How to get a great fit with your Buckle carrier

Intuitive and easy to use, buckle carriers are definitely the most popular type of baby carrier. They are fast and convenient and they can be super comfortable.

They can also be really uncomfortable. The key with any baby carrier is fit and getting that fit right. Small changes and adjustments in how you are wearing a carrier can make an absolutely huge effects on how well baby’s weight is distributed and thus how it feels to wear them. Small tweaks can take a carrier from “gives me back pain within 10 minutes” to “baby felt weightless and I comfortably wore for over an hour”.

There definitely is a knack and it can take a few goes to get the hang of optimally adjusting your carrier everytime. This is where face to face help with a consultant (online or in person one to one or at a sling library session) can really make a huge difference and take all the trial and error out of learning to get it right for you – for your individual shape, needs and circumstance. But for those who can’t make it to a library, or who have been to mine and appreciate the reminder – here are the main things to consider… the main adjustments you can make to ensure a comfortable carry.

The Waistband

Getting the waistband well positioned and snug is the FOUNDATION for getting the whole rest of the carrier set up well – ensuring baby is safe and comfortable and that your are well supported and the weight evenly distributed. And yet most manuals don’t tell you how to work out where to put it, nor give any sense of how tight it needs to be. I talk through this in depth in this video:

Where you waistband goes depends on two things – the size of your baby and your body and it how bears weight most effectively.

Size of your baby is the more obvious of the two and is easiest to see by simply holding your baby in arms. Hold them in arms at the height you’d like to carry them, at the height that ensures their head is at a level you are happy you can see them, kiss them, chat to them, monitor them etc easily. Then observe where their bum is! The waistband needs to go there. So for a newborn or very young baby you will need to wear the waistband a lot higher than you will for a 6 month old or a 1 year old etc. Likewise, when you move to back carrying, again, you may find you need to wear the waistband higher to carry baby at a height they can see over your shoulder. As they grow you maybe able to move this down again.

In terms of your body and your ability to weight bear, most people have a distinct “biting point”. A part of their body where if you put the waistband there you will get maximum transfer onto their pelvis and thus optimal weight distribution. Where exactly this biting point is, however, is very individual. And in particular it differs quite a lot between men and women. Men have a lower centre of gravity compared to women, so it’s not a surprise that they will naturally carry weight lower too. The trick is to find exactly the right place for you, whatever your gender or body shape is. Best way to do this is to take your hands and press down at different points and feel where you feel the best weight transference onto your hips (watch from 3.42 minutes for this). This is where your waist band should go for maximum comfort for you.

Once you’ve found where to put your waistband it is also key to get it tightened correctly. It needs to be parallel to the ground and it needs to be SNUG! Too tight and it will dig and be uncomfortable. But too loose and it will dig and be uncomfortable too because baby’s weight in the sling exploit the looseness and cause the waistband at the front to sink. Twisting the waistband and causing the digging (watch from 6.06 minutes above for visual of this). It will also be uncomfortable because there will be less weight transference onto the pelvis which will mean the shoulders will carry more weight and the baby will feel heavier. As a general rule of thumb, the snugger the waistband the better weight transference you’ll get.

The Shoulder Straps

Once the waistband is set, next thing to check is the shoulder straps. How they are positioned and how they are tightened.

Many carriers will allow you to wear the straps either crossed across your back or in “rucksack” configuration. It is well worth trying both and finding which one suits you best, because most people will find one of the two will suit them much better than the other (you can read more about this here).

Once you’ve found which one suits you best, then it’s all about learning how to tighten your straps effectively.

This might seem obvious but actually it’s often not. Inutitively, most parents will simply tug on the strap to tighten it, but as the two videos below show, this doesn’t lead to effective tightening. Instead the key is to;

  • support baby’s weight – so you are not fighting gravity
  • move any looseness over your shoulder and across your back to the buckles before tightening it out
  • wiggle your shoulder to release friction

As shown in the two video’s below.

How to tighten cross straps;

How to tighten rucksack straps

Hopefully these general rules will help act as reminders to anyone who is getting the hang of adjusting their carrier correctly. For more individual personalised help do reach out to your local carrying consultant (or I offer online consultations country wide as well as local face to face consultations), as there is really is a wealth of different ways carriers can be optimised and tweaked to get a really great fit.

-Madeleine

PS – Carriers shown in the videos are the Ergo Omni 360 and the Beco Gemini, both available to purchase through the Sheen Slings shop and both available to hire to try before you invest.

