Yes, you really do need to use that infant insert….
Soft structured carriers (SSCs) are a popular choice for new babywearers. Many people find them less intimidating than wraps or ring slings, and some people really like the convenience: adjust the buckles once for a proper fit, and you will likely not need to do a lot of adjusting again. They are also often available retail in big box stores (and in smaller shops, of course).
That said, SSCs are one of the carriers where you really do need to have a carrier in the size that fits your baby. Most of the popular brands have an additional infant insert that you can purchase (like Ergo, Tula, and some Beco models), and some others have an infant modification built into the carrier (like Lillebaby, other Beco models, Kokadi Flip and Olives and Applesauce).
But why do you need an infant insert? Why can’t you just wear your newborn or tiny baby in a regular carrier?
The short answer? Safety. The longer answer? Wearing a small baby in a large carrier creates all kinds of problems. Remember the ABC’s of safety:
Airway: First, if baby is in a carrier that is too large, baby’s body will slump down, so baby’s chin will be resting close to baby’s chest. This means baby’s airway is not open enough, so baby’s breathing may be compromised. Remember, there should be a space of two adult fingers between baby’s chin and chest to ensure baby’s airway stays open. Additionally, because newborns and young babies are short, baby will be sunk down in the carrier, so fresh air will not be circulating around baby’s face, and baby will not be close enough to kiss, which means baby isn’t close enough to monitor closely. An infant insert will boost baby’s body up so that baby’s face is above the top of the carrier and is visible. It will also support baby’s body so that baby’s airway stays open.
Body Positioning: The same extra space which lets baby’s chin slump down to baby’s chest also means that baby’s body is not supported in the correct position. That extra space will allow baby’s body to slide around inside the carrier. If baby ends up tilting to the side, a small baby will be in danger of starting to slide right out of a too-big carrier. An infant insert will give baby’s body the support it needs. Plus, the insert will take up space so that the carrier fits correctly, baby’s body is supported and the healthy curve of baby’s spine is maintained. Additionally, the infant inserts are created to help baby maintain that important ergonomic ‘M’ positioning, with baby’s knees higher than baby’s bottom. There is no way for a newborn baby to maintain this position in a soft structured carrier without some kind of special seat for the baby. The carriers on the market, even “infant” or “baby” size carriers, are too wide at the base to allow baby to achieve that M position in the early days without modification.
Comfort: A baby who is in a carrier that’s too big isn’t going to be comfortable. The caregiver wearing the carrier also isn’t going to be comfortable, either–all that extra room in the body of the carrier means that the carrier will sag and will be difficult for the caregiver to adjust correctly. Because baby doesn’t weigh a lot at this stage, the caregiver might not be extremely uncomfortable, but there’s a big difference in comfort between a carrier that’s too big and one that fits the caregiver and the baby well.
So, now you know why you want an infant insert, but which insert should you choose? Can you use the Tula infant insert in an Ergo (or the Ergo insert in a Tula)? Again, the answer is no. The infant inserts are made specifically for the different carrier brands: the infant insert by Ergo is made to make an infant fit in an Ergo, and the Tula insert is made to make an infant fit in a Tula. The same is true of the Beco infant insert. Because the carriers have different dimensions, the infant inserts are different. If you use an Ergo infant insert in a Tula, your baby will not get the support baby needs, and baby’s safety will be compromised.
What about using a Tula infant insert in a Toddler Tula? That’s the same brand, so it should be fine, right? Again, the answer is no. Just like Ergo infant inserts are made to fit Ergos and not Tulas, Tula infant inserts are made to fit standard size Tulas, not Toddler Tulas.
So, do you need an infant insert with your carrier? Where can you get one? Check the manual that came with your carrier. All manuals will have the manufacturer’s recommendations for how the carrier should be used, including information on infant inserts. The carrier brand’s website will also have this information. You can always ask questions at a local BWI meeting, too.
Blog post written by Marilea B. Edited by Stephanie S.
All images have image descriptions in the alternative text visible to screen readers.