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If you ask a Gen X or an older Gen Y mom (like, say, the author of this post) to describe a BabyBjorn, chances are she will picture the one she was toted around in as a baby. The iconic carrier came on the market in 1973 and a very similar model is indeed still sold in stores today. These days they call it the Original.
However, BabyBjorn has expanded its lineup over the years to address the Original’s two greatest flaws (the new models are called Miracle, We and One). Whereas the original design forces the wearer to carry all of the baby’s weight in the shoulders, famously uncomfortable for all but the brawniest parents among us, the newer models offer a waist strap to distribute the child’s weight more evenly across the torso. The newer models are also approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute as ergonomically safe for a growing child, whereas the original model has come under fire over the years in this respect.
But how do the newer models stack up? And is one of them right for you? The factors you’ll need to consider are: longevity, versatility, style, and fit.
Ergo – larger weight range
The Ergo is designed to be used from infancy through toddlerhood, and can safely hold children in the range of 7lbs – 45lbs (3.2kg-20kg). However, to safely accommodate newborns in the range of 7-12lbs (3.2-5.5kg), the Ergo requires an insert which is sold separately or available as part of the slightly pricier “bundle” package. Some parents find the insert adds bulk as well as expense, and learning to wrap a wee one up like a sort of baby taco before placing him or her in the carrier does take a bit of practice.
Babyjorn – smaller weight range, but no infant insert required
The BabyBjorn does not require an insert, as the seat area is designed to accommodate babies as they grow. However, the mininum weight is a bit higher, at 8lbs (3.5kg), and the maximum weight is lower. The Miracle model carries babies up to 26lbs (12kg), while the We and the One models carry babies up to 33lbs (15kg).
Depending on your baby’s size and the number of years you expect to babywear, the difference of a pound at the low end and twelve pounds at the high end may be very important or totally insignifcant to you, in which case it may come down to the carrier’s range of carrying positions.
The Ergo Original offers three carrying positions: front-inward, back, and hip (right and left) and the Ergo 360 offers four, with the front-outward position in addition to the other three. However, to allow for this fourth position, the Ergo 360 features velcro in the waist strap for greater support. It is effective, but unfortunately noisy, and you know what they say about waking a sleeping baby!
New generation BabyBjorn models offer the front-inward, front-outward, and back positions. Moreover, the One and We models allow the wearer to safely switch between the front to the back position with a toddler still inside, and many parents find it easy to lay a sleeping little one down from the front position, as the seat area can be unfastened as quietly as the Ergo Original can.
Fabrication and looks
Many parents are more drawn to either the Ergo or BabyBjorn based on the carrier’s overall “look” or style, another key difference between the brands. All of the BabyBjorn new generation models are available in a handful of tasteful, gender-neutral solid colours, and the overall look is fairly utilitarian, without any sort of whimsical detail that might embarrass a new dad or unsentimental mom. The Ergo, on the other hand, comes in a dazzling array of colours and prints, some of which are further embellished with cute embroidered stars or similar patterns.
Fabrication and comfort
The Ergo and BabyBjorn differ in fabrication as well. The Ergo Original and Ergo Organic are both made of 100% cotton canvas, while the primary material in the BabyBjorn is a Cotton Mix, which is 60% cotton and 40% polyester, with a 100% cotton lining in the baby’s seat. Though Ergo-wearing parents note body warmth is less of an issue without the insert, both carriers are known to warm up the wearer after a long period of time or out in the sun.
To address this issue, both brands have developed models which feature mesh. The Ergo Performance and BabyBjorn Air lines are both generally described as more breatheable than their cotton or cotton mix counterparts, and more popular with parents in warmer climates and parents who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking with their little one riding piggyback.
Extra functional features
The Ergo offers a few more frills, such as a large zippered pocket (on all but the 360) and a hood to shade baby’s head from the sun. One practical feature the BabyBjorn does have that the Ergo doesn’t, however, is the way it folds up into a neat little package, fitting tidily into a diaper bag when it’s not in use.
Both carriers feature a “one size fits all” design, and can be easily transferred from one wearer to another with a few simple adjustments. Both offer well-padded straps, and are relatively easy to put on without assistance, though fans of both brands admit this takes some practice. More petite or less flexible wearers have been known to struggle mightily with the clasp across the back of the Ergo, a non-issue with the BabyBjorn.
Though many parents wear the new generation BabyBjorn comfortably, parents who have tried both often note that the waist strap in the Ergo bears a bit more of the weight load, thus allowing them to wear the carrier longer without discomfort.
And the winner is?
Well…in the interest of full disclosure, I owned an Ergo Original and absolutely loved it though yes, I did occasionally get pretty toasty wearing outside during our brief Canadian summer. I tried the BabyBjorn Original for a very short period before discovering my shoulders were not up to the task, but have never tried one of the newer generation models.
Ergo has the edge overall
Though the newer BabyBjorn models have many fine points and devoted fans, the Ergo does seem to have the edge on a few key categories. The Ergo offers greater longevity, with a lower minimum as well as a higher maximum weight capacity. It also offers a wider array of styles and a more comfortable fit for the wearer, though the degree of addtional comfort is hard to measure, and ultimately may be a matter of the wearer’s personal opinion or body type. And those little details, like the pocket and the ‘snoozing’ hood, tip the balance in the Ergo’s favor too.
Buy with confidence and avoid unsafe knock-offs
Both carriers are widely available online, but if you spot an Ergo for an unbelievably low price, be sure to read the fine print: unfortunately, there are a few knock-offs, or “Fergos” on the market and the safety of these products cannot be guaranteed.
Whether you end up going with an Ergo or a BabyBjorn, you can be confident that you’ve chosen a very well-made, high quality carrier that will grow with your baby and will allow you to do those things that sometimes seem impossible with a little one on the loose, like talking on the phone without crushing it between your ear and shoulder, or finishing a cup of coffee before it gets cold.
Good luck shopping, and happy babywearing!