FAQ – How do I get my baby onto my back in a buckle carrier on my own?

Carrying your child on your back can be truly freeing!  Back carries completely free up your hands to get on and get stuff done, and they are generally more comfortable too as most of us load bear better on our backs than our fronts.  Plus once your child is tall enough to see over your shoulder they can have an absolutely great view of the world and can chat to you right next to your ear where you can hear them even on a busy street.

There are so many pros! But, actually figuring out how on earth to get them onto your back can be pretty intimidating.  There are actually loads of different methods and this is where a trained Sling consultant can be really helpful, they can work with you – with your individual flexibility, coordination and learning type to help ensure you are completely confident moving your baby on and off your back on your own unassisted!

While there are many many methods, the “secure hipscoot” method is the one I teach most often.  Or at least this is the starting point I teach most often, I will frequently modify it here or there depending on the individual and depending on the carrier used… but the video below shows my starting point.

Carrier in the video is a Beco Gemini, but this method will work with the vast majority of buckle carriers including Ergo Omni, Adapt, Original and 360 models, Lillebaby, Boba carriers, Manduca, Kahu Baby, Connecta and many many others.

It is my personal favourite method because it feels really secure at all times! It doesn’t rely on cooperation from the child, and in fact can be done with a very active wiggler once your confident.  I once used this method to put my then 2.5 year old onto my back on a moving tube train while he was in a full temper tantrum… I simply would not have managed to get off the train with him and our bags and coats and other stuff any other way!

If you are giving this a try at home, do give it a go over a soft surface like a bed or a sofa.  I learnt to back carry when my son was about 8 or 9 months old and he absolutely loved a controlled fall when I messed something up and got stuck!!  But if your struggling at all do remember that this is by no means the only method!  One of the downsides of this method, at least in this form, is that it does rely on a fair degree of shoulder motility, and as such isn’t a great option for those with stiff or injured shoulders.  So if this is you or if your struggling at all learning to back carry do contact your local sling consultant who will be able help you find the method that works for you

Happy Back Carrying!

-Madeleine

Lillebaby Complete All Seasons Review

20170427_080049 (2)The Lillebaby Complete, as its name suggests, has and does everything!  It has a frankly staggering 6 carrying positions, works from a newborn (or maybe a month old) until at least 3, maybe even 4 years old.  Its filled with clever design features and has a emphasis on parent comfort with oodles of padding and lumbar support.

So what’s the catch?  …It is not small.  All this padding and features means this is a pretty bulky carrier.  If your after a lightweight travel sling or something that folds up pretty small to slip into your change bag or under your pushchair – this is not it.  However, if you’re looking for something you can wear a growing baby in for hours on end during long Sunday walks or on buggy free day trips this maybe just what you’re looking for.

Like ALL buckle carriers, it’s definitely worth trying this on before you buy.  All buckle carriers fit different body types better or worse.  In particular, as the Lillebaby is bulkier, it tends to work less well on a more petite frame.  More slender parents usually find the level of padding too all encompassing, and find a better fit with a less bulky carrier.  The length of padding on the shoulder straps also means that this carrier works better for taller parents, parents below around 5’4” ish or whom are very petite will often struggle to the straps tight enough when back carrying.  This is definitely a carrier that works best for more average to bigger builds.

For those it does work well for – it has some really lovely parent comfort features.  First and foremost is the lumbar support.  This was one of the first carriers to add a lumbar support panel, and I still think it’s one of the best because of how it’s shaped.  Its shaped so it sits right in a the middle of your lower back and support radiates upward.  I also love the fact its removable!! Because while its fab for front carries, when you move to back carries you might not want a lumbar support panel right in the middle of your tummy.  Secondly, the straps can be worn crossed or rucksack style across the parents back according to personal preference and comfort.  Again choice is great as often different partners have different preferences and the Lillebaby is a carrier that will often work really well for partners who have very different body shapes and difference preferences.  And the straps tighten in two directions so you can either pull forward or backward so works well with different mobility levels and relative wrist strengths!  Many carriers tighten in only 1 direction and some parents find tightening backwards a real challenge! So two way tightening can be a real boon.  Thirdly, it has a very wide firm waist band that really anchors the carrier combined with firm long padded straps.  As discussed above the amount of padding doesn’t suit everyone but for those it does fit well, the firm padding does make for a supportive comfortable carrier.

