Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Carry Them: A Babywearing Primer


Back when I found out I was pregnant, it never crossed my mind that there were other ways to transport babies other than a stroller, car seat or parents’ arms.  When creating my registry, a friend told me to put a Moby on my list, but I honestly had no idea how to use it, or even when I’d make use of this stretchy jersey material (and thinking to myself the whole time, how in the world does it even work?).

When we found out my husband was going to be deploying shortly after the birth of our daughter, it sent me into panic mode.  How was I going to get things done?  What if baby needed to be held all the time? How was I going to manage snuggles while also keeping up with the house solo?

Then I remembered that silly long piece of fabric I received as a shower gift.

I distinctly remember the first time I used that wrap.  I followed the instructions in the booklet as well as I could and was pretty proud of myself when I managed to create something that looked similar to what they had shown.

               


Looking back, it was not the best wrap job ever, but it was a step into this wonderful world that I enjoy and enjoy sharing with other parents now.

E was born in January, so we weren’t outside, but I had two main complaints about my Moby wrap:

1.       It was HOT

2.       It was SO long and hard to wrap while running errands

Then I met M.  M is a certified baby wearing educator that helps lead our local BabyWearing International group.  I talked to her briefly about my concerns and she offered to help me learn other ways to carry my baby that would work best for our lifestyle.

I went to one meeting and I was hooked.

M let me borrow her ring sling, a much shorter piece of fabric that creates a “pouch” of sorts for the baby to sit in that is ideal for quick shopping trips or an itty bitty newborn.  Within 4 days, I had gone out and bought one of my own.

                

I began to see the benefits of wearing E.  She was always pleasant.  I was able to accomplish tasks with my hands free while still holding her.  I didn’t have to lug around her giant car seat.  It was all too good to be true.

But it got better.

I had seen pictures of M wearing babies on her back.  Who knew this was possible?!  So I asked her to show me how to do it.  M said that I would need to use a woven wrap instead of my Moby, since it is not considered safe to do a back carry with a woven wrap.  I made my very first woven purchase (a lovely Didymos Indio Lilac) on a local Facebook sale page and then we got together and M taught me an easy to learn back carry when E was just shy of 3 months old.




And it still got better.

I joined a Facebook group where other mamas who wore their babies would talk and swap helpful tips or hints.  There were so many other ways to carry the babies, so many types of wraps and carriers, so many options.  So many choices!

It was overwhelming!

I began inviting my friends who were interested in wearing to the Facebook Swap Page and soon realized that the lingo that I had become accustomed to was not as colloquial as I had originally thought.  My fear was that all the terms and options would eventually turn off my friends to wearing, which is the opposite effect than what I would have liked.

So, knowing this, I have created a very basic primer of all the things I wish I had known when I started babywearing.  This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it will hopefully be helpful to those of you who might be interested in entering into the world of babywearing.  Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert or an educator, I am only speaking from what I have learned in my own research and experience.

Ready?

Stretchy Wraps





Brands: Moby, Boba (Sleepy Wrap), Wrapsody (Gypsymama)


These wraps are long pieces of jersey fabric that you wrap around your body in various ways to create “pouches” of sorts where baby can sit.  These can be used for hip and front carries and should never be used for a back carry
              *Wrapsody is the exception to this rule

These are great for when baby is a newborn and still in the “squishy” phase.  These wraps are also considered the “gateway” carriers into the world of wearing as they are readily available at most major retailers.  Another plus to these carries is that they are truly one size fits all and can accommodate a variety of body shapes and sizes.

While they are often touted as being good up to 20+ pounds, many users find that it becomes uncomfortable and not as supportive after about 15 pounds.  Other complaints I have heard (and experienced) is how hot these particular fabrics can be.  The Moby and Boba wraps are not going to be very comfortable during hot weather.

I personally own a Moby and will definitely hang onto it for future babies, but we are not currently using it now that E is 15 pounds and we prefer to do back carries.

Ring Slings (RS)





Brands: Maya Wrap, SweetPea, Psling, Sleeping Baby Productions (SBP)


These are shorter pieces of fabric that are looped through two rings that create a pouch for baby.  One side of the sling is over your shoulder and the other comes down around your arm.  You can easily adjust the tightness of the fabric around baby by pulling on the fabric through the rings.  Ring Slings (RS) come in a variety of fabrics, lengths and thickness and can be used with babies and toddlers of all sizes.

