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The Baby Carrier For You

Monday we talked about why you should carry. Today I want to talk about the equipment. There’s a lot out there. Let’s start with the ones you can buy.

Buying a Carrier

You can buy a carrier in just about every major baby store and sometimes Walmart. Depending on what you get they can range from 50-150 dollars (The expensive ones are the manufactured structured carriers which you honestly don’t need for successful baby wearing). Infantino, among many others make their own carriers. I’m going to be honest I don’t know a lot about these. I didn’t want a structured carrier. So if you want that I suggest looking for a local baby store that carries them or better yet, if there is a cloth diaper store in your area, someone there is likely to not only be able to go over all the differences, but also show you how to do it in person.

The only thing I know about structured carriers is that you have to be careful. Some of them are designed to have the baby’s legs straight down, which is bad for their hips and spine. When looking for a wrap make sure that baby upper legs are positioned like they are sitting on your knee. If you don’t know what I’m talking about look up a Mai Tai carrier tutorial on YouTube and see how the child sits in the thing. So be careful with a structured carrier.

Among the carriers you can buy that I do know about are slings, Mai Tai, Mobi wraps, and Baby Katan.

Slings

Most of these have a ring. They aren’t too hard to put on, but I feel like some of the other ones are simpler. These tend to be the cheapest to buy based on what I have found near Louisville, but it may be different in your area. With a ring sling you can wear a baby on the front, hip and back, but it’s recommended to only do so in an upright position, which gave me pause when considering one for an infant. Not to mention I didn’t feel comfortable when I tried it with the ring.

Wraps

There are a lot of people out there who say wraps are easy….I’ll beg to disagree. Anything that I can’t figure out after watching fifteen YouTube videos is far more complicated than it needs to be. It’s essentially one really long piece of fabric that gets wrapped around you several times until you tie it off around your waist. The best known of these are Mobi and they are way over priced for a super long piece of fabric in my opinion ($30-50).

Pouches

I never would have thought of my Baby Katan as a pouch, but I guess it technically is. Pouches are wraps that go over your head and then you put one arm through. The fabric is sown into a circle so that you end up creating a pocket or pouch for the child to sit in.

Some people worry about these because if you don’t use them correctly, you can injure your child, but honestly, that is true of anything used without a bit of common sense. I love my Baby Katan. I could hold her in a cradle position, it was easy to breastfeed in,  and it was comfortable for Freya. I could also carry her facing towards me, away from me, at my hip, and all without either of us overheating (even though mine is black)

Mai Tai

I don’t know a ton about a bought Mai Tai, but the principal is about the same as a homemade one. It is a square of fabric with straps that go across your waist and two that go over your arms. There are several ways to wear it, but it’s the only of the unstructured ones you can wear on your back (at least out of the ones I’ve found). Depending on the brand and weight limit they run between 30 and 100 dollars.

To Make or To Buy

People always ask me about the cost of a homemade carrier….which is tricky. I also think it depends on when and where you get your fabric (or if you already have some that will work) and the area you live in. It also depends on the type of wrap.

I’m not going to talk about how to make most of them. You can type that into Google and get all sorts of results. I have issues with posting a tutorial for something I haven’t made myself. So the only one that will be linked to a tutorial will be the Mai Tai.  I just would hate to link you to something that ended up being a horrible tutorial and thus a horrible experience for you.

So let’s touch on each one.

Sling

I would guess depending on body size you’re looking at 2-2 and ½ yards of fabric plus the cost of the ring. I would say it’s going to cost you just as much to buy a sling as it is to make you one in most cases. I’ve seen slings for as low as 20-30 online. But if you buy your fabric during sales or Black Friday (JoAnn’s is the only place I’ll venture out to on that day) you can get some great deals.  Just remember when looking for fabric you’re most likely going to want 100% twill or cotton, less likely to slide on the ring.

Wraps

If you aren’t intending on wearing on the back you can use a super stretchy fabric, but otherwise you’re going to want a cotton that you can see the sun shine through when you hold it up to the light. That way you know the fabric breathes. You don’t want a twill or canvas on this one though. It won’t be comfy for you or baby. And you’ll have to find that pattern online to see how much fabric you need. I would guess it takes at least 3-4 yards, based on the one I tried on though. I would guess it’s going to be just about on par to buy or make. The good thing about making one is that you can pick the fabric, where otherwise you’re most likely going to get black, white, or maybe a solid color if you’re lucky. Same with the other DIYs.

Pouches  (Baby Katan)

The only kind of pouch I would make is a Baby Katan like pouch. This is going to take two loops of fabric connected by a small tight loop. You’ll also have to make a waist band for some of the carry methods. I would guess you’d need 2-3 yards for this one. It will be cheaper than buying one though. I got mine for 40-50 and I think it would have cost me around 20-30 to make one myself. 100% cotton would be the fabric or something with just a touch of stretch to it.

