By Katja Lemon
I’m writing this review simply because I am so impressed with my Integra Baby Carrier. I wish I had found it sooner. I love wrapping but wanted a soft structured carrier for times when I needed quick and convenient ups (crying baby during dinner prep, running into a store for one item, etc.). I wanted something small and easy for the diaper bag.
While I love the look of the current linen cult favorites, I did not keep any of these carriers for many reasons: uncomfortable, painful webbing, shoulder blade strap slides up, bulky, not diaper bag friendly, heavy with rings, poor quality, poor design, and the list goes on. I turned to Integra Baby for an affordable alternative and was so excited to find their new linen line.
I wear my babies A LOT when they are little. So comfort takes priority. I can wear the Integra all day. I don’t enjoy having straps around my waist. Even with wraps (front wraps cross carry, for example), but the apron-style Integra stays up under my bra line where I place it and doesn’t easily slide down. This keeps my infant high and my waist comfortable. If the carrier does slide down after hours of movement, I can hike it back up. The webbing and straps are made of a more flexible material than other carriers. There is little to no digging over my hip bones. The apron-style is a favorite here. I feel less pressure on my abdomen and pelvic floor and my baby always has a nice deep seat without fabric pressed tight along his little knees. The Integra comes with an accessory piece to cinch the base of the seat for newborns so that the fabric will spread knee to knee from birth until around 2.5 years.
The shoulder straps are equally as unstructured and equally as comfortable. There is minimal padding. Because they criss cross across my back and because the fit is so ideal, the lack of padding is a nonissue (in fact it’s helpful for folding the carrier up compactly). I used to think I preferred the type of straps that didn’t criss cross. I was wrong! After wrapping regularly, criss cross is the way to go. It takes just a bit more time to put my baby on comfortably, but it is well worth it. And you don’t have to deal with finding the right placement and tightness for an extra strap to keep the two shoulder straps from falling off. This also makes breastfeeding a true breeze! Not only possible, but comfortable. There are also shorter straps for petite wearers. These petite shoulder straps have 2 inches less padding which allows for a tighter fit for back carries.
The Integra has dual buckles, meaning the shoulder straps can be tightened forward or backwards, and the waist buckle can be tightened to your left, right, or kept center (see pictures of this is confusing). I do not use the dual buckles for the shoulder straps and instead keep the buckles right by the carrier fabric. I could go without the extra strap hanging by the carrier, but only for aesthetic reasons. They do not get in the way, I never touch them, and I know it would be convenient and practical for many people. I keep my waist strap buckle centered on my back and I also have never touched that since setting it for my frame. All straps have electric bands, which I use, to fold up the excess length.
The hood is one of my favorite features. When not in use it conveniently can be set to buckle behind the baby’s neck or can be left down. I like to buckle it behind my baby’s neck for some extra head support and to show off all the pretty linen. The hood buckles are quiet and discreet. But I use the hood regularly to help my baby fall asleep. If he is overtired and/or overstimulated, I have found the Integra to be most reliable in helping him fall asleep quickly and soundly. Once asleep, he doesn’t wake because his head is not flopping around as I play or cook or do whatever with my toddler. This feature compels me to often reach for my Integra over my wraps. The hood is also of course great for sun protection!
The Integra comes in many different patterns and styles, also featuring popular woven wraps. I chose the linen Integra for its classic look. I wanted a warm neutral and the closest I saw was the color Stone, which is a cool grey in the stock photos. It turned out to be an earthier color in real life and exactly what I wanted. The carrier is lined with organic black cotton (the shoulder straps are also organic black cotton and the webbing is black). I was surprised to find not only the cotton but also the linen very soft. The material is light but sturdy and I’m not worried about folding it up and tossing it in my bag.
This carrier folds up SO SMALL thanks to its lack of structure. It is perfect for traveling light. It is also intuitive and easy to use. I had to fiddle around with it very little to get the perfect fit. The carrier is also quality. Every stitch and feature is deliberate. The linen is not extra slubby and lazy. This is a carrier I plan on getting in a size 2 and probably a size 3 if and when the time comes. I am eyeing that Harris Tweed.
I have yet to back carry my little baby in the Integra because he is not sitting independently but I have comfortably carried my toddler in it! These days he prefers front carries also because he sees his little brother being front carried most of the time and it is not easy to get him out of the Integra once he’s in! I take it he’s comfortable in there and enjoying the snuggles, arms in. When I do back carry him, the accessory strap can secure the shoulder straps together across my chest, or I can omit the accessory strap. While I prefer wraps or onbuhimos for back carries, the Integra is another quick, comfortable, easy, and pretty option. I am worried about losing the accessory strap so I have a home for it on my shelf.
I purchased my Integra from Allie at LittleZenOne.com who gets her Integra Baby carriers directly from Sarah Sadler, the owner and creator of Integra Baby. Little Zen One is an amazing community and resource and Allie goes above and beyond to help fulfill everyone’s unique babywearing needs. Anyone looking for a comfortable, quick, and compact baby carrier, made with quality and care, should do themselves a favor and get an Integra Baby. Feel free to shop around first like I did, but keep this one in mind.
See the entire Integra Baby Linen Collection