Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Babywearing: The Gear

A couple day months ago ago (YIKES!), I talked about the what and why of babywearing for our family.  In a nutshell, we love it! Today I'm going to talk about different types of carriers and what my experience with each has been.  A word of caution: babywearing is addictive.  There's a reason we call it our "stash". 

1) Stretchy Wrap (Similar to a Moby)

The wrap I have was made by a WAHM (work at home mama) who is no longer in business, so although I love mine, I cannot link you to it.  Basically, they are a very long piece of stretchy material that you wrap in different ways to create the carrier. It can have a learning curve and some folks never get the hang of the wrapping part but after a few YouTube videos and some practice I found it to be a breeze.  The most popular of these types of wraps is the Moby which is sold at most of the major baby retailers.  There is also one called the Baby K'Tan which I've heard great things about too. The K'Tan is sewn so that it doesn't have to be wrapped as extensively.  There are also lots of tutorials out there for making your own.  I will say that my friend had one made and the material she chose was a lot looser than mine meaning it wasn't as supportive.  So keep that in mind when looking for material.

Advantages: This type of wrap is perfect for those little squishy babies.  It snuggles them into your chest and is a perfect place/position to sleep in. I would wrap the fabric before I left the house so all I had to do was pop her in and out at each stop.  Finally, carrying Turtle so close to me detered random people from wanting to touch her.  Major score during cold and flu season!

Disadvantages: Turtle was a winter baby, so it wasn't a big deal for us, but I've heard that these types of wraps, especially the Moby brand can be very warm in hot weather.  These carriers are NOT sutable for back carries, because of the stretch in the material.  Finally, because of the length of the fabric, it can be a challenge to wrap it on the go without it dangling in a dirty parking lot.  Again, though, I just wrapped it before I left the house and wore it all day long.

Bottom Line: This is my absolute favorite type of carrier for little squishy babies.

2) Woven Wraps

A woven wrap is a long piece of material that is wrapped in different ways to create different carries.  Unlike the Moby style, they are not stretchy allowing for back carries.  In an effort to save money, I attempted to make my own which might account for my lack of mastery of this type of carrier.  Or it could be that I was trying to learn to do back carries with a very wiggly 3 month old who just.wouldn't.stay.still! I think given a little more time, a little more pratice, and maybe some help from someone who had done it before, I could have really liked this type of carrier.

Advantages: Front carries, hip carries, back carries the options are endless with this type of wrap.  It can be used with tiny squishies up to toddlers. 

Disadvantages:  The wrapping can be intimidating, although there are many, many YouTube videos out there to help.  I wish I'd know about our local babywearing group.  I might have found someone who could have helped me figure it out.

Bottom line: If you can overcome the intimidation factor and master the wrapping, this type of carrier is fantastic and can last you a long, long time. 

3) Slings

I've had three slings over the time I've been babywearing.  I started out with a Seven Sling brand that a friend gave me as a shower gift.  It was beautiful, and I am so glad she gave it to me.  I wasn't planning on getting a sling but I was so glad I had it when Turtle decided she was done facing towards me in the stretchy wrap.  The sling allowed her to sit up and look out at the world and I will admit I used it in a hip carry before she could really sit up on her own.  I just cradled her in my arm.  I would also fold her legs up and face her outwards.  It was invaluable when I went for my cousin's wedding! (photo on the far left)  Turtle was sitting up nicely, so I was able to pop her on my back and take pics of my cousin getting ready.  But I noticed that over time, Turtle's legs would turn red.  It was like the sling was cutting off circulation to her legs.  So, I started looking for something else.

I ran across a Munckin brand sized sling at a consignment store in our area and scooped it up.  It had padding around the leg area and is actually my favorite.  The only thing I didn't like about it was that the print was kind of boring, and at that time I thought that mattered.

