Chapter Announcements!

As a result of some personal changes, we will be scheduling our meetings only on weekends only until we train some new VBEs who may be available during the week. Through the end of the year at least, we will be holding meetings on the first Saturday of each month. In exciting news, The Bundle Store has moved to a new location in Clifton Park, and has a meeting room that we will be able to use for our meetings! This will allow us to keep our schedule without needing to work around the library availability, and should also help with the parking issues we sometimes have in Saratoga.  We will still be meeting this coming Saturday, September 12, at the Saratoga Springs Public Library from 10am-noon.

I am so thankful for our members who have been asking for more information about becoming a VBE. We are in desperate need of more volunteers and we are looking forward to expanding our chapter leadership! If you haven’t contacted us yet, but are interested or still have questions, please read the linked documents and get in touch with us through the Contact Us link here on our website or through our Facebook page.

Thinking of Becoming a VBE?
Thinking of Becoming a VBE with BWI of Saratoga?

We will be ho lding VBE Training on the third Saturday of each month from 3-5pm. The location is still TBD, but I will post an update as soon as I nail that down.

Our first session will be next Saturday, September 19.  We will answer any questions about the VBE process and then discuss teaching mei tais and soft structured carriers. Please let me know if you are planning to attend!

The rest of the VBE Training schedule will be as follows:
October 17: ring slings and pouch slings
November 21: stretchy and woven wraps
December 19: front packs and written application

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Stretchy Wraps

Today we’re going to get a little more specific about carriers that are ideal for newborns: stretchy wraps.  Stretchy wraps are some of our favorite carriers to recommend for newborns and new wearers.  They are relatively inexpensive and are very easy to find.  Most retailers that carry baby items have stretchy wraps along with frontpack carriers like Baby Bjorns.

There are three “big names” in the stretchy wrap market: MobyWrap, Boba, and Baby K’Tan.  The Moby and Boba wraps are both long lengths of jersey knit fabric, while the K’Tan is made of two loops of jersey knit fabric plus an additional sash piece.  All three of these carriers are rated for babies from 8-35 pounds, although most wearers find them uncomfortable after baby reaches 15-20 pounds. It is possible to wear babies who are under 8 pounds as well, but it is recommended that caregivers check with a doctor before wearing if baby was premature or has any other concerns.

We love stretchy carriers for new wearers because they are simple to use and can be pre-tied to create “poppable” carries.  This means the wrap can be completely tied before baby is in the carrier.  Once the caregiver has “popped” the baby in the carrier, minor adjustments can be made if the carrier is too loose or too tight.

As I mentioned in our newborn wearing post, positioning of a newborn in any carrier is vitally important.  Stretchy wraps are fantastic for learning proper positioning because they are perfect for mastering a high, tight front carry.  Remember, baby should always be close enough to kiss with his/her face visible to the wearer at all times and with his/her chin up and away from her chest.

Another reason we love stretchy carriers is that they are very easy to adjust for nursing.  Nursing a newborn is very rarely a hands-free endeavor, even with a carrier, but once baby has a bit of head control and is able to latch vertically, hands-free nursing can be accomplished simply by lowering baby to the proper height to latch.  With a newborn, a cradle hold is preferred to nurse, and baby should be repositioned in a tummy-to-tummy as soon as s/he is finished eating.  Either way, stretchy carriers are a wonderful “gateway” to nursing in a carrier.

Since stretchy carriers are, well, stretchy, they tend to sag as baby gets bigger.  The material is not terribly supportive with a larger baby, so most wearers find they want to find an alternative once baby reaches about 15 pounds.  Most babies are 3-6 months old by the time they reach this weight.  They also have good head control by this time and some are sitting unassisted and even working on crawling.  These indicators of torso strength, combined with natural curiosity about the world that a three-month-old suddenly develops, lead many parents to want to carry their babies so baby can see the world, usually in a front-facing-out carry.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a front-facing-out (FFO) carry, but we have found that they are generally uncomfortable for the wearer for any extended period of time.  It is difficult to provide ergonomic support for the baby and the wearer in an FFO carry, and they also don’t provide any head support for baby if s/he falls asleep while being worn.  As such, we don’t routinely teach FFO carries and do not recommend them for long periods of time.  That said, if your baby is unhappy in a front-facing-in carry and you want to learn other options in your stretchy wrap, we will be happy to teach them to you!

We find hip carries to be a wonderful alternative to FFO carries in many cases.  Stretchy wraps can be used for hip carries once baby has good head control and can sit unassisted.  All three stretchy carriers include instruction manuals with a variety of carries, hip holds included.