Newborn carry with an Ergobaby Embrace

The Ergobaby Embrace is their super soft, jersey, newborn specialised carrier. This is one of those rare buckle carriers on the market that really does work right from day 1 and will grow with baby for the 6-9 months.

These carriers are available buy through our webshop and we have 2 in the library selection available to try at one of our sessions or hire, enabling you to try before you buy.

But how do you do it? Here is my video of how to set this carrier up for a newborn, how to put your baby in and how to check they are safe and comfortable

-Madeleine

What is the difference between the Beco Gemini and the Beco Gemini “Cool”?

Simply put the Beco Gemini Cool is the lighter weight, more summer friendly version of the Gemini. As such the Cool is very similar to the standard Gemini and if you fit one, you will fit the other equally well as the shape and padding levels of the straps and waistband is identical between the two carriers. As are the buckles and how the carrier adjusts both for the parent and for the baby.

Instead the difference between these two models is in the fabric they are made with and in the padding of the panel. You can see these differences for yourself in this video (or read on for written explaination):

The biggest difference is that the panel on the standard version is padded throughout, giving a very squashy padded feel against baby. On the Cool, the panel is completely unpadded. Resulting in a lighter, cooler carrier with a very flexible moldable panel that moulds to baby’s shape precisely. This also means that the Cool packs down much smaller than the Standard, to roughly half the size in fact! Making the Cool a better option for anyone who wants a carrier that will easily fit in a bag or under the pushchair.

The other difference is that the Cool features a breathable 3D mesh over much of the carrier, partnered with a silky soft feeling material over the rest. While the standard is finished all over with a soft, brushed cotton. Parents often worry about whether the mesh is scratchy. I have not found it to be so. It is not as soft as the cotton, so if you are someone who is very sensitive to texture, you may well prefer the cotton. I always advise feeling both before you buy if you can to ensure you are happy with how it feels to you. However, to me, the mesh while not quite as soft as cotton is still soft enough that I am happy to have it directly against my own skin and against my children’s.

All in all the Gemini is a fabulous carrier (you can read my full review here), both versions are great – whether you want the cushiony padded softness of the Standard or the ultra lightweight, packs down small, coolness of the “Cool”. Both are available to purchase through our webshop.

-Madeleine

Knots or Buckles?

Something I hear over and over again from parents when investigating slings and carriers is that they feel safer with a buckle than tying a knot.  They are worried with a knot that they might do it wrong while a buckle just clicks in and then its safe and nothing can go wrong.

I totally understand this.  I hear this a lot and I genuinely understand this because I remember when I was starting out I felt exactly the same.

But 7 years of carrying my own children, 6 years of running a sling library and 5 years as a carrying consultant teaching and supporting over 1000 families has taught me that this one of those fallacies that gets repeated over and over again until it is so much in social consciousness that everyone just assumes its true.

So let me bust some myths;
  1. A knot can not be tied “wrong”.  If you’ve tied a double knot, it is secure.  There is no secret way special technique.  Even the sloppiest knot in the word, so long as its a double knot, can not undo spontaneously.  In fact, I actually dare you to try…. wiggle, pull on it, do your worst… it will not untie unless you actually purposefully look at it and untie it.  The only other way to get out of a double knot is to actually cut or tear the wrap.
  2. You can do a buckle up wrong.  A buckle requires you to line bits up, on some buckles its possible to get these misaligned and not immediately notice. If the buckle isn’t securely fastened it can undo.  It’s rare, and most people will notice but it can happen.
  3. The worst offenders are safety buckles.  Generally safety buckles require an extra bit to click in as well … a button and or specific prong… if the buckle is not all the way pushed in the safety bit won’t be down and actually the buckle is probably easier to now open than if it wasn’t a safety buckle at all.
  4. Buckles can break.  They are generally made from plastic and accidents involving stepping on them, slamming in car doors do happen.  This can render your carrier unusable until your are able to get a replacement buckle.  Again the safety buckles are often more sensitive to being stood on or other accidents than regular buckles. In the last 6 years I have had only 2 buckles break and both have been safety buckles.
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It is important to understand I am not saying that knots are necessarily better.  Buckle carriers can be hugely convenient.  And hugely comfortable.  And if you have tried both a buckle carrier and a tie on carrier (i.e stretchy wrap, woven, meh dai or half buckle) and you feel more comfortable and confident in the buckle carrier and it has the features you want … please please do go for it.  With my total and complete blessing.
I write this blog, really for the people with tiny newborns who want to use a stretchy, but are worried.  Are worried because they are worried they won’t do it right or because a relative has expressed doubts, because they’ve only seen buckle carriers.  So often I meet parents who have a buckle carrier for their baby but it doesn’t fit yet, and want something for the newborn period but knots scare them.  If this is you, please please do check out your local sling consultant or sling library and give it a go.  I hear over and over again, from parents once they have tried a wrap or tie on carrier “oh this isn’t difficult, oh it feels so secure” this is nothing like what I thought”.
It is always worth trying, because ultimately there is not “best” or “safest” sling… only what you personally find easy to use and are confident using.  And tying a knot and clicking a buckle in correctly both require the same amount of concentration!!!
-Madeleine.
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Tula Explore Review

