Calin Bleu Stretchy Wrap Review

The Calin Bleu Stretchy wrap is hands down the best budget stretchy wrap on the market.  It is quite simply a truly lovely lightweight option availible at a tiny price.  If your looking for an excellent quality wrap that won’t break the bank, the Calin Bleu is simply a brilliant option.  

At this point I have tried well over 50 different brands of stretchy wrap.  I have many favourites (the Hana Baby and the Izmi Baby in particular) but until now all my favourites have been in the £40-50 price range.  And I am painfully aware that not all parents want to or can afford to spend this much on a stretchy.  Especially when there are so many brands listed on Amazon for £30 and under.  These “Amazon Cheapie” wraps vary loads brand to brand, but without fail every single one I have tried has felt like a false economy.  Almost all of them have uneven stretch, which makes them hard to tie.  They are often badly finished, and many don’t come with any kind of safety testing or even guarantees that baby safe dyes have been used.  I am contacted by several parents every month who bought an Amazon Cheapie wrap and are finding their sling difficult to use.  And while I am normally able to help them get to grips with their wrap in the end, most do express buyers remorse for not spending that bit extra on a easier to use wrap in the first place. 

Which is why I am so relieved to have discovered the Calin Bleu Stretchy wrap.  At a recommended retail price of £25 for the Medium and £28 for the Long, it is very budget friendly and costs no more than an internet cheapy!  But crucially it is:

  • Super easy to use.  The Calin Bleu is a two way stretchy wrap – this means it stretches both in the vertical and horizontal directions.  This even stretch means this wrap is so much easier to pre-tie and pop baby in and out of than a wrap that stretches only in one direction.  You can read more about one-way verses two-way stretch and why it is important here.  
  • Safety tested to PD CEN/TR 16512:2015 standard ensuring material is safe for use as a baby carrier.

You can see it in action (and hear my full thoughts on this wrap) in my video review here, or read on below for more in depth discussion.

It is also exceptionally lightweight.  Made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane it is very much lighter and thinner than an equivalent cotton wrap, while remaining strong and supportive.  Meaning that the Calin Bleu is a fabulous choice for spring and summer babies, or anyone who is prone to over heating as its genuinely one of the coolest wraps on the market.  

It shorter than many other stretchy wraps on the market too.  Most wraps are between 5 and 6m in length.  The Calin Bleu comes in two lengths – a medium, which is just 4m and a long which is 5m.  So even the long is shorter than most other brands, and the medium is quite a lot shorter.  Less length means less fabric to make you hot.  It also gives you less fabric to deal with.  Parents often feel intimidated by how long stretchy wraps are, and I often find simply offering them a shorter wrap helps them feel more confidient.  Making the Calin Bleu a great choice for beginners! 

Both sizes fit a wide range of parent shapes and sizes.  In general I find anyone below a dress size 14 will suit a medium, while anyone dress size 16 and up will get on better with the long size.  I am somewhere between a size 14 and 16 and in the photos I am using a medium – as you can see it fits me but I don’t have tonnes of fabric left over for making a knot!  If you’re sharing the wrap with your partner and you’re both different sizes it is worth noting that if the wrap was too short for one of you, that parent could simply tie it behind their back rather than in front of them.  Likewise, if the wrap was too long, that wearer could simply tie a bow or wrap the fabric around their waist/hips again to use up more fabric.  In this way, either size can fit an absolutely huge range of parent shapes and sizes.    

It is perfect for newborns, a fab option to use right from day 1. And it is strong enough to carry older babies if you want to. Most babies will grow out of stretchy wraps developmentally around 3-4 months rather than physically, but may still enjoy taking a nap in the stretchy wrap. The Calin Bleu is suprisingly strong for how thin it is, and the 5% elastane gives it great “ping back” and hold! So this is definitely a wrap you can use for as long as you and baby still enjoy it. In fact you can see just how strong it is in the photo below with my then 2 year old!

So why is the Calin Bleu so cheap if its such a great wrap?  If your anything like me, you are probably wondering at this point why the Calin Bleu is so cheap compared to other two-way, good quality stretchy wraps.  What is the catch?!?!  Well there are two main reasons this wrap is cheaper:

  • It is unhemmed.  Most stretchy wraps are hemmed along the edges.  The pros to hemming is it gives the wrap more finished, neater look.  Hemming also often stops the edgest rolling as much.  The con is sewing along the edges takes time and so adds quite a lot of cost.  Jersey knit fabric doesn’t fray so hemming isn’t required, it is simply an aesthetic choice.  Calin Bleu have chosen keep costs low by leaving the edges unhemmed.  
  • The fabric used.  The Calin Bleu wrap is made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane.  The Izmi Baby wrap is made from bamboo viscose, while the Hana Baby wrap is made from a blend of organic cotton and bamboo viscose.  Viscose made from cellulose extracted from bamboo is more generally considered a more ecologically sustainable choise and is more costly to make, compared to run of the mill man made viscose.  Likewise, organic cotton is a more expensive fibre too.  In terms of how the fabric performs – its all viscose so it performs just the same.  It’s just as strong, washes just as well etc.  Calin Bleu have opted for the cheaper fibre to keep costs as low as possible.  And while not quite as soft and sumptutious as the bamboo viscose of the Izmi and Hana wrap, the Calin Bleu fabric is still beautifully soft and you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between them unless you were stroking all 3 wraps at the same time.  

All in all the Calin Bleu is a really fantastic super lightweight, easy peasy to use stretchy wrap that is perfect for newborns and perfect for anyone looking for a great value sling. It retails as just £25 for the medium and £28 for the long and can be bought from the Sheen Slings webshop here.

