Buying WAHM / Handmade Carriers: General Guidelines on What to Look For

Tucson Babywearers loves that you are choosing to keep your baby close, and understand that some carriers seem out of reach due to cost and attainability (for those on a budget), or want of a custom carrier (when many of the more popular custom carrier makers are booked solid!). Many babywearers turn to local, micro-businesses for these options (otherwise known as WAHMs (work-at-home-moms), and we just want to take a moment and provide you with some general guidelines on what to look for when considering a WAHM-made and/or handmade carrier.

From the highly-experienced admin team at Babywearing 102:
“There are many fantastic work at home moms (WAHMs) who make quality baby carriers, both on a small scale and a large scale. There are, however, certain things to look for from both a safety and a legal standpoint.

First and foremost, the maker should be completely transparent about the materials and construction used and be happy to answer all your questions. Please see Jan from Sleeping Baby Production’s site on what materials are safe (and unsafe) for use in carrier: http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/fabric.html

There are legal requirements a business owner must meet, whether he or she sells one ring sling or a thousand mei tais. The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) breaks down the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) requirements every carrier maker must meet here: http://www.babycarrierindustryalliance.org/content.php?r=174-Baby-Carrier-Manufacturing-101

Questions to Ask:
■ What materials do you use? What kind of rings do you use (if it is a ring sling/carrier with a ring waist)? How many rows of stitching do you use? Be aware that phrases like “100% cotton” are vague. Quilter’s cotton, for example, is not a recommended material to use in baby carriers. Fabric comes in various weights and quality– some may be safe, some may not. Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. Ask how many layers are used. Ask what thread is used. Check the link above to Jan’s site to make sure the materials used are safe.

■ How is it constructed? In the case of mei tais and soft structured carriers, ask if the carrier is made with reinforced stitching/x-boxes and how much seam allowance they use. Ideally a carrier will have 1/2″ to 3/4″ minimum seam allowance on all seams with the body sunk into the waist 2″ and the shoulders sunk into the body 4-5″. Find out more about safe carrier construction and why x-boxes are important here: http://www.ebay.com/gds/How-to-choose-a-safe-mei-tai/10000000008833948/g.html

■ How long have you been making carriers? Please note that just because someone is new doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing. However, some WAHMs have been doing this for 15+ years and completely adhere to the highest level of safety and quality. Even an experienced seamstress might not take into consideration some safety aspects that are specific to baby carriers. A baby carrier must hold up to a lot of weight and use. It’s quite different than making a dress.

■ Are you CPSIA compliant? Do your products come with tags and registration cards with all the necessary information? Please see the link above to the BCIA site to find out specifics on the current requirements. Please note that just because someone is part of the BCIA does not necessarily mean their products are safe or compliant.

■ What is your return policy if I am not happy with the product? Look for a business that stands by their product and will accept returns within a reasonable time frame if you are not satisfied with the construction of the carrier.

Read reviews! We have reviews here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Babywearing102/doc/488323047922545/ but also check reviews on the Babywearing Retailer/WAHM group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/BabywearingRetailerWAHMReview/) as well as on TheBabywearer.com (Product Reviews here: http://www.thebabywearer.com/cgi-bin/reviews/review.pl?product and Vendor Reviews here: http://www.thebabywearer.com/cgi-bin/reviews/review.pl?vendor.All). Don’t forget to leave an honest review once you receive a product!

Final Notes: We all want a good deal. There are many reputable WAHMs out there who make safe, quality products. While there are currently no regulations on materials or construction, it’s important to make an informed decision on what carrier you use. It is not a handbag carrying your cell phone, it’s carrying your child a few feet off the ground. We are not suggesting that you have to spend $200+ to get a safe carrier. There are many inexpensive, safe options out there that abide by the legal requirements and general safety guidelines. Never be afraid to ask us if something looks safe. If we don’t know, we’ll track down people who will know!”

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us on the Tucson Babywearers Facebook page with any questions or concerns about WAHM-made carriers!!

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