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Reviews and information about babywearing, slings, wraps and carriers for keeping your baby close and content


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Back carrying – the Holy Grail

Back carrying is the Holy Grail of babywearing. Ok, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but being able to carry your baby on your back can be very liberating for parents. It can, however, be frustratingly difficult to achieve at first. But if you really want it, and you put the time in, you can succeed on your quest for babywearing mecca! Sorry, that’s enough religious metaphors for one post isn’t it.

My journey to back carrying is probably not a typical one, but I reckon it allowed me to succeed relatively quickly and with confidence. I carried my first-born in a stretchy wrap, and then moved on to a bubba moe sling, followed by a Scootababy – a buckle carrier designed specifically for hip carries. So, more by default than design, I didn’t have a carrier to back carry him in. When he was about 15 months old he was starting to get a bit heavy for the one-shouldered Scootababy for extended wear, so a very generous friend gifted me an Ergo she no longer needed – and the rest as they say is history!

Being 15 months old, I never front carried him in the Ergo, I went straight to back carry. As a toddler, I could tell him to hang on while I got him up there, which I am certain made my transition to back carrying much easier than if I had tried when he was 6 months old. So when my daughter came along and I bought my first woven wrap when she was 4 months old, I didn’t hesitate to learn back carrying as soon as I’d mastered the front carry. I look back at the photos I took of those first times back carrying with the woven wrap and have a bit of a giggle – in hindsight I wasn’t really all that good! But, it only took me a few weeks to get into the swing of things and I’ve never looked back.

Back carrying woven wrap

My first attempt at a Double Hammock (left), I’ve got a bit better since then! (right)

There are a few important points to consider before you start back carrying your baby:

Do you feel confident or are you terrified of dropping your baby? If you’re terrified, I’d suggest doing some more research, watching some more You Tube tutorial clips, and speaking to some other babywearers to allay your fears, as being overly worried is probably not the best state of mind to learn something new.

Don’t back carry in a stretchy wrap (Hug a Bub, Moby, Boba wrap etc). You may see photos or hear of people back carrying in a stretchy wrap, but please don’t! It isn’t safe, baby has the potential to flip backwards due to the stretch of the material. The exception to this is if your stretchy is a hybrid. The new Ergo wrap and the Je Porte Mon BeBe (JPMBB) wrap are examples of a hybrid stretchy. If you’re unsure if your stretchy wrap can be used for back carries, please ask an experienced babywearer or the vendor.

You should wait until your baby is sitting independently before you back carry in a soft structured carrier (Ergo, Manduca, Tula etc). This is because soft structured carriers generally don’t carry baby high enough on your back to be safe for a younger baby and baby needs to be able to hold its own weight and not slump in the carrier.

As you can carry baby much higher on your back in a woven wrap, back carrying can be done in a woven wrap with a newborn. BUT this requires a degree of skill and experience that a new wrapper probably does not possess. Being back carried as a newborn is generally the domain of second, third, fourth children, after the wrapper has had plenty of wrapping practice with their first baby, and it is not something I recommend trying if you’ve never wrapped before.

With a woven wrap, front carrying should be mastered first, before moving to back carries. This doesn’t mean you have to front carry for six months before you can try a back carry, but it is important that you can successfully and comfortably front carry in a woven wrap and feel confident in your ability before you attempt a back carry. For me, because my daughter was already four months old when I got my first woven, this was only a matter of a weeks. For others, it might take several months to build up the confidence with wrapping technique. Everyone will be different, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to try back carrying if you’re not comfortable yet, nor should you feel you have to wait if you think you and your baby are ready.

back carrying woven wrap

Back carrying in a woven wrap means baby can see over your shoulder and stay involved in whatever you’re doing

Mei tais are similar to woven wraps in that you can carry baby on your back earlier than with a soft structured carrier, but again, you would want to make sure you are comfortable with carrying on the front before you attempt a back carry. Young babies should be carried high on your back, which can be achieved by ensuring the waist straps of the mei tai are tied high on your waist.

While ring slings are not designed for back carrying, it can be done, but this is an advanced carry that takes some skill and time to learn, and would be better suited for older babies and experienced wearers.

Before you start, watch some You Tube tutorials to get a feel for what you need to do. If you’re lucky enough to have a local babywearing meet, try to get along and get some hands on advice from other babywearers. Then, if possible, practice back carrying in front of a mirror, and near a soft surface like your bed or sofa. Some people like to kneel on their bed, or the floor, which helps them feel less worried about the possibility of a fall.

