By Maura Keating
If you are new to baby wearing or just new to babies–if you find the rings, buckles, and straps of other carriers daunting or just too time consuming, a fitted pouch is a perfect solution to get baby on board quickly and easily. When my son was small, I found the mechanisms of a ring sling to be overwhelming. No matter how many times I watched the instructional DVD, I felt insecure. My husband still hasn’t figured out the ring sling–too many adjustments, he says. I wish I had tried a pouch when my son was younger, but I still find them useful for quick trips with my toddler in a hip carry.
Since fitted pouches don’t have buckles or other mechanisms to adjust size, getting a pouch with the correct fit for YOU is incredibly important. Unless you and your partner are the same size, this is not a carrier that you can share. Take the time to make sure that your measurements are correct–have a friend help if possible. Ideally, you should try on a pouch at a store where you can have a salesperson size you and give you a crash course in baby wearing. If you’re buying when you’re pregnant, post-partum, or online, make sure that the store has a reasonable return policy.
Hotslings and Peanut Shell pouches have more similarities than differences. I tested an Everyday Hotslings in a stretch sateen fabric and a Peanut Shell Reversible Baby Sling in a 100 percent cotton fabric. Both pouches must be folded before wearing. The Hotslings includes striped tabs that you can line up for a quick fold. Both slings feature a padded rail that is supposed to be easier on Baby’s knees for hip carries. My son has never had a problem with non-padded slings, but he seems to like the padding just fine too. The pouch on both is shallow–no pillow or towel needed for a cradle carry. Baby can see the world and the wearer can check in on Baby easily. The Peanut Shell seemed slightly deeper to our cradle carry tester, but we didn’t break out the yard stick. Both pouches are designed for high carries–the bottom of the pouch should hit somewhere around your belly button. Hotslings come in nine different sizes while the Peanut Shell comes in four sizes. Both fit comfortably around the wearer’s shoulder. The Peanut Shell is slightly narrower around the shoulder and I preferred the fit since I have narrow shoulders. For hip carries with a toddler, I flipped the fabric of the sling around my shoulder for a closer and more comfortable fit. Hotslings and Peanut Shell carriers can be used for cradle, kangaroo, or front, hip, and back carries.
The fabric options for both are dizzying–you’re sure to find a print that you like and probably one that you’ll love. Peanut Shell offers stretch cotton in prints and solids, organic jersey, 100 percent cotton reversible slings, and a stretchy micro-fleece (with no padding). Hotslings divides their fabric inventories according to designer, everyday, reversible, and organic. Fabric choices include 100 percent cotton, cotton with spandex for a bit of a stretch, and organic hemp/organic cotton/Lycra blend stretch twill. Maintenance is easy–you can machine wash them both. I found that the Peanut Shell shrunk a bit in the first wash, but it fit better afterwards. The Peanut Shell features a pocket–a huge boon for those of us who like to pack light. I really hate carrying a bag when I’m already carrying a baby. Both Hotslings and Peanut Shell have a toy loop, perfect for teething babies. It’s hard to bend over when you’re carrying a baby. The toy loop ensures that Baby’s pitching arm doesn’t send items too far.
The New Native Baby Carrier is designed to be worn lower than the Hotsling or Peanut Shell pouches. I tested the New Native Organic Cotton Baby Carrier. The New Native carrier does not need to be folded before wearing–the pouch is sewn into the design for an automatic fit. The New Native’s low design makes it somewhat easier to get Baby into the carrier and Baby never looks squished. The low position also made it easier to nurse Baby in the New Native Carrier. The pouch is very deep so Baby is secure and comfortable in cradle and kangaroo carry positions, but the low pouch also means that Baby can’t see out in the cradle position (sometimes a good thing) and sometimes the fabric fell over Baby’s face. Our tester found that her child needed more head support. New Native sells an “Infant Support Pillow,” but our tester used a rolled up blanket with good results. The lower carrying position hurt my back during long carries. The deep pocket makes it easy to keep smaller babies in the carrier when transferring Baby to a car seat or to another person. You can also position Baby in the New Native carrier first, and then put the carrier on. Our tester found it easy to take the carrier off and buckle Baby into the car seat with the carrier. At the end of the trip, our tester could slide the carrier back on and go. Baby slept through it all! The New Native carrier can also be used to carry twins up to fifteen pounds each (or total combined weight up to thirty pounds) in the same carrier.
