FAQ – How do I get my baby onto my back in a buckle carrier on my own?

Carrying your child on your back can be truly freeing!  Back carries completely free up your hands to get on and get stuff done, and they are generally more comfortable too as most of us load bear better on our backs than our fronts.  Plus once your child is tall enough to see over your shoulder they can have an absolutely great view of the world and can chat to you right next to your ear where you can hear them even on a busy street.

There are so many pros! But, actually figuring out how on earth to get them onto your back can be pretty intimidating.  There are actually loads of different methods and this is where a trained Sling consultant can be really helpful, they can work with you – with your individual flexibility, coordination and learning type to help ensure you are completely confident moving your baby on and off your back on your own unassisted!

While there are many many methods, the “secure hipscoot” method is the one I teach most often.  Or at least this is the starting point I teach most often, I will frequently modify it here or there depending on the individual and depending on the carrier used… but the video below shows my starting point.

Carrier in the video is a Beco Gemini, but this method will work with the vast majority of buckle carriers including Ergo Omni, Adapt, Original and 360 models, Lillebaby, Boba carriers, Manduca, Kahu Baby, Connecta and many many others.

It is my personal favourite method because it feels really secure at all times! It doesn’t rely on cooperation from the child, and in fact can be done with a very active wiggler once your confident.  I once used this method to put my then 2.5 year old onto my back on a moving tube train while he was in a full temper tantrum… I simply would not have managed to get off the train with him and our bags and coats and other stuff any other way!

If you are giving this a try at home, do give it a go over a soft surface like a bed or a sofa.  I learnt to back carry when my son was about 8 or 9 months old and he absolutely loved a controlled fall when I messed something up and got stuck!!  But if your struggling at all do remember that this is by no means the only method!  One of the downsides of this method, at least in this form, is that it does rely on a fair degree of shoulder motility, and as such isn’t a great option for those with stiff or injured shoulders.  So if this is you or if your struggling at all learning to back carry do contact your local sling consultant who will be able help you find the method that works for you

Happy Back Carrying!

-Madeleine

Boba X review

Adjustability and longevity – if I had to describe this carrier in just two words they would be it, because this carrier has both in spades.  Many carriers on the market advertise birth till 4, but few actually really cover that whole range.  The Boba X is probably one of the very few that really will take you from birth (or a few weeks old) until as long as you would like to carry for.

35049203_1565384343590587_484277701725650944_oSo what’s their secret?  The panel adjusts, both the height and width of the panel can be fine-tuned to fit the baby and then can be let out bit by bit as they grow to grow with them and adapt to their needs as they develop and change with time.  The panel material is also really soft and light, which means when it is cinched down on the smallest settings it’s not too bulky.  If is of course a little more bulky than when it isn’t cinched down but it’s not overly so… which allows a really form hugging fit to be achieved on littler babies (without them feeling lost in oodles of carrier) as well as still having all that growing room for the future.

In particular for infants I like that the hood, rolled up inside the carrier, can be used to support the neck and that this can be moved using the panel height adjusters to ensure it is in exactly the right position.  There is also a small lip of very light flexible fabric that then cradles the head… ensuring that the neck is well supported but baby still has freedom to move their head.  There is also lovely padding at the baby’s legs.  All in all this is a carrier that can work really well for a new baby.   Maybe not right in the first days – the first days and weeks I always think it’s very hard to beat the snuggliness of a stretchy wrap or Caboo.  But from around a month or so old, around the time you are starting to think about getting out and about more… this carrier would work perfectly.

33430673_1550005675128454_1748467291982397440_oAnd then grow with baby!  Simple velcro tabs adjust the waist band… and combined with the height adjusting buckle the panel with grow smoothly with your baby right into toddlerhood. Offering 3 carrying positions along the way – front, hip and back.  Then, and this is the real magic… it comes supplied with a pair of zip on panel extenders which convert the carrier from a standard sized carrier into a toddler/preschool sized carrier.  These extenders are nicely padded so really comfortable for the child and the zips are all hidden internally where they can’t rub. Which means the Boba X will still happily carry a 3 or even a 4 year old.  In fact you can see my son, aged 5 still just about squeezes in.  So the Boba X should last you as long as you need to carry.  And its so well made I am sure it would last through siblings… in fact I can see this being a great option for anyone with siblings that are quite close in age, because this carrier could be easily used with either.

34790196_1563244383804583_871256084751319040_oBut what about the parent?  Again the Boba X is really adjustable – you can wear the straps crossed or in ruck sack (H) style, and the chest strap is on a slider and so easily adjusted to fit a range of different shapes and sizes.  Likewise there are perfect fit adjusters allowing more petite or shorter parents to get a really snug fit, even when back carrying.  The straps are really easy to tighten thanks to the “pulley” system or dual adjust that allows the same strap to be tightened either from the panel end or from the strap end depending on which direction is easier.  This feature is really good for anyone who suffers from weak wrists or limited mobility through their arms or shoulders.

Boba have also thought about how you might carry your stuff!  There is a little zippered pocket on the waistband that is just big enough to house a phone, keys and a credit card.  And for those who can’t pack that light… there are bag clips on the shoulder straps – little flaps on poppers that allow you keep a bag strap on the padded shoulder strap allowing you to comfortably carry a bag at the same time as wearing your baby.

20180704_234811The one thing I don’t like about this carrier is how the straps cross across the parents back.  The straps are slightly curving – and as a result they work brilliantly in the rucksack/H configuration.  But this curve means that when you attempt to cross them… the curve is going the wrong way resulting in the straps sitting awkwardly on your back.  Ultimately, if I was to use this carrier I’d always choose to use it with rucksack straps and never to cross.  The thing is though, many people prefer crossed… and what I am finding is those who like crossed straps don’t find this carrier as comfortable as others where the straps don’t curve away while those who prefer rucksack style or don’t have a strong preference really love it and find it incredibly comfortable.

