Legs in or Legs out when carrying a baby in a Stretchy wrap?

20200102_150105_0000I almost always teach legs out when supporting parents wrapping their baby in a stretchy wrap.

Many stretchy wrap manuals show legs in positioning for newborns and then suggest legs out as baby gets older.  But I normally encourage parents to skip this for three main reasons

  1. Legs in can place weight on ankles and feet.  While unlikely to be dangerous, if you imagine sleeping in this position yourself you can easily picture getting pins and needles or inadvertently ending up a in calf stretch for a long period.  While if legs are out of the sling, legs and feet a free to wiggle unfettered and aren’t bearing any weight.
  2. Legs in can make it easier for baby to slump to one side in the sling or even result in baby trying to stand up in the sling when they wake which can feel less secure and a bit alarming
  3. Most babies are born developmentally ready to sit in the cross with a leg out on either side, so it’s simply not necessary to have their feet in.

 

How can you tell if your baby is ready to sit with one leg either side of the cross?  Firstly look at your baby when not in the sling – i.e when you hold them, when in the bassinet or cot… do they hold their legs all squished up together with knees together or are they starting to open their legs out (knees apart)?  If starting to open out then they should be able to sit comfortably in the cross.  The material is soft so you simply spread the wrap just enough to fit your child and where they most comfortably hold their legs.

If they are still really squished up it might not feel right putting them in the wrap with legs out on either side.  But there are other options!  The same wrap can be used to carry baby in a different position that allows legs to be together but feet still out of the wrap.  Examples include Pre-tied Front Double Hammock, Kangaroo Carry or Seated Sideways (videos coming soon!).

Or if you prefer to wrap with feet in, if this feels more natural to you can do so knowing that ideally we want the feet and ankles in particular to be free of weight and restriction, so once baby is in sling you can run your hands inside to check that they are sitting squarely on their bottom with legs tucked towards your tummy and not under their bottom.  That way you baby is sitting comfortably!  Then once they do start to open their legs more and start to unfurl you can move to wrapping with legs out

-Madeleine

 

 

 

How to do a Hip Carry with a Buckle carrier

Many of us naturally will carry baby on our hips when carrying in arms, as doing so gives one arm free for making lunch and puts baby in a position where they can see what we are doing and and chat to us while we potter about.

Ever wondered if you can carry your baby on your hip in a buckle carrier?

Many baby carriers do offer this option (but its not always wonderfully clear or even in the manual).  Here is my method, shown with an Izmi Baby Carrier but this same method will work just as well with an Ergo Omni, Adapt orEmbrace, Connecta, Kahu Baby, Mamaruga Zen or Zebulo, Beco Gemini, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Manduca, JPMBB, Sleepy Nico and many others.

 

Developmentally, the hip position is one that works best once baby has “some” head control… so generally around 2-3 months onwards.  It is an absolutely great position for “nosy” babies who want to see everything while still getting a good view of their caregiver.  It’s a great position for communication and shared moments.  As such, hip carries can be a great alternative to forward facing, as it gives baby the same view but makes it easier for them to see you, for you to read their cues and also for them to tuck in and relax ready for a nap when needed.  It can also be less harsh on the parents back compared to forward facing.

Happy hip carrying!

-Madeleine

New Year – New Plans and New Dates!!!

2019 has gone by in such a flash!  It’s been a year of quite a lot of change for me, including a 5 month building project, my daughter starting nursery, setting up Tea, Cake and Parenting and many other smaller things.  As a result,while much of how I run Sheen Slings has remained the same, the Sling Library sessions have had to change too.

At the start of 2019 I was running 3 sessions a month at my home on very fixed days of the month but as the building work started and with nursery and school runs to accommodate, this rapidly had to change.  Now I am still running 3 sessions a month, but only 1 at my home, while the other two are at the Barnes and Kingston Town Children’s Centres.  This has proved to be a hugely positive change as both the Barnes and Kingston sessions are really well attended, the space is better set up (and bigger!) compared to my home and the two different venues has meant these sessions are able to reach a greater number of parents.

Looking to 2020, I really hope to add more venues over the course of the year and make it ever easier to buy, hire and access help from Sheen Slings.  In the more immediate future, I will be changing how I run the Saturday sessions at my home.  As of January these sessions will require booking a 15 minute time slot in advance. 

For many reasons I have always kept Sling Library as drop in sessions, as I know how hard it can be to keep to an appointment with a new baby.  And the Children’s Centre sessions will stay drop in, no appointment needed.  But listening to feedback from parents, this doesn’t work as well on Saturdays.  Many parents find Saturdays easier to attend than midweek sessions but Saturday is also the day where they have tonnes to do and having a specified appointment time with less waiting and uncertainty involved is important.  So for this reason I will be trialing a new booking system for Saturdays only.   If you use the system over the next few months, please do let me know your thoughts.