Ring slings are my preferred carrier for newborns.  In my own experience, these are by far the easiest carrier to nurse in, and the tail of the sling is a handy cover for if you’re out in public and want to cover while nursing.  Ring slings have very little learning curve as well, which makes them a great option for people just starting out.

As far as price points, it varies on the carrier.  The Maya wrap is easily found in baby boutiques and online for around $65-$70 new.  This is one that I own and I have found them easy to break in and use.  They don’t get as hot as the Moby and are much easier to throw in the car and use for shopping trips and quick ups and downs.

Ring slings can also go for significantly more.  When you get into wrap conversion ring slings (WCRS), which are woven wraps (see below) that have been professionally turned into a ring sling, the price will often be more—anywhere from $85-$150+ depending on the fabric.  There are several converters that are reputable, but the one I’ve heard of most is SleepingBaby Productions (SBP).  I have used a WCRS before and I find them even more comfortable and easier to use than my Maya.

You can also make your own RS, but it is important to ensure you are using a quality fabric (Osnaburg is the one typically recommended—you can pick it up at a Jo Ann’s fabric or similar store for fairly cheap).  If making your own, it is also important to get your rings from a reputable seller.  Sling Rings are tested up to something like 300 pounds and will not break.  Do not use plastic or crafting rings if you plan to make your own ring sling.

Personally, I own two ring slings (one Maya and one SweetPea).  I love them, but haven’t reached for them much lately as E and I prefer wrapping for now.  I have heard that as baby becomes more mobile that RS are great for quick ups and downs.  A good friend of mine still uses her RS for her 18 month old, so these will last you quite a while.

Woven Wraps





Brands: Girasol (Gira), Kokadi (KKD), Oscha, Natibaby (Nati), Didymos (Didy), Easycare, Ellaroo, Lenny Lamb (LL), Dolcino, Vatanai (Vat), Hoppediz (Hopp), Little Frog


Wovens are made by a variety of retailers/manufacturers and run the gamut of price and materials.  Similar to the stretchy wraps above, these are long pieces of fabric that you wrap around you and baby to secure them to your body.  Unlike the stretchy wraps, these come in a variety of sizes which can be used for different carries, depending on length.

The most common size woven to start with is a 6.  Much like the stretchy wraps, these are also one size fits all, although depending on the size of the wearer, they may not be able to do all carries with one particular size (for example, my base size is actually a 5, but I can do pretty much every carry with a 5 or 6).

Depending on the manufacturer, the size of the wrap will be listed differently:

                         Size 2=2.7 meters
                         Size 3=3.1 meters
                         Size 4=3.6 meters
                         Size 5=4.2 meters
                      Size 6=4.6 meters
                        Size 7=5.2 meters
                      Size 8=5.6 meters

Sizes 2 & 3 are considered “shorty wraps”

Sizes 4-6 are generally considered mid-length

Sizes 7 & 8 are considered long wraps

The beauty of wovens is in their versatility.  I can do front, hip and back carries (as well as tandem carries) with a woven.

                

Wovens come in a variety of fabrics, patterns and weaves.  You will often hear discussion of the woven’s “weft”, which is reference to the horizontal thread that runs through the fabric.  The color of this thread determines how a wrap may look.  Fabrics can be cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, silk, alpaca, gauze or a mixture of these fabrics.

Weaves also play a part.  For example, Girasol has a particular weave called a Diamond Weave (DW) which is known for being much cooler and more supportive than other weaves.  Didymos Indios are another example of a specific weave.

Just like going shopping at the store, most wovens are not one size fits all.  Much of it comes down to personal preference, budget and needs.  I also have several sizes and prints that I use for different things.  For example, I don’t use my 100% cotton wrap to mow the lawn, I use my 100% linen one, as linen is much cooler and more supportive than cotton.  Not everyone is going to like a particular brand or weave, and that’s perfectly fine as well.

Woven wraps have the longest “shelf life” that I’ve seen.  There are pictures circulating around the web that have mothers wearing their husbands just to show that they can be supportive up until it is comfortable for the wearer.  It is not uncommon to see a 3 or 4 year old being worn in a woven wrap.

