Winter Babywearing! … the hows and whats of figuring out how to leave the house in the cold and the rain!

Autumn has definitely hit… so its not at all surprising that parents are starting to ask me about how to combine using their carrier with going out in increasingly cold and wet conditions!

When choosing how to dress baby the first thing to consider is that most carriers counts as 1 layer for your baby.  As a general rule the NHS and the NCT all recommend your baby wears one more layer than you – so its nice and easy to remember that when using a sling or carrier the extra layer is provided by the baby carrier itself.  I say ‘most’ carriers… if you have a particularly thick or warm carrier or are using a thick infant insert (such as the infant insert for an Ergo 360, Ergo Original or a Tula etc) then this maybe more like 2 layers.

IMG_20170910_191725_171The second thing to consider is where baby goes relative to your layers – under your coat or over your coat??  In general, unless you have a confidently walking toddler who will be alternating a lot between walking and being carried, it is better to have baby close to your skin and then put layers around you both.  By having baby close to your skin, you’ll intuitively know if the baby is too warm or too cold because you’ll feel it, and your body will subconsciously respond to raise or lower your skin temperature accordingly as well as consciously signalling you to adjust your own layers.  Amazing, huh?!!  Additionally, by having layers around you both, when you do come in out of the cold it is really very easy to remove layers from baby without waking them up.  Finally, by having baby close to your skin you are both able to more efficiently heat share, so efficiently in fact that you’ll most likely both need 1 less layer just from each others body heat!  I love babywearing in winter because its like walking around with your own personal hot water bottle tucked into your coat!

When putting layers around you and baby start with both you and baby in indoor clothing only.  They don’t need a big snowsuit or bulky jumpers and these will again make it harder for you to intuitively gauge their temperature and efficiently heat share with them.  Plus its harder to get a great position and fit in a sling while wearing bulky clothing.

IMG_20171003_104159_822Then protect their extremities – any parts not covered by the sling.  Think hat for their head and socks/tights/booties to keep feet and lower legs warm.  Slings can often cause trousers and leggings to ride up so its often worth thinking about tights under trousers, leg warmers or long socks to compensate. My personal favourite solution are JoJo Maman Bebe’s slipper socks simply because they stay up and stay on the feet while keeping them warm (and because I am a sucker for a rainbow!).  For the crafty among you – my mother in law also made us some amazing knee high sling socks using this pattern.  She also adapted it to include a drawstring to help keep them on after we lost the first pair she made!

Next add layers around both you and baby.  There are so many options for this! Ranging from free, low cost all the way to specialist coats.  Here are some ideas to add warmth;

  • Raid your wardrobe – knit cardigans, larger coats, maternity coats can all work well.  Raid your partners wardrobe too!
  • A sling cover – waterproof and with ties designed to easily attach to a carrier or sling, these are an easy way of keep baby warm while working with your existing coats etc.  There are a number of brands but we really love the Bundlebean which folds up small and costs ~£30.
  • A coat extender – simply works with your existing coat to add a panel for baby.   We have a ZipUsIn and I love the joy on peoples faces when they test it out and find this simple low cost thing fits with their current coat!  They cost ~£30 and there’s a handy guide on their website to ensure you buy the right one for your coat.  Even better these are also available in Boots so if your anything like me and have boots points you’ve forgotten about it might be an even cheaper option!  Alternatively, if you are feeling crafty you can knit your own coat extender using this pattern.  Or even simply tuck a blanket around the baby carrier and then pop your coat on as normal leaving it open.  Not as waterproof but certainly cheap and cheerful!
  • The most elegant but of course most expensive solution is to purchase a specialist babywearing coat.  When my march born son came along I decided against this, as I felt it was a vast expense for something that I wouldn’t use much.  I mean he was a summer baby and I’d only carry him for a few months right?  Hmmmmmm… turned out I was so wrong, I carried him regularly for 3 years and went through 3 winters.  In particular, I really struggled keeping him and I warm while carrying on my back and I hated carrying over coats as it was so bulky and uncomfortable and I always worried he was cold.  Just before Rachel was born my normal coat was in dire need of replacing and so I caved and bought myself once of these wonderful coats as I now knew that I would get the use from it.  The other reason they appealed is that most also can be used as normal coats too, so hopefully can still be used for many years to come.  These coats come in a wide range of styles to suit all tastes and bodyshapes.  Brands I would recommend include Mamalila, Wombat&Co (review here), Angelwings, Lenny Lamb, and Lileputi.  These are all brands that either myself or a close friend have used, loved and offer good quality and flexible use.  There are also a number of cheaper more budget brands such as the Verbaudet coat or the Bonprix maternity coat but be aware that these coats don’t offer back carrying functionality, so while cheaper than those listed above won’t last as long and may prove to be a false economy in the end.