-Madeleine

Kavka Baby Carrier Review

New to the UK market, the Kavka Multi-Age baby carrier hails from Poland. The first thing to say about it is just how adjustable it is. Made from super soft woven wrap fabric it micro adjusts in both height and weight to fit babies right from just a few weeks old to at least 2.5/3 years of age. It is weight tested from 3.5 kg all the way to 20 kg and in fact my 18 kg almost 4 year old fitted in it remarkably well.

It is, however, relatively bulky. The panel is wonderfully soft and light and the fabric moulds and beautifully to support babies of all different shapes and sizes without excess bulky. But it is fairly bulky for parents. It has a thick, wide firmly padded waistband teamed with soft but thickly padded shoulder straps. Padding is a bit like marmite – some parents find more padding equates to more comfort and while others find the reverse. This is a carrier that definitely works for the former rather than the latter.

The other main source of bulk, and my main bug bear with this carrier, is that when adjusted to fit a newborn all the excess fabric is pushed between the wearer and the waistband. This fabric lumps into big folds that pushes the waistband out and the result is that it is really hard to really get the waistband tight enough when the carrier is on the narrowest settings. As anyone who’ve read my fit tips blog will know, getting the waistband snug is the absolutely foundation to getting a comfortable carry. So this bulk really does interfere with parent fit and undoubtedly comfort. At least while on the newborn setting. As baby grows and you let the panel out this becomes less and less of an issue.

So paradoxically the fit and parent comfort are likely to get better as baby grows! It is however a crying shame, because this carrier is packed with amazing modifications to ensure it gets a great fit for newborns. From all the adjustability to having fastening clips on the waistband as well as on the panel … allowing you to get a perfect newborn C shape in the carrier.

You can see how all this works and what it looks like in use here in my video review;

So this is definitely a carrier I am conflicted on, the adjustability, the softness and the options for fastening are all simply wonderful. I want to like it more, but the bulk at the waistband and the firmness of the straps slightly spoils it all for me. But it is worth saying that that is in part my bias based on how well it fits my body and it will fit other bodies differently. So it is really worth trying it on and I am excited to see it on clients and get to know what body types it fits best.

Because it has so much adjustability in the shoulder straps too – offering 3 points of tightening (see the video above for how they all work) and the option to wear with straps crossed across the back or ruck-sack style. The straps are extremely long too, so has the capacity to fit a huge range of different parent sizes from XS to XXXL. The long straps can be easily tided away with little elastics at the ends.

The carrier also offers 3 carrying positions for baby; front, hip and back carry.

So all in all the Kavka baby is an extremely flexible carrier offering a lot of adjustability. It’s closest competitors on the UK market are the Isara the One carrier, the Manduca XT and the Mamaruga Zen and Zebulo carriers. If you are looking for something like one of these carriers but with more padding then the Kavka is definitely worth you trying. However, if like me you er on the side of less bulk then I’d skip this one and focus on the Manduca XT or the Zebulo instead.

The Kavka baby retails at £119 for the standard cotton model or £125 for a linen or bamboo model. They also make a Multi-Age Plus which is bigger and weight tested from 6 kg to 25 kg and retails for £125 for the standard cotton models. We have one of these in the library collection so do get in contact if you’d like to give it a go.

They can be purchased from MamaZen, and thank you to MamaZen for providing us with this one to try.

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Review

The Quick Full Buckle is the newest carrier from Isara. Isara are a Romanian brand known for making super adjustable well designed carriers and slings from ultra soft, beautiful woven wrap material. While their other carriers are feature packed, the idea behind the Quick was to provide the user with the “ultimate simplicity“, “a few seconds is all it takes to be ready – buckled up in just 2 clicks. It’s quicker than QUICK!”

Except is isn’t.

I was so excited to try this carrier. Parents ask me all the time for something that is quick, something that is easy and I really really wanted Isara to have cracked the holy grail. And on paper it sounds great – 2 clicks, that’s it. Most carriers need 3, eliminating one buckle must make this faster? Right?

Except it doesn’t. Sadly, it just isn’t easier. Yes there are only two buckles but it means that instead of doing one side up and clicking it in and feeling secure before reaching round to fasten the other side, now you have to do both sides at once. The fastening all happens under a flap making it really hard to see what you are doing.

You can see for yourself in my video review below. I honestly only managed to make it look so smooth because I was watching myself do it on my phone screen while making the video. Without a mirror or a phone screen there probably would have been a bit more fumbling. It’s definitely something you would get used to feeling for and managing, and you would get faster at with time. It certainly isn’t “hard”, but its not simple and it’s definitely not faster compared to other carriers with 3 clicks.

There is actually A LOT to like about this carrier;

  • It is beautifully soft right from brand new. Made from lovely soft woven wrap material, it is strokably soft and will gently hug your baby
  • The padding is light yet supportive. It molds to your body beautifully, enabling it to distribute weight without the need for extra bulk or weight
  • It folds up into a relatively compact, lightweight bundle
  • Very very long webbing ensures this carrier will fit parents from XXS to XXXL and beyond.
  • Convenient zippered pouch located on the waistband is easily big enough hold essentials like phone, keys and spare change.
  • It looks very sleek and neat. Particularly if you take the time to roll up the excess webbing and use the little elastics at the end of the straps to secure, this carrier looks very tidy. The pocket completely covers the buckles meaning that it not only looks neat but also there is no chance of baby catching their foot on the buckles etc. However, it does have the flip side mentioned above that it is harder to see how to get the buckles done up!
  • Comes with a removable hood that simply poppers on and can be useful for a bit of extra head support or rain/sun protection.
  • It offers 3 carrying positions – front, hip and back carry. On the front it is possible to wear the straps cross over parents back or in rucksack style. If wearing ruck sack style it is possible to have the shoulder straps already done up at the front and then simply slip your arms in and do the “bra” strap up behind you (if you have the flexibility to do this! Sounds simple but do watch baby’s legs when slipping your arms in and gently guide them so the strap runs under the legs … because it is easy to accidentally catch a leg in a strap doing it this way!
  • The system for adjusting this carrier is very simple. Both the height and width are adjusted together at the same time by simply following the colour guidelines to stick the velcro into the right place for your baby’s height. There is a colour coded chart on the waistband its self, making it super simple to see what you need to do. I did find lining up the velcro a little fiddly, but your not doing this often so this isn’t an issue. And of course you can completely ignore the colour box guidelines to micro-adjust height and width … so if your child is longer in the body or wants the back shorter to get their arms out you can vary the height and width independently. Did take me a while to get my head round exactly how to do this you are holding the carrier upside down and inside out while doing it and spatial arts isn’t my strong suit but it is certainly possible!!

