Monday, April 27, 2015

A Look Into Traditional Babywearing with Asian Inspired Carriers

Asian Inspired Carriers

Different types: Pod, Half Buckle, Onbu and Mei Tai

Many people often stop me in public, as I'm sure it's happened to you, and say such things like, "Wow! What a great idea!" or "How'd you think to wrap them up in a sheet like that?" or, "I wish we had things like that when my kids were little".

While it may be true that Babywearing items seem way more accessible lately in our modern culture than say 20 years ago, we are by far not the first to invent such as idea.

Even long before the 1900 century parents would wear their children in different types of shawls, furs, scarves and yes, even bedsheets. We've known since the dawn of time that Babywearing is needed to get things done.

This blog is going to concentrate on Asian Inspired Carriers which have been groundbreaking in terms of many of the modern day carriers we see today in the United States as well as many other countries across the globe.

Mei Tai's 

This Mei Tai is fitted to make a nice Newborn Carrier 
Mei Tia's (pronounced "May Tie") are the most common Asian Inspired Carrier found in other countries. They originate from China and are a very traditional carrier. They consist of a square or contoured body, two straps that make the waist ties and two very long ties that come from the shoulders to make the shoulder straps. Some Mei Tai's have padded straps at the shoulders, some have wrap or wide straps and others have thin straps.

Here is a video on doing a Mei Tai carry in a basic front carry and here is a second that then shows how to get baby from a front carry to a back carry using the "hip scoot" method.

One of the reasons why Mei Tai's are one of the more common options is because of the ease of using the carrier. To put on the Mei Tai you put the waist band around your "Natural waist" allowing the body of the carrier to drape down, upside down or "apron style" put the baby onto your body making a seat with the body of the carrier that was tied around your waist and then pull the shoulder straps onto your shoulders, over your shoulder, make an "X" by crossing them across your back and then go under baby's bottom to either tie off or cross around then tie in back.

A Mei Tai carry has an unstructured body so it is very floppy and moldable. There's many ways to modify it for smaller to larger babies. For a small baby you can roll the waist a little to shorten the body height and use a scarf or tie around the body to cinch it smaller for a little baby. Some Mei Tai's even have built in body cinching! For a larger child you can pull the straps farther out to give better coverage and keep them in a nice supported position. 

Newborn perfectly fitted into this Mei Tai 

Another reason so many people love the Mei Tai is because you can accommodate multiple sizes of wearers in one household with one carrier easily. With some carriers, like a Soft Structure Carrier once you have it set for one wearer's body its burdensome to change it to another's. I've heard it compared to driving a car. Once you have your seat, wheel, and mirrors all set, no one wants to have to re-do after someone else drives it. With a Mei Tai there's no need for this because its always able to just be picked up and put on.

There's some variations of the Mei Tai that are easily available as well. Some of those options are
Ring Waist: This is a Mei Tai that instead of having the typical tie at the waist, instead has a ring closure system. They function much like a ring sling in how they are adjusted. The top straps are still the same long straps.
Half Buckle: A half buckle has Mei Tai straps or Wrap Style Straps at the top but at the waist has a buckle closure system. Many people enjoy not having two sets of straps to worry with tying. The Half Buckle typically has padding and some structure in the waist and therefore is not put on apron style and can not be rolled or cinched.
Example of a Half Buckle 

Toddler Sized Half Buckle

Reverse Half Buckle: A reverse half buckle has the traditional tied waist straps but on the top has buckle style shoulder straps, much like a back pack.
Full Buckle: This is debatable on if it falls into the Mei Tai category but there's a few 'hybrids' on the market now that have a very unstructured, floppy bodies like the Mei Tai and even get put on "apron style" but have buckles at both the Waist and the shoulders. The Connecta is one of the most common variations of this style.

