How to use a scarf to extend the width of a Baby Bjorn or other narrow based baby carrier.

One of the downsides of a narrow based carrier such as a Baby Bjorn Mini, Original, Move, Miracle or other high street brand carriers is that baby very rapidly out grows the carrier in terms of how much support there is for their legs. As their legs get longer and they start to over spill the carrier, their legs pull downward and this is less comfortable for them because their weight rest on their inner thighs and they feel more of the weight of their legs. It is also less comfortable for you, because more weight pulling away from the carrier equals more strain on your body.

Fortunately, there is a relatively easy fix. All it takes is widening the base of the carrier to better support their legs. For this you will need a scarf. Ideally a woven scarf (i.e. not a stretchy knitted one), but it doesn’t need to be anything special. It doesn’t need to be strong enough to carry your baby – because your carrier will be doing this… simply any non stretchy material will do. Pashminas or rather market stall cheap pashmina knock offs are perfect!

Then you can use your scarf in one of two ways. The simplest is to pop your baby in as normal, and then tie the scarf around the outside of the carrier as shown here;

I love this method because not only does it support baby’s legs making the carrier more comfortable for them, it also helps redistribute more of the weight onto your waist and hips and thus really can improve your comfort a lot too.

An alternative method involves putting the scarf first inside of the carrier, as shown here:

I will confess I don’t find this method quite as comfortable as it doesn’t give the same feeling of waist support for the wearer. But it also doesn’t put a knot behind your back which is helpful if you want to sit down while wearing the carrier and also helpful if you struggle mobility-wise tying a knot behind your back.

Either method will give you a little bit more time with your carrier. It will still feel heavier than a carrier with a wider base and a proper waistband, but it will give you a bit more support and a bit more time. Often parents coming to one of my sessions who have a narrow based carrier find the scarf trick gives them another month or two before it starts to become too heavy again. But importantly this month or two gives them time to try a few different options – whether that is hiring a couple of different things or attending a session to try a few options – and ensure whatever they invest in next really works for them and last for as long as they need it too.

If you are hunting for the right next option please do get in touch and I’ll be happy to help. In the meantime I hope this trick helps!

– Madeleine

Calin Bleu Stretchy Wrap Review

The Calin Bleu Stretchy wrap is hands down the best budget stretchy wrap on the market.  It is quite simply a truly lovely lightweight option availible at a tiny price.  If your looking for an excellent quality wrap that won’t break the bank, the Calin Bleu is simply a brilliant option.  

At this point I have tried well over 50 different brands of stretchy wrap.  I have many favourites (the Hana Baby and the Izmi Baby in particular) but until now all my favourites have been in the £40-50 price range.  And I am painfully aware that not all parents want to or can afford to spend this much on a stretchy.  Especially when there are so many brands listed on Amazon for £30 and under.  These “Amazon Cheapie” wraps vary loads brand to brand, but without fail every single one I have tried has felt like a false economy.  Almost all of them have uneven stretch, which makes them hard to tie.  They are often badly finished, and many don’t come with any kind of safety testing or even guarantees that baby safe dyes have been used.  I am contacted by several parents every month who bought an Amazon Cheapie wrap and are finding their sling difficult to use.  And while I am normally able to help them get to grips with their wrap in the end, most do express buyers remorse for not spending that bit extra on a easier to use wrap in the first place. 

Which is why I am so relieved to have discovered the Calin Bleu Stretchy wrap.  At a recommended retail price of £25 for the Medium and £28 for the Long, it is very budget friendly and costs no more than an internet cheapy!  But crucially it is:

  • Super easy to use.  The Calin Bleu is a two way stretchy wrap – this means it stretches both in the vertical and horizontal directions.  This even stretch means this wrap is so much easier to pre-tie and pop baby in and out of than a wrap that stretches only in one direction.  You can read more about one-way verses two-way stretch and why it is important here.  
  • Safety tested to PD CEN/TR 16512:2015 standard ensuring material is safe for use as a baby carrier.

You can see it in action (and hear my full thoughts on this wrap) in my video review here, or read on below for more in depth discussion.

