Manduca is the most well-known and the most popular ergonomic carrier at least in central Europe, without any questions. Actually, for many people, the word “Manduca” has become a synonym for any ergonomic carrier. Together with the American Ergobaby, Manduca was one of their first “mass” producers – it has been on the market since 2002 (probably – I was not able to find the answer even on the official Manduca website – only the information about its fusion with the Wickelkinder company). Anyway, someone who has dominated a certain market for nearly two decades must be doing it right. Or not?
Some technical data – first, what the manufacturer (or the distributor) says:
- the carrier is suitable for children from birth to 5 years (from 3 to 20 kg)
- the inner-integrated newborn insert enables carrying the babies since birth, and approximately since 3 months, it is possible to use the carrier without it
- the back panel of Manduca is long and it is possible to enlarge it by approximately 7 cm – therefore it is possible to carry even big children in it safely
- the length of the shoulder straps is regulated in three positions which ensures comfortable wearing even for short wearers (approximately 160 cm)
- the adjustable waist belt can be widened up to 140 cm and enables wearing to all weight categories
Who should one trust if not the “winner of the 2014 D-test” (FYI, the winner over such brands as BabyBjörn and Chicco – no wonder Manduca won), concerning the official info about the carrier, right? I am not saying that the manufacturer/distributor is lying, but it is true that they tend to bend the truth so that the carrier looks better and more universal “on paper” than it actually is. Here is what I have to say about the above-mentioned points:
- It is possible to wear a really small baby in Manduca with certain adjustments, that is true. But, from my point of view, it is not really suitable for newborns (or from the recommended 3 kg) – using of the newborn insert is no longer generally recommended because the proper ergonomic “M-position” of legs cannot be achieved in it. Nowadays, even the manufacturer proposes using of the “Zip-in” strap for adjusting of the width of the back panel (however, any bow, shoe-lace or scarf can do) – then you can carry even a small baby in Manduca in case of baby-wearing emergencies. Just to illustrate what I mean – here are some mirror selfies of awful quality of me wearing then-almost-3-months-old/approximately 60 cm-measuring Emilka in Manduca adjusted by a scarf – her position is quite OK; however, I was not satisfied with it at all by that time and we started to use the carrier in her 4 or 5 months regularly (which is the generally recommended minimum age of Manduca-wearies). The maximum recommended weight of 20 kilograms is understandably very optimistic but not unreal, in my opinion. No, I am not kidding. BUT – with the extender. The width of the back panel without the extender is 32 cm which was enough for Emilka up to her cca 15 months but she is small for her age – therefore, I would recommend Manduca without the extender up to the size 74-80. For bigger children, the extender is a must if you want to continue using Manduca – if stretched to the maximum, the extender measures 45 cm, which is enormous! Just to compare, the back panel of the fully adjustable Kavka Multi-age carrier measures 46 cm in its widest part and Lenka 4ever even only 41 cm. In the photos (taken sometime during last autumn), Emilka measured about 78 cm and the extender which can be used in two positions was still in the “position 1”, i.e. the smaller one (which is still enough in her 2 years/85 cm). In reality, I think that with the extender even a 100cm measuring child could be carried in Manduca as to the width of the back panel goes. However, I am not sure about its length (it measures 40 cm in its longest part) – in the pictures, Emilka sits in a quite deep “pocket” and it would have certainly been possible to adjust the carrier so that she had the back panel up to her ears, but I do not think that it is necessary with a toddler. Ergo – a one-metre-measuring preschooler can be carried in Manduca, but you must count on the fact that s/he would not be able to hide his/her shoulders and arms into the back panel. But honestly – is there a child of 2 years plus who wants to have her/his arms hidden (except for my Emilka 😀 )?
- On the other hand, I cannot agree with the statement that even “short” wearers from 160 cm can use Manduca! I measure 155 cm and have no problems wearing it! 😀 In this matter, the manufacturer is just too cautious and I can recommend Manduca even for very short mums, measuring even less than 150 cm. However, the information about “all the weight categories” regarding the waist belt is not exactly true. I wear size 38 and my waist circumference is 70 cm – I have to wear the waist belt tightened to the maximum and there is virtually no room to tighten it more. This is NOT a carrier for slim mums! In very slim wearers, the waist belt tends to slide lower than desired, down to their pelvis bones (and no wonder it is not comfortable then – this is, by the way, the most common complaint about Manduca being uncomfortable). On the other hand, it is certainly a carrier many babywearing dads like to wear.
Do not be mistaken – I love our Manduca, it endured a lot and certainly will endure much more; Emilka spent tens of hours of sweet sleep in it and we took it for numerous trips. It will not probably leave our household any time soon! As you could read in the article about choosing of the first carrier, we bought it blind, without trying it first – which was of course a bit dumb from our side and is not recommendable at all, but we were lucky and Manduca has proven to be the right fit not only for me, but especially for my husband.