Another thing to be aware of is that when folded up the Boba X isn’t the smallest carrier.  If your looking for something that folds up small and fits in the change bag, something for more occasional use – this is not the carrier for you.  Instead the Boba X makes a good choice for anyone who wants to use their carrier for hours on end, and to work flexibly in lots of different situations.   Also with all this adjustability comes more bits and pieces.  The beauty of the older Boba’s (i.e the Boba 4G or the 3G) was they were very simple… just one strap to tighten or adjust.  I would get them out whenever I had a client who wanted something really easy or were confused by having too many things to adjust.  So while a big part of me rejoices at a super adjustable Boba, a very small part of me will miss the beautifully simple does less Boba’s … mainly for this subset of clients who find to many straps confusing or too much faff!

33475183_1549890681806620_2564568493345210368_oAll in all the Boba X is a hugely adjustable carrier that will last you as long as you want to.  It comes with oodles of features to ensure comfort of both parent and babe and is a really good choice for anyone looking for a very flexible carrier and one that will fit parents of different sizes and children of different sizes.  Cost is £125 and can be ordered through Sheen Slings or from Slumber Roo.

-Madeleine

Carrying Stories – Fiona. An essential bit of kit when you live on the 2nd floor.

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

IMG_1937“My baby wearing journey resulted mainly from living in a flat above a city center restaurant. What had been an appropriate dwelling pre-baby was going to be tricky with a child, especially with the 39 metal steps (yes I counted them!) to the front door.  At six months pregnant I was at a NCT nearly new sale when a store holder thrust a Babybjorn at me and told me I needed it.  Around this time I also picked up a stretchy wrap from TK Maxx.  I took it out of the box and tangled it around our living room completely bemused.  Three YouTube videos later, I decided it would be like tying a karate belt and slung it on.

When baby did arrive – somewhat early and very  tiny – I took the stretchy out again and the baby disappeared into the folds.  I was dismayed.  I fished her out and tried again few weeks later. My other half looked at the stretchy with trepidation and asked me to use the Babybjorn – “it’s safer” he thought.  I preserved with the stretchy and was rewarded with a better result, but it was THICK jersey and a hot summer.  We sweltered.

Few new baby friends would visit as my flat was inaccessible so the sling was invaluable as I trekked round the borough on public transport- as nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a bus to not be able to get on due to lack of pram space. This never happens with a sling. The sling allowed me to be mobile and leave the flat.

IMG_1938By the autumn – I was still using the stretchy but my back was beginning to ache. I found an ad for Boba 3G online and spent the last of my maternity pay.  It was fantastic. We chose it as it would fit both large and smaller wearers. It also went up to 45 lbs and I wanted a sling that would last. I put baby on my back and would go shopping with ease. No more lugging the 10 kilo pram up all those stairs.  I also invested in a pouch sling when baby was eight months old – for easy ups and downs and this was especially helpful when trying to carry a buggy up tube stairs – where helpful fellow commuters were thin on the ground.

Four years later I was pregnant again.  I‘d carried my first child until she was three and a half in the Boba 3G and it came out of storage again. This time I went straight to my old stretchy but also bought a bamboo one as it was another summer baby.  He moved early into the Boba – but this time I also treated myself to a woven wrap (a huge size 7 Kokadi). It is super long and very thick.   He drowned in the folds when I tried to follow videos on YouTube.  I went to a workshop with Sheen Slings to learn to wrap and decided the front cross carry was my go to. For Christmas I received a Storchenwiege Leo and this was an easier, shorter wrap – for when I didn’t want to wrestle with Kokadi!  These woven were super snuggly over the winter, especially in combination with our babywearing coat.  Now it’s summer again I am reaching for my faithful Boba 3G again. I might even get a Boba Air for holiday. Slings are amazing at the airport. indeed I often leave the buggy at home and go on holiday with just a sling – as it saves luggage space.”

-Fiona

Stretchies! Aren’t they all the same? (Updated)

I love stretchy wraps for the newborn period.  Despite owning slings of all types and styles the humble stretchy wrap is still my go to for my newborn.  But there are so many brands and at first look they all look the same – just a long piece of stretchy material!

But there are differences…  Differences in length and width, material the wrap is made from, differences in thickness and thus overall warmth – always worth considering particularly if your having a summer or winter baby or regularly visit somewhere with a particularly warm or cold climate!  But most importantly they have different levels of stretch and elasticity, which affect how easy they are to use and how supportive they are.  Those with less stretchy and/or more elastic recoil will be more supportive and less prone to sagging with time.  Some stretch in two directions – both horizontally and vertically (referred to as two way stretchies), while others stretch only in the vertical direction (one way stretchies).  In general, the two way stretchies are much easier to use than the one ways.  Pre-tying a one way stretchy can be a bit like finding the right setting on an old toaster where there is only about a mm between still bread and completely burnt… the window between to tight to get the baby in and so loose that it sags after a few minutes can seem just as small!  While this window is much wider on a two way stretchy and so much easier for a new sleep deprived parent to learn.

Here I compare 16 brands (although there are a great many more!) and you can see how they compare in each of these attributes in the table below.

Stretchy table page1Stretchy table page 2

Looking further at each of these in turn… the Boba wrap is one of the most stretchy of these wraps, and has fantastic elasticity or ping back.  Consequently, while it is not the most supportive wrap it is fantastically easy to learn how to use.  The different textured sides helps too – one side is smooth while the other is french terry which means it’s easy to see if you have twisted the wrap.  Additionally the terry gives this wrap a really soft snug feel, it feels cozy while still being pretty light and airy.  I’d happily wear it any day of the year other than maybe the absolute height of summer.  Great for tiny babies and the newborn period but wouldn’t be my first choice if I had a higher birth weight baby and/or wanted something that would last longer.

