Hana Baby Wrap Review

image2 (1)I love stretchy wraps for the newborn stage, they are so snuggley, soft and comforting during that 4th trimester period. And of all the stretchy wraps I have ever tried, the organic Hana Baby Wrap is my absolute favourite. I hadn’t heard of it when my son Tom was born but it was the one I bought for my sister-in-law when my beautiful niece was born and its the one I plan to use with my daughter due in a few months. And clearly its the most popular in my library – I have 6 at the moment and they are almost constantly all out on loan!

The sceptical among you are probably thinking yeah but that’s because its your favourite and this biases people toward them … and maybe this is a factor… but usually when a parent asks for a stretchy I simply pass them a pile of 4 or 5 different brands and almost always the parent in question runs their hands over each and pulls out the Hana. That’s because the Hana is sumptuously soft and light. It stands out to parents because unlike the majority of stretchy wraps which are made from cotton, the Hana wrap is made predominately from Bamboo (68% Bamboo, 28% Organic Cotton and 4% Elastane to be precise).

Dan Hana BabyBamboo is a thermo-regulating material so it feels light and cool in summer but will still keep you warm in winter. Parents are often understandably worried about babies (and themselves!) overheating in the 3 layers of material in a stretchy carry, so choosing a lightweight wrap such as the Hana can be a really help prevent everyone getting too hot whatever the season. Bamboo also has natural anti-microbial properties and is machine washable so absolutely no need to worry about the inevitable poo-plosions or baby sick.

In addition to feeling lovely, this wrap is one of the easiest to use because its both very stretchy and has a good level of elasticity. It is a two-way stretchy which simply means it has both length-wise and width-wise stretch and this means there is quite a wide ‘window’ or tolerance zone between tying too tightly or too loosely which makes learning how to tie much easier than other stretchy wraps with a smaller window. The elasticity simply refers to the ability of the wrap to spring back and not just stretch out and sag, and consequently makes this wrap pretty supportive and strong as baby grows. That said while I feel this wrap would happily support bigger babies, I do find a lot of babies ‘grow’ out of stretchy wraps (although Hana’s slower than many other brands available) – more developmentally than physically. Many parents, myself included find them worth their weight in gold for the 4th trimester period, while others are put off by the idea of buying something that will have a relatively limited lifespan. If you fall into this camp – I, and many other libraries, do offer long term hires on stretchy wraps which can prevent you ever needing to buy one yourself.

-Madeleine

Moby Aria Review (Updated!)

I originally reviewed the Moby Aria shortly after it came out in May 2015. I have included that review below, and as you will see I really liked it. But a year and a bit later as a library carrier, the Moby Aria has not weathered well at all. While I still really like many features, and still often show it to parents, it is clearly not as well made or robust as the other carriers I have in the library. Within a few months I found that the plastic runners for the chest strap where starting to escape (somewhat like an errant under wire on a well worn bra) and then the chest straps themselves started coming off these runners. While it is possible to get these back on, its pretty tricky to do and normally something I have to ask David or someone else more dexterous than I to help me with! A couple of washes later and the carrier was already starting to fade in places.

14063821_10101661204510009_922415886204506069_nThen just last week while on what was only its 3rd or 4th hire, one of the seat dart seams ripped (pictured). While this isn’t a weight bearing seam and doesn’t affect the overall safety of the carrier it is a pretty unsightly. As you can see, its happened because a popper has been placed over this seam without adding any reinforcement to the seam at all. I sometimes make clothes for fun, and while I am distinctly a sewing novice… even I know this isn’t a great idea if you want something to last. Hence after only 15 months my Moby Aria is looking distinctly worse for wear,and is sadly no longer under warranty.  Considering this carrier markets itself as being birth – 36 months it seems a shame that it doesn’t last anywhere near that long. In comparison I have seen 10 year old Manducas that have happily carried all of 1 family’s 3 children and are still going strong now in the hands of a new parent. While I do think Manducas are exceptional in terms of their longevity and workmanship, my experience is the vast majority of buckle carriers will last well for at least 2 children – which I very much doubt the Moby Aria would be able to do.

PS – as predicted below, and as anyone who has been to a library meet recently knows, I have indeed lost a number of those detachable bits and bobs off this carrier!

