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?