The Tula Explore is the first carrier from Tula that offers the option to forward face your baby!

See it explained in detail and in action here;

 

Key Features of the Tula Explore;

  • It’s width and height can be adjusted through poppers which means this carrier doesn’t need infant inserts.
  • Manufacturer recommends it for use for babies from just 3.2kg (7lb) all the way upto a fantastic 20kg (45lb).  More realistically, however, I’d say this carrier works well from around 4 weeks through to 2 years old.
  • For the baby it has very soft leg padding and a softly padded neck support pillow that can be placed in different positions for different ages and stages.
  • Offers 3 carrying positions – front inward, front facing outward and back carry position.  This carrier does not easily offer a hip carry position.
  • For the parent it has a fairly wide and firmly padded sturdy waistband, and it’s shoulder straps are bulky but soft and moldable.  The long webbing but short padded part means this carrier is one that can fit both women and men very well and both the petite and the plus sized.  Straps are designed to be worn “rucksack” or H style, and do not cross across the back.
  •  It also has a detachable hood and a pocket on the waistband for small things like phone and keys.

All in all this is a fab option for someone looking for a sling that will last into toddler hood, want to forward face and are most comfortable with straps in ruck sack style.  It is very similar to the Ergo Omni 360, in terms of shape and size.  The main differences being that this carrier is a little simpler to use with the absence of buckles to do up at the shoulder straps but offers a bit less flexibility than the Omni as it doesn’t offer a hip position or the ability to cross straps across the back.  The Tula Explore retails at £154.90

-Madeleine

 

How to do a Hip Carry with a Buckle carrier

Many of us naturally will carry baby on our hips when carrying in arms, as doing so gives one arm free for making lunch and puts baby in a position where they can see what we are doing and and chat to us while we potter about.

Ever wondered if you can carry your baby on your hip in a buckle carrier?

Many baby carriers do offer this option (but its not always wonderfully clear or even in the manual).  Here is my method, shown with an Izmi Baby Carrier but this same method will work just as well with an Ergo Omni, Adapt orEmbrace, Connecta, Kahu Baby, Mamaruga Zen or Zebulo, Beco Gemini, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Manduca, JPMBB, Sleepy Nico and many others.

Developmentally, the hip position is one that works best once baby has “some” head control… so generally around 2-3 months onwards.  It is an absolutely great position for “nosy” babies who want to see everything while still getting a good view of their caregiver.  It’s a great position for communication and shared moments.  As such, hip carries can be a great alternative to forward facing, as it gives baby the same view but makes it easier for them to see you, for you to read their cues and also for them to tuck in and relax ready for a nap when needed.  It can also be less harsh on the parents back compared to forward facing.

Happy hip carrying!

-Madeleine

Carrier shown here is the Izmi Baby carrier and is available here.

FAQ – How do I wash my carrier?

20191023_223515_0000.pngWhen it comes to babies shit literally can happen!  As can milky sick, serious quantities of drool and various dropped foodstuffs of all kind!  Correspondingly, all the slings in the library collection are ones that are easy peasy to wash!  There are some absolutely lovely wool, silk and other slings out there and available to those who want them, they are just not in my library!  I am all about making lives easier, and having something that can be washed easily is really a big part of that!

