Soul Slings Onbuhimo Review.

For the past three or so months, there’s only one carrier that AJ and I have been using, which is a big statement considering we own over a dozen carriers.

Our onbuhimo from Soul Slings.

And so, because every Facebook and Instagram photo of our babywearing adventures feature the onbuhimo, I thought it was about time I wrote a review. I get a lot of questions and interest from parents who have no idea what the heck they are, but like the look of them, especially the ‘no waistband’ design and how easy they seem to wear (they are!).

Soul Slings Onbuhimo. I am about 15 weeks pregnant in this photo and needed a carrier that didn't have a strap across my belly.

Soul Slings Onbuhimo, Linen. This was the first time I wore it, and I made the mistake many people do. Too low. After about 15 minutes I had sore shoulders. But you can fix that! Keep reading.

So, what is it?

The onbuhimo is a style of baby carrier that originates from Japan. The term “onbu” actually translates to “back carry”.  The big feature that sets the onbuhimo apart from other buckle carriers out there, is that there is NO waist strap! So, it’s perfect for pregnant women (like me), or anyone who dislikes the feel of a waistband and what it does to their belly.

Oh, it’s really not that hard to pronounce either. On (like a light) boo (like a ghost) he (like she but no ‘s’) more (said like a Kiwi, mor).

What is an onbuhimo?

What is an onbuhimo?

The Soul Onbuhimo comes in two fabric options, linen and jacquard weave. We have one of each, and while I do notice a difference with the fabric in a more encompassing carrier (like the meh dai and full buckle) for the onbuhimo I don’t. I think this is because it covers less of your body, and less of your baby’s body so it’s a great carrier to wear to minimise back sweat when walking or exercising.

Apart from the price, what I reallly enjoy about Soul’s onbuhimo is:

* Good padding. Both on the shoulders, which is super important when you are wearing a toddler in a carrier that only has shoulder straps, and on the bottom of the panel where your child’s leg sit.
* The panel size is generous, both in height and width. My 19 month old fits it fine with room to grow. Considering an onbuhimo is more suited as a toddler carrier, this is important as you will get a decent amount of use from it.
* The height you can achieve. For a comfortable fit you need height. This has shoulder straps that tighten small enough that I can get a high carry.

Nice thick shoulder padding makes a lot of difference when your baby isn't a baby any more!

Nice thick shoulder padding makes a lot of difference when your baby isn’t a baby any more!

I have to admit I am a bit of an onbuhimo novice. I had always thought an onbuhimo was an older toddler carrier. One used for quick up and downs, like the ring sling of the babywearing world. I also thought it was only used for back carrying. And that longer periods of wear were uncomfortable (I did say I’m new to this aye). The more I learn, the more I realise that many preconceived notions I had about the onbuhimo are being blown out of the water.

Like so. For AJ this height is his 'sweet spot'.

Like so. For AJ this height is his ‘sweet spot’.

Yes you can front carry. Yes you can walk up a mountain. No your child does not have to be in size 2 pants before you can use this carrier. New carriers have different sizes (smaller than toddler size) and designs. Soul support the use of an onbuhimo when your baby is sitting independently and has good torso control, although it is a big carrier and personally I would wait until around 12 months old.

When to start using this carrier, whether your baby is sitting independently, or your toddler is walking, is a choice that each parent should make based on their own child, and how comfortable they feel babywearing.

When little people get overwhelmed. You can front carry in an Onbuhimo too.

When little people get overwhelmed. You can front carry in an Onbuhimo too.

We started using an onbuhimo when Ziggy was about 15 months old. I was pregnant with our second child, and wanted (needed) a carrier that wasn’t going to tie around my ever growing stomach. How could I not use this as a perfect excuse for a new carrier (pregnant mums, treat yourself!). And so I decided to take the plunge. Plus, it was available in purple.

Ziggy in a Soul Slings onbuhimo.

See the buckle by Ziggy’s hand? This allows for even more adjustment, to find a fit to best suit you. The design of this strap means you can tighten or loosen it easily while it’s being worn.

When it arrived, the first thing to work out (as with any carrier), was how the hell to put it on. It’s actually surprisingly easy. I like the couch or car boot method: Lie the carrier down, loosen the shoulder straps, pop Ziggy into it, thread his legs through the straps and then crouch down and put it on like you do a backpack. Tighten. There is also the ‘toss’ which I’m not yet comfortable doing, or the ‘stand up, legs in and climb on’ which many mums with older toddlers prefer.

Putting on a Soul Slings onbuhimo.

This method works from any high flat surface. The car boot, a table, a chair. Lie the onbuhimo flat, sit your child in it with enough room for the bottom flap to fold up between you both and create a seat, loosen the shoulder straps and thread your child’s leg through each side, crouch down and put it on one arm at a time. Stand. Tighten. Superman pose optional.

The trick with an onbuhimo, as with any buckle carrier, is finding your sweet spot. Where to tighten, so it feels most comfortable.  As there is no waist strap on this carrier, all the weight is on your shoulders, and the most common complaint is ‘sore shoulders’. However, this carrier is designed to be worn a lot higher than a carrier with a waistband, and having it too low seems to be the most common issue. And it’s easy to fix. Get it higher.

The easiest way to do this is to put your hand under your child’s bum, lift them up, then tighten the slack. For me, when I first started wearing it, I had it too low (have a look back at the very first photo in this post), and yes, after about 15 minutes or so my shoulders were sore and I wanted my full buckle. But I played around with the height, and found that, for me, getting Ziggys shoulders higher than mine is the key.

33 weeks pregnant and walking the lake with a 22 month old toddler on my back.

33 weeks pregnant and walking the lake with a 22 month old toddler on my back.

For AJ, this is the favourite of all the carriers he has tried so far. Since we got our onbuhimo, it’s the only one he reaches for. Okay, so I seem to say that about every carrier he has tried, but it’s because his journey through babywearing just gets better and better.

Google said this was an easy 40 minutes walk through farmland. It turned out to be a 3 hour round trip allong a mud track up a mountain! Okay so the cyclone the weekend before didn't help things.

Google said this was an easy 40 minutes walk through farmland. It turned out to be a 3 hour round trip along a mud track up a mountain! Okay so the cyclone the weekend before didn’t help things.

So, there you go, that’s my rundown on the Soul Slings onbuhimo.

I am converted. I think this carrier is wonderful. Especially if you are pregnant and want a comfortable way to continue wearing your child. Or if you dislike the feel of a waistband around your stomach. It is easy to put on, it folds up small enough to stuff into a nappy bag, so you can take it with you, just in case. Especially if you have a child at the ‘I want to walk, let me walk . . . okay I’m tried please carry me’ stage, an onbuhimo is the best thing to have on hand.

Soul Slings onbuhimo. Great when little legs no longer want to walk.

Soul Slings onbuhimo. Great when little legs no longer want to walk.

***Soul Slings retailers in New Zealand are Woven, Nappy Heaven and The Sleep Store. In return for this review, we were gifted the purple linen onbuhimo. We loved it so much, I bought the Honey Maze jacquard weave so we have a spare.

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