“But what’s the BEST brand??”

This is what I found myself asking seasoned wrappers when I was on the hunt for my first woven. I kept getting the response to just look for a colorway that I loved and not to worry about the brand. Well that was NOT what I wanted to hear, I just knew that there had to be one magical BEST woven wrap to start with, and that’s the one I wanted!

Well I finally realized that the reason people give you that answer is because there really isn’t just one magical first wrap to be found. Everyone likes different qualities in different wraps, which means that everyone really does have a different “perfect” wrap. So as much as I wanted someone to just tell me which wrap to buy, I finally realized that I had to discover that for myself…which is when the real fun began!

I actually ended up buying two “first” wraps–they arrived on the same day, and I had never been more excited to see my mailman! I immediately tore them out of their packages, and while I was in awe of their beauty, I was a little disappointed that they weren’t as soft and cozy as I had imagined. But I knew that I would have to work on breaking them in since I bought them both brand new, so I didn’t let that get me down.

I started *trying* to wrap right away, and I quickly discovered that I liked one way better than the other. That was hard for me to accept at first, because the one that wasn’t working out so well was SO beautiful, I really didn’t want to let it go. But I sucked it up and sent it packing, and then I was able to use the money from selling it to fund another one!

At that point, I had definitely opened Pandora’s box. After trying just two wraps and seeing how completely different they were from one another, I wanted to try EVERY brand until I really did find my perfect wrap. It was so much fun buying and selling, even when something came through my door that I didn’t love, at least I didn’t have to wonder about that particular brand anymore, and I felt good knowing that someone else in the babywearing world would probably love it!

Throughout this process, I eventually did find my perfect wrap (or maybe my 2 or 3 perfect wraps…), and I will never part with those. I now know exactly what to look for in a wrap, even though what I look for might be completely different than what you end up looking for. And that’s the great thing about having access to BWI of Kansas City–every time you attend a meetup, you’ll have tons of different wraps at your fingertips, so you won’t even have to wait for the mailman to try something!

Does Size Really Matter?

Does size really matter? Well… does it?

That’s what I wanted to know when I was first embarking on my first woven wrap purchase. I was fairly comfortable with my one size fits all stretchy wrap, and was shocked to learn that woven wraps weren’t the same. I was daunted by the fact that I had to choose between a variety of lengths, and confused when people/companies listed their wraps for sale sometimes with a 2, 3, 4, 5 or a 6 next to them, and other times with a 2.6, 3.6, 4.2, 4.6, 5.2, and all numbers in between. It was like being transported back in time to a math lesson on integers and decimal points, and I wasn’t happy to have to process numbers that I didn’t understand the meaning of just to shop for a woven wrap.

So what did I do? Well I posted a question on an online babywearing forum asking, “what size woven wrap do I need?” The consensus was overwhelming that I definitely needed a size 6 in order to be able to do any carry imaginable. So off I went to search for a size 6 wrap, and I found a great deal on the swap on a long size 6, 4.9 meter length, well loved, soft and floppy Hoppediz. Once it arrived I was so eager to try it out, but was quickly disappointed when I learned that the wrap that was supposed to allow me to have infinite carry options didn’t work for one single carry I tried. Thing is, when I posted my question on the forum, I didn’t give any details about MY size, and nobody asked. A size 6 is a perfect size for most people to start with, but I am extremely petite and was literally drowning in fabric with my size 6. I couldn’t pull off one single carry without having the worlds longest tails left over, and it was impossible for me to learn on. I loved the wrap so much though, and ended up chopping it down to the right size, 4.2 meters. After finding the right length of wrap to fit my size, I was a lot more successful with learning to wrap!

So does size matter? YES!!! Your size matters AND the wrap size matters!!! I had to use some trial and error to figure this out, which worked out in the end but was definitely a pain! My goal as one of the leaders of Babywearing International of Kansas City is to provide people with better ways of figuring out what they need before they buy it. The babywearing playgroup and Happybottomus meetings held each month are fantastic ways of trying before you buy, especially when it comes to seeing the difference between woven wrap lengths and figuring out which one is the right fit.

This month our Happybottomus meeting (Thursday September 1 from 6-9 pm) will be dedicated to all things wrap related, and finding the right length is going to be a main talking point. We will have a chance to try out a variety of wrap lengths, talk about what carries each length is best for, and help you hone in on your wrapping personality. I am excited to provide new wrappers with the opportunity to do a little hands on investigating, and also look forward to hearing the stories of more experienced wrappers! So mark your calendars babywearing friends! Bring your wraps and your stories!!!

What’s Wrappening?

