonymous Tamara | 3:56 PM |  

    Ooh, it really steams me when people make judgements like that. You never know people's situation!

    I used the car seat/carrier a TON in the beginning because I had a rough recovery from my C-section (after 36 hours of labour). I had a cuddlywrap but it just put too much pressure on my incision and I got way too sore too fast. Others have their reasons as well!

    We do use the wrap a lot more now and have also added a hotsling, but it took awhile to get it right. I'm also large-chested and I found that the more upright carries work WAY better for us than the cradle carries... I found when he was in the cradle carries he looked so twisted and angled around my boobs, so we had to wait until he had better head control to really use it. We've found the hip carry and the buddha carry work well.

    We have nursed in the hotsling, but he's sitting upright in a hip carry and I need to lift my boob way up for him. Not exactly inconspicuous. :D

  11. Blogger Jennifer | 5:54 PM |  

    K, I need to send you your wrap back! I've got it here to send, just haven't hit the post office yet. Thanks so much for sending it for me to try. :)

    To everyone else, thanks so much for your input. I think I view babywearing along with co-sleeping in that I see the benefits, I'm glad that it's an option for people, but I get sick of folks talking down about people that don't do it.

    I totally get the idea of kids being left in their carriers too much and the people that rock their kids absent mindedly with their feet when baby cries instead of picking them up...etc... I get that. Again, I've just seen a lot of comments lately on list servs and message boards that are along the lines of "I just can't believe people carry their babies in those things etc..." and it just irks me.

    Like the number of times that I've reminded the breastfeeding crazies that they don't need to "feel sorry" for those "poor babies" drinking from bottles.

    For all they know that mom had a masectomy or adopted the child or heck, is an exclusive pumper like I was.

    I think it's just that as much as having babies has turned me into a big old hippie, having two children that are so radically different has also made me realize that there is not "perfect" way to parent. Every child, every parent interacts in a different way. Unless someone is neglecting their child, people need to chill. ;)

  12. Anonymous Tamara | 8:00 PM |  

    Jennifer wrote:
    "Like the number of times that I've reminded the breastfeeding crazies that they don't need to "feel sorry" for those "poor babies" drinking from bottles.

    For all they know that mom had a masectomy or adopted the child or heck, is an exclusive pumper like I was."

    Word. I have a friend who got a dressing down from some random stranger for giving her baby a bottle. This friend had developed a heart condition during pregnancy and was put on some medication afterwards that would have been terrible for the baby, making it impossible to nurse. You never know people's reasons for things!

  13. Blogger wilkinet | 10:59 PM |  

    you know, it's a shame that you've been made to feel inadequate because your baby didn't enjoy being in a sling. I think all of us have a tendency to be zealous about one thing or another in parenting... and some babywearing parents can be a little guilty of that occasionally... I think part of it is that so many people don't even consider babywearing as an option... in fact in UK 50% of mums say they have never even tried a baby sling. If it's any reasurance our second son couldn't stand being in a baby carrier when he was younger (early months) he'd just head but my (or my wife's) chest as if to say "I can't see!" (he was and still is an 'observer'). As soon as he was old enough to go in the Wilkinet facing out on the front (like this baby sling position he quickly fell in love with it (because he could see what was going on - and at adult hight too. The Ergo is an excellent carrier - we've got one and it's one of my favourites... only thing with it for our son though is it does carry the child low down your back... in true "I want to see what's going on style" our son tends to lean to one side to try to see round me when we out for walks.

  14. Blogger K | 5:33 AM |  

    I think it's just that as much as having babies has turned me into a big old hippie, having two children that are so radically different has also made me realize that there is not "perfect" way to parent. Every child, every parent interacts in a different way. Unless someone is neglecting their child, people need to chill. ;)

    Sounds like the thesis of a great parenting philosophy.

    No rush on sending the wrap -- I won't need it for at least a year!

  15. Blogger Carrie Lauth | 6:38 AM |  

    Being a great Mom means listening to your child, not to someone else's idea of what works for your family. Good on you Jennifer. :)

  16. Blogger Hanmee | 10:54 AM |  


    I have a new native carrier, a sutemi, and an ergo. I never went stir crazy on the carrier just because I am like you when it comes to carrier use. E.g., if i'm going to the store, why put the baby in a carrier for 5 minutes and then come back out. On the other hand, when I was out at Costco a couple of weeks ago, i put the baby in a carrier while we walked around. The only thing is there's also no guarantee she wants to be in there the whole time. She's been squirmy.

  17. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:36 PM |  

    I think most of the problem is society's view of how carriers/strollers are used. I walk through a mall, and I see so many moms pushing strollers/carrying car seats while talking on their cell phones, window shopping, yakking with their friend, whatever, and half the time I feel like someone could come up and snatch the kid and mom would never even notice, that's how detached they are. You see everyone around you propping up baby with a bottle while drinking their vente lofat frapp and talking on their cell phone, and it becomes "normal", nobody questions it. This is what you see all around you, so it's what you learn, and when it's your turn, it's what you do. Our society dictates that this is how children are treated, and it becomes self-perpetuating. I live in a "crunchy" area, and yet unless I'm at the farmer's market, I never see a sling, and even then I'll only see a few. And while I understand there are many valid reasons for not using one, I also know that the lion's share of our society never even considered it.

