First time mum & baby carrying – Guest Blog by Cat Lamin

Getting around with a newborn can be hard work. You spend months researching the best carry cot only to discover that your post-birth recovery means that using it is out of the question. Or maybe you live on the third floor and can’t get it up and down the stairs. Perhaps you’re just not confident enough at steering to risk your brand new little one rattling around inside. Whatever your reason, sometimes the carry cot isn’t your best option and that’s when carrying might come in to play. 

There are so many options for baby carrying and so much confusing advice that knowing what to get can be a little overwhelming and that’s where sling libraries can be really helpful. 

For the majority, sling libraries are run by enthusiastic individuals who have a passion for baby carrying and are keen to help and support parents in finding the best route for them and Sheen Sling Library is no exception.

We visited Madeleine at her home for a private one to one session when I was around 37 weeks pregnant. We knew that we both wanted to carry our little one, but we weren’t sure what the best option for us was going to be; we’d also been given a sling ring which we couldn’t quite get our head around so I sent over an email and off we went.

The first thing that Madeleine explained to us was that a lot of carriers claim to be for newborns, but most aren’t suitable for the first few weeks and if you want to get carrying right from the get go, you need to look at stretchy wraps, caboos and slings. She recommends coming back once your little one is three or four months old so that you can look at more rigid carriers and figure out what suits your lifestyle best. The idea is that by then, firstly your little one can hold their head up a bit and secondly, you’ll know how much you use your sling, which will help inform your choice of what to buy next.

The second thing we learned was that everyone is different and what suits one person might not suit another so you’re better off trying out lots of different ways of carrying to find what you’re most comfortable with. The joy of the sling library is that Madeleine has around 100 different carriers to try so there’s no shortage of ideas and she even offers short term loans so you can really get your head around what works.

Madeleine has a selection of ‘newborn’ dolls which weigh about the same as an actual baby so if you’re still pregnant you can at least get a feel for how the different carriers work – she recommends that for slings and wraps it’s fine to try them on while you’re still pregnant, but that it’s not worth trying on a rigid carrier until post birth as you need to find what fits your body best once you’ve lost the bump.

IMG_4813We brought along our sling ring to try out and agreed that, while it was a lovely idea, it didn’t really suit either of us so we quickly moved in to stretchy wraps and caboos. I have to admit that I thought we’d end up going with a caboo, especially as the stretchy wrap looked like some sort of origami torture, but we both fell in love with stretchy wraps on first try. There was something very special about the way the baby sat in the stretchy wrap and since neither of us struggled to get it on, we decided that would be the way forward. All credit to Madeleine who got us both to try several different textured wraps and made sure we were comfortable with tying it in before we left. My other half fell in love with a bright red Izmi wrap and we decided that since we’d only need it for the first three or four months, we might as well hire it from Madeleine rather than buying one that will sit in the drawer afterwards and never be used again. We were so grateful that hiring was an option and is well worth considering if you know you’ll only use it in the short term! 

IMG_4864Our little one was born on 8th July and by 10th July his dad had already tied on the wrap and taken William to meet his aunty Jacky for lunch at the local pub; it was great for daddy and baby to have some skin to skin time so easily. It has been a lifesaver for us both – when my other half went back to work it gave me the freedom to get things done while he slept on me. When the baby has been inconsolable and I’ve not slept, his dad had been able to put him in the sling and get on with work while he and I both slept. In fact, I’m writing this post right now with William in the sling as I sit on the bench on Twickenham riverside. It’s safe to say we use our sling nearly every single day and I would definitely recommend looking into getting one.

IMG_5372It’s also been interesting for me as a number of the other mums & dads from my Bump & Baby course have since gone to the Sling Library and, while everyone is happy with their carriers, we’ve all formed different opinions and chosen different options. I can’t stress how valuable it is to try things on and see what suits you best.

