By Steph de Silva
Former babywearing blogger and online forum administrator (Baby Carriers Downunder & Babywearing Buy Sell Swap), mother-of-three
Review for general newcomers to babywearing
Who are you as a parent? Have you got it all figured out yet?
Maybe you don’t have it all figured out. Maybe you’re finding that with each passing week it’s different. Maybe you’re not doing too much in the way of forward planning, you’re just working things out as you go along. If that’s who you are as a parent, then I think the Ergobaby 360 is a carrier to consider.
I’ll describe the Ergobaby 360 in three words: simplicity, flexibility, longevity.
Simplicity. The Ergobaby 360 is a classic buckle carrier. No ties, nothing too fiddly. Getting a basic carry right is simple. If you’re new to babywearing or you just want something that works, then a classic buckle carrier should make it to your shortlist. You can learn how to use the Ergobaby 360 correctly in minutes. Your mum can learn how to use this carrier.
Flexibility. Most classic buckle carriers have front and back options with, possibly, a hip carry option. Most of the time, the hip carry isn’t a stand out feature of the carrier, however. In the case of the Ergobaby 360, though, by changing the strap configuration from what’s commonly used and improving the waist of the carrier, it’s fully functional and comfortable.
The addition of the facing out carry for older babies gives you the option to try that if it’s something you’d like. However, it doesn’t impinge on the functionality of the other facing-in carries if that’s not something you want to do.
Unlike many carriers with a forward facing option, the back carry can be done unassisted in the Ergobaby 360. The reality of our lives as parents is that we spend a lot of our time alone with our children: a carry or carrier you need help to use isn’t one that you reach for often. The Ergobaby 360 is fully functional, just add baby (or toddler).
Longevity. The problem with most buckle carriers (there are a few exceptions) is that it’s one-size-fits-insert-age-here. If you have a toddler and a newborn, then either someone is too big or too small.
The Ergobaby 360 has an adjustable height body, however. With the infant insert, it can fit newborns safely and comfortably. Without the insert and with the back extended, it fits my 3.5 year old preschooler with complete coverage over her head under the sleep hood. On our test run with the Ergobaby 360, my preschooler fell asleep in the car. I pulled her out of her seat, tossed her on my back and she snuggled right down and went back to sleep.
This is a carrier you can use from the time they arrive to the time when you no longer need to worry about inconvenient naps and supermarket tantrums. (Please note: my kids are pretty small. If you have big and tall babies, then using this carrier well into preschool may go over the weight limits- but in general, this is a carrier that can be used for a long time.)
I enjoyed the Ergobaby 360. It was my kind of carrier: simple and useful in lots of different situations. If you’re looking for one baby carrier, then the Ergobaby 360 should be on your short list. If you’re new to baby wearing, the Ergobaby 360 gives you all the options.
Many people want one carrier that can do everything they need to. They don’t want multiple carriers (or pricetags). The Ergobaby 360 can be that carrier.
Review for more experienced babywearers
I got to test-ride the new Ergobaby 360 and there were some features that I really liked and wanted to geek out about. I really liked the carrier. So, let the baby wearing geekery begin!
The Velcro waist. The Ergobaby 360 isn’t the first carrier with a Velcro waist, but it is the first one that will be widely available in Australia. The Bondolino by Hopp was the only other one I’m aware of. The functionality behind this feature is that it is thin, light weight, sits individually on every wearer and is easy to adjust. This is the standout feature of the carrier in my opinion. It distributes weight very well and is very comfortable without bulkiness. It also looks better compared to thicker, more structured waists, which can draw attention to the fact that after three kids I don’t have (and never did, alas) the physique of the super model mum. Combined with the structured and adjustable bucket seat, this waist distributes weight very well and is extremely comfortable. The only draw back is that you should remember to store it with the waist closed if you’re wearing something delicate!
The adjustable size. A buckle carrier which can adjust size depending on your child’s age gets used for longer or with kids of different sizes. It’s that simple. I’m glad Ergobaby have bought a carrier into their range that has this feature. It’s a significant improvement in the usability of the carrier.
The hourglass shape. Again, this carrier isn’t the first to use this shape in the body, but there aren’t too many widely available carriers that do this. This is another feature that gives the carrier longevity. Newborns can’t spread their legs as widely as a preschooler: the hour glass shape allows the child to sit comfortably after the insert has been outgrown until he or she is ready for the full width and support. Some clever stitching and reinforcement means that even quite large children will have a good seat. I also really liked the fact that the width of the carrier is also adjustable. This gives significantly more flexibility when moving out of the infant insert age.
