Why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan

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

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

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

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

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

– Madeleine

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Review of the Kaya Babywearing Baby Carrier from Nomad Children

New to the UK, KAYA are a Bulgarian based brand whose gorgeous carriers are being brought to the UK by London based Babywearing shop Nomad Children.  Their range includes woven wraps, ring slings, full buckle carriers, meh dai and stretchy wraps.

Here I review their full buckle carrier, which is made from their beautifully soft woven wrap material.  The soft material and adjustability of this carrier means that it is soft and moulds beautifully around your child to give them a great fit.

To see it in action and hear my full thoughts, please watch the video below!

 

 

Vital facts about this carrier:

  • Adjusts in both width and height to allow the carrier to a perfect fit for babies from 8/10 weeks or so all the way through to toddlerhood.
  • Waistband is wide and relatively well padded at the sides (unpadded at the centre) and is worn apron style which means it can be worn quite high and good for those with relatively shorter torsos.
  • Wide and firmly padded shoulder straps, which are designed to be worn in “ruck sack style”.  theoretically it is possible to cross the straps over parents back but in reality this is challenging.
  • Offers two carrying positions – front carry and back carry.  Back carry is relatively low compared to some other carriers.
  • Has a detachable hood which attaches via poppers.

-Madeleine

FAQ – How is the Sling Library Funded?

The simple answer is it isn’t, the library doesn’t received any external funding to run.  Instead the idea is that it pays for itself through the rentals and donations.

It’s taken a while, but for the most part the Sling Library sessions do now just about manage to pay for themselves in a sustainable way.  By this I mean it earns enough to cover on going insurance costs and of course for the slings and carriers themselves.  Interestingly, the library alone does not earn enough to pay for my training or my time.  In an ideal world it would, but in reality I’ve found the balance between keeping both the sessions and the hire fees at a accessable and affordable level has meant that these costs are simply not covered by the library.  And so I simply choose to donate the time these sessions and the resulting admin takes.

I think this might be a real suprise to many library users reading this.  I am often asked (particularly during busy sessions) why I don’t simply run more sessions.  Or if I could start this weeks session 20 minutes earlier because someone has x commitment, or if they can arrive as the session is finishing because they have y commitment.  And while I would love to run more sessions, and run longer sessions and would love to help everyone find the right sling and become completely confident using it….  I have to balance this with the needs of my family and what I can sustainably manage to offer while not charging for my time.  I have balance my desire to keep the sessions and hire fees affordable and how much time I can afford to donate for free without negatively impacting on my family.  For now this balance has been acheived at 3-4 sessions a month – or at least when the sessions stick to time and don’t run over!

Sessions running over is something I continually struggle with!  If I sometimes seem impatient with questions and requests when its already 20, or 30 minutes after the end of the session time please forgive me.  Please understand that my frustration is not at you but my own internal struggle to between wanting to help and wanting to answer ALL the questions and my guilt that I haven’t made lunch for my daughter yet, and I need to pick my son up in 2 hours and I promised I’d fix that thing for him before he got back and I’m now worried I won’t get time and I am starting to feel that frustration that something that I do to satisfy my need to volunteer and help is now taking more of my time and resources than I can afford to give.  I know that I need to get better at drawing these sessions to a close.  It’s hard when someone is front of you asking for help to say no, but in reality these sessions can only remain affordable and accessable if I can keep them to time and if those who do need more help (and can afford to) take the private consultation or workshop route instead.  Particularly as it is private consultations, workshops and sale of slings that pay for my training costs, for my time and plug any gaps in finance that the Library side has.  Again these don’t make huge amounts, but they do keep it all going and make it possible!

The other question I often get around funding is about the slings and carriers themselves.  Many people assume that the brands simply give me these carriers, but in reality this is extremely rare.  Most I have bought.  A small number I’ve received in exchange for working at a show or product testing and a similarly small number I’ve been very kindly gifted by the brands or distributors directly.  But the vast majorty I’ve paid for.  Fortunately, most I’ve been able to buy at discounted rate – as many brands recognise the importance of Sling Libraries in allowing potential customers to try before they buy.  With new carriers being released all the time this is of course an ongoing process!! Hire fees and donations from the Sling Library sessions are constantly used on purchasing new carriers to keep collection upto date and meet demand for more popular carriers.

