Keep them close

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


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Review: Wompat

That’s not a spelling error, they are called Wompats, not wombats. And no, they’re not Australian, they’re actually made in Finland!

A Wompat is a soft structured carrier, similar to an Ergo or Tula, but handmade in Finland, partly using Girasol woven wraps, Vanamo wraps or Marimekko designer fabric.

I had never tried a Wompat before, though one of my fellow babywearing pals has raved about them for years. So, recently, with my babywearing days coming to a rapid end, I thought I would buy one in a pre-school size as my last hurrah babywearing purchase.

I bought a pre-school size predominantly for my 4.5 year old son. We have a toddler Tula, that he still just about fits in, but I am hoping we might be able to do a few bushwalks now we have a pre-school sized carrier as well – my husband and I can carry one child each when their little legs get tired. And, I’ve never owned a Girasol, and they are really quite beautiful wraps, so it is nice to finally have one, albeit in carrier form, before the end of my babywearing journey.

Wompat carrier

My son, 4.5 years, in our pre-school Wompat

I will try to explain here about how purchasing a Wompat works. Bear with me, as it’s a little bit complicated. They come in four sizes: baby (up to 18 months), medium (1 to 3 years), toddler (2 to 4 years), and pre-school (3 to 5 years). You can order a custom wompat from www.wearababy.com in the size you want, the fabric you want and the waist size and shoulder length you want. While mostly made as semi-wrap conversions (just the panel is made from wrap), you can also order half-wrap conversions (panel and waist and shoulders are made from wrap, with a cotton inside layer). Or you can buy an in stock Wompat from authorised distributors. In Australia, the distributors are Woven Wraps Australia, Nurture Nest and KAAS Kids. I bought my pre-school size Wompat with Girasol Earthy Rainbow wrap and black cotton twill straps and waistband from Woven Wraps Australia.

Pre-school Wompat in Girasol Earthy Rainbow

Pre-school Wompat in Girasol Earthy Rainbow

So, here’s my thoughts on the Wompat.

Pros

  • Comes in pre-school size (there aren’t a huge amount of options in this category)
  • Uses gorgeous Girasol wraps
  • Can order custom carrier to suit your preferences
  • Has a seriously cute pixie hood
  • Has a soft, squishy waist band. While it can be a personal preference, squishy can feel good. As comparison, the Tula has quite a firm waist band (which I also like)
  • Has dual adjust buckles and perfect fit adjusters, allowing for a good, tight fit
  • At around AUS$270 for an in stock carrier, it is a fair bit cheaper than a semi-wrap conversion Tula at the current exchange rate (August 2015).

Cons

  • Webbing and buckles aren’t as high quality as a Tula or Ergo
  • Shoulders aren’t super-padded. Again, this is personal preference, but compared with my Tula, it is a noticeable difference in padding.

I’m looking forward to a few bushwalks in this carrier over the coming months. It fits my son nicely to the knee, and is going to soften up quickly to  be a very comfortable carrier.

wompat

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Having a baby? Consider a stretchy wrap.

Before I really even understood what babywearing was all about, or had any idea of how it would become such an important part of my life, I bought a Hug-a-Bub stretchy wrap to carry my five-week old son. Looking back, it was probably the catalyst for what has turned into a life changing babywearing journey for my family and me.

Stretchy wraps are seriously comfortable. When my daughter grew out of the Hug-a-Bub I felt genuinely sad that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy those comfy stretchy wrap cuddles again, despite continuing to carry her in a variety of other carriers and wraps. There is nothing quite like it, in my opinion.

Stretchy wraps are suitable from birth to around 8kg (with a few exceptions, that I’ll note below). The manufacturers often state they are suitable to 10 or 15kg, and while you can technically carry that weight in them, it’s not particularly comfortable for the wearer for long periods, as the stretch creates too much sag with such a heavy weight. So, for most babies, this is around four to five months of age.

If you haven’t tried a stretchy wrap, I can see that four to five months doesn’t sound like a very long time to be able to use a wrap you’ve just invested your hard earned cash in. And while I agree it does sound that way, I feel that the comfort of a stretchy wrap makes it a worthwhile investment for those important first few months of bonding with your new baby.

Many new babywearers can be apprehensive about a long wrap, unsure if they can use it correctly, and think a buckle carrier like an Ergo or Tula would be easier. But for a newborn, the Ergo and Tula require a separate insert, which can be fiddly and hard to get baby seated correctly. It can take a fair bit of practice to get right – at least as much practice, if not more, than learning to tie a stretchy wrap. And once you’ve learned how to tie it, I think a stretchy wrap is actually quicker and easier to use than an Ergo or Tula with a newborn; you can even pre-tie it before you go out and just pop baby in at your destination.

I will admit, there is one downside of a traditional stretchy wrap – they can be quite warm to wear in the hotter months. In most parts of Australia, if your baby is born in November or December, I would probably suggest you consider a ring sling or woven wrap, or look into some of the thinner stretchy wraps on the market, given your four to five months of use will be through the hottest parts of the year. And similarly if you live somewhere in the tropics where it is hot and humid all year round – there may be better options for you. But for everyone else, I really do recommend considering a stretchy wrap for your newborn.

So what stretchy wrap options are there on the market?

Hug-a-Bub, Moby and Boba (formerly called Sleepy) wraps are three of the most well known brands in Australia. While fundamentally the same, they have slight differences. The Boba is probably the stretchiest of the three, which can mean it starts to sag at a lower weight than the others, the Moby is quite wide, particularly compared with the Hug-a-Bub, which can mean it needs to be folded with a small baby, and the Hug-a-Bub has a version with a pocket on the front, which is handy because the wrap then folds up into the pocket (with a drawstring) for easy transport. Another similar brand, popular in the UK, is Kari Me.

