Carrying Stories – Mairi: 1 boy, 4 slings and a whole lot of practise

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

Pre-pregnancy I’d never even heard of a baby wrap let alone know there was a
whole industry dedicated to them. Sure, they cropped up on my radar during
pregnancy but in all honesty, I thought they were a bit of a gimmick: an earth mother
hippy kinda thing. Fast forward to life with a 3-day old baby who when wasn’t feeding
or sleeping, just wanted to be held, and baby wraps started to look very appealing.

One-way stretchy wrap: the baby box wrap

In Scotland, all expectant mothers are given the Scottish Baby Box which contains a
range of baby items including a one-way stretchy wrap. I tried this wrap, with the
instructions given on how to tie it, when James was a few days old and I wasn’t
feeling it. I remember it feeling bulky, heavy, and loose. After airing my complaints on
Instagram, Laurna from Coorie in with Love got in touch to offer some advice and
arranged to send me the Joy and Joe Bamboo wrap to review. Long story short. I
was hooked, and I’ve been carrying James in some form of carrier ever since.

Photo 1

Joy and Joe stretchy wrap

The two-way stretchy wrap was brilliant for a young baby and it’s a good if you’re
new to it. It’s lightweight and really really comfortable, and only took me a couple
attempts to get a good secure finish. I think because I liked it so much, and my
confidence using it was pretty high from the start, James took to babywearing really
well. No matter how cranky or tried he was, he’d instantly calm when placed in the
wrap which made outings significantly easier; and we got a newfound freedom as a
family because we were no longer restricted with a cumbersome pram. Plus, you get
to hold hands with your partner when your babywearing (and also carry a travel
coffee mug, priorities right?) which ain’t so easy with a pram. When James was in the
wrap I could brush my teeth, make lunch and eat it with both hands, and I also
managed to master the art of going to the toilet with James strapped in (the glamour
of parenting eh?)
Photo 2

Mamaruga Zen sling

As James was getting older, and I knew I wanted to start doing back carries in the
future, I took advice from Sheen Slings and invested in a Mamaruga Zen Sling. The
Zen sling feels like a soft stretchy carrier but has that sturdy reliable feeling with all
the buckles, and it’s adjustable so will grow with your child. I started carrying James
in this when he was 4 weeks old and I’m still using it now he’s 2+ years.Photo 3

At the same time I also invested in the Boba hoodie, which can be worn over the
child in a front or back carry, and frankly is a necessary purchase when you live in
Scotland. Granted we don’t use this hoodie anymore, James is just too big, but I did
use it a lot in that first year and a half.

photo 4

Firespiral Size 5 Woven Wrap

Woven wraps, as I’m sure most parents who’ve never used one will agree, are
intimidating: all that fabric and a complicated tying process. It doesn’t help that you
never see a parent in a fluster using a woven wrap, they always look so confident
and competent. When James was around 1 and a half, I was mad keen to try a
woven wrap but I don’t have a local sling library nor do I know anyone who has one.
Sheen Slings kindly agreed to post me one but this did mean I was
on my own trying to master it.  If you can get a demonstration or a one-to-one consult
for a woven wrap then do. That said, I did manage with (a lot of) YouTube tutorials.
By the time I was sending it back I was ordering my own.

I’ve been using my Firespiral Size 5 for over a year now but unlike my other carriers,
I still wouldn’t say I’m confident using it. After a lot of trial and error I find a ruck carry
most comfortable for us but this type of carry isn’t proving ideal for a toddler who is
constantly wanting up and down when we go on walks. So again, on the advice of
Sheen Slings I’ve ordered a couple sling rings so I can start doing hip carries which work better for contrary kids. What I like about the woven wrap, is that I can see us
using it for a couple more years and if we do have a second child, I know I can also
use it from newborn too, so it is a smart purchase in the long term.

Photo 5

I’m happy with my mini sling collection, but in retrospect I do wish I had a local sling
library to try out different carriers before I bought my own. Particularly the Zen sling.
It was only when visiting Madeleine for a long weekend and getting the opportunity to play with her sling library (honestly, I was a kid in a sweetie shop), that I found I really
liked the Caboo DX Go as an alternative: I found it a lot comfier to wear, particularly
when James was sleeping, and it was easier to use because it didn’t feature buckles.
It also folded up smaller in the changing bag. I’m still debating whether or not to buy
one.