So whether your borrowing one of my carriers or have bought a new carrier of your own… what do you need to know about washing it?  Here are my top tips for washing organised by carrier type:

 

Buckle carriers  

Generally you want to wash these as little a possible.  A first wash can really help soften stiff webbing and make the carrier feel more snuggly but after that the more you wash it the quicker it will fade and start to look worn.  So my rule of thumb is if it’s really dirty (as in poonami or been on holiday all week and got various suncream/ icecream/ mud miscellane all over it) definitely do wash it!  And do so at 30 degrees and air dry overnight.  But if its just got the odd mark or odd bit of drool just spot clean but daubing the affected area with a damp cloth and this will save your carrier getting unnecessarily worn looking from over washing.  Never tumble dry a buckle carrier, because the heat can adversely affect the webbing, so always line or air dry overnight.  Another tip to protect your carrier is to use “suck pads” – little cloth squares that attach to the straps covering the area where babies most commonly like to suck and chew!  That way you can have a few pairs of suck pads that get washed regularly and are lovely and soft against baby, and your save your carrier all that extra drool!!

 

Stretchy Wraps

The good news with these is they can be washed as much as you like, and most can be tumble dried too if you need a fast turn around.  In general most cotton or bamboo based stretchy wraps can be washed at 40 degrees and tumble dried on low.  A few of the more fancier materials (modal, tencel, etc) do suggest 30 degrees and avoiding the tumble drier although I frequently forget and wash a whole bunch together and never found any adverse effects!  With a lot of washing some have bobbled slightly overtime but nothing that affects use.

 

Woven Wraps

Woven wraps are the one type of carrier where washing actually improves the carrier!!  Wovens get softer and softer over time with successive use and washing.  Washing helps to soften the fibres and make the wrap both softer against sling and more able to mold over you and babies bodies.  And they are so durable they can withstand years and years and year of washing and continuous use which means they just get better and better with time.  Which is why of all the carrier types this is the one type I often recommend purchasing second hand rather than new!  Washing temperature depends on the type of yarn used to make the wrap but most cotton wraps can be washed at 40-60 degrees and tumble dried on low.  If you have a wrap that is a blend of fibres you might need to be a little more careful, I have variously owned linen and hemp blends because again these are easy to wash and very strong! For these I wash at 30 or 40 (according to manufacturer’s directions) and tumble dry only part of the way (to iron dry on my machine) because it is possible to over dry hemp in particular… then I allow them to air to dry the rest of the way.  The key with these are to use liquid detergent (rather than powder), and detergent free from optical brighteners to avoid particles becoming trapped in the fibres of the wrap which could cause it to harden and become crunchy over time!

Ring Slings

As most ring slings are made from woven wrap material I wash these exactly as I would a woven wrap.  For the ring, if the carrier is not dirty but the rings I sometimes leave these threaded, but more often I will first unthread and then I will either pop a sock over the rings (and secure with an elastic hair band) or I will pop the whole thing in a laundry bag.  I will do this not for the carrier but for my machines!!! And for the noise!!  The sound of the ring clattering around can be hugely alarming otherwise, particularly in the tumble dryer!!

Likewise I use the same sock or laundry bag trick for washing Close Parent Caboo carriers.

 

Meh Dai and Half Buckles

For these how I wash them depends a bit on individual brands, if there is any webbing or plastic buckles on them I wash them as if a buckle carrier.  If they are made largely from woven material I treat as if a wrap.  Generally most can be washed easily at 30 degrees and often best to let air dry overnight or tumble on low if it doesn’t have any webbing or plastic buckles.

 

Any questions please do leave a comment below….   Happy Washing!!

-Madeleine

Mamaruga Zen Sling Review

Suptumitously soft and super adjustable – the Mamaruga Zen Sling is a real gem of a baby carrier.  It combines the feel of a wrap with the intuitive practicality of a buckle carrier.  Whilst also being one of the very few carriers that genuinely works beautifully well for tiny babies and then seamless grows with your child to continue giving them a great fit all the way into toddlerhood.

See how it works and hear my full thoughts here on my video review…  or read on for more

 

Key Zen Sling Facts:

