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Soft structured carriers, wraps, XOXO buckle carriers, conversions, mei dei's, onbuhimo..... what are they and what are the differences?   

I feel this is where it can be very overwhelming because within each category there are so many options and I'm going to do my best to simplify it as much as possible and provide key details each should have which will hopefully help you narrow down your choices.    

Soft Structured Carriers:  (you may have seen them abbreviated as SSC's) is a carrier made up of shoulder straps, a waist strap, buckles and a solid body/back.  These carriers typically have adjustable, padded shoulder straps and may or may not have a wider waist strap with lumbar support. Often times even the most well known companies just have a thin strap that goes around your lower back and while this was okay when my son weighed 10lbs, it quickly started digging into me as he grew and became heavier. For this reason I highly recommend looking for one that has a wide waist band all the way around (an example is this particular Ergobaby, the only one I've ever found with a wide waist strap) or one that has lumbar support like this.  These carriers can also typically be worn in multiple carrying positions. Most allow for forward facing in and back carries, but some are also designed for forward facing out and hip carries. Check with the manufacturer to see what their carrier allows. For forward facing out, adjustments to the carrier have to be made to narrow the seat base so usually a manufacturer will add buttons to allow for quick and easy adjustments.   Some require an infant insert to be worn until your child reaches a particular weight. With soft structured carriers, if you continue to babywear as your child becomes a toddler, you may need to upgrade your carrier to a toddler size to achieve the correct fit. 

Pros: usually quick to put on and take off  

Cons: can be difficult to find one comfortable for both you and baby and if you have a toddler with long legs they may outgrow a standard carrier but not yet have the necessary torso length for a toddler carrier   

XOXO Buckle Carrier: This is somewhere in between a soft structured carrier and a wrap. The XOXO has a buckle waist band and long fabric shoulder straps which come up over the babys back and cross over your shoulders. The shoulder straps are wrapped and tied in a variety of ways making it similar to a wrap, but can be a bit quicker to put on since the waist is a buckle strap. This is once again a thin strap, I haven't seen an XOXO Buckle Carrier with a wider one so keep this in mind if you're looking to carry a larger baby.    

Pros: Less bulky than a soft structured carrier and easy to put on

Cons: Less carrying positions and has a thin buckle waist strap

Wraps:  These are easily the most versatile.  Wraps can be worn front facing in, front facing out, hip carry, back carries and one shoulder carries.  A woven wrap can be used from day one all the way up until you can no longer physically carry your child. Because they are woven and there are no stitches, it is the strongest carrier for toddlers and children. Wraps come in many different materials though (stretchy, bamboo blend, cotton, cotton blend, linen blend, wool blend.....) and sizes. If you need help choosing the best wrap for you, later this week I'll be posting a blog covering this different types/materials and sizing of wraps.  

Pros: one wrap can last from day one until you can no longer physically carry your child and there are many different ways you can wrap

Cons: there is a learning curve to wrapping and it isn't as quick at first as putting on a soft structured carrier but with practice and a little patience it becomes much quicker. There is even a way you can pre-tie your wrap so on errand days you can just pop baby in and out without re-wrapping and tying each time. 

Conversions:   Typically, if you see a carrier listed as a conversion this means it has been made out of a woven wrap. It can be any of the above types of carriers but altered from a wrap.    

Pros: you can find some truly unique carriers if you're looking for something different or fun  

Cons: you may not know what the material is made of

Mei Dai  These are like a soft structured carrier without any buckles. Comprised of a solid piece of fabric for the body and two shoulder straps (depending on the manufacturer they may or may not be padded) and two waist straps. The two waist straps criss cross behind your back and come back around front and tie under the babys bum creating a nice, secure seat. The shoulder straps cross your back and tie. Mei Dai’s are designed to be worn front facing in and back carry but for larger babies they may not distribute the babys weight as effectively as some other carry options. Many well known companies like this Fidella, make Mei Dai’s in a baby and toddler size and the toddler size is adjustable with an easy cord. Always check the weight limit from the manufacturer. 

Pros  quick to put on and less cumbersome than soft structured carriers 

Cons  May not distribute the babys weight as effectively and one size will not necessarily work for the entire time you are babywearing, an upgrade to a toddler size may be necessary.

Onbuhimo is a Japanese style baby carrier that is designed primarily for back carrying and allows the baby to sit high enough to see over your shoulder. These can also be worn front facing in as well and are helpful if you are pregnant and can’t buckle or tie a strap around your waist, just keep in mind that since there isn’t a waist strap, your shoulders will be supporting all of the babys weight which might not be the most comfortable.  

Pros  Very easy to put on and makes back carrying super simple. Also a good option for pregnant Momma’s with a bump 

Cons  Less carrying options and without a waist strap the babys weight can’t be distributed so your shoulders will be carrying all of the weight.

When choosing a baby carrier just understand that you may need more than one depending on when/how you'll be using it and also as the baby grows what is best right now might not continue to be the best. If cost is a concern there are many ways to resell a baby carrier to recoup some of the expense.  

Happy Babywearing ❤❤❤


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