20180220_153947The Boba Bamboo wrap is very very similar to the standard (cotton) Boba in terms of how easy it is to wrap with, how crazily stretchy it is and how long it will last.  It even has the same soft snuggly french terry on one side.  The difference is purely that the Bamboo wrap contains a high percentage of Bamboo viscose (66.5%), so the resulting wrap has that softer than soft, luxurious feel that comes with Bamboo.  As well as the beautiful thermoregulating properties that Bamboo lends, meaning that this wrap will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.  While cooler than the cotton Boba wrap it is still thicker than other bamboo wraps on the market such as the Hana or Joy and Joe.  So maybe not my top choice in summer, but the snuggly terry side would sway me for a winter baby.  Full review of this wrap here.

The ByKay was my least favourite to use.  I found it very wide.  Its the joint widest along side the Kari Me, and I found it too wide15578810_1069647676497592_69531266827945960_n.  Combined with the thickness of the material it was a bit claustrophobic … too much fabric to deal with with a newborn and I just some how couldn’t get all 71cm of it comfortable on my shoulders, nor seem to be able to keep it away from Rachel’s face.  I would usually twist or ‘flip’ the wrap at my shoulder on the side her face is angled toward but I must have slightly over tightened the wrap as I simply couldn’t do this!  That said any looser and I think she’d have started to sag.  The lack of stretchiness and one-way stretch only meant that it was very hard to get the tightening correct… I had three goes and never got it quite right.  Also its worth stating that Rachel didn’t seem to love it either, she screamed like a banshee going in each of the 3 times.  Normally, I don’t really pay attention to things like babies screaming going into wraps because like having their nappy changed they just don’t like being interfered with and will normally settle in to a carry after a moment or two.  But this was the only one that she screamed like this going into!!  Of course she could just be feeding off of my own discomfort.

IMG_20171215_093451_875In complete contrast, the Ergobaby Aura wrap is absolute joy to wrap with and one of my favourites (alongside the Hana and Lifft discussed below). The fabric is a viscose made from fibres extracted from Eucalyptus and Acacia trees and the result is a wonderfully light, thin and deceptively strong wrap.    It has 1.5 way stretch (does stretch in both directions but much more so vertically than horizontally), which means while not quite as easy to get the hang of as a true 2 way stretchy its miles easier than a 1 way and has the added bonus that comes with less stretch of being more supportive and thus lasting longer.  Other features worth a mention include contrast stitching – the top and the bottom of the wrap are hemmed in different colours which means that your learning to tie your new wrap you can tell the top from the bottom and can immediately tell if you’ve twisted the wrap.  It’s such a tiny thing, but can make a big difference to a beginner and is a really a lovely touch.  As is the storage pocket – positioned at one end, which you can simply scrunch or fold the whole wrap into to give 1 neat, very small package to slip into the change bag.  The Aura wrap is a great option for a summer baby, complete beginners and anyone expecting a bigger baby and/or wants a wrap that will last a bit longer.

IMG_20170930_220035_365Made from 100% Modal the Fornessi Carry Me is super soft, ultra thin and very light.  It’s a great summer baby option as the material actually feels cool to the touch – sounds odd but think like a swimming costume or gymnastics leotard… cool to the touch and won’t make you over warm while walking, getting on with jobs etc.   I have to say I really like this as I am very prone to overheating, especially while wearing my daughter.  It has 1.5 way stretch similar to the Ergo Aura wrap…  which means while not quite as easy to get the hang of as a true 2 way stretchy its miles easier than a 1 way and has the added bonus that comes with less stretch of being more supportive and thus lasting longer.  In fact, this is definitely a great option for anyone looking to use a stretchy wrap for longer or who is expecting a bigger baby because it is also very strong.  Modal is deceptively strong for such a thin material!  Full review of the Fornessi can be found here.

img_1850Hana Baby Organic wrap remains a strong favourite, and the most popular at the library by far for all the reasons I’ve given previously.  Its sumptuously soft and light and really very easy use with great stretch and elasticity.  It’s made from Bamboo which, as well as having anti-microbial properties, is a thermoregulating material so it feels light and cool in summer but will still keep you warm in winter. Thus making it a great all rounder, it will suit babies regardless of the season of their birth and also regardless of their birth weight.  I’ve seen this work equally well for 97 percentile babies and the tiniest of preemies.  In fact as the manufacturer’s recommended weight minimum is just 1 kg, combined with feeling so light and thin, this wrap is usually my first port of call for anyone coming for a consult with a baby born early or with IUGR.  It’s also a UK based brand – hailing from London.

The Hana does come in two different sizes – regular and shorty.  The shorty is a meter shorter – 4.5m versus 5.5 – and can be great for more petite parents who can be put off by the oodles and oodles of fabric of most stretchy wraps.  Hana baby state anyone upto a size 14 can fit the shorty size, while the regular fits all.  To put this in context, my husband is 180cm but very slender and wears the shorty size.  He can tie this at his front, and in fact if he uses the regular size he has incredibly long trailing fabric ends that are trip hazards unless he passes these round his body again.  While I am a size 16 and 170 cm and I need a regular.  I can use a shorty but I need to tie behind my back and I personally prefer to knot at the front.  Firstly because I can tie a better knot if I am looking at it (!) and secondly because then if I sit down I don’t have a knot in my back. But I have met many people who have tried both and choose the shorter and knotting behind their back because they simply prefer to have less fabric.on

20180219_175610The 3rd Bamboo wrap on my list is the Izmi Baby wrap.  Along side the Hana, Lifft and Aura wraps, the Izmi Baby wrap is another favourite. The material is super soft, has a luxurious sheen and beautiful drape.  But it doesn’t just look good – it has 2 way stretch and is very easy to tie and to use.  However, where it differs is that it much less stretchy than others, it still stretches equally in both horizontal and vertical dimensions but much less so compared to each of the other Bamboo wraps … only 1.6x in each direction verses 1.8-2x for the others.  This reduced stretch makes this wrap more supportive, but without comprising ease of use.  Just magic!  It is thicker than the Hana wrap, but it is still fairly light and the thermoregulating properties of Bamboo mean that it doesn’t feel overly warm so works well all year round.  Full review here.

