Monday, June 24, 2013

Babywearing on a Budget

Like anything related to babies, babywearing can be expensive.  There's nothing like surfing the numerous babywearing swap pages to give any newbie sticker shock.  But never fear my friends, babes have been worn long before the advent of wrap conversions and babywearing swaps.  Today, we are going to give your our best tips and tricks for babywearing on a budget.

Let me start by saying, 75-80% of the wraps and carriers are sold at or close to their legitimate cost.  Wraps by Girasol, Didy, Natibaby, etc. are all specially woven for babywearing.  You cannot walk into JoAnns or Hobby Lobby and buy the same fabric.  Mei tais and buckle carriers made from wraps (Wrap Conversions or WC) have to include the cost of the wrap plus the cost of the carrier.  For instance a $150 wrap used to make a $150 carrier would legitimately cost over $300 when shipping was including.  Now... having said that, there are also other factors that go into the price of a wrap or carrier.  How limited the supply and high the demand, how sentimental to the wearer, etc.  On the far end, there is babywearing as art and collecting.  These are handmade, extremely limited and usually go for well above the price of the material and time required to make it. 

However, just because wraps and carriers legitimately cost $100-$300+ doesn't mean one can't babywear on a smaller budget.  Is a $1,000 Bugaboo stroller better than a $120 Chicco?  Yep.  Will the Chicco do the job?  Yep! Do you need a $1,00 stroller to push your kid around?  Nope!  Just like you don't need a $1,000 Obimama Mei Tai, but gosh they sure are pretty!!

Infantino Sash

This is probably my favorite budget carrier!  It's well made, easy to find, and reasonably priced at around $35.  I've even seen them at consignment shops.  I got the library's for $10 at consignment.   

Action Baby Carrier

Action Baby Carriers (sometimes called ABCs) makes a simple soft structure carrier that starts around $80 new for the older prints.  I know folks who love them and folks who hate them.  But they are a good option for those on a budget.  

"Last year's" model on a FSOT board (i.e. BBII, Boba 2G, etc)

Babywearers are always looking for the next big thing.  Which means carrier companies are always coming out with what they hope is the next big thing.  But they can't make an infinity number of carriers so that means the older ones get phased out.  Those carriers usually fetch a smaller price upon resale.  For instance, the Boba 2G (one of my all time favorite carriers, and better than the 3G in some respects, IMHO) can go on the swap boards for anywhere from $50-$80 if you don't mind stalking the swaps and moving quickly when one is listed.  The Beco Butterfly II (BBII) is the same way.  A new version has been released and so the older ones are going for about the same range.  And sometimes "old" is even better than new since carriers often soften up with use and may even come with sleepy dust from the past owner if you're lucky.  If you're looking for used carriers, try The Babywearing Swap on Facebook, FSOT Boards on The Babywearer and sometimes you can get lucky on Craigslist.  

DIY Osnaburg Wrap or Ring Sling

Osnaburg is a type of fabric that's easy to find and quite affordable, usually running around $3 a yard.  If you have a sewing machine and the ability to (or you know someone who can) sew a simple hem then you can make your own wrap or ring sling.  There are plenty of folks in the group who have made their own, so if you decide to try it then let us know.  We'll give you all the details.  We also plan to write some DIY posts soon.  Until then, just ask here in the comments or in the Facebook group.

Basic Ring Sling

Ring slings are one of my favorite carrier styles, and one of the reasons is because they can be quite affordable.  Basic cotton ring slings from Zanytoes for instance start at about $40.  And I love that unlike stretchy wraps, ring slings can be used on into toddlerhood.  So for about the same price you can get many more months if not years out of a carrier.  There are a few tricks that make the difference between loving a ring sling and cursing it as you chuck it out the window, so if you have any problems let us know, and we can help.  We'll also be posting a blog dedicated to the tips and tricks of ring slings later.

Pouch Slings

I have a special place in my heart for pouch slings.  I stumbled on one at a local consignment store that just happened to fit Lily and me perfectly.  We used it for months and it lived in our diaper bag for the longest time as the back up carrier.  Pouch slings are easy (once you know a few tricks) and quite affordable.  However, it is extremely important to get one that fits in order for it to be safe.  A pouch sling that's too big can be very dangerous. Although it sounds like a great idea, I'm not a fan of adjustable pouch slings.  They just don't tend to work the same as a good ol' fashion simple circle of fabric pouch sling.