The one thing we never, ever endorse or recommend is to use a stretchy wrap for a back carry.  These wraps do not offer the kind of support that back carries need, and it can be very dangerous for an inexperienced wearer to try to back carry in a stretchy wrap.  Years ago, stretchy wrap manufacturers included instructions for back carries in their manuals, so if you have one of these older books you may find those there.  If you happen to have one of these older stretchy wraps, just disregard the back-wrapping instructions and follow the front and hip advice.

If you are new to babywearing and have a small baby, stretchy wraps are a fantastic, relatively inexpensive option to get started in the babywearing world.  We have two in our lending library, and several stores in our area carry them as well.  Join us for a meeting to get some hands-on help with your stretchy carrier!

Newborn Babywearing

Our blog has been silent for a few months, but we are back with the first post in our Babywearing 101 series!  Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we touch on the basics of just about every aspect of babywearing.  First up, let’s start at the beginning: wearing newborns!

Babywearing during the first few months of your baby’s life can be a wonderful tool. Keeping your baby close promotes quicker bonding and allows you to tend to the needs of your child quickly. It also allows you (the wearer) to get things done hands-free without worrying about your baby. However, there are some things to keep in mind.

When wearing a newborn, positioning is critically important.  Newborns have little to no head/neck control, so their heads must be supported properly by the carrier.  Some carriers fold over to offer more head support for newborns, and you can modify others with a rolled washcloth or receiving blanket to add extra head support for those tiny babies.  It’s also important to be sure that baby’s face is not covered by the carrier.  Her chin should be up and away from her chest; you should be able to fit 2 fingers between her chin and her chest.  This ensures that her airway stays open and she can breathe easily.  In addition to supporting their airways, wearers of newborns also need to be conscientious of supporting their babies’ spines and hips.  A newborn’s spine has a natural curve that should not be forced to straightened, and their hips should be supported so that their knees are higher then their hips without being overspread.  Some newborns “uncurl” from the fetal position quickly and will be comfortable having fabric tucked between their legs in a wrap or a ring sling, while others prefer to have their legs inside the carrier for a few weeks before the uncurl.  Either position is acceptable, as long as baby’s weight is resting on his bottom rather than his feet and his hips are in a comfortable position.

When learning to wear a newborn, we recommend wearers master front carries before moving on to more advanced carries.  There are many options for front carries, and they can be done with newborns in woven or stretchy wraps, ring slings (RS), mei tais (MT), or soft-structured carriers (SSC).  A simple front carry in an SSC or MT can be done with the straps crossed or uncrossed on the wearer’s back.  In a ring sling, tummy-to-tummy is the preferred newborn carry.  With a stretchy wrap, pocket wrap cross carry (PWCC) is a good place to start, and it is very similar to the front wrap cross carry (FWCC) that is most often recommended with a woven wrap.  We do not recommend newborns be worn in hip carries as they cannot be well-supported in that position.

Back carries with newborns can be done, but these should be reserved for experienced wearers.  Stretchy wraps should never be used to back carry a child, as they do not provide the necessary support.  Rings slings also should not be used for back carrying newborns due to the lack of proper support provided in that position.  Woven wraps can be used for back carries with very young infants, provided the wearer is a competent and experienced wrapper.  When using an SSC or a mei tai, it is important to follow the carrier manufacturer’s recommendations for age and weight when back-carrying young infants.

Resources:

March Membership Drive!

Hello Saratoga Babywearers!

We are little late getting this announcement out, but for the entire month of March, we are having a membership drive!  We need you to join us and help spread the babywearing love throughout the Capital Region.  For every new annual membership we gain this month, BWI will enter our chapter into a drawing for $100.  If we win, we’ll be able to use that money to provide more babywearing resources to our community.

Why should you join us?  BWI of Atlanta has provided this awesome list of reasons (which I have copied nearly word-for-word, only changing the details to make it accurate for our group):

Reason 1: We need you to help us keep going.  

BWI of Saratoga, just like all the other BWI chapters, is completely, totally, absolutely 100% volunteer-run.  The Volunteer Babywearing Educators – there’s that word, volunteer – are so passionate about babywearing that they devote hours every month to help complete strangers.  We currently hold 2 meetings each month and we only have 2 VBEs.

We spend countless hours outside of meetings answering questions on the Facebook page, writing blog posts, compiling information, building a lending library, writing helpful documents for the chapter meetings, and participating in the mandatory VBE round tables.  We’ve been tested multiple times by BWI and we’ve had years to build up experience and knowledge.

