Friday, March 4, 2011

Cat Wearing

One day I was doing my helpful thing at our retail store when an older local lady came in, looking bewildered. She was all the stereotypes of “crazy cat lady” that one can think of, so I was ready for an interesting conversation. She was looking for a baby carrier- a cheap one to wear on the chest, she stressed. I showed her our Moby Wrap and she was instantly overwhelmed. So I showed her the Baby K’tan as the easier alternative, and she said “I’m just worried that her claws will snag that fabric.” Claws, you say? It turned out that she had an ailing cat at home that she would like to wear, because kitty didn’t like to be away from her and could not go up and down stairs anymore.

Ah! Considering that I am no stranger to wearing cats, I indulged her request. I told her to go to any thrift store and pick up a Baby Bjorn or Infantino, as it would be perfect for her to wear her invalid cat. I printed out some examples of a “crotch dangler” and sent her on her way. I love Baltimore!

A few weeks later, Cat Lady stopped by again…with the little black cat strapped to her chest facing out in an old blue and plaid Baby Bjorn, cost $5! She was elated, and the cat was either quite comfortable and happy, or half dead. Another satisfied customer!

And that is the only time I will ever recommend a Baby Bjorn! Why? Because there are hundreds of more supportive and more versatile-not to mention more stylish-baby carriers on the market, for about the same price.

The Baby Bjorn only allows parents to wear their babies on the front, to a maximum weight of about 20 pounds. Many folks won’t even make it to that weight limit before giving up on babywearing because of the Bjorn’s design, which does not distribute baby’s weight comfortably for parent OR baby.

Let’s compare the Bjorn with one of our most popular (and my favorite) soft structured carriers, the Ergo Baby.

The Ergo has a wide, padded waist strap that effectively spreads almost all of baby’s weight onto the hips, which as all mothers know, are designed to bear lots of weight. The Bjorn “hangs” all of baby’s weight on the adult’s trapezius muscles, which are not designed to bear any weight at all.

Furthermore, the Ergo places baby in a comfortable “seated” position, spreading their legs in an ergonomic position (hence, “Ergo”) that also helps distribute baby’s weight evenly onto your hips. The Bjorn causes all of baby’s weight to “hang” from a small strip of fabric between baby’s legs, causing all of baby’s weight to press down on the wearer’s tender shoulder muscles. The small seat on the Bjorn also concentrates all of baby’s weight in that small, delicate crotch area, which is thought to cause spine and genital issues.

The third feature that makes the Ergo and other similar soft structured carriers a much more practical choice than the Bjorn is the ability to wear your child on your back. This allows you to carry heavier children (up to 45 lbs!) for much longer periods of time, as well as be able to do housework or other tasks that require your arms. I have carried a 40-lb five-year-old on my back for several hours in my Ergo with no difficulty or pain at all!

The only thing that the Ergo cannot do that a Baby Bjorn does is allow baby to face outward, but this is not a design flaw. The “facing out” position does not distribute baby’s weight or position baby’s spine ergonomically, so the “facing out” position is not optimal for long periods of comfortable babywearing. Furthermore, it is thought that babies can get stressed and overstimulated if facing out for long periods of time- they can’t see their caregiver or turn away from the stimulating outside world if they need to. But for those who have babies who do like to see what’s going on, there are carriers like the Beco Gemini, FreeHand, and Pikkolo. These carriers are a great cross between the Bjorn and a standard soft structured carrier like the Ergo- they have a supportive waist strap AND allow baby to be worn facing in, facing out, and on your back!


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