Happy Baby Dream
Carriers bonding families
Time line of the project
Uganda Research Trip
Uganda Research Phase
Overview of the trip to Uganda
Blogging the process
Methods of Baby Carrying
Baby Carrying - using hands
different positions as baby grows
Baby Wearing - using a piece of fabric
common method and modifications
Baby Wearing - all methods
Infant carrying - four straps method
Traditional side carrying
Users of Baby Carriers
Being an Ugandan Mother
Baby wearing: a woman’s thing
Babies raised by a village
Fathers’ Involvement in Baby Carrying
Siblings’ Voice on Baby Carrying
Baby Carrying Occasions
Baby on the go
Taking a baby to work
Carrying load and a baby
Answering a baby’s need
Playing with a baby
Outcome of the home visits to a
Rural mother from Lira
Urban mother from Kasese
Rural mother from Nkokonjeru
Introduction to the family
Daily tasks of the mother
Observations on baby carrying
What does a baby do inside a carrier?
Baby’s behanior in different positions
Current practices with nappies
Safety in Baby Wearing
Traditional carrying with a piece of cloth
Locall made baby inserts
Prototyping on site
Feedback from Local Users
Outcome of the user tests
Design Work in Progress
3. Happy Baby Dream Design Process
Bonding between mother and child is fundamental to the development of a secure and happy
baby. Convincing research from universities and professionals around the world indicates that
carrying the baby from birth to the time it shows a desire to crawl, facilitates the bonding process.
The Happy Baby Project was initiated with a non-profit desire to facilitate the bonding process
by designing and producing a comfortable, secure and easily made carrier that will be made
available to every family around the world, regardless of their ability to pay. We hope to do this
by creating small shops in towns and villages where carriers are needed.
Our design team, with its award winning designers, Cansu Akarsu and Kübra Saygın, started the
project with a five weeks research in Uganda. Collaborating with our local team mate, Josephine
Nalugo, they broke the barriers of language and built trust in the communities to study the
cultural and practical factors surrounding baby carrying. Over a hundred Ugandan parents and
babies have participated actively in workshops and gave feedback on baby carrier prototypes.
The refined models are now being tested under everyday circumstances by several volunteer
The dream: Our stitcheries will spread all over the world. Millions of new mothers and fathers
will carry their babies in comfort and security. As a result, babies will bond more effectively with
their parents. Men will become more involved with their daughters/sons. Society will live more in
We are scheduled to open our pilot shop in Uganda spring of 2013. June September December March
3 Alternative Concepts Selected Concept New Alternative Concepts
Research Report Preperation
Pilot Study Planning
User Research on site
User Testing Long-term Experience Kits
Uganda Research Trip
in three regions of Uganda
5. Uganda Research Phase
Designing together with end-users
Baby wearing has been a cultural practice throughout the world. In order to design an improved
carrier for the developing world, where long established traditional carriers are mainly in use,
one should first look into people’s lives, traditions, needs, demands and further suggestions. By
carrying out co-creation workshops, the aim is to collaborate with the locals and have the end-
users actively involved in the innovation process.
Three different sites
Uganda consists of four main districts which differentiate by language, typography,
life style and traditions of local people. In order to get an overview of all methods
of baby carrying, to be inspired by different local materials and crafts, to hear
different habits, preferences and concerns, three different sites are selected to be
visited from Northern, Western and Central Uganda. Every trip involved a focus on
both urban and rural setting with a mission to understand the occupation types,
level of income and daily activities.
When operating in a foreign environment and culture, having a local person in the team is a key
to success to break the barriers of language and to build trust in a community. Thanks to our
local team mate Josephine Nalogo and her breast feeding consultancy initiative, Happy Baby
has had access to an existing network of mothers’ support groups in Uganda. In addition to this
opportunity, demographic figures have shown a potential: According to CIA, Uganda holds the
forth place at total fertility rate in the world, with 6.14 children born per woman.
Taking the bus from
one city to another
6. Research Methods
During the five weeks research trip, eleven workshops were carried out, each including around
6-18 mothers and/or fathers, a total of 108 participants. Each workshop lasted about three hours
and consisted of a set of sessions:
• Ice breaking session where mothers/fathers introduce themselves, their relation to babies and
tell about their expectations from the workshop
• Open discussion going through a list of topics and questions to learn about the existing baby
carrying methods, followed by demonstrations
• User test of the initial prototypes with parents and their babies
• Idea generation and suggestions for possible improvements in a new carrier
To verify the outcome of the topics discussed in the workshops, and to get people’s final opinions,
in two visited sites, selected participants from each workshop were invited to gather for a final
Three mothers from different regions were visited in their homes for about half a day. The home
stays allowed the design team to get a deeper understanding of the end-user by:
• Following a mother continue her daily activities as she takes care of her baby
• Observing the mother’s method of baby carrying, depending on her activity
• Observing the baby’s journey, comfort and activities in the carrier
• Building one-to-one relationship and empathy with the end-users
• Understand the difference of living in an urban and rural setting in Uganda
Blogging the process - happybabycarrier.org
The research and design process have been presented in our blog, allowing our
international team members and followers be updates throughout the trip
Happy Baby’s first field study was held in Lira,
a small bicycle city in Central Uganda. Lira
welcomed our team with its adorable nature,
hospitable local people, chubby buildings, bike
traffic and a lot of mosquitos. To learn about how
Luo people carry their babies traditionally, to test
them with our initial prototypes, three workshops
(with urban mothers, urban fathers and rural
parents) were held, a rural mother was visited
at home, and a dissemination meeting was
organized with selected participants.