After two months with our baby, we’re big carrying fans now and can’t wait to go back to try on some more rigid carriers so that we can decide what our next step in baby-carrying is going to look like. I will be sad to give up the sling, but I’m looking forward to having a quicker option for getting our baby strapped on and ready for adventures!

– Cat Lamin of https://catlamin.com

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Why I don’t think you should buy a baby carrier before your baby is born…

IMG_1598I love that babywearing has grown in popularity over the last few years!  I see so many parents absolutely loving snuggling their little ones while getting stuff done… and it’s fabulous.  But one of the downsides of this growing popularity is baby carriers are now on almost all must have lists of things to buy before the baby arrives.  And here is a the catch: carriers (particularly buckle carriers) fit a bit like jeans – different brands and different styles fit different bodies.  In fact it’s worse than jeans because as well as needing to fit the parent it must also fit the baby, and fit how you want to use it, fit your lifestyle and fit the personal preferences of your little one!  All of which is almost impossible to tell before baby is born because it’s very difficult to try a carrier on when you have a bump in the way and how can you know how you are going to use it or what your baby’s preference is going to be before they’ve even entered the world?

You just can’t.  Fun fact – more than 60% of my clients are people who purchased a carrier before their baby was born and then were really dismayed to find that it didn’t work they way they thought it would.  Maybe it was a carrier that advertised from birth but in reality doesn’t work well until more like 8 weeks, maybe that it turned out not to fit them well, or holds baby only in x position but baby prefers y position or maybe its a case of the carrier is absolutely fine but the instructions and YouTube videos were so bad they couldn’t figure out how to get it comfortable but a few tweaks and a different method for putting it on has made all the difference.

The key here is to learn from this – babywearing is AWESOME but it needs to work for you.  The best way to see if a carrier works for you and avoid wasting your money is to try it with your baby and for that your baby needs to be here.

IMG_1852But “I want to wear my baby right from day 1” I hear you cry!  Yes! Yes I do want you to be able to do this too…  So here is my advice.  Don’t buy a buckle carrier yet, but do invest in a newborn specialist sling!  Or better still rent one.  Something like a Stretchy Wrap or a Caboo.  Or if you don’t like the idea of one of these a Ring Sling, a Woven wrap or a really specialist tiny buckle carrier like the Izmi Baby.  These are fab options that work right from day 1 and fit a huge range of people.  They can be tried on and learnt in advance as they offer a much more flexible fit.  And they don’t cost the earth to purchase, and in fact you needn’t buy one of these at all as Sheen Slings and many other Sling Libraries offer long term loans on Stretchies, Caboos and other newborn specialist slings which can save you from needing to buy something that you’ll only use for a few months.  So you can save your money for the big investment sling once your baby is a couple of months old and is here to try on with.

-Madeleine

Woven FAQ – Knots! Part 2 – Slip Knots and Ring Finishes

In Part 1 I covered the most common knot used to tie a woven or stretchy wrap – the Double knot (Flat Reef or Granny).  While the double knot is very secure its not adjustable – if you want to adjust your wrap (maybe to feed, or maybe to alter slightly as baby falls asleep or wakes up) then you might want to an adjustable knot.  There are two – the Slip Knot and a Ring Finish.

 

The Slip Knot

As it’s name suggests the Slip Knot is adjustable – allowing you to loosen and tighten the wrap through the knot as needed while still holding very securely.   This knot is made by one end staying dead straight (the passive end – this is the one that will “slip”) while the other end (active) is used to tie 2 looped knots around the straight end.

The interesting thing to note that there are actually a staggering 8 ways to tie this knot!  Depending on the direction of each of your two looped knots and which end you use as the passive.  The important thing to realise is that all 8 variations are “correct”, secure and are slip knots.  I say this as someone who spent literally about a month watching and rewatching videos to learn how to tie a slip knot, trying desperately to follow and remember the method and which way to go next without ever understanding how the knot worked.  I am convinced I repeated untied perfectly serviceable slip knots just because they didn’t look exactly like the one in the video!

