Keep them close

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


3 Comments

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!


4 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

Babywearing on a budget

You’ve just had a baby. You’re no longer working. You’ve just forked out all your savings on a cot, car seat and pram. There’s not a lot of spare cash around and then you see wraps and carriers selling for more than $150 and you feel like it is out of reach for you. Don’t despair, there are cheaper options.

One of the misconceptions about babywearing is that it costs a lot of money. Sure, you certainly can spend a lot of money on high-end wraps if you want to, but by no means is that the only way to carry your baby. You don’t need an expensive stash of different carriers to be a ‘real’ babywearer – anyone can babywear, even on a tight budget.

First though, consider this. Wearing your baby in a carrier is a legitimate way to transport your baby, comfort your baby, and bond with your baby. Try not to listen to people who say you can’t spend that much money on “a piece of fabric”. If you can spend a few hundred dollars on a pram, it is perfectly reasonable to spend a similar amount on a baby carrier (if you can afford to) that you may end up using more often than you use your pram (I certainly do!).

That said, sometimes there isn’t a couple of hundred dollars in the bank account, but your baby still cries and wants to be held, and you can’t get anything done.

So, what are your options?

Stretchy wraps

From newborn to around 8 kilograms, a stretchy wrap is a wonderfully comfortable and snuggly way to carry your baby. While new ones can be a bit expensive, there are often second hand ones available through Facebook groups, eBay or Gumtree for $50 or less. Some brands to look out for include Hug a Bub, Moby and Boba wrap. Another option is to buy some cotton jersey from a fabric store and make your own. You’ll need about 5 metres in length and you can then split it down the middle and make two wraps, it wont fray so no hemming required – go halves with a friend in the cost!

Image

Ring slings

Ring slings are also suitable from birth, and being a relatively simple construction with a shorter length of material they are often cheaper than long wraps or structured carriers. When looking for a cheap ring sling though, there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to avoid the bag or pouch style slings with padded rails, these can be quite hard to adjust and hard to keep baby in a safe position. A ring sling should have rings made from a continuous piece of aluminium, with no visible join. Consider how long you want to use the carrier for. Some cheap cotton ring slings will be fine for a small baby, but you will probably find it uncomfortable as baby starts to get heavier, which will mean you either stop wearing or have to buy something new – spending a bit more initially on a ring sling made from a woven wrap can be a better long term investment. Woven wrap ring slings can be purchased for as little as $74, check out my useful links for vendors.

Image

Mei tais

Mei tais can often be picked up cheaper than a buckle carrier, and can also be easier to learn how to use than a wrap. A basic mei tai such as the one by Infantino is under $60. Baby Hawk and Kozy mei tais should also be available for under $100, or maybe even less second hand.

DIY

While not specifically designed for babywearing, there are a number of materials available from fabric stores that could be used for that purpose. I’ve already mentioned cotton jersey, but once bub has outgrown that, there are cotton options like osnaburg or even all linen. There are downsides to this: it probably won’t be as comfortable as a wrap made for babywearing, particularly as baby gets heavier, and you can’t be sure that chemicals used in the manufacture of the fabric are safe for children, but it can be a cheap way to see if babywearing is for you. Keep in mind, unless you find yourself a fabric on the bargain bench, it might not actually be much cheaper than buying a woven wrap, which you can pick up for under $100.

If you can sew, making your own ring sling is not complicated; there are instructions online. You can get a size 5 or 6 woven wrap for under $100 and chop it in half and make two ring slings – which is excellent value.

Gifts

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved my friends or family to pool together and have purchased me a carrier as a gift for my newborn that I might not otherwise have been able to afford. Two hundred dollars is a stretch for a lot of people’s budgets, but if 10 friends chuck in $20 you can get just about any sort of carrier that you’d like – and I reckon that’s better than another pair of baby socks, muslin wraps or onesies!

And a final word on buckle carriers

Buckle carriers (or soft structured carriers/SSC) are very popular due to their comfort, convenience and ease of use. If this is the type of carrier you are looking for, please be aware that there are many counterfeit Ergos on the market, sold mostly through eBay, for prices well below recommended retail. They seem to be too good to be true, and they are. Fake Ergos have not been safety tested to meet the required standards for baby carriers, may use fabric that contains unsafe chemicals and dyes and buying one supports the unethical practices of counterfeiters. The only way to know if an Ergo is real is if it was originally purchased from an authorised retailer.

Baby Bjorn is another popular buckle carrier and probably one of the most well known babywearing brand names. While expensive new, they can often be picked up cheaply second hand (particularly early models). Baby Bjorns have been given a bad rap in the babywearing community over recent years, mostly due to the less than optimal position for baby’s legs and the ability to carry baby facing out. And while it is true that ideally baby’s legs would be better supported in an ‘M’ position like in an Ergo and that facing out isn’t something I would recommend, Baby Bjorns are safe (if TICKS guidelines are followed). So if you’ve been given one or can pick one up very cheaply then don’t be afraid to use it – keeping your baby close is the key, however you make that happen! But be aware that the other major drawback of the Baby Bjorn, particularly the early models that you can get cheaply, is that they won’t be very comfortable for you once baby gets heavier – so do consider some of the other options I’ve outlined above.

Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!