While not all of these ideas are waterproof, those that aren’t can always be used in combination with an umbrella.  In fact, given the unpredictability of the British weather, I highly recommend always having a small compact umbrella in your change bag just in case.

-Madeleine

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Furry Snuggles Guaranteed – the Wombat&Co Wallaby v2 Babywearing Coat Review

20170920_142458First sign of Autumn always brings a flurry of questions about keeping warm while babywearing and so I was so excited when Wombat&co kindly offered to let me try out the new version of their Wallaby coat.  Even more excited when the box arrived on my birthday!

The first thing that stood out as I unpacked the coat – was just how soft the faux fur lining is.  It is lush.  Over the two weeks I had the coat, literally everyone I encountered ended up stroking it and commenting on just how soft and luxurious it is.  Really snuggly to have around you and baby.  And the outer doesn’t disappoint either.  Waterproof, sleek and everything you’d expect of a good quality well made coat.

IMG_20170923_230640_378The second thing that stood out, was just how warm it is.  This coat is WARM!  Super snuggly and extra warm.  In all honesty, it is too warm for London in September.  I did get out a few times with it but particularly while wearing my daughter I was roasting.  However, this isn’t a criticism at all because it is still pretty darn mild in London this year… so I took the Wallaby up to Derby with us for the weekend.  Here, several degrees cooler… the Wallaby was perfect – kept me nice a cosy while standing around waiting for fireworks on a brisk hillside!  So I’d say this coat is a great choice for the coldest months, or for late Autumn to early Spring if you live somewhere a bit cooler than London and its weird micro-climate that makes it 2-3’C hotter than anywhere else in the UK.  In fact I found myself wishing I’d had this coat back when I lived in New York and winter meant walking to work in temperatures of around -10’C!

I love that this coat presents the wearer with plenty of options – the Wallaby can be worn as a normal coat (with the panel zipped out) or as a maternity or babywearing coat with the panel inserted. The panel can be inserted in either the front the back thus accommodating both front and back carries.

20170920_173940Being able to use as a normal coat is a huge draw for me as it means it will still be useful when I am no longer carrying my children and, more immediately, that I don’t need to swap coats on a day out if I set out wearing our our daughter but my husband carries her home.  Nor do I need a separate coat for the rare baby free evening.

And when wearing the Wallaby as a normal coat, you’d have no idea it was designed with babywearing it mind.  It looks clean, simple and sleek and is well designed to keep you warm and dry.  From the soft ribbing at the sleeves, to the deep fur lined hood and huge amazingly soft snuggly fur collar.  Both the hood and the collar attach via poppers so you can wear one, both or neither depending on your own personal taste and how warm or dry you need to be.  Additionally, the coat can be cinched in at the waist to give a more fitted look if desired.  I love how these features all mean that you can personalise this coat to fit in with your own style and preferences.

For the other 3 modes, you add the panel into the mix.  Its great that the same panel can be used for maternity and babywearing – you simply alter the panel to the right shape using the drawstring toggles at the top or bottom.  The advantage of having just one panel that can accommodate either a bump or a baby means that you don’t risk losing the babywearing panel while using the coat as a maternity coat and visa versa you don’t risk losing the maternity panel before your next pregnancy while wearing your current baby.  The disadvantage, however, is that you only have 1 panel.

So if you do get pregnant again and want to still use this coat while back carrying this coat – as it comes – can’t accommodate both without a second panel.  Likewise tandem carries (for twins or siblings) require a second panel.  While not on their website, Wombat&Co state that additional panels can be purchased from them by emailing them directly and these cost £20.

 

20170921_162511While front carrying my daughter, I liked how high the panel reached on her and I liked that you can close the neck of the coat with poppers if you’d like to, or even employ the huge faux fur collar to keep extra warm.  Although as it was September and still fairly mild I mainly just work the neck completely open.  But I could see how this coat would really keep us both warm and the wind and rain out in the cooler and wetter months to come.  One thing I didn’t like as much was that this coat doesn’t come with a hood for baby.  There’s a lovely big hood for the adult, but nothing for the baby.  While the panel does reach up very high, Rachel’s head still got a little wet on the one day we went out in rain.  And I seriously regretted not thinking to pack a hat for her.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the pockets.  They are probably big enough but the main problem for me was that they fasten with a single popper.  This popper sits right over where Rachel’s feet were so I simply couldn’t do up the pockets without pressing down hard on her feet.  Without being able to do the pockets up I felt like my phone or wallet might fall out if I sat down (or be susceptible to pickpockets).  For me I’d either prefer deeper pockets so that my phone felt less likely to fall our or better still pockets of the same size but fasten with a zipper.