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This is because to get the classic shape you so often see on videos and instruction manuals you need to tie the second loop in the opposite direction to the first.  This is not something most of us do easily… so if it doesn’t come easily to you, don’t fret!  Just tie that second loop the same way as the first and you’ll still get a perfectly functional secure slip knot.

 

The Ring Finish

Technically not a knot at all, the ring finish simply uses a ring to fasten the two ends of the wrap.  The advantages of using a ring instead of a knot are:

  • it requires less length – so a good option if you don’t have much wrap left to make a knot with
  • it’s adjustable – both ends can be adjusted through the ring by pulling on the fabric either side of the ring
  • its pretty!  And looks fancy!

The disadvantage, however is as both sides do adjust by pulling depending on the width of your ring and how “grippy” verses “slippery” your wrap is you might find the ring finish might loosen off with time so you you might need re-adjust from time to time.  Although, if you do find this happening its worth simply switching to a smaller ring diameter.

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To create you simply pull a loop of fabric though the ring, then thread the other end through the gap created by the loop and the ring together and then pull to tighten up … trapping it between the ring and the first end.  The only part to be mindful over is the ring you use.  I always advise people purchase rings made for this purpose – rings that are safe for babies to chew on and safe to hold weight with no weak points, no weld and no sharp bits.  Sling rings come in 3 sizes – small, medium and large, and generally a medium ring is perfect for most wraps.  If you have a particularly thin or thick wrap you might need small or large rings respectively.

Happy Knotting!

-Madeleine

Woven FAQ – Knots! Part 1 – the Secure Double Knot

Knots are undoubtly the biggest thing that worries people new to or considering using woven wraps.  I frequently hear “I am not very good at knots”, “I am not sure I trust myself to tie it properly” or even “what if the knot becomes undone”.  And I remember thinking exactly the same first time I saw someone wrap.  I thought, gosh no… I never could figure out knots while in the Girl Guides and I am not going to be able to figure it out now on the minimal sleep of a new parent.

But actually its really not that complicated.  It’s not like in Girl Guides or Boy Scouts where someone is going to sneak up behind you and go OH NO, that’s not a Bowman’s Hitch thats a Sheeps Head or some nonsense.  Honestly, I’ve got no idea what either of those knots are and nor do I care.  When it comes to learning to use a woven or a stretchy wrap you really only need to know one knot – A Secure Double Knot.

Yep you heard that right – a double knot Literally any secure double knot …. i.e. tie a bog standand single knot and then tie it again.  And your done.  It’s secure, its going nowhere, its as safe as houses.  And I mean this… when I do get a parent who is worried about a knot spontenously untying during use, I challenge them to try… tie a knot then wiggle it… pull on one end unevenly, jump around … etc.  Do whatever you like to it, so long as you’ve tied 2 knots its going nowhere unless you actually, purposefully untie it.  And the more you wiggle, jump up and down and so forth all that happens is the knot gets tighter and more secure!

There are 4 ways to tie double knot – and depending which you use you will either get a Granny Knot or a Flat Reef Knot.  Both are equally secure so it really doesn’t matter which you use.  The Granny knot is easier to tie because you do the same motion twice – right over left x2 or left over right x2.  So intutively its easier to do!  The advantage of the Flat Reef knot is simply that it is flatter so sits more comfortably against your body than the Granny knot (particularly if you sit down!).  If you want to try a Flat Reef Knot simply remember that you need to go the other way on the second knot … i.e. tie the first knot as you would usually and then go the way that doesn’t feel natural to you on the second… and Viola! You have a Flat Reef Knot!  But if somehow all your attempts at Flat Reef Knots end in Granny’s … don’t fret, it really doesn’t matter… you wrap job will be just as secure and just as cosy for you and baby!

-Madeleine

Carrying Stories – Ana … Carrying in a warm climate

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

“From the get go I knew I wanted to carry my baby, the only question being how.