So how can you help the Sling Library Survive and Thrive?  Amazingly, there are several things you can do to help the Sling Library without spending any money at all:

  1. Tell you friends!  Whether you’ve been to a sling library or not, telling your friends, a new parent or expectant parent can make a huge difference.  Personal recommendations are always more powerful than any paid adverstising and often people have never heard of a sling library or are not sure how one might help them but are delighted to discover they exist once someone tells them about it.
  2. Write us a review on Google or Facebook.  Reviews and recommendations on social media help people find us.
  3. Comment on our posts on Facebook and Instagram, maybe even consider sharing a post occasionally.  The more comments and shares a posts gets the more that people get to see that post and other similar posts.  Simply liking a post no longer helps it get a wide distribution – so the best way you can help any small business or Sling Library is to comment on their posts as this helps Facebook know to show more people this post!  Its sad but true but most of my posts are show to only half, often a lot less than half of those who like my page let alone anyone new.  But those posts that do get comments go out to far far more people and can really help get the message out to as many new parents as possible.

 

-Madeleine

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New Sling Library Dates for the New Year

Wishing you all a huge Happy New Year from Sheen Slings!  I hope 2019 brings you and your family new adventures and plenty of joy!

Sling Library will be back from January the 8th and we have four sessions this month!  The dates and times of these sessions and those for the next few months are below.  In addition to the sessions, I’ll be running consults again from the 2nd of January and I have space for a few workshops over the next few months.  I often schedule these as demand allows so if you’re at all interested in a workshop do drop me a message so I can start scheduling accordingly.  I have also been increasing the range of slings that are available to purchase from Sheen Slings directly.  Increasing this range further and making it even easier to purchase your ideal carrier is definitely on my goal list for 2019!

Upcoming Sling Library dates:

  • Tuesday 8th Jan, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 18th January, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 22nd Jan, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 26th Jan, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 5th Feb, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 15th February, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 19th Feb, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 23rd Feb, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 5th March, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 15th March, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 19th March, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 30th March, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 2nd April, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 16th April, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 27th April, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)

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

Baby Bjorn One Review

There are some carriers I have in the library because they fit a wide range of people, are very versitile and are generally brilliant.  And then there are ones that are a bit different and I have because they are good for a specific situation or a particular subset.  The Baby Bjorn One definitely fits into the latter catagory.  It does not fit a wide range of people, it isn’t particularly versitile but there are some for whom this is the right choice.

It’s also a carrier that is asked for ALOT!  Which is understandable, because it’s readily availible in high street stores and one you often see out and about.  But it’s also one I see brought to troubleshooting sessions over and over again.  Often its possible to tweak it and get a better fit but sometimes it just doesn’t fit well and ultimately something else ends up being better.  And of those who come asking for the Bjorn One who haven’t yet bought one, the vast majority opt for something else following trying a range of different options on.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Bjorn One only fits a relatively small range of people really well.  There are two main reasons for this

  1. The torso of the carrier is very long. The Bjorn One has a fixed panel that runs between adult and baby between the waist strap and the shoulder straps.  The panel doesn’t adjust, only the shoulder straps and unfortunately this panel is very long.  Generally if you are below about 5’8” (172cm) and/or have a shorter torso this panel will be too long for you.  It’s still possible to wear the carrier – either by scrunching the panel or by dropping the waist belt to your hips rather than your waist but the result will be a less good fit and will be less comfortable for you the wearer.  If you drop the waist band this will put more pressure on your shoulders and is likely to give you back ache, while if you scrunch the panel it will be more comfortable except that you might feel the rouched panel material against your (and your baby’s) tummies.  Which is a little non-ideal.  Consequently, anyone over about 5’8” tend to find this carrier far more comfortable than anyone under this height.  In fact this carrier can be good option for the very tall – 6ft and over, because the shoulder straps can go pretty long and accomodate taller frames.
  2. The panel running between adult and baby tends to sit over breast tissue on women.  This can be very uncomfortable for new mothers, particularly those who are breastfeeding.

