Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Catbird Baby Pikkolo Review

The following review was written by guest blogger and fellow"Attached Mama" Susan Scantland Littleton

I was really excited for the opportunity to try out the Catbird Metropolitan (solid black) Pikkolo from our babywearing group's local lending library. My experience with SSCs (soft structured carriers) was zero; I’ve been using wraps since my son was born. So this gave me a chance not only to try a new SSC, but also to try a whole different form of babywearing. 

 The Pikkolo is designed to be ergonomic for front-facing in and front-facing out carries as well as back carries. As there are few carriers that allow ergonomic facing out, this will be an appealing feature for some wearers. Catbird advises facing out will be less comfortable after about 20 lbs., but I found it surprisingly comfortable with my 25 lb. 10-month-old. I wouldn’t want to carry him that way for long, but my son seemed to enjoy the new position for the twenty minutes I had him in it. By the end of that time, my back was protesting.

While designed to be ergonomic with knee-to-knee coverage, my 31 in. boy’s legs were dangling a bit. I had a friend with a slightly smaller one-year-old try on the carrier for comparison, and it was still knee-to-knee on her daughter. It certainly provides a closer to ergonomic fit than a narrow-based carrier, but my son seems to have outgrown it relatively early. It’s designed for carrying 8 to 40 lbs., and I felt no back pain carrying my son in either the front, inward facing position nor in a back carry. The padded straps are cushy without being overly bulky, and the chest clip is easy to clasp in both front and back positions.

During the two weeks I borrowed this carrier, I used it for lots of chores around the house, some 60-90 minute walks, and for errands. I appreciated the ease with which I could get him up and comfortable, compared to how long it takes to achieve a supportive carry in a wrap. My son always seemed comfy, and I never had to worry about him “popping his seat” the way he can in a wrap. It’s not possible to get him up as high on my back as I can with him wrapped, even buckling the waist belt directly under my breasts. He likes to see over my shoulder, and if he can’t, he tries to lean down under my arm. He was secure enough that when he leaned around my side to see what I was doing, I didn’t have to worry he could go anywhere, but it made me off balance.

Overall, I think the Catbird Pikkolo is a great option for the first year of babywearing. It may not fit as long as a Tula or a Kinderpack, but it’s also a less expensive option. The ability to forward face will be really appealing from babywearers crossing over from narrow-based carriers as well as those with babies who are only happy facing out. I was impressed with how it felt, even with such a big baby. Because of the size, I won’t be purchasing a Pikkolo for this baby. But it did make me think an SSC may work for us someday, and it’s definitely one I would check out if I were shopping for a smaller baby. 

NOTE TO READERS FROM CATHY:   Catbird Baby VERY generously donated the carrier used in this review to the community's local lending library in exchange for a fair and honest review.   The opinions expressed in this review are the author's own and have not been influenced by the donation.  I wish to thank Catbird Baby for their generosity.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Baby K'tan Review

The following review was written by guest blogger and fellow"Attached Mama" Samara Sauls  
I recently had the opportunity to review the Baby K’Tan with my baby, who is 3 months old.  I’ve been curious to try it, since the K’Tan is advertised as essentially being like a wrap, without any wrapping.  While I am rather new to the wrapping scene (but I love it), I have been using soft structured carriers (SSC’s) and ring slings for several years, so I was curious to see how the K’Tan compares to my experiences with other carriers.
Simple design
Easy to transport
No tails, buckles or rings to hassle with
Easy to put on/take off                 

Thin fabric isn’t the most supportive
Sized – only fits one body size
Limited in carries

Simple Design & Transport
My initial impression of the K’Tan can be summed up in a word: minimalist. It is comprised of 2 thin, stretchy pieces of fabric held together with a loop, and an additional “sash” of the same material. Cleverly, the sash also doubles as a carrying bag. The K’Tan is easy to throw into a bag and transport; while many carriers share that fact (such as a ring sling), others can be a mess of buckles, tails and straps, and may not come with anything to store or carry them in (but this is easily remedied with a simple drawstring bag, like a shoe bag). The double-function sash-and-bag feature, combined with the simplicity of the K’Tan’s design, is appealing.
Of key importance is that K’Tan is that it comes in sizes. It suggests to size down if you are between sizes, which I did. While the sizing is necessary for such a design, I do think it is a negative aspect as well, because the carrier can only be used by another person of the same size, whereas SSC’s are generally adjustable for multiple people to wear baby (such as both moms and/or dads), and wraps are completely versatile and customizable. I found sizing down to be the right fit for me, though I cannot imagine it would grow well with my baby, even with the stretchy fabric.
Easy On/Easy Off & Supportiveness
Putting on the K’Tan looked a bit confusing, but a quick look at the website provided easy instructions, and I proceeded with the “Hug” position. My tired baby quickly fell asleep. At 15 lbs, he is a big baby for his age, but I still felt fairly supported in the carrier. (I do think if I had a smaller baby I might find it not quite supportive enough and too stretchy – mine fits pretty snugly.) The thinness of the fabric does make it a little less supportive than I’d like, and so while it was comfortable, it was not enough for me –the ring in the back that connects the loops also prevents the fabric from being completely spread out (to distribute baby’s weight and maximize comfort, which can be done with a wrap).  It also lacks the padding of SSC’s or the width of wraps, and I doubt I, personally, would find it comfortable for a child much larger than mine. (I did see someone at the zoo recently wearing a much bigger child, so maybe it would be fine!) However, he slept happily in it, and I did not really get sore the way I do with a ring sling. It is also extremely easy to take off, which not all carriers are – a fact I appreciate when baby wakes up crying and I need to get him out right away.
While the sash was convenient doing double-duty, and is “required” for certain holds as added security and support, I actually found it to be pretty pointless as far as my experience was concerned. I can see the safety aspect of it – if my baby were older and arching away from me, the extra fabric tied around will help keep them safe. I did not feel any extra support from using it, though...maybe that comes into play later.

Conclusion: great for some, but not for me
In sum, I found the K’Tan to be moderately to very comfortable and easy to use, with a basic design that makes it quite appealing as a cross-over carrier, if you can accept some limitations. It’s a good option for those who are fine with the limits and cannot purchase multiple carriers, who do not want to deal with the learning curve of wraps, the buckles and straps of SSC’s and mei tai’s, and want something more physically balanced than a ring sling. But, while I think it is a great hybrid carrier, it will not replace, or be added to, my existing stash. I still find wraps to be more comfortable, and I appreciate the versatility of them, which, for me, makes the trial and error of learning worthwhile. While both SSC’s and the K’Tan are limited in the types of carries that can be used, I find SSC’s more supportive, and they’re usually adjustable; I don’t like that my husband could not use the K’Tan. I also feel my ring sling is far more supportive for a big baby with its silk fabric than the stretchiness of the K’Tan, and is just as easy to transport. Thus, I am happy enough with my current stash to not add the K’Tan – but I’d likely buy it for a friend as a shower gift, since, while limited, it encompasses many good features from several types of carriers.

NOTE TO READERS FROM CATHY:   I am lucky to live in a community with a great babywearing support group!  Our support group offers free help and support to caregivers wishing to learn how to wear their babies.   It also offers a lending library of carriers where people can try a carrier out before they buy.  Baby K'Tan VERY generously donated the carrier used in this review to the community's local lending library in exchange for a fair and honest review.   The oppinions expressed in this review are the author's own and have not been influenced by the donation.  I wish to thank Baby K'Tan for their generosity. 

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