Slings & Carriers
Published:  17 October, 2008

The carrying of children on the front or back is a relatively recent phenomenon in the West, although the practice has been established in many cultures for centuries. It's true that images of children being carried in slings can be seen in Egyptian artwork dating back to the time of the Pharaohs, and have been used in many indigenous cultures. But the parental baby carrying in the West we see today began in the 1960's with the arrival of the structured soft pack.

Around the same time, the frame backpack quickly became a popular way to carry older babies and toddlers. In the early 1970's, in Germany, the wrap was reintroduced and not long later Sally Wilkins, mother of eight children designed her first Wilkinet Baby Carrier for her sixth child. Gideon, her fifth child runs the business today. In 1986, the ring sling was invented and popularised. While the Chinese mei tai has been around in one form or another for centuries, it did not become popular in the West until it was modernised with padding and other adjustments. It first became popular and well known in 2003.

BabyBjörn's first baby carrier was launched in 1973. It was called "Hjärtenära" meaning ‘Close to the heart' and was a simpler version of today's Babybjorn Baby Carrier Original. It had a big impact in Europe. Björn Jakobson, BabyBjörn's founder and President says, ‘In the early 1970s, every other doctor you heard was going on and on about the importance of close contact with small babies. Suddenly, everyone wanted baby carriers and the only one available was a Japanese one.' continues Björn, ‘BabyBjörn couldn't afford an industrial designer back then, so we developed and tested a model by ourselves. We acted as the test family, to see how it worked as a part of a family's everyday life.'

Work began on a new model in 1987, and it would form the basis for today's BabyBjörn Baby Carriers. Earlier baby carriers fastened down the back and were made from a single piece. And they came in several different colors. ‘We've changed the colors of our baby carriers several times, says Lillemor Pastel Jakobson, Björn's wife and a textile designer at the company. ‘Earlier models were available in either bright colors or pastels, and pastels were, after all, big in the late 80s.'

Opinion is divided on whether the sling and carrier is superior. Some parents simply prefer the soft feel and touch of nothing but warm cotton, with no fastenings and the flexibility a wrap offers in terms of positioning. Others, and especially dads prefer the rucksack look, ideally waterproofed so the function of the product is clear for all to see. But the technique is the same for both types of product. The waist needs to be pulled in firmly to take the downward forces of the weight of the baby away from the shoulders and neck. The baby needs to form a neat bundle high on the chect or back, with no ‘leaning out' gap. This way the parent is using the muscles of the back to distribute the load evenly across the hips and down the legs. Once the baby has become too heavy, its time to look at wheels.

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