Bali is indeed a paradise for families with young children — the locals adore little ones, there are plenty of activities for young travelers, restaurants offer children's menus, fresh fruits are available year-round, and there's even a vast sandy playground at the beach. However, as soon as you arrive, you'll realize that navigating Bali with a stroller can be quite challenging. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is not well adapted for pedestrian walks, with few sidewalks available. So, how can you get around Bali without a stroller?
This article will be helpful for parents with children under the age of 2-3, as young children cannot walk on their own for extended periods, and parents often have to carry them. Babies under a year old need to be carried all the time, which can be very tiring and restricts parents' freedom of movement. This is especially challenging when you want to take your child to a hard-to-reach waterfall with a long staircase, or on an extended excursion. Sometimes, even to reach the beach, you have to navigate a steep descent and many stairs, and pushing a stroller through the sand can be quite inconvenient.
To the store for a sling!
The first thing that comes to mind for the average person is to use a baby carrier or hip seat, and of course, to rush to a local store to buy a "16 in 1" baby seat. However, this is not the right approach. Local stores, such as Balonku, may offer a wide variety of such "seats," but they are not suitable. Neither for you nor for your child, especially for babies. The exception might be hip seats, but those are designed for older children who can already walk for short periods.
The store offers various types of carriers, ranging from budget-friendly to expensive ones. However, it's important to note that expensive and popular carriers don't always mean they are ergonomic. Additionally, they may have slings with plastic rings (which should be avoided as there is a risk of the rings breaking) and knit sling scarves, which I will discuss later. Interestingly, some carriers that are heavily marketed and very popular on the market turn out to be ordinary, expensive kangaroo-style carriers that are not recommended for use at any age.
Don't buy a kangaroo carrier because, despite the manufacturer's promises, it's impossible to position the baby in it in a physiological and ergonomic way. In such a carrier, especially in the "facing out" position but also in the "facing in" position, the baby will hang on their crotch, causing discomfort. This is not just about comfort but also about the baby's health. When the baby hangs on their crotch, there is significant pressure on the lower part of the spine, which is not yet protected by strong muscles. Even for an adult, it would be very uncomfortable to be suspended by the crotch – it resembles a form of torture, doesn't it?
It's also an uneven load on the parent's back. Most often, these devices are used by mothers. Their backs may not always be in perfect condition, and using such a "saddle" can cause significant harm to themselves.
What are the correct carriers?
All ergonomic carriers are called by one word - a sling. But there are different types. A wrap sling, an ergonomic backpack, a sling with rings, a hybrid, a Mei Tai, an Onbuhimo, a rebozo. In the right carrier, the child is positioned exactly as in the arms of a parent.
Even the hip seat, which can be found in offline stores, is considered a proper carrier (but not a sling), but it can only be used for children who can already walk since it completely lacks back support (it's often called a "hip seat"). For the parent, such a device is not very helpful either because it places a significant load on the wearer's lower back, so it's best to use it for short trips.
How to choose?
You can start looking at or even acquiring a sling during pregnancy. Begin learning how to wrap using a soft toy or pillow instead of an infant. Additionally, sling wraps or ring slings can work wonderfully for tying around a pregnant belly or postpartum belly. It's not only convenient but also quite beautiful.
Woven sling scarf
This is the most versatile option. It's suitable even for parents with back problems due to its excellent weight distribution. You can use it from birth until the end of your babywearing journey.
When choosing a wrap, you need to consider the baby's weight, the parent's experience, and the local climate. Bali is a hot and humid island, so it's recommended to choose wraps made of 100% cotton or blends such as cotton/linen, cotton/hemp, cotton/silk, cotton/bamboo, or custom blends of these components. "Bali-friendly" wraps should be thin, airy, and breathable.
Handwoven wraps are excellent for the heat, although they are usually more expensive than machine-woven ones. They are worth the investment as they can comfortably carry both a newborn and a heavier baby in most cases.
What size scarf should I choose and how should I wrap it?
The recommended size for wraps is typically in the range of 4 to 6, depending on the height and clothing size of the parent, in order to use lighter and more breathable wraps. Taller and broader-shouldered moms and dads may opt for size 7. The choice of which wrap to use depends on the child's age and skills, as well as the circumstances (for example, if you plan to wear for an extended period or if you'll need to rewrap).