20171129_172440Also made from gloriously soft bamboo is the Joy and Joe Organic Bamboo Stretchy wrap.  It is very very similar to the Hana Baby wrap above, and just like the Hana is an absolute joy to wrap with.  However, it differs from the Hana in two key ways – price and width.  It is very narrow, the narrowest of any I have tried and in my opinion simply too narrow.  I couldn’t spread this out as much as I’d have liked.  It is also £6 cheaper than the Hana so worth figuring out how much the extra width is worth to you personally!  Full review of this wrap can be found here.

I often think of the Je Porte Mon Bebe (editted to add renamed Love Radius in Jan 2019) Stretchy wrap as the Rolls Royce of stretchy wraps.  Its one of the wider and longer wraps, and weighing in at almost 900g it is certainly the heaviest and thickest!  It combines really great two way stretch with fantastic elasticity.  So while it is one of the stretchiest on this list, the ping back is so great this wrap with never sag, not even with an older child.  There is no trade off between stretchiness and support with this wrap.  In fact it is classed as a hybrid, which means it is strong enough/safe enough to be used for back carries.  Back carrying is not recommended with most stretchy wraps, as they are not supportive enough to ensure a safe back carry with an older baby, but hybrids such as the JPMBB are the exception to this rule. It is one of the more expensive stretchy wraps on the market but its longevity, support and fact it can be used on the back, hip and in a wider variety of ways than most stretchy wraps makes it well worth it.  It’s only downside is as one of the wider, longer and heavier wraps it can feel a bit inundating to beginners and/or the more petite.  I would recommend this to anyone who is unsure between a stretchy wrap and a woven, or anyone with a bigger baby, and to twin parents as its strength, stretch and overall flexibility of use make it a great choice for tandem carries… either for carrying two newborn twins together in one wrap or later in combination with another sling.

img_1894The Kari Me is one of the older more established brands and also hails from the UK – they are based in Nottingham.   Its is a great all rounder.  Like the Boba and Hana Baby wraps it has great 2 way stretch and is easy to use.  It is a little thicker than both of these but much less thick than the JPMBB.  I would happily use this with a Winter, Spring or Autumn baby.  I’d probably avoid it in the height of summer, as it is a bit thicker but perfect for the rest of the year.  In terms of supportiveness I would say it is more supportive than the Boba, Hana Baby, Joy and Joe etc but on a par with the Fornessi, Ergo Aura and the Lifft.  It is very wide, but unlike with the ByKay this didn’t bother me as much.  It does roll up quite a lot at the sides so it seems less wide than it really is.  My only downside to this wrap compared to the others is softness.  My Kari Me which has been the library a couple of years and been tried on numerous times and been out on a few hires is pretty soft, but I am always shocked when someone brings me a brand new one just how stiff and slightly rough it feels.  It makes me think of a brand new woven wrap that needs ‘breaking in’ to reach its full lovely potential… but one of the main advantages of starting with a stretchy compared to a woven wrap is that stretchies are soft from the outset and don’t need breaking in.

20170304_122240The Lifft Stretchy wrap new to market but has fast become a favourite here.  Again, like the Boba, Hana and Kari Me – the two way stretch makes it very easy to use and tie perfectly every time.  In terms of support the Lifft is more supportive than both the Hana and the Boba, so will last you longer.  While the Kari Me and the Ergo wrap both offer a similar level of support to the Lifft, the advantage of the Lifft is it is thinner. It’s not quite as soft and thin feeling as the Hana, Ergo Aura, Fornessi or the Lillebaby, but it is the thinnest of all the cotton stretchy wraps I looked at.  I’d happily use the Lifft pretty much all year round, even in the summer (unless it was really really hot and then I’d probably opt for one of the thinner bamboo/viscose/tencel type wraps).  It is unusual compared to all the others in that the ends are not tapered.  Generally, stretchy wraps have tapered ends to give less bulk and make it a bit easier when tying a knot.  That said, I still found it very easy to tie a knot and found the blunt ends gave a bit more usable length.  The length was a about perfect for me, in between the long and short Hana lengths, I can comfortably tie in front but with very little extra length left over.  I did, however, find the width almost a bit too narrow.  I like to pull the wrap right up to the back of Rachel’s neck and then stretch the bottom part over her feet and I found at 52cm, it is a stretch to do both.  It’s not a big deal, but in an ideal world I’d like an extra couple of cm.