We don’t get paid for this.  We love what we do; we get paid in gratitude.  We get paid every single time a fussy baby falls asleep in a sling, every single time a tired, worn-out caregiver looks up and gives us a radiant smile.  We live for these moments.

But we need you to become members so that we have the funds to grow, add more meetings, add more educators, and see more smiles.  We need you to help by chipping in a yearly fee of $30.

Reason 2: This is important to you.

You might already be a babywearer.  You might even be a babywearing proselytizer.  Your life has been taken over by Facebook swap groups and the for sale or trade forum on The Babywearer.com.  You keep coming to meetings even though there isn’t anything else for you to learn.  You’ve had so many moments when you’ve wished you had some pamphlets or business cards to hand over as you gush about how great babywearing is.

You are a babywearing addict.

We can help you with that.  We can help you help others…but only if you help us.

More seriously, we all believe in the benefits of babywearing.  We’ve seen first hand how it decreases crying, helps build secure attachments, aids in reflux, provides tummy time, and encourages strong bonds between infants and caregivers.  We’ve seen how quickly babies calm down once they’re in a carrier and in motion.  We’ve read the studies on how babywearing helps regulate temperature and heart rate for newborns and premature babies, how the simple act of a caregiver’s constant touch lends strength to those who need it.  This is important to us, and this is important to you.  That’s worth $30.

Reason 3: Membership can be a fantastic deal.

What happens if you or someone you know is struggling financially but still needs a quality baby carrier?  What happens when the carrier you have isn’t the one that fits your needs?  $30 a year allows members to check out any carrier in the lending library for a month at a time, 12 months a year.  This is an unbelievably good deal.  This is better than finding a carrier on Craigslist.  This is better than hunting down sales online or at Babies ‘R Us.  This is better than that steal you got at the consignment store.

An annual membership costs you $30, and your local chapter (that’s us!) gets to keep $20 of that.  We will use the funds from this month’s membership drive to expand our library and bring you the carriers you have been asking for.  Every 6 memberships will allow us to add another carrier to our library:

  • 6 memberships: Standard Kinderpack
  • 12 memberships: Toddler Tula
  • 18 memberships: Kokadi 100% cotton wrap, size 6
  • 24 memberships: Didymos Linen Indio, size 7
  • 30 memberships: Natibaby hemp blend wrap, size 5
  • 30+ memberships: ???

If all of that wasn’t incentive enough for you to join us, we will also be giving away a Boba Sleepy Wrap at our first April meeting.  All current annual members will be entered into the drawing!

In case you’ve forgotten the other perks of joining BWI, allow me to remind you.  Your membership not only supports us and gives you access to our lending library, but you also will receive a 5% discount on carrier purchases and a 50% discount on BWI-led classes at The Bundle Store in Ballston Spa.  Additionally, members will be able to purchase BWI of Saratoga swag at a discounted price when we place an order in the future.  We will host special members-only workshops and events a few times throughout the year, as well.  I can assure you, membership is worth your $30!

Click here for more information and instructions on how to join!

 

The Great Debate: Kinderpack vs. Tula

When my daughter started to outgrow our beloved Beco Gemini before she was a year old, I began scouring the internet for a bigger, better, soft-structured carrier (SSC) to use for her.  At the time, we lived in a third-floor walk-up apartment and her daddy was stationed on a ship that was gone more often than it was home.  Not wearing her was not an option, and I needed something that would last!

If you search any babywearing forum for toddler carriers, you’ll find lots of recommendations for Kinderpack and Tula carriers.  If you are wearing a big kid and you don’t want to have a custom carrier made, a KP or a Tula is what you want.  I love them both, but they fit quite differently!

Straps:

Both manufacturers use 1″-thick foam for the padding on the straps.  Kinderpack straps are wider than Tula straps, at 4.25″/3″ respectively.  I am narrow-shouldered and sometimes find the width of the KP straps a bit much, but they are incredibly comfortable in spite of (or perhaps, due to) the bulk.  Kinderpack straps are tapered to curve around your shoulder (think backpack straps) – they are thickest at the top of the shoulder and narrow about 2 inches before they attach to adjustable webbing and buckles under the arm.  Tula straps also curve nicely around the shoulder, but they lack the same dramatic taper before meeting the webbing (probably because they are so much narrower to begin with).

