In a crowd with babywearers, the soft structured carrier (SSC) is the carrier type that’s most prolific—and for good reason! It’s an intuitive carrier type with the shallowest learning curve. What is an SSC? It’s a little bit mei tai, a little bit back pack; it is a carrier with a large panel/piece of fabric where the back of the baby rests, a waist that’s usually padded and ends in buckles that goes around the waist of the wearee, and shoulder straps that are usually padded, sometimes with a chest strap that connects the two shoulder straps.
SSCs generally distribute the weight around your hips, not just your shoulders or chest, which differs from other carrier types, such as ring slings and many woven wrap carries, where much of the weight is on your upper body. This type of weight distribution also means the baby rides lower on your body (which is a bonus for nursing). SSCs can do front and back carries, some have buckles on the shoulder straps which gives the option of hip carries (which may come in handy for some situations). Finally, due to the quickness of the buckles, getting LO up and settled in less time than another carrier type, such as a woven wrap. This is why an SSC is a wonderful addition to anyone’s stash and should have a strong presence in a lending library!
When first using an SSC, it’s important to take the time to adjust everything to your highest comfort level. The main issue of choosing a brand of SSC is its fit. Since there is more structure, there is a narrower demographic with which that design works best, meaning one SSC that works well with petite wearers may not be ideal for tall wearers or vice versa. It’s also not just the wearer a potential buyer must consider but how it fits for LO. The good news is standard size SSCs can be cinched with a hair-tie or ribbon to fit newborns and smaller infants and a carrier with a narrow seat can be modified with a scarf or long piece of fabric to create an optimal M-position. But things to consider are higher backs for taller babies, lower for babies who like their arms out. Wider seats for babies with long legs and toddlers, because a seat that goes from back of the knee to back of the knee provides the most support for you and LO. Trying before buying is highly recommended.
Check out these tutorials and articles to learn more about SSCs!
- Very complete SSC article by Becoming Mamas
- Cinching a SSC with a hair tie for a newborn or small infant by Steffany Kerr
- SSC Back Carry while Pregnant by Steffany Kerr
- Front Carry in a Kinderpack by BeltwayBWers
- Kinderpack Tips and Tweaks by BeltwayBWers
- Back Carry in a Kinderpack by BeltwayBWers
- Using a shawl/scarf to create the M-shape legs position with a Bjorn by Canadian Babywearing School
When adjusting your SSC, you want the carrier on your hips rather than your natural waist (for general purposes. If you’re trying to do a high carry or you’re pregnant, this may not be optimal for you). Snug it as tight as possible while still being comfortable for you, so there is no hole between you and the waist when you put LO in. Adjust the straps and the height of the chest belt before you put the baby in, at least the first time, so you’re not fiddling with it while holding the baby. If you find the back of the carrier is lower on your LO than you would like, try holding the straps in your hands and pulling straight up while hopping right after you put LO into the carrier but before putting your arms in the straps. This should pull up any fabric that may be getting bunched in the seat.
To wash your carrier, put your carrier in a mesh bag or pillow case (kept closed in some way) and wash gently following your manufacturer’s instructions. The bag protects against an agitator, so if you have a front-loading washer, you may be able to skip this step. Line dry is best to lengthen the lifetime of your carrier, but low heat or air dry/fluff in a mesh bag or pillow case for 5-10 minutes may help soften your carrier if it needs it. Always check the buckles and sewing, especially where the straps meet the panel, after you wash and as well as regularly for daily use and before use if you haven’t used it in a while.
Our lending library has two soft structured carriers with more on its way to us! Here are the pictures of the current carriers available, with a 10-month-old, twenty pound baby and a 5’7″, medium shirt size mama.