Podaegi or "Pod" 
Great even for big kids! This is my five year old. 
 The podaegi or commonly referred to "pod" is one of my favorite carrier options. It is much like a hybrid between a Mei Tai and a Wrap and originated in Korea. It has a long "blanket" for the body of the carrier, a padded head rest and straps that function the same as the Mei Tai Straps. Some are Mei Tai style and some are wrap style. The biggest differences is the lack of the waist band and support in the waist area but because Pods often have much longer shoulder straps than the Mei Tai, they can still be tied off at the waist to provide that support.
5yo, 2.5yo and 4 month old in the same pod 
Pods are a great option for all size wearers and all size babies. The photo to the side shows the same carrier with my five year old, almost three year old and four month old. Just like the Mei Tai there is no need for confusing adjustments with different wearers and because it can be tied off several different ways and does not have the waist belt it can accommodate a large variety of wearers body types. 

I found it to be one of the most comfortable carrier options while pregnant because there was nothing in that area. 

A pod can be worn in many different ways as well. Front carries with different tie offs (torso carry is my favorite with a newborn! Front Wrap Cross Carry Style, ruck strap style and more) in a back carry in both torso style, ruck strap style, and many more as well as a hip carry if so desired. They fold down very small and are very versatile. 
Pod Back Carry Video
Newborn Front Torso Carry Video  

Photo my 5 year old snapped showing
her younger sister (2yo) asleep on my back
with a big baby belly 

Pod with a newborn in a torso carry 

Hmong Baby Carriers are very similair to the Pod.  

Onbuhimo or "Onbu" 

View of the Onbu "Flat"
 The Onbu is a very fun option that has a square Mei Tai style body, two rings at the bottom and two Mei Tai style shoulder straps and was designed in Japan post war era. To put the Onbu on you go under babies arms with the straps, thread the straps through the rings and then tie off (in several different variations. 

An Onbu is generally made for an older baby that can sit unassisted, has good body control and is made primarily for back carries. Some experienced wearers can do front carries with smaller babies and there are a few that are made smaller for smaller babies. Generally the body panel of the Onbu is fairly wide and large for bigger babies/toddlers. 

The Onbu offers very quick up's and down's which is another reason that they make a great toddler carrier. Toddlers like to wander and walk but do get tired often. 

Some commercially made Onbu are now being made with buckles instead of the rings and Mei Tai style straps. Those can be even quicker to get on and off then even the traditional variation. 


To wear a smaller baby you have to be careful to close up the gapping in the sides of a traditionally sized Onbu. 

Otherwise, an Onbu is worn the same as a Mei Tai, but with no waist straps. 

They fold down very small and can be tossed into diaper bags easily. 

I use an Onbu as my "emergency car carrier" because its so durable, easy and I can wear any of the kiddos needed. :-) 

I hope that some of these options might appeal to you. They are some of my favorites! There are, of course, many more options out there but I chose to discuss the most popular and easily accessible to our area.
Happy Babywearing!

Tandem Wearing in the Toddler Half Buckle
and a Woven Wrap 
Nursing in the sunshine in a Mei Tai
Front and back view of a Pod in action 

Monday, April 13, 2015

April Member of the Month

April Member of the Month
Kathleen Melton

Our First Member Renewal! 

BWI: Okay, so I'm still working on my coffee here What are you currently doing this lovely morning?
Kathleen: Coffee here too. A morning must

BWI: Indeed
So tell us a bit about the little person/People that inhabit your home with you
Kathleen:My husband and I have a 15 month old son, Eden. He's our first child and the absolute light of our eyes. He's very curious, happy, friendly, and loves people.

BWI: Very sweet! More to come (potentially at some point) or Eden the one and only?
Katleen: Definitely more to come But for right now, we have our hands full with Eden

BWI: hahaha 15 months, yes, I completely understand So tell us what got you into babywearing? How did you discover it?
Kathleen: I kind of always grew up around babywearing. My mom wore us in slings and snuglis (wish I had pictures!) and my sister introduced me to the Moby wrap when her daughter was born. I had a Moby with my son when he was a newborn, and began researching woven wraps shortly after. I was a little intimidated and so overwhelmed with my options that it took me a few months before I made a decision, but once I bought my first woven wrap, I've never looked back.