Moby Aria Review – May 2015

IMG_7577Before the Aria arrived, looking over the specs, I turned to my husband David and said “we are either going to really love this carrier or we’ll be disappointed”. My reasoning was simply that it shares many of the features that we love about our much used and much loved Manduca, so either it would compare favourably or it would fall short. Fortunately, it was love! As well as the common ground with the Manduca, the Aria also has a few unique features that left us having conversations like “wow I think I like this even more…” and “if this had been on the market when we bought our carrier would we have bought this instead?”.

Both David and myself found it really comfortable, both in front and back carries. I can see this carrier fitting a wide range of body shapes and sizes as it has three points for adjusting the straps, and so I would expect this carrier to be a good choice for partners who are very different sizes. Although this did mean the first time I put it on I did spend a couple of minutes adjusting but once I had found my settings it was really comfortable and I felt I got a really good fit by being able to tweak the fit in several different places. The strap design also allows you to cross the straps at the back while carrying your child on your front which I find essential for spreading the weight evenly across my back and managing to last through a long walk!

For a hot day, the main panel of the Aria is attached by buttons and can be taken off to reveal just mesh. Providing plenty of support for your baby whilst keeping them cool by allowing air to circulate into the carrier. Which I can see being being really amazing in the middle of summer. The head support and sleeping cover are attached by velcro and also can come off. I love that the Aria comes with these things included (in the limited edition box from Slumber-Roo), and that they can be easily removed for cleaning or removed when they are no longer needed and thus reducing bulk but I do worry that if that if this was mine I would promptly lose all these bits and pieces. So I find myself torn because its great they have been included, and they are all useful for different phases, but will they get lost when they are not being used? Maybe most people aren’t as scattered brained as me!

IMG_7583Fortunately the infant insert is attached and can’t be removed so no chance of losing it before baby number 2 comes along. Kudos to Moby for including the insert for free when many other brands sell inserts separately as extras. The insert is simply a section of material on the inside that via poppers forms a pouch that lifts a newborn higher up in the carrier keeping them close enough to kiss and so their face isn’t covered. This is in fact very similar to the Manduca infant insert. However, just the same as many infant inserts used by other brands, I do wonder if in practise this is slightly clunky to use as you have to sit down with your baby to popper them in and then again to take them out. Its not always that easy to sit down and put your legs up to do this!

That said where I think the Moby Aria really comes into its own is for a baby around 3 months to 6 months. This is the ‘Black Zone’ of almost all SSCs. Nearly all SSCs have an infant insert that works (for better or worse) from newborn to about 3 months (depending on length and weight of the baby, which of course varies a huge amount) but then the baby doesn’t fit into the main seat of the carrier until they are 5 or 6 months (again size and carrier depending) and this can be really frustrating for parents. The Moby Aria has come up with an ingenious system for narrowing the main seat of the carrier using poppers to synch it in. There are 3 settings; narrow, mid and regular. The narrow is only a little wider than the infant insert so I can really believe that most parents wouldn’t have to experience the ‘black zone’ in this carrier. I am really happy to finally have an SSC I can show to parents of 3 month olds coming to the library desperate for an SSC.

If I have any criticism to level at this carrier it is that as a mother of a now 2 and a bit year old, the back panel is only just high enough for him. It is still high enough to be completely safe, but another growth spurt will see to that. I can see this carrier will work really well from 3 months to 2.5 years (maybe even from newborn if you don’t mind sitting in a chair to get in and out of it), so really its not a criticism at all because that’s a great range to be able to cover, and cover so well. So really its just jealously that this carrier has come out when my son is almost too old for it and I have no real reason to get one for myself …

Which Caboo? Plus, Organic or Lite/NCT?

Caboo Front View

NCT/Lite Caboo on left, Caboo+ Organic on right

One of the questions I am asked most frequently asked is “What is the difference between the  Caboo+ Organic and the NCT Caboo?”  Usually, I bite my tongue to stop myself replying “about £15”.  Because of course that would be crass! And not particularly helpful as there are a number of differences.  And to make it even more confusing there is also a Caboo+ Cotton Blend and the Caboo DX… and the NCT is about to be re-branded as the Caboo Lite (following the NCT withdrawing their product endorsement last month).  With so many options, of course parents are confused about which to go for.  So in an attempt to give a better answer than “about £15” I thought I would review the Organic and NCT/Lite side by side.

