KiBi Carrier Review

Want to see a magic trick?  A carrier that gives a great fit to both a 6 month old and a 4.5 year old? I mean that must involve magic right??

Longevity is the holy grail of anything baby related, and ‘how long will this last?’ must be a question I am asked a few dozen times a month!  KiBi have responded to this very natural desire among parents by making a carrier with the most adaptable panel that I have ever seen.  Smoothly transitioning from a size that fits my almost 6 month old all the way to a size where my 4.5 year old still almost appears to have growing space!

To do this the KiBi panel can be adjusted in 3 ways.

  1. The width is dictated by a combination of 4 poppers to give gross adjustment and a central drawstring to give fine tuning allowing an exact knee to knee fit at every point between the jumps between popper positions.  Broadly speaking 1 popper fits a 6 month old, 2 poppers a 1 yr old, 3 poppers a 2 year old and finally 4 poppers attached equates to 3 years and up.
  2. The leg openings and depth of the seat is adjusted with a pair of ladder lock buckles on either side of the panel.  Often in adjustable carriers the height of the panel is altered at just one point and this can leave the leg openings gaping or make it hard to get a nice spread squat position with knees above bum on a smaller child.  By adding a separate pair of buckles controlling the leg openings the KiBi have nicely solved this problem and, as you can see on Rachel, makes it possible to get a great ‘M position’ with knees nicely above her bum.
  3. Finally the overall height of the panel is altered by a soft part that simply squashes down or pulls up sliding over the shoulder straps.  This part then anchors at the desired height on the straps with little key ring style clips.  These clips do look pretty flimsy and I have heard of them snapping. Which is something that would normally put me off.  However, I have to confess that I personally don’t bother to use them.  What I quite like about this squashy part is that if you don’t anchor using the clips you can easily adjust the height of the panel while the child is in there.  This means when your little one is awake you can squash the panel down so they can see more, or so they can have their arms out.  Then as they get tired you can simply pull the panel up to give them more support.

A big part of how this all works is that the material KiBi have used is soft and light, which means it can easily be squashed down without too much bulk.  Completely squashed down it is still a little bulky (as can be see by all the rolls behind Rachel’s shoulders!) but for me its no more bulky than some of the bigger more padded carriers on the market like the Ergo 360 and the Lillebaby so I really didn’t mind the bulk at all and for me it is worth it for how the carrier will grow with the child.

Most standard sized baby carriers on the market work well from around 5-6 months of age until around 2-3 years.  In order to be safe and comfortable, a buckle carrier needs to support a child to at least mid thigh on the legs and reach up their back to least directly below their arm pits as a bare minimum.  As can be seen, the KiBi is still supporting Tom right up to the top of his shoulders and while not quiet knee to knee on both sides, certainly well beyond mid thigh with a great deep squat position.  Tom is just above the 50th percentile for both height and weight … so I am pretty confident in saying that the KiBi would continue to fit most children until almost 5!  In fact I think Tom may grow out on weight before size … the weight maximum for this carrier is 20kg and Tom currently weighs 18.

At the other end of the spectrum, the weight minimum for this carrier is 3.5kg.  While it was safety tested for this weight, its worth noting that this carrier is not suitable for a newborn as there is no newborn adaption or insert etc.  The manufacturers suggest it can be used from 4-6 months, and I think from 6 months is realistic.  In the photos Rachel is just about to turn 6 months old.  While the carrier could have gone a little smaller for her, and fitted around 5 months… its worth noting Rachel is on the taller side (91st percentile for height, and 50th for weight) and so can fit things a little before the ‘average’ baby.  But all in all 6 months to almost 5 years is pretty impressive,… the KiBi will certainly last you until you no longer need a baby carrier!  In fact on its biggest setting the KiBi is bigger than any of the toddler/size up carriers I have in the library collection.