Strap thickness KP on top, Tula on bottom
Strap thickness
KP on top, Tula on bottom
Strap width & PFAs KP on left, Tula on right
Strap width & PFAs
KP on left, Tula on right

Both Kinderpacks and Tulas come with “Perfect Fit Adjusters” (PFAs) on the shoulder straps, which allow you to cinch the shoulder straps to be shorter if necessary.  Kinderpack straps also come in plus size, which are 4-5″ longer than the standard straps.  Both standard and plus straps have PFAs.  In the past, Kinderpacks have been available with petite straps, but those were discontinued with the advent of PFAs.  As far as I know, all Tulas have the same length straps.

Aside from the width, the biggest difference between the KP and Tula straps is the underarm buckle.  The Kinderpack has a dual-adjustable buckle which can be opened to allow for a hip carry or for the straps to be crossed in a front carry.  You can also adjust the position of the buckle either toward the body or toward the strap of the carrier, so it is easy to adjust whether you are using a front or a back carry.  The Tula has a Ladderloc buckle which does not open.  The buckle is attached to the strap of the carrier, so it is easy to tighten in a front carry.  Since you need to pull the webbing behind you to tighten it, it can be quite difficult in a back carry.

KP underarm buckle
KP underarm buckle
Tula underarm buckle
Tula underarm buckle

Hood:

Both KPs and Tulas come with sleep hoods, but that is pretty much the end of the similarities with respect to the hoods!  The Kinderpack has a hidden hood – it actually folds inside the headrest and forms a pocket in the body panel of the carrier when stored.  It’s not a very big pocket, but works well to hold small items – a disposable diaper, a cell phone, a car key, etc.  It appears quite large, but remember that whatever is put in this pocket will be right against baby’s back.

KP hood pocket
KP hood pocket

Depending on the style of Kinderpack, the hood may be hoodie-style or flat.  Kinderpacks with solid body panels have hoodie hoods, while ones with mesh panels have flat hoods.  The Tula has a removable, adjustable flat hood that attaches to the carrier with two snaps on the inside of the body panel.

KP hoodie hood
KP hoodie hood
KP flat hood
KP flat hood
Tula hood
Tula hood

To keep the hood up while in use, a Kinderpack has buckles while a Tula has a hook:

KP hood buckle
KP hood buckle
Tula hood clip
Tula hood clip

Waistbands:

The waistbands are actually pretty similar on the Tula and Kinderpack.  Both are sturdy foam and are contoured in three sections.  The Kinderpack has a dual-adjustable buckle centered on the waistband, while the Tula has the female end of the buckle fixed at one end of the waistband so that it sits off-center while worn.  The Tula also has a small pocket on the waistband, which can hold a cell phone, car key, or other small items.  I often use it to stash the Tula hood, which we almost never use.

Tula on top, KP on bottom
Tula on top, KP on bottom

The style of the Kinderpack waistband has changed a few times over the years, and I am sure there is some variation in the sizing from style to style, but as far as I know, KP does not vary the size of the waistband with the body size of the carrier, nor does it change based on the strap length.

Up until recently (early 2014), toddler Tulas had larger waistbands than standard Tulas.  That has changed and at the time of this writing, all new Tulas being produced have the standard waistband.  The Tula pictured has the old toddler waistband; unfortunately at this time I do not have a standard Tula or a toddler with the new waistband for comparison.

Kinderpack Sizing:

Kinderpacks come in four sizes – infant, standard, toddler, and preschool.  All KPs have a 2″ headrest that is not included in the measurements given below.

The infant KP is made to be used with babies from birth-18 months or so.  It has an adjustable base, so you can cinch the seat to fit a small baby without an infant insert.  The body panel measures 9-15″wide x 15″ high.  I don’t currently have an infant KP available and since this post is primarily focused on toddler carriers, that’s all I’ll say about the infant KP today.

The standard KP is such a versatile size; it really lasts a long time!  If you are looking for a “toddler” carrier because your baby is outgrowing the Beco, Ergo or Boba (just to name a few), a standard KP may be just what you need.  The body panel measures 17″w x 16″h and the recommended age range is 8months – 3years.  We got our standard when my daughter was 14 months old and I used it with her until she was nearly 3.  I have been wearing my son in the standard KP since he was about 5 months old, but he was a big baby (>90%ile for height and weight).  He is now 14 months old, about 31″ and 23lbs and the standard KP fits us perfectly.  Note how he is supported from knee to knee without having extra fabric bunching under his seat.  Also notice that the body of the carrier comes up high enough on his back to keep him from leaning, but not so high that his head is buried in the carrier.

