Top 10 Hired Slings in 2020! And 2020 in numbers.

2020 has be one weird year. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that I hired less slings, saw less families, ran less consults, workshops and sling clinics than in previous years. BUT, as I reflect back on the year I was still able to

All of which feel like massive wins. I am hugely grateful that despite all the restrictions I was still able to support those 116 families.

Each year I also total up which slings and carriers hired out. Here are 2020 and 2019 compared!

The order has changed a bit, but many of the same names have been popular again this year!! Perhaps most interestingly is the fact that the most popular ones hired out just as much as in the previous year. Despite the fact hires were down by just over 40%, the Ergo Omni 360 and the Beco Gemini hired out as many or more times than the did in the previous years. What really suffered were the lesser known brands. You can see the Connecta fell right off the list and the Kahu baby was much lower. In fact very many simply brilliant brands like the Sleepy Nico, Manduca XT, Didy Klick, Mamaruga Zen barely hired out at all.

The reason for this is simple. So often the lesser known brands are the ones people discover when they come along to a Sling Library session or come along to a consultation. They will try on the brands they’ve heard of and expect to like then, based on what was and wasn’t working about those I would suggest other carriers to try. So often this would then lead them to discovering something they’d have never found otherwise. Without Sling Clinic sessions … the only way to try a range and discover less well heard of slings has been a one-to-one session. The alternative has been postal or doorstep hires and quite understandably people taking this option have been more inclinded to stick with what they know best. Its not a bad thing – everyone has ended up with carriers that fit them and their families well. But I do look forward to a time when Sling Clinic sessions and workshops can come back as they really do facilitate more families experiencing more different types of slings and carriers.

Fingers crossed Sling Clinic sessions will be able to come back soon. Before Christmas and the Tier 4 annoucement I had the green light from 2 venues – Kingston Town Children’s Centre and a brand new venue in Putney! Kingston Town will still be able to go ahead even under tier 4 so is looking hopeful for late Jan onwards (although unsure if further announcements may change things over the next few weeks). The Putney venue won’t be able to go ahead under tier 4 but should be able to under tier 3 or definitely tier 2. So it’s simply a case of crossing my fingers, watching the news and hoping for the best, but hopefully Sling Clinics will be back soon.

And in the meantime online consultations, in person consultations in clients homes and contact free hires are still going ahead (full info on all my Tier 4 friendly services here).

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Back Carry Tutorial

The Isara Quick Full Buckle is a bit different to most other buckle carriers on the market. It’s mismatched straps are designed to snap together, rather than into the panel. That means how you do it up is a little different to the method you’d use for most other carriers.

Here is how I do a Back carry with this carrier;

If you have this carrier or are thinking about purchasing one – I hope this helps! Any questions please do comment below or get in touch! My full review of this carrier can be found here, and my method for the front carry can be found here.

-Madeleine

Kavka Baby Carrier Review

New to the UK market, the Kavka Multi-Age baby carrier hails from Poland. The first thing to say about it is just how adjustable it is. Made from super soft woven wrap fabric it micro adjusts in both height and weight to fit babies right from just a few weeks old to at least 2.5/3 years of age. It is weight tested from 3.5 kg all the way to 20 kg and in fact my 18 kg almost 4 year old fitted in it remarkably well.

It is, however, relatively bulky. The panel is wonderfully soft and light and the fabric moulds and beautifully to support babies of all different shapes and sizes without excess bulky. But it is fairly bulky for parents. It has a thick, wide firmly padded waistband teamed with soft but thickly padded shoulder straps. Padding is a bit like marmite – some parents find more padding equates to more comfort and while others find the reverse. This is a carrier that definitely works for the former rather than the latter.

The other main source of bulk, and my main bug bear with this carrier, is that when adjusted to fit a newborn all the excess fabric is pushed between the wearer and the waistband. This fabric lumps into big folds that pushes the waistband out and the result is that it is really hard to really get the waistband tight enough when the carrier is on the narrowest settings. As anyone who’ve read my fit tips blog will know, getting the waistband snug is the absolutely foundation to getting a comfortable carry. So this bulk really does interfere with parent fit and undoubtedly comfort. At least while on the newborn setting. As baby grows and you let the panel out this becomes less and less of an issue.

