October 4, 2007

Dude Buys The Only Non-Girly Sling On Etsy.

I remember being completely floored when I was walking down the street in Amsterdam, and right there in the store window was--a male mannequin wearing a grey pinstriped suit with a matching baby sling. Since I was kidfree at the time, I just tried to block it from my mind.

Which was too bad, because as soon as I entered the baby sling demographic myself, I realized that 99.9% of them were paisley shawls for Mother Jones-subscribing earth mothers. [not that there's anything wrong with that, of course...]

From the sound of this email from Mark, things are changing, but ever so slowly:

We just had our first baby last week and I have been looking to get a sling to carry the little guy. After looking at a number of different sites, I got kind of discouraged as it seemed most slings are made for women (aesthetic and fit).

Then I went to Etsy.com and found a woman in WA that makes custom sized pouch slings. She has some cool fabrics and literally made the thing in 2 days. She was a real pleasure to talk to and I thought the price was really fair. Her username on Etsy is drewbabydesigns and her name is Beth.

Mark's right. And in fact, only about 59 of Beth's 63 different fabric options for her custom-sized baby carriers are "fun" flowery fabrics. Here's a sueded moss-colored option, for example.

In other totally [un?]related demographic overlap news--and I use the term "news" very loosely--Etsy's browser icon is confusingly similar to The Economist's:

etsy_economist.jpg

slings, custom-sized, $20-25, Drew Baby Designs' etsy shop [etsy]
Previously: Malkmus seemed to be doing alright with the khaki sling; Tibetan dad rocks the yakskin sling, sorta

10 Comments

My sling is a pretty cool fabric

Unfortunately, the woman I bought them from has stopped selling them.

I give all my baby-having friends Kangaroo Korner slings, in black or gray. They're super-minimalist, and, even better (at least to spazzy me), you don't have to have weird Earth Mother chakra instincts to know how to wear/adjust them. It's just, stick baby in slot-A, call it.

My husband used to call our barn-red winter fleece one the baby bandolier...

[which is actually the trademark of Baby Bandolier, LLC. Expect a call from their lawyers now... -ed.]

Um, nice search?

www.hotslings.com has some prints that work for guys--my husband has an olive green sling from there.

As you well know, it's all about having a market. There are still dads out there who categorically state that they'll NEVER use a baby sling (shocking I know but I met a few this weekend at the PDX Baby Expo). However, in the last couple of years there's been growing interest for more baby "wearing" options for male caregivers -- grandpas and big brothers included.

Hotslings has plenty of solid-colored and some gender neutral-patterned pouches (and their hemp pouch is unbelievably soft). Kangaroo Korner is great for solids and they're easily adjustable for sharing by parents who are of similar build.

Silly Goose Baby also has an Etsy shop and they have bandanna, classic cars, motorcycle, plain denim, tie-dye, and striped mei tais. I have a custom she made for us with a circular saws-print fabric that always gets a positive reaction from dads I know. And it's super-comfortable for when my heavy 3yo and I go on our many public-transit adventures, *so* much easier than lugging around a stroller for when my kid gets tired.

Gypsy Mama wraps is currently developing two designs with dads in mind, one a camo print and another a more Asian tattoo-inspired pattern. And Vatanai, a Czech company, is also making woven wraps in dad-friendly patterns. The Ergo is also an option for dads, although I find it too bulky and not adjustable enough for my taste (plus it doesn't fit my husband), so I prefer the Beco, MamaByDesign, TenToes Click, Yamo, Moshi, or the new Pikkolo if you're going the "structured" carrier route. Changes are happening guys, you just need to know where to look!

Greg, you should check out new shop Metro Minis there in NYC (821 Park Ave.); I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the options available to you for this next baby.

I personally don't care if the sling is covered in skulls or racecars and has a label on it in 50 pt. letters that says "THIS IS A MANLY SLING!", it's still not gonna shake the earth mother image - especially those ones with the big sashes and buckles. But even the made for your size / no frills variety. Anyway, our daughter outgrew my wife's sling after just a few weeks and never liked it (she was too cramped in there, and got hot and sweaty being stuck next to mom). I have an ergo for myself when we need to walk, but even then the thing provides no head or neck support and we both end up all hot and sweaty.