As well as adapting as the child grows, the KiBi fits a wide range of parent sizes.  The straps have two points of adjustment allowing them to easily fit bigger frames as well as syncing all the way down to fit petite frames too.  This carrier is one that works well for families where parents are very different sizes but both would like to carry.  The straps can be worn both ruck sack style or crossed across the back as per personal preference.  And the carrier can be used carry on the front, hip and back.  Forward facing carries are not recommended with this carrier.

I also like that KiBi have thought about when your little one might want to walk.  Carriers like this rarely fit in bags, and can be a bit flappy or look a bit ugly worn ’empty’.  KiBi have added little elastics to the waist allowing you to roll the carrier up neatly so you can wear it around your waist as a neat little package with no worries about catching on anything.  Another interesting little feature is the ‘lockable’ buckles.  Each buckle has a sliding switch to lock it.  I like this verses 3 point safety buckles as you can still open them with 1 hand but you can’t do it absentmindedly or accidentally, which is a nice safety feature.

 

All in all the KiBi is a fab carrier, with all of its sizing systems and clever little extras its not the simplest carrier on the market but its still very easy and well worth taking a little time learning to use for its sheer adaptability.  I can see this carrier working really well for anyone who wants a carrier that will last them as long as possible, but in particular I think this carrier really shines for families with more than 1 child.  Particularly families with a relatively small age gap who are looking to avoid the double buggy … this carrier would make a great choice in combination with a single buggy; if the baby is asleep in the buggy the toddler can be carried, while instead if the toddler wants to go in the buggy the baby can be carried – no need for different carriers for each child and when not in use it easily folds down to fit under the buggy or around your waist.

-Madeleine

Lifft Stretchy Wrap Review

FB_IMG_1488654953551This is fast becoming a favourite.  Released in December last year, the Lifft Stretchy is pretty new to the market and I first tried one at the Northern Sling Exhibition earlier this year.  As I already had 7 different brands of stretchy wraps in the library, a new stretchy wrap definitely wasn’t on my shopping list for the day…  However, before the exhibition Alex from Lifft had been in contact and I’d promised I’d try it.  I was pretty certain, I’d try it, shrug and decide it wasn’t significantly different from those already in my library, make polite comments and then be off on my merry way.  Nope, wrong,… I immediately absolutely loved it and bought one for the library on the spot.

So what makes it so great and a worthy addition to the library?

  • 20170304_122240It is very easy to tie and use.  It has both lovely stretch and great elasticity so it is very easy to pop baby in and out without worrying about baby slumping over time.
  • It is thin.   Not as thin feeling as the bamboo or tencel blend stretchy wraps, but the thinnest of the cotton stretchy wraps I’ve tried.  As the standard stretchy wrap carry involves three layers over baby, its important to consider warmth and season!  The Lifft wrap is one that I feel would work well all year round even in summer (maybe not on the hottest of days, but fine for the vast majority of the british summer.
  • It is very supportive.  Support, and thus how long the stretchy wrap will last you before you start to feel like your baby is getting to heavy and/or wriggly is a tricky one!  Often more supportive wraps are the ones that are less easy to tie or they are considerably thicker and thus warmer to wear.  I love the Lifft because it bucks this tread, it is thin and easy to use and yet it is still very supportive and will last you longer than many other brands.
  • Price point.  At £35 direct from Lifft, its a fair bit cheaper than a number of comparable brands – and that’s always nice!

My one slight nit picky con with this wrap is I find it a bit narrower than I’d like in an ideal world.  That said, my husband finds narrower wraps easier as he is less likely to get tangled or twisted!!  But I like enough width to be able to pull the centre pass up to my babies neck and then down to cover their feet (as Rachel is always kicking her socks off!).  I can *just* about manage this with the Lifft, but its not as easy as compared to other wraps that are say just a couple of cm wider.  But this isn’t a deal breaker at all and I’d still reach for this with any newborn for all the reasons above.

To read more about how the Lifft wrap compares to the other 7 stretchy wraps in the library (and to see a truly giant table) please click here!