It is also exceptionally lightweight.  Made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane it is very much lighter and thinner than an equivalent cotton wrap, while remaining strong and supportive.  Meaning that the Calin Bleu is a fabulous choice for spring and summer babies, or anyone who is prone to over heating as its genuinely one of the coolest wraps on the market.  

It shorter than many other stretchy wraps on the market too.  Most wraps are between 5 and 6m in length.  The Calin Bleu comes in two lengths – a medium, which is just 4m and a long which is 5m.  So even the long is shorter than most other brands, and the medium is quite a lot shorter.  Less length means less fabric to make you hot.  It also gives you less fabric to deal with.  Parents often feel intimidated by how long stretchy wraps are, and I often find simply offering them a shorter wrap helps them feel more confidient.  Making the Calin Bleu a great choice for beginners! 

Both sizes fit a wide range of parent shapes and sizes.  In general I find anyone below a dress size 14 will suit a medium, while anyone dress size 16 and up will get on better with the long size.  I am somewhere between a size 14 and 16 and in the photos I am using a medium – as you can see it fits me but I don’t have tonnes of fabric left over for making a knot!  If you’re sharing the wrap with your partner and you’re both different sizes it is worth noting that if the wrap was too short for one of you, that parent could simply tie it behind their back rather than in front of them.  Likewise, if the wrap was too long, that wearer could simply tie a bow or wrap the fabric around their waist/hips again to use up more fabric.  In this way, either size can fit an absolutely huge range of parent shapes and sizes.    

It is perfect for newborns, a fab option to use right from day 1. And it is strong enough to carry older babies if you want to. Most babies will grow out of stretchy wraps developmentally around 3-4 months rather than physically, but may still enjoy taking a nap in the stretchy wrap. The Calin Bleu is suprisingly strong for how thin it is, and the 5% elastane gives it great “ping back” and hold! So this is definitely a wrap you can use for as long as you and baby still enjoy it. In fact you can see just how strong it is in the photo below with my then 2 year old!

So why is the Calin Bleu so cheap if its such a great wrap?  If your anything like me, you are probably wondering at this point why the Calin Bleu is so cheap compared to other two-way, good quality stretchy wraps.  What is the catch?!?!  Well there are two main reasons this wrap is cheaper:

  • It is unhemmed.  Most stretchy wraps are hemmed along the edges.  The pros to hemming is it gives the wrap more finished, neater look.  Hemming also often stops the edgest rolling as much.  The con is sewing along the edges takes time and so adds quite a lot of cost.  Jersey knit fabric doesn’t fray so hemming isn’t required, it is simply an aesthetic choice.  Calin Bleu have chosen keep costs low by leaving the edges unhemmed.  
  • The fabric used.  The Calin Bleu wrap is made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane.  The Izmi Baby wrap is made from bamboo viscose, while the Hana Baby wrap is made from a blend of organic cotton and bamboo viscose.  Viscose made from cellulose extracted from bamboo is more generally considered a more ecologically sustainable choise and is more costly to make, compared to run of the mill man made viscose.  Likewise, organic cotton is a more expensive fibre too.  In terms of how the fabric performs – its all viscose so it performs just the same.  It’s just as strong, washes just as well etc.  Calin Bleu have opted for the cheaper fibre to keep costs as low as possible.  And while not quite as soft and sumptutious as the bamboo viscose of the Izmi and Hana wrap, the Calin Bleu fabric is still beautifully soft and you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between them unless you were stroking all 3 wraps at the same time.  

All in all the Calin Bleu is a really fantastic super lightweight, easy peasy to use stretchy wrap that is perfect for newborns and perfect for anyone looking for a great value sling. It retails as just £25 for the medium and £28 for the long and can be bought from the Sheen Slings webshop here.

-Madeleine

Kavka Baby Carrier Review

New to the UK market, the Kavka Multi-Age baby carrier hails from Poland. The first thing to say about it is just how adjustable it is. Made from super soft woven wrap fabric it micro adjusts in both height and weight to fit babies right from just a few weeks old to at least 2.5/3 years of age. It is weight tested from 3.5 kg all the way to 20 kg and in fact my 18 kg almost 4 year old fitted in it remarkably well.

