Every newbie asks it. "Why are wraps and carriers so expensive"?
In good babywearing groups, you'll get an actual answer. In bitchy groups, you'll get told "No questions about pricing" or "free market capitalisim" and possibly get deleted if you push for an actual answer. (Sorry Americans but groups that have a high percentage of US citizens tend to fall into the later)
So why are all the baby carriers so expensive?
Lets start by looking at some of the requirements of a good carrier.
If you want to carry your baby for any decent amount of time, you need to both be comfortable, and it needs to allow for optimal positioning. Which means you should keep walking past that shelf full Baby Borjn's and other Front Pack Carriers (FPC) as well as the shelf Mini Monkey's and other Padded Rail Slings (PRS)
Why? Neither allow for optimal positioning for very long. In a newer style Borjn, you can wear a newborn with correct leg postitioning, but they are going to grow out of it pretty quickly. And since most of their designs rely on shoulder straps to cary the weight, FPC's aren't fun fun to wear for extended periods of time.
Padded Rail slings, are actually fine. Just not so much for a newborn. The only newborn carry they allow is a cradle carry, which is a tricky carry to do safely. They all show newborns in a "cradle carry" on the packet. But that doesn't make it a good idea. In fact it's a very bad idea especially for newbies because of the risks of baby slipping into an unsafe position.
Most cultures around the world carry their babies upright rather than in a laying down position. Carrying baby upright comes naturally. Baby automatically pulls his legs up into the perfect spread squatting position when being picked up, in anticipation of being carried on mother's hip. Somehow the western world introduced the laying down position or called cradle carry and is very reluctant of getting away from it, even though research shows it is not in baby's best interest to be carried in a laying down position. Quite the contrary. Cradle carries are high risk carries and lack proper stimulation for baby. Correct education in babywearing is essential in keeping your baby happy, secure, and alive while being carried. Babywearingschool.com
With a non-padded ring sling you can do a heart-to-heart or chest-to-chest carry. you can also adjust both rails and the seat fully, so if you are doing a cradle carry, you can do so more safely.
So ok, that eliminates the two most commonly found options in your average baby shop. Also the two most "popular" options. I say popular in brackets, because when you only stock a small range of items, have salespeople with little or no training in correct and optimal baby-wearing and are primarily dealing with first time parents, it's kind of hard to say if something is popular or just the option that's pushed on them.
So if you are going to buy from a baby store you have 2 good options.
A stretchy wrap, or an Ergo.
An Ergo is a brand name, the style of carrier is actually a Soft Structured Carrier (scc), but at most baby shops it's the only option. You might find a Boba or a Becco, but in Australia, you'd be lucky.
So we have established that buying in store is pretty limiting. Realistically, your best place to shop for a carrier is online. On a Buy-Sell-Swap facebook page, or on a suppliers website.
This is when the price question starts to come up.
People are perfectly happy to pay $100 for a brand new Borjn from the baby shop. But when the second hand carriers are all over $100, or you're looking at more than $100 for "just a long piece of material" it seems a little wrong.
It's not: here's why.
1. Wraps and carriers are niche items. They are made predominately by small and medium businesses, by people with rare skills, and have to travel a long way to get to their owners. They are made in small batches (see the point about small business) and therefore there is high demand, especially for limited edition prints.
2. That "piece of material" is not something you can just go and buy at spotlight. A stretchy, yes.... maybe. But a woven.....NOPE! it's special fabric made by hand or on specialty equipment by specially skilled workers. Woven on looms. There is also a lot of material in them, and material is expensive anyway.
3. Social costs. Unlike the fashion industry, a lot of baby wearing vendors pay their workers and suppilers living wages. Some of these companies also do all their manufacturing in first world countries. This is a good thing, and fashion really need to get with the program, but it does make the cost seem extremely high in comparison to other items.
4. Value. Wraps and carriers sould be thought of like Jeans, or the car seat. To calculate the real cost you need to work out how much use you will get out of it. Some options you can use frrom birth to tollderhood, winter or summer. Some are more age or season specific. But if you are using it everyday, suddely $180 is pretty cheap.