Price points run very differently with wovens.  Some work at home mom (WAHM) vendors like WrapNap Fairy sell them new anywhere from $45 and up (I have a Wrap Nap Fairy one and love it) and others that are Hard to Find/Highly Sought After (HTF/HSA) can go for upwards of $300 or more.  I have even seen some go for well over $1500!  Like the ring sling, you can also make your own wrap using the Osnaburg fabrics.  There are many tutorials on YouTube how to do this.

I own 6 wovens: 2 Easycare, 1 Girasol, 1 Wrap Nap Fairy, 1 Didymos and 1 Kokadi.  I really do like all of them and haven’t found a specific preference.  I use different sizes for different carries and have a “beater” wrap that I don’t mind getting dirty.  All of mine except for 2 were bought used, which I highly recommend doing so you don’t need to break in your wrap.  You can also save some money by buying used (usually).

Another perk of wovens is that they keep their value even with use.  It isn’t uncommon for people to sell their wovens at 75%-90% retail value.  This sometimes helps with the sticker shock you might experience.

Right now, wovens are my favorite and we use ours daily.  Babywearing Faith on Youtube has some awesome tutorials if you are wanting to learn how to wrap using a woven. 

Soft Structured Carriers (SSC)





Brands: Ergo, Boba 3G, Beco, Kinderpack (KP), Tula, Action Baby Carrier (ABC)


Soft structured carriers are perhaps the most user friendly of the babywearing carriers.  These already have the seat for your baby and all you have to do is set baby in the seat and buckle the carrier onto you.  You can do front and back carries and some hip carries with these as well.  My sister has claimed our SSC as “hers” since it’s so easy to use and they’re usually padded, making them very comfortable for both baby and the wearer.

I most often use our SSC for long periods of wear (zoo trips, hikes, etc).

Most SSCs come with a hood that you can snap over baby if they fall asleep or if it’s particularly sunny.  If they don’t come with one, it’s usually easy to find one to buy separately.  These are also great because they can come in so many patterns (mine is a pink design, perfect for my princess!)

Soft structured carriers are not one size fits all.  If you can find one to try before you buy it, I’d recommend that, as each carrier fits a bit differently and it comes down to preference (for example, I don’t care for how the Ergo fits me, but the Boba 3G fits me great).  Some carriers can have waist extenders to accommodate for plus sized wearers. 

You also have to watch how the carrier fits baby.  The base of the carrier should go knee to knee* and the child should not be falling out of the top.  Some brands (Tula and Kinderpack for sure) have standard and toddler sizes to aid in getting a proper fit for your baby/toddler.  Boba 3G carriers also come with stirrups that a child with longer legs can put their feet in for comfort.  Fit does matter and will play a role in how comfortable wearing is for you.

                *A word on Bjorns/Infantino carriers:

These carriers are not classified under the SSC category.  Most babywearing educators will discourage the use of these carriers as they are not ergonomically correct (knee to knee support).  Whereas the weight is supported in a sitting position in most SSCs, in the Bjorn type carriers, the weight is supported with the pelvis/groin.  Most wearers complain that these carriers are not comfortable and much of it has to do with the weight distribution.  These carriers aren’t awful, but, for the same price, you would be able to find a carrier that would be much more comfortable for both you and for baby.

                **A word on facing baby out in a SSC:

While, in theory, it would be great to face baby out in a SSC (like what is encouraged with the Bjorn type carriers), there are several reasons not to do so, especially for long periods of time.  This article does a great job of explaining why.

Price wise, SSCs are going to cost around $120 new, but you can often find them used for less than $80.  A word of caution, especially with Ergos: there are a lot of knock offs on the market, and while they might be safe, they are not guaranteed in their structure/stitching/integrity of the fabric.  If you buy an Ergo, please call the company directly to confirm its authenticity.

I have one SSC (Boba 3G) that I really like.  As I said above, my sister has claimed it as “her” carrier because of its ease of use and how cute it is.

Mei Tais





Brands: BabyHawk, Bamberoo


Mei Tais (pronounced May-Tie) are the best of the wrap world and soft structure world rolled into one.  They are a hybrid of these two and come with a structured seat for baby and then straps you wrap instead of buckle.  Straps can be padded or unpadded and a variety of designs are available.  I have personally never used a Mei Tai, but I have heard nothing but good things about them.