I love the soft, organic twill fabric of the New Native carrier that we tested. It was soft but durable and washed very well–getting softer with each cycle. New Native carriers are available in five sizes in organic cotton, 100 percent silk (handwashing recommended) and 100 percent cotton. The pattern selection is more limited than other pouches, though I liked the look of the solid carrier lined with a print fabric. I could not get the hang of using the New Native carrier for hip carries with my toddler. My son is accustomed to ring slings and the deep pouch was uncomfortable for him and uncomfortable for me too. The New Native carrier can be folded in half for older toddlers, but that carry requires arm support from the wearer. The New Native carrier can be used for cradle, kangaroo, or front, hip, and back carries.
If you’re a busy minimalist with a strong sense of style and a toddler in tow, then you won’t be able to get out the door without the Puj Go Sling. Essentially a ring of fabric available in five sizes, the Puj Go Sling was the easiest pouch to slip on and the easiest to get Baby into. Baby does not have to sit at the seam, so I never had to stop to figure out where my son should be sitting. The top of the sling is easily identifiable since the top is partially lined on the inside. The top of the Puj Go Sling folds over your shoulder to create a figure-8 design that distributes Baby’s weight and snugs Baby closer to your center of gravity. The Puj Go Sling fits higher than other carriers (level with your belly button) and closer, too, for an intimacy that my son and I appreciated. The Puj Go Sling is designed for a hip carry and is recommended for babies fifteen to thirty pounds, from the time that Baby has head control (around six weeks) until Baby loses interest in the carrier. I loved the Puj Go Sling for its sheer convenience. It doesn’t take up much room in the diaper bag so it was always there, just in case. I also keep it close at hand around the house. My son always wants to be picked up when I am in the middle of something. With the Go carrier, I can get him settled quickly and continue what I was doing. This is not a good carrier for long walks with the dog or extended shopping trips. The Puj Go Sling starts to tug at my shoulders if I wear it too long. The contrasting Amy Butler fabrics used to construct the Puj Go Sling are gorgeous and fun and machine washable too. I do wish they had some fabric options that weren’t so girly since I think that this would have been a great sling for my husband to try.
After months of pouch wearing, I still reach for my ring sling on most occasions. I do use the pouch when I need to do something quickly or when the tail of the ring sling will get in the way of what I need to do–measuring flour into a bowl, for example. If I were wearing an infant, I think I might prefer the pouch, and then gravitate back to the ring sling as the child got older. But everyone is different. Your body shape is different from mine, and your needs are different too. If you are looking for a great intro to baby wearing, a carrier that is quick and convenient, or a lovely nest for a brand new bambino, then you might consider reaching for a pouch first.
– Peanut Shell Baby Sling $48 – $72. To find a Peanut Shell near you, click on the “Store Finder” link at www.goo-ga.com.
– Hotslings, $30 – $60. To find a Hotslings near you, click on the “Store Finder” link at www.hotslings.com.
– New Native Baby Carrier, $44 – $160. To find a New Native carrier near you, click on the “Retail Outlets” link at www.newnativeinc.com.
– Puj Go Sling, $48. To find a Go near you, click on the “Store Locator” link at www.pujbaby.com.
– Peanut Shell is happy to extend a 25% discount to Kidoinfo readers. Please use code PEANUTKIDO at checkout to get the discount (code is case sensitive).
– Puj is offering FREE ground shipping to Kidoinfo readers by mentioning the promo code “kidoinfo”. Offer good until June 15, 2008.
Tell us what you love about the Puj Go Sling and we will randomly select one person to win a Puj sling of your choice. Contest ends June 15, 2008.Â CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.