5. Resale price. Babywearing goods tend to have high resale prices. In fact it is sometimes even possible to make a profit.
5.a - The Effort factor: Wraps and ring sling and anything that is a "conversion" (where a wrap has been made into a different type of carrier) require breaking in. Different types of fabric and different brands require more or less effort and time to get to wearable condition. Linnen, Hemp, Wool, and Blends tend to be harder to break in than Cotton. But some brands like Diddiymos are thicker than others, so a cotton can need as much breaking in as a hemp in a different brand. I have a Lewlewebelle linen. It was super easy to break in. The easiest of all my wraps.
t's all variable.
But second hand prices tend to reflect the amount of time and effort the origional owner has put in to making it wearable.
5b. - Supply and Demand: As I said before, small business + small releases = high demand. Sometimes this artificially increases the price. (remember the "free market caplitilisim claim) There are people who will stalk stockings and buy with the enitre intention of selling for a profit. There are other people who just go "omg I have to have it" and then decide it's not "the one" or realise that they really couldn't afford it, and then re-sell with a markup to cover their postage costs.
Presonally I think this is crap, but it's unfortunatley not going anywhere.
Then you have the limited edition prints, hard to finds, and "Unicorns". (A Unicorn is that limited edition or hard to find carrier that you would willingly sell a kidney to buy if it became availible) Prices go up because of scarcity and emotions.
And finally even for pretty basic carriers in standard prints, they are just an item that holds their value well. A lot of women with medium-large stashes have them listed individually on their insurance, they make jokes about how if someone breaks into their house or car, chances are they will leave the most valuable item. They count their stash as an emergency fund, because they can always sell something if they need to get the fridge fixed.
6. Customisation: This is where the price really jumps. You can buy an "off the rack" Mai Tie or SSC for between $100-$200, easy. But if you want a "conversion", best get second mortgage. The cost of the orginal wrap + the cost of having it made into a new carrier = an awful lot of money.
So you may be thinking, ok, what about ebay and gumtree?
It is totally possible to buy a good carrier on Ebay or Gumtree. Mostly you will find, Stretchy wraps, Ring Slings, Padded Rail Slings, Mai-Ties, Buckle/Soft Structured carriers or Front Pack Carriers. Woven wraps are uncommon. the big problem with Ebay and Gumtree though is counterfit carriers. This only happens with some brands, they have to gain a certian level of manistream visibility before the counterfits start to spring up. But it is important to be aware of, because counterfit carriers obviously won't meet the same saftey standards as the origional product. Ergo's are a commonly counterfited carrier.
Ok well what about DIY?
As I said in point 2 the biggest barrier to DIY is sourcing appropriate material. You can make a DIY stretchy with one way stretch jersy. If you can get a piece that is wide enough you will get 2 wraps out of the length, so if you go halves with a friend, it is actually relatively cheap.
A ring sling can be made out of a strong cotton like drill, or you can make a two-sided one with a patchwork/fashion fabric - the double layer gives it the extra strength. Other options are cotton gauze, linen, that basketball shorts material (for a water sling) or an old hammock that has gone nice and "floppy". You must, however order proper Sling Rings. Do not under any circumstances use craft rings. They are not designed to hold weight under tension. Thread choice and multiple layers of stiching are also important, but ring slings are a pretty easy DIY.
If you are good at sewing, you can make a DIY Mai-Tie, Buckle Carrier or Podegi. But I doubt they work out any cheaper than buying an off the rack one, unless you happen to have fabric left over from something else. You can make the majority of the carrier out of drill and add pretty fabric as a panel for the top.
Finally the cheapest way to DIY a carrier is to do an African style carry with a beach towel, or a Rebozo carry with a single bedsheet (cotton not flannel)
For more info on Babywearing Safety
Belly Belly - 4 Babywearing Safety Tips
Babywearing International - Safety
Man Tie is now out of date terminology. It came to light that this term was a bastardisation of the names of carriers from 2 different languages. The new terminology is Meh Dai / Bei Dai
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