With the mobilization of UBFAN Uganda, first
workshop (rural parents) took place at the foot
hills of Mountain Rwenzori, and the other two
workshops (urban mothers and fathers) were
held in the city at a heath care center. A mother
was visited in her house, which is also her CD
shop, where she looked after her two babies as
she worked. Design team also visited the weekly
open market, where a local woman selling baby
carriers talked about the considerations of her
customers and what she advised them.
Only two hours drive from Kampala, Nkokonjeru
introduced our design team back to nature and
Buganda culture (with its highest population in
Uganda). A local hair saloon was arranged to
hold two urban workshops; a private garden
was used for two rural workshops with mothers
and fathers, and a young mother was visited
where she lived and worked as a farmer. After
seeing a number of kids taking care of babies,
a spontaneous kids workshop was organized to
get their voice on baby carrying.
10. Methods of
Baby Carryingwith local improvements
11. Baby Carrying - using hands
Carrying a baby starts with holding him/her in arms
right after birth. A piece of cloth is used to cover
a newborn baby while holding him/her in the front,
commonly in cradle and shoulder positions.
As a baby grows up to be an infant, the necessity of
covering decreases. From 3-4 months on, babies are
commonly held on the side position, with their legs
starting to be apart around the waist.
Holding a baby on the back by supporting the
hips with both arms is practiced by both parents,
especially when walking short distances.
With the development of neck and back muscles, infants around 5-6 months are seated on the waist, shoulders, or other parts of the
body with the help of hands. The duration of carrying with hands decreases as babies get heavier and start to walk.
Toddlers are held on the back of the neck and shoulders
especially during leisure time by their fathers. As toddlers get
heavier, carrying a toddler in the side position causes one to
bend the body to balance the weight.
Babies are carried using hands starting from birth, continuing until late toddler years. The positions and holding
methods change according to a baby’s age and development.
12. Obligation of continuing daily work and taking care of a baby has shaped a variety of traditional baby wearing
methods. The most common method, practiced especially by mothers, is having the baby on the back position with
the support of a 2m x 1m piece of fabric tied in the front. This carrier varies in quality and price; it could be a baby
shawl, a baby blanket, a piece of new fabric bought from a tailor, a second hand cloth/towel or a piece of fabric
torn from an old bed sheet. Families can buy it or receive it as a present from relatives or friends.
Tying a piece of fabric on the back being the most basic form of traditional baby wearing, inspiring modifications and improvements on this method are
practiced by women all around Uganda. Babies are carried all the time until they get to toddler ages.
Baby Wearing - using a piece of fabric
Sometimes the top knot is replaced
by folding and tightening the layers
of the piece of fabric. This method
is used for a short time since the
folded fabric easily gets loose.
A second piece of fabric is folded in
half (taking a triangular shape) and tied
overs the basic traditional baby wear
for looking smart, supporting the baby’s
neck, and providing warmth.
Tied on the mother’s neck,
calabash is a local plant, dried
and crafted to be put on the
baby’s head, as a shelter from
the sun, dust and rain.
As a baby grows, parents practice
using a single piece of fabric folded
in half and tightened in the front.
This method requires one to support
the baby’s bottom using arms.
• Knots on the breasts cause chest pain and
has a negative effect on the milk production.
• Breast milk leaks due to the knots’ pressure.
• Back position does not allow breast feeding
• It is culturally considered as a ‘woman thing’
and is not practiced by most men.
• The pratice causes lower back pain
• Some babies are carried on the back soon
after birth, earlier than the suggested ages.
• Baby’s neck is usually not well supported.
• Knots get loose, causing the baby to hang
low and in some cases fall off.
• Baby can communicate his/her needs
• Skin to skin contact with the mother
increases duration of breast feeding,
reduces crying, creates family bonding.
• It allows the wearer to be hands-free.
• Using only a piece of fabric is simple and
affordable by all families.
• Wearer understands the baby’s needs
• Skin to skin contact builds parenting bonds
Starts at 3-4 months Practiced until toddler years
13. Infant Carrying - four straps method
In Northern Uganda, infants are carried on the back starting in the first months using
the ‘four straps method.’ A 2mx1m piece of fabric is folded over two long fabric
pieces, which are then used as four straps tied in between the breasts. This carrier
can be found ready made from the markets - straps already sewn on the main fabric.
After wearing the baby with this carrier as an inner layer, a second piece of fabric is
tied on the surface to support the baby’s neck and provide warmth.
Starts during the first months
• Newborn babies are not advised to be carried low
on the back; they should be close to mother’s face
• Fabric straps are usually very thin,so they put a lot
of pressure on the shoulders
• Wearer can start working soon after a baby is born.
• Straps distribute the weight on the shoulders and
the knot is between the breasts, so there is no
pressure on the breasts
piece of fabric
folded over straps
sewn on fabric
Traditional side carry is practiced by trying a piece of fabric loose from one shoulder to the waist,
moving the knot to the shoulder, taking a baby in and positioning him/her on the opoosite side. While
there is no specific origin of this method, today it is commonly practiced in Western Uganda.