For back carries, I found this coat the easiest to get on and off of any I have ever tried.  They key to this is that you can undo the collar at the back of the coat … giving a very wide opening that allows you to put the coat on almost as normal without trapping babies head.  With other babywearing coats I have always found it pretty tricky to line up the head hole and the child without getting into a bit of a mess!  The Wallaby is so much easier!  And as the collar can be easily closed with poppers once the coat is on, you don’t get a cold back either.  Win.

 

20170923_115040Finally a word on the all important sizing.  I am a size 16.  Well my top half is probably a 14-16 but I usually err on the side of size 16 for coats in case I need to wear layers underneath.  They sent me a size 12 – it was a bit snug on me but by no means too snug.  I think their size 14 would be perfect for me. Based on this I would say their sizes run slightly on the bigger side.  Thus, if like me you are a bit between sizes err on the side of the smaller one.  Also if like me you allow a size up for wearing jumpers under coats…. this coat is soooooooooooo warm you’ll never need to wear a jumper under it, unless you are going to the Arctic Circle or somewhere similar, so you can feel free to size down!  Sadly though, Wombat&Co don’t currently offer these coats in a huge range of sizes – at the moment just UK size 6 through to 14.  I am told they do also offer a size 16 but this is currently sold out.  As someone who is a size 14-16, I find having to buy the biggest size available a bit disheartening, and considering that the average UK dress size is a 16 – there will be many who are simply not catered for in the current sizes offered.  I really hope this is something that Wombat&Co will look into further and offer a more realistic range of sizes in the future.

 

All in all the Wallaby is a really lovely, toasty warm coat that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone.  Currently priced at £156.90, it isn’t exactly cheap… but as this coat is well made and very flexible in its use, it should last you years and so I am sure would be worth the investment.  And men needn’t feel left out either – Wombat&Co also make a babywearing coat for men – the Bandicoot.

 

-Madeleine

New time, Dates to the end of the year and good news for anyone who’d like a consultation in their own home.

20170728_130919Starting from October, the time of our sling library drop in sessions will be changing! Rather than the afternoons we will now be running 11am-1pm.

This is because this little gentleman will be starting school next week!  Can’t quite believe it, it seems like just yesterday he was still this tiny baby!!  We will be keeping our old afternoon slot our 19th of September session (while Tom is just doing half days), and then from October onward we will move onto the new 11am-1pm time.  Hopefully, this new time will be just as popular.  As ever these are drop in sessions so if you need to leave early to be home for a nap or arrive after a morning nap please do!  And please note feeding is always welcome at these sessions!  Milk feeds of course, but also solids if needed – I realise it is the lunch time slot!! So if your baby is already on solids please do bring their lunch or a snack – they will be very welcome to eat here if need be.

 

Sling library dates to the end of the year are as follows;

  • Tuesday 19th September, 2-4pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 26th September, 10.30-11.30 am at B4U crawl, Kew Riverside School
  • Saturday 30th September, 10am-12pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 3rd October, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 17th October, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Saturday 28th October, 10am-12pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 31st October, 10.30-11.30 am at B4U crawl, Kew Riverside School
  • Tuesday 7th November, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 21st November, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Saturday 25th November, 10am-12pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 28th November, 10.30-11.30 am at B4U crawl, Kew Riverside School
  • Tuesday 5th December, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 19th December, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home
  • Tuesday 9th January, 11am-1pm at Madeleine’s home

 

In other news, the area I can offer consultations in clients homes is extending!  Previously, I was extremely limited to areas I could easily get to on public transport.   Which meant there were strange gaps – like Ham and Roehampton which I just couldn’t get to.   Next week our cargo bike arrives.  While mainly for the school run, this bike will also mean I can offer consults at clients home anywhere with in a 5 mile radius of East Sheen.  This includes the vast majority of the London boroughs of Richmond, Hammersmith, Hounslow and Wandsworth as well as some of Kingston and Wimbledon/New Malden.  And I can bring as many slings as I can fit into the bikes rather capacious cargo area (certainly a lot more than I could carry on the bus!) 😀  So if you are at all interested in a consultation in your own home please do get in touch.

