This is the first in a series of dual baby carrier reviews with Jenrose as a guest reviewer. This review post is longer than others because of the dual nature.
The Onya Baby carrier is a large soft structured carrier (SSC), designed for babies 3 months or 15 pounds and over, to be carried on the front or back facing the wearer. Retails for $149, and comes in muted neutral colors. There are two basic designs, the Cruiser, which is made of 100% cotton, and the Outback, which is made of a sporty nylon and mesh. We will focus on the Cruiser. The carrier also includes a special feature to make it very simple to strap a baby to an adult chair safely.
Onya, The Carrier:
One of the most obvious differences between this and most of the other structured soft carriers we’ve tried, is extremely firm foam on waist and shoulder straps, and a very deep waistband that is almost straight across, not curved like, for example, the Boba.
There’s a bit of the same padding around the leg area for the baby, and this is possible the most striking feature because the angled leg padding allows for both a standard width where the carrier joins the waistband and a wider body that will support even large toddlers very well.
There is a hood in a shallow pocket which hides away tidily with the help of magnetic clasps. The clasps are so subtle that they are not immediately obvious, but they are effective. The hood has long straps with snaps on them. In order to use it for back carries, it is best to take the hood out before putting the carrier on, so that the snap straps will hang down where they can be reached easily.
Below the hood, there’s a roomy pass-through pocket, like on a hoodie, that closes on either side with zippers. A handy place for a wallet, keys, even a spare diaper. There’s a smaller pocket on the outside that comes stuffed with business cards, which can also be used for credit cards, ID, etc. if one wants to avoid carrying a purse.
Under the pocket, there is a zipper, unzipping that, one will find a special seat. You can strap the carrier onto a chair, with the body of the carrier toward the chair’s seat, and pull this piece of fabric out for a baby to sit on, and it will strap the baby securely to the adult chair. A handy way to keep a toddler still in the absence of a high chair.
There’s also a small D-ring on the waist band that would be useful for hooking keys onto, perhaps, but we’re not entirely sure what it is actually intended for.
The waistband has a padded cover for the buckle attachment, which places the buckle to the right hip during front carries and the left hip during back carries. There is ample padding underneath the buckle, which makes skin pinch much less likely, however, larger wearers or people with mobility issues in their shoulders may find it a little difficult to attach the buckle reaching across the baby. Onya does provide a buckle extender on request, this can be used to move the attachment point closer to the midline. Erin, who is average sized, was able to wear the carrier with the buckle extender in place or without, so it’s a good solution if reaching across is physically difficult for a wearer. Jenrose, who is plus sized, with joint issues in the shoulders, had a hard time with the hip attachment, but no difficulty if the extender was used to bring the attachment point to the middle.
The waist and shoulder straps, where they are not padded, are a sturdy, satiny seat-belt-like fabric. Erin noted that they tend to twist in the buckle a bit, probably because they are quite slick and fairly thin. Not weak in the slightest, just a bit prone to twisting. There are retention bands on all straps, so extra can be wound on itself and bound in place to reduce dangle.
The shoulder straps have side release buckles, which means they can be crossed in the back for front carries, which is good, because the stiff sternum straps, while tidy and functional on the front (during back carries), are very hard to reach for front carries and should probably not be used that way. The side release buckles set this apart from some carriers because it allows for the wearer to cross the straps and buckle them around the baby without help, even for Jenrose, with her mobility issues. The function is similar to the straps on the Catbird Baby Pikkolo, however, the slickness of the webbing makes it hard to pull the straps forward if they at maximum extension, it is easier to grab the retention loops and pull backwards. A less slick strap fabric might be a little easier to manipulate, even if it wouldn’t move quite as smoothly in the buckles.
The hood is elasticized and fit Miles at 17 pounds and 26 inches perfectly, but also would work for a much taller child to keep the head up during sleep. It is easily shifted aside, it would be easy to keep one side snapped up and allow the other side to hang until a child fell asleep.
The Onya Experience:
This is not the most compact structured carrier on the market, more of a workhorse. This is not the carrier you’ll stuff in your diaper bag, the heavy padding makes it too bulky for that (especially if your baby is in cloth diapers and you need that space in your bag.) But it is sturdy, well-designed, and quite comfortable.
Jenrose: When I first tried a back carry with this, Miles was tiny, and swam in it, and it did not go well. The stiff straps got in the way. Now that Miles is bigger, this is the only carrier I’ve tried recently that is actually comfortable right now, for a front facing in carry. I’m naturally front-heavy, so I tend to get fatigued quickly with most carriers and can feel pulling as soon as I put them on. This was more comfortable. It distributes the weight very well and fits both of us nicely. On the back, now that Miles is bigger, the carrier is comfortable for both of us, but had more of a learning curve than I expected. The sternum strap is best used as a retaining strap to keep the shoulder straps from slipping, and is not weight distributing, unlike some other carriers I’ve owned. This is offset by the fact that most of the weight of my baby was distributed beautifully to the waist band and my hips. We found that a little tweak, pushing the shoulder straps closer together behind us, something I’ve never tried before, made everything work better. Once the straps were in a good position, and tweaked this way, the back carry was very comfortable with no pinching. Before we did those tweaks, with the sternum strap too tight, and the straps spaced widely behind the shoulders, it felt like it was impossible to get the carrier snug enough for comfort and it pinched under the arm.
Erin: I really liked how my toddler sat deep in this carrier and could comfortably be carried with arms in or out. Some carriers have such a low back that arms in is not an option. My guy is a leaner, so the higher the back, the better! When first using it I did cinch the sternum strap up and felt the shoulder straps did some weird bending and didn’t feel like they fit me just right, but it wasn’t uncomfortable, I just felt it looked odd. With the adjustments Jenrose mentioned I found the straps laid much better on my shoulders. It’s a very comfortable carrier and the way the back flares out, it gives my toddler good knee to knee coverage, even though he’s bigger. I never had any shoulder strain or back strain while wearing this. I did use the built in child seat while at a birthday party where there were no high chairs available. I did not have any directions for the seat, but after some confusion, and trail and error, I figured it out under 5 minutes. It held him in place nicely.
A comfortable, well thought-out carrier for most babies older than about 4 months and heavier than 15 pounds. Will work well for older, heavier kids, too.
Where to Buy:
Disclaimer: Jenrose received the carrier for purpose of review. Erin borrowed the carrier from Jenrose to add personal input. No other compensation was given. All opinions are each reviewers own. The link below is an Amazon Affiliate. If you choose to click it I may be compensated monetarily.