So paradoxically the fit and parent comfort are likely to get better as baby grows! It is however a crying shame, because this carrier is packed with amazing modifications to ensure it gets a great fit for newborns. From all the adjustability to having fastening clips on the waistband as well as on the panel … allowing you to get a perfect newborn C shape in the carrier.

You can see how all this works and what it looks like in use here in my video review;

So this is definitely a carrier I am conflicted on, the adjustability, the softness and the options for fastening are all simply wonderful. I want to like it more, but the bulk at the waistband and the firmness of the straps slightly spoils it all for me. But it is worth saying that that is in part my bias based on how well it fits my body and it will fit other bodies differently. So it is really worth trying it on and I am excited to see it on clients and get to know what body types it fits best.

Because it has so much adjustability in the shoulder straps too – offering 3 points of tightening (see the video above for how they all work) and the option to wear with straps crossed across the back or ruck-sack style. The straps are extremely long too, so has the capacity to fit a huge range of different parent sizes from XS to XXXL. The long straps can be easily tided away with little elastics at the ends.

The carrier also offers 3 carrying positions for baby; front, hip and back carry.

So all in all the Kavka baby is an extremely flexible carrier offering a lot of adjustability. It’s closest competitors on the UK market are the Isara the One carrier, the Manduca XT and the Mamaruga Zen and Zebulo carriers. If you are looking for something like one of these carriers but with more padding then the Kavka is definitely worth you trying. However, if like me you er on the side of less bulk then I’d skip this one and focus on the Manduca XT or the Zebulo instead.

The Kavka baby retails at £119 for the standard cotton model or £125 for a linen or bamboo model. They also make a Multi-Age Plus which is bigger and weight tested from 6 kg to 25 kg and retails for £125 for the standard cotton models. We have one of these in the library collection so do get in contact if you’d like to give it a go.

They can be purchased from MamaZen, and thank you to MamaZen for providing us with this one to try.

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Front Carry Tutorial

The Isara Quick Full Buckle is a bit different to most other buckle carriers on the market. It’s mismatched straps are designed to snap together, rather than into the panel.

That means how you do it up is a little different to the method you’d use for most other carriers. Here is how I do it;

The video shows first how I do cross straps and then how I do ruck sack straps too.

If you have this carrier or are thinking about purchasing one – I hope this helps! Any questions please do comment below or get in touch! My full review of this carrier can be found here.

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Review

The Quick Full Buckle is the newest carrier from Isara. Isara are a Romanian brand known for making super adjustable well designed carriers and slings from ultra soft, beautiful woven wrap material. While their other carriers are feature packed, the idea behind the Quick was to provide the user with the “ultimate simplicity“, “a few seconds is all it takes to be ready – buckled up in just 2 clicks. It’s quicker than QUICK!”

Except is isn’t.

I was so excited to try this carrier. Parents ask me all the time for something that is quick, something that is easy and I really really wanted Isara to have cracked the holy grail. And on paper it sounds great – 2 clicks, that’s it. Most carriers need 3, eliminating one buckle must make this faster? Right?

Except it doesn’t. Sadly, it just isn’t easier. Yes there are only two buckles but it means that instead of doing one side up and clicking it in and feeling secure before reaching round to fasten the other side, now you have to do both sides at once. The fastening all happens under a flap making it really hard to see what you are doing.

You can see for yourself in my video review below. I honestly only managed to make it look so smooth because I was watching myself do it on my phone screen while making the video. Without a mirror or a phone screen there probably would have been a bit more fumbling. It’s definitely something you would get used to feeling for and managing, and you would get faster at with time. It certainly isn’t “hard”, but its not simple and it’s definitely not faster compared to other carriers with 3 clicks.