For the baby, the Lillebaby complete is weight tested from 3.2 to 20 kg (7 to 45 lb) and the manual demonstrates 6 different carrying positions.  These are;

  1. Fetal – wide seat setting.  Suitable for first few weeks only, if at all.  In this position baby goes legs inside the carrier.  You start by rolling up a blanket to make a little cushion for the baby to sit on, then sit the baby on it and bring the whole carrier up and around them.  Lillebaby suggest this for newborn – 3 months.  In reality, I don’t like this position and only very rarely show it to people.  I don’t like it because by having the legs in the carrier this can put extra stress on developing ankle joints.  Also parents are often confused by the whole blanket thing and essentially making their own infant insert out of a rolled up blanket.  Most babies can actually skip this stage and go directly to the second position.  It’s only really the very curled up babies who would benefit from this position and usually most parents with a very curled up baby find this carrier too all encompassing for their tiny baby and opt to use something like a stretchy wrap or Caboo until baby is a bit bigger and fits in one of the other positions anyway.
  2. Infant facing inward – narrow seat setting.  Suitable from a few weeks old until around 6 months.  In this position baby sits directly in the base of the carrier using the narrower seat setting.  In this setting the bottom of the panel is tapered, which allows you to fit a smaller baby by putting them in the part that is narrowest and then as they grow you sit them deeper into the panel where it is wider … so that in this way you can get a great knee-to-knee fit for babies all the way from a few weeks old upto 5 or 6 months.  Likewise you can alter the position of the neck support to ensure baby is supported upto the nape of the neck but no higher as they grow.  So in theory as soon as baby can open their legs wide enough to sit astride this narrowest part, this carrier can be used.  This varies from baby to baby but for most this is usually from a few weeks.
  3. Older baby facing inward – wide seat setting.  Suitable from 6 months onwards. This is actually the same position as number 2 in that baby sits directly in the base of the carrier with legs out either side, but differs in that now you use the wider setting.  The Lillebaby is so wide on this widest setting that babies are not usually big enough to do this until they are around 6 months old – often older.  This wider seat position will then go on supporting them until they are at least 3 years old (although many parents will prefer to use the back carry position from a year or 18 months onward for their own comfort).  Likewise the infant neck support can be used clipped up to extend the height of the carrier to continue to support a growing toddler.  Often parents are worried about knowing when to move from the narrow seat to the wider one – and it’s simply a case of being guided by your child and how long their legs are!  Once baby is long enough to sit comfortably in the wider seat without any material passing the backs of their knees they are ready for this position and will find it more comfortable verses the narrower setting as they are better supported.  While, if the material does pass the backs of their knees then they will be more comfortable in the narrower seat position.
  4. Infant facing outward – narrow seat setting.  Generally from 6 months plus.  In theory the forward facing position can be used once baby has strong neck and head control (for more facts on forward facing and how to tell if your baby is ready please click here), however they do also need to physically fit the carrier in that position.  And because the Lillebaby is a relatively big carrier, while many babies might be developmentally ready earlier… few actually fit the Lillebaby Complete in this position before 6 months.  This can sometimes be frustrating for parents who feel they’d like to forward face earlier and there are other – smaller carriers – where you can forward face earlier.  The flip side is that because this carrier is bigger it can be more comfortable in the forward facing position as baby is more contained and thus puts less strain on parents back (as the forward facing position is, for absolutely any carrier, the position that puts the most strain on parent’s backs.  The physical size of the Lillebaby carrier can help mitigate this, but the con is baby has to be bigger too which of course means more strain anyway… so it is all a bit Catch-22!).
  5. Hip Carry – either seat setting. Suitable once baby has reasonably good neck and upper torso control.  The hip position can be a lovely alternative to forward facing, as it affords the same view for baby while giving both them and you a little more support.  It’s a particularly good option for babies who’d like to forward face but are not quite big enough yet.  The one downside to this position with the Lillebaby specifically is the firmly padded shoulder straps often don’t sit as comfortably over the shoulder in this position compared to lighter weight/softer straps.  If the hip position was one you were using a lot a more softly padded strap would be more desirable, although as this is a position people tend to use more infrequently it’s not really a big critism. 
  6. Back Carry – wide seat setting. Suitable once baby can sit independently, roughly 6 months onward and can last realistically to around 3 years or even beyond.  Last but not least the back carry position is one where the Lillebaby really shines!  An adjustable chest strap and all that padding means many parents will continue to be comfortable carrying their growing toddlers on their back to at least 3 years of age!  The one thing to check is that you can get this carrier tight enough!  Because the padded shoulder straps are relatively long, more petite parents can find that they simply can’t get the carrier tight enough to be comfortable on their back.  It is really worth being aware of this and checking before you buy – parents of young babies must always think I am mad when I make them try this carrier on their back with a doll before letting them buy one but there is nothing worse than shelling out for a carrier for your 3 month old, happily use it on your front and then discover a few months later that it doesn’t fit you on your back!!