-Madeleine

My favourite Newborn carriers

Today Rachel turns 3 months old, marking the end of the 4th trimester.  As she leaves the newborn period behind, these were my favourite carriers to use with her during her newborn phase;

image-20170104_090516.jpg1. Hana Baby stretchy wrap – I just love stretchy wraps for those early days.  Super soft, easy to tie, easy to pop baby in and out of, and perfect fit for parent and baby every time. Perfect for round the home as well as out and about… David and I would both wear her for hours on end in a Hana.  See previous posts for more on the Hana and other stretchy wrap brands.

2. Mid-Length woven wraps – namely my size 4 Didymos Prima Severn Sky and my size 3 Firespiral Brimstone Kaleidoscope.  These were great to grab for when Rachel was unsettled and needed a quick calm.  The shorter length compared to 1. and 3. meant I could very quickly throw them on and be quickly rocking her without needing to worry about oodles of fabric.  Mainly I’d use a kangaroo carry although sometimes also a front wrap cross carry tied under bum or at shoulder.  Useful for quick ups around the home and short trips out… although the reduced support would mean I’d choose something else for further afield or if I knew she’d be in there a while.

3. Long woven wraps – namely my size 7 Didymos Lisca Achat, size 6 Girasol Earthy Rainbow, and my size 6 Didymos Rosalinde Doubleface.  All three are beautifully thin and super soft and just feel perfect around a little baby.  While I used these from the beginning as well, I probably reached most for 1. and 2. during the first few weeks, while as Rachel grew, I started preferring long wovens more and more.  The extra support provided by the woven fabric compared to stretchy and by the extra length when compared to mid-length wraps meant these were absolutely great for long trips out, for around the home as she started to have longer more defined naps.  And as she started to want to stretch and flex more in a sling.  My most used carries were the front double hammock, front wrap cross carry and reinforced kangaroo carry.  Front double hammock in particular is my favourite for this age.

4. The Connecta Baby and the Izmi Baby.  While I generally preferred the perfect fit, comfort and closeness afforded by wrap style slings for this 4th trimester phase… there were days where the simplicity of a buckle carrier was really useful.  I.e. on days we were going to the doctors or health visitors and I knew I’d need to get her in and out of the carrier quickly and probably in a confined space.  Or on days when it was raining heavily and I was likely to need to retie while outside…  On these occasions I loved the Connecta and the Izmi.  Both are very light and can be easily sized down to give a lovely snugly fit for a little baby.  Which one I choose simply depended which one wasn’t on hire.  I marginally preferred the Izmi, but as it was out on hire so much I didn’t get to use it as often!  Please see previous post if you’d like to see how both of these sized down for a newborn compared to other buckle carriers.

Please note that these were my personal favourites.  Carrying your baby is a really personal thing and different people prefer different things.  Its always always worth learning about different carrier types, trying a few different brands and finding out what fits you best.  Both in terms of physical fit and fits your needs.   Its worth noting that both the Caboo and Ring Slings are really popular choices for newborns and ones I’ve seen work many many times with many parents.  I personally preferred stretchy wraps to the Caboo as these fit my body better, but I’ve met so many parents who’ve found the ease of simply slipping the Caboo over their head has meant that this is the best fit for them.  Likewise I often compare ring sling to marmite… you love them or you hate them.  They just aren’t my jam, but I’ve had so many clients for whom the ring sling is the perfect newborn and beyond carrier.

Ultimately its all about finding your personal favourite or favourites!

-Madeleine

(Photo of Didymos Rosalinde by the talented Alex Cetera)

 

 

Manduca Review

 

20140813_145625We bought our Manduca 3.5 years ago when our son was 5 months old, and used it practically everyday for the next 2.5 years until he turned 3. Its been to 8 countries with us, on tubes, trains, buses, cable cars and ferries, through all weather conditions and been used by multiple members of our family. To say its been well loved is an understatement!