Photo 6

I guess the benefit of a sling library is that you not only get to try a variety of different
carriers, but you can try them with different sized dolls to understand how the carrier
will feel as your child grows. After all, what feels brilliant to wear when your child is 6
months old may not feel so good when they’re 2 years old. So whether you have a
sling library just down the road, or you follow them on Instagram (or like me your pal
has their own company and you can pick their brain incessantly about all things
babywearing) then get in touch with them for advice, and invest in the right carrier for
you.

-Mairi of http://theweegiekitchen.com/

Woven FAQ – Brands

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

Next up in the series is:

What brand(s) do you recommend?

In a way this is the hardest question to answer because there are so many great brands out there.  Literally loads, and if I tried to make a complete list I worry it would confuse more people than it would help!  Instead, I have stuck to great brands which are easily accessible.  Easily accessible in that a) its easy to get hold of their wraps in the UK, b) there are always wraps in stock and c) that they are common place enough that your local library or sling meet etc are likely to have an example or two for you to try to get an idea before you buy.  Finally, hopefully, accessible in budget too.

Budget is always the most contentious point!  It can seem like a large outlay for what is essentially a long length of fabric, but when it comes to wraps there is an element of “you get what you pay for”.   There is a clear difference between wraps around the £100 mark and those around the £40-£50 mark in terms of quality and ease of wrapping with.

However, if those prices scare you, there are some real deals to be had on the second hand market.  In fact, while I am the sort of person who normally prefers to buy new… wraps are my one exception.  Generally wraps will last a long time and actually get softer and easier to wrap with with use – this process is called ‘breaking in’.  From new many wraps can be quite stiff and feel a bit like cardboard but soften with washing and wear.  While some people love this breaking in process, I for one am completely lazy.  I’d rather fast forward to the bit where the wrap feels really lovely and is really easy to use and not go through all the hard work of breaking it in myself! For this reason I massively prefer to either buy wraps second hand that have already been broken in for me or to buy new wraps that already come soft and require very little or no breaking in.  If you are buying new, how easy your new wrap will be to break in is definitely something worth considering!

It’s also worth noting that as well as catering to different budgets, different brands have different aesthetics.  So its worth looking at a few to find one that matches up with your personal style.  Because, simply put, if you love it you’ll wear it.  So more than anything, choose something that you really love.

So, below are the brands I recommend as a starting point for someone buying their first wrap.  Prices quoted are that for a basic size 6 cotton wrap.  The price will of course vary depending on what size wrap you are after and expect to pay a little more for thicker weave wraps and/or different fibre blends.  Also note these prices are based on buying new, so if are going for a second hand wrap feel free to use this as a guide to help you judge if your getting a good deal etc!

  • Didymos – £95-120.  Didymos are #1 on my list for a reason – they are a family run business that have been making wraps since 1972 and really know what they’re doing.  Plus they have a staggering range of different weaves and styles.  There’s literally something from everyone.  While that standard stripes are a little harder work to break in, their Jacquard wraps are utterly gorgeous and usually break in and become absolutely lovely really fast.  In particular if your buying for a new baby take a look at their double face range and their Lisca range as these are normally lusciously soft right out of the box.  But really any of their Prima’s, Ada’s or limited edition Jacquard weaves soften up pretty quickly and are mighty fine wraps.
  • Girasol – £70-85.  Girasol are renowned for their beautiful stripey wraps.  Stripes definitely help flatten the learning curve, and in particular Girasol stripes are brilliant because they are beautiful but also their wraps are really easy to care for – easy to wash, not prone to pulls or snags and are absolutely brilliant newborn all the way to preschoolers and beyond because they are thin yet supportive.  All their wraps are handwoven in Guatemala by local artisans, Girasol are big believers in fair trade and have been making wraps since 1981.  While these cotton wraps do usually start of a bit stiff they do go really floppy and soft with a few washes and use.
  • Firespiral ~£150.  British made, mum made… designed and made entirely in the North of England, these wraps are just lovely.  Luxurious, beautiful, and softer than a kitten belly.  Firespiral have the knack of making wraps that can practically wrap themselves!  They are so soft they are lovely for the tiniest of newborns but still strong enough and supportive enough to carry preschoolers and beyond.  Yes they are more expensive than others listed here, and they are a little pull prone, but I do think they really worth it.  Plus if you are totally new to wrapping Firespiral do run their excellent Fledgling scheme aimed at reducing the learning curve and price hurdle of purchasing your first woven.
  • Jacq and Rose ~£140.  Another British, mum made brand.  These wraps are super soft from the get go and so easy to learn with.  They are the ultimate teaching wraps with their contrasting sides and a pattern that helps you easily distinguish the top from the bottom and divides the wraps into thirds.  They are teaching wraps that don’t look like teaching wraps! Just stylish and geometric!  Perfect for beginners and seasoned wrappers alike.