Traditional Side Carrying
• The weight is carried by one shoulder, so the
wearer gets tired in a short time
• Single knot on the shoulder causes pain and
bruises if used for a long time
• The wearer’s body is observed to bend towards the
opposite direction in order to balance the weight
• The position is not hands-free: wearer is observed
to support the baby with one hand
• The wearer can not easily work as the baby has
more freedon to move his/her body and head
• Baby is able to look out from the sides
• Side position lets the baby and the wearer see
each other and interact
• Baby and the breast can be positioned low enough
to breast feed.
• Using only a piece of fabric is simple and
affordable by all families.
Starts at 3-4 months
Traditionally found in Buganda culture in Central Uganda, engozi is a 2mx1.5m piece
of fabric that each baby owns individually. It is used when carrying him/her on special
occasions such as visiting friends or relatives, going to the church or a community
gathering. The colour is usually white, or very light coloured, as it is believed to look
smart and attractive when a baby is brought to public. On the go, engozi is used as an
inner layer, covered with a colourful/patterned baby shawl to provide warmth.
After giving birth, a mother can have a new tailor-made engozi for her size, buy a ready-made engozi from a
baby shop or receive it as a present from a close relative. Engozi can pass on from a mother to child, from a
grandparent to grandchild; and in case the parents can not afford a new one, it can pass on among siblings.
Myths regarding engozi
Engozi is a must-have item for a newborn baby in Buganda culture; families keep their children’s engozi in a safe
place even after they grow up. A myth is that if a family loses the engozi belonging to their child, the couple would
not have any kids any more. During the workshops, local participants shared stories about the myth and showed
that it is still strongly believed in the community.
Starts during the first months
$ 2.50 Ekikubiro
Gomesi, also called busuuti, is the traditional floor-length female dress in
Buganda culture. The design shows how motherhood has a strong influence
on the culture: its square neckline allows breast feeding and its loose fabric
piece on the back, ekikubiro, allows baby carrying. A mother can put her
baby on her back in the ekikubiro and tie the long fabric piece above her
breasts, similar to the basic form of traditional baby wearing.
Starts at 3-4 months
Usage of gomesi
While women living in urban areas wear gomesi on special occasions, such as funerals or weddings, rural women
wear gomesi as a daily dress. During workshops, held in both urban and rural areas, it is seen that today, gomesi is
considered as an old-fashioned clothing item by some urban women. In addition, the lifestyle in the urban setting does
not allow wearing gomesi on daily occasions.
Women in Buganda culture order gomesi from local tailors, to be made in their size, in the colored/patterned fabric of
their desire. Most women have a number of gomesis of different quality to be used on different occasions and purposes.
15. Baby insert
Northern Uganda is where one can find the first steps of improvement in
the traditional baby wearing practice. Ready or locally tailor made baby
inserts are used by a number of families, both in the urban and rural
areas. Inserts are commonly used in the back position with the support
of a second piece of fabric tied over, in order to provide warmth and to
straddle the baby’s legs around the wearer’s waist.
Starts at 3-4 months
• If the insert is not supported with an extra piece
of fabric, baby’s legs hang down; proven to cause
wrong hip development: hip dysplasia.
• The insert is made with no adjustment details for
big/small babies and wearers.
• Small babies put inside an insert hang too low;
cases of positional asphyxia have been seen.
• Thin straps cause shoulder pain for wearers.
• Some very poor families can not afford inserts.
• Baby inserts can be used to carry babies in both
front and back postions.
• Front position allows breast feeding when a baby is
positioned low towards the breasts.
• The cap provides neck support for the baby.
• Placing the baby inside an insert does not let him/
her fall out, so it creates a feeling of security in the
Baby inserts can be found in bright and colourful African patterned fabric, or in dark coloured (brown, black
or green) corduroy fabric and they include an inner layer of thin sponge to provide a soft structure. Parents
can buy baby inserts from weekly markets in rural villages or from retail shops in town. They are designed
with no standard size or adjustment details for big/small babies and wearers, and are not sold in a fix price.
Practiced until toddler years
16. Imported carriers
A small percentage of Ugandan families can afford imported carriers
which can be bought new in retail stores of baby products in Kampala
city centre, second hand from markets or can be ordered directly from
friends who travel abroad. The ones found in Kampala are unknown
brand carriers that distribute the weight on the wearer but lack in
quality ergonomics for the baby’s hip.
Discussions with locals revealed several cases where rural fathers who
needed to carry their babies all day long (for instance if the mother
worked in an office or divorced) found it embarrassing and inconvenient
to practice the traditional baby wearing method and decided to buy a
carrier. On the other hand, there are also urban fathers who simply know
the benefits of being close to their baby and want to carry their babies
proudly in public.
• Most imported carriers in the market are low quality
in ergonomics. Baby’s legs hang down; proven to
cause wrong hip development: hip dysplasia.
• Most families find them too expensive to buy.
• Modern carriers are not locally manufactured.
• They are sold in retail shops in city centres, so they
can not be found in remote villages
• Most imported carriers can be used to carry babies
in both front and back positions.
• Fathers do not see the product as a ‘woman thing.’
Male and female wearers feel confident in public.
• Good quality carriers distribute the weight evenly
on the wearer’s body.
Starts at 3-4 months
“I look smarter
with the carrier!
sees me in public
say I look like a
“I bought a baby
carrier when my
wife left and I was
alone to take care
of our son.”