    I sent a friend in another part of the country a sling as a baby gift. The first time he wore the baby outside the house, people questioned what it was, and what he had in it, because they had never seen one. *That* is the problem.

    Like breastfeeding, AP is looked down upon by our society, and yet the last 30 years, society has done a bang-up job of raising our children with the hands-off method, right?

    I feel very strongly about baby-wearing, but if my child refuses, so be it. I do my best not to judge other people overtly, but there is a part of me that will always want to educate that there is another way. But, I'll restrict my educating to people who ask, and giving AP gifts at baby showers.

  18. Blogger Andrea | 6:47 AM |  

    By carrier, you mean carseat????
    Your post was a bit confusing.
    I do agree with you, and this is coming from a BABYWEARER, lol. I use a Didymos wrap and love it. Like the other poster said; do what works for you, and when you can, WEAR your baby as it benefits both you. Personally, I don't ever try on clothes, because I rarely buy clothes unless I know its something I CAN wear and already know my size ( jeans, t shirts, etc...) When I leave the home, its to shop walmart, go for walks or field trips with the kids so wearing my baby is a HUGE HELP and good for both of us. I recommend a Mai Tie or a wrap. You can get lots of tips at http://www.thebabywearer.com

  19. Blogger MamaBean | 8:59 AM |  

    I had a sling. In fact, we had two. I'm about half an inch shy of 5 feet and my husband is 6 feet. Two very different body types requiring two different slings (or one adjustable, which never quite worked for me). Slings are all about the distance across your body. The distance between my shoulder and hip is not very wide, hence my wee little baby even at a month old was squished inside the damn thing and hated it. So I hated it too.

    We have a bjorn, but it kills my shoulders and back even after a quick trip to the grocery store. So we got an ergo, because I want to HIKE with this child. And I love it! I love that I can wear her in three different positions. I love that it is soft and collapsible. I love that it has a sleep hood to protect her from sun or keep her head from rolling backwards.

    I live in a somewhat "crunchy" town. You see babies being "worn" everywhere here. Sometimes I feel like I'm an outcast because I have an Ergo and not a wrap, lol. But luckily it's a tolerant crowd. You also see tons of strollers everywhere too. In fact, you often see one women wielding her stroller and giving the eye to the woman across the street with a different older, and you can see the mental calculations going on about who's stroller is better. Again, lol.

    I think what I've noticed a lot is gear envy and gear accumulation. Thankfully I have a husband who hates that sort of thing and thinks simplicity is best. One carrier (Ergo), one stroller . . . and we still end up just holding her most of the time!!

  20. Anonymous tankgirl | 12:02 PM |  

    I'm going to agree with the above comments that it's not per se the fact that carseats are used as carriers at all that's the problem... but the fact that they have become the NORM and most moms don't even consider that there are alternatives.

    I do find myself saying "poor baby" when I see those things carried about, but I also say "poor mama" because she's usually so hampered down by the cumbersomeness of the thing. For many outings, carrying the baby is just so much less work, but it just doesn't occur to them.

    I do have a couple responses to your arguments in favour of carseat carriers.

    1) Infant carseat carriers can only be used up to a certain age/weight. After that point, you've got to figure out how to get baby to the car in the winter anyway. Personally, I find this easier with a newborn than with a big, squirming toddler! I pop my 2mo in her sling, put my Kindercoat on over everything, head to the car, quickly unzip and pop her out and snap her into her carseat (which is a convertible, so we didn't have to spend more $$ on muliple seats).

    2) Some babies are different, of course, but most won't be horribly awakened by being removed from a carseat to a sling. And if they are awakened, most babies fall asleep in a sling very quickly anyway.

    3) Even for a quick 5-minute pop into a store, I prefer keeping things light and easy and having my hands available.

    Your other points are good ones, and this is why I never actually say anything to mums lugging about these carriers (or bottle-feeding, etc). I try not to judge, I don't know their story. However, the fact remains that MOST of the time when mums are using these, it's out of detachment/ignorance/etc.

    I can understand the usefulness of them, I can't understand the predominance of them. They are, in most cases, MORE awkward than the alternatives. Moms 50 years ago somehow got around without them. I agree with the "gear envy" being a factor!

    Slings do take practice, some are better than others, and some will work better for some people than for others. It helps if you have a NINO or other babywearing support group in your area to get 'hands-on' help. I hope the Ergo does work for you!

    All that being said, I did appreciate how this article made me rethink if I'm judging too harshly when I do see mums using them. If I did have one, I'd probably use it occasionally, but so far I've yet to have any moments of "gee, I wish I had... " Still, I think the majority of the time they are being 'abused' rather than 'used', and it's unfortunate for both mom and baby!