 

There are a whole host of other cool features on this carrier too, including:

  • head support panel attaches via buckles that are on elastics which allows this panel to support gently and move with baby rather than being rigidly fixed into place.
  • If your not using the head support the buckles neatly tuck away and the panel poppers into place.
  • There is very soft light padding under the side buckles to ensure that these do not dig uncomfortably into parents side or into breast tissue.
  • A breathable zip down mesh panel to give the “All Season’s” aspect of this carrier.  This panel can be neatly tucked away to help keep baby cool during the summer months then zipped back up to help keep baby snug on cooler days. It’s definitely a nice feature although, how much cooler it is I have never been too sure – I’ve always found padding level and bulk to have more of an affect on overall warmth of a carrier than the presence or absence of mesh.  

 

My one complaint about this carrier, however, is that it is not easy to switch between the narrow and wide seat positions.  If your are only using this carrier to face baby inwards this is not so much of an issue as you’ll only have to do this once when baby grows out of the narrow seat position.  But if you are using this carrier to carry your baby facing outwards – you’ll need to swap ALL the time.  Forward facing is a position best done in short bursts, and I encourage parents to follow their baby’s cues and turn them inward before they get too tired or overstimulated…. HOWEVER, because the Lillebaby requires you to take the carrier off and put the baby down and faff for 2 minutes completely reconfiguring the waist band, this is A LOT easier said than done. It’s a real shame as it’s often this that puts parents off and they choose a carrier where they can switch back and forth more easily.   

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All in all the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons is a feature packed, long lasting behemoth of a carrier – perfect for those looking to carry for long periods and use their carrier for a long time.  It’s well made and very well designed.  Like all carriers it’s well worth trying before you buy as it doesn’t fit everyone, but for those it gives a good fit to this can be a great versatile option.  The Lillebaby Complete costs around £140.

 

-Madeleine

 

 

Toddler Carriers Compared

There are a number of Toddler carriers on the market, and confusingly they vary HUGELY between brands!  In particular, they vary most in terms of size!  Both in terms of how old your baby needs to be before they are big enough and in terms of how long they will last for.

We currently have 7 Toddler carriers in the Sling Library collection and to help me compare them on size and longevity I have enlisted the help of both my children.  Rachel is 18 months, 80cm tall and 11.5kg and she represents roughly the age I most commonly see parents starting to entertain looking for a toddler sling.  Tom by contrast gives an idea of the absolute upper end! He is 5 years old, 116cm tall and just over 20kg.  I stopped regularly carrying Tom at around 3.5 years old, and have only really carried him very occasionally on holidays or long trips since then.  Many people find carrying naturally peters out sometime between 2 and 4 years old.  That said there is a significant number of families for whom carrying may well last a lot longer than this – particularly for a child with additional needs such a developmental delay, low muscle tone, ongoing medical treatment that might cause fatigue etc.  Tom helps give an idea of those carriers that are a bit more roomy for those who might want to carry a much older child.