img_1889The Lillebaby Tie the Knot is made from Tencel – which is a fabric very similar to the Modal of the Fornessi and Mezaya wraps.  While man made fabrics, both Tencel and Modal, are sustainably produced from natural material (wood pulp) via a very eco-friendly process – so it has serious green credentials.  The resulting fabric is extremely lightweight and really luxurious feeling.  It feels almost like silk; shiny, super smooth and deceptively strong and supportive.  This wrap is a great choice for anyone living in or visiting a very hot climate.  Of all the wraps compared here it is the absolute lightest and thinnest.  But it’s only a little thinner than the Ergo Aura and the Fornessi Carry Me, and I would say a little harder to get the hang of than these two.  Like Aura and the Fornessi it is also a 1.5 way stretchy, but i found it a bit stiffer in hand and much more slippery than either of these two… which made it a little harder to handle.  Interestingly, this wrap has two features that sets it apart from other stretchy wraps.  1 – It has a two part pocket at the front.  The larger part acts as a pocket to neatly store the wrap when not in use and the smaller part provides a space to place a muslin for head support.  This is a nice feature as many parents worry about head support… properly tightened a muslin shouldn’t be needed with a stretchy wrap but a rolled up muslin can bring peace of mind for any parent worrying about this.  I don’t usually need to use a muslin with most stretchy wraps, but I did find it really hard to get the top part of this wrap tight enough, despite really focusing on it!!… so of all the wraps the Lillebaby was the one I felt most needed a muslin for head support.  2 – While it is very very long (over 6m!) it has little pockets at each end, enabling the user to roll the ends up to the desired length.  This means this wrap is a good choice for families where adults of very different sizes will be sharing the same wrap.  Often more petite parents feel inundated by a wrap if its too long but don’t want to buy something their partner can’t use as well… at over 6 m even the most broad and tall of men would easily be able to tie this at the front, while a more petite parent can simply roll up the ends to have a lot less fabric to deal with.  However, the issue with this is that when rolled up and secured with the little elastics the ends do look a little bit like a pair of dangling testicles!!  Its not a good look! Plus they do seem to come undone all the time so all in all I am not to sure of these little pockets!

20171024_100944Also made predominantly from Modal, the Mezaya baby wrap is light thin, and very very stretchy.  Unlike the other wraps made from fibres extracted from wood chip (Fornessi, Ergo Aura and Lillebaby), the Mezaya has true 2 way stretch due to the addition of elastane.  The result is a wrap that is incredibly easy to tie and is extremely forgiving – there is a wide window between too loose and too tight.  In fact it is so stretchy I think it must be impossible to tie to tightly – there is absolutely no need to leave any space for the baby at all.  But the downside is that this wrap is one of the least supportive, as baby grows it rapidly becomes too bouncy with the added weight.  I would say this wrap is perfect for newborn until about 3 or 4 months but likely to be quickly become less comfortable soon after that.  Its also interesting to note, that despite being made from the same material as the Fornessi, the Mezaya feels completely different.  In fact while all the other ‘wood-chip-fibre’ wraps feel very soft and cool to the touch, the Mezaya is slightly thicker than the other three and feels more like a cotton wrap.  Full review of the Mezaya wrap can be found here.

img_1924As I’ve mentioned previously, the Moby wrap was my first ever baby carrier.  I bought it while pregnant before Tom was born.  I bought it simply as it was the one everyone recommended, and it remains the one everyone has heard of and the one people recommend.  In fact the phrases Moby wrap and stretchy wrap are often used synonymously.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why, because of all of them the Moby is one of the hardest to use.  While I found the ByKay harder to use, I think that’s more to do with the fact I used this for months with Tom and I simply got used to it eventually rather than it being any easier!  So why is it one of the hardest to use – it is a one way stretch, and it’s the least stretchy of them all… which just means there is a very small window of error between having this wrap too tight and too loose.  In fact it is easier to use this wrap more like a woven wrap rather than as a stretchy wrap.

img_2813

Tom starting to slump in the Moby wrap

What it does have going for it, is that if you do get the tightening correct on it, the Moby wrap is very strong and supportive and won’t sag with a bigger child or twins … but even a little bit too loose this carrier will really sag!  I have so many photos of my husband David wearing our Moby with Tom deeply slumped inside!!  While I did eventually learn to tighten it correctly, and have successfully taught dozens of parents who’ve brought their own Moby wraps to sling library sessions… poor David never did learn to tighten it correctly!  While this time around with Rachel, he’s figured out using the Hana wrap with no fuss at all.

20180228_103319Cheaper than any other wrap on here by at least £10 is the Sling School Stretchy.  I have tried a lot of budget stretchy wraps over the years and the vast majority have left me cold.  The Sling School Stretchy is very much the exception to this.  It has been designed by sling consultants and this very much shows – it has 2 way stretchy, which makes it very easy to tie and use.  This wrap feels very very similar to the Lifft, both in terms of how the material feels to the touch and in terms of the amount of stretch.  The stretch is an perfect balance between stretchy enough that its easy to pop baby in and out of and enough recoil and strength that it will continue to support baby as they grow.  To keep the costs down the designers have made 2 compromises.  The first is that this wrap is unhemmed.  As jersey fabric doesn’t fray this doesn’t affect use or safety, but does make the wrap look a little less ‘finished’.  The second is that this wrap is narrow – its only 50 cm wide which is a bit narrow for my tastes.  Plus the unhemmed edges have a strong tenancy to curl reducing the usable width even further.  So while the material itself is more than supportive enough to support a bigger baby, the narrow width is likely to mean that babies will grow out of this wrap sooner rather than later.  However, as most parents love stretchy wraps for the 4th trimester period and then feel ready to move onto something else by 3-4 months anyway, many will happily just move on as this starts to be an issue.  Making this wrap an excellent budget friendly option.