Second hand ErgobabyImported carriers in market
(second hand is half price)
17. Users of
Baby Carrierstheir roles and challenges
18. In an Ugandan community, babies are welcomed by all family members, relatives, friends and neighbours. Most
mothers feel comfortable with different people carrying and playing with their babies. If a mother needs help, she
can easefully give the duty of looking after the baby to the father, an elder sibling, a relative or a friend.
Although babies are carried in hands by both men and women, traditional baby wearing methods are practiced
mostly by women. A single piece of cloth for baby wearing can be used by women of various ages and sizes,
whether she is a mother, a sibling, an aunt, a grandmother, a baby sitter or a guardian.
Being an Ugandan mother
Ensuring a baby’s attachment to the mother during the in-arms phase is a strong element in Ugandan culture.
While being in close contact with the mother is the one and only way to provide this bond, raising healthy kids is
one of the many responsibilities of women. Then how has baby wearing evolved to fit a mother’s and baby’s needs?
Looking into the rural communities which cover most of the population in Uganda, women carry the burden of
working, maintaining a household and taking care of their babies at the same time. There is simply no ‘maternity
leave;‘ rural mothers continue their regular farming work as soon as they can, after giving birth. Throughout the
years, this obligation has shaped different traditional baby wearing methods that allow mothers to be bonded with
the babies and continue their daily work hands-free. Nevertheless, local participants’ words during the workshops
show that the traditional baby wearing methods have not evolved to provide enough comfort neither to the mother
nor to the baby.
Baby wearing: a woman’s thing
Although different regions of Uganda have some inspiring modifications and locally made carriers, the most
common baby wearing method used by mothers is having the baby on the back position with the help of a piece
of cloth tied in the front. This method has been practiced by rural women throughout the years, which has made it
perceived as a woman’s thing in the eyes of most men and women.
During workshops, the idea of ‘a father walking in public wearing his baby on the back with a piece of cloth’ was
found funny and unusual by most local participants. As open discussions brought a new perspective, mothers
showed a great interest in motivating their husbands to be more involved in baby carrying.
Babies raised by a village
• Several mothers take care of both their own kids
and some orphan relatives.
• Urban mothers working in offices or schools are not
allowed to bring their babies along.
• Husbands doing a seasonal work move away for
several months and leave the responsibility of the
whole family to the wife.
• Almost all mothers face the problems that come
with the traditional baby wearing method such as:
knots getting loose and opened, pain in breasts
and lower back, decrease in breast milk, etc.
Mothers reap all the benefits of baby wearing:
• Carrying a baby creates a healthy attachment
between the mother and the baby.
• By being in close contact, mothers understand the
baby’s needs and respond quickly.
• Skin to skin contact increases the duration of
• Babies cry less and build trust in the mother
their babies all
“I carried my
babies and now
I carry my grand
work in the
farms in the
villages do it.”
19. Fathers’ involvement in baby carrying
Fathers’ involvement in child care depends on factors like the parents’ occupation, presence in the family, or simply
personality, varying by families. If both mother and father are present in the family, the responsibility of a baby is
mainly on the mother during the day; the father has a different perspective of baby carrying. He finds it to be a
leisure activity he can do after work, to play with the baby or help his wife, especially when she is cooking. During
this play time, the father likes to hold the baby in the front position in hands or on the lap, for better interaction.
Other occasions fathers participate in baby carrying include a journey to the hospital or to the church. If a baby
is old enough to hold his neck and back, fathers can be more creative with the ways they hold the babies on their
body, holding them on one shoulder or seated on the shoulders, since they usually want to play with the baby and
make him/her laugh. Fathers have several concerns with holding the baby for a long time: baby urinating, spitting
milk, needing breast milk, etc. While some fathers spend hours playing with their kids, others tend to pass the baby
to the mother after carrying for only a couple of minutes.
The occasion when a father takes care of the baby the whole day is when the mother is not present: if the mother
has divorced, gone on a journey, passed away, or if her occupation does not allow babies to be brought along. For
instance when a farmer father was left alone with his baby for three months, he bought a second hand imported
carrier and carried his baby working in the animal farm. Another father wore his baby to work using the traditional
wearing method and put the baby on his lap as he continued to repair phones. When a teacher mother’s maternity
leave was over, her carpenter husband took the baby to work every day, wearing a carrier and riding a motorcycle.
During the workshops it is seen that baby carrying has never been a discussion subject before. As fathers shared
their experiences and challenges around baby carrying, a variety of different habits and concerns were revealed.
Although the meetings were not with an educational purpose, a number of participants appreciated the value of
baby carrying, recommended educating the community on the benefits and encouraging father support.
• Traditional baby wearing method is seen as a
woman thing, so most men find it embarrassing to
wear a baby with a piece of fabric in public.
• Wearing a baby traditionally is difficult due to
making tight knots and feels unnatural since fathers
do not have breasts.
• Most fathers carry babies in hands, which gets
them tired in a short time.
• Fathers are scared that the baby can urinate and
spoil their clothes. Some babies smell urine during
the day if the mother does not put nappies on.
• Babies spit milk and spoil the clothes.
• Babies are disappointed when they can not find
breast milk in fathers’ chest
• Some fathers are cautious about using too much
power with their hands when holding their babies
• Spending time with babies builds strong family
bonds and in long term brings marital stability.
• Men feel confident of being a father and get
courage to make other babies.
• A child grows up knowing and loving the father.
Fathers who use an imported baby carrier
• Get good feedback in public and feel smarter.
Fathers who use an imported baby carrier
• Feel too warm and sweaty on the chest when
carrying a baby in the front position.