-Madeleine

 

The Facts about Forward Facing

Carrying babies forward facing (looking outwards toward the world) is something I get asked more questions about than anything else.  So many different questions on this topic.  The reason is simple – there is a lot of conflicting opinions on this and even more conflicting information.  A disturbing amount of this information comes from articles originally written by carrier manufacturers who either did or didn’t make forward facing carriers and was motivated by marketing. Very very little of it has any evidence to back it up.  So its no surprise that often parents are left pretty confused about whats best for them and their child.

So here are some of the questions I am asked and the facts to be aware of when deciding whats best for you and your little one;

Is forward facing dangerous? Nope.  There is absolutely no evidence to suggest forward facing your baby is in anyway dangerous, so long as they are developmentally ready and awake.  These carriers have all undergone safety testing – they simply would not have passed if there was evidence that forward facing could harm your baby.

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Rachel aged 7 months in the Ergo 360

The better question is – Is forward facing comfortable? While not remotely dangerous, its hard to get as comfortable position forward facing verses facing inwards.  Both for your child and for you.  For your child this is simply because the forward facing position in most carriers offers less support.  Less support for their legs, less support for their neck and upper bodies and as their backs are against you they are often slightly flattened out verses how they’d be either in arms or facing toward you.  None of this is dangerous, nor even uncomfortable in the short-term but but if worn for longer periods they might start to become less comfortable over time.  Think of it a bit like being in a rock climbing harness, completely fine for short periods you wouldn’t want to be in it all day every day.

For you the parent, forward facing is less comfortable as it puts the child’s centre of gravity further away from you.  We load bear best by holding weight high and tight to our own centre of gravity – when baby is inward facing the weight is held very close to our centre gravity.  In contrast, when facing forwards baby’s weight is held slight away and thus feels heavier and puts more strain on the parents body.  Again not a problem for shorter periods, and worth listening to your own body and reading babies cues when forward facing to ensure comfort levels on either side aren’t exceeded.

Is forward facing better for my child’s development?  Nope.  Again there is absolutely no evidence to support this at all.  I completely understand why people might think this would be the case, forward facing allows the child to look out and therefore perhaps ‘gain a better view’.  However, there is no evidence that this is helpful to a baby.  In fact there are several lines of research suggesting parent’s facial expressions are key in infant learning. This is called ‘social referencing’;  in new situations or experiences babies look to their parents or primary caregivers and watch their reactions first.  I.e. when someone picks up my daughter she immediately looks at me, if I smile she smiles and is happy to be held.  While if she can’t see me or I don’t smile she immediately cries.  She is using me as a touchstone to reassure her in this new situation.  Similarly as she begins to eat solid food, if I am eating it, she wants to eat it…. if I am not eating it, she has no interest!  Looking to our parents and watching their facial cues is an evolutionary driven imperative, it allows the infant to judge if a situation is safe or dangerous.  I.e. if my daughter reaches for something and I look alarmed … she knows its dangerous.  It also helps babies determine what is important/interesting, i.e. say she is looking at a new toy she also looks at me – am I looking at the toy? Do I find the toy interesting too?  Thus when holding or wearing our babies its important for their learning that they can see our faces.  When facing out they can’t, they don’t need to see our faces all the time so its fine but this idea that perhaps facing out is better for learning is certainly false.

Its also worth noting that in a well fitting inward facing carrier where baby is able to turn their head easily, they should still be able to get a really good view of the world.  And its worth considering how good a view they need – how well can they actually see?  Its interesting to note that while their eye sight is developing rapidly, children don’t generally reach full adult 20:20 vision until somewhere between 3-5 years of age!  In fact babies lack the ability to see in 3D until depth perception starts to develop somewhere around 5 months.

IMG_2451When can I start forward facing my baby?  When a) they have excellent head control and upper back strength and b) they are big enough to comfortably fit the carrier you have for them.

I prefer to explain this in terms of developmental markers rather than age because different babies will reach this sooner or later than others, and its more important that babies have reached this developmental stage than arbitrarily be over a certain age.  The reason they need excellent head control and upper back strength is simply because when forward facing the carrier is unable to provide any head support.  And because they are facing outwards their head and uppermost torso isn’t even supported by your body either.  So they need to be able to hold these up for themselves.  And its it needs to be rock solid – I remember my daughter went through a distinct ‘nodding dog’ stage where she could mostly hold her own head but she looked a little bit like one of those nodding dogs.  No nodding dogs!!…  we need rock solid.

