May 15, 2013

Carrier Construction: Mei Tai

Mei Tai's (or Asian Baby Carriers) are a great addition to your stash!  More air flow than a woven wrap and less buckles and adjustments than a Soft-Structured-Carrier.  These versatile carriers are available from some fantastic retailers in ready made (BabyHawk and Infantino) or Custom carriers with fabrics you choose like Two Mama Designs or the elusive Obimama...

After a woven wrap, a Mei Tai is my personal favorite carrier.  I can't pin point the reason why but I prefer to tie my top straps than clip them.  I could just be funny that way.  Making a Mei Tai, as with any other carrier, does take a bit of sewing know-how and a knowledge of carrier safety to make, but it can be done and for considerably less than the price of a high end custom! 

Mei Tai's have 3 distinct parts: 

The Body- The middle area that makes the seat that your baby will sit into.

The Arm Straps- The long tie able straps that will go over your shoulders and around your body.  These are attached to the top corners of the body.

The Waist Straps- The strap that goes around your waist and is attached to the bottom of the body.

The most important part of constructing your own carrier is attention to the weight bearing seams.  In a Mei Tai the weight bearing seams are located where the arm and waist strap connects to the body.  The arm straps need to be attached with an "X-Box" (an example of this can be seen in the Scanditute Pattern linked at the end of this post).  These need to be reinforced as the arm straps bear a LOT of weight and over time can wear down and break apart, injuring your child.  The waist strap should be sewn with at least 3 rows of stitching to secure it to the body and make it sturdy.

Fabric Choice:  Most Mei Tai patterns require the body to be made of layers and one of those should be a canvas or heavy weight twill.  This is also the fabric that the straps should be made out of as it is very sturdy and resistant to fraying.  The outer layers of the body can be made from decorative fabrics that are pretty to look at and coordinate with your strap color.

Making your own Mei Tai is very doable.  If I can do it, ANYONE can do it.  At least anyone that has a sewing machine and free time... and fabric...and... never mind.  Considering all of these things, please make sure to do a pull test on your carrier at weight bearing seams before each time you wear it.  All it takes is one time for your baby to be badly injured.  It's not worth the risk!!

Here are some links to tutorials to make your own Mei Tai!!

OTown's Favorite Tutorial so far:

The SCANDITUTE

Here are a few others to look at:

Grumbles and Grunts
Beau Baby

Adding these because they are awesome!!

You're Sew Crafty- Table Cloth MT
A Fuller Day


Let us know how yours turns out by commenting here!






December 29, 2012

Babywearing 101

Originally seen on the blog of one of our awesome members The Adventures of Lactating Girl


 

If you have found this post, it is probably because you are interested in learning about how babywearing can help you take care of your child.  Well, you are in the right place.  Here at OTown Babywearers we are a group of volunteer Mama's who can't get enough of sharing our love of Babywearing and all the good it has brought into our lives.  Here is a condensed overview of what we talk about in our Babywearing 101 class.

The idea of carrying a baby on your person while you keep your hands free is not new.  Do you really believe that Cro-Magnon women had strollers?  Did they even have the wheel yet?  I don’t think so.  No, this is not new.  It has been practiced in every culture in the world since babies were born and it really only seems weird in the U.S. but, that is slowly changing.  There are so many fantastic reasons to wear your baby that it seems a little overwhelming so I will just highlight a few:

Babywearing=Happier Baby=Happier Parent=Awesome:  Babies that are worn cry less over all.  Since crying causes stress for babies and parents, it would naturally follow that less crying would mean less stress for babies and parents and that is just common sense.  Babies are not meant to be independent as infants.  Who hasn’t heard the “This baby just wants to be held ALL THE TIME!”  Well… wear them and you can give them what they need and have your hands back.