There is actually A LOT to like about this carrier;

  • It is beautifully soft right from brand new. Made from lovely soft woven wrap material, it is strokably soft and will gently hug your baby
  • The padding is light yet supportive. It molds to your body beautifully, enabling it to distribute weight without the need for extra bulk or weight
  • It folds up into a relatively compact, lightweight bundle
  • Very very long webbing ensures this carrier will fit parents from XXS to XXXL and beyond.
  • Convenient zippered pouch located on the waistband is easily big enough hold essentials like phone, keys and spare change.
  • It looks very sleek and neat. Particularly if you take the time to roll up the excess webbing and use the little elastics at the end of the straps to secure, this carrier looks very tidy. The pocket completely covers the buckles meaning that it not only looks neat but also there is no chance of baby catching their foot on the buckles etc. However, it does have the flip side mentioned above that it is harder to see how to get the buckles done up!
  • Comes with a removable hood that simply poppers on and can be useful for a bit of extra head support or rain/sun protection.
  • It offers 3 carrying positions – front, hip and back carry. On the front it is possible to wear the straps cross over parents back or in rucksack style. If wearing ruck sack style it is possible to have the shoulder straps already done up at the front and then simply slip your arms in and do the “bra” strap up behind you (if you have the flexibility to do this! Sounds simple but do watch baby’s legs when slipping your arms in and gently guide them so the strap runs under the legs … because it is easy to accidentally catch a leg in a strap doing it this way!
  • The system for adjusting this carrier is very simple. Both the height and width are adjusted together at the same time by simply following the colour guidelines to stick the velcro into the right place for your baby’s height. There is a colour coded chart on the waistband its self, making it super simple to see what you need to do. I did find lining up the velcro a little fiddly, but your not doing this often so this isn’t an issue. And of course you can completely ignore the colour box guidelines to micro-adjust height and width … so if your child is longer in the body or wants the back shorter to get their arms out you can vary the height and width independently. Did take me a while to get my head round exactly how to do this you are holding the carrier upside down and inside out while doing it and spatial arts isn’t my strong suit but it is certainly possible!!

I absolutely love the fit this carrier gives for newborns in particular. This carrier is weight tested from 3kg and on the smallest setting it does synch down small enough to fit a baby who – if not new newborn – is a little as a few weeks old. In particular I love how the straps fasten into the waistband and how this allows a newborn to adopt a really beautiful natural C shape with absolutely no pressure or pull across their midback. It is really lovely.

However, the downside of fastening into the waistband comes when baby grows and starts to pack on the pounds. Most baby carriers fasten the straps into the mid-panel because as baby grows they need this mid-back support to help support their weight and prevent them sitting too deeply and feeling like they are slumping or drooping. Likewise, this extra downward pull from baby sitting too deeply will feel much heavier for the parent as baby’s weight is not being distributed as well. Fastening the straps into the mid-panel gives a much better weight distribution for the caregiver.

So while this carrier gives a wonderful position for newborns, it will get heavier quicker as baby grows. It is weight tested to 20 kg, and the panel grows easily large enough to accomodate a 18 month to 2 year old. But this strap positioning and resulting weight distribution will mean many parents will find this carrier far too heavy before that point. Not all – some parents, particularly those who find many carriers cut them under their arms or rest on breast tissue, may find they prefer the altered weight distribution. So if that is you, I do urge you to try this carrier as it may well work brilliantly for you. But many parents will find this carrier is time-limited and that by 9 months to a year they are finding it a lot heavier than it should be and choose to move onto another carrier.

When you compare the Quick to Isara’s other full buckle carrier “the One”, the Quick feels like a bit a false economy. Retailing at £117, yes it is cheaper than the One that retails at £159, but the One is far more adjustable. It offers the option to fasten to the waist band or the mid-panel and it genuinely works brilliantly from newborn all the way to preschoolers. Meaning that you will likely get 2 more years of wear out of the One compared to the Quick. Not to mention with its 3 clicks is actually arguably just as fast if not faster as the Quick once you’ve got the hang of it and got it set up for you. And when you compare the Quick to other light weight compact carriers that give a lovely snuggly fit for newborns like the Izmi Baby carrier, the Ergo Embrace, the Kahu Baby carrier and Mamaruga Zen Sling – all of which come in under the £100 mark. This carrier really doesn’t feel like the best investment.