Comfortably fitting the carrier you have for them is different between different brand carriers.  Some are bigger than others, and so the baby needs to be older/physically bigger before they can be used in the forward facing mode compared to other smaller brands.  Rachel and I are working on a full comparison of the forward facing carriers in the library, which will include more information on this…  But what you are looking for when trying carriers on is that baby is not over extended – that their backs are not really flattened out and over extended in order to look over the panel and equally their in a good sitting position with legs not over spread or conversely under supported.  When trying carriers on trust your gut – does baby look comfortable or overly straightened?

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Tom at 10 months old in the Lillebaby Complete, making friends at the Chinese New Year Celebrations in Trafalgar Square

How long can I forward face my child for?  Several manufactures suggest a time limit for forward facing.  This is something I find fascinating, because babies are all different and they are different on different days!  Some days my children would have been happy forward facing for an hour, other days they’d have got fed up of it after 5-10 minutes.  So far better to read their cues than work off an arbitrary time limit.  And it really is arbitrary because as far as I can tell, unlike the limits set for car seats which were set based on research and understanding of optimal infant positioning, these are suggested not based on any researched or evidence but in response to articles written by companies who didn’t make forward facing carriers and were suggesting that it was ‘dangerous’.  So the companies who did make forward facing responded by suggesting it was ‘safe’ so long as under an arbitrary time limit.

Confused?  I know I was!  So what cues are we looking for in deciding how long to forward face your child on any given day?  Babies enjoy forward facing best when they are wide awake and at their most playful and alert.  So we are looking to time around this phase, and as mentioned how long this phase will last will be different on different days!  We are then looking to turn baby inward before they get tired, as they are becoming less playful, less alert,… long before they are actually tired we want to bring them inward.  When forward facing, babies don’t have the ability to snuggle in if everything becomes too much, so we run the risk of over stimulation and ultimately over tiredness.  The best way to avoid over stimulation is to turn baby in long before they get tired.  This gives them the option to snuggle in and helps them process, and ultimately should help them get that all important nap when they need it!  We all know the pain of a missed nap!

Does it matter if my baby falls asleep while forward facing?  Yes. Unfortunately, there is no head support for baby while forward facing which means if they fall asleep and their head starts to loll there is nothing to help support their head.  If this does happen please check their airway – check that as their head lolls it doesn’t loll over the top of the carrier.

In an ideal world you’d turn your baby inward long before they started to fall asleep, but accidental naps do happen!!  So best practise would be as soon as you notice that baby is falling asleep you’d turn them inward.  While I understand it is obnoxious to move a sleeping baby, the forward facing mode is really only designed for babies who can hold their heads up and are awake enough to be able to hold their heads up.

But my baby isn’t happy in their Caboo/stretchy wrap, they are nosy and want to be able to see and only forward facing will let them do this.  I completely get this, the vast majority of parents coming to me considering forward facing are those whose babies are starting to grow out of the Caboo or Stretchy wrap.  As I have discussed at length before both the Caboo and stretchy wraps are amazing for newborns, but parents often feel ready to move onto something else when babies leave the 4th trimester and go through that huge developmental leap where there are sleeping less and more interested in the surrounding world.  These slings are pretty confining, they are like swaddling, so it not a big surprise that babies might grow out of them developmentally around the same time they grow out of swaddling.  However, please don’t mistake this restlessness in a stretchy wrap or Caboo – where the sides of the sling come up high close to baby’s face – to mean your baby particularly wants or need to forward face.  Instead swapping baby to a carrier where the fabric doesn’t pass beyond the top of the shoulder blades – giving baby the freedom to turn their head this way and that unfettered – is usually more than enough to cure this new-found restlessness in slings.

21013881_1288986917896999_3133343590819235261_oIts also worth noting that forward facing is not the only alternative for a nosy baby.  Most slings and carriers also offer positions on the carers hip or back.  In general, for a buckle carrier, the hip position can be used once baby has good head control.  From here baby can see outward and get just as good a view of the world as they would forward facing, but they can also see the parents face for social referencing.  They can easily tuck in towards the parent when they start to become tired and naturally fall asleep, and they are fully supported in a very ergonomic position.  Its also possible to wear a younger baby on the hip in a ring sling or woven wrap or even a stretchy wrap, provided that the sling is worn in a way that supports the baby’s neck.  Often a muslin rolled into the wrap or sling is perfect for this – providing support behind the babies neck but still allowing them to move and be as nosy as they like!

img_8713The other alternative is to wear baby on your back.  Once they are tall enough to see over your shoulder they can get the same view as forward facing on your front, but it is more comfortable for you the parent as we load bear much better placing weight on our back verses carrying weight on our fronts.  Like the hip carry, it also gives the child the option to tuck in and fall asleep when needed.  For a buckle carry, this position can be used once the baby is able to sit independently or is very very close to being able to sit independently.  So in theory often from 6 or 7 months old, however, most 6 or 7 months old can’t see over their parents shoulders yet and thus are usually less impressed with this position.  Instead back carrying in a buckle carrier comes into its own from around 1 year old.  However, it is possible to carry younger babies on the back – my choice for this is a woven wrap because it is possible to wear babies up much higher so they can see over your shoulder right from the beginning and because they can be tightened to give better support enabling a baby who is not yet able to sit independently be worn on the back without fear of slumping etc.

