What is an onbuhimo?
An onbuhimo is a baby carrier without a waistband. They originally came from Japan.
The word “onbuhimo” means “back carrying strap” in Japanese. “Onbu” refers to the act of carrying on the back, while “himo” means strap or rope.
As you can see from this picture the shoulder straps connect directly to the bottom of the carrier. You position the child’s legs through straps and tuck the bottom of the panel between you and your child. Then you tighten the straps to support the weight of your baby. Onbuhimos can come with webbing and buckles, rings, or loops for tightening.
Why try one?
They are compact, so they portable; they are great for carrying tired toddlers or older kids who walk a lot. The lack of a waistband is great for people who struggle to get waistbands to sit comfortably or who dislike pressure on their stomach.
Great for pregnancy and tandem carrying
Onbuhimos are often a brilliant option for parents who are carrying during pregnancy who find waistbands above, below or around their bump to be uncomfortable. They are also a great option for parents looking to carry two babies at once. When tandem carrying, whether twins, or children of different ages, it can be difficult to get the wasitbands of two carrier to sit comfortably, and people with short torsos can find them overlapping or digging into their ribs. With one, or, if you want, two onbuhimos, then you could carry two children comfortbaly, with only one waistband, which is often much more comfortable.
Having no waistband, and being open at the sides of the panel, onbuhimos are excellent for carrying in hot weather, or for parents and children who get hot in slings. They allow plenty of airflow to both child and the adult doing the carrying.
Age guidelines for onbuhimos
The usual guidelines say onbuhimos can be used with babies over 6 months old. This is because your baby needs to have developed head and trunk control as, typically, they carry babies on the back in an arms out position. It is also possible to front carry with an onbuhimo.
Babies have their arms over the top of the straps in order to reduce the risk of them falling out of any gap down the side of the panel. However, when using a well tightened onbuhimo that is an appropriate size for your baby they should not be able to slump in the carrier. This makes falling out through the side extremely unlikely. You would certainly have warning that their weight and position was shifting.
Some onbuhimos are width adjustable using a drawstring to narrow the panel. Others simply rely on you gathering the panel between your child’s legs to ensure it doesn’t over extend them by the fabric extending past their knees.
Variations of onbuhimo
Everyone has a different personal preference so trying a couple of types can be useful if you’re looking to buy your own.
usually have padded straps at the top of the carrier (although the amount of padding varies between brands) with one half of a webbing adjuster attached to each shoulder strap and the other half attached at the bottom of the onbuhimo. On some brands, such as Fidella, you can unclip these straps in order to use a crossed strap carry if desired. Some brands have dual adjust webbing, allowing you to pull both up and down to tighten the slack out.
Buckle onbuhimos also have a chest strap, and often come with perfect fit adjusters which shorten the length of the fabric/padded straps. These make it easier for petite people to tighten the carrier sufficiently.
have fabric loops at the bottom and wrap straps at the top of the onbuhimo. Thread the straps through the loops and tie with a knot. Loop onbuhimos usually have completely unpadded shoulder straps.
has rings at the bottom and wrap straps at the top of the onbuhimo. Thread the straps through the rings to secure them. Ring onbuhimos can have padded or unpadded shoulder straps.
has rings at the top of the onbuhimo, or the shoulder straps, with wrap straps at the bottom of the onbuhimo. Thread the straps through the rings to secure them. Reverse onbuhimos can have padded or unpadded shoulder straps.
Features of an onbuhimo
Like all carriers there is a huge range in the features and combinations of features between different brands of onbuhimos, so it can be very useful to try different versions to determine which style is the best fit for you.
Onbuhimos can be made from classic cotton canvas or from more moldable but more expensive woven wrap material. The shoulder straps can differ a lot; they can be wide or narrow, padded or unpadded, wrap strap style or cotton canvas.
Onbuhimos can come with leg padding for your child’s comfort, and some come with a hood. Some are height and width adjustable, others are only width adjustable. Others are adjusted simply by tucking excess panel between parent and baby, and gathering the panel between baby’s legs.
How to use an onbuhimo
This video from Lenny Lamb demonstrates a back carry with an Onbuhimo.
It is very important when tightening an onbuhimo to ensure that you tighten the slack out of the straps without pulling on panel so that it shifts up your child’s back. If you try to tighten the slack out of an onbuhimo by pulling down on the shoulder straps, the panel will move up the child’s back putting pressure on the neck and causing them discomfort. Instead, ensuring the top of the panel begins in the correct place gather the slack and move it towards the buckles or rings and pull upwards from the bottom, to avoid the panel creeping higher up your child’s back.
A video on how to avoid this issue when tightening is coming shortly.
Getting a baby on your back
There are several methods for getting a child on your back in an onbuhimo. The most popular tend to be seated lift and superman. Below are some videos of the different methods you can use with some information about what ages and conditions the methods are best suited to.