Huge thanks to Joanna of Happy Hugs who loaned me her Isara Quick Full Buckle to test. Happy Hugs are the UK’s main Isara retailer, stocking their entire catalogue and are the best place to purchase Isara carriers. Joanna offers free try out sessions in Kingston and if you are at all interested in an Isara Quick, the Isara the One or any other Isara carrier I hugely recommend her fab service.

-Madeleine

BundleBean Babywearing Cover Review

The BundleBean babywearing cover is one of those rare products that truly are UNIVERSAL. Many things claim to work with everything else and then in reality are all a bit hit and miss. But not so for the BundleBean cover. It truly is 100% waterproof, and it truly fits every carrier and every sling I’ve ever tried with it. Which is well over 100 different brands and models at this point!

It will fit over stretchy wraps, ring sling, woven wraps, Meh Dai, buckle carriers and even over the big structured hiking style carriers. It will work on most buggies and pushchairs too.

The reason for this flexibility comes from the 4 elasticated velcro ties, which can attach to each other, themselves, to other tabs on the cover… offering you a huge number of different configurations to suit all different sling types and all different parent shapes and sizes. From the super petite to the plus sized, men and women alike. Likewise the elasticated panel and well placed poppers means that the panel will fit all the way from newborn to 4 years!! So lasting you as long as you could possibly need.

See the cover in action and hear me rave about it some more here:

It comes in 2 weights – a fleece lined all seasons version that will definitely keep baby cosy in the winter, and a lightweight rain cover that will keep baby dry without adding warmth (so great for warmer months or if you and baby are prone to overheating).

All in all the Bundlebean is a great accessory for any babywearing parent, perfect for getting out and about in the British wind/rain/drizzle!! At £29.95 for the lightweight rain cover and £39.95 for the fleece lined version these make perfect gifts for new parents too! Available from the Sheen Slings webshop here.

-Madeleine

How to do a Hip Carry with an Ergobaby Embrace

The Embrace is a lovely soft newborn suitable carrier. The manual demonstrates both a parent facing carry from newborn onward and a outward facing carry once baby is strong enough to be faced outward. But did you know you can use it in a hip carry too? The method isn’t shown in the manual but actually this carrier works really well in this position.

Here is how to do it;

The hip carry is a great option for when baby starts to enter what I call nosy phase – where they want to look round and see everything. Often babies start to want to see everything (and start to fuss when faced in toward their parents) before they are physically able to be carried forward facing in a carrier. Carrying them on the hip can be a great solution as it gives them the same view as forward facing while still offering neck support and stabilising their torso against the caregiver.

Even once baby is strong enough to be outward facing while awake, the hip carry can be really useful for times when they are getting tired and need to sleep. It can be particularly helpful at times when baby is sleep resisting!! As it will allow them to look around but as you walk they will be gently rocked to sleep. Once asleep it is easy to shift them to your front (if this is more comfortable for you) or you can keep them on your hip safe in the knowledge that they are adequately supported in this position.

As ever if you are unsure about how to do this position, if your baby is ready to forward face or anything else to do with this carrier or any other do feel free to message me and I can offer suggestions or set up an online consult to help you troubleshoot!

-Madeleine

Beco Gemini and Beco 8 compared – what are the differences?

The Gemini and the 8 are both fabulous carriers from Beco, but what are the differences and which one should you go for?