It is, however, relatively bulky. The panel is wonderfully soft and light and the fabric moulds and beautifully to support babies of all different shapes and sizes without excess bulky. But it is fairly bulky for parents. It has a thick, wide firmly padded waistband teamed with soft but thickly padded shoulder straps. Padding is a bit like marmite – some parents find more padding equates to more comfort and while others find the reverse. This is a carrier that definitely works for the former rather than the latter.

The other main source of bulk, and my main bug bear with this carrier, is that when adjusted to fit a newborn all the excess fabric is pushed between the wearer and the waistband. This fabric lumps into big folds that pushes the waistband out and the result is that it is really hard to really get the waistband tight enough when the carrier is on the narrowest settings. As anyone who’ve read my fit tips blog will know, getting the waistband snug is the absolutely foundation to getting a comfortable carry. So this bulk really does interfere with parent fit and undoubtedly comfort. At least while on the newborn setting. As baby grows and you let the panel out this becomes less and less of an issue.

So paradoxically the fit and parent comfort are likely to get better as baby grows! It is however a crying shame, because this carrier is packed with amazing modifications to ensure it gets a great fit for newborns. From all the adjustability to having fastening clips on the waistband as well as on the panel … allowing you to get a perfect newborn C shape in the carrier.

You can see how all this works and what it looks like in use here in my video review;

So this is definitely a carrier I am conflicted on, the adjustability, the softness and the options for fastening are all simply wonderful. I want to like it more, but the bulk at the waistband and the firmness of the straps slightly spoils it all for me. But it is worth saying that that is in part my bias based on how well it fits my body and it will fit other bodies differently. So it is really worth trying it on and I am excited to see it on clients and get to know what body types it fits best.

Because it has so much adjustability in the shoulder straps too – offering 3 points of tightening (see the video above for how they all work) and the option to wear with straps crossed across the back or ruck-sack style. The straps are extremely long too, so has the capacity to fit a huge range of different parent sizes from XS to XXXL. The long straps can be easily tided away with little elastics at the ends.

The carrier also offers 3 carrying positions for baby; front, hip and back carry.

So all in all the Kavka baby is an extremely flexible carrier offering a lot of adjustability. It’s closest competitors on the UK market are the Isara the One carrier, the Manduca XT and the Mamaruga Zen and Zebulo carriers. If you are looking for something like one of these carriers but with more padding then the Kavka is definitely worth you trying. However, if like me you er on the side of less bulk then I’d skip this one and focus on the Manduca XT or the Zebulo instead.

The Kavka baby retails at £119 for the standard cotton model or £125 for a linen or bamboo model. They also make a Multi-Age Plus which is bigger and weight tested from 6 kg to 25 kg and retails for £125 for the standard cotton models. We have one of these in the library collection so do get in contact if you’d like to give it a go.

They can be purchased from MamaZen, and thank you to MamaZen for providing us with this one to try.

-Madeleine

BundleBean Babywearing Cover Review

The BundleBean babywearing cover is one of those rare products that truly are UNIVERSAL. Many things claim to work with everything else and then in reality are all a bit hit and miss. But not so for the BundleBean cover. It truly is 100% waterproof, and it truly fits every carrier and every sling I’ve ever tried with it. Which is well over 100 different brands and models at this point!

It will fit over stretchy wraps, ring sling, woven wraps, Meh Dai, buckle carriers and even over the big structured hiking style carriers. It will work on most buggies and pushchairs too.

The reason for this flexibility comes from the 4 elasticated velcro ties, which can attach to each other, themselves, to other tabs on the cover… offering you a huge number of different configurations to suit all different sling types and all different parent shapes and sizes. From the super petite to the plus sized, men and women alike. Likewise the elasticated panel and well placed poppers means that the panel will fit all the way from newborn to 4 years!! So lasting you as long as you could possibly need.

See the cover in action and hear me rave about it some more here:

It comes in 2 weights – a fleece lined all seasons version that will definitely keep baby cosy in the winter, and a lightweight rain cover that will keep baby dry without adding warmth (so great for warmer months or if you and baby are prone to overheating).