Whenever, anyone comes to the library looking for an buckle carrier I tell them it is key to find the one that fits them the best. Quite simply, the Manduca is the carrier that fitted us best – myself, husband David and our son Tom.

IMG_3719

For me, the ability to cross the arm straps across my back was a big draw compared to other carriers on the market at the time (Ergo and Boba). I’ve never had the strongest of backs and I found crossing the straps really helped distribute the weight better for me, when front carrying. David was never bothered about this, but as the Manduca does both crossed and ruck-style straps it meant we could have the choice to use it in either way. The arm straps also come with 3 points of adjustment. One at the top of the carrier and two at the buckle. The two at the buckle run in opposite directions – which means no matter whether you are doing front carries or back carries there is always one you can adjust easily; ‘with your wrists’. A little bit of practise and trial and error the first couple of times we used it and we quickly found a set up that could be shared between David and I will all adjustments between out two bodies being done on the two points of adjustments we could easily reach and tighten without straining our wrists. This meant we never had those ‘urgh, you’ve messed up my settings’-type arguments! It must be said that David and I are relatively similar sizes, which does make it easier to share one carrier. But the Manduca is one I’ve seen work quite frequently for many couples of different body types looking to share one carrier.

img_8867For Tom, the Manduca offered the best fit due to the extendable back panel. When zipped in the panel has a height of 33cm, which is one of the shortest on the market. This meant at 5 months old Tom could easily move his head, turn this way and that and see whatever he wanted completely unimpeded (while other carriers came up too high on him to do this at this age). As an infant he’d loved our stretchy wrap but as he went through the developmental leap around 3-4 months he just wanted to look around and found the stretchy wrap too confining. So often I have parents coming to the library at this point and saying that their baby needs a front facing carrier – and I remember feeling exactly the same! However, at the time there simply wasn’t a good ergonomic front facing carrier on the market. Now there are quite a few and I have 5 in my library collection, but there just wasn’t one when Tom was 4-5 months old (in fact the Lillebaby came out in the UK 6 weeks after we bought our Manduca). But with hindsight, I am actually glad there wasn’t an option for forward facing at the time… because in reality it turned out he didn’t need to forward face – simply having a carrier that would hold him securely but not pass above the back of his neck giving him complete freedom of head movement was exactly what he needed. He got the ability to look around when he wanted but also the ability to tuck in and simply fall asleep when he needed to with the reassurance of seeing mum or dad right there, and with mum and dad able to see and respond to his cues.

As he grew we eventually moved to the extended or ‘zipped out’ position – probably around 9/10 months ish for Tom. At a height of 41cm, this is one of the longest back panels on the market and this has really been the key to the success of this carrier for us as it has meant this carrier kept being supportive right up until Tom was around 3 years old. It has given us the best of both worlds – a short back panel for those earlier months, then a much longer one as Tom grew. To see how this back panel compares with other carriers when carrying an older child please take a look here.

20170220_121638Now with the birth of our daughter 2 months ago we are starting to use the Manduca once again.  Again we’ve mainly used a stretchy wrap for the beginning.  The Manduca has an integrated infant insert but as you have to sit down and popper your baby into it I never used it, as it seemed like a bit of a faff.  And Rachel, born at an epic 9lb6 was quickly to big for it anyway.  But Manduca do also make a couple of attachments – the size it and the ellipse which help size the panel down to fit a younger baby.  These have allowed us to get a perfect fit for Rachel from about 8 weeks when we first tried it.

In terms of comparing with others – the Manduca has 3 carrying positions – front, back and hip.  We used the front position until around 18 months with Tom and the back position from around 1 year on wards, until Tom outgrew it at around 3 years old.  While I tried the hip position a couple of times, like the majority of buckle carriers… I always found it a massive faff and never really bothered.  Its also worth noting that the Manduca is carrier is really well made.  It might not be the prettiest carrier on the market but it is seriously built to last… we used it almost everyday, several hours a day, for 3 whole years with our son and now its going strong for another 3 years with #2!  By the end we will have truly got superb value for money from it!  …Although the colour has faded, as can be seen from the photos! But this has never bothered me… and I didn’t really notice until someone brought a brand new one to the library recently!

