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/

Ergo Baby Embrace Review

The Embrace is the newest carrier from Ergo Baby.  Unlike their other carriers that work best from 2 or 3 months ish right through to 2.5 years… this carrier is designed to really fit that newborn and younger baby stage.  It works really well right from birth and will last you till around 1 year ish give or take.

One of the reasons this carrier works so well for newborns is it’s made from very soft, slightly stretchy jersey material.  The whole carrier is very lightweight and is designed to mold around both your and babies body… like a stretchy wrap or Caboo but with buckles. Because it is so lightweight it folds down into a really compact bundle, perfect for popping into a changing bag or under the pram.

The other reason it works so well right from the beginning is that this carrier has 2 height and width settings.  This comes from simply rolling the waist band 2 turns towards you (as shown in the video below), which both shortens the carrier height and brings you to a narrower part of the panel.  The adjustment isn’t smooth, just these 2 smaller or bigger settings but because the material is so soft this smaller setting does work really well on almost all newborns.  Ergo recommend the Embrace can be used from 7lb (3.2kg) and I have certainly got a great fit on several babies who were just a few weeks old even as low as just shy of 6 lb (2.7 kg).  Then as baby grows the waistband can be unrolled to the larger setting, typically around 2 months ish.

The Embrace offers 3 carrying positions.  On the front facing inwards toward the parent, on the front facing outward toward the world and on the hip.  Interestingly Ergo haven’t included the hip position in their manual, but it is actually a position this carrier does really well!  The front facing inwards position can be used right from birth, and is really snuggly, a good position for a sleepy baby and comfortable enough for a long nap!  The Hip position can be used from when baby has some head and neck control but it needn’t be as reliable as needed for the outwards position, this can be a really great position once baby goes through that big developmental leap around 4 months and transitions from being a baby who is quite sleepy interspersed with periods of ‘quiet alert’ to a full blown ‘nosy’ baby who wants to see anything and tries to resist sleep where possible!!  Because it is a position that allows them to see more while still supporting them in a position where they can tuck in a sleep and support their neck as they start to tire!  The front facing outwards position can be used once baby has really strong head and neck control.  Which is typically anywhere between 4 and 5 months depending on the baby – you can read more about how to tell if your baby is ready for this position here

While I think the hip and the front facing inward positions are really great, I can’t help feeling the facing out position on this carrier is more of a gimmick/marketing trick than anything else.  It does work pretty well with a plastic doll, but I have my reservations about how well it works on live wiggly babies.  The reason for my reservations is that facing away is a position that puts more strain on the parents back than any other position because babies centre of gravity is pulling away rather than toward parent… this is true of any carrier but this is likely to be exacerbated in the Embrace because its made from stretchy material… so as baby wiggles and bounces and strains to one side etc this additional strain is going to be magnified by the fact the material will stretch with baby.  Personally, I wouldn’t buy this carrier to forward face.  I would buy this carrier if I wanted an buckle option for a new newborn.  Then as my baby grew I might use the forward facing position to see if baby liked being carried like that, then if they did I could buy a bigger carrier (something like the Ergo Omni or other such forward facing buckle carrier) that would offer me support, and if they didn’t when I came to upgrade to another carrier I could instead look at the huge range of amazing carriers that don’t offer forward facing safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t really use it anyway.  

You can see these positions in action here:

The position this carrier doesn’t offer is the back carry.  Sadly this carrier isn’t really designed to be used on the back as there isn’t a chest strap.  Added to the fact that the weight limit is 11.3 kg (25 lb) and that the stretchy material won’t feel as supportive as the child gets heavier this carrier this is definitely a carrier that most parents will move on from within the first year.  However, if you are looking for an buckle option to use right from the beginning this is a pretty good option.

So what are the cons?  Firstly, the extra soft jersey material is prone to bobbling.  I have two of these in the library and one has gone a little bobbly and slightly worn looking already after only 6 weeks worth of hires.  Doesn’t affect use but might bother some people!  The other thing worth considering is that because this carrier works best for newborns to the first 6 or so months, it doesn’t actually add a lot more longevity or functionality that a Caboo or a Stretchy wrap but is a bit more expensive than either of these options.  At time of writing the Embrace costs £79.90 verses £40-45 for a good quality stretchy wrap or £55 for a Caboo Lite.

How does it compare to other carriers? The two carriers on the market that this is most similar to are the Izmi Baby Carrier and the Mamaruga Zen.  The Izmi like the Embrace is really designed to support right from newborn, even the smallest babies.  Like the Embrace it offers front inwards, front facing out, hip and it does offer back as well.  In fact generally the Izmi will last a little longer than the Ergo Embrace as it offers a bit more flexibility.  And with its infant seat pad it can be used earlier with smaller newborns even many babies born prematurely too.  But it is made of a slightly sturdier cotton so some parents will prefer the softness of the Embrace and the slightly more padded waist band.  The Zen Sling is made from a very similar ultra soft jersey as the Embrace, and has a very similar slightly padded waistband too, so is definitely one to consider if you are looking for a carrier like this.  The Zen sling has the benefit that it works really well from a couple of weeks old all the way to 2 years of age!  Offers front inwards, hip and back carries and has a brilliant system for adjusting the height and width of this carrier giving an absolutely perfect fit for the child as they grow.  Unlike the Embrace however, the Zen doesn’t offer the forward facing position and while it does offer a more flexible fit this comes with more straps to adjust and some parents prefer to have less to adjust.

All in all, the Ergo Baby Embrace is a great option for newborns and little babies.  It won’t last as long as many carriers on the market but what it does do well is that first bit.  Very few buckle carriers truly do newborn well and so is a good option for those looking for a buckle carrier rather than stretchy wrap or Caboo for this first bit.  Cost is £79.90 and these can be purchased from Sheen Slings webshop here, or by arrangement at sling library meets, consults, workshops or doorstep collection.

-Madeleine

Mamaruga Zen Sling Review

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

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

 

Key Zen Sling Facts:

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

 

-Madeleine