• Ride a motorcycle or a bike while carrying the baby
“I carry my baby
when the mother
is busy, especially
when she is cooking
near the fire place.”
“I can not carry my
baby for long, I fear
that he is going to
urinate on me and
spoil my clothes.”
“I wear my baby
on my back with a
cloth at home, but
that I would not
do in public.”
20. Siblings’ voice on baby carrying
Ugandan kids help their families with daily house chores and take several responsibilities starting at early ages.
For instance if a mother is busy, the task of taking care of a three month baby sibling, relative or a friend for
several hours can naturally be given to a kid at the age of six. Several kids were observed to be carrying babies
on the side by using their hands or on the back by tying a piece of cloth in traditional methods.
Kids are given the responsibilty of carrying a baby after they pass the age of six and after a baby is one month
old. Since the waist of a kid is smaller than an adult’s, a baby can easily straddle his/her legs around an elder
sibling. A kid at the age of six carries a baby after school or on the weekends, especially when the mother is busy
cooking for the family.
There is no gender stereotyping among kids, both boys and girls take care of babies and carry them in traditional
methods at home and in public. While this builds strong bonds between siblings and give confidence in taking
responsibilities in life, it is observed to be very time consuming for a student in the first years of school.
“I’m carrying my
sister today as my
mother is in the
after a patient.”
10 year- old girl
“I enjoy taking care
of the baby and
playing, then I am
not asked to do
7 year-old girl
“I can not tie the
fabric. When the
knots open, I go
to my mother to
have them fixed.”
8 year-old girl
• When wearing a baby on the back, some young
kids are not able to tie the carrier piece of fabric
tight enough. They either ask help from their mother
to fix the knot or regularly jump up and support the
low hanging baby on the back with their hands.
• When holding a baby on the side, kids’ bodies
bend towards the opposite direction in order to
balance the weight, shaping a wrong posture.
• Some babies are too heavy for young kids to carry
for long hours.
• Kids do not always know what to do when a baby
cries, pees or vomits. Some parents beat the kids
when they make a mistake.
• Carrying a baby is a fun excuse not to be given
other boring house chores.
• Babies can learn walking and speaking from their
elder siblings or relatives.
• Due to the close contact in early years of their lives,
strong bonds are created between kids in a family
• Kids learn to take responsibility at early ages.
Above drawings are made by 7 to 13 year-old kids during a Happy Baby workshop in rural Nkokonjeru. Participant
kids, who commonly took care of their baby siblings, relatives or friends, were given papers and pencils, and
asked to use their creativity to draw baby carriers in their imagination.
21. Baby Carrying
Occasionsin rural and urban Uganda
22. Babies are worn by mothers when going to the garden or to the market, and usually carried by fathers
when going to the hospital, church, visiting friends or relatives.
Walking is the most basic and common method of transportation. If a mother is walking alone with her
baby, she wears him/her on the back. If the father is with them, he usually walks carrying the baby in
• The roads in rural Uganda are very dusty due to the lack of construction services. After spending
only an hour outside, one can see that clothes have gathered dust and changed colour. Some
people protect their babies’ faces with a piece of cloth, especially when they are newborn; some
do not mind the dust.
• In many parts of Uganda, especially in Kampala, deep canals are constructed to collect water in
rainy seasons. Walking on the streets, one has to be careful about not falling inside these canals.
When crossing a canal, a mother was observed jumping over a meter distance with a baby in her
Transportation methods are used while baby carrying: bus, public taxi bus, public motorbike (boda-
boda), bicycle, or car.
• People who own their own bikes can cycle wearing their babies on the back.
• On public taxi bicycles and motorbikes, mothers prefer to sit sideways, either holding their baby
in hands or wearing on the back. When using a boda-boda, older babies are seated between the
driver and the mother.
Baby on the go
“I put my baby
in my coat, close
the zipper in the
front, and ride the
motorcycle to go
to my shop.”
“In Kasese we
Sometimes I walk
uphill carrying my
baby on my back.”
23. “My wife is a teacher,
she is not allowed to
bring a baby to the
school. I take care of
our nine months son
during the week.”
“I started carrying
my baby on my back
when she was two
weeks old because I
had to go digging.”
“I put my baby
on my lap and do
my regular phone
The most common occupation of people in the rural parts of Uganda is farming. While both women
and men work in the field, it is the women (mothers, sisters or aunts) who wear a baby during the day.
The same applies to house wives who take care of their baby as they continue their domestic chores.
Rural mothers wear babies and continue tasks:
• Digging the land
• Harvesting crops
• Weeding the garden
• Burning grass
• Feeding farm animals
• Collecting vegetables
• Collecting firewood
• Carrying load
Most mothers wear babies and do house chores:
• Fetching water
• Cleaning the house
• Washing clothes
• Doing the dishes
• Working from home:
Urban mothers take their babies to works such as:
• Running a shop
• Selling things in the market
Technical jobs allow fathers to take babies to work:
• Running a shop
• Repairing phones
In the urban parts of Uganda, occupations taking place in offices, schools or hospitals do not allow
bringing a baby along. Urban parents with mentioned jobs usually leave their babies home with a
sibling, baby sitter or a relative. Parents running their own businesses or having a technical job can
carry their babies to work.