Hopefully this will help;

The main difference is one of size and complexity! The Beco Gemini is both smaller and simpler. It doesn’t have lots of features and extra bits and bobs. Consequently it is, cheaper and folds down a lot smaller. Particularly the “cool” version which is made from thinner material and folds up into a very compact bundle. Because it is so lightweight it doesn’t feel bulky to use with a small baby, and so generally even though the 8 works well with a newborn, the Gemini is still often the one the feels more natural with smaller babies. The smaller panel means they don’t look as overwhelmed, you don’t need to use an insert and it just seems to mould to smaller form better. The smaller panel does mean, however, that most children grow out of it somewhere between 18 and 24 months. At least 6 months before they’d grow out of the 8. But many parents aren’t still carrying regularly at that point anyway and those that are are often more than happy to move onto the Beco Toddler. Consequently the Beco Gemini tends to the sling of choice for the minimalists – those who want a comfortable carrier that is very simple, and folds down tiny.

The Beco 8 by contrast is bigger, the panel is bigger so it will last longer and it has more features. It has a removable infant insert that is included and does give a great fit for babies right from newborn. It has a zip down part that reveals mesh making it “all seasons” suitable. It has a hood. It has a wonderfully shaped supportive lumbar panel. And a zipped pocket for keys and a phone. The Beco 8 is a great choice for parents who want a carrier that will last and last – maybe their child is already 6 months old and they’re worried they won’t get enough use out of the Gemini or just know they want to get a carrier that will last as long as possible. It is also a fab choice for parents who want those extra features and will use them and don’t mind the extra bulk.

Either way, they are both fab carriers and work well for a range of parent shapes and sizes! You can read my full review of the Beco Gemini here and purchase it here, and you can read my full review of the Beco 8 here. Although like any carrier at all it has to fit your body, and so it’s really worth trying on before you invest. You can try either of these on at any of our sessions, or arrange a hire (I post to anywhere in the UK, or if your local you can collect from my home).

-Madeleine

How to switch between a Front carry and a Hip carry without taking your carrier off or your baby out

Hip carries can be so helpful one baby hits what I call “nosy baby phase” where they want to see everything and anything. Learning how to switch between front and hip carries can be a powerful tool in your parenting toolkit. Particularly when

  • Baby was sound asleep in the carrier on your front and has now woken up and is starting to cry because they want to see more or feel like they have more freedom. But you are out and about its its not convenient to take them out right now – instead switching to a hip carry will help you get to your destination while giving them more to see and the feeling of more freedom to stretch and kick as they wake up
  • Baby is fighting sleep and refuses to go into a front carry as they want to see everything and definitely not sleep. So you put them in a hip carry and 5 minutes later they are sound asleep on your hip. Being able to switch to the front will keep your back more comfortable for the duration of the nap

Fortunately, it’s actually really easy to switch between Front and Hip carries in a buckle carrier without taking the carrier of or the baby out. Here is how to do it

This method works for any buckle carrier that allows you to cross the straps at the back. The video shows the Beco Gemini but this method works just as well for the Ergobaby Omni, Adapt, Izmi Baby, Ergobaby Embrace, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Mamaruga, Kahu, Connecta, Manduca and a great many others besides. Provided you can cross the straps across your back you can do this.

-Madeleine

Manduca XT review

The Manduca XT is the new highly adjustable carrier from Manduca. It’s not a secret that I absolutely loved my Manduca First carrier with both my children, and honestly this carrier is even more amazing. Absolutely brilliantly designed, this ingenious carrier will work for babies all the way from 4 weeks to 4 years! Giving it unparalleled longevity compared to it’s competitors. Add in the fact that it has the magic ability to fit almost all parent shapes and sizes – from the super petite to the extra extra large and everything in between. This is a carrier that should be on everyone’s “to try list”.