New Dates for 2020;

    • Saturday 11th January, 10-11.30am @ Madeleine’s home, 79 Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14 7HU  booking essential – book here
    • Friday 17th January, 10.15-11.30am @ Barnes Children’s Centre, 67b Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14  no booking needed
    • Thursday 30th January, 10.30-11.30am @Kingston Town Children’s Centre, 40 Villiers Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 3AR  no booking needed
    • Saturday 8th February, 10-11.30am @ Madeleine’s home, 79 Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14 7HU  booking essential – book here
    • Friday 14th February, 10.15-11.30am @ Barnes Children’s Centre, 67b Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14  no booking needed
    • Thursday 27th February, 10.30-11.30am @Kingston Town Children’s Centre, 40 Villiers Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 3AR  no booking needed
    • Friday 6th March, 10.15-11.30am @ Barnes Children’s Centre, 67b Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14  no booking needed
    • Thursday 19th March, 10.30-11.30am @Kingston Town Children’s Centre, 40 Villiers Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 3AR  no booking needed
    • Saturday 28th March, 10-11.30am @ Madeleine’s home, 79 Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14 7HU  booking essential – book here
    • Friday 3rd April, 10.15-11.30am @ Barnes Children’s Centre, 67b Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14  no booking needed
    • Saturday 25th April, 10-11.30am @ Madeleine’s home, 79 Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14 7HU  booking essential – book here

 

As well as these dedicated Sling Library sessions, I will also be providing Sling Support as a part of Tea, Cake and Parenting Social mornings.  These run approximately every other week and full details including dates and times can be found here – https://www.teacakeandparenting.com/events

And of course I will continue offering private consults and bespoke workshops for groups throughout 2020.  And continuing to increase the range of slings and carriers that can be bought through Sheen Slings.

So whatever your baby carrying needs in 2020 – I look forward to welcoming you in the new year

-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.

-Madeleine

 

FAQ – How do I wash my carrier?

20191023_223515_0000.pngWhen it comes to babies shit literally can happen!  As can milky sick, serious quantities of drool and various dropped foodstuffs of all kind!  Correspondingly, all the slings in the library collection are ones that are easy peasy to wash!  There are some absolutely lovely wool, silk and other slings out there and available to those who want them, they are just not in my library!  I am all about making lives easier, and having something that can be washed easily is really a big part of that!

So whether your borrowing one of my carriers or have bought a new carrier of your own… what do you need to know about washing it?  Here are my top tips for washing organised by carrier type:

 

Buckle carriers  

Generally you want to wash these as little a possible.  A first wash can really help soften stiff webbing and make the carrier feel more snuggly but after that the more you wash it the quicker it will fade and start to look worn.  So my rule of thumb is if it’s really dirty (as in poonami or been on holiday all week and got various suncream/ icecream/ mud miscellane all over it) definitely do wash it!  And do so at 30 degrees and air dry overnight.  But if its just got the odd mark or odd bit of drool just spot clean but daubing the affected area with a damp cloth and this will save your carrier getting unnecessarily worn looking from over washing.  Never tumble dry a buckle carrier, because the heat can adversely affect the webbing, so always line or air dry overnight.  Another tip to protect your carrier is to use “suck pads” – little cloth squares that attach to the straps covering the area where babies most commonly like to suck and chew!  That way you can have a few pairs of suck pads that get washed regularly and are lovely and soft against baby, and your save your carrier all that extra drool!!

 

Stretchy Wraps

The good news with these is they can be washed as much as you like, and most can be tumble dried too if you need a fast turn around.  In general most cotton or bamboo based stretchy wraps can be washed at 40 degrees and tumble dried on low.  A few of the more fancier materials (modal, tencel, etc) do suggest 30 degrees and avoiding the tumble drier although I frequently forget and wash a whole bunch together and never found any adverse effects!  With a lot of washing some have bobbled slightly overtime but nothing that affects use.

