Continuing my overview of the carrier types available for use; last week we looked at Ring Slings, Stretchy Wraps and Pouches. This week we look at the wonderful world of woven wraps and check out the soft structured carrier scene (which also includes mei tais).
Woven wraps are without doubt the most versatile of carriers but also undoubtedly the option with the steepest learning curve. Woven wraps can be purchased at a great variety of costs, both new and preloved, and the higher the cost does not necessarily translate to the most supportive or comfortable for your use. As with most carriers, its all subjective and what one parent enjoys does not necessarily mean another will.
|Girasol Hanami Size 7|
Some WWs are great for summer wearing (Wrapsody gauze, Calin Bleu) but can be diggy (dig into the shoulders and waist). Others can be super supportive (Natibaby linen/cotton blend) yet hard to break in. Some wraps, when they are pulled out of the box are stiff and hard to work with; they need to be 'broken in' to make them softer and more easily used. Some wraps are available brand new at a mid range price (Girasol, Storchenweige Leo) and others are expensive custom handwoven pieces of art (Uppymama) and you can always make your own using a length of appropriately strong fabric. It can be hard to work out which wrap to choose, which is why we posted this item earlier this year. This blog by Becoming Mamas is a great wrapping resource and pretty much covers all the bases and the last few columns in this database list wraps in budget groups of 'under $100' and 'under $150'.
|Braiding wraps can help break them in and keeps them tidy when not in use.|
Whichever you choose, they all do pretty much the same thing and what you can do with your wrap pretty much depends on the size of it. This post on the babycentre website has a useful list of what you can do with which size.
|A reinforced ruck is a easy but supportive carry to start out with.|
A good front carry to start with, using a WW is a front wrap cross carry, which is similar to the carry you would do with a stretchy wrap, but adapted for use with a woven. Wrap Your Baby demonstrates this carry so well!
|A Wrapsody gauze in a front wrap cross carry, with legs in for this newborn.|
Alternatively a good back carry to start with is a basic ruck, which we covered in one of our first Carry Of The Week posts.
|A basic ruck with legs out. Baby is nice and high on mama's back.|
But truly you can do pretty much any position with a woven, which is why they are so loved by so many. Many new babywearers find them intimidating.... and who can blame them. I used to refer to woven wrappers as 'hard core babywearers'. Its not for everyone but if you're not put off by the learning curve its worth the investment of time and energy. Plus there are a myriad of ways that you can use your wrap other than for carrying your child!
|Freshly ironed a woven wrap makes a great table cloth or table runner.|
Mei Tais And Soft Structured Carriers
Mei tais are Asian style carriers which are basically a rectangle of fabric with straps coming off each corner. Ergonomic soft structured carriers are pretty much the same thing, just with buckles to snap instead of straps to tie off.
A mei tai carrier can offer a front facing in, front facing out, hip and back carry. The positions that a SSC will offer depends on the manufacturer but many offer the same options as a MT. Each SSC manufacturer will give detailed user instructions for their carriers. Its important that babywearers check in with their carrier's website where you are likely to find instructions in either picture, PDF or video clip form. If you are unable to find the instructions for the carrier that you own please let us know here at OBG; we may be able to track down the specifics required.
|Dad is wearing a newborn with legs in and tie in center of baby's back while mum wears toddler on her back.|
Mei tai carriers are more generic and whilst there may be some branded differences (cinchable seat on the Chimparoo, padded head rest on the Babyhawk, stretchy wrap straps on the Maman Kangarou Asiatik) they all work the same way.