Wrapping is not difficult, and you can learn by watching YouTube videos. It's worth trying a few times, and if you encounter difficulties, Bali has a wonderful community of moms who can help you master this simple skill. Beginners are advised to start with the basic Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) – it's relatively simple and suitable for newborns.
There are also knitted wraps, which are woven using a specific technique that provides good stretch. These wraps can be used from 3.5 up to 6-7 kg of baby weight, as they tend to sag significantly after that weight limit, which doesn't provide good support. For Bali, we do not consider these wraps since they can become very hot for both the mother and the baby due to poor thermoregulation, and they require wrapping in multiple layers. We only recommend woven wraps.
The advantages of a woven wrap are that it's versatile – it naturally takes the shape of both the mother and the baby, and you don't need to adjust anything as the baby grows. There are woven wraps suitable from birth to the end of babywearing that can be thin enough for infants and sturdy enough for toddlers. However, these are usually premium brands, but you can use a single wrap for the entire babywearing period. If you decide to purchase a budget wrap, thin wraps and single-layer carries are suitable for newborns, and later on, you may need to switch to a more supportive wrap for a toddler or wrap in multiple layers for better weight distribution.
Choosing an ergonomic baby carrier, like an Ergobaby carrier, requires more consideration because it has a structured design that needs to fit both the baby and the parent comfortably. Unlike a wrap, it doesn't need wrapping, and with practice, it can be quick to use. However, it's highly recommended to try it on before purchasing, as different brands may have variations in their designs. The carrier should fit perfectly, similar to a tailored evening dress. This is especially critical for newborns, as they need to be snugly attached to the parent's body along the entire length of their back.
Usually, major brands provide video instructions on YouTube, so make sure to watch how to adjust and wear the carrier. Despite its apparent simplicity, it's possible to position the baby incorrectly or misunderstand the purpose of each strap. If needed, you can also seek help from a babywearing consultant.
Baby carriers can be categorized into two types: regular and adapted. Regular carriers are for babies who can sit without support, while adapted carriers are for non-sitting babies. You should inquire with the manufacturer/seller whether the carrier can secure the shoulder straps under the baby's bottom – this is how the straps should fasten for non-sitting babies. Additionally, the carrier should allow for adjusting the width and height of the back panel. When the baby is correctly positioned in the carrier, they should maintain the M-position (knees higher than the hips, the back slightly curved), and the carrier's fabric should provide support from knee to knee.
Here is a list of brands that offer backpacks for newborns (babies weighing around 5 kg who cannot sit independently). This list is not exhaustive but quite extensive.
- Didymos Didysnap
- Fidella Fusion Baby
- Kokadi Flip
- Easy Top (Suitable for even low-weight and premature babies)
- Multi Top
- Multi Top Wrap
- Baby Top Pro
A mei-tai is something in between an ergonomic backpack and a wrap sling. Like a backpack, it is sewn according to a pattern but does not have buckles or fasteners; it is secured by tying the fabric, similar to how a wrap sling is tied. It's a very handy tool when the right size is chosen, as you can easily and quickly position the baby in it. Consultants recommend using such a device starting from when the baby is two months old.
Ring slings have their own features and nuances. However, after a lesson from a babywearing consultant, you will easily and quickly learn how to put on and adjust such a device to your liking. You can also learn from instructional videos on YouTube. Ring slings can be used for short walks with newborns, but they are more comfortable and practical for children from one and a half years old who want to be carried one moment and then run on their own. A ring sling does not require constant wrapping and unwrapping; you simply need to loosen the rings, and your child is ready to go. If your child gets tired, you can sit them down, adjust the sling, and continue walking. It's good to have this option as an additional carrier for short-term use. The load is on one of the parent's shoulders, so it's advisable to switch shoulders every 15 minutes. Ring slings are also very convenient to use on an airplane.
Onbuhimo is similar to a shortened backpack carrier but without a waistband. It is designed for carrying children who can already sit independently on your back. Onbuhimo originated in Japan and is well-suited for parents who have lower back issues. It's also a good option for pregnant individuals as it doesn't exert pressure on the abdomen. It's very convenient, quick, and easy to use.
How to dress a baby under a sling?