I absolutely love the fit this carrier gives for newborns in particular. This carrier is weight tested from 3kg and on the smallest setting it does synch down small enough to fit a baby who – if not new newborn – is a little as a few weeks old. In particular I love how the straps fasten into the waistband and how this allows a newborn to adopt a really beautiful natural C shape with absolutely no pressure or pull across their midback. It is really lovely.

However, the downside of fastening into the waistband comes when baby grows and starts to pack on the pounds. Most baby carriers fasten the straps into the mid-panel because as baby grows they need this mid-back support to help support their weight and prevent them sitting too deeply and feeling like they are slumping or drooping. Likewise, this extra downward pull from baby sitting too deeply will feel much heavier for the parent as baby’s weight is not being distributed as well. Fastening the straps into the mid-panel gives a much better weight distribution for the caregiver.

So while this carrier gives a wonderful position for newborns, it will get heavier quicker as baby grows. It is weight tested to 20 kg, and the panel grows easily large enough to accomodate a 18 month to 2 year old. But this strap positioning and resulting weight distribution will mean many parents will find this carrier far too heavy before that point. Not all – some parents, particularly those who find many carriers cut them under their arms or rest on breast tissue, may find they prefer the altered weight distribution. So if that is you, I do urge you to try this carrier as it may well work brilliantly for you. But many parents will find this carrier is time-limited and that by 9 months to a year they are finding it a lot heavier than it should be and choose to move onto another carrier.

When you compare the Quick to Isara’s other full buckle carrier “the One”, the Quick feels like a bit a false economy. Retailing at £117, yes it is cheaper than the One that retails at £159, but the One is far more adjustable. It offers the option to fasten to the waist band or the mid-panel and it genuinely works brilliantly from newborn all the way to preschoolers. Meaning that you will likely get 2 more years of wear out of the One compared to the Quick. Not to mention with its 3 clicks is actually arguably just as fast if not faster as the Quick once you’ve got the hang of it and got it set up for you. And when you compare the Quick to other light weight compact carriers that give a lovely snuggly fit for newborns like the Izmi Baby carrier, the Ergo Embrace, the Kahu Baby carrier and Mamaruga Zen Sling – all of which come in under the £100 mark. This carrier really doesn’t feel like the best investment.

Huge thanks to Joanna of Happy Hugs who loaned me her Isara Quick Full Buckle to test. Happy Hugs are the UK’s main Isara retailer, stocking their entire catalogue and are the best place to purchase Isara carriers. Joanna offers free try out sessions in Kingston and if you are at all interested in an Isara Quick, the Isara the One or any other Isara carrier I hugely recommend her fab service.

-Madeleine

The Lowdown on Anti-Microbial Carriers

Two days before the second national Lockdown in the UK, Ergobaby announced the release of their first ever anti-microbial carrier. But what does this even mean? Should you get one? Is this something you need?

This is one of those rare moments where my past job collides with my current job. As many of you know before I had my son I was a scientist. Specifically, I have a MRes in Infection and Immunity and a PhD in Immunology. So it really is one of those moments where I am assessing this carrier not only with my Carrying Consultant hat on but also with my Immunologist hat on.

The first thing to consider is what does anti-microbial actually mean? Something that is anti-microbial is something that can kill or limit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Note kill or limit the growth of – not all anti-microbials kill bacteria and fungi, some simply stop or slow growth down. This means you can still get transmission or infection from something with this agent in it. You’re just less likely to because bacteria or yeast will grow much more slowly so there will be less present on that surface.

Anti-microbial IS NOT the same as anti-viral. Generally agents that are anti-microbial are not effective against viruses because viruses propagate in a totally different way to bacteria and fungi. Bacteria and fungi grow on surfaces, whereas viruses can not grow with out a host. For them it’s just about surviving in a transmittable form on a surface and not about growth. This is one of the reasons that, generally, surface transmission is less of an issue with viruses, few viruses truly transmit via surfaces. And the quality of the surface has a huge impact with viruses – shiny surfaces that can hold droplets are far far more effective for viral transmission than something that droplets soak into like fabrics. Fabric generally has extremely low viral transmission. Even if a virus can survive on the fabric, because of the way water soaks in and dries out on fabric, it is extremely difficult to catch a virus from touching fabric. Any fabric, not just specially designed fabrics, ANY FABRIC. Which is great news for baby carriers in general.

The second thing to consider is what the anti-microbial agent is and the mechanism by which is works. So for the Ergobaby carrier released last week, the agent is Silver ions. Silver has long been known to have anti-microbial properties. Bacteria can’t grow on its surface and its non toxic for humans (two reasons it’s popular for jewellery). Specifically it is the silver ions that are toxic for, and kill bacteria by binding to some of their essential cellular components preventing the bacteria from performing basic reactions required to live. Hence silver is used a lot in hospitals, from silver coated tubes and catheters to antibiotic creams used to treat burns. Silver ions are even added to plasters and bandages.