BWI: In what ways do you think the discovery of Babywearing has either changed or helped your parenting journey?
Kathleen: I cannot imagine not having babywearing as part of our lives! In the beginning, my son was a very fussy and "colicky" and was only ever happy if he was being held. Babywearing allowed me to make dinner, go grocery shopping, or get housework done. Now that's he's older and walking, it helps me when he's grabby and getting into everything, and sometimes it's the only chance he gets to nap!
It also helps that I don't have to lug a huge, heavy stroller around!

BWI: I completely understand all of that! You mentioned a woven wrap, Is that your preferred carrier?
Kathleen: Yes, wovens are my favorite. I also have a Tula, which I like and we use for quick or short trips. And my husband likes to use the Tula
Although he apparently doesn't mind wrapping either! 

BWI: What do you think of this "Tula in the Wild" craze? Has anyone TITW'd you?
Kathleen: Haha no, no one has TITW'd me yet! I'm not quite sure I'm brave enough to do it to someone yet, but my husband always jokes about it!

BWI: haha So what about the woven wrap makes it your favorite?
Kathleen: So versatile! There are so many carry options, good for squishes up to toddlers (and beyond!) A good, tight carry feels so secure and weightless, and Eden loves it! And a great wrap job is just so beautiful

BWI: Do you feel like your family and friends support your babywearing choice?
Kathleen: Oh yes. My husband and sisters don't understand why anyone would "need"
more than one wrap. Haha but they definitely support babywearing.

BWI: hahaha yes common whoa of the babywearer Any funny babywearing stories you'd like to share?
Kathleen: There was this one time I ran into a coworker at the store and we stood there and chatted for about 20 minutes. Apparently she hadn't noticed Eden sleeping on my back because when I turned to leave she said "whoa! You have a baby on you!"

BWI: haha that's funny! We always like to have a little bit of brag time on our little ones. Whats your favorite thing your little one is up to these days?
Kathleen: He is loving stacking blocks and playing catch. He gets so proud of himself and it's just too cute

BWI: That's such a sweet age. I love watching them learn and explore. You're our first official Renewing Member with BWI of Knox! Which we are very excited about. Tell us about why you decided to join us again for another year and a little about your experience with BWI Knox in the last year
Kathleen: I've had a great experience over the last year! It's been really fun to watch the group grow from so few to so many! I've enjoyed checking out carriers from the lending library and I love going to mom's night out

BWI: Well we are very glad to have you and glad to have you back! If someone was considering joining but not decided, what would you tell them after being a member for awhile now?
Kathleen: I think it's great that the meetings are open to everyone, and there are always helpful tips and advice. But the lending library is an invaluable resource! Especially as the library grows! Wraps and carriers can get pretty expensive, especially if you're not sure it's love for a certain carrier. The library gives you the chance to try numerous things, at a very budget friendly cost.

BWI: Love it, we may need to put you in a volunteer marketing position 
Kathleen: I do want to reply to the people that talk about how babywearing will "spoil" or say "your baby will never walk!" Eden is so very independent and he definitely walks! Babies are meant to be held close. They need warmth and comfort and there is NOTHING wrong with that! They won't want to be held forever, so enjoy the baby snuggles
"Spoil" your baby
BWI: I love that closing advice!

Showing us how happy her little Eden is to be worn! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring Cleaning April 2015

By: Anna Hurley, VBE & Librarian
It’s that time of the year again! April is the month where we open our windows, scrub the baseboards, and set out the summer clothing. Have you ever thought about a spring cleaning routine for your carriers, also? Most of us use suck pads and spot clean our carriers when the baby spits up but submerging our beauties in water can be a bit intimidating. Hopefully this blog post will leave you with a feeling of confidence when it is time to scrub out the yuckies!