  • It’s massively adjustable!  Both the width and height of the panel can be adjusted allowing this carrier to shrink all the way down to accomodate a newborn and then seamlessly grow and grow and grow all the way to still give a perfect fit to a 2 year old, possibly even older.  Better still the height actually adjusts in two ways – with the overall panel height adjusting separately to the leg openings.  Most adjustable carriers only allow you to alter one of these – which means often either shorter babies with chubby legs or tall and slender babies aren’t as well fitted… but by offering both the Zen Sling offers all babies a completely customisable fit!  And one that’s really easy to adjust as baby grows.
  • This carrier is weight tested for use between 3kg (6.6lb) and 20kg (44lb).  Realistically this is one that will work for most babies from within a couple of weeks after birth through to 2 ish…  For reference my daughter was 13 kg at 2, 15 kg at almost 3 and my son didn’t hit 20kg until he was 5… but it’s always reassuring to know that the fabric has been weight tested beyond what you will need!
  • It is made from dreamily soft Jersey knit fabric.  Feels a bit like a favourite pair of jogging bottoms.  The kind you secretly want to wear all the time!  Except that the Zen Sling comes in all kinds of lovely patterns and looks really stylish and not at all slouchy and slobby!
  • The fabric is slightly stretchy, this is wonderful with babies as doesn’t feel rough or restrictive on them, allows them to wiggle while still holding them securely.  Consequently sometimes parents don’t like this as much with bigger toddlers as the stretchy material does feel like it has more give than a woven cotton.  The closely related Zebulo is a great alternative if baby is a bit older and you want something light but more toddler proof!
  • The Zen Sling offers 3 carrying positions – front carry (facing parent), hip and back carry.  It doesn’t offer a facing outward carry but it does do the hip carry really really well so often parents find this is an ideal alternative and do not miss facing outwards.
  • The shoulder straps are designed to fan outward across your shoulder if you find this comfortable, and are designed to cross across your back when wearing baby on your front.  When wearing baby on your back there is a chest strap that comes separately that can be threaded through the straps if desired.  This carrier doesn’t offer “ruck sack or H shaped straps when wearing baby on the front, as it is very difficult to attach this seperate strap to your own back!  So this is definitely a carrier for those who prefer to wear their straps crossed rather than those that prefer the H shape.
  • My one gripe with this carrier is the waist band.  It is also made from soft jersey and I find as baby grows this has a tendency to fold/scrunch under baby rather than lie flush and this can be a little diggy over time.  It’s a small gripe, against an otherwise amazing carrier but it’s the one thing I personally would change!!

 

-Madeleine

Why I don’t think you should buy a baby carrier before your baby is born…

IMG_1598I love that babywearing has grown in popularity over the last few years!  I see so many parents absolutely loving snuggling their little ones while getting stuff done… and it’s fabulous.  But one of the downsides of this growing popularity is baby carriers are now on almost all must have lists of things to buy before the baby arrives.  And here is a the catch: carriers (particularly buckle carriers) fit a bit like jeans – different brands and different styles fit different bodies.  In fact it’s worse than jeans because as well as needing to fit the parent it must also fit the baby, and fit how you want to use it, fit your lifestyle and fit the personal preferences of your little one!  All of which is almost impossible to tell before baby is born because it’s very difficult to try a carrier on when you have a bump in the way and how can you know how you are going to use it or what your baby’s preference is going to be before they’ve even entered the world?

You just can’t.  Fun fact – more than 60% of my clients are people who purchased a carrier before their baby was born and then were really dismayed to find that it didn’t work they way they thought it would.  Maybe it was a carrier that advertised from birth but in reality doesn’t work well until more like 8 weeks, maybe that it turned out not to fit them well, or holds baby only in x position but baby prefers y position or maybe its a case of the carrier is absolutely fine but the instructions and YouTube videos were so bad they couldn’t figure out how to get it comfortable but a few tweaks and a different method for putting it on has made all the difference.

The key here is to learn from this – babywearing is AWESOME but it needs to work for you.  The best way to see if a carrier works for you and avoid wasting your money is to try it with your baby and for that your baby needs to be here.

IMG_1852But “I want to wear my baby right from day 1” I hear you cry!  Yes! Yes I do want you to be able to do this too…  So here is my advice.  Don’t buy a buckle carrier yet, but do invest in a newborn specialist sling!  Or better still rent one.  Something like a Stretchy Wrap or a Caboo.  Or if you don’t like the idea of one of these a Ring Sling, a Woven wrap or a really specialist tiny buckle carrier like the Izmi Baby.  These are fab options that work right from day 1 and fit a huge range of people.  They can be tried on and learnt in advance as they offer a much more flexible fit.  And they don’t cost the earth to purchase, and in fact you needn’t buy one of these at all as Sheen Slings and many other Sling Libraries offer long term loans on Stretchies, Caboos and other newborn specialist slings which can save you from needing to buy something that you’ll only use for a few months.  So you can save your money for the big investment sling once your baby is a couple of months old and is here to try on with.

-Madeleine