Taking a baby to work
24. Carrying load and a baby
One of the most common daily tasks of a rural woman is carrying and moving different types of
loads such as jerrycan, firewood, fruits & vegetables and personal items. This task continues with its
difficulties for mothers wearing their babies on the back. Depending on the amount of weight and the
kind of items needed to be moved, locals have come up with inspiring ways of dealing with challenges.
Firewood on head, jerrycan
in hand, baby on back
Load tied on head, baby
sitting on shoulders
Baby items carried in a
separate bag in hand
25. “I carry my son
when he sick. Being
close to me gives
warmth and helps
him get well.”
urban father from
“When my baby
cries on the
back, I take him
in my arms and
“When I carry
her she plays
with me and
8 year old girl
Ugandan culture embraces the knowledge that it is a baby’s need to be in close contact with his/her
family. A crying baby is never left alone, he/she is immediately taken in arms and given attention.
• When a baby shows that he/she is hungry, a mother usually stops what she is doing, holds her
baby in arms, sits down under the shade and breast feeds until the baby is full.
• When a baby gets sick, all family members including the mother, the father and the siblings
participate in carrying him/her for fast healing. Especially during cold weathers, babies are carried
in skin to skin contact to provide warmth and care.
• If a baby starts crying for attention when his/her mother is busy, the mother wears him/her on the
back and continues her daily chores.
Playing with a baby
• Leisure time takes place at home after work when the fathers have time to participate in baby
carrying. Both parents play with the baby teaching words and helping with his/her first steps.
• During play time, babies are commonly held in hands in the front position in order to interact
closely. Some fathers like to hold their babies, especially in toddler years, in various fun positions
around their body using only bare hands.
• Babies are a centre of attention in public. Relatives and friends enjoy playing with a baby around
the neighbourhood, in home visits, or in the church.
• Older kids practice baby carrying to play with their siblings or relative babies.
Answering a baby’s need
26. User Scenarios
Findings from home stays
27. Brenda &
Brenda Acello, 19 years
Oscar Odyel, 6 months
Brenda is a single mother who lives with her son Oscar and her relatives in rural Lira. All family
members live in a group of traditional huts made of soil and branches, one being the home for Brenda,
Oscar and Brenda’s brother. Family members make a living by farming in their nearby garden; they
cook and eat together once every day. Brenda shares the daily tasks with her mother and siblings,
mainly her elder sister.
As a young woman in a big family, Brenda has already experienced carrying babies, for instance her
nephews to help her elder siblings. After giving birth as a rape victim, she now takes care of Oscar
with the support of her family. The mother and son spend most of the time attached with the traditional
baby wearing method using a single piece of cloth.
Brenda has three different pieces of clothes she uses for carrying Oscar and she shares them with her
mother and elder sister. During the home stay, one carrier was used by Brenda, one was used as a
head wrap by Brenda’s mother, and one was in the laundry basin.
Rural mother from Lira
28. Crossing a puddle Cleaning the jerrycan with soil and water Carrying the full jerrycan
Every morning, Brenda grabs an empty jerrycan and goes to the well to fetch water. She needs to cross a puddle to reach the main road and walk about 300 meters. When she
arrives the well, she first scrubs the dirt off the jerrycan by using soil and water, and then fills it with clean water. She carries the full 20 litre jerrycan on her head back home.
Sweeping the land Winnowing soy beans Moving the dust
Another task Brenda shares with her family is preparing soy beans, which requires different body movement such as bending down to sweep the land, shaking a plate to
winnow the soy beans and lifting the plate up to remove the dust. During these tasks, Brenda carries Oscar with her piece of cloth on the back.
Winnowing soy beans
29. Brenda’s family owns a small garden nearby the huts where they grow vegetables for themselves. Brenda goes to the garden to collect a kind of leaf plant from the land,
carrying Oscar on her side with her single arm. On the way home, she ties him on her back with the cloth and continues carrying him while sitting and picking the leaves.
Collecting and weeding vegetables
Collecting leaf vegetables Carrying Oscar Sitting on the ground to pick the leaves
Millet bread is among the important daily nutritions of the family. The process of making millet bread requires manual tasks including winnowing millet grains, pounding them
and grinding them to make flour. While Brenda’s body movements cause Oscar to hang low in the carrier and make him uncomfortable, she continues to work.
Preparing millet flour
Winnowing millet grains Pounding millet grains Grinding to make flour
Baby urinates on the carrier
and the mother’s clothes
Baby’s arm sticks out from
the torn carrier
Non-used carrier is
put on as a head wrap
When the baby’s legs hang low, the mother bends down, pulls
the baby up and opens the legs apart to fix his position.
Mother has difficulty positioning the
baby when tying him on the back.
31. Urban mother from Kasese
Najjuka Zaituni, 19 years
Rahyan, 2 and a half years
Rahma, 13 months
Zaituni is a mother of two kids running a CD shop in urban Kasese. Their two-room-house is
located right behind the store, separated by a curtain. While her husband spends most of the
time working in a different city as a seasonal worker, Zaituni takes care of the business, the
household and the kids. She continues her daily tasks carrying Rahma on her back as Rahyan
follows them walking around the house.
There are two pieces of clothes used for carrying Rahma: one for daily usage in the
neighbourhood, another one dedicated to going out for a journey. Zaituni uses the daily cloth
not only for carrying, but also for purposes such as putting on the floor to sit on, wiping faces,
etc. The second cloth is more precious: After buying a long piece of fabric of her taste, Zaituni
has been to a tailor to have a carrier and a skirt sewn for her baby, and a dress for herself.