Why so much praise for the “worst carrier in the world” as you could certainly hear from many more or less “experienced” wearers? Simply because it is not the worst carrier at all. My explanation why Manduca (speaking of the classical model, i.e. “Manduca First”) is dispraised by so many, is this: it is usually the very first carrier that the first-time-wearer tries on (because “carrier” equals “Manduca”, doesn’t it – and moreover, it won that D-test thing 😉 ). This mum, first-time-wearer, is also the first-time-carrier-adjuster, at the same time (what can be so complicated about a carrier, right) and also, the manufacturer recommends it from birth. So she puts a newborn in it (or in better case, a 2-months-old squish). There is no wonder it does not fit her or the baby, and condemns Manduca as the worst carrying thing ever brought from babywearing hell itself.
Well, we had Manduca at home and we did not feel like selling it with a great loss right away – therefore, we did not give up on it, tried to adjust the best we could and above all, when Emilka was about 5 months old and started to jump out of the wrap (oh yes, even we had a carrier-only phase 😀 ), we had no time trying on different carriers – and just needed to use the one we already owned (speaking not only for me, but also for my husband). I realized I need to wear the shoulder straps crossed and my husband found out that he needs to wear the waist belt lower than generally recommended so that the carrier is comfortable for him. And yes, I really tried hard and forced him to try different carriers including such brands and Madame GooGoo or MoniLu but – surprise, surprise – he always went back to our good old Manduca. It is simply the “daddy’s carrier” and I do not usually wear it only because I do not want to mess with my husband’s adjusting.
Okay then – why is Manduca such a great carrier from my point of view? It is super-durable – it will not fall apart, will not get shabby nor tear apart in years of wearing and will serve for two, three, maybe four happy wearies. Some say that Manduca is too “tough”, i.e. that it is made of thick and too little pliable fabric (this particular one is made of 100% organic cotton; carrier from other Manduca First series are made of fabric with hemp) but I do not think it makes much difference due to the cut of the back panel. It is shaped mainly in its lower part, where the wearie sits and I admit, the shape in its upper part (in the part where the zipper is) is not the best one – the back panel does not embrace the wearie here perfectly and is a bit loose on the sides which is evident mainly when wearing smaller children. But again, I do not think that any more pliable fabric would make a change; it is just the matter of the cut of the carrier. All the sewing, buckles, straps – at the first sight, you can see the “German quality” in it (although these particular limited-edition models are sewn in the Czech Republic) – throughout all the hours and hours of wearing Manduca, not a single strap got loose and not a single buckle unbuckled. Everything holds in its place, the safety buckle (oh yes, a bidirectional buckle) on the waist belt is a sure thing, as well as the safety elastic bands both on the waist belt and the shoulder straps.
Here I need to repeat my remark from the article about choosing the first carrier – beware of the cheap Chinese fakes of Manduca! I do not mean imitation, but very authentic-looking counterfeits a less experienced eye cannot tell apart from the real thing. The sewing is of low quality, as well as the materials used – they are not tested and certified (which poses a risk of a buckle getting broken while wearing, etc.). You can tell that the offered carrier is a fake mainly by its suspiciously low price and the very popular claim that it was an “unsuitable gift” (not even the “original” box and instructions mean that the carrier is original!); they are usually sold on the second-hand store servers like bazos.cz, Sbazar or letgo. The comprehensive set of instructions how to spot a Manduca fake is in one of the documents of the FB group Nosíme děti (i.e. We wear our babies) – just what I can tell without checking it, for example, the shape of the Velcro on the hoodie, a specific serial number which is the same in most fake carriers, spelling mistakes in the instruction panel on the inner side of the waist belt, etc.). And be careful, it is no longer true that there are no fakes of the limited-edition models – it has been about a year or so since the first ones emerged. Therefore, if you wish to buy a second-hand Manduca, I recommend only the FB babywearing groups in which the administrators are really experienced and can tell the difference between the real and the fake carriers – for example Nosíme děti (i.e. We wear our babies), Nošení dětí – prodej (i.e. Babywearing – sale) or Šátky a nosítka do 2000,- (i.e. Wraps and carrier up to 2000 CZK).
The position of the wearie is fine, just the shape of the back panel is not ideal in certain age/size categories (as I already mentioned above) – usually, in the moment when it is not long enough for the wearie with the zipper closed and you need to unzip it (the “Zipin Elipse” insert does not really solve the whole problem and is supposed to be used only in small babies – primarily to shape the back panel better when using the “Size-it” strap). On the other hand, the zipper is a great thing when you wear a bigger child in the carrier – if s/he wants to put her/his arms outside, you just close the zipper and shorten the back panel easily so that it does not press the wearie’s armpits.
