Why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan

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

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

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

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

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

– Madeleine

Beco 8 Review

20170828_185016In many ways the Beco 8 is the Beco Gemini’s big brother.  The Beco 8 shares so many of the features that I love about the Gemini. In particular;

  • Firm thick padding at the waist band combined with soft light padding at the shoulder straps.  This combination is rare in the carrier world, but is one that really works for some many people because it gives great support at the waist and weight transference onto the hips without feeling bulky on the shoulders.
  • Ability to wear the straps either ruck sack style or crossed acrossed the parents back depending on personal preference.
  • Easy to adjust seat. The seat of the carrier has two settings – narrow and wide that can be easily swapped between using a simple pair of poppers.
  • 4 carrying poisitions.  You can carry your baby on your front facing you, on your front facing outward, on your hip and on your back giving you plenty of flexibility to use this carrier in different ways.  And the adjustable popper seat means its super easy to quickly switch back and forth between facing in and facing out positions.

But where the Beco 8 differs from the Gemini is that it is bigger.  The panel is about 1cm longer on the Beco 8, while the wide setting is about 2cm wider.  The narrow setting is actually the same on both carriers.  The bigger panel simply means this carrier will last longer.  It will take longer for your baby to grow out of it.  The taller panels often mean smaller babies don’t fit as well but as the Beco 8 comes with a small infant insert to raise the height of the baby within the carrier this isn’t the case for the Beco 8.  This is a carrier that works really well from newborn (or at least a few weeks old) until around 2 years of age, quite possibly longer.  In terms of weights, the Beco 8 is weight tested from 3.2 to 20 kg (7 to 40 lb). When you compare this to the Gemini these extra few cm give you about an added 6 months of longevity and 4 kg extra on the weight max.

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Beco Gemini (Navy) laid over the Beco 8 (Grey)

The panel isn’t the only thing that is bigger about the Beco 8 – it also has a lot of extra features and stuff!  Which contribute to this feeling like a bigger bulkier carrier.  In particular it has;

  • Lumbar Support – a little panel that sits comfortably over your lower spine and helps support your lumbar region and stabilises the waist band.  This is fab while carrying a heavier baby on your front, and can be removed if you don’t like it or so that you don’t have a weird pad on the front.
  • Hood – to cover baby’s head for sleep or if there’s rain and handily hides away inside the head support cushion
  • Zip down mesh panel – the standard carrier is made from a durable but fairly soft polyester, then in warmer weather the central panel can be unzipped to reveal breathable “3D mesh”. I am not entirely sure what 3D mesh means other than you can’t see through it! Like overlapping layers of mesh, so there is no possibility of little fingers getting stuck or of it getting snagged on anything.  This is the same mesh as is on the Gemini Cool but the beauty of the 8 is you don’t need to choose between mesh or solid… you get both in one carrier.  (Unless you don’t like the idea of polyester and mesh, and in which case they sell a all cotton version which lacks this zip down panel).
  • Infant insert – which simply attaches via poppers so easy to remove if you don’t need it or don’t like it.  I like that this insert pillow has a narrow and wide setting as this allows different baby’s to be accomodated in different ways as suits them as they grow.

20181010_183528All of which is good stuff!  But the downside is that with all these added bits this carrier takes up quite a lot of space when folded!  Roughly about twice the size compared to the Gemini.   It’s also correspondingly more expensive.

This is a great carrier for those who want a long walk carrier and those who want all the features and bits and bobs.  But it doesn’t have the simplicity and sheer magic the Gemini has in being quite a slimmed down non fuss, easy carrier.  There are more bits and bobs to faff with and get used to.  Some love this, some people really want those extra bits… while for others less is more.  Really just depends on personal preference!

All in all the Beco 8 is another great carrier from Beco.  The 8 will particularly suit bigger babies, those who are higher up on the centile charts and will benefit from a bigger carrier that will last them longer before they grow out of it.  It’s a great sunday hike, wear all day carrier as it doesn’t comprimise on comfort or features!  It’s a flexible carrier offering multiple carrying positions and combines a firm supportive waistband with lighter softer shoulder padding.  The Beco 8 costs £125 and is available to purchase from Sheen Slings at sling library meets, consults and workshops (or please get in touch for doorstep collection or even postage).

-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

KiBi Carrier Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

-Madeleine

Manduca Review

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Madeleine

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.

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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

Toddler Connecta Review

img_8263For me, Connecta Baby carriers are really quite different. Most other buckle carriers in the library are pretty similar in terms of construction. Sure they all have different bells and whistles and all fit slightly differently because of different strap placements, shaping and contouring of the waist belt, straps and carrier body. But really they are pretty similar and which one someone prefers is a matter of personal preference and body shape.

Connecta are the exception.

The waistband is entirely unpadded. The body of the carrier is just two pieces of fabric sewn together and the straps are only very lightly padded. The first time I saw one I immediately thought “that looks uncomfortable”. And then I tried it on, and audibly said “Oh!”. I had always considered the thick waist padding of other buckle carriers like the Manduca, Ergo, Beco etc were needed for comfort. But in reality by taking this away entirely Connecta have created a buckle carrier more similar to a wrap in that it is able to mould to your exact body and thus provide comfort by giving a great fit.

Connecta make their carriers in 3 sizes – standard (birth – 2 years ish), Toddler (18months – 3 or 4), and Pre-school (3 or 4 onwards). Each with two strap options – regular and petite straps. The petite straps have simply 1.5 inches less padding to enable more petite parents to get the straps tight enough while back carrying. I currently have 3 Connecta in the library – a Standard size with Petite straps, a Solarweave Standard size with regular straps and finally a Toddler size with standard straps (although these, particularly the two Standard sizes, are in such demand I am likely to add another soon!). This review focuses on the Toddler size and how it fared on a family day out to Kew Gardens with our toddler.

For me, when it comes to carrying an older child (in my case 2 and a half), there are two main considerations for any carrier.

  1. How comfortable is it, with the increased weight of a toddler?

  2. What can I do with it while my son is walking?

I love buckle carriers, but most are pretty bulky and don’t fit in my bag (or at least not with all the changes of clothes that go hand in hand with a boy newly graduated from nappies). On this second count the Connecta is amazing, it folds up really small and the accessory strap helps keep it neat and compact in your bag.

img_8273The absence of the waist band also means that front carries can be much lower compared to other buckle carriers and this greatly improved my front carrying experience as my son was no longer directly in my face! However, in terms of comfort and supporting his weight, I was generally happiest in a back carry. Shorter outings were great, but over 30 minutes it would start to get gradually heavier and more uncomfortable. I would start to wish for more padding or find that the chest belt was digging in my chest, or the arm straps under my arms. In general I think these things were a product of the Connecta not fitting my body personally as well as I have seen it fit some of my clients.

But at 2 and a half its actually rare that I would need to carry my son for more than 30 minutes. Any carrier spends more time in my bag than with my son in it….

David, my husband, summed this up really nicely when I asked him if he found the Connecta comfortable? He said “It is less comfortable compared to others we have tried but I wouldn’t say its uncomfortable. I see it as a trade off a little less comfort in exchange for a much lighter weight carrier. For a toddler this is quite a big pro, as our son walks more and more and time in the carrier goes down comfort becomes less important and weight and the ability to fold up small and fit in a bag becomes more and more important and something I would trade a bit of comfort for”.

Would I trade comfort for lightweight? Maybe not full time, as I really like to be comfortable but on a hot day, or if I was going on holiday … yes, absolutely.

-Madeleine