Since Zaituni does not have relatives around her, the neighbours give a hand when she needs
help and free time. She and her closest neighbour take turns to look after each others’ kids
when one needs to go on a journey.
the pink doors of
this CD shop will
lead you to the
home of a mother
with two kids.
32. Zaituni’s occupation is running a CD shop as she takes care of her two kids. Some of the tasks in the shop include taking orders from customers, reaching for the CD’s on the
high and low shelves, crouching down to use the computer on the floor to write movies and music to the CD’s.
Running a CD shop
on the back
Taking orders from the customers Writing music to a CD
Zaituni’s house is right behind the CD shop, so during the day she regularly stops working for the shop to take care of the house. Some of the house chores she does are
collecting water from the nearby well, cleaning the dishes and setting the fire for cooking. When Rahma falls asleep on her back, she puts her down in the bed.
Doing house chores
Carrying water from
Washing the dishes Putting Rahma to sleep in the bed
33. Rural mother from Nkokonjeru
Rosemary Nakirya, 19 years
Daisy Nabatanzi, 9 months
Rosemary lives with her baby Daisy in a farm house, where she had been raised by her guardian
family together with many other orphans. She and Daisy’s father are waiting to collect enough
bride price to get married and build their own family.
Being one of the grown-ups in the house, Rosemary takes on the responsibility of a number of
farm and house chores. None the less, family members around her, especially kids help a lot with
daily tasks and taking care of Daisy.
When Daisy needs to be carried while doing other task, Rosemary practices the most common
traditional carrying method with a piece of cloth. Rosemary especially prefers to have one hand
of Daisy inside and the other outside of the carrier in order to hand her some food when she is
hungry. Kids help Rosemary by holding Daisy in hands during play time and carry her on their
back when they are responsible of looking after her for a long time.
Rosemary owns three pieces of clothes to carry her baby daily around the farm, and three other
clothes for going out for visiting friends.
34. Fetching water is one of the duties Rosemary shares with the rest of the household members. Carrying Daisy on the back, she takes an empty jerrycan, walks to the 400m far
water well and waits for the jerrycan to be filled with water. On the way home, she carries the full 20 litre jerrycan on her head.
Walking to the well Filling the jerrycan with water at the well Carrying the full jerrycan
Rosemary goes to collect bananas from the nearby garden owned by her host family. After making a couple of knife cuts on a banana tree, she carefully lets the bark down on
the ground, lifts and moves it to the side. With the support of a layer of banana leaves, she carries the banana bunch on her head back home.
Cutting a banana tree Moving a banana tree bark Carrying a banana bunch
35. Peeling bananas
Laying down the
Peeling bananas with
one of the elder kids
Taking Daisy on the lap
and breast feeding
The family members living in the same house cook and eat together. After Rosemary brings the banana bunch from the garden, she sits on the ground together with one of the
elder kids and peel the bananas. When Daisy gets hungry, she cries and moves, so Rosemary takes her on the lap to breast feed.
Elder kids living in the same house take turns to play with Daisy; some teach her how to walk, some carry her around and talk to her. This eases Rosemary’s job and lets Daisy
interact with several different people. When Rosemary is done with her work, she realizes that Daisy has peed on her clothes, so she washes her in a small basin.
Playing with Daisy
Daisy learning to walk
from a youngster
Daisy being carried by the elder
kids in the house
Washing Daisy with
the help of an elder kid
Baby’s neck is not supported,
the head hangs down
Baby urinates and wears the wet
pants for more than an hour
When cutting a banana tree, one of the
branches fall on the baby carried on the back.
Mother bumps the baby to the wall
when lifting the heavy jerrycan
Mother carries a
knife on her back.
37. Baby’s journey
inside traditional carriers
38. When being carried on the back with the traditional methods, a baby
• Usually sleeps
• Rocks and sighs with the footsteps of the mother
• Looks around and observes
• Touches and pulls the mother’s hair
• Kicks and bites when the carrier is too tight
• Gets tired if the mother bends up and down
• Eliminates waste (urinates and defecates)
• Cries when he/she is
• too cold/hot
• wants to move
When held in the front position, the baby
• Plays with the face and laughs
• Imitates words and movements
• Recognizes the person’s face
• Gets breast fed when held by the mother
What does a baby do inside a carrier? Baby’s urination
Using nappies for a baby depend on the preference of a mother. During workshop discussions and home visits,
it is seen that some mothers do not wrap the babies with a nappy and do not mind when the baby urinates on
the clothes. If a mother is working in the field and the baby urinates, she hangs the clothes and the carrier under
the sun, and puts them back on once they are dry. Some mothers prefer carrying spare clothes and change their
babies’ when they realize the urine.
During open discussions with local parents, an interesting fact was brought to surface: usage of nappies have a
big influence on the fathers’ involvement in carrying babies. Most fathers complain about the urine smell and do
not want to carry their babies for a long time fearing that the baby would urinate on their clothes.
A mother, father or a caretaker can practice recognizing and responding to the body signals of a baby when he/
she needs to eliminate waste. Scientifically known as elimination communication, it has traditionally been practiced
in Uganda in some communities, and today still by some families. When a mother realizes the baby’s need, she
simply holds him/her over the ground to urinate or defecate.