Babywearing International of Charlotte Membership

Another great way to babywear on a budget is to join BWI Charlotte.  Membership cost $30 a year and gives you access to our lending library of carriers.  You could borrow a different carrier every month for the whole year for just $30.
Infantino Union/Balance

Infantino sells a couple of different carriers that are considered "ergonomic" (i.e. they have a wide base that keeps baby's hips and legs in a wide "m" shaped, comfortable position.  We have a couple in the lending library for people to try out.  I've tried them and have to say that they have very little support compared to a Boba or Ergo or Kinderpack, etc.  They would work for smaller babies and/or short periods of time but I was crying uncle at Target with my 25 lb 2 year old after 15 minutes.  I'm listing them here for folks to know about, but I wouldn't say I recommend them.

Lastly a word of caution.  As I general rule, I do not recommend Ebay and Etsy and I caution folks about Amazon.  Ebay and Etsy are like the wild west of babywearing.  With a few exceptions, you really don't know what you're going to get.  Additionally, there were strict safety regulations that went into effect at the beginning of the year concerning all baby carriers. All the major babywearing makers comply (Boba, Ergo, Beco, KP, Tula, etc.), but it's hard to know if sellers on Ebay and Etsy meet those standards.  Since not everything is actually sold by Amazon, it can be hit or miss as well.  There have been a lot of problems with fake Ergos being purchased off Amazon.  So, just know what you're getting.  And most of the time, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  It's much better to rock an Infantino Sash mei tai that has been safety tested and certified, than a knock off ergo made in goodness knows were, by goodness knows who, to goodness knows what standards!

So what are you favorite budget babywearing tricks?  Any we missed?


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What does it all mean...

Now that we've introduced you to the new group name and the freshly minted Volunteer Babywearing Educators, I'm sure a lot of you are wondering what all this means. Well before I go any further I want to let you know one big, huge, majorly important thing that will always stay the same.

Our group (no matter what the name) will always offer meetings free of charge to anyone and everyone who would like to come!  We will always be focused on advocacy and support and we will never be a members only club.  No dorky '80's jackets, secret handshakes, or money will ever be required to attend a meeting.

So, what does it mean?  Well, one of the biggest advantages the leadership team saw was a sense of legitimacy that being associated with a national organization would bring to our group.  We have big dreams of working with healthcare professionals, the health department and other organizations to further our goal of making sure every caregiver we can possibly reach is aware of the benefits of babywearing as well as the support and encouragement our group provides.  We believe that having the backing of a national organization will help us in that endeavor.

Being able to have members certified as Volunteer Babywear Educators (VBEs) is another advantage.  Although we firmly believe that a safe, happy baby is the highest accomplishment, there are certain settings where letters behind your name go a long way.  It's also a great way for folks who want to expand their skills and challenge themselves to do so.  And a VBE isn't the only step.  You can bet some of us are already looking at the next level we can achieve.

Babywearing International takes care of all the paperwork involved in being a non-profit and also carries insurance that covers the VBEs while they are working in that role.  They advocate for babywearing on a national level and offer support to the individual group leaders.

One of the most fun parts though will be International Babywearing Week (IBW).  This is in the fall and we will start planning here very soon!  IBW is an entire week, sponsored by BWI, where babywearing groups from around the world come together and celebrate.  There will be a theme and and carrier companies have been known to donate carriers and accessories to the lending libraries. 

So... that's what Chapter status means for the group, what about you?  Well, the main thing BWI asks of the Chapters is to encourage their members to join the national organization which is a yearly fee of $30.  As many other Chapters have done we have decided to make borrowing from the lending library a benefit of membership.  So, instead of paying $5 each time you check out a carrier, you'll be able to pay $30 for the whole year.  Think of it as 50% off.  If you checked out a carrier every month for a year, that would be $60.  Now you can check one out every month for only $30.  And half of all membership dues stays right here with BWI Charlotte!!! So, the more members that join, the more carriers we can add to the library!!!

I want to make it clear that we will always have the library with us at meetings and the carriers will always be available to look at, play with and try on!  Only the procedures for borrowing carriers has changed.

Hopefully you guys are as excited as we are!!  There are great things on the horizon.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Drum roll please...

Charlotte Babywearers is now officially Babywearing International of Charlotte (BWI Charlotte). But what does that mean? Well Babywearing International, Inc. is a national non-profit babywearing organization who's mission is to "promote babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with benefits for both child and caregiver, through education and support." Having the backing of this national organization will offer our group many advantages which we'll explain more about in another post, but this evening I wanted to point out one of the requirements for becoming a Chapter.

