I was chatting the other day with a new friend and she mentioned she was bummed that she wouldn’t be able to wear her baby when it was born. She said that she’d seen the size charts and they didn’t make carriers that would fit her. I told her she’d been lied to! The baby wearing community is made up of caregivers of all sizes, and I personally know loads of plus sized mamas and big and tall dads carrying on wearing their babies. This guide is for her, and for anyone else who gets frustrated thinking there are no options. There are options! And here they are.
Soft Structured Carriers (SSC’s) and Mei Tais (MT’S)
SSC’s are carriers that buckle on, no tying involved, Mei Tais have a structured body like an SSC but the straps tie instead of buckle.
Big Box Brands
My friend is right about one thing, readily available big box brands like the Ergo aren’t the best bet. They do sell a waist extender, but my mama friends tell me it’s an uncomfortable and ill fitting option. I’m a big fan of the Ergo for its wide availability and proper ergonomic design, but we can do better.
Boba– I’ve had mixed reviews from friends on this one; some people love it because it fits with no extender, and some people don’t love it because it fits, but uncomfortably. If you are interested in this one, try to find a baby wearing meeting or big box store like Babies R Us with a tester and try it on for fit and comfort.
Babyhawk is not available in Babies R Us or Target, but they are available on Amazon which makes them a pretty darn accessible carrier. They make MT’s and SSC’s. Plus size straps are available on the MT’s, and though they are not available on the SSC’s, the straps are adjustable enough that you may be able to get a good comfortable fit.
Semi-Custom and Custom
This is where we take our first detour down the rabbit hole. The baby wearing world is chock a block full of small businesses making carriers. And the great thing about these carriers is that they aren’t mass produced, so you can specify some of your wants and needs; not just plus size straps, but fun colors and patterns too.
Bamberoo and Kinderpack are two semi custom carrier makers who make SSC’s (and MT’S) who have been recommended by friends as being particularly comfortable for plus size mamas and dads. And the great thing about buying from a small business is that they are often available and eager to answer your questions and work with you to help you find the very best fit.
There are a number of custom SSC and MT makers as well, I’ve had carriers from Olives and Applesauce, Metamorphosis and Dream Carrier come through here (there are many more makers, but these are the only ones I’ve had personal experience with). This is a great option if you don’t mind doing a little leg work; this often involves stalking for a spot and picking your own fabric. This option might not appeal to the new babywearer, it sure didn’t appeal to me when I was starting out, but if you want a truly custom carrier you can have one made starting around $200.
I love ring slings! Ring slings are a fast and comfortable way to carry your baby. Ring slings come both padded and unpadded. I’ve heard that unpadded is preferable for plus size mamas as you get a better range of adjustability and fit… but I’ll say I believe that to be true for all sizes of ring sling users. I’m just not a fan of a padded shoulder. The padding can interfere with the simplicity that makes a ring sling so user friendly.
There are lots of places to buy Ring Slings, but my favorite is Sleeping Baby Productions. Her site is not just a store, but a wealth of knowledge; she has sections on safety, how to use your sling, and to dispel and lingering doubt that plus sized mamas can’t wear their babies, and entire FAQ section on sizing. Take note that her max size doesn’t say “up to” it says “over” 270 lbs and 6’2″. I can speak to her outstanding level of customer service, if you are nervous about ordering the right size email her and she will work with you to make sure you have all the info you need before making a decision. She is a working mom and occasionally closes up shop for a few days to catch up on orders, be patient, she’ll open again soon.
The pros and cons for stretchy wraps are similar for baby wearers of all sizes; they are very long, so length is not an issue, but they are very hot and because they need to be tied quite tightly can dig on the sides in a not so comfortable way. I feel much the same way about stretchy wraps (like the Moby) as I do about the Ergo, I love the wide availability and ergonomic design, but we can do better.
I try not to be too biased when recommending wraps, obviously woven wraps are my favorite carriers, but I know that may not be true for everyone so I try not to gush too much. But I really believe that woven wraps are among the most comfortable- and customizable- carriers available. This is because they come in a variety of sizes and can be tied in dozens of different ways enabling almost anyone to use each size differently.
Woven wraps can be intimidating to new wearers because it is a skill, there is a learning curve. I was so intimidated when I started. But by choosing the right carry to start with and practicing at home over a couch or bed until you feel comfortable is a great way to start.
The first carry I learned was the Front Wrap Cross Carry, and I recommend it to all new baby wearers as a great first carry to learn.
There are several North American retailers who sell woven wraps; Birdies Room, Marsupial Mamas, Woven Wraps.com, and Purple Elm Baby are four I’ve had great experiences with. I’m also happy to recommend buying used, there is a good online forum here for buying used wraps.
Babywearing meetings! Crazy people like me all over organize and hold baby wearing meetings where you can learn about baby wearing safely, try different carriers, and even borrow carriers to try at home. You can find local meetings by searching Google or Facebook, or if all else fails don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and I’ll help you find one.
Thebabywearer.com is an amazing resource where you can find video and picture tutorials, mentors, and plenty of babywearers active in the community who are more than willing to answer questions and make recommendations.
Any talk about baby wearing should include talk about safety. Babywearing International says it better than I could, so I encourage you to click through and read about it.
And finally, because I’m not a plus size mama myself I can only pass on what I have learned from my friends who are, I’d like to invite any mamas and dads with experience or tips to comment and share your knowledge.
Thanks to Malia, Shannon, Andi, Jackie, Jessica, Rebecca, Christi, Mike and Kasey for the great babywearing pictures.