All four of these wraps are made from reasonably thick jersey that is warm to wear in the hottest months of the year. For a stretchy wrap that is a bit lighter, try the Solly wrap or Hana wrap. Or for an Australian made brand, check out Designer Baby Wrap – stocks are low at the moment, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this new brand and supporting an Australian business. And Stop Press! I’ve just discovered that Moby intends to bring out a bamboo blend lightweight stretchy wrap very soon, so keep that in mind too.

Another option in the stretchy wrap market is what is known as a hybrid stretch wrap. The hybrid nature of the wrap means that while it has all the great qualities of a stretchy wrap, it has a firmer hold, which means you can generally use it for longer, as it will remain supportive to a heavier weight. Three of the most popular hybrid stretchy wraps on the market are the Ergo wrap, the Wrapsody Hybrid and the Je Porte Mon BeBe (JPMBB). The Ergo and JPMBB are quite thick wraps, while the Wrapsody is much lighter weight.

And if you are still concerned about learning how to manage all that fabric, there are a couple of alternative stretchy carrier options. The Caboo is like a pre-sewn stretchy wrap with rings for adjusting the tightness. The Baby K’tan is three pre-sewn stretch sections that you wear arranged in the same fashion as you would tie a stretchy wrap. The Baby K’tan is not adjustable, and comes in different sizes. It is important that you get the right size; if it is too big it will not be safe. In my opinion, you would be better off learning to tie a wrap than trying to get the right fit with a Baby K’tan.

Lastly, it is possible to make your own stretch wrap. You can buy 5 metres of stretch jersey from the fabric store and then half it lengthways to get the right width (so you’ll end up with two wraps). It won’t need to be hemmed as jersey wont fray.

Three different stretchy wrap

From left: Hug-a-Bub with pocket, Wrapsody Hybrid in Wish design exclusive to Angelrock Baby, and a Moby with print design

How do you wear a stretchy wrap?

As with all wraps and carriers, following TICKS guidelines is important. A stretchy wrap needs to be tied tight enough so baby is close enough to kiss. Use the stretch of the fabric to put baby in, rather than leaving slack in the fabric.

It is also important with stretchy wraps that the carry includes three layers of fabric, as baby can push back against the stretch of the fabric which they can’t do with a woven material. The carry used for stretchy wraps that creates three layers is called Pocket Wrap Cross Carry. With the Baby K’tan, it is imperative that the third horizontal cross pass is always used as the third layer, not just the two cross passes. Note: another pre-sewn stretch carrier called Yoli and Otis has recently been marketed, but as far as I can tell it does not have a third horizontal pass so I do not recommend it.

Stretchy wraps should also never be used for a back carry, and while you may see instructions on how to use a stretch wrap for a front facing carry, I don’t recommend it. Similarly, some stretch wraps provide instructions on keeping a newborn babies feet inside the cross passes for the first few weeks, rather than putting legs through the cross passes. I don’t recommend this either, the secure seat is created by the legs going through the cross passes and the fabric sitting behind the knees of the baby; without this I don’t feel the seat is as secure.

The stretch-hybrid wraps however are an exception to some of these rules. Due to the hybrid nature of the fabric, they can be used for back carries, and you can use a front wrap cross carry rather than a pocket wrap cross carry if you prefer.

And one last point about safety. While stretchy wraps can be used from newborn, special care needs to be taken with premature babies, and the three layers of fabric may be too much for a premature baby, especially if they have breathing issues, so please, if you do have a premature baby, speak with other babywearers experienced with premmies before deciding on the carrier you will use.

Did you use a stretchy wrap with your newborn? Do you have a favourite brand?


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Legacy wraps (and carriers)

I don’t know exactly where the trend started, but you may have heard the term legacy wrap in some of the online babywearing spaces and wondered what it meant exactly.

The short version is it is a wrap (or ring sling or carrier etc) that you plan to hold on to after your child has grown up and is no longer carried, because it holds a special meaning, and you may even like to pass it on to your child when they grow up and have a family of their own.

So what might your legacy wrap/carrier be, and where would you find it?

A legacy wrap/carrier might be:

  • released on your child’s date of birth, or another significant date in your lives
  • named the same as your child, or yourself, or the place where you live
  • your favourite colours, or colours of your favourite sporting team, your country or your family crest
  • a pattern or print that has meaning for you
  • your first wrap/carrier
  • your child’s favourite wrap/carrier
  • a gift from an important person in your child’s life
  • anything else that makes it important to you!

If you want to find woven wraps released on particular dates, try SlingoFest, which contains a catalogue of woven wraps, their release dates and fibre content. Limited Edition Woven Wraps Database is another great resource for wraps released before March 2014, and often includes useful information like wrap weight and what its retail price was on release. These websites are also just a bit of fun for geeking out about wraps and learning more about the different brands and the different wraps released over the years.

If you do plan to hold on to a wrap or carrier to pass on to your grown children, it is important to consider storage. Textiles can deteriorate over time, and while it may be a lovely thing to hand down to the next generation of your family, it may not be safe for babywearing anymore. When left folded for extended periods, permanent creases can form that can leave points of weakness in the fabric. Mould and mildew can be a problem, particularly in humid or damp places, and don’t forget about moths! It would be very disappointing to pull out your beloved wrap after 10 years in storage to discover it was full of holes chewed by hungry moths (hint: sticking your wrap in the freezer will kill moth eggs).

