Celebrating 10 Years of Ergobaby with Founder Karin Frost

Back in 2002, a mother living on Maui was not satisfied with the baby carrying options available to her.  Looking to keep her new son close to her body, she tried seven different carriers, some of which worked fairly well, but nothing that satisfied her needs for comfort and ergonomics. With a background in design, she set out to create something that was both comfortable and easy for parents to use.  With that, the ergonomic, comfortable design of the Ergobaby Baby Carrier was born.

With that humble design, Karin Frost revolutionized how we carry babies.  Her soft structured carrier (SSC) design has become the gold standard. As we are celebrating our 10 year birthday, we wanted to visit with our founder, Karin Frost to hear about Ergobaby origins, how she helped change the safety testing for SSC’s and the road ahead for Ergobaby.

Tell us about how you started Ergobaby

One of my most treasured and tender moments was feeling my sleeping baby close to my body, the rising and falling of his breath, two hearts beating as one. I quickly learned this is where my baby felt most secure and comfortable, I can imagine somewhat like being back in my womb.

In today’s hectic world, we use all kinds of gadgets in which to place our babies–cradles, cribs, playpens, strollers, high chairs, rocking chairs–all in the name of practicality and safety. In reality, all our children want and need is to be close to our bodies, to feel our breath and hear our heartbeat.

Hundreds of indigenous cultures around the world carry their babies in a special baby sling or baby carrier, so parents can go about their daily chores while the children are safe and warm, and benefit from knowing they are never left alone. When they are hungry, nursing becomes an easy task. Babies parented in this way seldom cry and develop a strong sense of security.

I carried my baby constantly from the day he was born until the time he began preparing himself to crawl. I slept with him when he slept, and was always at his side when he awoke. I tried seven carriers – front packs, baby slings, and backpacks – five of which worked fairly well (I don’t know what I would have done without them), and yet each had its problems.  So as a clothing designer, I set out to make a carrier that was comfortable as well as easy for parents to use.   My goal was to offer one carrier that would fit a broad spectrum of body types and serve the parent and child from newborn for as long as they wanted the physical closeness.

Karin Frost

What were some challenges you faced in the early days of Ergobaby?

Back then, the safety testing standards were based on the current models of baby carriers that were available at the time, which as the ASTM qualified them as having “bound leg hole openings.” I played a key role in changing the safety guidelines for the ASTM.  In 2005 I created a video demonstrating the safety of the Ergobaby Baby Carrier SSC design.  I traveled to Philadelphia to present the video and lobby for changes to the testing guidelines.  Through that video and my efforts, four years later ASTM changed their safety guidelines for baby carriers without bound leg hole openings.

What do you see as Ergobaby’s mission?

Our mission is to provide the highest quality, safest, most ergonomic and thoughtful baby carrier and parenting products in the world.  We want to encourage the attachment and bond between parent and child, because through experience and research we understand the huge long-term benefits of a secure child in this rapidly changing world.

The Ergobaby Carrier was born out of a personal need to keep my baby close to me because primarily I knew our bond and his trust in me would bring my son life long benefits, and secondarily I needed to stay productive and active.  I was delighted that at the age of 8 months I could easily carry my son on my back while doing the housework, gardening, shopping, hiking, or dancing, and he loved being right there seeing the world at my level!  It was also easy to swing him around to nurse while I continued my activities.  When he was out of sorts from teething, or had too much stimulus and needed to calm down, the best remedy was to put him in the carrier and keep moving.

As the carrier was used by more and more parents, the feedback we got time and time again was absolutely heart-tugging.  Parents would tell us, and still do, things as dramatic as “you saved my marriage, you saved my job, you changed the way I parent for the better, you changed my whole outlook on parenting, you saved my back, I never thought I would be able to carry my child.”  From this interaction, our mission became to offer this experience to as many families in the world as we could possibly dream of.

Our guide has always been our consumer, the parent whose guide is their baby!  We have always listened intently to their voice and adapted our products to help meet their needs.  My desire for Ergobaby is to be in partnership with families so as to help find solutions to parenting challenges and ultimately make the beginning for our babies lives’ easier so as they grow into adulthood they have better inner tools to guide them through life.  A baby with his needs met without having to scream to be understood, is a baby who knows love at his core.  What he learns in turn is an inner sense for kindness and compassion for self and others, an amazing ability to self regulate in an ever-changing environment and influences, incredible problem-solving capabilities, and a big spectrum view of the world.  I speak from experience in this regard as well.  My son is now 12 years old and a wonderful example of all these qualities.   My hope and dream is as each of us usher our children into the world, guided by our intuition with attachment parenting as our foundation, through our children we will see a shift in the world to a kinder, gentler, more peaceful place to exist.