It is also worth considering how long the forward facing phase lasts for.  As discussed above, babies can be worn forward facing once they have excellent neck and upper torso strength.  This is typically around 4 months (although this can vary a lot, anywhere from 3 months to 6 depending on the individual child).  Interestingly, around 8-10 months most babies seem to grow out of forward facing.  They are less interested and/or equally happy or even more happy in a inward facing carry.  Also around this time they get a lot heavier and the extra strain of forward facing starts to become too heavy for the parent.  Consequently, this is also often when parents start thinking about switching over to back carrying instead.  So the forward facing carrying phase is actually pretty short, typically only 4 to 5 months.  When you consider the majority of forward facing carriers are designed to be used from birth all the way to 2 or even 3 years old – the forward facing phase is only actually quite a small percentage of the total life of a carrier.

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Rachel aged 8 months in the Ergo Omni 360

Finally its worth considering cost and your budget.  Generally speaking you’ll pay a premium for forward facing. So its worth weighing all the information above up and decide how much you might use the forward facing position and how much it is worth to you.  How much are we talking?  Depends on which carriers but for example the new Ergo Omni 360 is £155 verses the Ergo Adapt (which does not offer forward facing but is a very similar carrier to the Omni in every other way) at £110.  So in this case the ability to face forward is costing £45.  Most forward facing carriers are around the £120-£150 mark.  While carriers lacking this function (but offering all the other positions, and a great many other features etc) are typically in the £75-100 region.  The exceptions to this are the Izmi priced at £75 and the Beco Gemini at £99… but these are a fair bit smaller than other forward facing carriers such as the Ergo 360s, the Lillebaby Complete, the Beco 8, the Mountain buggy Juno etc etc and thus while they do cost less they are unlikely to last your baby quite as long.  Deciding on whether its “worth it” or not is really a personal choice and depends a good deal on the personal preferences of both you and your child!  This can be where hiring a carrier for a couple of weeks and trying it out in your normal day to day life can really help.  I’ve had parents who’ve tried it out and decided that forward facing is a position they really love and use frequently and likewise I’ve had parents that to their surprise have found that they barely used the forward facing position.  For the latter group many went on to choose another carrier that didn’t offer the forward facing position and saved themselves a good deal of money. While those in the former group invariably were able to happily go and spend the extra money safe it the knowledge that it would be worth it for them.

-Madeleine

JPMBB PhysioCarrier Review

IMG_2471The Je Porte Mon Bebe (JPMBB) PhysioCarrier zips open to reveal the best mesh panel I have ever seen.  Most other carriers offering this ‘all seasons’ function open up to reveal only quite a thin slither of pretty dense mesh, and I often wonder how much of a difference it really makes.  Especially when the whole rest of the carrier is quite sturdy cotton with lots of padding.  I never feel like me or my baby are really any cooler.  But not so at all with the JPMBB – the panel rolls up to reveal a huge section of mesh panel… almost as wide as the babies back. Furthermore the mesh itself its very light and airy, while being strong yet soft. Truly its lovely!  And as this mesh is also found on the straps and padded parts of the carrier, in combination with a soft stroke-able cotton, this really is one of my picks during the summer.

IMG_2185And not just the summer, roll the panel down and zip it into place and you have a lovely year round carrier.  And spacious pocket – made with JPMBB’s trademark stretchy wrap fabric.  I will confess to using this quite often to store things like my mobile phone, bus pass, muslin cloth etc while out and about with my kids!

The PhysioCarrier offers 3 carrying positions – on your front, hip and back.  In each of these positions the baby faces your body.  While front carrying, the straps can be worn crossed on the parents back or ‘ruck sack’ style with the chest strap done up.  I often struggle to do chest straps up so usually prefer to cross.  But interestingly, on the JPMBB this strap is mounted on really smooth runners so its possible to raise it to a point I can reach easily, do it up and then slide it back down to the right place.  Which makes this a lot easier for those of us who aren’t very flexible.

