We chose to save money by starting Sprout in a convertible car seat from day one instead of an infant bucket seat (like this one). [Most convertible seats are rated for babies as small as 5 pounds, so yes, it is perfectly safe.] The great thing about the infant bucket seat, though, is the ability to take it out of the car and have a place for baby while you are out. The simple solution is to just carry your baby in your arms, right? Yeah… easier said than done while trying to push a grocery cart at the same time.
The Researcher in me started hunting down the Perfect Baby Carrier Ever so that I would be able to go shopping with Sprout without bringing an assistant along. Of course, the Perfect Baby Carrier Ever doesn’t exist, but I found one called the Moby Wrap. The appeal: simple (unlike carriers with buckles and straps), completely adjustable (unlike fitted wraps), comfortable (weight is carried across your entire back, not just one shoulder as for ring slings), and hands-free (if worn properly, of course). The Moby Wrap is a very, very, very long piece of fabric that you wrap around yourself a certain way to create a pocket or seat for your little one. That’s it. No buckles, straps, or rings. I watched a lot of videos and read a lot of instruction lists, and the wrapping method seemed easy enough.
But the Moby Wrap (the most popular version of this type of baby carrier) is so expensive. We’re talking around $50 for some fabric and a tag! Uh, no, thank you! I scoured the vast Internet for instructions on how to make one of these things myself. I came across this tutorial, and followed it pretty closely to make my wrap. I spent about $15 on 3.5 yards of ribbed knit fabric and matching thread. That’s a more reasonable price. Here is my wrap (excuse the messy hair and awkward smile… I wasn’t sure how much of my head was going to be in the shot.):
It finished at about 5 1/3 yards long (yes, 16 feet… I told you it’s a long piece of fabric…) and 11 inches wide. There is a 28″ taper on each end that tapers to about 3″. When compactly folded, the wrap is a bundle measuring 11″ by 7″ by 3″. It is too big to carry as a staple in the diaper bag, but definitely small enough to take along in the car for day trips. I happened to have a small mesh bag that it mostly fits in to keep it contained.
The wrap actually went through three stages:
1) I stitched the center seam and tapered the ends, creating a 7-yard-long wrap with unfinished edges. I did this before Sprout came along and held off on finishing so that I could get her in it and see if I really needed the whole 7 yards.
2) It turned out I did not actually need a wrap 7 yards long, so I did some trimming and tapered the new ends. The wrap was then 16 feet long, but still with raw edges. This was OK to use because the fabric is knit and would not fray, so I used the wrap a few times around town.
3) I discovered I didn’t need the full 23″ width, either. (The fabric was 46″ on the bolt; I bought 3.5 yards, cut it in half lengthwise, and stitched those two pieces together to get the initial 7-yard piece.) The fabric is very, very stretchy, and the excess width was bunched up under my arms. I decided I only needed half that width. So, I stitched the wrap into a tube. This created a double layer of fabric only 11″ wide.
I haven’t taken her out in this final version yet, but I have worn her around the house and find it much more comfortable than Version 2.0. So far, I like wearing her and am not regretting our decision to forego the infant bucket seat.
What I Like About the Wrap
1. It is comfortable. Her weight is carried across my entire back and shoulders.
2. It is hands-free, mostly. If she is sleeping, I can tuck her head into one of the side panels. If she is awake, I do have to support her head with one hand.
3. People do not touch her. I have seen people pet the hands and feet of babies in car seats, but no one is bold enough to try that when baby is strapped to momma’s chest!
4. She is comfortable. She usually falls asleep very quickly when in the wrap because she is near me and being bounced by my steps.
5. I don’t have to drag a heavy car seat in and out of the car.
6. This wrap would fit virtually anyone, should they want to carry her. I don’t see Nate ever using it, but if he did, it would fit him, too.
What I Don’t Like About the Wrap (& wearing baby in general)
1. The wrap is comfortable in air-conditioned places, but pretty warm to wear outside. I have to make sure to dress Sprout in fewer layers of clothes so that she does not get over-heated.
2. It is a lot of fabric. I know I look quite silly as I’m maneuvering a massive quantity of fabric around myself. I have not yet had to do this, but it would be difficult to put the wrap on while standing in a parking lot, for example, without the ends dragging the ground. To get around this inconvenience, I put it on before I leave the house so that when I arrive at the store, I can just slip her into it. I wear it while driving between stores, too.
3. The wrap looks unconventional. Sometimes people give me funny glances or do a double-take as they walk by. I have had people tell me they didn’t know what it was until they got close enough to see her face. A baby carrier of any kind is especially unconventional in Small Town, USA — I’m sure those in the Big City are more accustomed to seeing babies being “worn.” [I have received a lot of positive comments as well, usually to the tune of: “I wish I had something like that when my babies were that young!” and “Oh, she does look cozy, doesn’t she!”]
4. Bending, stooping, and lifting heavy objects are all more difficult while wearing her, as is probably obvious. Although, I have wrangled a 50-pound bag of dog food from the bottom shelf into my cart, and then from the cart into my trunk, by myself while wearing her. Maybe determination is a key factor here…
5. Putting on and tying the wrap properly takes some practice. I felt pretty confident with the process after using the wrap a couple of times, but that was after watching probably a dozen instructional videos.
6. I have to transfer her between her car seat and the wrap. Sprout is a pretty complacent baby and does not usually object to being moved around a lot, so this hasn’t been a problem yet. Getting her into the wrap will usually wake her up and cause her to fuss a little, but once she is settled in and I start moving, she quickly goes back to sleep.
I plan to use this wrap at least until Sprout is big enough to sit in the seat of a grocery cart, so probably 6-9 months. Let’s hope my DIY-version lasts that long!