You can do front, back and hip carries with a Mei Tai.

Price wise, you can get a quality mei tai at Target for around $30 and the price can go up from there.  Conversions will cost a great deal more and are often custom, adding to the cost.

Wrap Conversions (WC): Wrap Conversions are when a wrap is given to a reputable manufacturer and they are then converted into a mei tai (or ring sling or SSC).  Conversions can come with full buckles (FB), half buckles (HB) and can be made from wraps (WCMT) or even a well-made tablecloth (TCMT)

Cost of these conversions can range anywhere from $100+ which is why you might see a conversion going for more than $300+ on a selling page.  You factor in the original cost of the wrap plus the cost of conversion.

As I said above, I have not personally used a Mei Tai, but I have many friends who swear by theirs.  These work great for both babies and toddlers and are easy enough to use for people who like the support of wrapping but want the ease of a SSC.

Are you confused yet?

Yes, there are lots of options out there and it can be hard to weed through what you want and what will work best for your needs.  I highly recommend finding a Babywearing group or a Babywearing International Group in your area.  Experienced wearers and educators can then help you narrow down your choices.  Paxbaby.com also has a resource that can help you find a good carrier for your needs.


So you want to give it a try?


There are several places to buy.  If you want to buy used, I recommend going through the Facebook Swap Page.  There are several “rules” pinned to the top of the page, so please read through them.  They also have an acronym list pinned that will help you as you learn to navigate the swap.

You can also buy carriers online at these websites:
                             Paxbaby
                          Heart-Hugs
                          MarsupialMamas
                             PurpleElm Baby
                             Risaroo
I have also gone directly to the manufacturer and bought from them (just prepare for a long shipment length from this direction, as most of these are European companies).

If you’re on the Swap, below are some terms you will come across:
                FSO: For Sale Only
                FTO: For Trade Only
                FSOT: For Sale or Trade
                BNWT: Brand new with tags
                ISO: In Search of
                DISO: Dream/Desperate In Search of
                MMARO: Make me a reasonable offer
                PP: PayPal
                PPD: Postage Paid Domestic
                PM: Private/Personal Message

 One, final word on cost.  As you begin your search for the right carrier for your family, you may face some sticker shock.  Yes, some of these can get very pricey.  I had a difficult time with that at first.  It was hard for me to understand why a mama would drop $300+ on a "piece of fabric".  As I got more into the community, it became much clearer why these are pricer than what we would normally think to pay.
These are quality products and created to last.  They are designed to be comfortable for the wearer and the wearee.
Many of these wraps are hand woven or limited edition.
These keep their resale value.
now, with that said, spending lots of money isn't a requirement to babywear.  It is very possible to do on a budget.  While I personally haven't spent several hundreds of dollars on a wrap, I know several people who have.  Do what works for your family and budget.

Ultimately, think of it like people who collect purses or coins or designer items.  At its roots, many mamas really just like having these wraps as well, many self proclaiming that they "collect" them in a similar manner. 
Cost should never keep you from wearing.  There are many affordable options available so that you can enjoy having your baby close to you.
It’s a wide, diverse world of wearing.  I will do my best to update with some hints/tricks/carries/reviews in the future, but hopefully this gives you a good starting place so that you can come to enjoy babywearing as much as E and I have!  Let me know if there's a topic I missed or something you want to see in the future.  Thank you for allowing me to share my love of wearing with you!




Merry Wearing!

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post! I currently own a rs a pouch sling and a mei tai. I didn't care for my ergo and sold it. I am looking to purchase a wrap nap fairy and saw your post thanks to a Google search. Do you have any specific complaints or compliments about it?

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  2. I have a wrap nap fairy wrap (size 6 in Steel, if we want to get specific) and LOVE it! You can't beat the price and the owner is great to work with.
    Linen is a bit beastly right out of the package, but with use and breaking in, it's right up there with my cotton and blend wraps. It's great for hot days/activities, as I feel it breathes more.
    Only caveat I've found is that linen can "dig" some into your shoulders after wearing for extended periods (3+ hours).
    I'm definitely going to buy more Wrap Nap Fairy wraps though! I adore her yellow one right now!

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