Maui Design OfficeDid you ever imagine back in 2002 when you were sewing carriers for your friends that Ergobaby would grow into a global organization?

After 15 years of being an entrepreneur, I learned to adapt by staying in the moment and focusing on making the present the best I could.  Hence, as it was with Ergobaby, I took nothing for granted, I did not have a business plan, nor did I ever approach anyone for money outside of the relatively small sum from my parents to pay for the first shipment of carriers from our overseas manufacturer.  As our business grew so did my surprise!  I continue to be surprised and grateful.

Looking forward to Ergobaby’s future, what do you see as important?

Just as babywearing can help parents live their lives more comfortably (and ergonomically) with baby, I see Ergobaby answering parents’ needs and helping create solutions for them.  For example, Ergobaby has decided to branch out into the sleep area as we heard from parents they were looking for a comfortable and ergonomic way to swaddle their babies that was also easy to use.

With the goal of expanding our babywearing family and influenced by a broad outreach from parents, Ergobaby developed the Four-Position 360 Carrier, offering the only ergonomic baby carrier that can provide the inward and outward facing as well as the front and back carrying positions all in one carrier.  This is how we responded to parents’ requests, who are responding to their babies desire to interact face forward and eyes fully open to the whole world in front of them.  Our main concern was to make sure that baby is supported in an ergonomically correct seated position in all four positions.  Midwives, babywearing educators and pediatric professionals were skeptical that it could be done.  We believe we have proven our abilities and commitment to maintaining what has made us most famous, physically supporting parent and baby in health and safety.

As avid babywearing advocates, we believe that if a baby is worn inward facing during their first six months receiving early development cues from the parent, they should have a secure attachment to the parent and have therefore developed solid self-regulating abilities to respond to outside stimuli. Our message is simple: follow your baby’s lead and be responsive to her needs.  The parent that has developed a keen sense for babies needs is the ultimate interpreter.

Karin FrostWhat is your fondest memory of your early years with Ergobaby?

What immediately pops into my head are the photo shoots.  Even though they were quite challenging because as we all know babies have their own schedule, needs and quickly changing moods.  But they are so darn cute!!  And it meant constantly adapting with joy and fun to keep everybody comfortable.  The photo shoots gave me the opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of parents and babies.  I got to see our products in action with ease and grace.  We always hired moms and dads with baby from our local community on Maui.  To this day they are some of my closest friends.

What do you hope Ergobaby’s legacy is?

I love hearing stories from parents about how the carrier has helped them in their lives.  Being from Hawaii I like to use the analogy of catching a big beautiful turquoise wave.  Ergobaby got perfectly lined up to ride this magnificent wave of what I call “the new parenting paradigm.”  The parenting community that helped launch Ergobaby was the force and created the momentum.  Parents love sharing their stories, ideas and tools that work.  Our baby’s wellbeing is the most important to us and they have a way of connecting us to our local tribe, or as we call it in Hawaiian, our Ohana.  From the very beginning parents loved to send us pictures using the Ergo in the most exotic places with their baby as well as highlighting the mundane tasks, emphasizing how even hanging the laundry is fun with baby.  I travel extensively, and am always amazed at where I have an “Ergo sighting” as I call it.  Everywhere from Costa Rica to Bali to Norway, the Ergobaby Carrier can literally be seen with baby on parent around the block and around the world, happy as can be.

It gives me deep satisfaction in knowing I have created a baby carrier that has brought so much pleasure to other parents and their children.  The greatest pleasure for me is to know I have in some small way influenced a better transition from the womb to the outside world by offering moms and dads a comfortable tool to keep babies close to the heart.

Christina is a mama, conservationist, DIY’er, vintage fanatic, dog lover and the Ergobaby director of community.

She is passionate about babies, babywearing, birth, yoga, natural living, and healthy eats. When not online reading and writing about all of the above, she can be found spending time with her daughter, creating their family story in Los Angeles.

Facebook Twitter YouTube  

April 23, 2014