 

Woven Wraps

Woven wraps are the one type of carrier where washing actually improves the carrier!!  Wovens get softer and softer over time with successive use and washing.  Washing helps to soften the fibres and make the wrap both softer against sling and more able to mold over you and babies bodies.  And they are so durable they can withstand years and years and year of washing and continuous use which means they just get better and better with time.  Which is why of all the carrier types this is the one type I often recommend purchasing second hand rather than new!  Washing temperature depends on the type of yarn used to make the wrap but most cotton wraps can be washed at 40-60 degrees and tumble dried on low.  If you have a wrap that is a blend of fibres you might need to be a little more careful, I have variously owned linen and hemp blends because again these are easy to wash and very strong! For these I wash at 30 or 40 (according to manufacturer’s directions) and tumble dry only part of the way (to iron dry on my machine) because it is possible to over dry hemp in particular… then I allow them to air to dry the rest of the way.  The key with these are to use liquid detergent (rather than powder), and detergent free from optical brighteners to avoid particles becoming trapped in the fibres of the wrap which could cause it to harden and become crunchy over time!

Ring Slings

As most ring slings are made from woven wrap material I wash these exactly as I would a woven wrap.  For the ring, if the carrier is not dirty but the rings I sometimes leave these threaded, but more often I will first unthread and then I will either pop a sock over the rings (and secure with an elastic hair band) or I will pop the whole thing in a laundry bag.  I will do this not for the carrier but for my machines!!! And for the noise!!  The sound of the ring clattering around can be hugely alarming otherwise, particularly in the tumble dryer!!

Likewise I use the same sock or laundry bag trick for washing Close Parent Caboo carriers.

 

Meh Dai and Half Buckles

For these how I wash them depends a bit on individual brands, if there is any webbing or plastic buckles on them I wash them as if a buckle carrier.  If they are made largely from woven material I treat as if a wrap.  Generally most can be washed easily at 30 degrees and often best to let air dry overnight or tumble on low if it doesn’t have any webbing or plastic buckles.

 

Any questions please do leave a comment below….   Happy Washing!!

-Madeleine

Mamaruga Zen Sling Review

Suptumitously soft and super adjustable – the Mamaruga Zen Sling is a real gem of a baby carrier.  It combines the feel of a wrap with the intuitive practicality of a buckle carrier.  Whilst also being one of the very few carriers that genuinely works beautifully well for tiny babies and then seamless grows with your child to continue giving them a great fit all the way into toddlerhood.

See how it works and hear my full thoughts here on my video review…  or read on for more

 

Key Zen Sling Facts:

  • It’s massively adjustable!  Both the width and height of the panel can be adjusted allowing this carrier to shrink all the way down to accomodate a newborn and then seamlessly grow and grow and grow all the way to still give a perfect fit to a 2 year old, possibly even older.  Better still the height actually adjusts in two ways – with the overall panel height adjusting separately to the leg openings.  Most adjustable carriers only allow you to alter one of these – which means often either shorter babies with chubby legs or tall and slender babies aren’t as well fitted… but by offering both the Zen Sling offers all babies a completely customisable fit!  And one that’s really easy to adjust as baby grows.
  • This carrier is weight tested for use between 3kg (6.6lb) and 20kg (44lb).  Realistically this is one that will work for most babies from within a couple of weeks after birth through to 2 ish…  For reference my daughter was 13 kg at 2, 15 kg at almost 3 and my son didn’t hit 20kg until he was 5… but it’s always reassuring to know that the fabric has been weight tested beyond what you will need!
  • It is made from dreamily soft Jersey knit fabric.  Feels a bit like a favourite pair of jogging bottoms.  The kind you secretly want to wear all the time!  Except that the Zen Sling comes in all kinds of lovely patterns and looks really stylish and not at all slouchy and slobby!
  • The fabric is slightly stretchy, this is wonderful with babies as doesn’t feel rough or restrictive on them, allows them to wiggle while still holding them securely.  Consequently sometimes parents don’t like this as much with bigger toddlers as the stretchy material does feel like it has more give than a woven cotton.  The closely related Zebulo is a great alternative if baby is a bit older and you want something light but more toddler proof!
  • The Zen Sling offers 3 carrying positions – front carry (facing parent), hip and back carry.  It doesn’t offer a facing outward carry but it does do the hip carry really really well so often parents find this is an ideal alternative and do not miss facing outwards.
  • The shoulder straps are designed to fan outward across your shoulder if you find this comfortable, and are designed to cross across your back when wearing baby on your front.  When wearing baby on your back there is a chest strap that comes separately that can be threaded through the straps if desired.  This carrier doesn’t offer “ruck sack or H shaped straps when wearing baby on the front, as it is very difficult to attach this seperate strap to your own back!  So this is definitely a carrier for those who prefer to wear their straps crossed rather than those that prefer the H shape.
  • My one gripe with this carrier is the waist band.  It is also made from soft jersey and I find as baby grows this has a tendency to fold/scrunch under baby rather than lie flush and this can be a little diggy over time.  It’s a small gripe, against an otherwise amazing carrier but it’s the one thing I personally would change!!

 

-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