Baby wearing is an increasingly popular trend for new parents and one style of baby wearing attire was created right here in Yadkinville. Maya Wrap is a brand of ring sling fabric baby carrier designed to allow mom or dad to wear and hold their baby close to their body while having their hands and arms free.
Many cultures have long histories of using fabric or other materials to create a sling or wrap allowing for hands-free holding of a child.
“There are cultures all over the world that have been baby wearing forever and that’s just how they do things,” said Maya Wrap creator Susan Gmeiner. “In Africa, they have just a big piece of cloth and put the baby on the back. People grow up knowing how to do that. In Guatemala, the indigenous people baby wear a lot, too.”
Gmeiner has called Yadkinville home for 17 years now and it is where she first began making her own ring sling baby carriers. She first used a ring sling she purchased from a graduate student while living in Canada. When Gmeiner’s second son was born, she reached for her old ring sling and decided she could make her own version of it. Her husband then suggested she make them for other people and sell them.
“I never planned to become a businesswoman, and if anybody had ever told me I was going to grow up to make baby carriers, I would have laughed at them,” Gmeiner said.
At first, Gmeiner said she used fabric from a discount store. At the time, Gmeiner’s father traveled frequently to Guatemala with the Rotary Club. She began having him bring back fabric from artisans in that nation to use to make her ring slings. She found this hand-loomed style of fabric perfect for her creations. The company soon outgrew the amounts of fabric her father would bring back, so she reached out the Guatemalan Embassy to find a company to work with to create the material for her product.
“We’re still working with the same company today,” Gmeiner said.
The hand-loomed fabric works well for the ring sling, she said, as it has more give to it than a machine-loomed material.
Gmeiner began her business during the first years of the internet and she said thanks to the world wide web, baby carriers have become main stream in the US with a variety of styles available.
“So many of the great baby carriers that are available now were made by moms who decided they could do something better than what they found in the store,” she said. “Baby wearing really took off and now there are a lot of great baby carriers in the big box stores as well.”
Styles of baby carriers range from stretchy fabric wraps that are tied around the body to backpack-style carriers that can be worn on the front of the body or back when the child gets bigger.
“There are so many options for baby wearing out there,” Gmeiner said. “A lot of moms who are into baby wearing have more than one style.”
The ring sling carrier is great for quick in and out baby carrying like running into a store. Parents also may put their baby into a ring sling to keep the child calm and close to them as they do tasks around the house.
“I used a ring sling with both of my children, from birth until they were too heavy to carry. It allowed me to go anywhere and do whatever I needed to do while keeping my hands free and my babies happy,” said Mary Keller. “My son preferred to sleep whenever he was in the sling, but my daughter always wanted to see what was going on. Another benefit to the sling over some other baby carriers is that you can position it in so many different ways.”
Small business owner Kelly Dougherty gave birth to her first child in June and has become a frequent user of her Maya Wrap ring sling.
“I have used it for going out into the garden, harvesting herbs, working in my soap studio, selling at the farmers market, and making dinner,” Dougherty said. “I use it most when I go grocery shopping or to the store since Ruby is the most comfortable right there close to me. Sometimes when I noticed she is a little fussy I can put her in the wrap and she will be asleep in minutes. Once you get the hang of it, I love how easy it is to throw on and get her in there and settled. It feels much faster than my other carriers with all the straps and adjustments.”
Baby wearing provides a great many benefits to baby and parent, provided they are used properly. As with all baby-related items, safety is key.
Gmeiner’s work didn’t end with just creating a baby carrier, she’s has also been instrumental in establishing safety standards for baby wearing. She is a charter member of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance and a founding member of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee for the Sling Carrier Standard and has chaired the task group on infant positioning.
For more information on the Maya Wrap, visit www.mayawrap.com.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagam @RippleReporterK.