If buying second hand and looking for a bargain I’d also take a look at Hoppediz, Storchenweige, Lenny Lamb and Joy and Joe.  These are all lovely once broken in and not budget busting and while maybe not my first choice from brand new as they can come a little stiffer … they can all be great once broken in.

-Madeleine

 

Woven FAQ – What does gsm mean? How thick or thin is that?

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

Second in the series is:

What does gsm mean?  How thick or thin is that?

Gsm stands for “grams per square meter” and is a measurement of density.  For woven wraps, the gsm gives and idea of how thick or thin the wrap is – how much a wrap weighs as a proportion of its size and width.  Generally speaking;

  • less than 180 gsm = really thin
  • 180 – 220 gsm  = thin
  • 220 – 260 gsm = medium
  • 260 – 300 gsm  = thick
  • greater than 300 gsm = really thick

One way to easily visualise this to compare knot sizes – the thicker the wrap the bigger the knot!

Annotated knots

For a first wrap, I would start with a thin-medium wrap, something in the 200-260 gsm range.  Thicker wraps are generally tougher to tighten if your new to wrapping and a bit inundating with a little baby. They do have their advantages – thicker wraps are often more supportive and can be more forgiving of a sloppy wrap job, but the extra thickness and weight can be a bit warm and get in the way while you’re learning or feel like your wrestling to get the wrap done up in the first place!  Conversely, while very thin wraps are much cooler they can require you to be very precise in your technique to prevent the wrap either digging or sagging, especially as your child grows… so something in the middle gives you the best of both worlds and should work well all the way from tiny baby to bigger child.

That said gsm isn’t the be all and end all, the weave of a wrap can have a big impact too.  At 260 gsm my Firespiral alchemy weave Librarian is right at the upper end of midweight but its loose weave means it behaves like a thinner wrap – easy to tighten, very comfy and very breathable, so not at all hot.  In fact while in general thinner wraps will feel cooler than thicker wraps, weave can play just as an important role … i.e. my Didymos Lisca and my Girasol Earthy Rainbow are both 215 gsm but the Lisca with its herringbone weave feels like a smooshy warm blanket while the Girasol feels thinner and cooler.

Finally, when considering thickness, consider also your chosen length and what you intend to do with this wrap.  If you are getting a base size wrap to do carries with multiple passes around you and baby, err on the thinner side as those extra wraps around each of you will heat you up!  However, if your going for a shorter wrap – thicker wraps are stronger and will feel more supportive in a single layer carry like a simple ruck.

– Madeleine

(Note all gsm quoted above are measured by me post wash and wear.  Wraps do shrink a little after their first wash and in fact stretch out with use and spring back in the wash,.. so true gsm will fluctuate a little and may well differ from the loom state gsm published by the manufacturer.  I.e. Didymos Rosalinde is quoted at 180gsm but post wash and wear it measures at 190gsm).

 

 

 

My favourite Newborn carriers

Today Rachel turns 3 months old, marking the end of the 4th trimester.  As she leaves the newborn period behind, these were my favourite carriers to use with her during her newborn phase;

image-20170104_090516.jpg1. Hana Baby stretchy wrap – I just love stretchy wraps for those early days.  Super soft, easy to tie, easy to pop baby in and out of, and perfect fit for parent and baby every time. Perfect for round the home as well as out and about… David and I would both wear her for hours on end in a Hana.  See previous posts for more on the Hana and other stretchy wrap brands.

2. Mid-Length woven wraps – namely my size 4 Didymos Prima Severn Sky and my size 3 Firespiral Brimstone Kaleidoscope.  These were great to grab for when Rachel was unsettled and needed a quick calm.  The shorter length compared to 1. and 3. meant I could very quickly throw them on and be quickly rocking her without needing to worry about oodles of fabric.  Mainly I’d use a kangaroo carry although sometimes also a front wrap cross carry tied under bum or at shoulder.  Useful for quick ups around the home and short trips out… although the reduced support would mean I’d choose something else for further afield or if I knew she’d be in there a while.