  21. Blogger mamadillo | 6:00 PM |  

    Nodding along with tankgirl here.

    The few times I've tried to use a car-seat (we don't have a travel-system) in a supermarket trolley have been a huge faff, either carting the seat to the trolley or leaving the baby in the car while I take the trolley to the car and by the time I've got the car-seat out of the car they've woken up anyway so I've thought 'sod that' and put them in the sling anyway. *shrug*

    Funny how you 'even' tried a wrap, as if that's the ultimate babywearing skill-level. It's really much easier than people think, especially the stretchy wrap with smaller babies.

  22. Blogger Jennifer | 6:33 PM |  

    mamadillo, I hope the "even tried a wrap" comment was meant to be funny and not snarky...I'm honestly not sure which way to take it.

    In my attempts at babywearing, a wrap IS the most complex baby carrier/sling to master the use of. Perhaps not everyone feels that way, I'm simply sharing my own experience.

    My Ergo did arrive and I love it. Pretty easy to use and Emmitt likes riding upright. I look forward to being able to use it for some of our outings.

    I think it's the type of thing were people just have to accept that different moms find different things "easy." To me, lugging 20 pounds of "dead weight" (Emmitt is too young to sit on my hip or otherwise "help" far easier to carry my two year old than him) is much harder than carrying him in the baby carrier, which I can set down to free up both my hands for things like getting the car door or the house door unlocked.

    I'm thrilled that many people find slings and wraps to be so very handy, but I find it every bit as condescending and presumptous to say that moms who use carriers are "disconnected" as I would to say that moms who nurse 3 year olds are "twisted" or that moms who co-sleep are "endangering their babies." Or even that "OBs are cut-happy surgeons that just look for an excuse to C-Section you."

    If I were a "mainsteam mom" reading this blog and I had never heard of or seen baby slings and wraps and read the comments about moms who use baby carriers, I can assure you that I would be highly unlikely to see out these baby wearing types to learn more from them.

    Thankfully, I know and support the benefits, even if I found it to not be the easiest or best solution for me.

    ;) Stereotypes and assumptions rarely get us very far in our attempts to educate people.

  23. Blogger Cairo Mama | 3:09 AM |  

    Your environment, community and personality of your baby play a part in determining what is easier. Even the recent Mothering Magazine article on babywearing admits a learning curve for slings and especially wraps. People like mamadillo need to understand that in places like where Jennifer lives in Ohio and where I used to live in Pennsylvania, the Bjorn is radical (o.k. that is an exaggeration, but not by much). It is hard to find an experienced babywearer to help you get the handle of slings and wraps. It is very frustrating to have people tell you that slings and wraps are easy when you can't get them to work for you. I am not a stupid person, neither is Jennifer, but we both had problems. For those of you who got it to work right away with no help, that is great, but not understanding why others have difficulty is unprouctive and mean.

    In the suburbs and rural areas, you have to drive to get to the store. If you park near the shopping cart return in the parking lot, it is easy to get the carseat out, right into the cart and back into the car when you are done. I ran multiple errands in one shot with my son this way and he stayed asleep. If I tried to take him out, he would wake up. I had a sling, but could not get it to work well enough to mess with it while running errands.

    When I moved to Cairo where I do not have a car during the day, the roads and sidewalks are not conducive to strollers and there are places I can walk to, I tried to figure out my ring sling again. I even sewed a tube sling and I don't sew, but I was determined to make it work. My son was three months old and we were established in routine and gotten through our breastfeeding problems so I had time to concentrate on it. My son would lock legs legs and push out, making it unstable. He wouldn't tolerate it for more than a few minutes most of the time and longer than that hurt my shoulder.

    Then, I saw found the Beco and Ergo. I ordered them both and they work great for me. If he locks his legs and squirms around, they are both secure enough to hold him (with no practice or learning curve on my part) until he settles down. I wear him all the time.

    Even when I used the carseat carrier, I held him at home all the time and co-slept. I hadn't plannned on co-sleeping, but unlike slings and breastfeeding, it felt like the natural thing to do. Now that he is almost 6 months old, I am still co-sleeping, still breastfeeding and happily babywearing with my Beco and Ergo.

    Experienced babywearers need to concentrate on helping new mothers to use slings, wraps or soft structured carriers instead of criticising mothers for utilizing other tools like carseats. Even in Pennsylvania when I did manage to use my sling, I got a positive response, had I been better with it, I could have introduced a lot more people to babywearing as I try to do now with my Beco.

    So, mamas unite and be kind!

  24. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:53 PM |  

    Amen! Thank you for that- I've always been a little confused as to the assumed correlation between breastfeeding and slings. I, like you, have tried wearing my kids and it has not been very successful. While I am a huge lactivist and enjoy breastfeeding more than anything, my children have always enjoyed a healthy combination of being held, pushed in strollers, baby carriers, and once they could walk-walking themselves. How my baby is carried has no direct relation to the relationship I have with him and the joy that breastfeeding brings.

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