Our legacy wrap is Natibaby Quadroses Carmine, which was released on the day my daughter was born. It’s a gorgeous shade of pinky-red and a blankety linen blend that Natibaby are well known for. It was a great wrap from around 6 months old when she started to get a bit heavy for all cotton wraps. I bought it in a size 6 originally, but when my daughter was about 10 months old I had it chopped to a 3 and had the rest made into a bag. I found the wrap a bit diggy over 12kg due to the linen content, but it was better in multi-layer carries.

Natibaby Quadroses Carmine

Our legacy wrap, Natibaby Quadroses Carmine

As a way of holding on to this wrap into the future, I had been thinking about turning the wrap into cushion covers for my daughter’s bed. Another suggestion from one of the women at a babywearing meet I attended recently was to take a plain quilt cover and sew it on as an accent at the foot of the cover, which I think would work well with the design of this wrap. So think outside the square about how you can hold onto your legacy wrap/s and keep using them long after your child is no longer carried.

Do you have a legacy wrap or carrier? I’d love to hear about it and why you chose it!


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The ethics of babywearing

As a branch of philosophy, ethics investigates the questions “What is the best way for people to live?” and “What actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances?” In practice, ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality, by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ethics)

So what’s that got to do with babywearing? I don’t think there should be any ethical discussions about carrying your baby, that is definitely the natural thing to do. But when it comes to babywearing products, like wraps and carriers, there are a number of ethical issues to consider on your babywearing journey.

Fibre

Where has the fibre from which your wrap is made come from? Is it commercially grown cotton that has consumed a lot of water and pesticides in its production? Is it silk that requires the silk worm to be killed in order to spin the thread?

If this isn’t something you’ve considered before, it is worth looking into. It isn’t necessarily wrong to purchase wraps made from commercially grown cotton, it is 2015 and most of us are wearing clothes made from commercially grown cotton. But it is important to be informed and make a considered decision about what you buy as a consumer and how this fits into your ethical framework.

For example, bamboo is relatively easy to grow and therefore doesn’t generally require herbicides and pesticides so it can be grown organically, but it requires a lot of water to turn it into thread because it is quite a tough, fibrous plant and needs a lot of manipulation to make it into the soft thread you may be familiar with. And there in lies the ethical dilemma.

And then there are animal fibres. Silk especially has the potential to raise ethical issues, as some types of silk require the cocoons to be boiled with the pupae still inside to reel the silk thread in one continuous strand. For some people, the treatment of a silk worm is probably not of huge concern, but if you are vegan for ethical reasons for example, it is likely to be a far bigger issue.

I asked Prae from Australian-owned woven wrap company Oonlamoon for some information about the eri silk that her company uses to make handwoven wraps in Thailand. Prae explained that eri silk is a discontinuous fibre that needs to be spun together to make thread, so it is possible for the silk worm to turn into a moth and leave the cocoon without compromising silk thread production. However, the weavers that weave eri silk wraps for Oonlamoon in Thailand farm the silk worms for food consumption in addition to farming tapioca, with the silk worms eating the tapioca leaves that would otherwise be discarded. The additional income from silk worms and silk thread helps keep tapioca farmers on the land when there is increasing pressure to move to the cities for factory-type work.

While for some vegans this may still pose ethical issues, it is clear that this complete cycle and usefulness of the silk worm for other farming practices and food consumption is a better ethical outcome than silk worms that are simply boiled to reel their thread. Prae is not aware of any woven wrap manufacturers using Ahisma silk in their products (Ahisma silk is eri silk where the worm has been allowed to mature and leave the cocoon as a moth).

Even wool has ethical considerations. PETA has recently released media commentary about the treatment of sheep in the shearing process, which is worth a look if you are a wool lover.

Working conditions

As with any textiles, it is worth investigating the working conditions under which wraps and carriers are manufactured. Do workers get paid adequately? Are factories and warehouses suitable working environments? Are western business owners exploiting workers in third world economies? As the babywearing industry moves from small cottage industry to larger commercial manufacturing industry these questions are worth considering before making your next purchase.

Counterfeiters

With the rise and rise of the babywearing industry, so follow the counterfeiters trying to make a quick buck off of someone else’s success. Ergobaby is the biggest victim of this, though there are others, notably Freehand mei tais and Manducas. Counterfeit Ergos are sold on eBay for what seems like a great price – sucking in many a first-time babywearer.

Not only should you be concerned about a lack of quality control and testing of a counterfeit carrier, you should also consider the ethical issues around supporting counterfeiters. Counterfeiting is illegal, and buying a counterfeit product puts money in the hands of people involved in criminal activities. Companies like Ergobaby have invested a lot of time and money into making one of the most popular baby carriers on the market and can be credited with helping make babywearing mainstream. Every counterfeit carrier sold is taking money away from them, not to mention the money they spend trying to fight counterfeiters. While most people would never deliberately buy from a counterfeiter, it is important to be aware the problem exists and thoroughly investigate the legitimacy of the product you are buying, particularly when purchasing through sites like eBay.

Cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is where people from the dominant cultural group exploit the culture of less privileged groups, generally with a disregard and poor understanding of the history of that culture. A current example is where the feather headdress associated with First Nation cultures in North America has become a fashion statement among hip young things at music festivals across North America, Europe and Australia. Taking a culturally symbolic item and turning it into a fashion accessory is cultural appropriation, and doing so raises serious ethical issues.