Consequently, it is often the case that the Bjorn One works alot better for men than women.  This is not an absolute, there are some taller woment who it does fit well and isn’t uncomfortable over boobs and conversely there are men for whom it doesn’t fit at all well… but it’s really not at all uncommon for couples to come to me for help with their Bjorn One baby carriers and for the dad to say he is pretty comfortable, while the mother is experiencing back pain and/or discomfort when her boobs are feeling full.

But for those who it does fit, the Bjorn can be a great choice.  In particular parents who love it love it because;

  • You fit the parent first and then the baby slots in after.  Compared to carriers where you do the straps up around you and baby, some parents find they feel more secure getting baby in and out.  This is particularly true of those who are very nervous about using a baby carrier.
  • The Slide and Release buckles.  While most carriers use standard buckles, the baby Bjorn have these special buckles that involve overshooting then sliding back.  They then have a seperate button that needs to be pressed while sliding the buckle the otherway again.  The advantage of these buckles is that because they need very specific movements they can’t be undone by mistake or by a parent who is on “autopilot” … you have to think about it!  Again for nervous parents this adds to a feeling of security and safety.  Although its worth saying while some parents find these buckles really inutitive to use, others find the sliding past really tricky and can’t seem to ever get the hang of them!  So this is definitely a marmite feature.
  • The straps are not overly padded and not too bulky on the shoulders.  Which can be a draw for slimmer taller people who can find more bulky padding a bit too much.

20180305_174345The Baby Bjorn One offers 3 carrying positions. Baby facing parent on the front, Baby facing outwards on the front and a back carry.  Although in practise, while the 2 front carrying positions are pretty straight forward, the back carry is a bit more tricky! Because of how the straps are configured, to get baby onto your back on your own you need to first place baby on your front and then get your arms out (walk like an Egyptian method – one over, one under) swizzle baby around to your back then put your arms back in.  Its a mega faff, and most babies complain alot during the process!  The lower waist band position of the Bjorn One also means this carry is pretty low and so its harder to monitor your little one once they are back there.  Consequently, Bjorn don’t recommend the back carry position before 12 months.

However, baby can be carried on the front from 3.5kg.  The one contains an built in infant insert which acts to raise the height of the baby within the carrier.  The width of the carrier also adjusts through ‘locking’ zips at the bottom.  In practise the carrier still feels a little large for the smallest newborns but works for most from around 6 weeks onwards.  Then as baby grows the infant insert can be unzipped, and the zippered base can be made incrementially wider so the carrier can grow with baby.  Generally speaking it fits baby reasonably well up till about 18 months give or takeHowever, many parents move on from this carrier earlier than that (more like 11-15 months ish), simply because front carrying becomes heavy and many parents struggle to back carry with the One.  So instead they often move onto a bigger carrier than is easier to get baby onto the back with.

The forward facing carry can be used once baby has full neck control and is tall enough that their face fully clears the top of the carrier.  Unfortunately, a hip carry position isn’t really possible because of how the straps are configured.

Another thing to consider is the material – Bjorn has a number of finishes for this carrier but the standard one at least is pretty rigid and not entirely soft!  Many parents don’t like how “hard” it feels for a newborn.  However, this is something Bjorn have improved on and their newest models are softer and they do also offer a mesh which is softer and lighter and some parents prefer for this reason.

Finally – do consider if you think you’d like to breastfeed in a carrier.  Because the Bjorn has material running between you and baby, it is extremely hard to breast feed in this sling without taking it off first because part of the carrier sits over the boobs.

All in all the Baby Bjorn One can be a good option for parents with longer straighter/flatter torsos and particularly those who are more nervous about babywearing but it is very worth trying on before you buy, and comparing to a few other brands as it certainly doesn’t fit everyone.  It works well from around 6 weeks to somewhere between 1 year and 18 months, which is a smaller age range than many of its main competitors and at a cost of £139 it is maybe not quite as good value for money as other similar carriers from brands such as Ergo and Beco.