All in all I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Manduca to anyone at all.  It is really well made such a great all rounder fitting a wide range of body types and fitting babies well from 2 months all the way through till late toddlerhood or beyond.

-Madeleine

Woven FAQ – What size wrap do I need?

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

So to kick off this series is the most common question of all:

What size wrap do I need?

The most common wrap sizes run from a size 2 (2.7m) to a size 7 (5.2m) in 50 cm intervals.  Which you’ll need depends on two things:

  • First and foremost – what you want to do with it
  • Secondly – you and your baby’s size

For the second point – the best way to work out what size you need is to try different sizes on and determine your ‘Base size‘.  This is defined as the size you need to do a front wrap cross carry.  Please note that I say your size and your baby’s as I need 1 size longer to wrap my 3.5 year old verses my newborn!  But the biggest determiner on this will be your size.  Most people are between a 5-7 for this.

Then as I mentioned it depends on what you want to do with your woven;

With a base size wrap you can do almost everything – front wrap cross carry, front cross carry, double hammock etc!  In general, carries where the fabric passes 3 times around you and your baby’s body.

 

 

A medium length wrap (base -2 or so) will enable you to do carries with 2 passes around you and babies body, such as kangaroo, short cross carry, Robins hip carry, ruck and short versions of double hammock.

 

 

While with a short wrap (base – 3 or 4) you can do single pass carries such as hip carry with a slip knot, classic hip carry, ruck tied under bum or at shoulder etc.

 

 

In general carries with more passes around you and baby are going to feel more supportive – as there is more cloth to spread the weight evenly with. These carries can also be a bit more forgiving if you are new to wrapping. But the trade off is that more cloth to deal with can sometimes feel a little overwhelming or a lot to deal with if your new!  Or a lot if you are attempting to back wrap a very wiggly toddler for the first time.  Carries with just a single pass around you and baby require a little more precision over the tightening to ensure comfort but do have advantage of requiring less length and being cooler on hot days.  In fact short or mid length wraps can be a great choice for an up down toddler because the wrap will fold up small enough for a change bag when not in use or can even double up as a scarf.  So the key is to pick the right size for what you want to do and your body size – i.e for front carries with my newborn I prefer a size 6 or 7, while if you are petite and mainly planning to back carry in a simple ruck a size 3 or 4 might be more appropriate. As ever your local sling library or sling meet is a great place to have a go and take the guess work out of what size to buy.

-Madeleine

Carrying your child with a broken leg (and other special circumstances)

One of the best parts of Carry On London for me was the Continuing Professional Development courses – in particular the one on babywearing and disabilities. While something my training touched upon, it was really great to have the opportunity to explore specific circumstances in much greater detail.

In particular we looked at adapting carriers for

  • babies on supplemental Oxygen
  • a child with a broken leg
  • babies in the Pavlik harness for treatment of hip dysplasia
  • babies with boots and bar for Talipes treatment
  • wearing babies born prematurely
  • wearing an older child with low muscle tone

img_1743It was so useful to hear peoples experiences and learn just how much is possible in these circumstances and how invaluable it can be for parents to continue with their day to day care of their children.

And, as it turns out even more important than I thought, when today I ran into a good friend at the children’s centre who’s little boy has recently broken his leg.  She was finding it a struggle to keep the little man off his leg while also caring for her older child as well.  So it was amazing to be able to say give me 20 minutes and maybe we can find a solution to this.  Here they are… his cast extends only just above his knee so was pretty simple to find a carrier that was just shy of knee to knee to ensure no pressure on the cast while still being perfectly comfortable for both mum and babe.

Big thank you to Kerry and Suzanne from the Up Project who ran this brilliant CPD session.

 

TwinGo Carrier Review

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