So potentially adding them to a baby carrier, may have certain advantages. If your carrier is prone to getting very smelly. If you use it frequently while working out with Carifit or someone, frequently spill stuff on it and don’t wash it – then silver ions may help keep bacteria from having a field day on your carrier. Although, I should say, the effectiveness will depend a lot on the concentration of the silver ions added to the carrier and on how long they remain in the carrier with washing etc. It’s worth noting that silver infused bandages are not washed and reused (but generally incinerated) so I have my reservations about the longevity of this protection. Likewise the Ergobaby anti-microbial carrier is the same price as the regular carrier, so this makes me a little suspicious about the concentration and how much silver ions have been added. There is no information about this, so it is difficult to tell how this compares with the amount added to bandages and plasters etc.

However, while this may potentially be a pro if you do find your carrier gets smelly very fast, my experience over the last 7 years working with parents tells me most parents don’t find this. In fact, I find most parents will wash a carrier long before it starts to smell. Certainly if it gets dirty or they spilt something on it. And for the parts of the carrier that get chewed on and possetted on there are simple solutions like suck pads to protect the chewed on parts of the carrier. Allowing you to regularly wash these while keeping the carrier clean and dry.

So ultimately when it comes to keeping bacteria at bay, most parents actually don’t find this a problem.

And when it comes to keeping viruses at bay – something that is on all of our minds at the moment in the middle of this global pandemic – silver ions have absolutely no effect on CoV-Sars-2 (the virus that causes Covid19) or any other virus because, as I mentioned above viruses replicate by an entirely different method to bacteria. And surface transmission plays a much smaller role compared to transmissions via droplets in the air.

So do I think you need an anti-microbial carrier? No, no I do not. For all the reasons above. Fabric is a lousy transmission surface for viruses and the chances of you or baby catching a virus off any fabric baby carrier is extremely small. You don’t need a special fabric to keep you safe.

For bacteria – if you don’t like washing your carrier ever and are prone to getting it wet, damp and filthy then maybe you would see a benefit, but if you are like most people and wash your stuff if it’s dirty then I doubt you’ll notice any difference buying an anti-microbial carrier versus buying a normal one. I would simply recommend buying a pair of suck pads instead!

My personal opinion with my both my immunology and babywearing hats on, is that this is all an example of clever marketing. Getting you to think that you need something that actually, for most people, won’t make a noticable difference. I do sell the regular material Ergo Omni 360, but I won’t be buying into this gimmick and retailing any of the silver ion ones.

If you don’t have a carrier yet and think silver ions are cool and would like to own a carrier containing silver ions, then please do be my guest and buy one. Do so with my total, unreserved blessing. However, this article is for the people who maybe already own a carrier then started reading the marketing and thought “OH NO! Did I make a mistake? Should I have bought this instead? Will my baby be safe?” Or for the people who were about to buy something else that they wanted more but the marketing made them pause and now they aren’t sure.

For all these people – you don’t need an anti-microbial carrier to keep your beautiful baby safe. Just carrying them close to your body in your carrier, or whatever carrier you choose that fits you both well, is keeping them so safe and so nurtured and so loved. And that is all that matters.

-Madeleine, MRes Infection and Immunity and PhD in Immunology

Beco Gemini and Beco 8 compared – what are the differences?

The Gemini and the 8 are both fabulous carriers from Beco, but what are the differences and which one should you go for?

Hopefully this will help;

The main difference is one of size and complexity! The Beco Gemini is both smaller and simpler. It doesn’t have lots of features and extra bits and bobs. Consequently it is, cheaper and folds down a lot smaller. Particularly the “cool” version which is made from thinner material and folds up into a very compact bundle. Because it is so lightweight it doesn’t feel bulky to use with a small baby, and so generally even though the 8 works well with a newborn, the Gemini is still often the one the feels more natural with smaller babies. The smaller panel means they don’t look as overwhelmed, you don’t need to use an insert and it just seems to mould to smaller form better. The smaller panel does mean, however, that most children grow out of it somewhere between 18 and 24 months. At least 6 months before they’d grow out of the 8. But many parents aren’t still carrying regularly at that point anyway and those that are are often more than happy to move onto the Beco Toddler. Consequently the Beco Gemini tends to the sling of choice for the minimalists – those who want a comfortable carrier that is very simple, and folds down tiny.

The Beco 8 by contrast is bigger, the panel is bigger so it will last longer and it has more features. It has a removable infant insert that is included and does give a great fit for babies right from newborn. It has a zip down part that reveals mesh making it “all seasons” suitable. It has a hood. It has a wonderfully shaped supportive lumbar panel. And a zipped pocket for keys and a phone. The Beco 8 is a great choice for parents who want a carrier that will last and last – maybe their child is already 6 months old and they’re worried they won’t get enough use out of the Gemini or just know they want to get a carrier that will last as long as possible. It is also a fab choice for parents who want those extra features and will use them and don’t mind the extra bulk.

Either way, they are both fab carriers and work well for a range of parent shapes and sizes! You can read my full review of the Beco Gemini here and purchase it here, and you can read my full review of the Beco 8 here. Although like any carrier at all it has to fit your body, and so it’s really worth trying on before you invest. You can try either of these on at any of our sessions, or arrange a hire (I post to anywhere in the UK, or if your local you can collect from my home).