IMG_2173The carrier on its own can be used from about 5 or 6 months – once baby’s legs are long enough so sit into the seat without being overspread.  For my daughter (who is 50th percentile on weight but 90th on height) this was around 6 months.  Until around 3 years of age, maybe even longer… I was shocked when ours arrived just how well Tom fitted into it.  Tom is 4!  The reason for this spectacular longevity is the back panel.  While the seat width doesn’t adjust the length of the back panel does.  It can be shortened for a younger child (or for a nosey child who wants a good view or to take their arms out) then lengthens and lengthens as the child grows ensure a nice safe comfortable ride even for growing toddlers.  Or in Tom’s case children who are starting school next month!  This is a carrier that will definitely last you for as long as you wish to carry your little ones.

It is possible to use this carrier prior to 5 or 6 months – even from newborn if you wish – so long as you purchase a separate ‘booster pack’.  This pack contains a pillow that goes into the base of the carrier and baby sits onto and a slender head support that threads into a specific pocket at the top of the carrier.  As anyone whose been reading this blog a while will know, I am not normally a fan of infant inserts.  However, as inserts go, I quite like these.  Inserts for other brands are often hot, bulky and a slightly confusing to use!  The JPMBB booster pack is however quite obvious and not overly bulky or warm.  There are obvious pockets for both parts.  The pocket for the pillow that goes into the base of the carrier even says “Sit Baby Here” in block capitals!  So its really quite hard to get it wrong!  Likewise, the simple straps to adjust the length of the carrier make it a doddle to line the neck support pillow up with the back of babies neck.  Ensuring a great fit.  Furthermore, if your at all worried about the positioning of your newborn and want to check its OK you can unzip to reveal the mesh panel and actually look at your baby’s back.  This really takes the guess work out of getting the positioning right and is a lovely feature for beginners and anyone who is a little nervous as they get used to using their sling.

Another thing I really liked about this carrier is that this seat pillow can also be used while back carrying.  Developmentally, babies can be carried on the back in a buckle carrier like this one once they are able or almost to sit independently.  Typically from around 6 months ish.  However, most babies aren’t massive fans of the back carry position until they are tall enough to see over their parents shoulder.  This is often not until they are around a year old.  By using the seat pillow, baby is raised higher and can see over parents shoulder months earlier.  Again this is enabled by the very long, and adjustable back panel which will accommodate the length of a 6-12 month old plus this cushion safely.

IMG_2472In fact this adjustable back panel is one of my favourite features of this carrier.  Not only does it really help this carrier work for different ages and sizes… but it also helps give a great seated position.  As well as shortening the overall panel length, the straps also tighten the area around babies legs – helping to give the baby a nice deep squat position, with pelvis tilted to parent and spine rounded a developmentally optimal position.

All in all this is a really great, well thought out carrier.  Most ideal for children aged 6 months to 3 years but will accommodate a newborn with the aid of the booster pack.  Well worth trying on at your local sling library and seeing if it will work well for you.  And if you wondering where to get one from, we got ours from the excellent Hannah over at Wear My Baby.

-Madeleine

 

Our Connecta Stock is here!!

I am so excited to announce the arrival of Connecta Baby Carriers for sale at Sheen Slings.  They join our small but growing number of slings for purchase from consultations, workshops and sling library sessions.which also include Hana Baby Stretchy wraps, Boba Stretchy wraps, Close Parent Caboo Lite, and Izmi Baby Carriers.

Connecta Baby Carriers have long been popular at the library, with many people hiring and a good deal going onto buy after that.  Now we are able to offer a true ‘try before you buy’… hire one of our 5 library Connecta, then if you like it and choose to buy from us we will deduct the cost of the hire (the cost of one standard 2 week hire) and you simply swap our hire Connecta for a brand new one of your choice.  Our stock includes both standard and petite strap Connecta in a choice of timeless Denim or a range of funky prints.

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TwinGo Carrier Review (Updated!)

I originally reviewed the TwinGo October last year following hosting a travelling TwinGo carrier at Sheen Slings for two weeks. I am updating this review now with the exciting news that Sheen Slings now has its own TwinGo carrier, which will be available to try and hire at the sling library and consultations.

Our new one is very similar to the one I hosted last year, but the 2017 model rather than the 2016.  They are very very similar, the 2017 simply features updated buckles, logo and slightly different fabric.  And ours is rather tasteful grey with mint and yellow linings for the base and attachment carriers respectively.  I am so excited to start showing this carrier off to parent of twins or close in age siblings 😀

 

Original Review from October 2016:

There are very very few decent dedicated Twin baby carriers on the market, and seeing one in the flesh isn’t easy.  So when the opportunity to host the Travelling TwinGo carrier came up I jumped at it – both as a chance to try this carrier out for myself and to enable some local twin parents to try one out for themselves.