In the babywearing world, cultural appropriation can be seen in the use of certain patterns and symbols on wraps and carriers. Culturally significant patterns and symbols being used on wraps manufactured by companies not associated with that culture is ethically questionable. It would not be appropriate, for example, for a company owned by people from the dominant white culture to use a traditional Aboriginal design on a wrap or carrier without considerable consultation with an appropriate Aboriginal representative. But unfortunately, this type of cultural appropriation has happened on occasion in the babywearing industry, so it pays to be mindful of this when choosing a wrap or carrier. The pattern might look amazing, but is it really appropriate for that company to be using that pattern in that manner?

Overall, I think the babywearing industry does a wonderful job of considering its social responsibilities, but as it continues to grow it is definitely worth making yourself aware of any potential issues around what you’re buying. I hope I haven’t made things too complicated for you by raising these issues – here’s some Calvin and Hobbes to lighten things up!

Cartoon strip


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Babywearing: what’s it really all about?

In the crazy online world we inhabit these days, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the next wrap release, or in chasing our DISO (desperately in search of) HTF (hard to find) WC (wrap conversion) that we absolutely MUST have. And in itself, there is nothing wrong with this. The collection of babywearing items like wraps and carriers is a hobby, just like collecting any other objects of desire.

It’s been almost one year since I wrote my first blog post, where I outlined the reasons why babywearing can be a great tool for any parents. It seems timely to take a step back from the hype and reflect on what babywearing is all about; how we ended up in this community in the first place. And that is our babies.

I recently attended the Australian Babywearing Conference in Adelaide, where we were lucky enough to hear a keynote session by the founder of the Canadian Babywearing School, Arie Brentnall-Compton. Arie was inspiring, I took so much from her speech, more than I could have even imagined, and as a result I’ve been reinvigorated to continue working to promote babywearing, when earlier this year I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be part of this community now that my youngest (and last) child is two.

Keynote speaker at babywearing conference

Arie Brentnall-Compton addresses delegates at the Australian Babywearing Conference 2015

This inspiration comes from being reminded about what babywearing really is all about, and that is carrying your baby. Babies are born expecting to be held, but in this modern world, they often spend a lot of time in prams, swings, bouncers, bumbos and a multitude of other things marketers love to push on new parents. And while each of these things might have a place in helping you care for your baby, there is a definite need to see the amount of time babies are held by their parents increase across modern society as a whole.

Arie strongly advocates for carrying of babies to become normalised and for old-fashioned notions of spoiling babies by holding them too much to become a footnote in the history books. Babywearing plays a part in this because carrying your baby in your arms can make it hard to get on with the rest of your busy life. While you’re holding your baby you can’t make dinner, or shower, or play properly with your other children. As many a new mother with a newborn will attest, you can feel trapped in your own home by a baby that will not be put down without much crying and unhappiness (from both the baby and the parents!). So wraps and carriers are the tool that allows you to do what your baby needs you to do (carry them), but still get on with your life.

So why is carrying your baby important?

foodspoilsbabiesdont

Carrying your baby is the biological norm. The fourth trimester has become a popular concept in parenthood recently, and for good reason. Moving from life in the womb to life in the big, wide world is pretty confronting for a helpless newborn who really should have stayed inside for a bit longer if it wasn’t for the size of its skull. Staying close to mum or dad (or other caregiver) is where baby can feel safe and secure and gain an understanding of the world and their place in it. Babies are born to be worn.

Arie shared an interesting perspective on helping people to understand why babywearing is important. She talked us through a day in the life of a new mother, and how babywearing fits into that day.

In the morning, a mother needs to eat breakfast. Carrying her baby in a carrier allows her to make herself breakfast and finish eating while also meeting her baby’s needs. A proper diet is important for a mother’s well-being and also in establishing breast milk supply. Skin-to-skin contact with her baby also assists in establishing breastfeeding.

Brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, putting on some lipstick even – looking after herself is important. Not having the time to look after herself is a risk factor for post-natal depression. Babywearing allows her to meet her baby’s need to be held while allowing her to do a few small things for herself as well.

The dog needs to be walked. Walking the dog while pushing a pram is difficult, if not impossible. Babywearing helps get a mother (and her dog) out of the house for some much needed exercise. Exercise, even just walking, can have as positive an impact on mild to moderate depression as medication.

Next is a trip to the health care clinic for baby’s check up. The car capsule is awkward and difficult to carry. It is not recommended that babies remain in capsules outside of the car. It can lead to a flat head and even positional asphyxiation. Popping baby into a carrier means baby stays calm during the visit and mum has her hands free.

Witching hour. Arsenic hour. Whatever you call it, there’s that time of the afternoon or evening when baby just cries for no apparent reason. Research has shown that babies that are carried will cry less (Hunziker UA, Garr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 1986, 77:641-648). Crying babies can have a serious impact on family life. Arie pointed out that babies who are most likely to be shaken are those that are crying inconsolably. She also suggested that securely attached fathers are less likely to abuse their children, and also less likely to abuse their children’s mother. Babywearing can help fathers bond with their babies.

Time for bed. When baby sleeps badly, everyone sleeps badly, and this can have a negative impact on families and relationships. Babywearing can help to settle your baby, and promote longer periods of sleep. And sleep begets sleep.

Babywearing can be instrumental in improving breastfeeding rates and reducing post-natal depression. It can help develop stronger family bonds and securely attached children. The method of carrying your baby isn’t very important, as long as it’s done safely. Babywearing really is about the practice, not the product.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but each of us can make a difference in helping babywearing become widely accepted in the community. Let’s normalise carrying your baby. Let’s aim for mothers-to-be to see babywearing everywhere and understand that it is just what you do when you have a baby.