IMG-20180804-WA0004My mum had kept a newer version of the carrier she had loved back in the seventies when she had my fussy big brother whom she had to carry almost 24/7. Sadly when I tried on the Snugli it was clearly not a good fit for me. My mum on the other hand has loved using it with my son.

So for me it was Madeleine to the rescue with a lovely Hana stretchy wrap. I was so happy and excited to use it that it went straight into my hospital bag. Inevitably there were some teething problems which were simply lack of confidence as a new mum with a tiny baby, but after some perseverance and a pep talk from Madeleine everyone was happy and the love story truly began.

IMG-20180804-WA0005Those first few months with the Hana were amazing. It was so lovely carrying Anton close especially when we went anywhere busy, and absolutely essential for our first few flights.

When Anton got a bit bigger it was time to get something else, and I ended up opting for the Amazonas Smart Ultra Light. It provided me with substantial support for my lower back without being bulky. I also needed something slightly more light weight for a warmer climate. I love how compact it is so that I can just always have it with me even on days when we are using the buggy. Slowly but surely we mastered back and hip carrying.

For quick ups and popping into the shops I now also have a ring sling which my son absolutely loves (more than I do I have to admit). But it’s incredibly convenient at times.”

Carrying Stories – Adele

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

IMG_7475“I am using the sling ‘Je porte mon bébé’ basic wrap which is shorter than the original wrap. Both Oscar – my little boy – and I are loving using the sling, it is light and easy to just keep in my bag or the pushchair. We were able to use it from day 1 when we came back from the hospital as Oscar was finding it hard to settle in the evenings (still does!). He is 9 weeks old now and I use the sling almost everyday inside the house and outside. I really feel that he needs to be close to me or my husband to relax and settle, it is definitely helping his emotional development and is important bonding time for us.

 

 

IMG_7734For me the sling is simply magic and helps us for many things from digestion, temperature, unsettled baby and also sleep. I keep telling my friends how this has become an essential baby item for us.”

-Adele

Carrying Stories – Nina.

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

sling“I didn’t fully appreciate and understand the benefits of baby wearing until I had my second baby in 2013.  Alexander was born 5 weeks prematurely and with a toddler running around my feet and a tiny baby who needed a lot of attention, I decided to try and use a material sling. To be honest, my motivation at the time was making my life easier, but I now know how much baby wearing benefits a baby too!  I had always seen material wraps as a bit scary (as they looked so complicated to put on) but after some research, I settled on the Moby Wrap.  After watching a few Youtube videos and a bit of practice, I had mastered it.  And from then on, my life changed. Instead of having to either hold a small baby or put him in a Moses basket and then worry about my toddler running around and knocking him over, I was able to go about my day hands-free (and worry-free!).  Alexander absolutely loved the sling and would sleep in it for hours in those early months.  As well as the convenience for me, wearing Alexander helped him to feel calm and reassured – he loved being close to his food source at all times! It was also so easy to slip it into my changing bag if I wanted to take it out with me – it doesn’t take up much room at all. I wore Alexander constantly in the Moby Wrap until he was about 6 months old.  Then I moved on to a Manduca, which held his weight a bit better at that stage.

Fast forward a few years and baby number 3 arrived in September 2017.  I dug out the Moby Wrap and did exactly the same thing with Sebastian! Being hands-free was even more important for me with this last baby as I had school runs to do, homework to manage and a lot more demands on my time.  Sebastian loved the sling too and spent his first 6 months strapped to me permanently. I loved being so close to him and was even able to go out in the evening with him sleeping on me! When he got too heavy for the Moby Wrap, I decided to treat myself to a new Ergo 360, mainly because I liked the idea of having the option of him facing forward.  Once I worked out all the settings (with a bit of help from Madeleine!) I have loved that sling too, although my absolute favourite is still the Moby Wrap.

If I could give one piece of advice to a new Mum, it would be to buy a sling and wear your baby as much as possible!”

-Nina