Taking a look at each in turn…

Connecta Toddler 

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Connecta advertise their toddler size as being “suitable from 12kg to 24kg and giving a supportive and comfortable fit for most children from 18 months until around 3.5 years or older.”

The panel is a fixed size and doesn’t adjust or grow with the child, but despite this I do completely agree with the advertised age range.  Rachel is supported all the way knee to knee and all the way upto the back of her neck, so there is plenty of growing room for her and I agree that this carrier wouldn’t have fitted her well much before 18 months.  Tom despite being 5 is still supported reasonably well.  Yes the carrier is only just about supporting him to mid thigh (and so wouldn’t be as comfortable for him over longer periods), it is supporting him right the way up his back to under his armpits so it’s still a safe secure carry.  It is worth noting that Connecta also make a pre-school size so if I were still carrying a child Tom’s size I’d select that carrier over the toddler size.  But it is clear this carrier will comfortably manage from 18 months to at least 3.5 years old as advertised.

Compared to others here, the Connecta is the most lightweight and folds up the absolute smallest.  I have to say I love how small it folds… Rachel wants to walk everywhere so having a carrier that folds up small enough to slip into the change bag while we are not wearing it is an absolute boon.  I also love how comfortable it is – until I tried a Connecta for the first time, I always used to equate padding with comfort.  However, it’s simply not the case with this carrier, despite the lack of padding this nifty little carrier makes great contact with your body to give a perfect fit and brilliant weight distribution … even with 20kg of Tom.

This carrier can be worn on the front, back or hip.  When worn on the front, straps cross across the parents back.  When worn on the back, straps are worn ruck sack style and the accessory strap can be used as a chest strap to hold the two shoulder straps in place.  I have to say I never find this strap the most comfortable and am often forgetting it at home anyway so I often don’t bother! But it can be helpful for some shoulder types and to make the carrier feel a little more secure if you have a very wiggly toddler.  Cost is between £90 and £110 depending on material.  Full review of the Toddler Connecta can be viewed here.

 

Isara Toddler

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The Isara is so clever in its sizing.  Both the width and length of the carrier can be adjusted, allowing this carrier to very smoothly adjust incrementally from around 10 months (minimum of 8 or 9kg) all the way through to 4 years (max of 20kg).  It’s just a fab size range and one that works really well… particularly for those who are moving on from one of the smaller carriers on the market (like the Bjorn, Stokke, Izmi baby etc) and are looking for something that will fit now but last as long as possible.  The adjustable seat means that it will fit earlier than most other toddler carriers on the market and last longer.

The Isara can be worn on the front, back or hip.  When front carrying the straps can be worn crossed over the parents back or worn rucksack style.  Padding wise, it has a relatively firm wide waistband and softer well cushioned shoulder straps.  Consequently, the Isara doesn’t fold up as small as the Connecta or Izmi, but the increased padding will be more comfortable for some.  It’s a good option for those who carry for long periods, where the carrier spends less time folded up in a bag or under a buggy!  The material is lovely and soft and there is also very soft light padding at the leg holes to ensure toddler comfort.

It fits Rachel absolutely beautifully and is an option I am starting to use a lot for her.  At 18 months old she is roughly at the halfway point sizing wise – in the photo above I have both the velcro adjustment on the waist and the buckle that adjusts the height set at the roughly halfway point.  So this carrier will go considerably smaller than her.  I do think 10 months to a year is realistic.  For the photo with Tom the carrier is on its biggest setting.  And you can see that even though he is beyond the upper age range and weight, he still fits reasonably well – he is supported to at least mid thigh with his bottom lower than his knees.  The back panel is a little too short for him as it doesn’t quite reach to under his armpits, but it would have definitely still fitted him well at 4 so this is not really a criticism!  The Toddler Isara costs between £124 and £150 depending on material and print.

