Sometimes referred to as a Buckle Carrier, Soft Structure Carriers (SSCs) are one of a variety of types of baby carriers available. More specifically, a SSC is defined as a "carrier which uses buckles to fasten the straps rather than being secured by tying or tucking. Includes soft structured carriers both with and without padding, half buckles, and frontpacks”.
There are many great brands on the market nowadays. Each one has its own fit, style, and design. This means there is one out there that can meet all of your needs and fit perfectly. This also means that you may need to try on a lot of SSCs before you find that perfect fit. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a SSC.
It is best to look for one that keeps baby in the optimal position at all times. You want baby to be high, close, and tight to your body. Baby should have a clear airway at all times.
The carrier should support baby from knee to knee, and put their weight resting on their bottom.
The body panel should come up to at least the back of baby shoulders and should never fully cover the head.
The carrier should be evenly distributing baby's weight across your whole torso. The shoulder straps should be tight and secure against your body but not so tight as to cause you pain or discomfort.
The chest clip should be firmly across the middle of your shoulder blades/chest. It should be tight enough to keep the shoulder straps secure, but not so tight to pinch or cause you pain.
The placement of the waistband will vary with each brand and individual body type. The general rule of thumb is to start at your natural waist and move up and down as needed. Please read the instructions to see where your carrier was designed to sit.
If you have a longer torso you may need to place the waistband up higher so baby is close enough to kiss. If you have a shorter torso you may need to place the waistband or down so baby's head is not obstructing your view (if on front).
Remember that most SSCs are designed for babies around six months old who can sit up unassisted. If your baby does not meet these requirements, you can still use these carriers if they have made adaptations for it. For safety reasons please do not try to put a baby who is too small in a SSC without the adaptation.
One such adaptation is an infant insert. This is a pillow attached to a soft shell. Since the panel is too long for a small baby, the pillow boosts baby up to the correct height so their head clears the body panel. This ensures that the baby's airway is always clear and that no fabric obstructs their face. Since small babies cannot hold themselves upright, the soft shell provides torso support. This will keep baby from leaning out the sides of the body panel.
Other carriers are designed with adjustable panels that can be adapted for a smaller baby. On such carriers the height of the panel scrunches/clips shorter so baby's head can clear the top. Also, the width scrunches/clips narrower so babies legs are not over spread and they can be supported in the optimal position. Making the panel smaller will also make the panel tighter on baby's body, decreasing the risk of tipping out of the sides.
There are also infant sized SSCs available, which are carriers that are designed for smaller babies. The body panels are shorter and narrower, but do not expand out as baby grows. These carriers can only be used while baby is still infant size so when your baby reaches about six months, you will need to move to a larger carrier.
We have many SSCs in our Learning Library to help you get started. We can help you find the perfect one for your family. Don't forget to #bwiofpdx to show us your SSC adventures!
Samantha Reddy, ABE