All in all the Bundlebean is a great accessory for any babywearing parent, perfect for getting out and about in the British wind/rain/drizzle!! At £29.95 for the lightweight rain cover and £39.95 for the fleece lined version these make perfect gifts for new parents too! Available from the Sheen Slings webshop here.

-Madeleine

How to Thread a Ring Sling

A Ring Sling can be a wonderfully fast, easy way of carrying your baby. Once it is threaded you can just slip it over your shoulder and pop baby in. Likewise, when they are ready to come down you simply loosen it slightly, take baby out and slip it back off over your head, leaving it all ready to use next time you need it.

Getting that threading right is one of the keys to success with a Ring Sling and here is how to do it;

-Madeleine

Newborn carry with an Ergobaby Embrace

The Ergobaby Embrace is their super soft, jersey, newborn specialised carrier. This is one of those rare buckle carriers on the market that really does work right from day 1 and will grow with baby for the 6-9 months.

These carriers are available buy through our webshop and we have 2 in the library selection available to try at one of our sessions or hire, enabling you to try before you buy.

But how do you do it? Here is my video of how to set this carrier up for a newborn, how to put your baby in and how to check they are safe and comfortable

-Madeleine

What’s the difference between a One-way and a Two-way Stretchy Wrap?

While all stretchy wrap are long pieces of stretchy material, individual brands can be quite different to one another.  And one of the most striking differences can be in HOW these wraps stretch.  In particular there are two main flavours – One-way and Two-way stretchy wrap.  But what does this mean?  What is the difference?

Simply put, a one-way stretchy wrap is one that stretches in ONE direction only (or stretches much much more in one direction than the other).  Generally these wraps stretch only in the vertical direction (along the width of the wrap).  While a two-way stretchy wrap stretches in two directions – both along the width and the length of the wrap.

You can see this for yourself here;

So what are the pros and cons of each type?   

Two-way stretchy wraps are easier to pre-tie and then pop your baby in because they are stretchier and because they stretch evenly, which means they stretch in a way that feels more intuitive – easier for your brain to understand and predict.  So it’s very easy to put the sling on and get it tight enough that it will support baby once they are in but still have enough space to stretch it out to put baby in easily.  Conversely, One-way stretchy wraps are much harder to pre-tie because they don’t stretch evenly. That uneven stretch means it is often quite hard to tie them tight enough that they will support baby once in and still have space to get them in easily.  The window between too tight and too loose is just much smaller.  Consequently, I often think of pre-tying a one way stretchy wrap as being a bit like finding the right setting on a tempermental old toaster where there is just about 2mm between still bread and completely burnt. The window on a two way stretchy wrap is simply much wider and so it is much easier for a new sleep deprived parent to learn.  

It is worth noting that you can tie using methods other than the pre-tie method, and this can work a lot better for one-ways.  But often the manuals only show the pre-tied method so parents don’t realise this is possible and often the whole reason they bought a stretchy wrap in the first place was because they wanted the convenience and ease of being able to pre-tie first and then pop baby in and out as needed.

On the flip side in general one way stretchy wraps are more supportive of bigger babies.  The reason for this simply being because they are less stretchy they don’t get stretched out as much as baby grows, while a more stretchy two way will definitely start to feel more “bouncy” and less supportive as baby gets heavier between 4-6 months.  But often parents are moving on around this point anyway as babies tend to grow out of either type stretchy wrap developmentally rather than physically as they go through the huge developmental leap that happens somewhere between 3 and 4 months.  So being less supportive isn’t a huge con, but it is worth noting if you have reason to believe your more likely to be using a stretchy wrap for longer (i.e. developmental delay or other special consideration).

Which brands are one-ways or two-ways?

Well known one-way stretchy brands include; Moby, Ama, Liberty, Funki Flamingo, Free-Rider, Manduca, ByKay and most the cheap stretchy wrap brands found on Amazon

Well known two way stretchy brands include; Izmi Baby, Hana Baby, Calin Bleu, Boba, JPMBB Original and Basic, Lifft, and Joy and Joe

For more ways in which stretchy wraps differ and a huge table comparing 16 different brands please do check out this article.  

-Madeleine