 

Izmi Toddler

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The Izmi Toddler carrier is also adjustable and also covers a huge age range from 9 months/1 year ish (or 8kg) through to roughly 4 years old.  It’s weight tested to a staggering 27kg (or 60lb)!!

Unlike the Isara the adjustment isn’t smooth/incremental but stepped.  There is a narrower seat setting and a wider seat setting.  The narrower setting works from 9 months and will take you through till about 18/20 months.  Rachel is shown on the narrower setting and its supporting her to a little past mid thigh and still giving a lovely M shape.  She is close to being able to move to the wider setting – she’ll be ready when she can sit in it without the material passing the backs of her knees.  Tom is shown in the wider setting and on this wider setting he is supported to at least mid-thigh and again has a great seated position with his bottom lower than his knees.

The height of back panel on this carrier doesn’t adjust.  For Rachel it supports all the way up to the top of her shoulders/base of her neck.  Which does mean she struggles to get her arms out, which is always a bit of a source of frustration for her!  For Tom the panel is a bit short for him… similar to the Isara … but this would have been plenty long enough when he was 4.

The Izmi is another lightweight option.  Like the Connecta it folds up relatively small and doesn’t weigh much and so is a good option for independent toddlers who are up and down alot and thus you end up carrying the sling empty as much as you actually use it!  The Izmi toddler has a very softly padded waistband which is shaped so that its very wide in the centre and then quickly tapers.  I find this shape really comfortable – gives support where you need it without bulk and as its so soft it moulds perfectly.  At the shoulders there is no padding at all but instead has spreadable fabric straps.  The Izmi toddler can be worn on the front, hip or back.  When I am wearing it on the front or hip I find spreading the straps make this carrier superior on comfort – it really works well for me and I don’t miss padding at all.  For the back carry however, its more difficult to spread and use the chest strap and while I am still comfortable enough on shorter journeys… I start to miss the padding if I am carrying for more like an hour or so!   Cost is £80, which makes the Izmi the lowest cost toddler carrier on our list (and that I know of) and certainly makes it amazing value for money!

 

KiBi 

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Not technically a toddler carrier the KiBi is the most adjustable carrier I’ve ever come across.  It smoothly adjusts to accommodate children anywhere from 6 months old all they way to beyond 5 years of age.

The offers front, hip and back carrying positions and its possible to wear the straps either crossed on in rucksack configuration when carrying on the front.  It has a relatively firm but thin padding at the waist and wide but softly padded shoulder straps.  Its superbly adjustable – not only for the child but also for the parent with 3 points of adjustment for the shoulder straps ensuring a great fit for a really wide range of adults.  For the child, the flexibility comes from the ability to adjust both the width and the height of the carrier.  The width has 4 poppered settings and a drawstring to give fine tuning between each of the poppered settings.  Rachel is shown on the third popper, Tom on the forth.  The height of the panel then adjusts in two ways – there’s a ladder lock buckle that adjusts at the leg openings, and then the top half of the panel can be pulled up or scrunched down as needed.  I love that the two adjustments are separate – you can really get a great supportive fit on a wide range of different sized children as a result.  It means that Rachel is just as well supported as Tom.  And the fact I can squash down the back panel means Rachel can have her arms out if she wants and then I can work it upwards once she is ready to sleep.

While it’s only weight tested to 20kg this carrier is perfectly capable of carrying a much larger child.  As can be seen with Tom – he’s legs are supported to at least mid thigh, in a good M shape and his back is supported all the way to the top of his shoulders.  The KiBi is a great choice for anyone looking for a carrier that will last a long time.  In particular, this would be a fab choice for close in age siblings where both are still regularly carried –  because this is a carrier that can easily be used to carry either.  Giving you the flexibility to carry either while the other walks or is in the pram as needed.  This carrier is also a great option for anyone looking for a carrier that will last longer in order to continue carrying a child with additional needs.  While many of the carriers on this list will carry an older child, the KiBi is a great choice for a child with low muscle tone and/or a developmental delay because the back panel is so high – this means even if they are tired and now struggling to support their upper torso etc the carrier will fully support them.  With many other toddler carriers, it’s often that lack of upper back support that can prove difficult in additional needs situations (depending on the individual need of the child).  Cost is £99 and full review of this carrier, including photos with a 6 month old can be viewed here.