In a hot climate, it's essential to have a layer of clothing between the parent and the child to prevent direct skin-to-skin contact, which can lead to both you and your baby sweating and feeling sticky. You can use thin muslin shirts or simply place a thin cloth or blanket between you. Another option is for the parent to wear a T-shirt made of natural fabrics while leaving the baby in just a diaper. The choice is up to you, but the key is to have something thin between you and the baby. Backpack carriers with mesh for ventilation (which are often made of synthetic materials) are mostly a marketing feature. The main heat comes from the contact between the parent and the child, not from the outside. Is it hot with the baby in the sling? It's not hotter than simply holding the baby in your arms. Don't forget to put a sun hat on your baby, keep them hydrated (as well as yourself), and avoid direct sunlight.
Rules for wearing in a sling
- We only carry the baby facing the parent. Carrying the baby facing outwards is not recommended. In this position, the baby doesn't have the option to turn towards the parent and make eye contact, which can overload the baby's nervous system and affect their vision. Despite any claims by the manufacturer, it's impossible to position the baby ergonomically with a rounded back when facing outwards. This method of carrying is also uncomfortable for the parent as it doesn't distribute the weight correctly.
- The wrapping should be snug without wrinkles or sagging on the baby's back. The baby should be snug against the parent, and the M-position in the baby's legs should be maintained. All edges should be properly adjusted. The baby's face should not be covered with fabric, and it should not be pressed into the parent's chest. The baby's nose should be out in the open. You can cover the baby's head with a hat or the hood of the carrier, but not with a part of the wrap or carrier itself.
- The baby should only be positioned vertically, on the chest, on the hip, or on the parent's back (depending on the baby's age and abilities). The horizontal "cradle" position is not safe and carries a risk of suffocation. It should only be used in cases of medical contraindications for vertical carrying and under the guidance of a babywearing consultant.
Where can I buy?
You can purchase wraps and carriers for carrying children on Bali, but if you have the opportunity, it's better to bring them with you or ask someone who is traveling to Bali to bring them for you. Usually, in Europe and CIS countries, there is a wide market and a variety of options for both new and used wraps and carriers. On the island, you can find used wraps from Indonesian moms on the online marketplace Shopee.com. There are also local Indonesian brands that produce wraps and carriers, but they may not be of the best quality. It's recommended to buy imported ones for better quality.
There's no need to be afraid of buying used wraps and carriers. In fact, the fabric tends to become better with use—more flexible, pliable, and softer. Used wraps and carriers may also have a slightly lower price. You can even resell your own wrap or carrier later on. When getting a used carrier, be sure to inquire about how many children were carried in it and how often. Check all the fasteners and straps, as the hot and humid climate, saltwater, and intense sunlight can be harsh on the hardware.
For example, the cost of a budget brand 100% cotton wrap on the secondary market can range from $30. Mid-range wraps can be purchased from $60 to $100. High-end wraps (premium quality) can range from $150 to several thousand dollars, depending on the brand, composition, and rarity of the item.
Occasionally, as they get dirty, wraps and carriers need to be washed. Never take them to a local laundry service, as they are likely to be damaged. How to wash them depends on the fabric composition. Some wraps can be machine-washed on a gentle cycle with a water temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, using a liquid detergent and no fabric softener. Dry them on low settings. For more delicate fabrics (especially silk), only gentle hand washing is acceptable.
Here are some simple summer wraps for a sling scarf that are suitable for both newborns and older children:
3. Rebozo Carry (for a short scarf, hip carry from 4 months old, newborns only in a front carry)
4. Simple Backpack Carry (for a medium-length scarf, suitable for experienced babywearers or babies who can sit
5. Ring Sling Carry (horizontal position not recommended without specific indications)
Here is the translation of the quote by Olga Pleskan, Chairperson of the Board of the Non-Profit Organization "League of Sling Consultants":
"Sling and ergonomic carriers are reliable helpers for parents. Parents can travel, do household chores, simply go for a walk, and stay active. But there is another huge advantage of baby carriers: they are beneficial. Frequent contact between parent and child is needed for both sides. It helps to form a healthy attachment, and as the baby grows, they will eagerly explore the world on their own. Carrying contributes to the proper development of the baby's hip joints, vestibular system, thermoregulation, and even speech. Carrying is also beneficial for parents: they become more involved in raising their baby, feel calmer, and are more resilient to stress."
The article was co-authored with Elizaveta Rudyak.
Review by Lera_Petrova:
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