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Reviews and information about babywearing, slings, wraps and carriers for keeping your baby close and content


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Forward facing carriers: Ergo 360 vs Lillebaby Complete

As the practice of babywearing has rapidly grown and developed, particularly over the last 10 years, baby carrier designers have continued to add functionality and appeal to their carriers in an attempt to retain (or gain) market share in an increasingly saturated market place.

Where once pretty much the only baby carrier you could buy was a Baby Bjorn, there are now a pile of different baby carriers on the market. The original Baby Bjorn was designed to allow a baby to be carried in a forward facing position. With the growth of babywearing worldwide, the ergonomics of carrying a baby has become more and more important. The traditional narrow based carrier (or front pack carrier) like the Baby Bjorn has gone out of fashion, as it does not provide a particularly ergonomic position for baby, or for the wearer. But the ascendancy of ergonomic carriers meant the death of forward facing babywearing, as an ergonomic position meant a wide base; too wide for the child to sit forward facing.

Now, for me personally, carrying my baby in a forward facing position wasn’t something I needed or wanted to do. On the front facing me, or back carrying, or on the hip in a ring sling, gave me enough flexibility to get on with my day. I also feel there is a potential for forward facing to lead to an overstimulated baby, who has nowhere to turn away from the busy world if feeling overwhelmed. But, for some parents, forward facing is something they’d like to be able to do. Their child enjoys the stimulation, or they catch public transport and enjoy being able to sit down with baby on their lap securely, for example.

So to meet this demand, while addressing the issues of ergonomic positioning, new carriers have been developed that have a forward facing position that provides a more ergonomic seat for baby. Two of the most popular on the market right now are the Ergo 360 and the Lillebaby.

At a glance

Functionality

The Lillebaby I have used in this review is called the All Seasons Complete. It markets itself as a six-position carrier (newborn legs in, infant legs out, forward facing, toddler legs out, hip and back).

baby carrier illustration

The Lillebaby complete offers six different ways to carry your baby from newborn to toddler (source: lillebaby.com)

The Ergo 360 is a four-position carrier (facing in, facing out, hip and back). Though, to be properly comparative, the 360 does have an infant insert (purchased separately) which therefore also offers a “fifth” position for newborns with legs in.

The Ergo 360 is comfortable for small framed people and can fit an 18 month old comfortably.

The Ergo 360 is comfortable for small framed people and can fit an 18 month old comfortably.

The extra position the Lillebaby offers is legs out for a baby over 3.1kg who is happy to sit in the legs out position. The Lillebaby’s narrowest seat position is narrower than the 360, so while in a 360 a small baby would still need to be in the insert, they would likely be able to sit without an insert in the Lillebaby. This can be an advantage because inserts can be a bit fiddly to use, and can be quite warm if the weather is hot.

From my brief experience with the Lillebaby to date, I would suggest that not all babies would be happy to be in the legs out position from birth, and Lillebaby does provide instructions for keeping a newborn in the legs in position, in the event they are not happy to have their legs out of the carrier. But I envisage that the average baby would be able to use the carrier with the legs out position within the first month or two, much sooner than the Ergo 360, where the insert would generally be used until at least 4 months old, potentially up to 6 months old.

Cost

The Ergo 360 retails for AUD $239. The Lillebaby Complete All Seasons Tokidoki I’ve used in this review retails for AUD $235, though there are cheaper versions available, with plain fabric for example.

Availability

The Ergo 360 is distributed in Australia through Babes in Arms, and is available in many bricks and mortar baby stores and online. The Lillebaby is distributed in Australia through AngelRock Baby, Bellas Little Ones, HuggleBaby Carriers, The Infant Boutique, PixieMama, Nurture Nest and Wear Your Baby (online), or from the AngelRock Baby store in Ettalong, NSW.

Appearance

The Ergo 360 comes in six colours currently. The Lillebaby Complete comes in a few more colours, as well as some patterns and the funky Tokidoki print that I tried for this review.

The tokidoki prints are pretty cool (the hood rolls up into a pocket if you don't want to use it)

The tokidoki prints are pretty cool (the hood rolls up into a pocket if you don’t want to use it)

The verdict

The short version is both of these carriers are great, and chances are you would be happy with either of them, but here are a few of my thoughts on pros and cons that might help you make a decision based on what you are looking for in a carrier.