 

Lillebaby Carry On

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Of all the toddler carriers I’ve tried the Lillebaby CarryOn has the smallest range in terms of ages/sizes it can be used for.  As can be seen on the photos above its too wide for Rachel at 18 months.  The material is rouching at her knees and her legs are close to being over extended (the one on the right side in particular is not able to bend to give completely free range of motion).  It’s also too wide at the top which means she is able to lean back and her weight is pulling away from me (making it heavier for me).

In reality most children won’t fit the Lillebaby Complete until they are 2 years old.  Or as a general guide until they can fit into size 2-3 trousers.  Then because this carrier doesn’t adjust at all and is fairly fixed (i.e less flexible that the Connecta) it doesn’t last as long either.  We can see that for Tom his legs are right on the border of still being supported upto mid thigh and the panel is only reaching to his mid back… its way way below the safe region of right under the arms pits.  So really he doesn’t still fit in this… if he wasn’t fairly compliant when it comes to being carried, this could potentially be dangerous.

Lillebaby market this carrier as “a roomy carrier made specifically for growing toddlers from 20-60 lbs (9-27kg)” and a “versatile, ergonomic and comfortable way to carry your child for many years”.  However, I think more realistically this carrier only really works from aged 2 through to 3.5 maybe 4 but certainly no older.  And 27 kg seems honestly optimistic!!!  Good option for those on the upper centile lines, but for Tom who is on the 50th centile and weighs 21kg… there’s absolutely no way he could be safely carried in this carrier when he reaches 27kg!!

In terms of parent comfort this carrier is one of the bulkiest I’ve looked at here, with pretty pretty wide firm shoulder padding and a wide firm waist band.  Consequently it’s a fairly large bundle when folded up and is a bit warmer for the parent to wear.  This particular model is their airflow mesh so it is pretty breezy for the child at least.  And surprisingly bouncy… the mesh is pretty springy so gives the carrier a little bit of “bounce” for the child as you walk!  Cost is around £125 to £150 depending on material and print.

 

Neko Switch Toddler

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Of all the carriers compared here the Neko Switch is the biggest!  Or at least has the capacity to become the biggest.  Like the Isara and KiBi both the height and width of this carrier can be adjusted.  Where it differs from these two is it’s a bigger carrier to start with.

Rachel is shown on the absolute smallest setting.  The width alters via a series of poppers, while the height can be adjusted via a drawstring.  Widthwise she is near knee to knee on this setting (but slightly over extended on the next setting up), while the absolute smallest height setting barely allows her to get one arm out!!  So this is definitely a carrier that won’t fit before roughly 18 months.

But once it does fit… my does it have growing room!  It will grow and grow and grow… all the way to a carrier that will carry Tom with absolute ease.  Tom is supported way past mid thigh in a lovely deep squat, and then all the way up his back to his shoulders.  He shows no sign of growing out this carrier for sometime to come.  I could see this still working for a 7 or 8 year old, possibly even more.  It’s weight tested to 27kg (60lb) so certainly has the strength to carry a 7 or 8 year old too.  Making the Neko switch a great option for anyone who wants a carrier that will last as long as possible.  In particular this is a fantastic option for a child with additional needs – for any child over about 18 months/2 years where there is a reason they might need to be carried for longer, i.e. developmental delay, on-going medical conditions or low muscle tone.  As discussed for the KiBi, this is a great carrier for a child with low muscle tone because the back panel is so high.  There is also a detachable hood that can be used to support sleeping heads!