-Madeleine

Manduca XT review

The Manduca XT is the new highly adjustable carrier from Manduca. It’s not a secret that I absolutely loved my Manduca First carrier with both my children, and honestly this carrier is even more amazing. Absolutely brilliantly designed, this ingenious carrier will work for babies all the way from 4 weeks to 4 years! Giving it unparalleled longevity compared to it’s competitors. Add in the fact that it has the magic ability to fit almost all parent shapes and sizes – from the super petite to the extra extra large and everything in between. This is a carrier that should be on everyone’s “to try list”.

You can see how it works and hear my full thoughts here in my video review (or read on below):

Key Manduca XT facts;

  • Weight tested from 3.5 to 20 kg (7 – 44lbs), this is one only a very small number of carriers that really will realistically fit for the whole of its weight range, fitting babies generally from about 4 weeks ish all the way through to approximately 4 years of age.
  • Adjustable width. The secret behind the Manduca XT’s longevity is how the width adjusts. Using sections designed to simply slide along the waistband it very simply and smoothly adjusts from just 20 cm all the way to 50 cm. Allowing you to adjust it tiny bit by tiny bit as your baby grows, giving a perfect fit all the way from newborn to older toddler. While there are other carriers offering similar adjustment systems, what I like about this one is how unbulky it is. The fabric thin enough that it neatly folds in on the smallest settings, barely adding any bulk at all. Most other carriers simply rouch and the rest always looks quite bulky on a newborn, on the Manduca the smooth strokable lines remain giving a perfect fit even for very small babies.
  • Bucket shaped panel and soft padding at the legs ensures baby sits in a comfortable, hip healthy position with the bum lower than the knees and the legs out padding moves with the width adjustment to ensure babies legs are comfortable and no “red pressures lines”, whatever their size.
  • Adjustable panel height also helps this carrier grow with your little one. The panel has 3 height settings which adjust via the zippers on the front. Completely zipped together the panel is just 30cm, then as baby grows you can choose between 35cm using the shaped zipped section and 42cm when completely unzipped. This adjustability in height is not only useful as baby grows but also as they change developmentally. Both my children went through phases of loving having their arms out when awake, so being able to make the panel smaller to allow them to do this made carriers so much more enjoyable for them. And then as they became tired and started to fall asleep… it is very easy to lengthen the panel and give them more upper back and neck support as they sleep.
  • Features a hood for supporting baby’s head as they sleep or as a cover in the rain, and cleverly when rolled away into the pouch at the top this hood doubles up as pillow to support baby’s head and neck.
  • Offers 3 carrying positions – a front carry, a hip carry and a back carry.
  • Panel is made from 100% Organic Cotton. One of the hallmarks of Manduca carriers is that all their carriers are made from Organic cotton. Only the webbing and plastic buckles are the exception, the rest of the carrier is soft durable cotton drill made from 100% Organic cotton.
  • Shaped waistband – The waistband is wider at the front where baby’s weight is, thus providing more support and counterbalance where you need it most without having unnecessary bulk at your sides.
  • safety buckle on the waistband requires two hands to open to ensure you don’t open this before you’ve taken baby out. Sounds like a silly or inconvenient thing, but often parents absentmindedly unclip the waistband first so this can be a helpful safety feature.
  • Shoulder straps are thickly padded but very soft and moldable which means they can mold to fit a wide range of back shapes. Straps can be worn both crossed and rucksack style according to personal preference (you can read more about these two different styles here).
  • Shoulder straps can be tightened in 3 places! There are two adjusters where the strap meets the mid panel – each pulling in the opposite direction which means whether you are carrying baby on your front or back there will always be a strap that you can pull easily (and one that would be difficult). Additionally there is an adjuster at the top where the strap leaves the top of the panel and this one in particular changes the position of the padded part of the strap bringing it closer or further from the panel and thus easily adjusting between parents of differing torso lengths. This strap can also be useful for getting a higher tighter back carry or adjusting how much room baby has depending on whether they are awake and wanting to push out and see more things or fast asleep and needing to be held closer. The advantage of being able to adjust in 3 places is these straps can easily adjust to the fit the super petite to the super tall and broad, making this a great pick for couples of very different sizes. The adjustments give you a huge amount of flexibility in how the carrier fits and allow people of all different shapes and sizes to get an amazing fit. The disadvantage of 3 adjusters is that it does take a bit of time investment to really find the right set up for you and understand how each adjuster affects your carry. It is very easy in the beginning to get a bit confused and end up a bit lopsided and less comfortable as a consequence.

All in all the Manduca XT is extremely versatile carrier that fits almost all parent body shapes and sizes and fits babies all the way from just a few weeks old to 4 years. While not the simplist carrier on the market it is well worth the time investment to learn it and get it set up right because it once set up it is such a comfortable supportive carrier and it just lasts and lasts and lasts making it a truly fantastic investment. The Manduca XT costs £149 and can be purchased from Wear My Baby (if you’ve found this review helpful and you’d like a discount code for Wear My Baby do email me or use my contact form to let me know and ask for the code!)

-Madeleine

Rachel aged 3 in Manduca XT

Baby Bjorn Mini Review

Designed with newborns in mind, the Baby Bjorn Mini carrier is a super soft, supremely intuitive, lightweight carrier that does indeed fit newborns well. But on the flip side, it simply doesn’t last well. As baby grows they will very rapidly grow out of this carrier.

Read on below for more, or you can see this carrier in action and hear my full thoughts on this carrier in this video.

The Mini really has 2 main pros and 2 main cons. The pros are;

  • It is really soft and really moldable and gives a lovely fit to a newborn baby. The manufacturer states from 3.2kg and this is realistic, most babies will fit right from their first days. And the soft jersey material will gently hug and snuggle their tiny form
  • All the fastenings are at the front. Which is brilliant for parents with limited mobility who maybe struggle with straps that fasten at the sides. Also being able to see all the fastening makes this carrier supremely intuitive. They’ve even printed left and right on the tabs that attach to the panel, and colour coded where the panel slots into the straps so you can’t get it wrong. And as you fit the parent separately to the child, this can be a great advantage if you are feeling very nervous about using a carrier.