Ergo 360

  • Is readily available in lots of bricks and mortar stores where you can try it on if you’re the kind of person who likes to try things before you buy.
  • Has a wide firm waistband that secures via Velcro, which is quite unusual for a baby carrier, but I actually quite liked it, a lot more than I thought I would. It felt uniformly supportive right around my waist. The downside of the Velcro is it is noisy to remove and once you have it on it is pretty much impossible to adjust, so you want to try to get it the right tension first time.
  • The front facing position creates a slightly better leg position for baby than the Lillebaby, in my opinion.
  • Has narrower shoulder straps than traditional Ergos, which is a plus for smaller framed people, who often find the Ergo too big and bulky.
  • The method of making the seat narrower to enable forward facing is much simpler than the Lillebaby.
  • In developing a carrier with a simple but ergonomic front facing position, the maximum weight limit has been reduced from 20kg to 15kg. This is probably not a big issue, as by the time most children reach 15kg they will be too big in general for this carrier and you would want to be looking at a toddler sized carrier.
  • Needs a separate insert for a newborn/small infant.

Lillebaby

  • Comes in options including Airflow and All Seasons, which include mesh to allow greater air flow, enhancing comfort in the warmer weather.
  • While still providing a narrower base option for infants, the standard size is a decent sized carrier, and my 2.5 year old still just about fit, with the head rest up, whereas she wouldn’t really fit in the 360 at all anymore. This could definitely be a carrier that would last you comfortably from newborn to large toddler, which is a rare find.
  • Has a lumbar support piece you can thread onto the waistband for front carries. I’m not sure how much value this adds, I didn’t wear it for long enough, but perhaps it would provide some extra support when walking for an hour or so.
  • Has lovely cushy curved straps, and plenty of length in the padding so you don’t end up with webbing cutting into your armpit. Also has extra bits of padding under the buckles, including the chest clip, for extra comfort.
  • Will fit an infant without an insert before the Ergo 360, potentially from birth, if you are keen to use a buckle carrier straight away. Note: I still prefer a stretchy wrap or ring sling for a newborn, but I know some people like the convenience of buckle carriers and would like to only have to buy one babywearing device if possible.
  • Comes in funky Tokidoki prints.
At 2.5 years old, my daughter still just about fit in the Lillebaby with the hood up, it was comfy enough for a quick nap!

At 2.5 years old, my daughter still just about fit in the Lillebaby with the headrest up, it was comfy enough for a quick nap!

Just one last point about forward facing – it is not recommended until around 5 months of age when baby has very good head control, and you can probably comfortably carry forward facing til around 12 months/10kg. It is important not to carry a younger baby forward facing.

18 months is a bit big for forward facing - I couldn't find a younger model!

18 months is a bit big for forward facing in the 360 – but I couldn’t find a younger model!

How do you feel about forward facing carriers? Is it something you find useful?

PS: Thanks to my gorgeous friend Tracey and her patient little boy for helping me out with this review. And thanks to Angel Rock Baby for letting me try the Lillebaby. 


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Babywearing on a budget

You’ve just had a baby. You’re no longer working. You’ve just forked out all your savings on a cot, car seat and pram. There’s not a lot of spare cash around and then you see wraps and carriers selling for more than $150 and you feel like it is out of reach for you. Don’t despair, there are cheaper options.

One of the misconceptions about babywearing is that it costs a lot of money. Sure, you certainly can spend a lot of money on high-end wraps if you want to, but by no means is that the only way to carry your baby. You don’t need an expensive stash of different carriers to be a ‘real’ babywearer – anyone can babywear, even on a tight budget.

First though, consider this. Wearing your baby in a carrier is a legitimate way to transport your baby, comfort your baby, and bond with your baby. Try not to listen to people who say you can’t spend that much money on “a piece of fabric”. If you can spend a few hundred dollars on a pram, it is perfectly reasonable to spend a similar amount on a baby carrier (if you can afford to) that you may end up using more often than you use your pram (I certainly do!).