The Switch is made from Neko’s really lovely woven wrap material, which makes this carrier very soft and also really pretty!  It comes in a huge range of gorgeous designs.   In terms of positions the Neko offers a front carry and a back carry (unlike each of the others, a hip position is not easily possible).  Straps can be worn rucksack style only (they don’t cross), which means while this carrier works a treat on my back, neither me or my husband like wearing it on our fronts – we find our daughter too heavy without the ability to cross the straps across our back.  However, on the back its really comfy with fairly firm padding at the waist and shoulders.  Cost is £135 and the Neko Toddler Switch can be purchased from Slumber Roo.

Beco Toddler Carrier

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The Beco Toddler carrier is another one with a fixed panel (it doesn’t adjust) and it’s relatively large.  So large that Rachel – aged 21 months and 84cm tall only *just* fits. The material is reaching all the way into her knee pits and possibly a little further, but its soft and light enough she can squish it down and still move her legs freely so that she isn’t over extended.  The panel reaches all the way to the top of her neck, which does mean she can’t get her arms out which she doesn’t love but does mean she could sleep very comfortably without needing to put the hood up.  It’s worth noting that Rachel is tall for her age… most babies won’t fit well before 2.  And Rachel certainly wouldn’t have fitted prior to 21 months old – she has had a huge growth spurt over the summer jumping from 80cm to 84 in just 3 months and this has made all the difference in terms of fitting the Beco Toddler.

So while this carrier is unlikely to fit much before 2 years of age… it will last and last.  The shape of the seat means that Tom aged 5.5 years still has beautiful support well past his mid thigh – giving a great M shape – and the back panel reaches all the way upto right under his armpits.  In fact he could get his arms in too but he choose not to as he said arms out is more comfy mummy!  Plus there is a detachable hood that can be added to support his head while he slept if needed.  So he is still held very safely and securely and is still way below the very generous weight limit of 27kg (60lb).

In terms of parent comfort, like all Beco carriers this carrier has a relatively firmly padded waist band that feels very secure and supportive.  While the shoulder straps are relatively wide but very softly padded which means the shoulder straps do not feel overly bulky and fit very comfortably over the shoulders.  Additionally there are perfect fit adjusters on the shoulder straps which allow more petite parents to get a nice snug fit while back carrying.  The Beco toddler offers front, hip and back carrying positions and it is possible to wear the straps either crossed or in rucksack configuration when carrying on the front.  The main strap pulls in one direction only, which does mean that while its easy to tighten this carrier when back carrying, its a little harder when wearing on your front.

 

It is worth noting there are also several “standard sized” carriers that do last a good long time.  In fact many standard carriers last a lot longer than you might think… but if you have an older baby who isn’t quite ready for toddler carrier but needs something that will last a good year or two it’s well worth investigating the Boba X, the JPMBB Physio carrier and the Lillebaby Complete.

-Madeleine

Stretchies! Aren’t they all the same? (Updated)

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 16 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 page1Stretchy table page 2

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.

20180220_153947The Boba Bamboo wrap is very very similar to the standard (cotton) Boba in terms of how easy it is to wrap with, how crazily stretchy it is and how long it will last.  It even has the same soft snuggly french terry on one side.  The difference is purely that the Bamboo wrap contains a high percentage of Bamboo viscose (66.5%), so the resulting wrap has that softer than soft, luxurious feel that comes with Bamboo.  As well as the beautiful thermoregulating properties that Bamboo lends, meaning that this wrap will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.  While cooler than the cotton Boba wrap it is still thicker than other bamboo wraps on the market such as the Hana or Joy and Joe.  So maybe not my top choice in summer, but the snuggly terry side would sway me for a winter baby.  Full review of this wrap here.