Before BWI will grant a group Chapter Status, the group has to have at least two leaders who have obtained what's called their VBE or Volunteer Babywear Educator certification. It includes both a written application and an in-person or skype skills assessment, and requires a well rounded knowledge of all the major carrier types and safe babywearing practices. BWI Charlotte is amazingly lucky to start off with not only two but four VBE's.

Ann Jordan, VBE

I am a mother of a 3 year old son named Connor and 1 year old daughter named Anna. Our family lives on a small farm just outside of Charlotte. I have been babywearing since Connor was about 4 days old. I have a beco, that my husband primarily uses, a few ring slings, and several woven wraps. Wrapping has enabled me to keep up with the chores around the farm while bonding with my babies. As Connor got older, he spent a lot of time in on my back learning about farming and livestock care. I am passionate about babywearing and love to educate new moms!

Katy Elwood, VBE

I'm Katy. I've been babywearing since my 2 year old (Lane Henry) was a couple weeks old. I love babywearing for many reasons. I like that it allowed me to get up and do stuff when my son was an infant. It allowed me to channel my frustration from other parenting things I wasn't so good at into something I knew I could do and something I was actually good at. Currently we (my husband and I) are still "toddler"wearing on a daily to weekly basis. While we stick to mostly buckles, I do enjoy an occasional wrap job. My strengths as a babywearer are wrapping, soft structured carriers, and SAFE DIY Babywearing. I made my first Mei Tai when my son was around 8 months old. Since then I've made countless Mei Tais and Ring Slings with the occasional DIY woven osnaburg wrap. My weakness as a babywearer is I churn through wraps and carriers like crazy! I'm recovering and currently own only a single Toddler Kinderpack.

Cat McDonald, VBE

I'm Cat and I have four children....oops I mean three but hubby counts as one because he doesn't clean up after himself. ;P I have a 14 yr old diva who is a freshman in high school, I wore her in all sorts of awful contraptions back then probably all recalled now and none of them comfortable. I have an almost 4 year old son who has complex medical needs (Mitochondrial Disease). He has a feeding tube and wears continuous oxygen he also gets weekly subQ infusions to boost his immune system. I started wearing him when he was a squish and at 36 lbs he still likes to be worn in my toddler tula at times. I also have an 18 mos old son who also has complex medical needs (suspected Mitochondrial disease) he has a feeding tube. I started wearing him when he was a squish and at 20 lbs I still wear him in the tula and also use my shortie in a rebozo. I'm the proud owner of a growing case management agency (Footprints Case Management) so I work around 80 hours a week;) totally not exaggerating. 

Bonnie Stafford, VBE

And finally, I'm, Bonnie.  I'm honored to be the mama of a lively, curly headed, little ball of awesome named, Lily.  I've been babywearing since we came home from the hospital. We started out with a stretchy wrap which literally saved our sanity during her colicy stage. Then my husband went back to school in the evenings when she was 6 months old.  I truly have no idea how I would have survived without the Boba I borrowed from the lending library all those months ago.  Lily is now a little over 2 years old and we "toddler" wear on a very regular basis. My personal goal is to make sure that as many parents as possible know about babywearing and those that choose to wear have the resources and support to be successful at it. My babywearing strength is soft structured carriers.  I love them!  I try to stay on top of what's coming out, how different ones fit and the benefits and drawbacks of all the different designs.  Although I also have a soft spot for squishies in a rings sling.  My major babywearing weaknesses is that I hoard like crazy.  I've yet to let go of a single carrier I've ever acquired.  Makes me a good library curator, though.

As a team, we are excited to lead this group to even bigger and better things than we have already seen.  However, as we celebrate these new adventures and the new VBE's we don't want to lose sight of the fact that this is a mama helping mama (parent helping parent) group and it always will be.  One of the things that makes our group great is the cumulative knowledge and experience all of our members possess.  Always feel free to share your experience whether it's at a meeting or at Target.  You don't need a VBE to be a babywearing advocate!

And if you think you'd like to be a VBE, please let us know.  Our group is growing by leaps and bounds and we are going to need as much help as we can get in the next little bit! Don't feel like you have the knowledge?  That's ok.  If you have a passion for babywearing and the motivation to learn, we can teach you!

A huge thank you to each and every one of you.  We wouldn't be the group we are without all of you and us VBE's are excited to see where we are headed together!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Beginning

I would like to formally welcome everyone to the newly renamed Babywearing International of Charlotte, formerly known as Charlotte Babywearers.

We are still the same community of awesome parents looking to promote babywearing in our community and support other wearers, just even more awesome and with the resource of a great national organization behind us.

Look for some great things to come here as well as on our Facebook and MeetUp groups.