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Hacking Your Baby Carrier

by Emma Cunningham
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As a babywearing educator and one of the leaders of the Toronto-based group Carry Me Close, I see so many “hacks” people commonly recommend to newbie babywearers. I have one thing to say about this: if the carrier fits the wearer and the baby properly, there shouldn’t be any need to hack it. If you need to hack, either you could benefit from attending a babywearing meeting near you or hiring a certified educator to check your technique, OR your carrier is the wrong size. “The best option is always the carrier that fits you and your baby properly at the stage they are at now, with no added inserts or modifications which have not been recommended by the manufacturer,” says Linnea Catalan, Director of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA), the trade organization for the babywearing industry.

I see hacks most often used on buckle carriers. People are gifted Ergos, Beco Soleils, or Tulas, and they want to wear them RIGHTNOW, or they don’t want to spend the extra money on the infant insert. So they go online, where other parents tell them “Oh, just put a rolled blanket under the bum – that will raise them high enough in the carrier and support the legs in a better position!” The thing is, that approach is ONLY recommended by LILLEbaby, and it’s not transferable to other brands. Infant inserts do more than adjust for height or leg positioning – they also support the spine to make sure that baby remains upright and avoids slumping so that his or her airway remains open. “Not only are inserts meant to boost babies up to the appropriate height in the carrier, but many also close the gap around the sides of the carrier and help to keep babies in the proper ‘Visible and Kissable’ upright position,” Catalan advises. I promise you, that is more important than where the legs and hips are.

Another hack I’ve seen recommended lately is to use an Ergo insert in a Tula (or the reverse, or any other brand’s). A while ago, Tula inserts were on back order and sometimes retailers who aren’t as familiar with babywearing best practices neglected to tell parents that an insert is 100% mandatory. So again, parents came to the rescue and suggested using another brand. The thing is, there’s a reason why different people like different brands – the shape and size and cut of the panels can vary quite widely. Arie Brentnall-Compton, co-founder of the Canadian Babywearing School, says “Infant inserts are designed to be used with their own brand of carrier only. Young babies require the lateral support that the inserts provide, so it’s essential that the carrier and insert are meant to be utilized together.” In order to prevent dangerous slumping, it’s really important to use the correct insert for your carrier.

The scariest hack I’ve seen has nothing to do with inserts, though. It’s usually suggested when a mom gets pregnant and her belly gets uncomfortable with the waist strap, and people tell her to thread it through the shoulder straps to create an onbuhimo-like effect. Please, don’t ever do this. The shoulder straps were not designed to be weight-loaded in this way. When you use a carrier in any way other than what is recommended by the manufacturer, you are taking a risk. And since all manufacturers have the proper inserts and instruction manuals…why go there?

In conclusion, much like with anything else, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Always refer back to the instruction manual or check with a certified educator before proceeding.

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