Straight view (Sorry for the soft focus!)
Straight view (Sorry for the soft focus!)
Profile
Profile

A toddler KP is quite a bit larger than the standard.  It measures 19″w x 18″h and is not recommended until your toddler is at least 25 lbs and 32″ tall.  I do not have a toddler KP on hand for comparison pictures at the moment, but I tried one at a meeting when my daughter was just 25 lbs and 32″ tall, and it was HUGE on her!  She has always been long and skinny, and it just swallowed her at that time.   A toddler KP will easily last until your average child no longer wants/needs to be worn regularly.

A preschool KP is the largest carrier available without getting a custom made right now.  It is enormous!  The body measures 20″w x 20″h.  The height/weight recommendation is 38″/35lbs.  We purchased our preschool KP just before my daughter turned 3, and she was about 38″ tall and all leg (although she still isn’t 35 lbs).  For the sake of the blog post, I put my 14mo in this carrier this morning, and it absolutely swallowed him.  Here are the pictures for comparison sake:

The top of his head barely sticks out over the headrest!  This carrier is way too big in every respect.
The top of his head barely sticks out over the headrest! This carrier is way too big in every way.
Note all the extra fabric behind his knees! This seat is far too wide for him.
Note all the extra fabric behind his knees! This seat is far too wide for him.
You can really see how much extra fabric is under his seat from this angle!
You can really see how much extra fabric is under his seat from this angle!

Tula Sizing:

Tulas only come in two sizes – standard and toddler, but they also have an infant insert for the standard size and they sell “Free to Grow” leg extenders, which can be used with either size* to widen the base for a kid who is outgrowing a knee-to-knee seat.

*As noted above, Tula has recently changed the waistband on their toddler carrier.  The FTG extenders only fit on the standard and new toddler waists, not on the larger, old-style toddler waist.

The standard Tula is comparable in size to the infant Kinderpack, without the adjustable base.  The body measures  14.5″w x 15.5″ h and is recommended for use from 15lbs.  With the infant insert, the standard Tula should be able to be used from birth, or ~7lbs.  I do not have a standard Tula on hand right now, and again, this post is primarily focusing on toddler carriers, so that’s all the info I have on standard Tulas for the time being.

The toddler Tula is significantly bigger than the standard.  There is a really large gap between the time a child “outgrows” the standard Tula (by outgrows, I mean no longer being fully supported knee-to-knee) and when s/he fits into the toddler size.  This is probably part of the reason Tula came up with the Free to Grow extenders!  The toddler Tula is roughly the same size as the toddler Kinderpack, measuring 19″w x 18″h and is recommended after 25lbs.  We currently use a toddler Tula with my son, but it is actually just a bit too big for him right now:

A bit wide, okay height
A bit wide, okay height
See the fabric bunching under the seat?
See the fabric bunching under the seat?
Not as much bunching as with the preschool KP, but this seat is a bit too wide for him still.
Not as much bunching as with the preschool KP, but this seat is a bit too wide for him still.

Final Comparison:

Just so you can see all three pictures side by side, here they are again:

Standard KP
Standard KP
Toddler Tula
Toddler Tula
Preschool KP
Preschool KP

Both Kinderpack and Tula make fantastic big-kid carriers, and you probably won’t go wrong with either of them.  However, it’s important to remember that SSCs are the most wearer-specific carrier style available, and they really fit every body and every baby differently.  They’re like a good pair of jeans or sneakers – you really need to try several to find what fits you best!  If you’re on the market for a new SSC, join us at a meeting or seek out your own local BWI group and see if they have a few SSCs for you to try.

What’s your favorite SSC?

Carry of the Month: Front Wrap Cross Carry

Please read our disclaimer before attempting this carry.

For our first carry of the month, we thought something basic would be appropriate.  If you’ve never wrapped before, front wrap cross carry (FWCC) is a great place to start!  It’s perfect for squishy newborns and big kids who want front snuggles alike.  It’s also a great beginner carry because you can do a lot of the wrapping before putting the baby in the wrap.  It also teaches strand-by-strand tightening, which is an integral part of getting a secure carry in a wrap.

Most people will need a size 6 wrap to do this carry.  If you are larger or have a big toddler, you may need more length (size 7 or 8) and if you are smaller you may be able to use a size 5 for even a 4.  Whatever size you need to accomplish FWCC is called your base size.  We use “base size” as a reference point when teaching carries with woven wraps, so take note of what size you find most comfortable for this carry!  Also note that FWCC can also be done with a stretchy wrap (like a Moby or Boba Sleepy Wrap).

We aren’t quite set up to do our own photo or video tutorials yet, but check out this video tutorial from BWI of Hampton Roads and be sure to add your photos to the COTM album in our Facebook group!

Check back soon for our own photo tutorial (I hope), as well as an update about our first meeting!