I am a firm believer that there is a sling out there for everyone, and many parents find their perfect sling in the shape of a “full buckle” carrier.
What is a Full Buckle carrier?
This is a sling with a structured panel, often a waistband, and two shoulder straps that all buckles together to hold the child close to the carer’s body. Good full buckle carriers are designed to keep baby snugly close and high up (close enough to kiss) and ensure the airway is protected for safe breathing. They should ensure the spine is able to curve gently into the natural fetal tuck with the knees above the bottom that is so comfortable and natural for babies and children, thereby supporting them gently from the kneepits up to the back of the head (with head support if needed). Carriers like this are usually very comfortable for the caregiver, so much so that children are often carried happily and contentedly well into the toddler years and beyond (as compared to typical narrow-based high street brands which can feel uncomfortable quite quickly).
There are many variants on this basic model, such as the type and structure of the waistband, the way the straps fasten (cross straps or rucksack straps), and the height and width of the panel. I don’t like generalisations such as “you need a carrier with a waistband for support if you have back pain” or “you’d be better off with a carrier that crosses the straps if you want to front carry”. Each parent-child dyad is unique and it is ALL about how each carrier distributes the weight around the body, which varies enormously from parent to parent. One size does not fit all, and this is why sling libraries, sling meets and sling consultants exist, to give parents a chance to identify what fits their baby, their own physiology and their circumstances best. You can find a list of local resources at The Sling Pages.
There are a few full buckle carriers that can be used from birth, such as the Boba 4G and the Manduca, which have inbuilt support structures for babies of 7lb and upwards, the Connecta which can be rolled up and narrowed to fit, and the Beco Gemini or Lillebaby which can be adjusted for small bodies. Many other carriers (like the Tula, Beco Soleil and Ergo) have separate inserts to purchase to make the volume inside the panel smaller. Most people will find that they enjoy buckle carriers most once their small babies have grown a little bit stronger with more muscle tone and a little bit of head control (around three months); one of the most popular carriers here in Sheffield for this age group is the Sleepy Nico.
The facing-in towards caregiver position is the most favoured; this allows good airway, spine and hip support, as well as being a safe position to sleep in when needed – many babies love to sleep in the sling close to parent’s chest, just as they would in-arms. This facing-in position keeps the baby and caregiver’s centres of gravity as close together as possible for greater all-round long lasting comfort, and importantly, can allow active “social referencing”. This is also known as “triangulation” – where a baby experiences something in her field of vision and is able to turn to see what her caregiver makes of this same experience – three corners of a triangle, environment, baby, caregiver. This allows baby to assess and process a new experience in the light of her caregiver’s response (eg this person is nice, we can smile at him, versus that dog is worrying, I should be cautious” etc). This kind of learning experience is lessened with facing out positions, which is why manufacturers usually only suggest short periods of time for facing out for those with good head control, usually four months at the least. A child should never sleep facing out.
If you have an active baby who wants to see the world, a carrier with a broad upper section (Connecta, Boba 4G, for example) will allow good movement of baby’s arms and head for a wide field of vision, and there are hip buckle carriers such as the Scootababy which can allow the best of both worlds (good visibility, good position, good opportunities for social referencing, and good comfort too!)
Full buckle carriers are very popular for back carrying bigger children once they can sit up and have excellent head control (although many parents continue to front carry beyond six months) as this allows children the chance to see where they are going and gives the parents the freedom to explore further afield, or care for new babies more easily.
What’s so good about them?
I asked the sling users of Sheffield why they love their full buckle carriers. Here’s what they had to say!
“Quick and easy to use.” “Super comfy when they are adjusted well and fit properly.” ” So much easier to use when I have mobility problems with my hands.” “Dad and family friendly.” “Easy in the rain.” “Quick and simple.” “Easy to adjust if needed.” “Can be set up in advance for speed when required.” “Convenient for toddlers who are up and down all day.” “Good with wriggly children.” “Easy to buy from mainstream sellers.” “So easy to use.” “Useful accessories like a hood for bad weather.” “Pretty foolproof for a newbie.” “Great for travelling.” “Really easy to get my child clipped in and out while on the bus”. You get the gist!
Where can I try a Full Buckle out to see what fits me and my child best?
There are plenty of places to try out slings and carriers – your local sling library, sling and carrier consultant are great places to get trained advice, and your local sling meet should be full of enthusiastic parents keen to show you the merits of their sling choice. It can be hard to be sure you are using your sling correctly simply from instructions and videos, so if you have any queries, do take advantage of your local resources. I have written several articles about sling safety, which you can find here and below you can see a helpful reminder about the most important aspects.
If you are in Sheffield, you can find my website here, Facebook page here or come to one of my sling library drop ins (there are six a month, details here). You are also very welcome to come to a Sheffield Slings Sling Meet – FB page here – we recently added our 1,000th member!
Here are a few more happy slinging photos in full buckles 🙂