The biggest difference is the material they are made from – different feel, weight and

Caboo backs

Back view – NCT/Lite on left, Organic on the right

width. Both are jersey knit fabrics but while the Organic is 98% organic cotton, 2% polyester, the NCT is 60% cotton and 40% polyester*. The material on the Organic is simply hemmed, while the edges of the NCT carrier are bound with a 94% polyester 6% spandex binding tape.

So what does all that percentage mumbo jumbo actually mean?!? What do these carriers actually feel like? The material on the Organic feels thick, warm, soft and snuggly. A lot like a favourite thin cardi, you know the one that almost never goes in the cupboard because you are almost constantly wearing it while you potter around the house.

By contrast the material on the NCT is a lot thinner, cooler and feels a lot like t-shirt material. Its still lovely and soft although the binding doesn’t feel as great (bit like tracksuit bottom material). That said the difference in feel does make it easy to find the edges while putting the baby in, if say you’re not looking in a mirror.  The Organic is a perfect spring, autumn and winter but is definitely a bit too warm in summer. Conversely as the NCT is much cooler and fares much better in the summer but maybe is not as snuggly in the depths of winter.

Caboo widths

Comparing widths, NCT left and Organic on the right

There is also a lot more material on the Organic, each length is 48 cm (19 inches) wide verses a width of only 38 cm (15 inches) on the NCT. Some parents prefer the narrower fabric, especially if they are petite or find too much fabric too warm. While others find that the narrower width makes it harder to spread the material out across the shoulder or flip material over at the shoulder to keep it away from baby’s face. As this is the material that spreads around the baby and holds them knee to knee, a baby is more likely physically to grow out of the NCT carrier quicker than the Organic.

IMG_3006

Flat shots!  Caboo Organic on the left this time

The final main difference is in the support panels. Both are made from the same fabric as the main carrier and have a pouch the whole carrier can be tucked into. For the NCT this pouch is formed of mesh material helping to keep this carrier on the lightweight and cooler side. For the organic this pouch is formed of another layer of the same thick material, but does benefit from having a small pocket for a set of keys/card wallet etc, as well as a collar to provide additional head support. This additional head support is really nice and helps this carrier be truly ‘hands free’ (so often you see parents with similar carriers cradling their baby’s head as their carrier doesn’t provide enough head support…).

But what about the Caboo+ Cotton Blend and the Caboo DX I mentioned at the start?  The Blend is very similar to the Organic, its just made from non organic cotton.  In terms of thickness, feel etc its near enough identical.  The DX on the other hand is probably the craziest, over-engineered thing I have ever seen.  It has this crazy ‘pod’ that feels like neoprene that clips over the top… I have had several clients come with one who find it simply way too much faff and I have to agree with them!  I tried one on at a baby show and asked the rep what the point of it was and they said (in a surprised voice) “Oh well, it appeals to dads, dads like the extra security”.  Bearing in mind that the DX costs £35 more than the NCT I would urge any Dad to avoid falling into this gender stereotyping trap!  I’ve never met a Dad whose had a problem with the NCT or the Organic, in fact most really love them… but I have met more than a few Dad’s completely and utterly baffled by the DX!

So coming back to the NCT and the Organic – which is my favourite? Its hard to tell, it’s quite a personal choice and definitely more to consider than the price difference (although maybe that’s just always my priority…?). Best way to tell which would work best for you… go to your local library or contact your local consultant and try them both on!!

-Madeleine

*Edited in 2019 to add that newer versions of these carriers have now been brought out!  The newer fabric carriers are compared in my updated video comparison which can be found here!

(Credit to Melissa Branzburg for taking the photos and proof reading).

Moby Wrap Review

IMG_2783

My son Tom in the Moby at 3 weeks old.   This is one of the few pictures I have where he isn’t really obviously slumped!

The first carrier I ever bought was a Moby wrap.  Before my son was born I asked around all my friends, I went to a sling library to learn about all the different types of baby carriers and came to the conclusion I should get a stretchy wrap.  This was absolutely the right choice for us – when Tom was born it was worth its weight in gold for all 3 of us; for Tom who just wanted to sleep snuggled against one of his parent’s chests and definitely not in his moses basket; for me who just wanted to make a cup of tea; and for my husband David who loved the freedom of being able to leave the flat without being weighed down by a pram.