Oh and with the Baby Katan like wrap I should mention that it is the easiest carrier I have used. No tying involved and you can even download Baby Katan’s instruction manual online for free, even if you didn’t buy one of theirs.  http://www.babyktan.com/instructions.html. But seriously I think it is the easiest wrap for a new baby wearing mama. I still love mine….I just need one I can wear on the back.

Which brings us to….

Mai Tai

I made my own Mai Tai.  I got the decorative fabric (you don’t need this it was just fun) on Black Friday for 1.50 a yard (It was half off) and I bought my two yards (well 1 and ½, but I suggest getting 2 yds.) of denim at Joann’s for 18-20 I think. Plus the heavy duty threat which was included in that price.

Regardless, your decorative fabric can be anything; though I suggest cotton and your regular fabric needs to be bottom heavy fabric…so you’re looking at canvas, twill, or denim (Denim will most likely be the cheapest of those options.

The one I made (Insert pic) has interchangeable decorative panels courtesy of a front panel and Velcro. I also added a pocked on my own to the inside so I could hide my phone and wallet there when wearing the baby on my chest.  Though I suppose you could do the same thing on the outside if you didn’t have the decorative panel.

If you bought everything at cost (no sales or anything) the cost is about the same (a little less if you don’t count my time into the equation), than if you bought one. However, I like that mine has my style and that I can change the panels.  I used blissfully domestic’s site to measure how long my straps were going to be and make-baby-stuff site to actually construct the carrier (it’s instructions were easier to follow and had pictures. Grumbles and Grunts blog also has a fairly easy tutorial if you don’t like either of those.

Other  Sewing Considerations

I was told to buy a heavy duty thread. I want to say the name is Gunterman’s or something like that. I don’t know. I don’t have the spool anymore. I didn’t think to write it down before I threw it away. Worse comes to worse tell an associate what you’re up to and explain you need a threat that will work with medium to heavy bottom weight fabrics. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

Second, you always want batting in shoulder straps (Mai Tai and possible Sling?) but you may not want batting in the waist or in the main part of the carrier. This is mostly for making the Mai Tai, but think about where you live. If it’s super hot you’re not going to want the batting in the waist unless you think you need the extra padding and support. I didn’t need it because the waist strap was five inches. If you have it in the main part of the Mai Tai, think about whether or not that will be too hot for your baby, though I would suggest the extra structure for an infant.

Third, make your shoulder straps at least five inches. That’s the only thing I regret about mine. They are about 3 ½ and I can tell you the five would have been way more comfortable, especially for back carrying.

Finally, only make what you’re comfortable making based on your sewing level. Your baby is going to ride in this. If you are worried your sewing skills aren’t up to snuff for a Mai Tai vs a Baby Katan knock off, then make the Baby Katan and buy the Mai Tai.

Personal Recommendations

I know every family is different, but I looked for what was simple and cost effective. The Baby Katan wasn’t bad to buy (50), but I could have made it for cheaper (20 or so) and its super versatile and easy to use. Despite the worries of some people, I recommend the Baby Katan or its knock off over any other carrier for an infant if you are going cheap. If you can afford to buy a fancy expensive carrier for an infant I would get the structured one, just look out for how the legs sit, as I said earlier.

Just remember a structured one, in my opinion, is really only good for an infant. Most of the toddlers I’ve seen in them look too restricted, hence my recommendation of the Mai Tai, either made or bought.

I hope these last two posts have helped you to see the benefits of baby wearing and given you a perspective on what’s out there. Your best bet is to find a store that sells a variety of them. For example, if you live near the Louisville area, check out Diaper Fairy Cottage and Mama’s Hip. The first has a wider variety, but not many structured and Mama’s hip has the structured ones, but is a bit on the pricier side, but you couldn’t ask for better service at either.

If you’re not in that area see if there are any stores near you and try some out. See what you think works best for your family. These are just my personal suggestions based on my own trials and experiences with Freya.

Best of luck to you in your own baby wearing adventures.

PS. I’ll try to take some pictures this weekend of both my carriers and either add them to this post or write a supplemental post.

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Babywearing: An Intimate Bond

So today I want to talk to you about baby wearing. There are tons of baby carriers out there and nearly just as many patterns online to make one yourself.  On top of that there are a lot of great reasons to carry….none of which I could figure out on my own. At some point when I have someone else to take pics I’ll also have to post some pics of me and Freya.

I knew Freya had benefited from it, but I had never been able to say why. So last night after carrying her all up and down Bardstown Rd in Louisville, I did some research. This is a bit of collaboration. The Natural Child Project had the best answers I could find. So I have taken what they have said and applied it with my own personal experience.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Why Baby Wear?