Are you promoting babywearing in your community? Tell me how!


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A babywearing shop! In Sydney! Well, almost…

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a bricks and mortar store stocking a huge array of babywearing options. Not just a general baby goods store stocking an Ergo or a Baby Bjorn, but a dedicated store selling woven wraps, stretchy wraps, soft structured carriers, mei tais and ring slings. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, it is also run by a qualified babywearing consultant who can help you make the decision about the best carrier for you and your needs. And it is very nearly in my hometown of Sydney – it’s just 1.5 hours up the road in Ettalong Beach, on the Central Coast of NSW.

Babywearing store

Celeste in her store, AngelRock Baby ~ Babywearing Emporium & AngelRock Jewellers ~ Handmade Jewellery Boutique. Shop 15, 189 Ocean View Road, Ettalong Beach, NSW, Australia.

Angelrock Baby is the passionate endeavour of mother-of-three, Celeste, who has run the business online since 2013 and has recently taken the plunge into running a bricks and mortar shop on weekends and public holidays at the Ettalong Beach marketplace (or weekdays by appointment). It’s an ambitious task. While many people ask where they can go to see, feel and try a wider range of babywearing options than the traditional baby goods stores offer, the vast majority of babywearing stores in Australia are online – the overhead costs of running a bricks and mortar store make it prohibitive for most vendors. But I for one am glad Celeste has taken up the challenge, because it really is a great opportunity to try a whole range of different options in once place, with a skilled salesperson who knows what she’s talking about!

Angelrock Baby stocks a huge range of brands including Manduca, AngelPack, ByKay, Wrapsody, Little Frog, Hug-a-bub, Comfy Joey, Didymos, Fidella, Baby Hawk, Lewlewbelle, Nunamoochie and TwinGo (a unique soft structured carrier designed to carry one baby on the front and one on the back – perfect for twins or two children close in age). There is also a range of other useful things such as breastfeeding tea, menstrual cups and soapnuts. But wait, there’s more! Celeste is also a jeweller and stocks a range of amber jewellery as well as providing custom jewellery services.

Amber jewellery and babywearing items

As well as wraps and carriers, AngelRock sells jewellery and supports selected charities.

Now, 1.5 hours from Sydney might sound a little far away, but Ettalong Beach is a lovely spot for a day trip, it’s right on a gorgeous, kid-friendly beach and the marketplace is open every weekend with a range of different stalls and sometimes a bit of live entertainment. There’s even a cinema in the complex. We had lunch at a nearby café called Coast 175, which served high-quality food and Campos coffee – and had a few toys for the kids to play with!

The AngelRock store makes it worth the trip, it is a babywearer’s paradise, and I was a little disappointed that I’m not really in the market for any new carriers given my ‘baby’ is now two years old! I would love to take a new baby there and try on the huge variety of gorgeous items available. Will you go take a look and tell me all about it so I can live gratuitously through you?

*Please note, this post is not sponsored in any way and I have no affiliation with AngelRock Baby, I just genuinely believe that it is such a great opportunity for babywearers in Sydney and surrounds to check out a huge range of products they might not otherwise get to try, so I wanted to let you know!


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Handwoven wraps

If you’ve been falling down the rabbit hole of woven wraps on your babywearing journey, you may have noticed there are generally two types of woven wraps, machine woven and handwoven. You may have also noticed that there can often be a significant price difference between machine woven and handwoven wraps, and wondered why. So follow me, and I’ll tell you all about the wonderland of handwovens.

I’m not going to geek out too much here, this is just a bit of an overview to whet your appetite to do some more research if you want to. A handwoven wrap is one that has been woven on a loom manually by the weaver. Check out this video of a wrap being woven by hand. With a machine woven, a machine powers the weaving process, as shown in this video.

At its most basic, the reason why handwoven wraps are generally more expensive than machine woven wraps is because it takes much longer to produce a handwoven wrap. There are other reasons though, including that handwoven wraps are often very popular, so there is far more demand than can be supplied, which pushes prices high in the second hand market.

So why are they so popular? Ask a bunch of people why they like handwoven wraps and you’ll probably get a bunch of different answers. But here are some of the main ones.

Exclusivity: Handwoven wraps are generally made in very low volumes, which means that only a few lucky people get to own them. Some weavers even offer full or semi-custom spots so you can design your very own wrap. This exclusivity contributes to the high price of some handwovens.

Wrapping qualities: While wraps all have different wrapping qualities depending on how they are woven and with what fibres, high quality handwovens have a tendency to have lovely wrapping qualities and serious supportiveness, particularly for bigger babies and toddlers. Some of this has to do with boutique weavers using higher quality thread with higher thread counts to produce denser wraps with loads of cush.

Aesthetics: the nature of hand weaving means that handwovens don’t have complex or picture patterns like many machine wovens do (jacquard weaves). Handwovens are limited to plain, striped or other continuous patterns (like these by Warped and Wonderful) with plain or twill weave. Luckily, these patterns create gorgeous wraps, and with the full breadth of colours available, handwoven wraps can be truly some of the most beautiful you’ve ever seen. With inspiration from sunsets, landscapes and even album covers (yes, album covers. Weaving Waves held a competition in 2014 to make a custom wrap based on someone’s favourite album cover – Bjork’s “Post” was the winner!), there is something to suit everyone’s taste.