For all these reasons I am sure we’ll be using a stretchy wrap again when our new baby due in November arrives.  However, we won’t be using the Moby.

I choose the Moby at the time, because it was the biggest name, the one everyone I asked had heard of (as an aside, the more I learn about baby carriers the more I realise the biggest names/best sellers are usually not the best carriers!  They are the brands with the

IMG_2812

A far more typical picture – after 20 minutes walking Tom has slid right down and David is no longer hands free!

biggest markets budgets and consequently have been able to get their carriers into high street stores).  The sling library I went to only had 2 stretchy wraps and told me ‘they are all the same anyway’.  Which I have since learnt is simply not true. I currently have 8 different brands of stretchy wrap in the library and they all feel different.  They have different levels of stretch, different thickness, made from different materials which all feel different to the touch etc etc…

But of all of them the Moby is my least favourite.  This is for 2 main reasons;

  1. While it was snuggly and soft for me and my son, by the start of May when he was around 6/7 weeks old it was properly boiling.  The Moby is one of the thickest on the market.  Its 5.6m long, 62cm wide and weighs 753g which makes for quite a claustrophobic carrier in summer!  To put this in context this is one of the longest, widest and heaviest stretchy wraps on the market.  Definitely don’t consider the Moby if your having a spring or summer baby.
  2. Its the hardest for a beginner to learn! The beauty of stretchy wraps is that you can pretie them and simply pop baby in.  Even pop baby in and out without retying.  But this is really difficult to do with the Moby … the window between having the carrier tied so tightly you can’t actually get your baby in and having the carrier too loose resulting in baby slumping over time is really tiny.  Like trying to find the setting on an old temperamental toaster between burnt and still bread.  It meant I spent ages trying to perfect exactly how tightly to tie, and spent ages walking around with a baby starting to slump in the carrier.
IMG_1358

Twin perfection!

Why is the Moby so hard to use?  It is one of the least stretchy carriers, and only stretches in one direction.  In general stretchy wraps that stretch in two directions are much easier to learn as this ‘window’ is much wider and nearly everyone can get the hang of it right away.  Even with other one way stretchy wraps, while they are all harder to learn compared to two way stretchies, most are still a bit less stiff than the Moby and its this stiffness that makes it pretty difficult to use in this way.  In fact it works much better if you instead use it more like a woven!  This stiffness means its pretty supportive if you do get the tying right … in fact where I do think the Moby shines is for those wishing to wrap twins.  The extra stability that comes with the lack of stretch compared to other stretchy wraps really helps when trying to support 2 at once.

But for my singleton baby due in a few months I am going to make my life easy and give the Moby a skip.

 

What is a Caboo?

First time I was handed a Caboo I had a bit of a “But what is it??!?” moment?  Is it a stretchy? A ring sling? A carrier or what?!

IMG_2985.JPGOfficially it is a ‘Stretchy Hybrid’.  This means it is like a stretchy wrap in terms of the material used and the way baby is carried once in it, but it is ‘preformed’ to some degree to save you having to tie it for yourself. The Caboo consists of two pieces of material that are sewn together to form a cross at the back, come round to form a cross at the front and then loop back and are fastened to the cross at the back with a pair of rings on each side. The rings allow the carrier to be adjusted and tightened accommodating a wide range of parent body types and sizes. There is then a support panel which you tie over yourself and baby once baby is in the carrier. This panel provides both head support and acts as a safety belt completing the carrier. It also has a handy pocket that doubles as a bag to tuck the whole carrier into when your not using it.

IMG_2994.JPGJust like a stretchy wrap, the Caboo is absolutely great for newborns and the so called ‘forth trimester period’. It gives a wonderfully snuggly secure carry which I often think for the baby must feel like being swaddled to their parent. Absolutely bliss for almost any child under 3-6 months. And a sanity saver for the parents too who can make a cup of tea, go to the toilet or calm their little one while the other gets an hours sleep! However, just like a stretchy wrap, many parents find their child grows out of this carrier from 3-6 months onward. Sometimes in terms of level of support, but more often simply developmentally – as baby begins to have longer awake periods they start to prefer a carrier that lets them have their arms out and log around either from the hip or back or just turning their head from a front carry and having an unobstructed view of the world.

