When Harley was a tiny little thing, I had a ring sling that was fantastic. I could pop Harley in and she would sleep while I had two hands free to do whatever else needed doing. I loved baby wearing at that stage, but the sling itself wasn’t exactly the best design – it put most of the strain on my one shoulder and if she moved around too much, she would basically squirm out of the thing. Once she crossed the five kgs mark, I simply couldn’t use it anymore.
Things were still okay – her car seat would clip into the pram, so I could usually knock her out with a drive and then shop with a sleeping baby in the pram. But once she graduated to a bigger seat, the pram became a bit of a waste; she didn’t want to sit in her pram, she wanted me to carry her on my hip. I was getting really bad carpal tunnel and body aches as a result, which is why I decided to jump back into the world of babywearing with the Ubuntu Baba, and I have never been so happy with a purchase.
The happiness is truly two-fold – the Ubuntu Baba itself is phenomenal. It is a high-quality carrier with tons of features and details that make it super worthwhile. The other source of happiness is the joy of babywearing past those early months. Anyone with a toddler (is that what she is now?) knows just how much they like to be held, to be carried, even once they can crawl, walk or generally get around by themselves. They are bigger, heavier and more unwieldy, but they still want to be carried, which can put a huge strain on our bodies and lives. Ubuntu Baba has been a lifesaver in that regard. But let’s look at each aspect individually.
Toddler wearing – for health, happiness, and sanity
Babywearing has a ton of benefits for newborns – it keeps infants from crying as much, it’s convenient while breastfeeding, and it helps little ones regulate temperature by using the caretaker’s body temperature. But the benefits continue as our tiny people get older, and I just want to touch on some of the amazing ways that toddler wearing has made my life so much better.
Need to do dishes or start dinner and she only wants mommy? Strap her on and get to work. She is comfy on my back and actually tends to play and engage with the world around her back there while I actually have time to chop, clean and do whatever needs doing.
This also applies to getting ready to go out. More often than not, I let Harley have a bit of free roaming time around the house while I brush my teeth, get dressed, etc. But she is now at the point where she can get into everything, and I have to keep pausing to check on her and distract her from whatever chaos she is causing. By strapping her onto me, I can wash my face and even put on mascara without worrying about why it’s suddenly quiet in the house.
Now, let me tell you a couple stories.
The other day, I was walking to the grocery store with Dean. Just the usual thing, walking to the shops with Harley in the carrier. Without even being aware of it, we were holding hands – something that’s a lot harder to do if one of us is carrying a baby on our hip.
Another time, we were in a shopping center, again with Harley in the carrier. Going up the escalator, Dean casually wrapped his arm around my shoulder, which continued as we walked through the shops. It’s something we’ve done a bajillion times before – we were always affectionate like that – but has been so much harder and less frequent since Harley came because we always literally had our hands full with her and her stuff. With the carrier, there’s room and relaxation enough to enjoy each other, with her along for the ride.
Finally, there are those times when I’ve gone out without the carrier recently. I think that I won’t need it – I can put Harley in the trolley in the store, or she can ride along in her pram instead. You know what happened? She got upset, tired or irritable and wanted to be held, to be carried.
I remember feeling that way into my childhood, asking my parents to carry me when I got tired. With the carrier, it’s a snap. Without the carrier, it’s a stress on the body – even my 9.5kg toddler can be a mission to carry around the store, and it’s only going to get harder.
Here is a nice infographic I’ve made in case you aren’t sure about the benefits of baby/toddler wearing.
Ubuntu Baba Stage 2 – Functional, beautiful design
The Ubuntu Baba Stage 2 is what’s called a soft structured carrier (SSC).
This means that the basic shape and design of the carrier is already in place, and you just need to buckle and strap your little one to you in the way that is comfy for both baby and wearer. This is in contrast to wraps or ring carriers, where I struggled to find the right “seat” to keep Harley safely and securely situated. The Stage 2 Ubuntu Baba is designed for bigger, older kids, and ergonomically suitable (and comfy) for front and back carry.
I bought the carrier just in time for my consulate visit with Harley, a day when I knew I would need it. It’s been a couple months now, and I think I have tried out the carrier in every possible configuration. The Ubuntu Baba is incredibly versatile – I did front carry with crossed straps and straight straps, adjusted the height of the carrier to ensure Harley’s arms could be out, and generally just played around with the different set ups, eventually finding a “default” strap setting that works well for me whether I’m wearing Harley in front or back.
Like many SSCs, the Ubuntu Baba has a strong, sturdy belt that goes around your waist.
This is what ensures that your little one’s weight is distributed across your hips instead of putting the stress on your shoulders and lower back. Then there are easy to maneuver straps and buckles that make it feel a lot like putting on a backpack. Easy enough. But it’s the details that set the Ubuntu Baba apart, that make it a truly fantastic design and uniquely premium product.
The Ubuntu Baba Stage 2 has a decent sized pouch on the outside of the carrier.
This can be used for your phone, keys or whatever else you might carry with you. Hidden inside is a zip that can be used to make the carrier a bit shorter – it’s the setting I’m currently using so that the back support only goes up to Harley’s shoulder blades, allowing her arms to be free while she’s carried. Instead of using this pouch for my wallet and phone, I’ve opted to fill it with a couple nappies and wipes. Since doing so, I rarely if ever take my huge mommy bag with me, opting instead for a normal handbag with just my wallet, phone, and keys.
There is a second zipper compartment on the back of the carrier, but this is for the hood that can fold away or clip up as needed.
I absolutely love this feature. Harley is very busy when she’s awake, wanting to see all the things and interact with all the people. But when she gets tired, she will pass out on my chest, and then the hood is my best friend. I can cover her up, preventing people from trying to tickle or interact with her, and also keeping her protected from the sun, and other elements. It’s great to have the hood when I need it, and otherwise fold it away into its compartment and not think about it when Harley is happily awake and busy.
Beyond the ease and versatility of the carrier, which really cannot be mentioned enough, the other details I love come in the specific padding and stitching.
The waist belt is sturdy, but also soft and has rounded edges with some excellent padding – even when sitting down or standing up, moving in odd directions, it never digs in uncomfortably or cuts into my skin. The same is true of the shoulder straps with the various buckle options.
But it’s also great for Harley. Often with carriers, you’ll see red marks appear on the kid’s legs where the carrier cuts into them after a while. The Ubuntu Baba is soft and has padding in the areas where it comes into contact with your kid’s legs. It’s this kind of attention to detail that ensures that parents and kids are both comfortable, even when wearing the carrier for extended periods of time.
It’s also worth mentioning the level of after-sale support Ubuntu Baba offers.
They have an active Facebook page and owner Shannon is always available to answer questions, comment on pictures and generally engage with users and fans of the carriers. When I first took Harley for a spin, I shared a picture on the group to show the fit and see if I was doing it right. She was supportive and encouraging while also giving ideas of ways I might customize the carrier to fit me and Harley better – plus other moms chimed in with their comments, too.
It’s really nice to have feedback in the moment, above and beyond the fantastic instructional leaflet included in the packaging. And for those who don’t understand written instructions or feedback, Shannon even has a series of videos showing moms how to back carry, front carry and even breastfeed while carrying.