The cons are;

  • The panel doesn’t adjust in width. It does adjust in height so you can easily lengthen the panel as baby’s torso grows to ensure the head support is correctly positioned for them as they grow. But you can not adjust the width, which means as their legs grow the carrier can not continue supporting them in a comfortable “deep squat” seated position. Why does this matter? Well it is more comfortable for them to have the weight on their bottom and have their legs supported so they are not carrying the weight of their legs (verses having their weight resting on their inner thighs and the weight of their legs pulling down). The deep squat position gives a great alignment between the ball and socket joint of the hips, which means there is no pressure on their hips from their legs. And it is more comfortable for you, as when their legs are fully supported more of babies weight is aligned with your load bearing centre so baby feels lighter and easier to carry than when more of their legs are spilling out pulling away from you.
  • There is no waist support. Which means all the weight is resting on your shoulders and upper and mid back. Rather than around your waist and transferring onto your hips. This is fine for when baby is younger and thus smaller, but as they grow this will rapidly feel heavier for the parent compared to a carrier with a waistband.

In terms of weight testing, the Mini is tested up to 11 kg, but for the reasons above it actually won’t last anywhere near this long. In reality most babies will start to grow out of it around 3 to 4 months and by 6 months it will feel disportionately heavy to use.

The Mini offers 2 different carrying positions. Front inwards and Front outwards. However, it worth noting that most babies aren’t ready to be carried outwards in a carrier until about 4 months (you can read more about how to tell when they are ready here). Yet, but 4 months most babies are growing out of this carrier. Parents are often drawn to this carrier over others because it offers forward facing and don’t realise that in all likelihood their baby will have grown out of the carrier before they can do it. And even if they haven’t, without a waistband, the forward facing position is very heavy for the parent because the baby’s weight pulls forward and puts a lot more strain on the shoulders and upper back.

All in all the Baby Bjorn Mini is a lovely soft, very very easy to use carrier for a newborn baby. But what really puts me off is the lack of longevity. The lack of longer term support for both baby and the parent. This carrier costs £75 to buy, but when you compare it to its closest comparables on the market – the Ergo Embrace (£79.90) and the Izmi Baby Carrier (£80), both of which last a lot longer and offer more carrying positions and much much more flexibility and support to both baby and parent, it just doesn’t seem like a good deal. While most babies will grow out of the Mini around 3 to 4 months the Embrace generally lasts to around 9 months and the Izmi will often last at least 1 year. The Embrace offers 3 carrying positions and the Izmi 4. Both have waist bands and adjust in both width and height. So while the Bjorn Mini does have things going for it, it’s just hard to recommended it over these two carriers when they offer so much more for practically the same price.

-Madeleine

Summer Baby Carriers – My Top Picks for Warm Weather Babywearing

While carrying in warm weather is more about common sense than anything else, there definitely are some carriers that are cooler to wear and fare better as temperatures rise. If you are prone to overheating, live in a warm climate or want a summer friendly baby carrier (or want to hire one from Sheen Slings for an upcoming holiday or just for the summer) – here are my top picks:

1. Kahu Baby Sunshine Carrier

There are two reasons this carrier tops the list. The first is its genius lightweight design. The Kahu Baby is ultralight, packs down small and does not compromise on comfort or fit. Part of the genius of this carrier is how simple it is.  Designed to be really intuitive to use, without any added bells or whistles or fiddly extra bits.  Just really clever minimal design that ensures it fits a huge range of sizes and shapes of parents, men and women and is supportive enough for long walks while remaining light and soft enough to happily wear all day around the house too. Likewise it fits a huge range of babies ages and stages, from just a few weeks old through to 4 years. Offering 4 carrying positions and loads of versatility without adding loads of bulk and thus without adding any extra warmth.

The second reason is the Sunshine fabric. Kahu Baby carriers come in a few different fabric options, and while the are all lightweight and perform well in warmer weather, the Sunshine fabric absolutely excels as temperatures rise. Made from a woven polyester that is rated UPF50+, this fabric blocks 99% of the sun’s harmful UVA & UVB rays.  The fabric feels soft, breathable, silky and actually cool to the touch!  It’s also a wicking fabric, meaning you won’t feel sweaty in this carrier and that it dries extremely quickly (either after getting wet or washing).  Making the Sunshine the ultimate warm weather sling. 

The Kahu is available to purchase here, and you can see my full indepth review here.

2. Izmi Baby Carrier

Izmi Grey Mesh
Izmi Grey

The Izmi Baby is another absolutely genius incrediably lightweight carrier. It offers 4 carrying position and is one of those very rare buckle carriers that really really works brilliantly for newborns. In fact, it is a carrier I have had success over and over again with babies who are born prematurely because with its optional booster and ability to adjust the width – it is possible to make this carrier really very small to ensure a great fit even on tiny babies. The adjustable width and flexible neck support panel means this carrier can also grow with baby, continuing to fit all the way from teeny tiny to at least 12 months and often further. The flexibility doesn’t end here – this carrier also offers 4 carrying positions (front inwards, Front outwards, hip and back) and fits a absolutely huge range of different parent shapes and sizes. Particularly fitting petite parents well. Many carriers will fit a huge range but won’t go small enough for the very petite – but the Izmi will go so small my 3 year old can use it to carry the demo doll!!