Lastly, don’t be disheartened if at first you don’t succeed. In fact, if you do a fantastic job on your first effort I’ll be jealous! Back carrying really is a great way to feel like you can get a bit more done in your day when you have an infant that doesn’t want to be put down, or a cranky toddler that is refusing to nap. It is worth persevering, continuing to practice, and seeking advice from other babywearers if you’re still struggling after the first few weeks.

Got a question about back carrying? Let me know. 


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Ergo vs Tula

I’m going to put it out there that if you don’t own an Ergo carrier, someone you know does, that’s how popular they are. Ergonomic (hence the name!), easy to use, comfortable, dad-friendly – they’ve got a lot going for them. Ergobaby (the company) has done a marvellous marketing job and has significant market share.

An Ergo is a soft structured carrier (SSC). Ergos have been around for more than 10 years, so together with the Baby Bjorn, have long been the carrier of choice for parents.

Babywearing has come a long way in 10 years and with its popularity on the rise, there have been many new players join the market. One of the most popular newcomers in the SSC market is the Tula, which was been on the market for around four years.

I didn’t own an Ergo until my first-born was about 15 months old and I wanted to start wearing him on my back. It was a revelation! I loved it and used it all the time until I was pregnant with his sister and wasn’t comfortable to wear it anymore. When my daughter was born in 2013, I started to get more involved in the babywearing community online and the talk of the town was the Tula. I was intrigued – how was it different to my Ergo? Why would I buy one? They looked basically the same to me at the time. (I have since become a Tula convert, for transparency!)

And I’m certainly not alone in my musings – one of the questions I see repeatedly in babywearing circles is what is the difference between the Ergo and the Tula? Which one should I buy?

So without any more ado, Ergo* vs Tula: the great debate!

* Disclaimer: this post does not include any information on the new Ergo 360 baby carrier, as I have not tried it and it is quite a different fit to the other Ergo carriers being a four-position carrier, including the option to forward face, which is not something I particularly recommend.

Price

The Ergo comes in a range of different models including Original, Performance and Sport as well as special edition fabrics and an organic edition. They range in recommended retail price from $169 to $269. They are, however, sold in many retail chains and are regularly on special so can be picked up for much less. They are also often sold second hand for reasonable prices, potentially even under $100 if you’re lucky.

The Tula comes in two sizes: standard and toddler. It also comes in two formats: canvas or wrap conversion (which means it is made wholly or partly from a woven wrap). A standard canvas is $179 and a toddler canvas is $189. Wrap conversions on the other hand, range from USD$199 for a semi to over USD$350 for a full, depending on the wrap used. Tulas are currently holding their value incredibly well, and are very rarely sold second hand for much less than the retail price. Wrap conversion Tulas are very limited and therefore often demand higher than retail price in the second hand market.

An illustration showing the different types of Tulas.

An illustration showing the different types of Tulas (source: tulababycarriers.com)

Availability

This is where the differences really come out to play. The Ergo is available in just about every baby store in Australia, as well as many online retailers. This is one of the reasons why they are so popular and widely used.

The Tula is not available in a bricks and mortar store in Australia, and has a handful of Australian online vendors. Limited numbers of canvas Tulas are generally always available, but can sell out for periods of time. They can also be purchased directly from Tula in the US or a few US online vendors. Wrap conversion Tulas are sold directly from the Tula website, with limited numbers released once a fortnight, and are sold out within minutes. There is a very active Facebook trading community for pre-owned Tulas, though, which is often the best place to get a wrap conversion Tula.

The ability to try an Ergo on in a bricks and mortar store is one of the reasons why many people choose the Ergo over the Tula. Some people like to see and feel before they purchase. Babywearing meets are often the best place to try a Tula, most groups have some members with Tulas that they’re happy to show interested people.

Fit

One of the main reasons Tulas have become very popular is that many babywearers feel they fit better than an Ergo. The main difference in the fit is the shoulder straps. Tulas have a narrower, curved strap with quite dense padding, compared with the Ergo’s wider, straight strap. The curved strap is often a better fit for smaller framed people, who may feel the Ergo straps are a bit too wide or bulky for their shoulders.

The Tula also has what are called Perfect Fit Adjusters where the shoulder strap meets the body panel. By tightening this adjuster it provides a snugger fit, particularly for smaller babies or back carrying, when you want baby’s weight as close to you as possible for balance.

Ergo comes in a number of models including an X-tra model, to fit larger and taller people. You can also purchase a waist extender that fits on the original Ergo. Men often find the fit of the Ergo suitable, as they are generally a lot wider through the shoulder so the strap width is a better fit.

