Knots or Buckles?

Something I hear over and over again from parents when investigating slings and carriers is that they feel safer with a buckle than tying a knot.  They are worried with a knot that they might do it wrong while a buckle just clicks in and then its safe and nothing can go wrong.

I totally understand this.  I hear this a lot and I genuinely understand this because I remember when I was starting out I felt exactly the same.

But 7 years of carrying my own children, 6 years of running a sling library and 5 years as a carrying consultant teaching and supporting over 1000 families has taught me that this one of those fallacies that gets repeated over and over again until it is so much in social consciousness that everyone just assumes its true.

So let me bust some myths;
  1. A knot can not be tied “wrong”.  If you’ve tied a double knot, it is secure.  There is no secret way special technique.  Even the sloppiest knot in the word, so long as its a double knot, can not undo spontaneously.  In fact, I actually dare you to try…. wiggle, pull on it, do your worst… it will not untie unless you actually purposefully look at it and untie it.  The only other way to get out of a double knot is to actually cut or tear the wrap.
  2. You can do a buckle up wrong.  A buckle requires you to line bits up, on some buckles its possible to get these misaligned and not immediately notice. If the buckle isn’t securely fastened it can undo.  It’s rare, and most people will notice but it can happen.
  3. The worst offenders are safety buckles.  Generally safety buckles require an extra bit to click in as well … a button and or specific prong… if the buckle is not all the way pushed in the safety bit won’t be down and actually the buckle is probably easier to now open than if it wasn’t a safety buckle at all.
  4. Buckles can break.  They are generally made from plastic and accidents involving stepping on them, slamming in car doors do happen.  This can render your carrier unusable until your are able to get a replacement buckle.  Again the safety buckles are often more sensitive to being stood on or other accidents than regular buckles. In the last 6 years I have had only 2 buckles break and both have been safety buckles.
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It is important to understand I am not saying that knots are necessarily better.  Buckle carriers can be hugely convenient.  And hugely comfortable.  And if you have tried both a buckle carrier and a tie on carrier (i.e stretchy wrap, woven, meh dai or half buckle) and you feel more comfortable and confident in the buckle carrier and it has the features you want … please please do go for it.  With my total and complete blessing.
I write this blog, really for the people with tiny newborns who want to use a stretchy, but are worried.  Are worried because they are worried they won’t do it right or because a relative has expressed doubts, because they’ve only seen buckle carriers.  So often I meet parents who have a buckle carrier for their baby but it doesn’t fit yet, and want something for the newborn period but knots scare them.  If this is you, please please do check out your local sling consultant or sling library and give it a go.  I hear over and over again, from parents once they have tried a wrap or tie on carrier “oh this isn’t difficult, oh it feels so secure” this is nothing like what I thought”.
It is always worth trying, because ultimately there is not “best” or “safest” sling… only what you personally find easy to use and are confident using.  And tying a knot and clicking a buckle in correctly both require the same amount of concentration!!!
-Madeleine.
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Tula Explore Review

The Tula Explore is the first carrier from Tula that offers the option to forward face your baby!

See it explained in detail and in action here;

 

Key Features of the Tula Explore;

  • It’s width and height can be adjusted through poppers which means this carrier doesn’t need infant inserts.
  • Manufacturer recommends it for use for babies from just 3.2kg (7lb) all the way upto a fantastic 20kg (45lb).  More realistically, however, I’d say this carrier works well from around 4 weeks through to 2 years old.
  • For the baby it has very soft leg padding and a softly padded neck support pillow that can be placed in different positions for different ages and stages.
  • Offers 3 carrying positions – front inward, front facing outward and back carry position.  This carrier does not easily offer a hip carry position.
  • For the parent it has a fairly wide and firmly padded sturdy waistband, and it’s shoulder straps are bulky but soft and moldable.  The long webbing but short padded part means this carrier is one that can fit both women and men very well and both the petite and the plus sized.  Straps are designed to be worn “rucksack” or H style, and do not cross across the back.
  •  It also has a detachable hood and a pocket on the waistband for small things like phone and keys.