Cloth of kin ring sling

I’m really loving this Cloth of Kin handwoven ring sling at the moment, it is perfectly supportive with my 14kg almost 2 year old.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, adding a handwoven to your stash can be a little harder than getting your average every day machine woven. Handwovens aren’t generally stocked by your regular online babywearing store, and your best bet may be the second hand market. Some of the Facebook groups to look at include Loom to Wrap (an international group) High End Babywearing FSOT (an international group) and Boutique Babywearers Down Under (an Australian/NZ group).

That said, there are a variety of different weavers, some more prolific than others, some more popular than others, so if you’re willing to start with a more accessible brand you may be able to pick one up this week!

I can’t name all the different brands/weavers out there, I honestly don’t know them all, and there are often newcomers to the market, or people shutting up shop – but here’s a few of the names to look out for as a starting point for your journey down the rabbit hole!

Uppymama – based in Canada, Uppymama is one of the best known and most highly regarded weavers. Wraps are sold via random draw.

Farideh – custom spots, semi-customs and sister wraps are advertised via the Farideh Wrap Chatter group on Facebook.

Etla Threadworks – another popular weaver selling via random draw, auction and fastest fingers through the Etla Threadworks group on Facebook.

Andalgo – a Hungarian weaver, she often has in stock wraps on her Hyena Cart store, which is rare for handwovens, so if you’re looking to pick something up brand new without worrying about having fastest fingers or being lucky enough to win a draw, this weaver is worth a look.

Heartiness – based in Belarus, Heartiness has custom slots as well as selling via Etsy and also providing some pre-order opportunities.

Warped and Wonderful – this weaver makes wraps and also towels, scarves, blankets and throws and often uses weaving patterns that were first published in the 16th and 17th centuries!

Cloth of Kin – Cloth of Kin takes custom orders for lengths of fabric, which can then be cut and hemmed to your preferred length and used as babywearing wraps. Cloth of Kin tends to be one of the more accessible brands, and sell for reasonable prices. I don’t think this is necessarily a reflection of their quality, I’ve had two Cloth of Kin wraps and the weaving work has been flawless and they have been lovely to wrap with and wear.

And in support of my fellow Aussies, here’s just a few of our talented Australian-based companies.

Weaving Waves – a one woman weaving company, selling in stock wraps and custom spots via random draw.

Loominous – based in Western Australia, you will need to join the Facebook chatter group to find out how to get your hands on one of these beauties.

Blue Wren – a relatively new weaver on the scene, selling mostly via auction.

Oonlamoon – an Aussie-owned business producing wraps woven in Thailand, Oonlamoon is committed to producing wraps from eco-friendly fibres.

Wrap collage

A few of the handwovens I’ve had the pleasure of owning or trying out – from top left: Cloth of Kin, Warped and Wonderful, Uppymama, Oonlamoon

As I said, this is by no means a comprehensive list, and if you want to learn more Loom to Wrap is probably one of the best resources for learning about handwoven wraps and finding out about all the different weavers. Keep in mind, the nature of hand weaving means quality and craftsmanship will vary from weaver to weaver, and handwoven wraps may have “flaws” that shouldn’t affect the safety of a wrap, but can have aesthetic impacts. If you find a wrap you love but you’re not familiar with the weaver, it is worth researching to make sure the weaver is producing high quality work before you buy or sign up for custom orders.

So, do you want to try a handwoven?

*Note: In case you were wondering, the well known woven wrap brand Girasol produces handwoven wraps, however they are not generally included in the same discussions as boutique handwovens (that I’ve outlined above), as they are produced in high volumes with comparatively cheaper quality yarn and tend to have more aesthetic weaving flaws – hence they sell for much cheaper prices than boutique handwovens. That’s not to say that Girasols are not good wraps, they are beautiful, very popular and affordable, but I thought it best to explain this to reduce any possible confusion!


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Custom conversions

The start of 2015 brings a much-anticipated new converter of custom babywearing carriers to the local Sydney market, by the name of Eridani, which has inspired me to write about custom conversions and how you can go about getting yourself one.

In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, a custom conversion is where someone takes a woven wrap and converts it into a carrier like a mei tai, half buckle (buckle waist/wrap straps) or a full buckle (like a soft structured carrier) – there are also other carriers like reverse half buckles and ring tais, but I wont confuse you with that just yet!

And why would you want such a conversion? Well, it means you can get a one of a kind carrier just for you, you can get your absolute favourite wrap made into a carrier, and there is often a range of sizing and dimensions to choose from that you don’t get in an off the shelf carrier, which is great if you want to keep carrying your toddler or pre-schooler long after they’ve grown out of your Ergo or Manduca, or if your older child has special needs.

So where can you find one? That is the million-dollar question, as getting your hands on a custom carrier can be quite hard work – many of the converters have waiting lists, and some sell their slots by random draw, making your chances of nabbing one even harder. This is why the addition of Eridani to the market place is most welcome!

Here’s a bit of a run down on who you might like to consider for custom conversions, first in Australia, and then some overseas options.

Eridani: Eridani is based in Sydney, and has just started taking orders for full buckles, half buckles and mei tais. She has been doing ring slings for a while, and her attention to detail is amazing – I’ve had her make me a few ring slings in the last 12 months, and the quality is second to none, I wouldn’t go anywhere else. Her initial slots were snapped up, but stay tuned to her Facebook page for information on when she will be releasing more slots.

half buckle carrier

A handcrafted wrap conversion half buckle by Eridani

Maddimoo: Maddimoo is based in Perth, and has been one of the favourite convertors in the Australian market for a few years, generally offering her slots via random draw once a month. She is currently on maternity leave, but if you’re not in the market right now, she’s worth checking out in the future.

