Friday, May 13, 2011

My Thoughts on the Wide-Blanket Podaegi 포대기

Positives: Hands-free, comfortable and warm for the baby, easy to wash, reasonable price (10$US), can serve as a blanket.

Negatives: Bad for the back, not safe for the baby, hard to tie properly, very warm.


Do not recommend.

All around Korea it is common to see grandmothers and some mothers with babies and toddlers tied to their backs using a carrier called the podaegi (포대기).  There are various versions of the podaegi but all are common in the fact that the baby is always carried on the back with a blanket like carrier.  The wide blanket podaegi is exactly that – a soft blanket that is wrapped around a person’s middle and tied tightly under the breasts. 

Jayden, my son, loves being carried around on his grandmother’s back via the podaegi.  Nothing else in the world can comfort him more except maybe a bottle of warm milk.  Sometimes when he’s really sick or upset and I can’t calm him down, my MIL will come to the rescue saying “업어 재혁, 업어” while at the same time pointing to her back, making welcoming pats.

I’ve tried to use the wide blanket podaegi numerous times because Jayden loves it so much and because it is hands and front free meaning a person can do the dishes, cook, clean, whatever.  But I’ve failed to master the Korean carrier.  The main reason is that it kills my back.

 To properly carry a baby with the blanket-like carrier, you must bend your back slightly forward rather than standing up straight.  For me, just a short time, like 10 minutes is enough.  I figured I was doing something wrong so I asked my MIL one time if carrying Jayden on her back hurt and she said yes!  I then tried to show her how to use my Pognae carrier which allows a child to be carried on your back or front but she couldn’t understand all the straps and was just as uncomfortable using it as I the podaegi. 

Recently events have turned me against the podaegi.  Jayden is a 20 month year old active and energetic toddler.  His favourite thing to do while on his grandma’s back is push his body out as far as he can go and drop his head down to the sides.  This squirmy behaviour has resulted in him falling – more than once – in scary places like the roof of our villa and the stairs leading up to it.  He does the exact same thing when he’s on my back in the Pognae but the straps and build of the carrier mean that no matter how much he squirms or pushes, he can’t fall out.

I have other concerns with the carrier as well.  When Jayden was just 3 or 4 months my MIL put him in the podaegi but I felt he was much to young as half the time the blanket would be half way around his head or his head would be positioned straight into my MILs back.  I questioned my MIL if it was safe and she assured me that no baby had ever died of a podaegi but I’m not so sure about that. 

Secondly, positioning a young baby on your back can be dangerous.  Once when I was taking Jayden off of my back I almost dropped him.  The best way of course is to sit down on a chair or sofa and then undo the straps.

Another dangerous incident occurred the first or second time I tried carrying Jayden Korean style.  I rounded a corner in our house and not being used to having a child sit so far out on my back, I didn’t account for the space needed for Jayden and ended up smashing him into the wall!!!

All-in-all I do not suggest that anyone carry their baby using a podaegi.  Even my MIL who is very experienced using the carrier has dropped Jayden whereas I have never dropped him while using a Moby or Pognae.  It’s not worth the damage it can do to your back either. I do not think that the podaegi is so popular with Korean moms as I seem them using other styles of carriers that Western women use as well. 

One benefit I have gotten from using the podaegi is that I now carry Jayden on my back for short distances outside without any carrier, just my hands.  He feels less heavy on my back than carrying him with my arms and he enjoys it.


  1. Hi, I think your not wearing it right! I'm American and now my son is 5 but when he was born and a baby up through till about 4 I used both the traditional Japanese Onbuhimo and the traditional wide blanket (and then later narrow when he was preschool aged) podaegi and I used them everwyhere...I also carried my son everywhere as did my husband...actually unlike you, I found using the podaegi actually extremely comfortable, supportive and wonderful. Maybe I'm physically stronger, I dont know, but I started to put my son on my back from about 3 weeks in this very wide, traditional podaegi the kind that goes to the knees, I threw both ties up over the shoulders and wrapped him snuggly and even in winter I'd take him out like that. I live in the ciy and there is a large Korean and Asian community and you bet the elderly Korean grandmas and even Chinese and Japanese would gush hen they saw us. I could wear him long distances on my back like that and actully I found the torso carry the most comfortable for long term wearing and when cleaning or cooking or grocery shopping. I never found high back carries comfortable. In the summer we'd use mesh podaegi which I didnt like because they are slippery kinda but my son didnt mind. As he got older and would generally walk I found a very thin narrow blanket podaegi to be the best as it was smaller, the ties were not so long as I could generally fit one in my purse, but I alays prefered the thick, heavy wide, long traditional kind. For all back carries you have to bend over to pop the child on-generally and actually the torso carry is very safe and good for the back, it puts the weight where your body can handle it...on your hips, butt and thighs unlike a high back carry here its on your shoulders and spine. ouch.! generally I did shoulderless but in winter over heavy coats I had to tie the ties over the shoulders either 1 or son LOVED them, he would snuggle up to me and even fall asleep then I'd just sorta bend over a bit and flip the folded don portion up over his head or have someone do that for me.