All in all this is a fab option for someone looking for a sling that will last into toddler hood, want to forward face and are most comfortable with straps in ruck sack style.  It is very similar to the Ergo Omni 360, in terms of shape and size.  The main differences being that this carrier is a little simpler to use with the absence of buckles to do up at the shoulder straps but offers a bit less flexibility than the Omni as it doesn’t offer a hip position or the ability to cross straps across the back.  The Tula Explore retails at £154.90

-Madeleine

 

Ergo Baby Embrace Review

The Embrace is the newest carrier from Ergo Baby.  Unlike their other carriers that work best from 2 or 3 months ish right through to 2.5 years… this carrier is designed to really fit that newborn and younger baby stage.  It works really well right from birth and will last you till around 1 year ish give or take.

One of the reasons this carrier works so well for newborns is it’s made from very soft, slightly stretchy jersey material.  The whole carrier is very lightweight and is designed to mold around both your and babies body… like a stretchy wrap or Caboo but with buckles. Because it is so lightweight it folds down into a really compact bundle, perfect for popping into a changing bag or under the pram.

The other reason it works so well right from the beginning is that this carrier has 2 height and width settings.  This comes from simply rolling the waist band 2 turns towards you (as shown in the video below), which both shortens the carrier height and brings you to a narrower part of the panel.  The adjustment isn’t smooth, just these 2 smaller or bigger settings but because the material is so soft this smaller setting does work really well on almost all newborns.  Ergo recommend the Embrace can be used from 7lb (3.2kg) and I have certainly got a great fit on several babies who were just a few weeks old even as low as just shy of 6 lb (2.7 kg).  Then as baby grows the waistband can be unrolled to the larger setting, typically around 2 months ish.

The Embrace offers 3 carrying positions.  On the front facing inwards toward the parent, on the front facing outward toward the world and on the hip.  Interestingly Ergo haven’t included the hip position in their manual, but it is actually a position this carrier does really well!  The front facing inwards position can be used right from birth, and is really snuggly, a good position for a sleepy baby and comfortable enough for a long nap!  The Hip position can be used from when baby has some head and neck control but it needn’t be as reliable as needed for the outwards position, this can be a really great position once baby goes through that big developmental leap around 4 months and transitions from being a baby who is quite sleepy interspersed with periods of ‘quiet alert’ to a full blown ‘nosy’ baby who wants to see anything and tries to resist sleep where possible!!  Because it is a position that allows them to see more while still supporting them in a position where they can tuck in a sleep and support their neck as they start to tire!  The front facing outwards position can be used once baby has really strong head and neck control.  Which is typically anywhere between 4 and 5 months depending on the baby – you can read more about how to tell if your baby is ready for this position here

While I think the hip and the front facing inward positions are really great, I can’t help feeling the facing out position on this carrier is more of a gimmick/marketing trick than anything else.  It does work pretty well with a plastic doll, but I have my reservations about how well it works on live wiggly babies.  The reason for my reservations is that facing away is a position that puts more strain on the parents back than any other position because babies centre of gravity is pulling away rather than toward parent… this is true of any carrier but this is likely to be exacerbated in the Embrace because its made from stretchy material… so as baby wiggles and bounces and strains to one side etc this additional strain is going to be magnified by the fact the material will stretch with baby.  Personally, I wouldn’t buy this carrier to forward face.  I would buy this carrier if I wanted an buckle option for a new newborn.  Then as my baby grew I might use the forward facing position to see if baby liked being carried like that, then if they did I could buy a bigger carrier (something like the Ergo Omni or other such forward facing buckle carrier) that would offer me support, and if they didn’t when I came to upgrade to another carrier I could instead look at the huge range of amazing carriers that don’t offer forward facing safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t really use it anyway.  

You can see these positions in action here:

The position this carrier doesn’t offer is the back carry.  Sadly this carrier isn’t really designed to be used on the back as there isn’t a chest strap.  Added to the fact that the weight limit is 11.3 kg (25 lb) and that the stretchy material won’t feel as supportive as the child gets heavier this carrier this is definitely a carrier that most parents will move on from within the first year.  However, if you are looking for an buckle option to use right from the beginning this is a pretty good option.