BelloBorn: Based in Bellingen, NSW, Heidi makes a full range of custom conversions including less well known carriers like reverse half buckles (tie waist, buckle shoulder straps) and ring tais (ring waist and shoulders). Heidi takes orders via a waiting list system and is booked up until August 2015 at this stage.

Sweetness: Sweetness makes mei tais, half and reverse half buckles, and full buckles from northern NSW and offers a variety of sizing options to suit the age of your baby and your size. Her waiting list is currently approximately 4-5 months long.

Chrysalis Tree: Amy is based in Adelaide and makes half buckles and mei tais. I was lucky enough to get a custom half buckle from Chrysalis Tree in 2013, and it is a fabulous carrier. Super comfortable, with fantastic attention to detail. After launching in 2013, Amy’s waiting list was full very quickly, and she has since been on maternity leave and then dealing with some health issues, but she is hopefully getting back to the sewing machine in the near future, so keep an eye on her Facebook page for updates if you have the time to wait.

half buckle carrier

My beloved Chrysalis Tree half buckle, converted from Natibaby Marine Ferns

Hipababy: Hipababy makes mei tais, full buckles, ring slings and podaegis (a baby carrier originally from Korea, with two long shoulder straps and a blanket panel). She releases slots via her Etsy store (fastest fingers) and also by random draw.

Under My Wing: Under My Wing is another recent addition to the market, launching in 2014. She offers mei tais, full buckles and half buckles in two sizes, as well as podaegis and ring slings. She also specialises in big kid carriers, for older children who may still need/want to be carried. Based in Adelaide, she sells slots via random draw on her Facebook page.

Now, if you’re in the USA or Canada, the sad news is that you can’t buy from Australian convertors – restrictions on insurance mean Australian vendors are not allowed to sell to US or Canadian customers (unless they pay exorbitant insurance premiums to have the US and Canada included, which most vendors wouldn’t do).

If you’re in Australia, and want to look further afield for a convertor, here are a few worth looking at overseas.

Bamberoo: Bamberoo is a very popular maker of carriers based in the USA, including canvas and solarveil carriers, as well as wrap conversions. Slots are sold via Etsy and Hyena Cart and sell out extremely quickly; not many Australians are lucky enough to have internet speeds fast enough to compete with US buyers, but it’s still worth a try if you’re up for a challenge!

Bamberoo OC: If your internet is slow or you’re not on the internet when Bamberoo releases slots, Bamberoo OC is a convertor in Europe who makes Bamberoos under licence. Slightly less popular than the US versions, it can be easier to get a slot. Making it even more achievable, Frangipani Baby, a vendor based in the Blue Mountains, NSW, offers Bamberoo OC slots via her website on a regular basis.

Madame Googoo: Based in Poland, Madame Goo Goo makes a range of canvas/fabric carriers as well as wrap conversions. She produces some very unique carriers with designs taken from animation and other eclectic inspirations, and includes options for special details on items like hoods and reach straps.

Obimama: Obimama has been in the market for a while and is known to be one of the best mei tai makers in the business. Based in the US, she offers a range of non-wrap mei tais as well as selling coveted, hard to win slots for custom wrap conversion mei tais. More expensive than most convertors, she offers her conversions in three price points depending on how much customisation you want.

Sling Betty: This UK convertor makes mei tais, half buckles and podaegis, with slots sold via random draw announced on her website, Facebook page and mailing list. With postage and exchange rate it can be a bit expensive to get a carrier made overseas, but Sling Betty’s prices are pretty good, so it may still work out at a reasonable price if you can pick up a slot.

Ocah: Also based in the UK, Ocah is a highly respected brand offering mei tais, full buckles, half buckles, reverse half buckles and podaegis. Slots are sold via random draw, but are more pricey than Sling Betty, so after exchange rate and postage costs they are relatively expensive conversions.

This is not an exhaustive list, and if you have a conversion by a vendor not listed here I’d love to hear what you think and where to find out more! And please keep in mind, this list includes reputable, insured convertors – but anyone with a sewing machine can try to sell you a conversion, so before you hand over your hard earned (and your wrap), make sure to check they have appropriate insurance and see some examples of their work.


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Review: Didymos Emerald Turquoise Hemp Indio

Indios are the bomb. One of the oldest styles of woven wrap, Didymos has been making indios of various colours and blends for yonks*. Indio is the name given to wraps with this particular weave or ‘pattern’; a series of squares and circles unique to indios. They hold a bit of a cult status in the babywearing world – despite their simplicity, they are held in high esteem by many and often remain highly sought after and collector’s items.

Didymos indio

The distinctive indio pattern

Emerald Turquoise Hemp Indio was released in May 2014 and is 60% cotton 40% hemp. While hemp can sometimes make a wrap quite beastly, this is a light to mid-weight wrap, around 220gsm. It was surprisingly soft after only one wash and a little bit of use. Certainly nothing to be worried about in terms of breaking in, this would be a fine wrap to purchase new and use straight away.