|Same MT and baby, but older! This time with legs out and tied under the bum.|
When wearing a MT for any carry it is important to tie the carrier on in the apron style. This ensures that when you have the child in and the back is pulled up the baby sits in a pouch created by the waist strap and the base of the back of the carrier. This clip from TogetherBe (the makers of the Freehand MT) shows how to use a MT with a 2-6 month old;
When using a MT to carry a newborn you would do the same thing except the baby would probably have their legs froggied and inside the carrier and the shoulder straps would be tied off in the center of their back which helps to support baby and stops them from slumping into the pouch. It is possible to carry a newborn in a MT with their legs out but you would need to narrow the seat slightly, using a scarf or hair tie. This clip shows both newborn front carry options nicely;
This clip from TogetherBe/Freehand demonstrates a hip carry nicely;
MT carriers make great quick and easy back carries. This clip shows how you can do this using the hip scoot and super hero toss methods;
If you're not keen on scooting or tossing your baby you could try this method for getting your baby on your back;
A high end option for a super supportive and pretty MT is a wrap conversion mei tai (WCMT). These are high end options since you need to incorporate the cost of the woven wrap and the conversion into the final cost. The result is that a parent will end up with a beautiful, one of a kind carrier with many custom options. Babywearers can choose from a quilted waist, a ring sling waist or a tie waist, a pixie hood, a draw string hood or a simple flat hood and wrap straps, padded straps or hybrid straps. Some conversion companies offer embroidered decals as well..... the list is almost endless and can suit all tastes. Whilst this can be an expensive option you can also end up with a beautiful carrier that will be enjoyed greatly and usually can be sold to cover costs or more. You will find details of some conversion companies here.
|This WCMT was converted by Two Momma's Designs from a size 7 Night Rainbow Girasol.|
There are a great many ergonomic SSCs available and at a good variety of prices. This database again shows in its first few columns some carriers within the 'under $100' budget and the 'at or under $150' budget. To ensure an ergonomic carrier has been chosen parents are recommended to find a carrier with a wide seat. If a parent already as a Baby Bjorn it is possible to 'ergonomic' it using this clever idea from the Canadian Babywearing School!
Choosing a SSC can be overwhelming. This recent review of some, currently available might help but nothing works better than trying them on. You can try out carriers in store at Milkface, Belly Laughs and Extraordinary Baby Shoppe and at most of our meets. We also have a few SSCs in the library. Please contact us if you're interested in learning more!
Carriers To Avoid
There are occasionally fake carriers found either on eBay, in pre-used selling sites, or in consignment stores. The most faked carriers are the Ergobaby and Beco carriers. It is hard to give concise advice on how to spot a fake. The Fakers are pretty good at keeping up with the bona fide manufacturers attempts to brand the real ones, and there is more than one Faker company out there, each making their fakes a little differently that the next. This blog gives a good review on what to look for and this picture essay shows how a real Ergo compares to a fake. The best way to check if your Ergo is legitimate is to find the serial number on the inside of the open pocket, on which the Ergo label is sewn. Email Ergobaby at email@example.com with the serial number and they will be able to support or deny its authenticity.
|Find the open pocket on the back of the carrier. Inside this pocket you should find a label like this, on which you should find the serial number for your carrier. Ask Ergobaby if this serial number corresponds to your carrier to prove authenticity.|
Whilst a fake might look like the real deal it has not been safety tested, the buckles on fakes have been known to crack and break easily and quite apart from the potential danger you are putting your child in, buying fake carriers causes damage to the babywearing industry and community. Basically, if the price of the carrier you want to buy is 'too good to be true' it probably is!
Bag slings are dangerous carriers and in many cases they have been pulled from the market following connected infant deaths. Unfortunately there are some still available, either brand new or used. Bag slings cause a danger to an infant since the sling closes over their face stopping the flow of fresh air into the space. Such slings also tend to be difficult or impossible to get baby nice and high so the infant will be poorly supported and low on the wearers body. This causes problems because when in a slouchy position like this the baby's chin can rest too close to their chest and cause positional asphyxiation. The recently launched campaign by Health Canada in collaboration with the BCIA encourages parents to wear their babies in a position where they are 'visible and kissable'. With all the other carriers, mentioned this week and last, 'visible and kissable' is possible. With a bag sling it is simply impossible.
If you have a bag sling please check to see if it has been recalled. If it has not been recalled please approach your local babywearing store. It is possible that they might be running a program to help get these dangerous slings out of circulation. They may offer you a discount on an ergonomic carrier if you allow them to destroy your bag sling.