“When my baby’s
nose touch my
back, it causes
snoring and bad
“I track my baby’s
Most Ugandan families can not afford disposable diapers; so they use cloth/towel
nappies: a 60x65cm piece of cloth which can be bought new from a shop or cut out
from an old towel or bed sheet. After wrapping a baby with a nappy, plastic pants
can be worn over to hold the nappy in position and to prevent leaking.
39. “All of a sudden
the knot opened
and my son feel on
the street. I did not
know what to do.”
Safety in baby wearing
In traditional baby wearing with a piece of fabric, one of the most challenging safety factors is keeping
the baby in a stable position for a long time. Since mothers need to make several body movements
due to their continuing daily work, the position changes soon after wearing a baby on the back.
• the knots of the fabric get loose
• baby’s position moves downwards on the body
• baby’s neck is not supported
• fabric cuts and creates bruise on the neck
• baby’s head hangs down from one side.
When wearing a baby, a mother straddles the legs around her waist, so that the baby’s hip is in the correct position.
However the baby’s legs are observed to be hanging down if the knots get very loose. This low position is fixed by
the mother by jumping up, holding the baby high and tying the knots again.
Using a locally made baby insert, seen in Northern Uganda, comes with its own safety risks.
The initial problem observed in first sight is that the baby’s legs hang down, proven to cause an
abnormal hip development called hip dysplasia. International Hip Dysplasia Institute states that
baby carriers should support the baby’s knee joints for healthy hip positioning:
Since baby inserts do not have any adjustment details for big/small babies and wearers, small babies
who are carried inside an insert hang too low. According to local parents participating in our workshops,
cases of positional asphyxia have been experienced by in the community.
Thigh NOT supported to the knee joint. Thigh is supported to the knee joint.
In addition to problems faced by everyone, some mothers have
experienced more serious risks. For instance when a mother was
not aware of the loosening of the knots, the knots were completely
opened and the baby fell down on the street. Besides, while a
mother was carrying load on her head, such as firewood, fruits, or
construction stones, pieces of the load fell on the baby’s head.
40. User Tests
with initial prototypes
41. Initial Prototyping Prototyping on site: Tied-up Model
Happy Baby carrier is designed with a hands-on process starting since its early stages. A real-weight one month
old baby doll was used as a model to made a variety of prototypes and to experiment with ideas. After analysing
the initial prototypes by defining their weak and strong design details, three of them were selected to be improved
with differences in fom and function and taken to Uganda for user testing.
During the first two field trips, Lift-up model was selected to be the favourite of local participants due to
its practicality in wearing and distribution of weight on the body. ‘Tied-up’ was designed in Kampala as an
improved version of ‘Lift-up’ with the participants’ feedback. In this carrier, we challenged ourselves with using
only fabric, and keeping the hip support on the hips while positioning a newborn high and close to the body.
gives a back pack feeling
and aims to allow
adjustments on the carrier
as the baby grow up.
Three levels of resting the hips starting from
newborn, growing to become an infant and then
a toddler. The level is adjusted by tying the ropes
attached to the straps.
Hip support is tied on the hips using fabric straps
To carry a newborn positioned high enough, he/she is
placed in the insert, and rested on a padded seat.
Baby is positioned high maintaining the hip support
of the carrier still on the hips of the mother/father.
Paddings, made of thin pillows stuffed with cut outs
from tailors, are included on the main body, hip
support and shoulders.
is an improved
traditional wrap that
puts the weight of the
baby on mother’s hips.
includes a mosquito net
and uses three identical
straps of fabric for
easing the production.
Long sides straps coming out
from the sides of the body
meet the shoulder straps.
42. “It is the first
time I wear my
baby in the front.
I can breast feed
as I walk.”
“I do not mind
But red should be
omitted; it attracts
Feedback from local users
• Dark colours that do not show dust and dirt
easily: brown, black, green, blue.
• Tying straps feels safer than buttons, zipper
or elastic bands.
• It include and extra piece of cloth free to
cover or wipe the baby
• Pockets to carry items like: water, diapers,
clothes, nappies, money, etc.
• Having panties/reusable diapers to prevent
urine from leaking
• Urban parents’ suggestion: $ 15 - 30
• Rural parents’ suggestion: $ 4 - 7.5
For the baby
• Soft structure to hold the baby straight
• Soft neck support
• Cover & protect the baby’s head
• Thick and soft shoulder straps
• Adjustable size for different users
• Hip support to distribute the weight evenly
• Quick way to put on and take off the carrier
Happy Baby carriers are tested throughout the Uganda trip, during workshops and home visits.
Both mothers and fathers tried out different carriers with their babies to give feedback. It was most
parents’ first time to try ergonomic baby carriers, so the first impressions were always very positive.
After introducing different prototypes, participants were able to compare and give valuable feedback
on details and find ideas for improvement.
“Haha! I can
carry my baby
with this and
swing birds in
43. After the trip, the carrier design has been developed with the help of parents both in Denmark and Turkey, who have volunteered to be test users. Several babies at different
ages were worn in Happy Baby carriers as we checked their position and as the parents commented on the comfort and convenience in usage.
Design work in progress
44. Happy Baby project is initiated and funded by Robert Frost, Executive Chairman and former CEO of Ergobaby.
Credits to all team mates, experts, volunteer parents and babies and our families who have helped us in the process.
Peter Berg Schmidt
Amito Mary Magy
Ebyau A. Juliet
Kika Ammot Molly
Mrs Molly Banak
Kirunda James Mark
Marie and Sylvia
Bodil Fink Clausen
Rasmus Edgar Fink