Last week I had the pleasure of holding our first ever Babywearing International of Kansas City meeting and babywearing informational. Of course it was a great success! We ended up with such an enjoyable group of people at the meeting, from the daughter of my high school math teacher (small world, huh?) to the persistent father that succeeded in getting his baby on his back! (I don’t know why, but seeing dads wrapping literally makes me happier than anything on this planet!)

I enjoyed getting to know such a lovely group of people, and was surprised that there were so many attendees that were interested in the woven wrap. We had many successes with the woven wrap last Thursday night and was especially impressed by our mommy/daddy rucksack team and the good sport that came in with a ring sling and ended up getting her newborn on her back! Although I was not expecting it, there was a huge response to the woven wrap, so as a result, our next class will be dedicated to this wonderful, versatile, somewhat high maintenance, and often frustrating piece of cloth. The entire next meeting/discussion topic will be devoted to wrapping basics, and we’ll have a chance to talk about what we’re looking for in a woven wrap and how to find the one (or many) that’s best for you.

Picking a woven wrap is often like dating to me. I spend months obsessing over this one, amazing wrap. Finally I take the plunge and get it. I stalk the mail like a crazy person, and finally the day comes and my package arrives. I take one look at it and descend into disappointment. You looked so much better/thinner/softer in your photos. Sorry, you’re just not the right color for me. It’s me not you. If you truly love something, set it free. And off it goes to a new home where it may or may not get some lovin. Or sometimes I get the wrap and love it off the bat, but over a short period of time my interest wanes. It was only infatuation, not the real deal. So off it goes. There are also times when a wrap comes to me and it’s true love from the start, but then my baby changes and the wrap just doesn’t work for us like it used to. And it feels like plucking a nose hair how much it hurts to send that wrap packing.

Many of us long time wrappers have a very strong relationship with the For Sale or Trade boards just because of how complicated it can be to find the PERFECT wrap for us and our babies. There are some local options at least, for going through this carrier dating process, kind of like speed dating. The babywearing meetup/playgroup that takes place on the 3rd Tuesday of every month in midtown is a great opportunity for those who have been bitten by the wrapping bug to try out a variety of wraps and figure out what qualities you are after. The purpose of this group is to give people an opportunity to network with other babywearing parents, but also to try out a large variety of carriers! So if you’re tired of browsing the FSOT boards without being able to put your hands on a wrap and try it out yourself, stop by the babywearing meetup! Let your kiddos play while you try out some wraps and other carriers!!

We will reconvene next month on the evening of Thursday September 1 at Happybottomus to get more in depth about wrapping. We’ll discuss what we’re looking for in a woven wrap, talk about the various lengths, basic safety, and learn some basic carries! And if you feel like speed dating with some carriers in the mean time, I hope you can join us for the babywearing meetup on the 3rd Tuesday of the month! Check out our Facebook page for details!

The Basics of Choosing a Carrier

So you’ve discovered the wonderful world of babywearing and decided to buy a carrier. If you’re like me, you immediately start scouring the internet for your options and quickly discover that the decision might not be as easy as you first thought. The possibilities seem endless and it can feel a little overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, with a little research, choosing a carrier will quickly become the most fun thing you do during nap time!

The following is a rundown of each type of carrier. The summaries and pictures are taken directly from Babywearing International, and I’ll add in some of my own personal experiences, as well!

Wraps

“A simple strip of cloth makes an elegant and comfortable baby sling. A little learning is required to wrap and tie the cloth, but basic methods can be mastered in minutes. Wraparound slings can be short, for quick one-shoulder carries, or longer, to distribute the baby’s weight evenly over two shoulders and the caregiver’s torso and hips. Wraparound slings come in a variety of fabrics, but natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and silk are more breathable and have a more appropriate texture than synthetics. Some wraparound slings are specially woven to have exceptional performance as baby carriers, offering strength, breathability, just the right amount of diagonal stretch, and the right texture for holding the baby securely; these highly prized textiles are sometimes known as German-Style Wovens because this type of sling was developed in Germany. Wraps are an optimal and versatile carrier from birth.” (BWI)

My take on wraps: For me, wraps are hands down the coziest, comfiest carrier you’ll ever wear. The snuggle factor alone makes me love wrapping. My son, Jude, spent much of his first year snoozing peacefully wrapped on my front, and now as a toddler, he loves asking for rides on my back so he can experience the world from my point of view. However, I wouldn’t say that wraps are always the fastest way to wear your baby if you need to get them up quickly. That being said, there are definitely some wrapping pros out there that can get a baby wrapped in the same amount of time it would take to pop them into a pouch. So if you love the idea of wrapping, it’s definitely worth taking the time to practice carries and
become a pro wrapper yourself!

