Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Conglomeration of Carriers: A self-proclaimed wrappers journey thru a world of new carriers (and bacon)


I am a self-proclaimed woven wrap guru. When my little guy and I started wearing, we used a stretchy wrap and soon became accustomed to the length of fabric. I quickly learned the proper way to tighten and swirl the tails around so that the extra fabric didn’t feel overwhelming or cumbersome. When the guy started getting heavier (way too quickly!) I attended a BWI meeting and we took to using a woven wrap very quickly. I loved how versatile they were and loved trying new ways of tying (although I swear, I’ll never get a nice double hammock!) I quickly learned the lingo (what exactly is a DDDDDDDISO??), purchased a size six on the swap and got to work! Months later, after attending another handful of meetings, I began thinking about all of the other types of carriers I had encountered. I found lots of other moms singing the praises of ring slings or wearing their little one in a mei tai or customizing their buckle carrier with new suck pads and hoods with reach straps. Was I missing out? It was like there was some strange golden light streaming out of the library rolling suitcases and totes Indiana Jones style! We loved wrapping but were we missing some great babywearing moments by only using one type of carrier? So that brings us to this exciting babywearing journey!
When I first decided to try other kinds of carriers and blog about the experience, I thought I should set up some ground rules like in real sports like baseball and late night bumper-bowling. First, I wanted to focus on the three most popular types; ring slings, mei tai's and buckle carriers. I wanted to give each a fair shake and I knew that every carrier would have a learning curve so I would use each kind of carrier exclusively for one week. I would wear in lots of different situations. And I did! I wore around the house doing laundry and making pierogies!, I wore while we were out shopping (let’s be honest, mostly at Target… I have a problem…) and running errands! I wore at work at the college! If I was going to learn something new, by gosh so were my lazy college students! I also wanted to make sure that it was clear that these would be my personal experiences and opinions. Every family is different and everyone has their own likes and dislikes! This would be my story and one carrier feature that I might hate could be exactly why someone else loves it. You might swear by Heinz ketchup but I like mayo on my fries! I also wanted to try carriers that were available in the lending library so that our readers could check out the same carriers if they read something they were interested in! I had some help from Katie Abell our knowledgeable librarian and chose a Maya Wrap gathered shoulder ring sling, a Lenny Lamb toddler sized mei tai and a Lillebaby Airflow.
 Lenny Lamb Toddler Sized Wrap Conversion Mei Tai
I started with the mei tai. I knew from my research and from talking about them at meetings that it would be the most like woven wraps, especially in terms of manipulating the straps. I also knew that I would be able to easily wear the little guy on my back which is especially important when I wear at work. At first I found I was fumbling with the straps a lot and had difficulty with them twisting up. It was like I was being attacked by some kind of soft, fluffy drunken octopus! But once I got the child up I found it quite comfy for both of us! The padded straps were soft and cushy on my shoulders and the little guy quickly discovered that he could bounce up and down like a ten-year old hopped up on ring pops (which he enjoyed immensely). After a few days, I was able to get him up much more quickly, without looking like I was trying to put some sort of jacket on backwards and in the dark, though I still had trouble making the transition into a back carry. I found myself wishing that the straps were wider to add some additional support (hello…wrap straps!) and the little guy quickly got frustrated with being worn lower on my back (he’s quite nosy and NEEDS to see over my shoulder.) When I asked what he thought, my hibernating grizzly bear of a husband said that it would be great for anyone intimidated or worried about making a seat and that he would be comfortable back carrying with it! Then he rolled over in his chair and went back to sleep. It was a weekend after all, and I’d made bacon for breakfast.
Lillebaby Airflow
After our week of mei ties, we moved on to the buckle carrier. At first I was intimidated. There were all kinds of straps to adjust and clasps and padding. It was a bit confusing in the beginning, figuring out which arm went where and which nylon strap needed tightening or loosening. I fumbled around like a feeble ferret without thumbs! There was definitely a learning curve! Finally, after a grueling battle I prevailed and once everything was adjusted to fit properly, I could wear the little guy easily and comfortably. After some time, I began to see the appeal of this type of carrier! Once the straps were adjusted, it was very quick to put on and take off.  And on, and off… And on again as the one-going-on-thirteen year old made up his mind full of pre-toddler angst. The carrier felt very much like a padded backpack which is something many people are familiar with. After time, I personally found it quite bulky and disliked the thick padded straps, they were too “sporty” for me. I felt like I should be spelunking in a damp cave somewhere or rappelling off the side of a twenty-story Chuck E Cheese.  My furry werewolf of a husband looked up from his warm platter of bacon, said that it looked like some kind of medieval torture device and promptly refused to try it, returning to the deliciousness. I also realized that I have a strange aversion to having things buckled and tied around my waist! I couldn’t put my finger on it when we were using the mei tei, but I feel extra constricted when I have a carrier tight around my waist. Maybe it’s an unconscious hatred for day glow fanny packs from somewhere in my childhood… I realized that when I wrap, especially with back carries, I rarely ever tie around my waist! I always seem to tie Tibetan or use a candycane chestbelt! Needless to say, I doubt I will be getting involved in any high stakes buckle carrier Tuesday stockings anytime soon…
Maya Wrap Ring Sling with the Comfort Fit Shoulder
Finally, we spent a week with a ring sling. Going into this project, I felt like I knew the most about ring slings. I often used my short wrap tied as a rebozo, so I knew it would be similar. I knew I could really only wear it one way, that it would be a one shoulder carry and that I wouldn’t be able to wear the little guy on my back. I was highly skeptical. Thoroughly unimpressed. Highly suspicious. Why were people so drawn to them? It was a mystery that needed investigating, like on Dateline or in the Hardy Boys! Let’s just say I felt very apprehensive about using the ring sling for a whole week. Suddenly, after using it for a day, I realized that these limitations are exactly what makes the ring sling perfect for us! When the boy wanted down to chase the dog around with a plastic spatula, I could put him down quickly. When he wanted back up because his plastic bottle full of dried beans wouldn’t fit in the top of the Alphabet Train, I could put him right back up! The ring sling was fast and easy. We were even able to nurse in it!
My furry Ewok-from-Endor husband appreciated the speed of the ring sling when we had to go to the grocery for more bacon and quickly demanded that we needed one to keep in the car. Luckily, I had an extra short wrap and some sling rings laying around which I could quickly convert (professional sewing skills, go!) and we are now the owners of a new ring sling!

I learned a lot about our personal babywearing needs over this experience. I found that all of the carriers I tried have different appealing features, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t. I also realized that at heart, I will always be drawn to the versatility that woven wrapping allows for, and it will always be the “go to” carrier for me. I think the most important thing to take away from this journey is that all of the carriers are unique and allow us to have our babies safe and close to us!  


Written by Sarah Russell,
Blogger and Volunteer, BWI of Cleveland

If you would like to go on your own carrier journey, please attend one of our many Instructional Monthly Meetings held all across the Greater Cleveland area!  Please visit our Events Page to locate a meeting closest to your home. See you there!