The range of baby carriers available has expanded a great deal over the last 10 years or so. Unfortunately, as carriers become part of the mainstream, some unscrupulous people are trying to cash in by making illegal copies of popular carriers. These copies are a problem as there is no guarantee of workmanship, materials or quality control. You trust your baby carrier to safely support your baby and it's also something that they're likely to chew on. With a fake you just have no idea what you're getting - whether they used safe dyes, whether the stitching is appropriate etc, etc. These counterfeiters are sneaky and use the original marketing material from the proper carrier manufacturers (without permission), so what you think you're buying could look completely different when it turns up. Proper carrier manufacturers have put time and money into their testing and marketing, which of course is reflected in the price of the carrier. Yes, genuine carriers can be expensive but I know what I'd choose to use with my children. Carrier manufacturers are working hard to shut down the counterfeit trade but with all this talk of fakes it can seem a bit overwhelming if you're in the market for a new carrier and don't want to get ripped off. So here's some tips to help you ensure you end up with the genuine article.
The most copied carrier is the ErgoBaby, followed by the FreeHand mei tai (the fakes are labelled as Minizone but use all the FreeHand stock photos). Manducas have avoided being copied so far.
If buying a new carrier, make sure you go through an authorised stockist. This is especially important in the case of ErgoBaby carriers. Babes in Arms is Australasian distributor and has a list of authorised Ergo stockists on their website https://www.babesinarms.com.au/ergo-online-stockists. They also have a list of known counterfeit sites. The counterfeit sites look legitimate on first glance but then you realise the English is not right and the prices are too low.
If buying second hand through somewhere like Trademe, ask the seller where they purchased it from. If they can't tell you, I'd give it a miss. If there's a new Ergo on Trademe, check the sellers other listings to see if they're selling other ones. If so, they'll be fakes as Ergo won't allow second parties to sell via auction sites. Same goes for eBay and ones sold directly by Amazon (authorised Ergo sellers who sell via Amazon are fine though).
If the price of a carrier seems to good to be true, it probably is.
If you're unsure of the origins, though, and your one meets the criteria for being a fake, I'd err on the side of it being fake.
It's a real shame that these fakes have created so much confusion around what should be a simple purchase. Hopefully ErgoBaby and other carrier manufacturers will be able to get on top of the countereits in the future. In the meantime, we hope this has helped out anyone planning to buy a carrier.
Here's a lovely story from Isa about her introduction to babywearing while working as a nanny:
A few years before my own baby was born, I worked as nanny in a nanny share situation. I looked after two little boys from two different families, one was 22 months when I started, the other 15 months. The families provided me with a twin stroller – a total disaster in Wellington, in my opinion, unless you're using one to stroll along Oriental Parade. So I opted to try the single mountain buggy and a framed baby backpack. It worked, but was very tiring. I really didn't like trying to push (and hold on to) a heavy push chair up and down the hills of Wellington and the framed backpack was killing my back. It hurt the whole time I was using it, and then for days after. But it was better than the alternative. So I taught the older boy to walk on his own, and by the time he was 2 ½, I usually carried the younger boy on my back while the older one walked.
After a year of working with them, the younger boy's family told us they were moving overseas in a few months time. Another family was found, with an 11 month old, and for a while I had the three of them. This little baby cried for eight hours the first day. It was awful. He only wanted to be held (because he was so miserable, not because he was necessarily used to being held). My arms and back ached, and when I came home from work that day I researched ways to carry online and found – wraps! I bought five metres of woven fabric, folded it over lengthwise and stitched it together. My first sling! It was pink with little flowers on it, and I was very proud of it. The little baby liked it too, he stopped crying and rested against my chest, and I wore him all day in it, with no pain at all. Yay! The first few times it was a hassle trying to tie it on right but I soon I got the hang of it and could do it anywhere.
This was early in 2007 and I'd never seen anyone around Wellington with a wrap or sling or even an Ergo. My home-made sling got quite a bit of attention at music groups and playgroups, as well as out in public. It made my life a lot easier. For the time I had all three boys, the middle child went on my back in the framed backpack. It allowed me to do projects with the older kids, or prepare meals, with the baby tied to me, resting and cuddling. It made outings easier, and I could get involved with the older children at music and other activities.And I found that babywearing is a wonderful way of bonding quickly with babies and young children. This makes a huge difference as a nanny, when you are usually left on your own with children who do not, at first, know you very well. It benefits the child greatly, as there is a much shorter period of adjustment so less stress all around.
The wrap quickly became an important part of my life as a nanny - easy, nice, gently. And I couldn't
wait to have my own baby to wear!
(Unfortunately when my own daughter came along she hated my lovely wraps with a vengeance! But that is another story...)
There always seems to be a lot of discussion about common babywearing myths, such as the 'risk' of carrying your baby too much for physical development, which has been disproven time and time again – my 5 and ½ month old crawler snorts at this myth. Or somehow making a child too needy where in actual fact it's often the opposite: worn babies become super independent toddlers because their need for closeness has been and will be met. However, there are some real and actual babywearing perils that we need to explore here:
Beware! The busybody
The first peril is of course dealing with people who perpetuate such myths as mentioned above. These people are usually well intentioned albeit misinformed, but occassionally a babywearier will encounter a parental nightmare: the Busybody. These strangers roam the streets looking for parents to opress. They lurk in supermarkets, carparks, libraries, and will leap out at unsuspecting parents when they least expect it. Babywearers are particular targets because of the lumpy protrusion of a baby on their fronts, hips or backs. This has a magnetic effect for the Busybody. Most busybodies are fairly harmless, but to a sleep-deprived parent, their ill-informed advice can carry quite a sting. Solution: partner or helpful friend must apply oil or lotion to the shoulder region each night for two weeks. Witty insults uttered retrospectively also have a soothing effect.
Be Alert! The Wet Wrap Sling
This is something that all Wrappers dread. A sleep deprived Wrapper can easily forget that her tail is dragging when relieving herself in the lavatory. The result: a nasty, wet surprise. This can be easily dealt with by having more than one wrap (which, let's be honest, is actually necessary to ensure your colourway doesn't clash with your outfit), and alternate the two between active duty and washing machine. The other solution: negotiate a better sleep deal with your baby... [insert disbelief, laughter and derision here]. Be Alarmed! The Food Baby
It is a wonderful thing that Babywearers have time to make some food and even [gasp!] eat that food with both hands free and baby happy in a sling. Many of us have, however, needed to lick the top of our baby's noggin to remove food spills. This can be harrowing if your baby has a lot of hair. Solution: wear a large lobster-style bib at every meal.
Be Concerned! An Early Life of Crime
One of the wonderful benefits for a worn child is that they too can experience a world geared for an adult's line of sight. My bub is always happy looking around shops with me, perched high in his carrier, whereas my little girl gets impatient in her stroller, where all she can see is knees, bottom racks, the last word on a poster, etc. However, there is a high risk of a worn baby entering a life of crime drastically early: shops displays are very tempting for grabby hands. All too often I have had to return, rather sheepishly, an item of merchandise lifted by the hands of my sweet angel.
Be Warned! The Addiction
All Babywearers start out with just one sling. Then you meet other parents with awesome slings and carriers and get a bit jealous. Then people start listing gorgeous pre-loved slings on Trademe at Very Reasonable Prices. Before too long, you have a sling for each day of the week and month of the year... and one just for special occassions.