So, when Peanut Shell adjustable slings came up on my favorite discount site Zulily, I decided it was the perfect birthday present.  I thought the Peanut Shell sling would be prefect because it was adjustable, allowing Daddy Turtle and I to both potentially wear it.  The problem is that the buckle that allows it to adjust hits right on my shoulder or shoulder blade and I never felt it was especially comfortable.  Additionally, since it was adjustable, you couldn't fold it over to tighen up the top "rail" (the term for the differnt edges of the fabric used in baby wearing).  This made it hard to do back carries which are my favorite.

Just a few weeks ago, I was able to score a Maya Ring Sling at a consignment sale.  I haven't used it much and don't have any pics yet, but I'm really enjoying it and really wish I'd had one during that "doesn't like being carried face in but too small for a back carry in a soft structured carrier" phase.

Finally, although I never owned one, my good friend has a Balboa Baby Sling that I've used before.  It is a very nice sling made from sturdy fabric in beautiful prints.  The thing I didn't like was that both "rails" (the long sides of the sling) were elastic.  This makes it easy to get baby in and out of the sling and is comfortable on the baby's legs, but means that you cannot do back carries with it and you have to be very careful if you have an archer or a jumper like Turtle.  They can buck right out of it, if you don't watch them.

Advantages:  Can be used from infancy through toddlerhood.  No extensive wrapping required and the learning curve is pretty much non-existent.  Slings are easily portable so they are great for quick trips and for keeping in the diaper bag as a back up.

Disadvantages:  The one shoulder design can become uncomfortable after a while and once the baby gets to be heavier.  I find slings to be uncomfortable for long outings or those involving lots of walking.  Sized slings cannot be used by two people of varying sizes.  Not always completely hands free.

Bottom Line:  This is my favorite carrier for quick trips and for stashing in the diaper bag as a back up.

4) Soft Structured Carriers

This is our work horse.  After borrowing a couple carriers from our local babywearing group, I decided to invest in a Boba 2G.  Why did I chose it? Personal preference.  It seemed to fit me the best.  It could be passed between myself and Daddy Turtle without a belt extender and truth be told, it was the first SSC I tried and it was the one I was use to.

When Daddy Turtle went back to school it left Turtle and I on our own in the evenings.  Turtle wasn't one for playing by herself around that time and would scream if I set her down, so I have no idea how I would have gotten anything done without this carrier.  I would put her in it in the mornings to load up the car and put her in it again in the evenings to unload.  I cleaned with her in it, made bottles, did laundry, and even crafted.  It's been to everything from the renaissance festival to the farmers market and the grocery store.  I wear her mostly on my back unless she is really tired and then I'll switch her to the front.  Given her weight though, I find it hard to carry her on my front for very long.  Even if we are using our stroller, this carrier is always close by.

Advantages:  Easy to use.  Quick to put on.  Daddy approved.  Very comfortable for long days.  Truly hands free.

Disadvantages:  Carriers are bulky so not something you can pack in a diaper bag.  Finding the perfect fit is a process with all the buckles and straps.  Switching from one user to another is like having your drivers seat settings changed.

Bottom Line:  This is my favorite all around carrier.

5) Mei Tei

I don't have much experience with the Mei Tei's, but I'm still going to include it because it's a great carrier.  Mei Tei's are a hybrid between a wrap and a soft structured carrier.  A friend gave me one a few months ago and I especially like it for front carries.  As I said before due to Turtle's weight, I have a hard time carrying her in a front carry for very long.  But with the mei tei, I'm able to pull her in closer to my body making her weight easier to manager. Since you can do a high back carry with a pre-sitting infant, I think I would have greatly benefitted from having one around the time Turtle decided she didn't like the stretchy wrap.

Advantages:  The straps allow for easy adjustability especially between different wearers. Allows for lots of different carries including a high back carry.  Usually cheaper than soft structured carriers.

Disadvantages:  Requires more "wrapping" than the soft structured carries which can be intimidating.  More involved to put on.

Bottom Line:  An excellent carrier option which I look forward to gathering more experience with.

So, after only 4 months in my drafts folder, this post is finally finished!!! What are your favorite wraps/carriers and why?  Want to learn more?  Local to the Charlotte Area? Join the Charlotte Babywearers Group and attend a meeting.  We'd love to see you!