Being a thinner wrap, I wasn’t sure this was going to be for me, what with 13kg of nearly 2 year old to carry around. While hemp adds supportiveness to cotton, I thought it would be a bit diggy for my liking. I had briefly tried a slightly lighter hemp indio previously, and struggled with its thinness. To put my theory to the test, I tried this wrap in a simple ruck, which is my preferred carry these days. To my surprise it was pretty comfy. I didn’t get a chance to measure the width but it felt a bit wider than older Didys I’ve tried, which helped with my toddler. It was also quite soft on the shoulder, not overly cushy, but the hemp gives it enough bounce to avoid too much digginess with a heavy weight. Having said that, I think if this was a permanent part of my stash, I would use it in a multi-layer carry like a double hammock with a toddler for a bit of extra support.

double hammock in didymos indio

Comfy for a thin wrap with a toddler, particularly in double hammock

I thought I’d try this wrap out on a smaller baby, as I was sure it would shine, and luckily my friend lent me her 8 month old for his first adventure being back wrapped. This wrap was certainly quite perfect in a ruck with an 8 month old, and nice and light on a hot summer’s day. I think this wrap is a great example of one that can get you through from infancy into early toddlerhood with ease, and even with a nearly 2 year old it is certainly far from uncomfortable, particularly given how light it is.

Ruck with didymos indio

A perfect ruck wrap with a smaller baby, and nice and light for summer

Have you tried an indio? Do you agree with their cult status?

*Not a technical term. I did some quick research and couldn’t find a definitive answer to when the first indio was released. If you know, please tell me!


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Do you really need more than one carrier?

babywearing week quote

This graphic was doing the rounds of Facebook the other day, and it got me thinking. Do we really need to justify why we have more than one carrier (or wrap or sling)? I see some women with a sense of guilt that they want more than one carrier, feeling like they should make do with one, that it is greedy or materialistic to want more. But I think Jamie Owens is definitely right – nobody should have any regrets about their babywearing journey, it is such a short time that we get the opportunity to carry our babies, we should enjoy it as much as possible while we can. If you want more than one carrier, and you can afford it, then go for it!

If that’s not enough, consider some of these other reasons why you might need more than one carrier.

Function

While it is possible to use the one carrier (or wrap or sling) for all your babywearing needs, chances are, sometimes the carrier you have just isn’t quite right for what you need it for at that moment and it feels awkward or inconvenient. For example, using a stretchy or woven wrap is often super comfortable, but when it is raining outside and you’re trying to wrap 4 or 5 metres of fabric in a car park full of puddles you’ll be cursing yourself that you haven’t got something a bit shorter or quicker to put on. Having a ring sling or a buckle carrier in your stash for these times can be a great idea. On the other hand, if you only have a ring sling, as your baby gets older and heavier you may find you can’t carry them for long periods without some discomfort from the one-shouldered carry.

I love a soft structured carrier (Ergo, Tula, etc) for walking, at the shops or outings like the zoo, but I find at home I prefer a wrap where I can carry my daughter high on my back so she can see over my shoulder easily and stay involved in whatever I’m doing. A soft structured carrier just doesn’t provide that same feeling for me (not to mention my Tula generally lives in the car….hmmm, perhaps I need a second one for the house). And I love the convenience of a ring sling for popping into the shop or picking my older kids up from school.

The weather 

As much as I love a stretchy wrap for a newborn, if you’re having a baby at the end of December in Australia, it’s going to be pretty warm. Babywearing in the height of summer is hot no matter what you do, but there are definitely cooler options than a stretchy wrap. So perhaps you might like a stretchy wrap for when you’re home in the air conditioning or at a shopping centre, and a light cotton ring sling for wearing outdoors as well. As for woven wraps, it is perfectly legitimate to have some nice thick woolly wraps during the winter, and move to something thinner and lighter in the summer. You wouldn’t wear the same jumper all year round, and it shouldn’t be any different with wraps.

The environment

You’re probably not going to want to take your $250 silk blend wrap to the beach, but your baby still needs to be carried, right (have you ever tried pushing a pram on sand?). Learning to torso carry in a beach towel is one option, but if you’re not that ambitious, you’re probably going to want something cheap and cheerful that you can use in the water and on the sand. And if you own a bit of land or enjoy gardening, a plain black soft structured carrier that wont show the dirt is a great option, but you might also like to have something prettier (and cleaner) for when you go shopping.

Fashion

There’s really no reason why carriers, wraps and slings can’t be considered accessories in the same vein as handbags and shoes. Sure, they serve a function, but I don’t think anyone would question you for owning more than one handbag or more than one pair of shoes. I could get by with one pair of shoes and one handbag if I absolutely had to, but that pair of shoes and bag wouldn’t quite work for all of the different things I do in my life. So I have a few pairs of shoes (or 10) and a couple of handbags (ok, 5 or 6) to serve different purposes.

Same goes with babywearing. I could get by with one carrier, but I’d rather have a few different items to choose from. And in Imelda Marcos-like style, there are some people who have enormous collections of wraps, carriers and slings. Not because they think they need them all, but because they enjoy the collecting, the aesthetic, the fashion of babywearing. There is nothing wrong with wanting your carrier to match your outfit, just like your shoes and bag.

Ok, so I probably didn't need four ring slings at the same time, but they are all beautiful, and only one lives here now.

Ok, so I probably didn’t need four ring slings (on the left) at the same time, but they are all beautiful, and only one of these lives here now.

The fashion of babywearing means there are many talented artisans making amazing textiles and carriers for carrying babies, because carrying your baby doesn’t just have to be about getting from A to B, it can be a truly joyful experience and an important part of your growing relationship with your child, so why not make the most of it?

Whether you’ve got one carrier, 10 or 100, don’t feel like you need to justify yourself to anyone. And try not to feel jealous when you see huge stash shots on social media, not everyone can afford a carrier for every day of the week (or month!). Just enjoy your babywearing journey while it lasts – keep them close in whatever way YOU want!