As well as its all round brilliance, the Izmi Baby is one of my top summer picks because it’s lightweight design paired with thin breathable cotton means that it is genuinely one of the coolest baby carriers on the market. And if you are particularly prone to overheating or live in a very warm climate, they sell a mesh version too, where the centre portion of the main panel is replaced entirely with an airy breathable mesh.

The Izmi Baby is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here.

3. Beco Gemini Cool

Gemini Cool
Gemini Cool Black
Gemini Cool Navy
Gemini Cool Navy

If your looking for a bit more padding than offered by the Kahu or the Izmi, then the Beco Gemini Cool is definitely worth considering.

You will note that there are no heavily padded carriers on this list at all – and the reason for this is padding can be a bit of a double edge sword when it comes to summer babywearing as that extra bulk can really suddenly feel very warm as the temperature rises. So while you might find heavily padded carriers comfortable the rest of the year round, you may well find your sweltering come summer. Even with a supposedly cooler mesh version.

The Gemini Cool is a great option if you do prefer a bit of padding because it has a really sturdy supportive waist band, but the wide shoulder straps are very thin and very softly padded. It is often the bulk at the shoulders and across the back that causes a lot of this hot and sweaty feeling and so by having very softly padded shoulders the Gemini feels a lot cooler. The Cool mesh version also feels a lot cooler than the standard cotton counterpart because of the materials it is made from. The panel features a center portion made entirely out of breathable soft, supple yet really strong and supportive mesh. The rest of the carrier is made from this same mesh combined with a really soft, thin, cool to the touch fabric. The result is a supportive carrier that performs really well in the warmer months and year round! It fits an absolutely huge range of parents shapes and sizes, and fits babies from just 2-3 weeks old through to at least 18 months, offering 4 carrying positions (front inward, front outward, hip and back).

The Beco Cool is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here or see the standard cotton and the cool variants compared here.

4. Melliapis Ring Sling

Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling
Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling

Ring Slings are fantastic options for summer. Made from just a loop of fabric these are as a general rule cooler to wear than any buckle style carrier (even the super light ones outlined above). And of all the ring slings I have ever tried, the Melliapis basic ring sling is my absolute top pick for warm weather. Made from two layers of muslin woven together to create a material that is surprisingly strong, the Melliapis Ring Sling is one of the most lightweight slings on the market. Super soft on newborn skin but easily strong enough to carry an up down toddler too. It folds up absolutely tiny to easily fit inside a bag, or even to be worn as a light scarf while your not using it! It feels light and airy to wear – making it an excellent option for summer.

The Melliapis Ring Sling is available to purchase here and you can read my full indepth review here.

5. Mini Monkey Mini Sling

At just 187g the Mini Sling is the lightest and smallest carrier on our list. Made from a silky soft smooth mesh and covering only 1 shoulder, it is definitely the sling that will keep you and baby the coolest too. Similar in style to a ring sling, the Mini sling is a loop of fabric with strap to tighten at the back and a fine adjustment strap for supporting the neck and upper back at the front. It is one of the absolutely simplest carriers to use, but not nesicarly the most comfortable to use. Rather this carrier has been designed for speed and lightness in mind, so excels best as a “just in case” sling that slips into your bag (or even a large pocket) or a “just while I quickly do x” sling. Great for holidays too as the thin mesh drys quickly and so is a great beach or poolside choice.

You can read my full review of this sling here.

6. JPMBB Physio Carrier

The JPMBB Physio carrier zips open to reveal the best mesh panel I have ever seen. The top layer rolls up to expose a huge section of light and airy yet strong mesh. Making this carrier one of the absolutely coolest of the padded buckle style carriers. Even the padding is cooler than on most carriers due to clever combination of mesh and breathable cool fabrics. The Physio fits babies best from about 7 or 8 months through to 3 or even 4 years of age. You can use it with a younger baby too – you’ll just need the infant booster pack that includes a booster pillow and a neck pillow. And as such this carrier is always popular for summer holiday hires.

What’s not on this list….

There are a great many other carriers that feature mesh panels and advertise being great for summer. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360, the Tula, the Lillebaby Complete, the Baby Bjorn Air Mesh, the Beco 8 and many many more besides. When it comes to these carriers, ultimately how warm you and baby will feel is more about the padding and the bulk and much less about the presence and absence of mesh. Yes it can be nice to get the mesh version of one of these carriers for a bit more breathability but these are all a good step warmer compared to anything on this list. Great all year round carriers but just don’t make the grade if you live in a warm climate, looking to borrow something for holiday or particularly prone to overheating in the summer months.

Another type of carrier missing from this list are the stretchy wraps and Caboo type carriers. Again there are options amoung these that are cooler, but with three layers over baby – none of them would be my first choice on a truly boiling day! Plus there are really quite a few options when it comes to stretchy wraps so I will save summer stretchy recommendations for a future blog post.

-Madeleine

What is the difference between the Beco Gemini and the Beco Gemini “Cool”?

Simply put the Beco Gemini Cool is the lighter weight, more summer friendly version of the Gemini. As such the Cool is very similar to the standard Gemini and if you fit one, you will fit the other equally well as the shape and padding levels of the straps and waistband is identical between the two carriers. As are the buckles and how the carrier adjusts both for the parent and for the baby.

Instead the difference between these two models is in the fabric they are made with and in the padding of the panel. You can see these differences for yourself in this video (or read on for written explaination):

The biggest difference is that the panel on the standard version is padded throughout, giving a very squashy padded feel against baby. On the Cool, the panel is completely unpadded. Resulting in a lighter, cooler carrier with a very flexible moldable panel that moulds to baby’s shape precisely. This also means that the Cool packs down much smaller than the Standard, to roughly half the size in fact! Making the Cool a better option for anyone who wants a carrier that will easily fit in a bag or under the pushchair.