    Its a shame you didnt like them...I frankly think it goes down to body shape and personal strength, physically I'm kinda short but am quite strong physically, esp in my upper it just worked best for me.

    If worn right and is comfortable than its safe. The thick wide ones I found even good enough for a baby without head control because the thickness and then its folded over at the top and you criss-cross the straps to support the infants spine and legs...I learnt that trick frm a very elderly Korean grandma I met waiting for the bus...she saw I had a 1 month old and showed me how to tie it so it would support the spine.

    They are awesome... maybe try again!

  2. ...also to add, when my son was squirmy, what helped what putting both ties flipped up and over my shoulders, or even one and if he got very squirmy, doing a bit of a jig to calm him down helped...ofcourse if he really, really wanted down to walk I'd let him. Also you dont necessarily need to bend over forward when wearing the podaegi. I do see Korean grandmoms do it, but personally, I could wear the ones I had and stand up straight...I never bent over. I dont kno why they do that, but if youve ever seen African women, they usually tie their kids to their lower back too, using a similar style with just cloth around the baby and their torso over their bust, yet they always stand erect, they never bend over.

    I think thats a cultural thing, but a podaegi can be just as safe as any other style of carrier, personally I feel the bjorn and front packs are very unsafe cuz of the childs hips, legs and the parents back! eeks...historically you never saw moms carrying their kids on the front, it was always on the back, or at most side, because its more ergonomic and makes sense logically...esp for walking distances and working.

  3. It's a real shame you didn't get on with your podaegi. I used a (narrow blanket) podaegi for my son regularly from about 6 months until about 3 years. It was very comfortable, both for me and him! I'd often walk 5 or 6 miles with him in it. Never felt the need to lean forward either. In all the time I used it I never once dropped him, nor did my husband who only used it occasionally and isn't very experienced with babywearing.

    Honestly, I love my podaegi and can't wait to use it again with my next baby.

    I hope people aren't completely put off pods by reading this review/post, as they are fantastic carriers really.

  4. Yes, I have to agree....I don't think you were wearing it properly. This is a WONDERFUL style of carrier and is actually very safe if worn correctly.

  5. ANY sling, wrap or structured carrier can be dangerous, painful or unhealthy when used incorrectly. Just because someone has used something their whole life does not mean they are using it correctly. I am constantly amazed how many mamas & grandmas don't know how to properly diaper their baby (even in disposables) or correctly place their child in a carseat. I LOVE my Podaegi & find it to be extremely secure. We've been using it for 8 years. We've gone hiking and climbing with our babies and toddlers in it.
    Sometimes it's been uncomfortable, but then we simply take our child out and re-wrap it better or differently and it's fine again. I can wear our children on front, back or hip in our Podaegi. I can wear them high or low. I can wear a newborn or toddler. I can wear 1 or 2 at a time.
    I don't bend over except for the moment i cross the straps beneath the legs. In fact, when baby is small i lay the carrier on a sofa or against pillows and i lean BACKWARD onto baby. When they are older i have them stand while i wrap the top strap behind them and under their arms, i kneel down and turn around (again, leaning back but just a smidge), pull them up and to me, then stand and finish wrapping. I have never seen anyone stay bent over - Asian, African or American. Every instructions i've ever read have ended with "make sure to keep good posture" stated in one way or another. It is true that there is always gonna be someone doing things incorrectly. The first time i traveled with our daughter in a Hotslings i was wearing it totally wrong. It worked but it hurt me til i got different instructions and realized i was supposed to be folding the sling in half and placing her in the pocket that was created. I was even able to slide her to the back when on long walks. We've lovingly used that one for 8 years now as well.
    EVERY baby and every body is different. Nearly all of us have various strengths, weaknesses & damage in our backs, shoulders, necks, hips, and core. What is excruciatingly painful to one mama may be the most comfortable thing ever for a different mama (& vise versa). I have also seen mamas say "this isn't comfortable" or "this isn't secure" etc, then i show them a modification (sometimes a completely different way of wrapping, sometimes just a little tweak) and suddenly voila! they are comfy and secure.

  6. i didnt know that western ppl use the word podaegi. lol
    i just found this from my psychology class XD.
    this is quite funny and amazing that western moms are starting to observe korean moms' way of raising babies.

  7. I love my podaegi! It never made my back hurt! and it was easy to use! I am also half Koran and had lots of training from my Korean mother.