So what are the cons?  Firstly, the extra soft jersey material is prone to bobbling.  I have two of these in the library and one has gone a little bobbly and slightly worn looking already after only 6 weeks worth of hires.  Doesn’t affect use but might bother some people!  The other thing worth considering is that because this carrier works best for newborns to the first 6 or so months, it doesn’t actually add a lot more longevity or functionality that a Caboo or a Stretchy wrap but is a bit more expensive than either of these options.  At time of writing the Embrace costs £79.90 verses £40-45 for a good quality stretchy wrap or £55 for a Caboo Lite.

How does it compare to other carriers? The two carriers on the market that this is most similar to are the Izmi Baby Carrier and the Mamaruga Zen.  The Izmi like the Embrace is really designed to support right from newborn, even the smallest babies.  Like the Embrace it offers front inwards, front facing out, hip and it does offer back as well.  In fact generally the Izmi will last a little longer than the Ergo Embrace as it offers a bit more flexibility.  And with its infant seat pad it can be used earlier with smaller newborns even many babies born prematurely too.  But it is made of a slightly sturdier cotton so some parents will prefer the softness of the Embrace and the slightly more padded waist band.  The Zen Sling is made from a very similar ultra soft jersey as the Embrace, and has a very similar slightly padded waistband too, so is definitely one to consider if you are looking for a carrier like this.  The Zen sling has the benefit that it works really well from a couple of weeks old all the way to 2 years of age!  Offers front inwards, hip and back carries and has a brilliant system for adjusting the height and width of this carrier giving an absolutely perfect fit for the child as they grow.  Unlike the Embrace however, the Zen doesn’t offer the forward facing position and while it does offer a more flexible fit this comes with more straps to adjust and some parents prefer to have less to adjust.

All in all, the Ergo Baby Embrace is a great option for newborns and little babies.  It won’t last as long as many carriers on the market but what it does do well is that first bit.  Very few buckle carriers truly do newborn well and so is a good option for those looking for a buckle carrier rather than stretchy wrap or Caboo for this first bit.  The Ergo Baby Embrace retails for £79.90 and is available to purchase from Sheen Slings at sling library meets, consults and workshops (or please get in touch for a doorstep collection or even postage).

-Madeleine

 

Which Caboo? Lite, Blend or Organic (2019 updated version!)

Since I compared the Caboo Lite, Plus and Organic back in 2016, Close Parent has revamped all three models with slightly different fabrics.  Much of what I wrote in the original article (which you can read here), is still true!

But with a few very small changes!  So here is my new updated comparison, this time in video form!

 

Key Comparison Facts!

  •  The Caboo + Cotton Blend and Caboo + Organic are extremely similar, cut and constructed identically and differ only in fabrics used.
  • The Caboo + Cotton Blend is 80% Cotton and 20% Polyester.  The Caboo Organic is 100% Organic Cotton.
  • These two are the warmer models and work best for winter babies.
  • The Caboo lite is much slimmer and lighter than the Blend or the Organic, and is a great option for summer borns or for parents who are prone to feeling too warm!
  • The Caboo Lite is 70% cotton and 30% polyester, this is a change from the 2016 Lite models which were 60% cotton and 40% polyester.  This newer higher percentage cotton feels a lot softer.  The material is actually alittle thicker but is more loosely woven so remains very thin and breathable.
  • The straps on the Lite are narrower than the other two models.  This means you have less fabric to deal with and again helps this carrier feel cooler.
  • The Blend and the Organic both have an integrated soft head support/cushion and a small pocket.
  • The Lite costs £55, the Blend £65 and the Organic £70.

 

I hope this helps you work out which model is best for you!  Any questions please do let me know!

-Madeleine

 

FAQ – In search of a “easy” carrier… what are the easiest baby carriers?

Whenever I ask a parent what they want in a baby carrier, top of the list is always “something easy”.  Over the years I’ve had different ideas about what makes a carrier easy to use, or easier than other carriers.  I have come to the conclusion the biggest factor by far is not actually anything to do with the carrier or carriers in question but the parent’s personal experience and way in which their arms work.  

IMG_1080You see, over the years every time I would think oh this carrier is easier than this other, a parent would come along and find the opposite.  I had one hilarious sling library session a while back where parent A came in with a carrier that they found fiddly and difficult and so I suggested carrier B. Which they tried and adored and found soooo much easier and intuitive and then as they were trying this on and falling in love with it parent B walks in wearing carrier B, and says how difficult and fiddly they find carrier B and how its impossible and can they try something else.  You can probably guess the ending here … yep Parent B falls in love with Carrier A.  You see Carrier A just had buckles that flummoxed the first parent but made total sense to the second parent, while Carrier B had a strap the second one couldn’t reach but the first had no trouble reaching it and found this strap much more intuitively placed and much more secure.  Easiness is not a measurable parameter – it depends entirely on the individual and is not something that can be easily guessed by reading reviews. 

