I’ve always dabbled in all carrier types (research, right??), but never really found the love for buckles – the fit was never quite perfect and I had a hard time getting the higher back carry I prefer. But when Eleanor decided to be a leg-straightening banshee leaner…my go-to shorties (which I prefer to use out and about over a long wrap) and much loved ruck carries weren’t really cutting it – so I decided to give buckles a go once again. On a whim, I picked up an Action Baby Carrier (ABC) for cheap from FSOT…just to see. Instant love! I may have been talking rather a lot about them since as the ABC love seems to be spreading throughout my local BWI group as well.
In my quest for perfect buckles (for me, as buckle carriers really are so particular to the user in terms of fit), I tried lots, including most of the “boutique” custom brands. But the ABC really won me over as a “wrapper’s” SSC. I like streamlined carriers that hug to me and kiddo – and the ABC fits the bill. Here’s what I love:
- The waist!! My biggest problem with soft structured carriers (SSCs or buckles) has been finding the right waist. There are lots of options out there but in general, SSC waists are designed like the waists on hiking packs – structured (thus the name) and meant to be worn low and on the hips. This transfers the weight of the pack (or child!) to the wearer’s hips – which many find to be ideal, particularly for bigger kids). I actually prefer to wear my carriers higher and in fact my favorite carry (ruck tied under the bum) doesn’t have any sort of waist at all. So the heavy structure of most SSCs doesn’t work well for me. I also have a fairly small waist in relation to my hips – while many SSCs are designed to fit this “womanly curve,” I still haven’t found one that I love to wear on my hips. The ABC waist is straight and more padded than structured. This means that you can choose to wear it lower on the hips or higher at the natural waist as I prefer. And because it’s padded instead of structured, it conforms more to you – no poking in the ribs or hipbones! The standard ABC waist has 27.5 inches of padding (fits a 28″ to 53″ waist); they also offer a plus size waist band with 37.5 inches of padding (fits a 38″ to 63″ waist). I love that the extra padding is available on the plus size waist vs. just a waist extender belt that extends the webbing.
- The straps!! One thing I always rather disliked about many SSCs was that the shoulder padding was often too generous in its bulk (for my tastes; your mileage may vary). The ABC straps have just the right amount – it wears more like a padded strap mei tai does. The straps mold to your shoulders vs. sitting on your shoulders. Again, this is a matter of personal preference but I like mold 😉 ABC straps cinch down to 17 inches (excluding the buckles which are single direction adjust); if you are super petite you may find them a hair long but I think this length and the carrier design will fit most smaller wearers depending on how high you wear and how long your torso is (since the higher you wear, the shorter the strap you need for a back carry). The ABC fits so neatly that I rarely bother with the chest clip in a back carry.
- The straps!! I just said that, I know. But…another aspect of the straps I love is that they cross behind you when doing a front carry (although you can wear “reverse backpack” style as well if you prefer for a front carry). This is another “personal preference” thing but I find SSCs that don’t allow the straps to cross in a front carry feel like they are sliding off my shoulders – and I hate fussing to get the chest clip clipped behind me! The ability to cross the straps was a huge win for me – again this makes the ABC wear more like a mei tai.
- The body!! The ABC is a very lightweight carrier relative to many SSCs – no bulky padding in the body and the design is simple. This means it’s cooler. And it means it’s more “moldable” – as in it conforms to you and baby better; hugs baby if you will. This is really key for smaller babies. With many SSCs you need an insert or infant harness to keep baby snug enough in the carrier to prevent slumping. Because the ABC is more lightweight and floppy, it will conform to a smaller baby without those features. Note that the ABC is weight rated 8-40 pounds (toddler size 15-45 pounds). A newborn will need to be worn legs in (although I would personally feel comfortable cinching the bottom like you would a mei tai with a baby who wasn’t quite big enough for legs out but had some trunk control).
- The support system!! Another neat aspect of the ABC body is their unique internal support system. SSCs makers have developed various designs to get kiddo in a “good seat” and provide proper support for baby and wearer. The shoulder straps on the ABC actually go all the way through the carrier and attach at the waist (they have a cool clear carrier showing this here) creating an internal support that doesn’t add another layer of bulk to the body. Very nifty I think!
- Toddler size!! I was pretty excited when ABC recently announced the addition of a toddler size carrier to their line-up (and I even got to be a tester!). While I’ve actually worn Callum (who is currently 36 pounds) in my standard ABC and found it comfortable, I do prefer knee-to-knee coverage (or close – once you hit 3 it gets harder to get knee-to-knee and not quite as important since their legs are so much longer. Even if you are shy a few inches, you still won’t get knee drop if the carrier is wide enough). My biggest problem was Eleanor’s banshee leaning (which thankfully she seems to be growing out of a bit) – the back on the standard size didn’t come up high enough to prevent leaning once she hit one or so (note that this is really a wearer comfort issue – if you have a kid who really loves to lean, you’ll feel pulling on your shoulders. It was actually more comfortable to wear Callum who doesn’t lean than Eleanor even though he’s a good 15 pounds heavier!). The toddler size ABC solved all my problems…so yay!
- Price!! With a base price of $98 (plus size waist and toddler body run a bit more), the ABC is one of the more affordable SSCs on the market. Keep reading and it may get even more affordable 😉
- Availability!! The ABC is available direct from ABC as well as from various retailers. I love being able to recommend a readily available carrier!
One final reason that I’m happy to support Action Baby Carriers is that they are a small family owned/operated business making carriers here in the USA (check out their “factory” here). You should also know that the ABC comes with an attached sleep hood that clips to the shoulder straps when in use and a removable chest clip. And, of course, it is available in a number of cute prints and solids.
Want to try out an Action Baby Carrier for yourself? Now is the perfect time to do so – we have a special coupon code good for 20% off regularly priced carriers – just enter “mamas” at checkout 🙂 Code is good through January 1, 2013.
Have you tried an ABC?? We’d love to hear what you think!