1. It’s convenient, especially when they are still an infant. It’s easier to get through a crowd with yourself and your baby than it is to with a stroller. I favor the carrier when I don’t want to deal with a stroller at all. Not to mention it made it easier for me as I couldn’t carry the detachable car seat and for a while there we didn’t have a detachable car seat. The sling can also be used for breastfeeding in public with a small child. And depending on the carrier, your child can fall asleep on you while you’re walking, making nap and bed time simpler.  It also keeps your hands free for other things.

2. It promotes physical development. When a baby rides with mommy, it becomes attuned to her breathing, heartbeat, and movements. It helps them regulate their own movements and exercises their vestibular system, which controls balance. It is also like a transitional womb. Research has shown that preemie babies who are worn gain weight faster and are healthier than those who are not. Swings do not give these same benefits.

Now I didn’t buy this at first, but now I do. Freya wasn’t born premature, but she was small. She has two cousins the same age who weren’t worn (one premature and one not). Freya was crawling by four months and her cousins have just started crawling at eight and nine months. Now, that may not be the whole of the reason why she is currently ahead, but I do believe that it is a part of it.  Children may develop at different rates, and that is okay, but there are things we can do to encourage them to do their best and I do believe baby wearing is one of those things.

3. Babies worn in slings are happier. Now this isn’t actually because of the sling. It’s because they are being held and are close to mommy or daddy. They don’t fuss as much and are far more chill. I can attest to this one myself. For the most part, Freya isn’t upset unless she’s wet, hungry, or tired. The only other time she gets riled up is when she wants to be held. And depending on the day, sometimes that means time in the baby carrier on my chest. And we don’t want our babies to cry too much. It just makes us upset, it wears them out, and it stresses both of us out.

I’ve found that when she’s had all the holding time she needs, she’s happier to explore the world around her, even if that still stresses me out.  And even if your kid is happy already, they will love the new vantage point.

4. Baby wearing is good for me too! So I know I still haven’t really found much time to exercise and on the rare occasion that I do have a few extra minutes, I’m just way too tired to do anything other than stare at this screen like a zombie or watch a movie. However, you’d be surprised how much harder it is to go on a long walk with a baby in a sling. Jr there acts as great resistance for your training especially once they’re old enough to be worn on the back. It’s like walking and weightlifting at the same time….and it’s an added bonus that your baby loves it.

5. Toddlers like feeling secure. So most people think of slings and think you can only use them with infants, but that’s simply not true. Most slings accommodate up to 40 lbs. and some can support even more. The truth is that the world can be a scary place, but holding on to daddy or mommy makes it a bit better. I know people who have carried their babies in crowded places up to age five! I plan to do it until it starts to kill my back. It can also be very soothing when they get overstimulated and rowdy. Think about trying it next time you take your toddler to the zoo, aquarium, or museum. It’s much easier for them to see the exhibits as well.

6. Carriers foster parent baby communication. The more confidence we have in our parenting the easier it is to enjoy the time we have with our child. This is probably part of the reason why parents with multiple children are far more relaxed than the mommy or daddy of a single child. I had never realized it before reading the Natural child Project, but Freya and I communicate better when she is in the sling than not.

I remember when she was little and I wore her in the baby katan. I always knew right away when she was hungry or wet because it was just hard to miss. She was right there with me. I generally knew what was wrong before she even started crying. Of course, that created later frustration when I couldn’t carry her as much and didn’t understand why she was always upset with me, but now that makes more sense.

And when we can figure out what our babies need either right before or right after they start crying, they gain confidence in us. It becomes a cycle of positive interaction.

7. Carriers are great bonding tools for other members of the family. Daddy here has only recently started carrying. He doesn’t like to do it unless we are out and about. I’m hoping it will be easier for him now that I’ve built our Mai Tai Carrier, which we’ll talk about later this week. The baby needs to learn to attune to other figures in their lives as much as the mom or dad.

8. Carriers are a safe place for baby. If baby is right on your back, hip or chest, you don’t have to worry about them running about. They also provide emotional security so our children can become independent at their own pace.

9. Carriers are economical. A baby carrier can be cheaper than a stroller, especially if you make one yourself.

10. Baby wearing is fun. Who doesn’t want to cuddle a baby while they go about their day or talk to a toddler on their back? It’s also great to watch her up close and personal as she sees the world from your view. It’s great for her as well because she can see adults at their level.

Finally, I really just love carrying my baby. I wasn’t sure why I was so dead set on it, but I knew the instant I learned about carriers that I wanted one. I need to use mine more than I already do. I love having Freya right up next to me cuddling and cooing in my ear.