3. Long woven wraps – namely my size 7 Didymos Lisca Achat, size 6 Girasol Earthy Rainbow, and my size 6 Didymos Rosalinde Doubleface.  All three are beautifully thin and super soft and just feel perfect around a little baby.  While I used these from the beginning as well, I probably reached most for 1. and 2. during the first few weeks, while as Rachel grew, I started preferring long wovens more and more.  The extra support provided by the woven fabric compared to stretchy and by the extra length when compared to mid-length wraps meant these were absolutely great for long trips out, for around the home as she started to have longer more defined naps.  And as she started to want to stretch and flex more in a sling.  My most used carries were the front double hammock, front wrap cross carry and reinforced kangaroo carry.  Front double hammock in particular is my favourite for this age.

4. The Connecta Baby and the Izmi Baby.  While I generally preferred the perfect fit, comfort and closeness afforded by wrap style slings for this 4th trimester phase… there were days where the simplicity of a buckle carrier was really useful.  I.e. on days we were going to the doctors or health visitors and I knew I’d need to get her in and out of the carrier quickly and probably in a confined space.  Or on days when it was raining heavily and I was likely to need to retie while outside…  On these occasions I loved the Connecta and the Izmi.  Both are very light and can be easily sized down to give a lovely snugly fit for a little baby.  Which one I choose simply depended which one wasn’t on hire.  I marginally preferred the Izmi, but as it was out on hire so much I didn’t get to use it as often!  Please see previous post if you’d like to see how both of these sized down for a newborn compared to other buckle carriers.

Please note that these were my personal favourites.  Carrying your baby is a really personal thing and different people prefer different things.  Its always always worth learning about different carrier types, trying a few different brands and finding out what fits you best.  Both in terms of physical fit and fits your needs.   Its worth noting that both the Caboo and Ring Slings are really popular choices for newborns and ones I’ve seen work many many times with many parents.  I personally preferred stretchy wraps to the Caboo as these fit my body better, but I’ve met so many parents who’ve found the ease of simply slipping the Caboo over their head has meant that this is the best fit for them.  Likewise I often compare ring sling to marmite… you love them or you hate them.  They just aren’t my jam, but I’ve had so many clients for whom the ring sling is the perfect newborn and beyond carrier.

Ultimately its all about finding your personal favourite or favourites!

-Madeleine

(Photo of Didymos Rosalinde by the talented Alex Cetera)

 

 

Woven FAQ – What size wrap do I need?

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

So to kick off this series is the most common question of all:

What size wrap do I need?

The most common wrap sizes run from a size 2 (2.7m) to a size 7 (5.2m) in 50 cm intervals.  Which you’ll need depends on two things:

  • First and foremost – what you want to do with it
  • Secondly – you and your baby’s size

For the second point – the best way to work out what size you need is to try different sizes on and determine your ‘Base size‘.  This is defined as the size you need to do a front wrap cross carry.  Please note that I say your size and your baby’s as I need 1 size longer to wrap my 3.5 year old verses my newborn!  But the biggest determiner on this will be your size.  Most people are between a 5-7 for this.

Then as I mentioned it depends on what you want to do with your woven;

With a base size wrap you can do almost everything – front wrap cross carry, front cross carry, double hammock etc!  In general, carries where the fabric passes 3 times around you and your baby’s body.

 

 

A medium length wrap (base -2 or so) will enable you to do carries with 2 passes around you and babies body, such as kangaroo, short cross carry, Robins hip carry, ruck and short versions of double hammock.

 

 

While with a short wrap (base – 3 or 4) you can do single pass carries such as hip carry with a slip knot, classic hip carry, ruck tied under bum or at shoulder etc.

 

 

In general carries with more passes around you and baby are going to feel more supportive – as there is more cloth to spread the weight evenly with. These carries can also be a bit more forgiving if you are new to wrapping. But the trade off is that more cloth to deal with can sometimes feel a little overwhelming or a lot to deal with if your new!  Or a lot if you are attempting to back wrap a very wiggly toddler for the first time.  Carries with just a single pass around you and baby require a little more precision over the tightening to ensure comfort but do have advantage of requiring less length and being cooler on hot days.  In fact short or mid length wraps can be a great choice for an up down toddler because the wrap will fold up small enough for a change bag when not in use or can even double up as a scarf.  So the key is to pick the right size for what you want to do and your body size – i.e for front carries with my newborn I prefer a size 6 or 7, while if you are petite and mainly planning to back carry in a simple ruck a size 3 or 4 might be more appropriate. As ever your local sling library or sling meet is a great place to have a go and take the guess work out of what size to buy.

-Madeleine