Getting a Good Seat in a Soft Structured Carrier: The Front


When babywearers talk about making a “good seat”, they are generally referring to wearing wraps or ring slings. With those carriers, the wearer makes as safe seat for the wearee by pulling the bottom hem – called the bottom rail – up between the child’s legs, in between the wearer and the child. They make sure the fabric is spread from knee to knee, like a small hammock seat. Making and keeping the seat can be a tricky and intimidating part of wrapping and leads many wearers to the “easier” buckle-and-go sling: the soft structured carrier (SSC). Because SSCs (and Mai Tais!) have a secure waist band that, in conjunction with the body panel, makes a seat for the child, the conventional wisdom is that you don’t need to really think about the seat you make in an SSC.

But, did you know that getting a good seat in an SSC is a special skill that does take a little bit of time and tweaking? Not as much work as in a woven or ring sling, but it does take a little bit of effort to make a good seat. Taking a few minutes to make sure you have a secure and comfortable seat can be the difference between an uncomfortable babywearing experience and a very comfortable one.

Just like with our last post in this series I’d like to remind everyone of the basics of babywearing safety:

You can find a detailed and beautifully illustrated resource on babywearing safety at Babywearing International.

In addition – frequently check your SSC to make sure the buckles and stitching are in good working order. Also make sure you are using the appropriately sized SSC for the child you are wearing. When carriers say “birth to preschool!!!” that means they are safety tested for those weight ranges, not that they will fit well through all of those ages without some adjustments. So, small infants and newborns in infant inserts or infant sized carriers, bigger kiddos in carriers that can handle their height and weight.

As we’ve been discovering in this series, SSCs have a variety of adjustments, most of which most wearers ignore completely. As an educator, I’ve noticed that the more buckles and adjustments, the less likely wearers seem to be to use them. Before we begin, familiarize yourself with the various buckles on your carrier, and maybe review the post on adjusting the shoulder straps and positioning the chest clip.

A final note, I should provide a little context about the bodies used in these tutorials. I’m just under 5’4″ with a medium frame. In SSC world, I’m a short wearer. My toddler is 2.75 years old, about 30# and 33.75″ tall, so also small for his age (wears 2T pants, cuffed). My daughter is 5 mo old and right in the middle of her weight/height chart. I mention this because each wearer and wearee are shaped differently. What works for me might not work for a friend who is closer to 6′ tall.

Alright, alright, I’ll get on with it…

When you have a good seat, the waist band should be close to horizontal on the wearer’s body and the child’s bum should sit supported in the body of the SSC without sagging over the waist band, sinking into the waist band, pulling the waist band down on the wearer’s body.

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Toddler in a toddler Tula

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The SSC seat is actually designed via seat darts in the body panel of the SSC – these are the little interior seams that make the body panel pouch out at the waist band. :

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It means that each SSC will fit your child, their bum, and your body, differently. We even noticed a difference in the seat making when switching from cloth diapers to undies, and again as my toddler lengthened and grew. (the depth of seat darts is also why some infant inserts fit well into SSCs and others seem overly crowded).

Of course, not all seat darts are created equally.Here are some examples:

SSC Seat photos collage

In these shots, you can see that the Kinderpack had the most shallow of seats, followed by the Tula, the Lillebaby, and the Lenny Lamb. What you might not be able to see is that the Lenny Lamb and Lillebaby seats were so ample that my kiddo’s tukus sagged over the top of the waist band. Because he doesn’t have much junk in the trunk and I’m fairly petite, we could not get the rest of the carrier adjusted properly to get rid of the sag. This resulted in a waistband that sagged down in the front, lifted in the back, and caused back soreness. You can also see that the shoulder strap webbing on those to carriers is being pulled with a lot of tension in the carrier body, but it still doesn’t offer support. For us, the seats on those carriers were too deep. However, a larger framed wearer or a larger kiddo or even a cloth diapered kiddo may find a better fit with the Lillebaby or Lenny Lamb precisely because they have larger carrier bodies that can be spread over larger wearers and wearees.

The tips to making a good seat in a front or back SSC carry are:

  1. A snug waist band that rests horizontally, or nearly horizontally, across the wearer’s body. Remember that depending on you and your child’s size, the “waist” band might be low on your hips (with a toddler or an infant in an infant insert), or high up on your natural waist (generally around the bottom of the rib cage).
  2.  Spread the fabric up and over the child’s bum,
  1. If necessary, bounce the child into the seat (especially to get slack out of back carries). If necessary, lift the child and re-position the waist band to make sure they aren’t sinking into the waist, but instead are making full use of the seat darts.

If these all make sense to you, hurray! You can stop reading right now. But for the rest of us, here are some photos.

Before: a less than ideal carry (kiddo is nearly 3 and in a standard Tula):

DSC01092Here’s how to fix it:

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Just for comparison, the last picture is in a Toddler Tula

Because everyone loves a good Before & After, here are several more comparisons of a poorly and properly adjusted SSC. Pay attention to the shoulder straps and the seat!

 

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In this case, the seat was sagging over the waist band and the shoulder webbing was awkwardly in my underarms. After remaking the seat, lowering the chest clip, and tightening the shoulder webbing, the seat is higher and more supported, the webbing is out from my underarms.

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Sometimes the problem is that the waist band is too loose and as a result the kiddo’s bum slips into the waist band of the carrier. This pulls the waist down and puts pressure on the lower back. Here are two examples of this with both a toddler and an infant (easy to make this mistake with an infant because they are so light!). As with the examples above, the solution is to lift the bum, and tighten the waist!

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Still having problem? Try these fixes:

Sagging? try tightening the shoulder straps or the PFAs (Personal Fit Adjusters, where the shoulder straps meet the carrier body)

Whole waist band dipping down in the front and riding up in the back? Waist is too loose, play around with where it is on the wearer’s body and tightening it.

As with all babywearing, it takes a little bit of fiddling to find the perfect adjustment for you and your kiddo – and remember that carriers will generally need to be re-adjusted as they pass back and forth between babywearers – but hopefully these tips will help you find that sweet spot in your babywearing.

Peace, love, and babywearing,

Kelly