Please note: There are two main types of wraps–stretchy wraps and woven
wraps
. Stretchy wraps are generally good to use until the baby reaches about 15 pounds. Stretchy wraps may NEVER be worn on the back. Woven wraps can be used for front, back, and hip carries, and can easily last from birth through the end of your babywearing years (even if your preschooler still likes to go for an occasional ride!).

Ring Slings

“In its simplest and most elegant form, a ring sling is a shawl with a pair of rings attached to one end. The rings replace the knot or tuck-and-twist method of fastening used with traditional shawl carriers such as Mexican rebozos or Indonesian selendangs. Some ring slings have padding where the sling rests on the caregiver’s shoulder or along the edges of the sling, and some depart further from traditional shawl carriers by having the fabric at the end of the sling folded and stitched into a rope-like tail. Ring Slings are an ideal newborn carrier and are also fantastic for the up-and-down toddler phase.” (BWI)

My take on ring slings: I think that ring slings are an excellent choice for a newborn carrier. Many moms find these are also the carriers that they can nurse most easily in. I didn’t buy my first ring sling until my son was already a few months old, and since I had a toddler-sized baby on my hands, one-shouldered carriers were not my go-to, but it was great for quick trips up and down. Next time around, I definitely plan to have a ring sling from the very beginning!

Pouches

“Simply a tube of fabric with a curved seam, a pouch sling is a sleek carrier option. Pouches are sized to the adult wearer, and what they lack in adjustability they make up for in convenience. Few carriers take up less space in a diaper bag or are as quick to put on and take off as a pouch. While usable with newborns, many moms find these more fitting once their postpartum weight stabilizes and baby becomes stronger, generally around 4mo.” (BWI)

My take on pouches: I’ll be honest; I stayed away from pouches for a long time, because one-shouldered carriers just didn’t appeal to me. However, I do have one now that Jude is a toddler, and I love it anytime I need to run in somewhere quickly, especially if it’s a place I can’t let him just roam around on his own. It’s the perfect solution instead of chasing him around and losing my place in line wherever we may be.

Mei Tais

“The modern take on a traditional Chinese baby carrier with a body panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps still carries the traditional name, “mei tai” (pronounced”may tie”). The new-generation mei tais typically have either wide, padded shoulder straps, or extra-wide, wrap-style, unpadded straps for the wearer’s comfort. They also offer a variety of features such as headrests or sleeping hoods for the baby, pockets for diapers or other essentials, and fabric choices that range from strictly utilitarian to truly luxurious. Mei tais can be used from birth and are ideal for sharing among caregivers.” (BWI)

My take on mei tais: I think if I HAD to choose, this would probably be my favorite type of carrier. Now I can’t say that they are as cozy as a wrap (unless you get a wrap conversion mei tai, but that’s a post of its own!), but they are
super comfortable and extremely fast to get on. I think mei tais have a special place in my heart, because they are always there for me when my extreme wiggle-worm doesn’t have the patience to be still long enough to be wrapped. I can still get that perfect fit that a wrap offers, only much faster!

Soft-Structured Carriers

“Also with a body panel and shoulder and waist straps, soft structured carriers replace knots with buckles and add a thickly padded waistband and shoulder straps. The result is a different weight distribution and overall different look and feel from a mei tai, putting this style of carrier into a category of its own. Soft structured carriers offer the convenience of buckles yet are vastly different from framed backpacks in that they hold the baby securely against the wearer’s body. Unlike framed backpacks, soft structured carriers are suitable from birth through toddlerhood and provide the benefits of body-to-body contact for the baby (although some require or include a special insert for newborns). Soft Structure carriers really shine after about 4-5mo.” (BWI)

My take on soft-structured carriers: I think finding a good soft-structured carrier is a lot like finding a good pair of jeans—sometimes the search can be challenging, but once you find “the one”, you’re in love! For our family, we always like to keep one SSC on hand as the daddy-carrier. Buckles are easy to handle, and I suppose this is the easiest carrier to look “manly” in! I actually started babywearing with an SSC, and I think it’s a great gateway carrier. It showed me how wonderful babywearing was, but without the intimidation factor of a wrap or even a mei tai. Once I mastered an SSC, I was ready to spread my wings and live up to my potential of being a true babywearing addict!

So there you have it—the basics on the most common types of carriers. While putting this post together, I found myself wanting to put in so much more information about each carrier, but in trying to keep it a true summary, I had to leave a lot out! So be on the lookout for more detailed posts dedicated to each type of carrier in the future.

-Kristin