My first memory of babywearing was back in 1983.
I was 4 years old, so clearly, it wasn’t me who was doing the carrying. Our helper then was a motherly lady from the Philippines who had joined our family that year my sister was born. She would gather my sister in an ordinary bed sheet, lift her onto her back, knot the ends of the sheet in front of her chest and set about doing the housework with baby on board. It was simple, fuss-free, efficient and cost next to nothing.
How times have changed. 28 years later when I had my first daughter, I faced a confusing array of babywearing options: cloth pouches, ring slings, wraps, soft structured carriers… how was a new mother to know what would work best for her and her baby?
Through trial and error, of course.
3 carriers and 3 babies on, I was no closer to finding the perfect carrier:
The cloth pouch made the baby bend awkwardly. It didn’t help that the pouch, made from non-stretchy material, came in fixed sizes so my ‘L’ sized buy hung too loosely away from my body once I lost the pregnancy weight.
The seemingly-simple ring sling turned out to be fussy with its long and wide swath of cloth. Just last month, I was struggling to get daughter no.3 comfortably settled into the sling with help from my mum, who commented that I looked like an inexperienced new mother bringing her firstborn out for the first time. Humph. Plus, bearing the baby’s weight on one shoulder felt unbalanced and uncomfortable – as if my poor mum-bod wasn’t aching enough as it is.
The padded soft structured carrier was too hot to don comfortably in our tropical weather. The 2 older girls and I sweated buckets in it each time. Gross. In any case, it wasn’t suitable for carrying newborns in unless we padded it up further with an infant insert – which would have made us even hotter. Also, it was awfully bulky. With 3 kids, your arms are clearly insufficient to carry the carrier when its not in use and I don’t even dare toy with the idea of stuffing it into the already overstuffed diaper bag that is threatening to vomit its contents onto the sidewalk.
Wraps – never had the guts to try them. They looked awfully hot to wear and the complicated instructional videos on how to just set up the wrap even before putting the baby in made my eyes glaze over by like, step 3 (out of many, many steps).
And c’mon, let’s admit it – toting your infant around town in a bed sheet is not very fashionable.
In summary, after close to 4 years in this motherhood gig, I was still a noob at babywearing – something that should be as natural as how our helper went about it in the early ’80s. And yet, with 2 rambunctious older (but still very young) kids, I needed to master babywearing more than ever. Being able to carry a third kid hands-free so that I could hold on to the other 2 would be, well, handy.
I was mulling over shelling out $300 for a semi-padded cloth carrier that came highly-recommended by friends when Bubsicles was invited by Happy Coast Kids to experience the Baby K’tan (pronounced ker-tahn).
I tried the Baby K’tan for a couple of weeks and here’s what I love about it:
You wear it by slipping it over your head and arms like a t-shirt. No complicated wrapping. No layers and layers of material. No painful knots digging into you. No extra cloth dangling down your body. No fiddling with adjustable straps to get to that perfect length. No fumbling with clasps or worrying about the baby brushing against scratchy buckles.
(2) Even weight-distribution on mother and hands-free carrying
The baby’s weight is well-distributed across both your shoulders and upper back. No strain on your lower back. The Baby K’tan really allows you to go hands-free, which I really appreciate when I need both hands to zip up little jackets, unscrew lids on water bottles, dole out wet wipes, retrieve items from my bag, clean dirty mouths and snotty noses… the list goes on (and on and on).
(3) Soft, strong support for baby
The soft, stretchy material supports the baby securely and comfortably, especially at the head, and yet offers room for the baby to breathe safely.
(4) Multiple ways for carrying babies and toddlers up to 15 kg
I experimented with the Kangaroo (legs in) and Hug (legs out) positions for the infant. At less than 2 months old, she showed her clear preference for the angled Kangaroo hold by squirming down from the original upright position until her cheek rested on my breast – almost like when nursing. I guess it’s probably more comfortable and secure resting your head against your mama’s boob when you’ve got a still-wobbly neck. I’ll try again with the Hug position when she’s able to hold her head up better.
(Safety note on cradle positions: Make sure your child’s airway remains open at all times while babywearing. The best way to do this is to keep him or her in an upright position, high enough on your body to monitor breathing and ensure that her chin is off her chest. Babywearing International recommends that infants only be held in a horizontal or cradle position while actively nursing (if desired) and return to an upright or vertical position as soon as they have finished. See more safety guidelines for baby wearing here.)
Since my older girls are both less than 15 kg, I hijacked them after their morning bath before school today and gave the Hip position a try. They were intrigued and secretly happy to give the Baby K’tan a go despite initial protests of “But I’m not a baby!”
Although both girls are petite for their ages, their legs are too long and tend to hang down towards the ground – instead of across my waist so that the fabric covers the child’s entire thigh right up to the knee. Still, the hold felt snug and secure enough, especially with the younger girl (she’s shorter), and helped provide some support instead of having her whole weight concentrated on one side of my hip. It’s easy to put on and take off the Baby K’tan on a standing child, which is great because we all know how toddlers can vacillate 1,001 times on a single outing between being carried and running loose.
(5) Light-weight and breathable
The Baby K’tan is essentially 2 loops of cloth. That’s it. And yet, it’s enough to contain your baby and spread over your shoulders when you want more support, or coverage in air-conditioned malls.
To store, simply drop into the accompanying drawstring pouch – that cleverly doubles up as an additional support band when the carrier is in use.
I opted for the Baby K’tan ACTIVE in pretty coral. The breathable, quick-dry material promises to wick away moisture and produces a cooling effect, so no sweaty baby or unsightly wet patches on the pits, back and cleavage for mummy. While I didn’t attempt to test the Baby K’tan’s (and my) limits by wearing it out in the hot sun, I did wear the baby in it on a lovely walk around Gardens By The Bay on a cool evening and loved that we didn’t sweat one bit under all that cloth. If the carrier does get yucky from sweat, drool and sticky kiddy what-nots, simply toss into the washing machine for a quick wash and dry. The Baby K’tan ACTIVE air-dried in less than a day! What’s more, the Baby K’tan ACTIVE offers UV protection by blocking out harmful UV rays before they reach your baby’s tender skin.
Baby carriers can cost a pretty penny. Priced between $89.90 and $99.80, Baby K’tan is more affordable than many of the brands and models out there. I’m glad that the $300 carrier I was considering had been out of infant inserts when I was shopping online, which made me hold back what would have been a really expensive purchase before I discovered Baby K’tan.
I love wearing my babies in the Baby K’tan ACTIVE and feeling their warm, fuzzy, little bodies resting close to me. Its clever design makes it easy to put the baby in and take her out without any need for additional help – making me more confident of babywearing when I’m out on my own. The littlest always falls into deep slumber in the Baby K’tan and stays asleep throughout – even after I transfer her back into the car seat.
The only minor downside is that the Baby K’tan is sized to fit the individual wearer, so it can’t be adjusted to suit daddy if he wants a turn at carrying the baby. You can refer to the sizing guide below or the sizing tool here to gauge what size Baby K’tan you should be wearing. I stand at 1.58 metres and wear UK size 8 to 10, and am using an XS Baby K’tan.
Baby K’tan is so unique that I’ve had curious strangers approach me to enquire about its eye-catching design and where to purchase it. Baby K’tan is available online from Happy Coast Kids and the following retailers:
- Thomson Parentcraft @ Thomson Medical Centre
- Maternity Exchange
- Agape Babies
- Nursing Muslimah
- The Birth Shop
And that’s a wrap (or not :P)!