The other difference is that the Cool features a breathable 3D mesh over much of the carrier, partnered with a silky soft feeling material over the rest. While the standard is finished all over with a soft, brushed cotton. Parents often worry about whether the mesh is scratchy. I have not found it to be so. It is not as soft as the cotton, so if you are someone who is very sensitive to texture, you may well prefer the cotton. I always advise feeling both before you buy if you can to ensure you are happy with how it feels to you. However, to me, the mesh while not quite as soft as cotton is still soft enough that I am happy to have it directly against my own skin and against my children’s.

All in all the Gemini is a fabulous carrier (you can read my full review here), both versions are great – whether you want the cushiony padded softness of the Standard or the ultra lightweight, packs down small, coolness of the “Cool”. Both are available to purchase through our webshop.

-Madeleine

Carrying Stories – Mairi: 1 boy, 4 slings and a whole lot of practise

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Mairi’s story….

Pre-pregnancy I’d never even heard of a baby wrap let alone know there was a
whole industry dedicated to them. Sure, they cropped up on my radar during
pregnancy but in all honesty, I thought they were a bit of a gimmick: an earth mother
hippy kinda thing. Fast forward to life with a 3-day old baby who when wasn’t feeding
or sleeping, just wanted to be held, and baby wraps started to look very appealing.

One-way stretchy wrap: the baby box wrap

In Scotland, all expectant mothers are given the Scottish Baby Box which contains a
range of baby items including a one-way stretchy wrap. I tried this wrap, with the
instructions given on how to tie it, when James was a few days old and I wasn’t
feeling it. I remember it feeling bulky, heavy, and loose. After airing my complaints on
Instagram, Laurna from Coorie in with Love got in touch to offer some advice and
arranged to send me the Joy and Joe Bamboo wrap to review. Long story short. I
was hooked, and I’ve been carrying James in some form of carrier ever since.

Photo 1

Joy and Joe stretchy wrap

The two-way stretchy wrap was brilliant for a young baby and it’s a good if you’re
new to it. It’s lightweight and really really comfortable, and only took me a couple
attempts to get a good secure finish. I think because I liked it so much, and my
confidence using it was pretty high from the start, James took to babywearing really
well. No matter how cranky or tried he was, he’d instantly calm when placed in the
wrap which made outings significantly easier; and we got a newfound freedom as a
family because we were no longer restricted with a cumbersome pram. Plus, you get
to hold hands with your partner when your babywearing (and also carry a travel
coffee mug, priorities right?) which ain’t so easy with a pram. When James was in the
wrap I could brush my teeth, make lunch and eat it with both hands, and I also
managed to master the art of going to the toilet with James strapped in (the glamour
of parenting eh?)
Photo 2

Mamaruga Zen sling

As James was getting older, and I knew I wanted to start doing back carries in the
future, I took advice from Sheen Slings and invested in a Mamaruga Zen Sling. The
Zen sling feels like a soft stretchy carrier but has that sturdy reliable feeling with all
the buckles, and it’s adjustable so will grow with your child. I started carrying James
in this when he was 4 weeks old and I’m still using it now he’s 2+ years.Photo 3

At the same time I also invested in the Boba hoodie, which can be worn over the
child in a front or back carry, and frankly is a necessary purchase when you live in
Scotland. Granted we don’t use this hoodie anymore, James is just too big, but I did
use it a lot in that first year and a half.

photo 4

Firespiral Size 5 Woven Wrap

Woven wraps, as I’m sure most parents who’ve never used one will agree, are
intimidating: all that fabric and a complicated tying process. It doesn’t help that you
never see a parent in a fluster using a woven wrap, they always look so confident
and competent. When James was around 1 and a half, I was mad keen to try a
woven wrap but I don’t have a local sling library nor do I know anyone who has one.
Sheen Slings kindly agreed to post me one but this did mean I was
on my own trying to master it.  If you can get a demonstration or a one-to-one consult
for a woven wrap then do. That said, I did manage with (a lot of) YouTube tutorials.
By the time I was sending it back I was ordering my own.

I’ve been using my Firespiral Size 5 for over a year now but unlike my other carriers,
I still wouldn’t say I’m confident using it. After a lot of trial and error I find a ruck carry
most comfortable for us but this type of carry isn’t proving ideal for a toddler who is
constantly wanting up and down when we go on walks. So again, on the advice of
Sheen Slings I’ve ordered a couple sling rings so I can start doing hip carries which work better for contrary kids. What I like about the woven wrap, is that I can see us
using it for a couple more years and if we do have a second child, I know I can also
use it from newborn too, so it is a smart purchase in the long term.

Photo 5

I’m happy with my mini sling collection, but in retrospect I do wish I had a local sling
library to try out different carriers before I bought my own. Particularly the Zen sling.
It was only when visiting Madeleine for a long weekend and getting the opportunity to play with her sling library (honestly, I was a kid in a sweetie shop), that I found I really
liked the Caboo DX Go as an alternative: I found it a lot comfier to wear, particularly
when James was sleeping, and it was easier to use because it didn’t feature buckles.
It also folded up smaller in the changing bag. I’m still debating whether or not to buy
one.

Photo 6

I guess the benefit of a sling library is that you not only get to try a variety of different
carriers, but you can try them with different sized dolls to understand how the carrier
will feel as your child grows. After all, what feels brilliant to wear when your child is 6
months old may not feel so good when they’re 2 years old. So whether you have a
sling library just down the road, or you follow them on Instagram (or like me your pal
has their own company and you can pick their brain incessantly about all things
babywearing) then get in touch with them for advice, and invest in the right carrier for
you.

-Mairi of http://theweegiekitchen.com/