Dude, there are plenty of guy-friendly sling/carrier options out there if you spend a bit of time looking. ;) And if more dads start wearing their babies, I'm sure the carrier companies will take heed. At the moment the primary market for those companies are still women though, so you can't blame them for catering to the ladies. :)

But almost all the big brand name carriers out there have some selection for us color-averse guys. ;) Check out Hotslings, Kangaroo Korner, Peanut Shell, Maya Wrap, TaylorMade Slings, Moby Wrap, Patapum, Kozy Carrier, Babyhawk, to name just a few. I've owned a lot of carriers over the years and none of them are pink, psychedelic, or earth mother types. ;) Check out some pics in my Babywearing for Dads article: http://www.thebabywearer.com/articles/WhatToO/Dads.htm

But honestly, I think some guys just find an excuse not to wear "that thing" if they can help it. A lot of babywearing moms go to the trouble of looking for a man-friendly carrier for their partners on forums like TheBabyWearer.com, only to realize afterwards that the guys still won't use it. I guess it's an image thing? Me, I'd rather use a comfy carrier to carry the baby and have my hands free to do other stuff than worrying about what's gonna happen when the baby doesn't wanna nap in the stroller, how I'm gonna cope if my wife leaves me alone with the baby for a few hours, how I'm gonna do my work and take care of the baby at the same time, etc. 'Cause in my 5 years of having worn my babies, the baby will ALWAYS sleep in a carrier even without the boobs and there are plenty of comfortable carriers out there that don't break your back past 4 months and don't scream "harlot" to passerbys. :)

And re: baby not liking the sling comment, the reason there are so many different baby carriers out there is b/c different things work for different ppl (both baby & wearer) at different times. I would highly recommend looking for a babywearing group near you and attending a meeting to try out different carriers to find the best one (s) for your needs. Or feel free to email me and I'll do my best to help. :)

Cheers!

For the record, I was being more than a little sarcastic and ironic, which is probably hard to capture in written form, on a message board.

While I'm at it, a few clarifications:

- I have no problem "coping" with my 16-month old kidlette when my wife leaves me alone with her for a few hours. I spend entire weeks alone with her when my wife is out of town on business, and have done so since shortly after she was born.

- I'm in touch with my feminine side and don't feel insecure wearing a sling, even if it's pink with little hearts and roses on it (although not even my daughter owns anything that's pink with little hearts and roses on it).

- I've tried about four or five different kinds of slings, including many of those mentioned above. I still find slings to be both uncomfortable and a bit annoying, because they lack enough back support, they are often too complicated, they cause the baby and wearer to overheat (maybe it's just us), they tend to put the weight on one side, and they are hard to get in and out of (for both baby and wearer).

- I'm sure there are people who find them quite comfortable, and good for them. In fact, the proof is that slings are one of those things that have an advocacy movement. "Babywearing", as it's called, seems to be one of those things like "co-sleeping" that tends to get people fired up about. Why don't strollers have an advocacy movement (well, I mean besides Greg!)?

- I'm not the slightest bit interested in treading into a debate about the benefits of babywearing, co-sleeping, or anything else.

To chimay: I apologize if you found my comments offensive or condescending. You're right, it is hard to capture feelings online. I'm certainly not trying to start up any kind of debates about parenting choices. I truly believe that parenting choices are very personal. You have to do what's best for you and your family. Babywearing just happens to be something that works for ME and my family. If you have tried it and found it just doesn't work for you, then I totally respect that.

I find that the process of choosing the appropriate baby carrier akin to shopping for clothes (hmm..maybe that's why many men don't like it?). If the only shoes available in my local stores are Reeboks and that's what everyone around me wears and I find them uncomfortable for my feet but don't know any other types exist out there, then I probably end up thinking shoes are uncomfortable and end up wearing sandals or go barefoot instead. But if a stranger comes into my town wearing Nikes and I happen to try them on and they fit me a lot better than Reeboks, I'd probably go "Wow, shoes CAN be comfy! I just need to find the right kind that fit me." The problem with good carriers currently is that most are not readily available locally unless you happen to meet someone who can help you choose the right one for your needs, or you spend the time to do the research yourself. And many new parents just don't have the time to do the latter.

Best of luck to you!
Cheers.

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