20171109_094029The Wrapsody Hybrid stretchy wrap is like the JPMBB classed as a ‘Hybrid’.  However, this is where the similarity ends.  While the JPMBB is thick, warm and heavy, this is light and cool and feels (and looks!) a bit like a sarong.  The JPMBB is very stretchy and elastic, while the Wrapsody is barely stretchy at all and stretching only in 1 dimension rather than 2.  In fact, it’s very easy to see why this is classed as a hybrid as it feels like a halfway point between a woven wrap and a stretchy wrap.  So what does this mean?  Well it means this wrap is really really supportive, and strong.  And you can do loads with it – basically any multilayered tie you can do with a woven wrap you can do with the wrapsody – front, hip and back carries.  You can also pre-tie it like a normal stretchy too.  However, the lack of stretch does make this a bit of a challenge… just like the Moby it has a really narrow window between too tight and too loose and so it does take a good bit of getting used to and maybe isn’t the most beginner friendly.  However, the Wrapsody is a great option for anyone who is on the fence between a stretchy wrap and a woven.  Anyone who likes the idea of a woven but intimidated by the price tag,  and/or want something lighter than a woven for the height of summer or a warmer climate.

-Madeleine

Stretchies! Aren’t they all the same?

I love stretchy wraps for the newborn period.  Despite owning slings of all types and styles the humble stretchy wrap is still my go to for my newborn.  But there are so many brands and at first look they all look the same – just a long piece of stretchy material!

But there are differences…  Differences in length and width, material the wrap is made from, differences in thickness and thus overall warmth – always worth considering particularly if your having a summer or winter baby or regularly visit somewhere with a particularly warm or cold climate!  But most importantly they have different levels of stretch and elasticity, which affect how easy they are to use and how supportive they are.  Those with less stretchy and/or more elastic recoil will be more supportive and less prone to sagging with time.  Some stretch in two directions – both horizontally and vertically (referred to as two way stretchies), while others stretch only in the vertical direction (one way stretchies).  In general, the two way stretchies are much easier to use than the one ways.  Pre-tying a one way stretchy can be a bit like finding the right setting on an old toaster where there is only about a mm between still bread and completely burnt… the window between to tight to get the baby in and so loose that it sags after a few minutes can seem just as small!  While this window is much wider on a two way stretchy and so much easier for a new sleep deprived parent to learn.

Here I compare 13 brands (although there are a great many more!) and you can see how they compare in each of these attributes in the table below.

stretchy table

Looking further at each of these in turn… the Boba wrap is one of the most stretchy of these wraps, and has fantastic elasticity or ping back.  Consequently, while it is not the most supportive wrap it is fantastically easy to learn how to use.  The different textured sides helps too – one side is smooth while the other is french terry which means it’s easy to see if you have twisted the wrap.  Additionally the terry gives this wrap a really soft snug feel, it feels cozy while still being pretty light and airy.  I’d happily wear it any day of the year other than maybe the absolute height of summer.  Great for tiny babies and the newborn period but wouldn’t be my first choice if I had a higher birth weight baby and/or wanted something that would last longer.

The ByKay was my least favourite to use.  I found it very wide.  Its the joint widest along side the Kari Me, and I found it too wide15578810_1069647676497592_69531266827945960_n.  Combined with the thickness of the material it was a bit claustrophobic … too much fabric to deal with with a newborn and I just some how couldn’t get all 71cm of it comfortable on my shoulders, nor seem to be able to keep it away from Rachel’s face.  I would usually twist or ‘flip’ the wrap at my shoulder on the side her face is angled toward but I must have slightly over tightened the wrap as I simply couldn’t do this!  That said any looser and I think she’d have started to sag.  The lack of stretchiness and one-way stretch only meant that it was very hard to get the tightening correct… I had three goes and never got it quite right.  Also its worth stating that Rachel didn’t seem to love it either, she screamed like a banshee going in each of the 3 times.  Normally, I don’t really pay attention to things like babies screaming going into wraps because like having their nappy changed they just don’t like being interfered with and will normally settle in to a carry after a moment or two.  But this was the only one that she screamed like this going into!!  Of course she could just be feeding off of my own discomfort.

IMG_20171215_093451_875In complete contrast, the Ergobaby Aura wrap is absolute joy to wrap with and one of my favourites (alongside the Hana and Lifft discussed below). The fabric is a viscose made from fibres extracted from Eucalyptus and Acacia trees and the result is a wonderfully light, thin and deceptively strong wrap.    It has 1.5 way stretch (does stretch in both directions but much more so vertically than horizontally), which means while not quite as easy to get the hang of as a true 2 way stretchy its miles easier than a 1 way and has the added bonus that comes with less stretch of being more supportive and thus lasting longer.  Other features worth a mention include contrast stitching – the top and the bottom of the wrap are hemmed in different colours which means that your learning to tie your new wrap you can tell the top from the bottom and can immediately tell if you’ve twisted the wrap.  It’s such a tiny thing, but can make a big difference to a beginner and is a really a lovely touch.  As is the storage pocket – positioned at one end, which you can simply scrunch or fold the whole wrap into to give 1 neat, very small package to slip into the change bag.  The Aura wrap is a great option for a summer baby, complete beginners and anyone expecting a bigger baby and/or wants a wrap that will last a bit longer.

IMG_20170930_220035_365Made from 100% Modal the Fornessi Carry Me is super soft, ultra thin and very light.  It’s a great summer baby option as the material actually feels cool to the touch – sounds odd but think like a swimming costume or gymnastics leotard… cool to the touch and won’t make you over warm while walking, getting on with jobs etc.   I have to say I really like this as I am very prone to overheating, especially while wearing my daughter.  It has 1.5 way stretch similar to the Ergo Aura wrap, which means while quite as easy to get the hang of as a true 2 way stretchy its miles easier than a 1 way and has the added bonus that comes with less stretch of being more supportive and thus lasting longer.  In fact this is definitely a great option for anyone looking to use a stretchy wrap for longer or who is expecting a bigger baby because it is also very strong.  Modal is deceptively strong for such a thin material!  Full review of the Fornessi can be found here.

img_1850Hana Baby Organic wrap remains a strong favourite, for all the reasons I’ve given previously.  Its sumptuously soft and light and really very easy use with great stretch and elasticity.  It’s made from Bamboo which, as well as having anti-microbial properties, is a thermo-regulating material so it feels light and cool in summer but will still keep you warm in winter. Thus making it a great all rounder, it will suit babies regardless of the season of their birth and also regardless of their birth weight.  I’ve seen this work equally well for 97 percentile babies and the tiniest of preemies.  In fact as the manufacturer’s recommended weight minimum is just 1kg, combined with feeling so light and thin, this wrap is usually my first port of call for anyone coming for a consult with a baby born early or with IUGR.  It’s also a UK based brand – hailing from London.