Babywearing promotes development:  When a baby is worn, they tune into the rhythm of your breathing, the sound of your heartbeat, and the movements you make – walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses, and helps him to learn balance control. Wearing your baby creates a "transitional womb" and helps your baby learn to control his movements.  It also provides a safe, comfortable place for your baby to get restorative growth sleep at any time of day.  Seeing the world at your level helps baby learn faster, stimulates their learning and keeps them feeling secure and safe.  Wearing your baby can provide emotional safety when needed, so that children can venture into the world and become independent at their own pace and it can even dramatically increase the chances of successful breastfeeding!!!  What a miracle, right?

Babywearing is convenient and FUN:  Having your hands free while carrying your child provides endless opportunities to get things done that you normally would not be able to get done.  When you wear your baby, you can walk around freely and not have to worry about negotiating steps, crowds or narrow aisles with a stroller. Removable car seats are heavy and awkward for parents and they are not safe to be put on top of shopping carts, no matter how many people you see doing it.  A sling can block out excess stimuli when breastfeeding a distractible baby and it allows for discreet nursing in public places. A sling can also double as a changing pad, blanket, or cushion when away from home.  Cook dinner, play with another child, go for a walk or play on the computer.  All these things can be done more easily while wearing your baby.  So be selfish; do it for you!

After all of these fantastic and exciting reasons to wear your baby, you may be wondering to yourself, “Self, how do I go about wearing my baby?” Well, I will tell you, but first, you need to know about safety.  I do not want to minimize the importance of the next statement so I am putting it in all caps so you really pay attention:  WEARING YOUR BABY CAN BE DANGEROUS IF NOT DONE CORRECTLY!!!  Really people, sweet little babies have died while being worn incorrectly and that is just a sad, true fact.  Just like any children’s product, if you do not use it correctly and safely, it can harm your child.  You wouldn't use a jogging stroller on the freeway, right?  What I am saying is that if you use some common sense and a few pointers, babywearing will be an extremely safe experience.  Here is the safety low down:

Keep your baby UPRIGHT:  Your baby should be upright with their stomach against you and the carrier should be tight.  If you leave slack in the way you tie or tighten the carrier, over time while wearing it, you will be sad because your back will be aching and your baby will slowly migrate down your torso and look like a limp noodle.  Don’t wear a limp noodle!!  Also, please make sure that your newest babies have good head support.  Their little necks just can’t support their big noggins for a while.

Close enough to Kiss:  Your baby’s head should be close enough for you to kiss (Obviously not possible in back carry)  When you are putting your baby in the carrier, you want them to be up high enough that you can literally bend at the neck and kiss them on top of the head.  It will be more comfortable for you and them that way.

Open Airway:  This seems like the most important thing so maybe it should have been first, but it’s wasn’t so pay attention… A baby being worn should never have their chin curled towards their chest.  This can restrict air flow and cut off their breathing leading to suffocation.  This is the main reason why I do not recommend a “cradle” carry in a sling (where baby is lying down example: HERE).  Check your baby’s breathing often and having them upright and close enough to kiss will make that a very easy thing to do.

Knees above Bum:  The carrier must support the Spread Squatting Position (SSP).  In this position, the baby’s legs will form an “M” shape from foot to foot. (Please use links below to find visual representation of this concept)  This seated shape ensures that the spine and hip joints develop properly.  The ergonomic positioning helps to shape the hip joint in our babies, which is actually soft cartilage until the age of 2.  There is so much more to this that I cannot possibly do it justice, so here are some awesome links to check out that will expand your mind…




Now that safety has been addressed, we can discuss the many different types of carriers that are available that support your baby in the proper way to provide you with all the neat benefits that babywearing brings…

Types of carriers:

Stretchy or Elastic Wrap-   I like to call these the “Gateway Carrier” because they are very popular for newborns and are most mamas’ introduction to babywearing.  Stretchy wraps can only be used for one carry on the front of your body.  It consists of a very large piece of fabric (about 5-6 yards) that is tied around your body.  Once the baby is put in, there should be at least 3 layers of fabric covering baby to hold them securely.  Once the way of wrapping it is learned, putting it on is very quick and easy.  These wraps are great for the smaller babies but can become rather uncomfortable and non-supportive after 15-18 lbs. although the manufacturers will state that they can carry a higher weight. 

