Anyone with a baby knows a good baby carrier makes anything possible, whether it be navigating a crowded mall, helping a fussy baby get to sleep, or (in my case) breezing through a busy shift at work while keeping your hands free for whatever you need to do. A great carrier does this by properly distributing your baby's weight across your back, shoulders and hips, adapting to your changing needs by allowing you to wear your baby on your front, hip, or back. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to use and review the Manduca, created by Wickelkinder -- the shop where I work was the first place to retail them in Canada, so I'm well-acquainted with the brand. I've been able to try it out with my baby for short periods while working when he was a newborn, and have had ample opportunity to compare it side-by-side with a number of different soft-structured carriers (SSC). Those tiny trials were really just teasers, though -- using it all the time in a variety of situations has only reinforced the versatility of the Manduca!
I often make jokes about the incomparable quality of German engineering, but this carrier is a prime example of the perfect union of style, comfort and practicality. It is very trim in design, unzips to extend the torso length for rucksack-style wearing or wearing older children, and has an attached hood and a built-in infant seat for new babies. Most models of this carrier also have a front pocket.
The built-in infant seat is a great feature of this carrier, as it allows this carrier to be used from 3.5kg (7.7lbs) without the need to buy any extra add-ons. The carrier can be used without the seat at this weight, but having the seat increases the wearer's options. The accompanying booklet has detailed pictorial instructions on both methods of wearing a newborn. The carrier can be used up to a weight maximum of 20kg (44lbs).
The zip-open extension is another great feature, allowing the carrier to better fit different body types and wearing styles. There is quite a difference in height between the two sizes, going from 33cm (13") at the zipped-down length to 40.5cm (16").** In comparison, the Ergo is 36.5cm (14.5") tall, also measured from the top of the waist belt to the top of the carrier body.
I'm fairly narrow through the shoulders and rib cage, and find that the Ergo feels too wide. The Manduca, however, doesn't feel overly bulky. It measures 31.5cm (12.5") through the torso, whereas the Ergo tallies up at 34.5cm (13.5"). *** The shoulder strap widths are quite different, as well -- 6cm (2.5") for the Manduca, and 9cm (3.5") for the Ergo. The padding in the Manduca straps feels denser than that in the Ergo, providing just as much cushioning for comfort. The Manduca also allows for the straps to be crossed in the back, if this is more comfortable for the wearer.
The design of the Manduca ensures your baby is properly positioned in the 'M' position, with their bum lower than their knees. This is key to proper hip development and your child's comfort. I found that the narrower torso of the Manduca meant that my baby was comfortable having his legs spread earlier than he was in the Ergo or the Baby Hawk mei-tai I own.
The carrier itself is made in China or in the Czech Republic, depending on the model, and is constructed from organic cotton and hemp. The limited edition models are produced in small quantities and their designs change every 4-6 weeks. The Manduca is now carried a number of different stores, but I think The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe reliably has the greatest selection in colours and limited edition designs. It retails for between $160 - $180 + tax.
But the best thing about the Manduca? Being able to wear a cranky, tired, teething 5mos old on my back while preparing Thanksgiving dinner! It only took about 5 minutes for him to fall asleep, and I was easily able to continue on with my meal preparations while he took a much-needed nap on my back. I wear him in much the same way at work each week, keeping him happy and close to me while my hands are free to help customers.
There are only a couple things that I would change about this carrier, if I could. I would use stronger snaps for holding the infant seat in place -- I found that the small metal snaps sometimes popped open -- and I would reinforce the zipped-open portion of the carrier. It is currently only one layer of material thick and I would like to see it be two layers thick. I worry a bit that the thinner section will wear more with use.
Overall, I adore this carrier! It is very comfortable to use over long periods of time, fits my narrow torso quite well, and it very easy and straight-forward to use. I love that it has the built-in infant seat and doesn't need an extra insert to adapt it to use with a newborn.
The baby and I give this carrier 4 thumbs up!
*I received a Manduca in exchange for this review.
**Measured from the upper edge of the support belt to the top edge of the carrier.
***Measured along top edge of the support belt, across the bottom of the carrier body.