You can see how it works and hear my full thoughts here in my video review (or read on below):

Key Manduca XT facts;

  • Weight tested from 3.5 to 20 kg (7 – 44lbs), this is one only a very small number of carriers that really will realistically fit for the whole of its weight range, fitting babies generally from about 4 weeks ish all the way through to approximately 4 years of age.
  • Adjustable width. The secret behind the Manduca XT’s longevity is how the width adjusts. Using sections designed to simply slide along the waistband it very simply and smoothly adjusts from just 20 cm all the way to 50 cm. Allowing you to adjust it tiny bit by tiny bit as your baby grows, giving a perfect fit all the way from newborn to older toddler. While there are other carriers offering similar adjustment systems, what I like about this one is how unbulky it is. The fabric thin enough that it neatly folds in on the smallest settings, barely adding any bulk at all. Most other carriers simply rouch and the rest always looks quite bulky on a newborn, on the Manduca the smooth strokable lines remain giving a perfect fit even for very small babies.
  • Bucket shaped panel and soft padding at the legs ensures baby sits in a comfortable, hip healthy position with the bum lower than the knees and the legs out padding moves with the width adjustment to ensure babies legs are comfortable and no “red pressures lines”, whatever their size.
  • Adjustable panel height also helps this carrier grow with your little one. The panel has 3 height settings which adjust via the zippers on the front. Completely zipped together the panel is just 30cm, then as baby grows you can choose between 35cm using the shaped zipped section and 42cm when completely unzipped. This adjustability in height is not only useful as baby grows but also as they change developmentally. Both my children went through phases of loving having their arms out when awake, so being able to make the panel smaller to allow them to do this made carriers so much more enjoyable for them. And then as they became tired and started to fall asleep… it is very easy to lengthen the panel and give them more upper back and neck support as they sleep.
  • Features a hood for supporting baby’s head as they sleep or as a cover in the rain, and cleverly when rolled away into the pouch at the top this hood doubles up as pillow to support baby’s head and neck.
  • Offers 3 carrying positions – a front carry, a hip carry and a back carry.
  • Panel is made from 100% Organic Cotton. One of the hallmarks of Manduca carriers is that all their carriers are made from Organic cotton. Only the webbing and plastic buckles are the exception, the rest of the carrier is soft durable cotton drill made from 100% Organic cotton.
  • Shaped waistband – The waistband is wider at the front where baby’s weight is, thus providing more support and counterbalance where you need it most without having unnecessary bulk at your sides.
  • safety buckle on the waistband requires two hands to open to ensure you don’t open this before you’ve taken baby out. Sounds like a silly or inconvenient thing, but often parents absentmindedly unclip the waistband first so this can be a helpful safety feature.
  • Shoulder straps are thickly padded but very soft and moldable which means they can mold to fit a wide range of back shapes. Straps can be worn both crossed and rucksack style according to personal preference (you can read more about these two different styles here).
  • Shoulder straps can be tightened in 3 places! There are two adjusters where the strap meets the mid panel – each pulling in the opposite direction which means whether you are carrying baby on your front or back there will always be a strap that you can pull easily (and one that would be difficult). Additionally there is an adjuster at the top where the strap leaves the top of the panel and this one in particular changes the position of the padded part of the strap bringing it closer or further from the panel and thus easily adjusting between parents of differing torso lengths. This strap can also be useful for getting a higher tighter back carry or adjusting how much room baby has depending on whether they are awake and wanting to push out and see more things or fast asleep and needing to be held closer. The advantage of being able to adjust in 3 places is these straps can easily adjust to the fit the super petite to the super tall and broad, making this a great pick for couples of very different sizes. The adjustments give you a huge amount of flexibility in how the carrier fits and allow people of all different shapes and sizes to get an amazing fit. The disadvantage of 3 adjusters is that it does take a bit of time investment to really find the right set up for you and understand how each adjuster affects your carry. It is very easy in the beginning to get a bit confused and end up a bit lopsided and less comfortable as a consequence.

All in all the Manduca XT is extremely versatile carrier that fits almost all parent body shapes and sizes and fits babies all the way from just a few weeks old to 4 years. While not the simplist carrier on the market it is well worth the time investment to learn it and get it set up right because it once set up it is such a comfortable supportive carrier and it just lasts and lasts and lasts making it a truly fantastic investment. The Manduca XT costs £149 and can be purchased from Wear My Baby (if you’ve found this review helpful and you’d like a discount code for Wear My Baby do email me or use my contact form to let me know and ask for the code!)

-Madeleine

Rachel aged 3 in Manduca XT