The main pros of the Caboo carriers over a stretchy wrap are that it simply slips over the head, and so you save the couple of moments it takes to tie a stretchy wrap. This can be a big draw for anyone who maybe has an older child and feels like they don’t have the time to get a wrap right, or any one just a bit overwhelmed or put off by the idea of tying. Additionally, it doesn’t drag on the ground so can be a great sling for out and about.

The cons are that because the cross is sewn in, the fit will never be quite as perfect as a wrap that is moulded to your exact body shape. More importantly as the support panel ties over the baby it means this comes over the middle of your back, so this carrier lacks the waist support the stretchy wraps are able to provide. Additionally while the rings do give the ability to adjust the carrier once on, this isn’t as easy as it looks. Not meaning to put anyone off but there is a knack to it and generally its easier better to have the sling correctly adjusted before you put the baby in. Which can lead to issues if two different sized partners are using the same sling with constantly needing to adjust the sling when swapping between partners. So while the Caboo can be quicker and is conceptually easier at least, the trade off is the support and ease of use between different body sizes.

-Madeleine

(Credit to Melissa Branzburg for taking the photos and proof reading).

Sleepy Nico Carrier Review

IMG_0342Recently Sheen Slings have had the pleasure of hosting Sleepy Nico’s beautiful travelling toddler carrier, which is doing a tour of sling libraries all over the UK.  I’ve never had a Sleepy Nico carrier before and right out of the package I loved it.  I love the pairing of the georgous cotton print fabric with soft and snuggly but very durable corduroy material.  I was also impressed how light weight this carrier was, very lightly padded this carrier presents a great option for anyone wanting something in between the lightweight but unpadded Connecta and more fully padded carriers like the Ergo, Lillebaby or Manduca.  In fact I was so impressed with this carrier that I have since bought a baby-sized carrier for the library collection.  So this review will cover both carriers.  Although, as our son is 3, we have mainly used the toddler-sized and my husband was pretty sad when the time came to post it on.

IMG_0346To test it out, my husband Dave wore it on a trip to Kew Gardens.  He was immediately impressed, and found it really comfortable – carrying our 15kg 3 year old for 2-3 hours in total across the whole day.  He loved the light weight aspect, while it doesn’t fold as small as the toddler Connecta. David found it more comfortable and the right balance of comfort to lightweight.  As any carrier spends more time in our bag than on while our son walks for himself, something that will fold relatively small but is still comfortable is a bonus.  And Tom was certainly very comfortable in it, so comfortable that he fell asleep on the way home – despite having dropped regular day time naps sometime ago.  Clearly living up to the ‘sleepy’ part of its name!

While for me, while I loved the aesthetic, I found the straps didn’t sit as comfortably on me compared to other carriers.  With any buckle carrier fit is everything and hence why its so key to try before you buy!  For me, this wouldn’t be the ‘one’ where as it absolutely would be for David!

IMG_0353

Standard size Connecta (left) vs standard size Sleepy Nico (right)

That said I would have no hesitation recommending it to those who it does fit well – in particular I have found many coming to the library love the soft padding at the baby’s legs.  Many of those that leave with a Sleepy Nico came to try on the Connecta but found that the Connecta left red lines on their childs legs, the soft padding at the leg openings completely prevents this and is a real big draw of this carrier for those looking for a lighter weight carrier but not wishing to compromise on comfort!

IMG_0357

Difference in sizes, toddler size underneath the standard (baby) size

Both the standard size and the toddler size are smaller than the equivalents from other brands – both in terms of seat width and panel length. So might not be as long lasting but also may fit your child earlier.  The standard size has a weight range of 3.5kg-15kg and the Toddler 6.8kg-20kg.  Although these weight ranges, like that provided by any manufacture, only tells you what the carrier has been safety tested for … a child of these weights may or may not not fit .. the carrier might be too wide or too narrow etc.  In general I feel the standard sizes works wells from about 4-5 months up to around 2 years depending on the child.  I wouldn’t recommend it for an infant as there is no infant insert and the seat panel can not be easily adjusted down.  While the toddler carrier works well from around 18 months to 3 or 4 depending on the child.

-Madeleine