That said, sometimes there isn’t a couple of hundred dollars in the bank account, but your baby still cries and wants to be held, and you can’t get anything done.

So, what are your options?

Stretchy wraps

From newborn to around 8 kilograms, a stretchy wrap is a wonderfully comfortable and snuggly way to carry your baby. While new ones can be a bit expensive, there are often second hand ones available through Facebook groups, eBay or Gumtree for $50 or less. Some brands to look out for include Hug a Bub, Moby and Boba wrap. Another option is to buy some cotton jersey from a fabric store and make your own. You’ll need about 5 metres in length and you can then split it down the middle and make two wraps, it wont fray so no hemming required – go halves with a friend in the cost!

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Ring slings

Ring slings are also suitable from birth, and being a relatively simple construction with a shorter length of material they are often cheaper than long wraps or structured carriers. When looking for a cheap ring sling though, there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to avoid the bag or pouch style slings with padded rails, these can be quite hard to adjust and hard to keep baby in a safe position. A ring sling should have rings made from a continuous piece of aluminium, with no visible join. Consider how long you want to use the carrier for. Some cheap cotton ring slings will be fine for a small baby, but you will probably find it uncomfortable as baby starts to get heavier, which will mean you either stop wearing or have to buy something new – spending a bit more initially on a ring sling made from a woven wrap can be a better long term investment. Woven wrap ring slings can be purchased for as little as $74, check out my useful links for vendors.

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Mei tais

Mei tais can often be picked up cheaper than a buckle carrier, and can also be easier to learn how to use than a wrap. A basic mei tai such as the one by Infantino is under $60. Baby Hawk and Kozy mei tais should also be available for under $100, or maybe even less second hand.

DIY

While not specifically designed for babywearing, there are a number of materials available from fabric stores that could be used for that purpose. I’ve already mentioned cotton jersey, but once bub has outgrown that, there are cotton options like osnaburg or even all linen. There are downsides to this: it probably won’t be as comfortable as a wrap made for babywearing, particularly as baby gets heavier, and you can’t be sure that chemicals used in the manufacture of the fabric are safe for children, but it can be a cheap way to see if babywearing is for you. Keep in mind, unless you find yourself a fabric on the bargain bench, it might not actually be much cheaper than buying a woven wrap, which you can pick up for under $100.

If you can sew, making your own ring sling is not complicated; there are instructions online. You can get a size 5 or 6 woven wrap for under $100 and chop it in half and make two ring slings – which is excellent value.

Gifts

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved my friends or family to pool together and have purchased me a carrier as a gift for my newborn that I might not otherwise have been able to afford. Two hundred dollars is a stretch for a lot of people’s budgets, but if 10 friends chuck in $20 you can get just about any sort of carrier that you’d like – and I reckon that’s better than another pair of baby socks, muslin wraps or onesies!

And a final word on buckle carriers

Buckle carriers (or soft structured carriers/SSC) are very popular due to their comfort, convenience and ease of use. If this is the type of carrier you are looking for, please be aware that there are many counterfeit Ergos on the market, sold mostly through eBay, for prices well below recommended retail. They seem to be too good to be true, and they are. Fake Ergos have not been safety tested to meet the required standards for baby carriers, may use fabric that contains unsafe chemicals and dyes and buying one supports the unethical practices of counterfeiters. The only way to know if an Ergo is real is if it was originally purchased from an authorised retailer.

Baby Bjorn is another popular buckle carrier and probably one of the most well known babywearing brand names. While expensive new, they can often be picked up cheaply second hand (particularly early models). Baby Bjorns have been given a bad rap in the babywearing community over recent years, mostly due to the less than optimal position for baby’s legs and the ability to carry baby facing out. And while it is true that ideally baby’s legs would be better supported in an ‘M’ position like in an Ergo and that facing out isn’t something I would recommend, Baby Bjorns are safe (if TICKS guidelines are followed). So if you’ve been given one or can pick one up very cheaply then don’t be afraid to use it – keeping your baby close is the key, however you make that happen! But be aware that the other major drawback of the Baby Bjorn, particularly the early models that you can get cheaply, is that they won’t be very comfortable for you once baby gets heavier – so do consider some of the other options I’ve outlined above.

Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!