The Hana does come in two different sizes – regular and shorty.  The shorty is a meter shorter – 4.5m versus 5.5 – and can be great for more petite parents who can be put off by the oodles and oodles of fabric of most stretchy wraps.  Hana baby state anyone upto a size 14 can fit the shorty size, while the regular fits all.  To put this in context, my husband is 180cm but very slender and wears the shorty size.  He can tie this at his front, and in fact if he uses the regular size he has incredibly long trailing fabric ends that are trip hazards unless he passes these round his body again.  While I am a size 16 and 170 cm and I need a regular.  I can use a shorty but I need to tie behind my back and I personally prefer to knot at the front.  Firstly because I can tie a better knot if I am looking at it (!) and secondly because then if I sit down I don’t have a knot in my back. But I have met many people who have tried both and choose the shorter and knotting behind their back because they simply prefer to have less fabric.

20171129_172440Also made from gloriously soft bamboo is the Joy and Joe Organic Bamboo Stretchy wrap.  It is very very similar to the Hana Baby wrap above, and just like the Hana is an absolute joy to wrap with.  However, it differs from the Hana in two key ways – price and width.  It is very narrow, the narrowest of any I have tried and in my opinion simply too narrow.  I couldn’t spread this out as much as I’d have liked.  It is also £6 cheaper than the Hana so worth figuring out how much the extra width is worth to you personally!  Full review of this wrap can be found here.

I often think of the Je Porte Mon Bebe (or JPMBB) Stretchy wrap as the Rolls Royce of stretchy wraps.  Its one of the wider and longer wraps, and weighing in at almost 900g it is certainly the heaviest and thickest!  It combines really great two way stretch with fantastic elasticity.  So while it is one of the stretchiest on this list, the ping back is so great this wrap with never sag, not even with an older child.  There is no trade off between stretchiness and support with this wrap.  In fact it is classed as a hybrid, which means it is strong enough/safe enough to be used for back carries.  Back carrying is not recommended with most stretchy wraps, as they are not supportive enough to ensure a safe back carry with an older baby, but hybrids such as the JPMBB are the exception to this rule. It is one of the more expensive stretchy wraps on the market but its longevity, support and fact it can be used on the back, hip and in a wider variety of ways than most stretchy wraps makes it well worth it.  It’s only downside is as one of the wider, longer and heavier wraps it can feel a bit inundating to beginners and/or the more petite.  I would recommend this to anyone who is unsure between a stretchy wrap and a woven, or anyone with a bigger baby, and to twin parents as its strength, stretch and overall flexibility of use make it a great choice for tandem carries… either for carrying two newborn twins together in one wrap or later in combination with another sling.

img_1894The Kari Me is one of the older more established brands and also hails from the UK – they are based in Nottingham.   Its is a great all rounder.  Like the Boba and Hana Baby wraps it has great 2 way stretch and is easy to use.  It is a little thicker than both of these but much less thick than the JPMBB.  I would happily use this with a Winter, Spring or Autumn baby.  I’d probably avoid it in the height of summer, as it is a bit thicker but perfect for the rest of the year.  In terms of supportiveness I would say it is more supportive than the Boba, Hana Baby, Joy and Joe etc but on a par with the Fornessi, Ergo Aura and the Lifft.  It is very wide, but unlike with the ByKay this didn’t bother me as much.  It does roll up quite a lot at the sides so it seems less wide than it really is.  My only downside to this wrap compared to the others is softness.  My Kari Me which has been the library a couple of years and been tried on numerous times and been out on a few hires is pretty soft, but I am always shocked when someone brings me a brand new one just how stiff and slightly rough it feels.  It makes me think of a brand new woven wrap that needs ‘breaking in’ to reach its full lovely potential… but one of the main advantages of starting with a stretchy compared to a woven wrap is that stretchies are soft from the outset and don’t need breaking in.

20170304_122240The Lifft Stretchy wrap new to market but has fast become a favourite here.  Again, like the Boba, Hana and Kari Me – the two way stretch makes it very easy to use and tie perfectly every time.  In terms of support the Lifft is more supportive than both the Hana and the Boba, so will last you longer.  While the Kari Me and the Ergo wrap both offer a similar level of support to the Lifft, the advantage of the Lifft is it is thinner. It’s not quite as soft and thin feeling as the Hana, Ergo Aura, Fornessi or the Lillebaby, but it is the thinnest of all the cotton stretchy wraps I looked at.  I’d happily use the Lifft pretty much all year round, even in the summer (unless it was really really hot and then I’d probably opt for one of the thinner bamboo/viscose/tencel type wraps).  It is unusual compared to all the others in that the ends are not tapered.  Generally, stretchy wraps have tapered ends to give less bulk and make it a bit easier when tying a knot.  That said, I still found it very easy to tie a knot and found the blunt ends gave a bit more usable length.  The length was a about perfect for me, in between the long and short Hana lengths, I can comfortably tie in front but with very little extra length left over.  I did, however, find the width almost a bit too narrow.  I like to pull the wrap right up to the back of Rachel’s neck and then stretch the bottom part over her feet and I found at 52cm, it is a stretch to do both.  It’s not a big deal, but in an ideal world I’d like an extra couple of cm.

