Babywearing 101 – Soft Structured Baby Carriers

When new parent discussions turn to baby carriers it is almost always the more modern pack-style baby carriers that first come to mind despite the great variety of baby carriers available today. There is no denying that pack-style baby carriers are one of the most popular options, and there are many reasons why parents opt to purchase a structured carrier.
Soft-structured baby carriers are essentially mei tai baby carriers with buckles. They consist of a main body and four straps that attach to the wearer and hold baby close. Rather than wrapping or tying the carrier to your body, quick-release buckles are used. Buckle carriers lack the versatility that wraps and mei tai’s offer as you are limited to strap and buckle placement when it comes to securing the carrier to your body, however the addition of buckles make for a very convenient option when it comes to a baby carrier.

As Many Unique Pack Carriers as There Are Babies

Unlike simple baby slings or wraparound baby carriers that have a very basic and similar construction between brand names, soft-structured baby carriers vary widely from one model to the next. There seems to be as many unique styles of structured carriers as there are babies, each with its own distinctive features. Differences between soft-structured baby carriers can be found in the number of carrying positions offered, whether or not a waist belt has been used for dispersing weight more ergonomically over the wearer, how a baby is suspended in the carrier, the angle at which buckles, belts and straps are placed as well as how much of your baby is supported by the body of the baby carrier itself, depending on the size of the panel.

This aspect of varying styles and features is important to keep in mind when selecting a buckle-style baby carrier. If one brand does not seem to be working well for you or your baby, you are experiencing discomfort, or a carrier lacks the versatility you are after in its design, there are many others to choose from that will fit and feel differently.

When selecting a soft-structured baby carrier one of the most important features to look for is a carrier that makes use of back-packing technology. Wider shoulder straps, padding in all the right places, and a supportive waist belt to help distribute baby’s weight to your hips and upper thighs for maximum comfort will aid in preventing strain on your neck, back and shoulders.

In-Arms Parenting – for Toddlers too!

Many parents are looking for a baby carrier to use with their older or heavier children. A soft-structured baby carrier is ideal for this. Because a structured baby carrier of the highest standards will adequately distribute a heavier child’s weight to the wearer’s hips and not put strain on the neck and shoulders, you can easily (and comfortably!) carry a child up to 40 or more pounds in many soft-pack carriers.

Advantages of Soft-Structured Baby Carriers:

• Easy for most parents to learn how to use as their concept is similar to that of a standard backpack.
• Ergonomic design in many carriers is more comfortable for wearers offering balanced weight distribution across both shoulders (choose brands carefully!).
One of the best carriers for older babies & toddlers (40+ lbs), most parents find they can carry a baby the longest in a soft-structured carrier.
• Many can be worn on the front and back, with some brands offering more flexibility than others in carrying positions.
• An excellent option for the active parent that hikes or walks often or for longer periods of babywearing.
• Some carriers are designed primarily for “hip” carrying, a natural position for many parents when carrying an older, heavier baby or toddler.
• Convenient to put on and off quickly and easily.
• No wrapping, knots to tie or dragging fabric.
• A one-size fits most baby carrier, soft-structured carriers can easily be shared by different users.
• Mainstream look and ease of use is highly appealing to dads.
• These carriers usually have the highest resale value.

Disadvantages of Soft-Structured Baby Carriers:

• Buckles and the adjustment of belt straps have a learning curve many parents are unprepared for. Carrier may be uncomfortable if adjusted incorrectly.
• Not usually recommended for newborns without head control (less than 4 months old), although some carriers may have additional accessories to accommodate infants.
• Not the easiest or most discrete for nursing an infant. Some may require additional accessories for nursing.
• Structured baby carriers don’t offer the same “hug” or hold some other carriers are well known for, so they are less than ideal for cuddling with an infant or young baby.
• Usually these are the most expensive baby carriers due to the great deal of extra hardware and workmanship involved in manufacturing.
• Buckles make this a bulkier baby carrier so it’s not as compact for travel and may not fit in a diaper bag.

Because of their unique design and the ability to transfer most of a child’s weight to the hips, structured carriers are among the most comfortable baby carriers with even the heaviest of children. Parents that plan to use their baby carriers for a long walks, hiking, back-carrying, or for extended babywearing with an older baby or child, may find a soft-structured baby carrier suits their needs best.

Soft-structured baby carriers are comfortable, relatively simple to use and stylish with mainstream appeal. If you’re looking for a way to get started with babywearing but traditional baby carriers make you nervous, using a soft-structured baby carrier would be a great choice. With their longevity and easy back-carrying options, pack-style baby carries offer a value in a baby carrier that is hard to match. Pair this style of baby carrier with a popular infant option such as a baby sling or wraparound and you’ll have a perfect baby carrying combination from birth to toddler and beyond.