IMG_1116The only way to know if a carrier will be easy for you is to try it.  Don’t listen to marketing gumpf… actually try it! Check for yourself that you can reach the strap, that you can undo the buckles, that you can tighten in that direction, that the method for putting it on and taking if off actually works with how your arms like to do things … what feels right for you.

In fact, actively beware of slings that market themselves as being “easier”.  This ease often comes at a price.  For example, I have blogged before about the Baby K’Tan, which markets itself as being very easy with nothing to tie or adjust.  All of which is true but what it doesn’t tell you is that because you can’t adjust it, if it doesn’t happen by pure chance to fit your exact body shape perfectly, you’ll struggle to get a really comfortable safe carry out of it.  This is just one example (of many) of a sling where comfort has been sacrificed for ease!

IMG_1091The key I have found is to try 3, once a parent has tried 2 or 3 they can start to articulate what exactly they are finding easier about one over another then it becomes an easy task to pinpoint what is working for that individual.  This is where sling libraries and babywearing consultants come in, we have huge product knowledge and can easily spot these patterns once you’ve tried a couple of carriers on make recommendations to try based on what is suiting you personally.  We can show you different ways to put a carrier on, ones that aren’t in the manual but may well be easier for you, and we can help you gain confidence not only in using that carrier but also that your spending your money wisely on something that will actually work for you.  The easiest and best sling for you.

-Madeleine

Why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan

Probably seems a little harsh to say about a pretty decent, ergonomic, simple carrier aimed at newborns but I don’t generally recommend the Baby K’Tan for one simple reason – It’s sized.  It does not adjust to fit different sized parents, instead you need to buy the correct size to fit you.  There are a few problems with this:

  1. Unless you and your partner are exactly the same size it’s unlikely you can both use this carrier.  You’d have to buy two – one for you and one for them.  Likewise it might not be possible to share this carrier with anyone else who might carry your baby – grannies, granddads, aunts, nannies etc.  
  2. While this can be a great carrier if you do have the right size for you, many people find they fall between sizes.  Or outside the sizing.  K’Tan actually make a total of 6 sizes, however, at the time of writing this only 3 of these seem to be readily available in the UK.  Small, Medium and Large which apparently correspond to dress sizes 8-10, 12-14 and 16-18 respectively.  But in practise many people who follow this guide still find they end up with a carrier that is slightly too small or slightly too big and as a result can not use the carrier at all. 
  3. If your size changes significantly you may find the carrier no longer fits you.  This might sound unlikely but it’s very common to gain or lose weight quite a bit of weight in the months after birth.  Women’s bodies change loads in the postpartum period and men may find their body shape changes too with the new routine (my marathon running husband put about 8-10 kilos on in the months after the birth of each of our children until sleep and routine settled down enough for him to get back to running as much as he was pre-birth).  
  4. As baby’s size changes you might need to buy a new carrier or find that they no longer fit.  In theory, because the K’Tan is made of stretchy fabric, baby’s size shouldn’t matter.  Bigger children should simply stretch the carrier out more so that the same size carrier that fits the adult should worth whether carrying a newborn or a 1 year old.  However, in practise this is not the case at all – the material just isn’t that stretchy at all and many parents report baby no longer fitting without sizing up.

ktanUltimately, all these problems are solved by having a carrier that is adjustable rather than sized.  

I mean don’t get me wrong, if this carrier does fit you well – if you do have the right size, you don’t lose or gain lots of weight, your partner is the same size as you and your baby doesn’t grow too much (!) this is a really nice carrier.  It gives a lovely snuggly fit that’s perfect for the newborn period and it’s really simple to use.

But those are massive ifs, and the simple fact is there is another carrier on the market that does all the same things, that offers the same carrying position, offers the same ease of use, the same softness AND is adjustable.  And really that is why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan – why spend £50 on a Baby K’Tan when you can buy the Close Caboo and have all the pros without the massive cons for £55?