The TwinGo was designed by a twin mum who found wearing her babes helped her no end but did struggle with the bulkiness of two independent carriers on her petite frame (read her story here).  What I love about the TwinGo is its flexibility – it can be used as two completely independent carriers or can be snapped together to form one tandem carrier without all the bulk of putting two independent carriers on one on top of each other.

So how does this work?  Well it comes as two carriers – the ‘base carrier’ (blue) and the ‘attachment carrier’ (orange).  The base carrier looks just like most buckle style carriers available on the market – albeit with one of the biggest pockets I’ve ever seen!  The attachment carrier looks similar but all its bits seems to come off!  Straps detach etc… and it also has a huge pocket.  In fact both carriers can fold into their respective pockets meaning that this carrier packs away to a surprisingly small size.

 

To wear as a tandem carrier, the waistbands of the base and attachment carriers snap together, you then put your 1st babe on your back in the base carrier using your preferred method for this, then put your 2nd baby on your front in the attachment carrier and snap the attachment carrier onto the shoulder straps of the base carrier.  There is then a safety belt that goes round the baby in the attachment carrier, in place of where shoulder straps would usually meet the main body of the carrier.

To wear as independent carriers, on two adults, one uses the base carrier as you would any other buckle carrier while the other first snaps the shoulder straps onto the attachment carrier and then puts baby on as you would any other buckle carrier.  Simple!!  Both can be used on either the front or the back in this configuration. The attachment carrier also offers a hip position too.

img_3982This probably sounds more complicated to explain than to actually do, so I headed down to the local Twin group and my local children’s centre who kindly advertised it to all the twin parents on their books and we tried it for real!  Sadly there’s no photos as I can’t take pictures at the children’s centre but with one demo the mums there felt really confident putting it on and most importantly comfortable!  In fact I have to say I was very surprised by how comfortable I was too.  I am currently 8 months pregnant and as I am always being told my demo dolls aren’t exactly light, but I really felt comfortable wearing two even over the huge bump (which is an achievement as I feel pretty uncomfortable all the time at the moment!).  The carrier has a nice amount of padding and they’ve clearly really thought about how it all snaps together to ensure there isn’t unevenness that could lead to discomfort.

In terms of specs, the TwinGo can take babies on the front from 4.5kg (10lb) unless combined with an infant insert… and while could be used for a newborn it is more of a ‘next step’ carrier like most other buckle carriers. On the back it can be used from 4 months onward as long as your little one has strong and consistent neck control.  However, from 4.5kg it goes all the way up to a max weight 20kg (45lb) when used as two separate carriers and 30kg (70lb) when used as a tandem carrier.  That translates to easily being able to accommodate two toddlers!  Provided you yourself feel strong enough to do this of course.

I think this carrier can be a great option for anyone who doesn’t currently own a carrier or owns something that their little ones are now growing out of (such as a tandem wearing little ones in ring slings or stretchy wraps such as the Moby wrap).  In this case, the cost of the TwinGo (~£185) can be cheaper than buying two similar such carriers aimed at singletons … i.e. two Ergos, or Lillebabies etc – which are over £100 each.

But there are other options!  And some a great deal cheaper!  Many carrier types aimed at singletons can be combined easily and less bulkily – woven wraps, mei tai and buckle carriers (particularly buckle carriers with very minimal padding such as the Connecta or Izmi Baby) – either with two of the same or more interestingly with a carrier of another type.  By choosing two carriers of a different type it maybe easier to accommodate two parents of different body shapes and sizes but still having the option to comfortably tandem carry.  So if you already own a carrier or sling, theres a good chance it can be combined with something else… meaning you might only need to buy one additional carrier rather than a TwinGo.  For example I had a couple recently who were entertaining purchasing a TwinGo, but already owned 2 JMPBB stretch-hybrid wraps and a woven wrap.  They wanted to gain confidence back carrying and add something that would be easier to back carry with.  For them the answer was the Connecta, both were happy using it on their backs and happy using it over their JMPBB on their front.  The minimal padding meant this wasn’t at all overwhelming even on the petite-framed mum. They also learnt to use their woven and JMPBB on their back so between the three carriers have a huge range of flexibility for different situations going out together or alone without needed to spend the money on a dedicated Twin carrier.

The best bet for anyone thinking about what carrier to buy is to go and see your local sling consultant or visit a sling library and see some of these options for yourself and try them on!  See how they’d work for you!

-Madeleine