Cleaning your carriers:

You should ALWAYS check the manufacturer’s recommendations when washing a carrier. For instance, the Ergo and the Tula are the same type of carrier - soft structured carriers. The Infantino Mei Tai and the BabyHawk Mei Tai are also the same type of carrier. BUT, just because they are the same type of carrier does not mean they can be washed in the same way. Ergos require hand washing with mild detergent as do the BabyHawk MTs, while Tulas can be washed on the gentle cycle using cold water and mild detergent, as can the Infantino MTs. It is important to follow manufacturer guidelines so that no warranties are voided in the case of an accident. If you are using an older carrier that may not be manufactured anymore it is always better to err on the side of caution and hand wash the carrier with cold water.

Some wrap fibers can be washed in the washing machine on cold or warm. The exception to this is wool which should be hand washed in lukewarm water. There is a picture attached that describes the specific wool washing technique that needs to be followed. It is also recommended to wash bamboo by hand in cold water. One thing to remember when washing wraps is that one should follow the recommendations of how to wash the WEAKEST fiber if the wrap is a blend. There is a little saying that “hemp loves heat” but in reality heat can be damaging to a wrap if the material is both hemp and cotton. Here is a breakdown of wrap fibers from strongest to weakest: 
hemp, cotton, linen, bamboo, silk, wool. Therefore, to wash a wrap that is 75% hemp and 25% cotton you should follow the wash routine for cotton since it is a weaker fiber than hemp.
More information about washing these fibers can be found on a table near the bottom.

Wool can be intimidating but with a picture guide you shouldn't let
intimidation stop you from being wool curious!
Cotton in the washing machine  
Jenny's woolie getting a scrub down in the tub

When drying your carriers you should check manufacturer recommendations. Most padded carriers should be air dried so that the padding does not twist or shift. Wraps are different and pending the fiber are okay to be dried in the dryer on low heat. Linen is a material that can be over dried. If this happens the carrier will begin to feel brittle and dry out. When this happens it is no longer safe to use this linen carrier. When in doubt, as always err on the side of caution and air dry your carriers. 

Once your carriers are dry (especially the wraps and Asian style carriers) it is a good idea to iron them to keep them from permanently creasing along the rails, but again, follow the material’s guidelines for heat/steam.

Sometimes carriers will have a laundering code like this one on them. At the bottom there is a link for learning how to read these codes.

Storing your carriers:
Most people have different ways of storing their carriers based on what works for their families. Some larger stashes are kept inside duffle bags or stackable containers. Others are stored on shelves in closets. I’ve even seen full walls with shelving and hooks dedicated to the carrier stash! One thing to remember while storing carriers is to keep them out of extreme temperatures and sunlight. This is because leaving carriers in extremely cold or hot conditions could compromise the integrity of the buckles since they are not safety tested for use after sitting in a 115 degree car all day. The sunlight can also fade the color of your carrier which is not as much a safety issue as it is a resale value issue. Keeping carriers in safe places away from pets and unforeseen accidents like water leaks can save a lot of heartache and money in the future.

Maintaining your carriers:
*Immediately spot clean any mess on your carrier
*Fold wraps instead of braiding them for long periods of time to reduce permanent creasing
*Periodically check for shifting or broken threads in your wraps and wrap conversions
*Periodically check the stitching on your SSC, RS, MT, Pod, etc ensuring that they are sturdy
*Always use a recommended detergent (link provided)
*Never use essential oils on your carriers

Important links:

A Guide to Washing Fibers (From BW 102)


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

First Anniversary Open House

Our chapter celebrated our first anniversary with a fabulous event for our group. On Saturday March 21st we took over the back room and tree house play area of Remedy Coffee in the Old City. Such a fun space and we had an amazing turnout!

Our lending library was there in all it's glory for our guests to browse before we opened it up for check outs. Old and new members were excited to try something new! And our volunteers were there to help! 

Many members of the community donated some wonderful items for our silent auction. Most of them were babywearing related, some were even made by members of our leadership. We also had a few vendor tables setup as well to showcase and sell their wares. 

We had a local photographer doing babywearing minisessions. And one of our leaders, Carrie, even raised money by letting us smash a cream pie in her face!!  After all was said and done we raised $1800 for our chapter!! We couldn't have done it without the support of our members and leadership! It was a great success and so much fun! A great way to finish out our first year!!