– Madeleine

Beco 8 Review

20170828_185016In many ways the Beco 8 is the Beco Gemini’s big brother.  The Beco 8 shares so many of the features that I love about the Gemini. In particular;

  • Firm thick padding at the waist band combined with soft light padding at the shoulder straps.  This combination is rare in the carrier world, but is one that really works for some many people because it gives great support at the waist and weight transference onto the hips without feeling bulky on the shoulders.
  • Ability to wear the straps either ruck sack style or crossed acrossed the parents back depending on personal preference.
  • Easy to adjust seat. The seat of the carrier has two settings – narrow and wide that can be easily swapped between using a simple pair of poppers.
  • 4 carrying poisitions.  You can carry your baby on your front facing you, on your front facing outward, on your hip and on your back giving you plenty of flexibility to use this carrier in different ways.  And the adjustable popper seat means its super easy to quickly switch back and forth between facing in and facing out positions.

But where the Beco 8 differs from the Gemini is that it is bigger.  The panel is about 1cm longer on the Beco 8, while the wide setting is about 2cm wider.  The narrow setting is actually the same on both carriers.  The bigger panel simply means this carrier will last longer.  It will take longer for your baby to grow out of it.  The taller panels often mean smaller babies don’t fit as well but as the Beco 8 comes with a small infant insert to raise the height of the baby within the carrier this isn’t the case for the Beco 8.  This is a carrier that works really well from newborn (or at least a few weeks old) until around 2 years of age, quite possibly longer.  In terms of weights, the Beco 8 is weight tested from 3.2 to 20 kg (7 to 40 lb). When you compare this to the Gemini these extra few cm give you about an added 6 months of longevity and 4 kg extra on the weight max.

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Beco Gemini (Navy) laid over the Beco 8 (Grey)

The panel isn’t the only thing that is bigger about the Beco 8 – it also has a lot of extra features and stuff!  Which contribute to this feeling like a bigger bulkier carrier.  In particular it has;

  • Lumbar Support – a little panel that sits comfortably over your lower spine and helps support your lumbar region and stabilises the waist band.  This is fab while carrying a heavier baby on your front, and can be removed if you don’t like it or so that you don’t have a weird pad on the front.
  • Hood – to cover baby’s head for sleep or if there’s rain and handily hides away inside the head support cushion
  • Zip down mesh panel – the standard carrier is made from a durable but fairly soft polyester, then in warmer weather the central panel can be unzipped to reveal breathable “3D mesh”. I am not entirely sure what 3D mesh means other than you can’t see through it! Like overlapping layers of mesh, so there is no possibility of little fingers getting stuck or of it getting snagged on anything.  This is the same mesh as is on the Gemini Cool but the beauty of the 8 is you don’t need to choose between mesh or solid… you get both in one carrier.  (Unless you don’t like the idea of polyester and mesh, and in which case they sell a all cotton version which lacks this zip down panel).
  • Infant insert – which simply attaches via poppers so easy to remove if you don’t need it or don’t like it.  I like that this insert pillow has a narrow and wide setting as this allows different baby’s to be accomodated in different ways as suits them as they grow.

20181010_183528All of which is good stuff!  But the downside is that with all these added bits this carrier takes up quite a lot of space when folded!  Roughly about twice the size compared to the Gemini.   It’s also correspondingly more expensive.

This is a great carrier for those who want a long walk carrier and those who want all the features and bits and bobs.  But it doesn’t have the simplicity and sheer magic the Gemini has in being quite a slimmed down non fuss, easy carrier.  There are more bits and bobs to faff with and get used to.  Some love this, some people really want those extra bits… while for others less is more.  Really just depends on personal preference!

All in all the Beco 8 is another great carrier from Beco.  The 8 will particularly suit bigger babies, those who are higher up on the centile charts and will benefit from a bigger carrier that will last them longer before they grow out of it.  It’s a great sunday hike, wear all day carrier as it doesn’t comprimise on comfort or features!  It’s a flexible carrier offering multiple carrying positions and combines a firm supportive waistband with lighter softer shoulder padding.  The Beco 8 costs £125 and is available to purchase from Sheen Slings at sling library meets, consults and workshops (or please get in touch for doorstep collection or even postage).

-Madeleine