The standard Tula has a slightly bigger panel size than the Ergo, by a couple of centimetres, and has deeper seat darts. The Tula also comes in a toddler size to fit children 18 months plus, when most children are starting to grow out of the standard Tula or Ergo.

Both the Ergo and the Tula require an infant insert to carry a newborn up to around four months old, which has to be purchased separately.

The Ergo (left) and Tula (right) are both comfortable, quality carriers for babies right up to toddlerhood

The Ergo (left) and Tula (right) are both comfortable, quality carriers for babies right up to toddlerhood

Extra bits and pieces

While there are a few print options available on Ergos, another one of the reasons for Tula’s popularity has been their array of cute, funky and classic designs on their canvas range. That you can get a soft structured carrier made from your favourite woven wrap is another big selling point, despite the higher price.

Most models of the Ergo include a zip up pocket on the body panel. It’s big enough for a purse and a nappy. To be honest, I never used it, but I know lots of people do, and are disappointed that the Tula does not have a large pocket. The Tula has a small pocket on the waistband, which will fit an iPhone, some cash/cards, or a small set of keys.

The hood of the Tula does not have any reach straps, which makes it basically impossible to reach when back carrying, so if you want to use the hood when bub is on your back (and you haven’t got your husband/friend/older child to help you) you would need to make or purchase reach straps.

Quite possibly the most important difference between the Ergo and the Tula that everyone needs to be aware of is that there are many counterfeit Ergos on the market. They are available from online eBay stores, or second hand from Gumtree or other trading sites, and are cheap. They seem too good to be true, and they are. Besides the fact that buying from a counterfeiter is unethical, there is no way to know whether fake Ergos have been safety tested or that the fabric has used child safe dyes for example. It is not worth the risk – the only way to know for sure that an Ergo is real is to purchase from an authorised vendor, or see proof of purchase if buying second hand. To date, there are no fake Tulas on the market.

Both the Ergo and Tula are great quality, comfortable baby carriers for women and men, and can be used from birth until toddlerhood. If all you had to carry your baby was one of these, you’d be doing great. Whatever you decide, these carriers will help you keep your baby close and content, and that’s the main thing!

PS: If you weren’t confused enough already, remember, Ergo and Tula are only two of a number of great soft structured carriers on the market. Got your eye on a soft structured carrier and interested to know how it compares? Drop me a line.


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Review: Tekhni Olympos Napa

Tekhni is a relative newcomer to the woven wrap market, established in 2013 in the United States. I was drawn to the designs initially. I thought they were quite bold and unique, without being in your face or out there. The owner of Tekhni is a painter, graphic designer, dye artist and textile designer, so it makes sense that she has hit the mark with her wrap designs.

The Olympos is Tekhni’s twist on a chevron design, which any interior designer worth their salt is splashing all over lounge rooms near you right now. Napa is the colourway – a gorgeous shade of lilac.

Tekhni Olympos Napa

Tekhni Olympos Napa – a great wrap for bigger babies and toddlers

One of the most interesting things about Tekhni’s wraps that set them apart is the use of Repreve, a fibre made from recycled plastic. The Olympos is 55% cotton and 45% Repreve, adding an element of environmental sustainability to the wrap. In an industry that often markets its products on the basis of natural fibres such as cotton, wool and hemp, the use of Repreve is an intriguing choice.

Olympos Napa doesn’t feel super thick in hand, but it is heavy. It comes in around 300gsm. The Repreve gives this wrap an amazing solidness, comparable to linen, which I really like. It has very little bounce or sag. Unlike linen though, I did not find it diggy with my heavy toddler at all, and while it isn’t super soft or marshmallowy, it does have a little bit of cush and comfort on the shoulder. It is very grippy, with a bit more diagonal stretch than my linen blend wraps. Once wrapped, it’s not budging, and it makes a fairly big knot.

It is very densely woven, however unlike linen it does not seem to be hugely breathable, which I guess makes sense given Repreve is a polyester fabric. I have only used this in the winter, and I’m not sure it would be my go to wrap in the height of summer. Having said that, it is certainly suitable for a single layer carry like a ruck with a 12 kilogram toddler, so that is a plus in the warmer weather where a thinner wrap might require multi layer carries. The dense weave also means less likelihood of pulls, so it might make a good beater wrap.

Tekhni Olympos Napa

Supportive and wide, the Olympos makes a comfortable ruck wrap for a toddler

Another benefit for carrying bigger babies is the width; it is nice and wide at 76cm. That width, combined with the solidness and weight, means I probably wouldn’t use this with a newborn. It really excels as an older baby and toddler wrap.

Tekhni is a mid-priced brand, and I think good value for money. The wraps are sold through Tekhni’s Etsy store.