In many cases, what decides about the wearer’s comfort is the waist belt. Yes, Manduca’s waist belt is hard and such a waist belt does not fit everyone. But still, it is a standardly hard waist belt, very similar to the wonderful Zumbucca, just as hard as in such a Ferrari-like Madame GooGoo, and certainly comparable to the popular Tula carrier. All the nagging about the waist belt being uncomfortable at least partially goes on the account of the generally negative reputation of Manduca, in my opinion (how is it possible that the virtually same waist belt of Zumbucca fits basically everyone while the Manduca’s does not fit almost anyone?) – but that is a matter of a whole another discussion. As for the padding of the shoulder straps, for me it is quite enough, but I realize that it could be longer for some taller wearers. On the other hand, they are ideally long for the purpose to be worn crossed (at least on my shoulders they cross in the place where they are already less padded), and also it is possible to shorten them quite substantially so that the wearie worn on your back is positioned very high (yup, Manduca is one of the best carriers for back-wearing, in my opinion!).
Now, I am finally getting to the part in which I will explain why I like Manduca that much – it is perfectly designed to be worn with the shoulder straps crossed which is the aspect that decides about my comfort as wearer – not only while wearing the carrier, but also when putting the carrier on. Point no. 1 – the bidirectional buckles (and moreover, the bidirectional buckles of “normal”, reasonable size – not the illogically big waist belt buckles)! This is something ANY carrier with the possibility to cross the shoulder straps should have, not speaking about the ones with the wide shoulder straps primarily intended to be worn crossed. The problem is not just the backwards direction in which you need to tighten the straps once and again and again – every time you wear the carrier you need to tighten it again while estimating how much you should tighten it – to be tight enough, not to be too loose and possibly to be of the same length on the both sides. Well, that really gets on my nerves! It is certainly not something I would be willing to “get used to” in my own carrier. If the carrier has bidirectional buckles, you just adjust the rear straps into a “fixed” position and while putting the carrier on and off, you just tighen or loosen the front pair of straps to the maximum. Therefore, very easily, the straps are of the same length every time. No additional adjusting or re-tightening while wearing – I just put the carrier on, buckle the straps, tighten them to the max (in the forward direction!!) and I am ready to go.
The other aspect of Manduca which makes the wearing with the shoulder straps crossed just another tiny bit more comfortable is the detachable chest buckle. As you can see in the photo, it is just that simple that it almost makes me cry that I have not seen it in any other carrier than in Manduca and the Romanian Isara (and also in the Mexican Indajani but, in fact, there was no use for this function since the carrier was not designed to be worn with the shoulder straps crossed).
Regarding other components of the carrier – the hood is not detachable, but it is hidden in a pocket behind the wearie’s neck and therefore, I was able to make my peace with it over time. 😉 Its length and width is adequate and it really serves well as fixation of the sleeping wearie’s head. The only flaw I see is that it is fixed in the pocket by Velcro which – inevitably – makes noise if you want to put it out of the pocket and could wake the little sleepyhead up. The original shoulder strap protectors are, on the other hand, something other carrier manufacturers should have a really good look at. I have never seen any other protectors that would hold in their place so tightly as in Manduca – they just stay in the place you put them and do not move an inch. Just in Manduca.
The original Manduca extender may look a bit unusual at the first sight – we are used to see the extenders as two pieces you put on the waist belt and the shoulder straps from both sides and usually tend, well, not to hold in their place as they should. Manduca extender, however, being just one piece, stays where it is supposed to be, similarly to the shoulder strap protectors. Of course, some may object that this type of extender means another layer of fabric, but the middle part is made of very thin and breathable jersey – therefore, I am not afraid of the wearie overheating during summer because of it. Moreover, thanks to its unique construction, it can be used in two positions as I already mentioned above. The only negative aspect is, unfortunately, the price, in my opinion – considering it is just quite an ordinary piece of fabric, it is really expensive (and I mean like reeeally expensive), same as in case of the shoulder strap protectors. And also, it only comes in black.
Manduca’s design is also reproached by some wearers – too simple, too “out-door”, too ordinary, the zipper is ugly, etc. But in my point of view, all carriers do not have to shine in rainbow colours and fart unicorns; of course, there are many parents who prefer its subtle looks to the eclectic experiments of, for example, Aloe or Madame GooGoo. However, I dare say that there are many truly beautiful designs among the limited edition models of Manduca – and understandably one of them is our Vivid Green, a 2016 limited-edition model. Just to put you in the picture what a “limited edition” means in case of Manduca – in the Vivid edition, 2100 carriers were manufactured in three different colours. Can you now imagine what amounts of carriers this brand sells yearly…? 😉
Bottom line, as I see it, Manduca’s popularity is well deserved because of many reasons I wrote above. Sure, it might not fit everyone, but it surely does not deserve the title of “the worst carrier ever” or frequent comments like “there are many much better carriers”. On the contrary, Manduca possesses many convenient components and aspects which, in my eyes, make it an almost perfect carrier.