Friday, February 18, 2011

Babywearing on a Budget

Let's be honest.  Carriers can be expensive, and pretty much everyone has a wishlist, right?  Before you know it, you've moved on from eying a Maya Wrap doubtfully, wondering if it would really be worth the $50, to realizing that a good carrier is truly priceless and a good investment and thinking that it sounds like a bargain in exchange for hands free cuddle time and comfort as you go about your daily life.

But no matter how convinced you may be that a good carrier is worth the money, it doesn't really matter in the long run if you can't afford it.  And, even though I think that babywearing is fantastic for you and your baby, I'm not going to recommend you go into debt to babywear!

Fortunately, there are alternatives... of course, I've sewn most of my carriers, as you can see by looking at my DIY Carrier research page, but not everyone can sew, or has access to a sewing machine.

So here are some simple, frugal, no sew babywearing options.

First, a no sew wrap.  The page I link goes into how to select an appropriate fabric for a no sew wrap, and also talks about how if simple sewing is an option, you can select different fabrics and hem the wrap.

Here I am with my then 6 month old, using an unhemmed, uncut piece of cotton 5 1/2 yards long.  I've since narrowed it and hemmed it, making two wraps from the fabric.

My guess is that each wrap cost me about $8.25, but it could be done for less if you found appropriate fabric for less.

Occasionally, Walmart craft sections will have a $1/yd section, so you could make a wrap for as little as $5.50 (depending on the width of the fabric, possibly two, although I doubt much of that fabric is wide enough for that.)  Frequently that fabric is ugly or poor quality, however- make sure you read over the page on how to choose fabrics carefully before picking!

Alternatively, many fabric stores have frequent coupons good for one cut of fabric that can dramatically reduce your cost.  Watching the sales is also a good tactic... I just got an email about a sale at Hancock Fabric 2/17-2/20 that has a few fabrics 50% off.

If you use a sturdy, non stretchy fabric, you can also learn to back carry with your wrap!  Learning to back wrap isn't always easy, but once you get it figured out it is great.  Practice in front of a mirror with a doll or teddy bear to get the hang of it, then have a spotter or or maybe practice while sitting on a mattress the first few times.

For a comfortable longer wearing period, I love doing a back carry in a wrap!  The back wrap cross carry is my favorite~ I love this version with a chest belt.

Stretchy wraps, while great for newborns (Moby Wrap review here) are really NOT safe for back carries.

Whatever fabric you choose for your wrap,  it's important to check for signs of wear regularly, like with any carrier, and make sure it's still sturdy and safe.

While a wrap is the simplest carrier to make, I was surprised to find other choices for no sew carriers!  On The Babywearer's great page on sewing and improvising baby carriers, I found a link to Jan Andrea's No- Sew Ring Sling, as well as a no sew babywearing poncho that I would love to try out myself. 

For purchased carriers on a budget, you can check consignment events (I saw a Maya Wrap at the last one I was at for about $25), the FSOT forums on The Babywearer, or buy an Infantino Wrap and Tie (their version of the mei tai) for $30.  Generally Infantino has a bad reputation in the babywearing community but it seems that the Wrap and Tie is a good carrier since many people really like theirs, and that is considerably less expensive than most mei tais. 

I don't recommend getting a cheap structured carrier like this, or a Seven Sling (check out this review), however... short term savings aren't worth it for a carrier that won't be comfortable, durable, and versatile.  As your grandmother might have said, that's "bad economy." ;)

Have you made a no sew carrier? Or know of a great tutorial for one?  What are your tips for babywearing on a budget?


Julia @ Natural Parents Network said...

Thanks for all the great links and info! I'm considering a no sew wrap for my next baby. I can't sew at all and don't have a lot of money but really want a wrap! :)

Funky Mama Bird said...

Also - ebay! I scored my Moby for $15, and a GORGEOUS handmade Mei Tai for $20. Set up a search so you get alerted when something gets listed - sometimes people buy stuff, try it, decide they don't like it and put it on ebay, so you can often score a new carrier that's been used once for a fraction of the cost.

Joni said...

Thanks for writing this. I think the selection and costs can be overwhelming for new babywearers :)

Amiyrah said...

Oh yes! Thank you so much for writing this! When I asked on twitter I wasn't expecting a whole post lol. This wonderful for frugal moms on a really tight budget like me. We saved up for the moby wrap but I was so crushed when I read that it's no good for back carries. We really can't afford to get the most recommended ones, so the no sew ones are genius!

natalie said...

You're welcome, Julia! Glad you found it helpful. :)

Funky Mama Bird - what a great tip! thanks! I didn't realize you could set up a search like that... I may have to try that out!

Joni - you're welcome! I agree... I was very overwhelmed at first and I was really worried I'd spend a lot on a carrier that was a mistake and not be able to buy another one. That was what pushed me towards DIY... I thought if I made a mei tai, I would know if it was worth the money to buy one. Only once I made one, I realized I didn't need to buy one anymore. :)(Although sometimes I still drool over particularly striking BabyHawks!)

You're welcome, Amiyrah! I wasn't sure whether to point you in a DIY no sew direction, or just suggest some inexpensive but still good carriers, so I decided to do both and put it in a post. You should be able to do back carries with the Wrap & Tie, as well as a woven wrap. Mei tai back carries are a bit easier to get the hang of, but I think I prefer wraps to mei tais for itty babies on the front. Can't wait until I have a tiny baby to wear again to try everything in my stash out on, though! :)