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 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.  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, and the most popular at the library by far 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 thermoregulating 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 1 kg, 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.on

20180219_175610The 3rd Bamboo wrap on my list is the Izmi Baby wrap.  Along side the Hana, Lifft and Aura wraps, the Izmi Baby wrap is another favourite. The material is super soft, has a luxurious sheen and beautiful drape.  But it doesn’t just look good – it has 2 way stretch and is very easy to tie and to use.  However, where it differs is that it much less stretchy than others, it still stretches equally in both horizontal and vertical dimensions but much less so compared to each of the other Bamboo wraps … only 1.6x in each direction verses 1.8-2x for the others.  This reduced stretch makes this wrap more supportive, but without comprising ease of use.  Just magic!  It is thicker than the Hana wrap, but it is still fairly light and the thermoregulating properties of Bamboo mean that it doesn’t feel overly warm so works well all year round.  Full review here.

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 (editted to add renamed Love Radius in Jan 2019) 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!!  Its 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.

img_2813

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.

20180228_103319Cheaper than any other wrap on here by at least £10 is the Sling School Stretchy.  I have tried a lot of budget stretchy wraps over the years and the vast majority have left me cold.  The Sling School Stretchy is very much the exception to this.  It has been designed by sling consultants and this very much shows – it has 2 way stretchy, which makes it very easy to tie and use.  This wrap feels very very similar to the Lifft, both in terms of how the material feels to the touch and in terms of the amount of stretch.  The stretch is an perfect balance between stretchy enough that its easy to pop baby in and out of and enough recoil and strength that it will continue to support baby as they grow.  To keep the costs down the designers have made 2 compromises.  The first is that this wrap is unhemmed.  As jersey fabric doesn’t fray this doesn’t affect use or safety, but does make the wrap look a little less ‘finished’.  The second is that this wrap is narrow – its only 50 cm wide which is a bit narrow for my tastes.  Plus the unhemmed edges have a strong tenancy to curl reducing the usable width even further.  So while the material itself is more than supportive enough to support a bigger baby, the narrow width is likely to mean that babies will grow out of this wrap sooner rather than later.  However, as most parents love stretchy wraps for the 4th trimester period and then feel ready to move onto something else by 3-4 months anyway, many will happily just move on as this starts to be an issue.  Making this wrap an excellent budget friendly option.

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

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

High Street here I come…

Last month I had two consults within two days of each other that really stuck out for me.  In the first the couple had a carrier that one of them was really struggling to use.  I helped both build confidence with this carrier but ultimately while it fitted one of them well, it was simply too big for the other and all the adjusting in the world couldn’t get it any smaller.   They told me they’d been to a big name high street store and told this carrier was their best seller and the best money could buy.  They hadn’t been invited to try it on first. It was sad because it was clear they didn’t want to buy another carrier but were left with something that was worthless for at least one of them.

The second consult, two days later, was the complete opposite story.  They’d been to a big high street store (same chain but different location) and received really excellent advice.  The sales rep had talked them through the pros and cons of several different carriers, invited them to try each of them on and the couple had walked out with a LILLEbaby carrier that they absolutely love and use every day.  They came to me for a consult simply because while they use their LILLEbaby out and about they also wanted a light weight soft carrier they could use around the house.  They told me how much of a difference babywearing had made for all of them – mum, dad, baby and even granny!  And how pleased they were to have got that advice in the store.

Meeting these two couples back to back like this really drove home to me how important this first experience with baby carriers is.  Like the second couple I was lucky and got great advice, but I have met so many couples who haven’t and feel regretful that they bought the wrong thing.

942264_10156695840490154_8160120994286126869_nOf course the best place for advice is an independent sling library such as Sheen Slings.  The range of different types and brands of carriers available at any sling library far outstrips any high street store, not to mention the specialist knowledge and training independent sling consultants have.

However, the reality is that the vast majority of people have never heard of sling libraries and their first experience with baby carriers in on the high street.  So when the opportunity arose to go into high street stores and train their staff on LILLEbaby carriers I grabbed it with two hands!!

On Friday, I travelled up to Birmingham and with several other sling consultants attended training to become LILLEbaby Ambassadors.  The main part of my new role will be carrying out in store training and hopefully helping to ensure more and more parents have an experience like the second couple.  Not that they need to necessarily get the same carrier, but that they leave the store feeling informed, empowered and with a carrier that works for them!