Examples: Boba Wrap, Moby
 
 

Woven Wrap- Woven Wraps are the most versatile carriers on the market and are the only carriers that can truly go from the newborn stage through toddlerhood without needing any modification whatsoever. This carrier can be tied in many different ways and offers front, hip and back carry options.  Woven wraps have a long learning curve and it may take many attempts to feel comfortable with it (especially back wrapping) but the payoff is huge and there are so many ways to wear it.  Woven Wraps are probably the most classic carrier that is used in many cultures around the world and come in many colors, weaves and weights.

Examples: Didymos, Girasol, Neobulle etc.
 

Ring Sling- Ring slings are a piece of fabric laid on one shoulder to form a sling for baby to sit in and are adjusted with metal rings. This carrier offers front and hip carry options.  Back carries are not recommended.   Because a ring sling supports baby's weight only on one shoulder, this is not a good choice for anybody with back problems or sensitive neck or shoulders. Babies can be worn in front or on the hip, with hip probably being the most popular.  There are several different styles of ring slings and it is the best option for quick errands and the up and down stage of toddlerhood.  A lot of the comfort of a sling depends on its shoulder style and fabric.

Examples: Sleeping Baby Productions, Maya Wrap
 

Mei Tai- the Mei Tai is an Asian inspired carrier with a waist belt and shoulder straps sewn onto a rectangular piece of fabric. The belt and shoulder straps are knotted.  A Mei Tai offers front and back carry options.  This is a great carrier for all ages in a front carry and from about 2 months-toddler (with good head control).  These carriers offer a back carry option that is easier to learn than a woven wrap and is fully customizable to each wearer with simple ties to secure.  A Mei Tai is easy to share between Mom and Dad because of the easy to adjust straps.  There are many different Mei Tai’s on the market and some can be unsafe because of cheap materials or unsafe sewing techniques.  As with all carriers, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Examples:   Kozy, Mother and Bebe, Infantino etc.

Soft Structured Carriers- Soft Structured Carriers (SSC) are patterned after backpacks and the shoulder and waist strap are usually padded and they have buckles to secure the carrier and customize the fit.  These carriers offer front and back carry options.  Every brand of carrier varies greatly in many aspects like back lengths, crotch widths, back widths, fabric, and belt straps (buckles or hook and loop tape).  Soft Structured Carriers are best tried on with your child before purchasing and torso lengths and build of the babywearer will greatly affect the comfort.  These carriers are preferred by many Dads because of their backpack look and they are easy to share between Mom and Dad because of the easy to adjust straps.  There are many different SSC’s on the market and each has pros and cons; you have to find one that works for you.

Examples:  Boba, Ergo
 

Now that you have all of this information, you are probably wondering where to start.  How about one of our meetings or classes?  If you are local, find us here OTown Babywearers on Facebook and if you are not local, we can almost guarantee that there is a group near you!  Join the movement and have a happy worn baby!

October 10, 2011

Local Store for Baby Carriers

I am so excited to announce a new local retailer for baby carriers!

Laura at Happy Cotton Tails has been selling cloth diapers and other eco-friendly baby gear for a while, and has recently expanded to baby carriers. Happy Cotton Tails is an online store, but Laura offers local pickup in Layton. She is very accommodating and can also meet you elsewhere (if more convenient) for pickup of orders.

Currently, Laura has a big selection of Moby Wraps available, but she's also working on getting other carriers in her shop. Next to arrive? BOBA!  Right now, Laura is taking preorders for Boba 3Gs for the next few days. You can skip paying for shipping and your new Boba will arrive within a couple weeks.

That's not all. If you preorder a Boba 3G in the next few days, Laura is offering 10% off!  If you'd like to preorder, go pick out the color or print then email Laura at happycottontails@yahoo.com with your order. She'll arrange payment and pickup details with you.

What other baby carriers would you like to see at Happy Cotton Tails?  Leave a comment below with your suggestions!


March 2, 2011

Welcome!

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Most of the group activity happens on Facebook, so be sure to join us there!