Using an infant insert in a soft structured carrier

The purpose of this post is to help achieve a proper fit in a soft structured carrier with a newborn, using an infant insert. DSC00678Soft structured carriers look deceptively easy to use, but can actually be quite challenging to fit comfortably. Even if you can get a larger child up with little fuss, try using one with a squirming newborn and the bulk of an infant insert, and it can be a recipe for frustration. Hopefully the pictures and video in this post will help.

First things first: Safety

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

Why do I need an infant insert with my soft structured carrier, why can’t I just use the rolled blanket hack?

Newborns are very small and in comparison to soft structured carriers. The big safety concern with newborns, and really all infants, is that they will slump in a baby sling, compromising the airway, and suffocate. Sad, horrible, but that’s at the base of the concern and why educators make the recommendations we do. While head control plays a large role in being able to keep an airway clear, the infant’s core strength plays an even bigger role. Core strength is something newborns simply do not have. Infant inserts, opposed to a rolled blanket, are designed to both boost the child in the carrier and provide essential side support to keep them from slumping over in the too-big body panel. Using a rolled blanket does not provide the necessary side support for a young infant. For this reason, manufacturers have amended their previous recommendations that infant inserts be used until 8 weeks, and now recommend using inserts until 4 months. (Exceptions to this are carriers purposefully designed to fit a newborn without an insert such as the Beco Gemini and Lilebaby, or designed to provide side support in conjunction with a carrier-specific insert, such as the Boba 4G).

Second: The SSC itself.

The SSC is made of a few different parts. The waist belt and webbing, the body panel, the shoulder straps and webbing, the chest clip, and the hood. All of the webbing is adjustable. I’d say about 95% of the people I help fit in SSCs have only ever bothered adjusting the waist. They either don’t realize that the shoulders and chest clips are adjustable or don’t know how to juggle adjusting with corralling their children. Without contest, not properly adjusting the straps for each user, each time the carrier is used, is the number 1 reason why SSCs are uncomfortable. Although important with a larger infant, this is even more important when dealing with an infant insert.

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This is an example of a poorly adjusted SSC. The chest clip at the neck causes the shoulder straps to wing out to the sides and pulls on the wearer’s neck.

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Better clip positioning. In this picture, the model is wearing a 3 week old on the front, in an insert.

You can read more about how and why you should adjust the chest clip in this post: How I learned to stop worrying and love my soft structured carrier

Finally, putting it all together.

In the video below, I demonstrate how to wear and adjust an infant in an infant insert in an SSC. For this video, I am using the Ergo performance insert with a standard Tula. The directions are the same for any of the similarly designed inserts (pillow + back/side support).

Here are a few photos that will also help:

Positioning the newborn in the insert: The bottom should rest on the pillow part of the insert as if on a seat. The legs should fall naturally. DSC00680DSC00679 A note on fussiness and feet Most newborns get irritated (whimpering to screaming bloody murder) when their feet are messed with. DSC00683For this reason, many newborns will protest at being put frog-legged in an SSC from weeks 2ish-7ish (Our first child had no problems from week 4. Our second child was ok in an SSC at week 3, but then not again until week 6 ish). The design of the carrier against the wearer’s body may just be too uncomfortable for the child. As with many things – being cold at diaper changes, screaming when someone dares to put socks on the newborn, hating light/wind/noise/darkness/being hungry/being full/etc – this is a phase that many babies go through and grow out of. It may mean that you just have to wait a tad longer before heading out for a 6 mile hike with your newborn. That being said, there are a few things you can do to see if you can get the two of you more comfortable:

DSC00682DSC00684 Once you have everything and everyone sorted, reach in between you and the child to make sure that 1) the legs are generally parallel to the wearer’s body and not at an odd angle, and 2) pressure is off of the little feet. (Note the caption in the photo should also read “parallel” to the reader’s body. I blame sleep deprivation for the typo.)

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Face visible and kissable.

IMG_6232 Happy and safe babywearing!

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2 thoughts on “Using an infant insert in a soft structured carrier

  1. I’m so confused about when we can stop using the infant insert for our Tula! My son is 4.5 months old and weighs over 8kg. I read on the Tula website something about using the infant insert until bub can sit but I’ve seen so many people on the web using their Tulas without the insert well before then. Have you any additional information that will make the decision easier for us? Clearly I’m new to baby wearing!

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