What about forward facing? Typically, the baby wearing community objects to four things when it comes to a position which faces baby outwards: (1) inadequate provision for hip support (2) impact on the baby’s spine when not supported in a rounded c position, (3) overstimulation and (4) support for the wearer.
To address these in turn:
(1) Hip position. Again, the Ergobaby 360 isn’t the first of its kind here. The Catbirdbaby Pikkolo created a forward facing out seated position about six years ago. The Ergobaby 360 also provides a position where the baby is seated rather than dangled.
(2) Spine not supported in the c-shape. This is true. But it’s worth mentioning that the forward facing out position is not recommended for babies under six months or until babies have adequate neck, head and body strength. In other words, until babies are at or very close to sitting themselves. Using the position too early or too much could place pressure on the very young spine, but this is an example where, as users, we should be following the advice we’re given.
(3) Overstimulation. Babies get overstimulated in lots of places, not just forward facing out baby carriers. Adequate parents respond and react. Sometimes they miss a cue and get it wrong, it’s true. But this isn’t an issue with a carrier, it’s an issue of being human. As parents we make those mistakes and we learn from them.
(4) Support for the wearer. It is absolutely true that when carrying a baby forward facing out, the center of gravity of the wearer is thrown off and it’s just not as comfortable. The waist of the Ergobaby 360 distributes weight beautifully, but I do find facing–in positions much more comfortable for long term wearing. We should be listening to our babies needs and our own. When it’s not comfortable: it’s time to change.
Many babywearers won’t use the forward facing out position. Personally, I find a back carry more comfortable and functional. However, for new babywearers there is a very real concern about back carrying. The hip carry makes a good alternative, but many will want to try the front facing out option for short periods. The Ergobaby 360 allows them to do that… and to decide what positions are most comfortable and functional for themselves and their baby.
Unlike other popular front facing out carriers, the front facing out position does not reduce the functionality of the carrier in other positions. This is a carrier that is viable from birth well into the toddler days: and comfortably so. It’s a significant improvement on other easily available carriers that offer this position.
Tips for Using the Ergobaby 360 (Intended for the new babywearer)
The best tip I can give for baby wearing in any carrier, any time is: it shouldn’t hurt. A well-designed carrier should not be uncomfortable for you or your child. Sure, after an hour or two you might want a break, but you should be comfortable wearing your baby for an extended period, even when your child is well beyond 12 months old.
However, sometimes getting comfortable takes some tweaking. Often, it’s not the carrier that’s the problem, it’s how you’re wearing it. Most of the time, there’s no need to give up on baby wearing or buy a whole new carrier. A few simple tweaks make all the difference.
There are two places new babywearers often complain of pain: back and shoulders.
Shoulders: Are you getting a dull pain in the muscles of your shoulders? There’s usually a simple reason for this. Slide a hand between you and baby. Is there space between you? Baby should be pressed up against you comfortably but firmly, you shouldn’t be able to slide your hand through with any space to spare. If so, try tightening those shoulder straps or your chestbelt. This should solve the problem. Sometimes it can take a little experimentation to work out how you like it: but once you do, you’re set!
If you’re still finding this uncomfortable after awhile, then it might be time to switch to another carry. If you’re forward facing baby, try facing in. If you’re already facing in, try a back carry. As baby becomes heavier and older, back carries distribute weight more evenly and comfortably.
Don’t switch to a back carry before baby is ready, though. Baby should have good strength in his or her torso and great head control. He or she should be big enough to sit comfortably in the carrier. In general, about 6-9 months is a good time to start back carrying in the Ergobaby 360 if baby has good core strength.
Back: Baby wearing is designed to protect your back, not cause injury! If you’re feeling sore in the back, there can be a few reasons. Often, this kind of pain is caused by baby sitting too low on your body. Ideally, baby should be close enough to kiss without you bending your head down too far. If baby is lower than this it can throw your center of gravity out. Remember how you felt at 9 months pregnant? You don’t want to try being 15 months pregnant! Bring baby further up your body.
Alternatively, if you’re in the front facing out position, you may want to interpret this as your body’s signal to turn baby to face inwards where the distribution of weight will be more natural. If you are finding pain in the front facing out position quickly, try moving the waist belt a little higher and tighter to support you. As baby gets older, switching to a back carry sometimes will help even out the weight distribution on both sides of your body.
Still struggling? Sometimes I hear babywearers say their carrier “isn’t working for them”. It’s true, we all have our preferences. But before you give up, try coming along to a slingmeet. There’s one in every capital and most regional centers. There will be lots of other babywearers around to help you troubleshoot or just to chat. Make friends and meet people! You can find your local meet at www.slingmeetsaustralia.com