img_1889The Lillebaby Tie the Knot is made from Tencel – which is a fabric very similar to the Modal of the Fornessi and Mezaya wraps.  While man made fabrics, both Tencel and Modal, are sustainably produced from natural material (wood pulp) via a very eco-friendly process – so it has serious green credentials.  The resulting fabric is extremely lightweight and really luxurious feeling.  It feels almost like silk; shiny, super smooth and deceptively strong and supportive.  This wrap is a great choice for anyone living in or visiting a very hot climate.  Of all the wraps compared here it is the absolute lightest and thinnest.  But it’s only a little thinner than the Ergo Aura and the Fornessi Carry Me, and I would say a little harder to get the hang of than these two.  Like Aura and the Fornessi it is also a 1.5 way stretchy, but i found it a bit stiffer in hand and much more slippery than either of these two… which made it a little harder to handle.  Interestingly, this wrap has two features that sets it apart from other stretchy wraps.  1 – It has a two part pocket at the front.  The larger part acts as a pocket to neatly store the wrap when not in use and the smaller part provides a space to place a muslin for head support.  This is a nice feature as many parents worry about head support… properly tightened a muslin shouldn’t be needed with a stretchy wrap but a rolled up muslin can bring peace of mind for any parent worrying about this.  I don’t usually need to use a muslin with most stretchy wraps, but I did find it really hard to get the top part of this wrap tight enough, despite really focusing on it!!… so of all the wraps the Lillebaby was the one I felt most needed a muslin for head support.  2 – While it is very very long (over 6m!) it has little pockets at each end, enabling the user to roll the ends up to the desired length.  This means this wrap is a good choice for families where adults of very different sizes will be sharing the same wrap.  Often more petite parents feel inundated by a wrap if its too long but don’t want to buy something their partner can’t use as well… at over 6 m even the most broad and tall of men would easily be able to tie this at the front, while a more petite parent can simply roll up the ends to have a lot less fabric to deal with.  However, the issue with this is that when rolled up and secured with the little elastics the ends do look a little bit like a pair of dangling testicles!!  It’s not a good look! Plus they do seem to come undone all the time so all in all I am not to sure of these little pockets!

20171024_100944Also made predominantly from Modal, the Mezaya baby wrap is light thin, and very very stretchy.  Unlike the other wraps made from fibres extracted from wood chip (Fornessi, Ergo Aura and Lillebaby), the Mezaya has true 2 way stretch due to the addition of elastane.  The result is a wrap that is incredibly easy to tie and is extremely forgiving – there is a wide window between too loose and too tight.  In fact it is so stretchy I think it must be impossible to tie to tightly – there is absolutely no need to leave any space for the baby at all.  But the downside is that this wrap is one of the least supportive, as baby grows it rapidly becomes too bouncy with the added weight.  I would say this wrap is perfect for newborn until about 3 or 4 months but likely to be quickly become less comfortable soon after that.  Its also interesting to note, that despite being made from the same material as the Fornessi, the Mezaya feels completely different.  In fact while all the other ‘wood-chip-fibre’ wraps feel very soft and cool to the touch, the Mezaya is slightly thicker than the other three and feels more like a cotton wrap.  Full review of the Mezaya wrap can be found here.

img_1924As I’ve mentioned previously, the Moby wrap was my first ever baby carrier.  I bought it while pregnant before Tom was born.  I bought it simply as it was the one everyone recommended, and it remains the one everyone has heard of and the one people recommend.  In fact the phrases Moby wrap and stretchy wrap are often used synonymously.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why, because of all of them the Moby is one of the hardest to use.  While I found the ByKay harder to use, I think that’s more to do with the fact I used this for months with Tom and I simply got used to it eventually rather than it being any easier!  So why is it one of the hardest to use – it is a one way stretch, and it’s the least stretchy of them all… which just means there is a very small window of error between having this wrap too tight and too loose.  In fact it is easier to use this wrap more like a woven wrap rather than as a stretchy wrap.

img_2813

Tom starting to slump in the Moby wrap

What it does have going for it, is that if you do get the tightening correct on it, the Moby wrap is very strong and supportive and won’t sag with a bigger child or twins … but even a little bit too loose this carrier will really sag!  I have so many photos of my husband David wearing our Moby with Tom deeply slumped inside!!  While I did eventually learn to tighten it correctly, and have successfully taught dozens of parents who’ve brought their own Moby wraps to sling library sessions… poor David never did learn to tighten it correctly!  While this time around with Rachel, he’s figured out using the Hana wrap with no fuss at all.

20171109_094029The Wrapsody Hybrid stretchy wrap is like the JPMBB classed as a ‘Hybrid’.  However, this is where the similarity ends.  While the JPMBB is thick, warm and heavy, this is light and cool and feels (and looks!) a bit like a sarong.  The JPMBB is very stretchy and elastic, while the Wrapsody is barely stretchy at all and stretching only in 1 dimension rather than 2.  In fact, it’s very easy to see why this is classed as a hybrid as it feels like a halfway point between a woven wrap and a stretchy wrap.  So what does this mean?  Well it means this wrap is really really supportive, and strong.  And you can do loads with it – basically any multilayered tie you can do with a woven wrap you can do with the wrapsody – front, hip and back carries.  You can also pre-tie it like a normal stretchy too.  However, the lack of stretch does make this a bit of a challenge… just like the Moby it has a really narrow window between too tight and too loose and so it does take a good bit of getting used to and maybe isn’t the most beginner friendly.  However, the Wrapsody is a great option for anyone who is on the fence between a stretchy wrap and a woven.  Anyone who likes the idea of a woven but intimidated by the price tag,  and/or want something lighter than a woven for the height of summer or a warmer climate.

-Madeleine