You may have noticed that I’m a baby carrier geek. It’s a hobby. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading about baby carriers, I’ve tried dozens of different carriers, and I can carry a baby in a sheet, beach towel, or t-shirt if the need arises.
When it comes to baby carriers, I’m not normal.
Most parents want one or two baby carriers that they understand from the get-go. I remember showing a mom a mei tai, which really isn’t complicated, and watching her eyes widen as I wrapped the straps around my body to tie them. As her eyes were widening, mine were opening. The mei tai went back into my car (because this demonstration was taking place in a parking lot, of course), my Ergo came out, and the mom’s face immediately brightened with the light of recognition:
It has a buckle waist and shoulder straps. It’s like a backpack. I know how to work a backpack. I understand this carrier!
The mom now carries her 17-month-old daughter in an Ergo and says she could not live without it. (Hurray!)
The Ergo Baby Carrier is probably the best-selling example of a style of carrier we geeks call “soft structured carriers.” These carriers have waistbands that buckle, padded shoulder straps that also buckle, and a body similar to a mei tai. They differ significantly from frame backpacks because they hold the baby directly against the adult’s body. Also, they can be worn on the adult’s front, back, or hip, making them far more versatile than frame backpacks or front packs such as the Baby Bjorn and Snuggli carriers. Most soft structured carriers have padded “waist” bands that actually sit on top of the adult’s hips, distributing most of the baby’s weight to the hips and making them particularly good for carrying big babies and toddlers.
Many soft structured carriers cannot be used for carrying newborns and small babies without separately available “infant inserts.”
On the market since 2003, the Ergo was recently named by Parenting Magazine as one of the 20 best Mom-Tested products from the past 20 years (it’s shown being used for a hip carry, which is fine, but I think it’s most popular among users for back and front carries). It has also dethroned the Baby Bjorn as the baby carrier recommended in the popular buying guide, Baby Bargains.
I think that, because people find the design of soft structured carriers to be familiar and understandable, and because soft structured carriers work really well at distributing the weight of even heavy babies and toddlers, these carriers are going to continue rapidly gaining popularity. Their mainstream appeal is unparalleled, and they’re immensely practical, making them great carriers for nongeeks. :-)