Mother-made Baby Carriers

Many of the best-known baby carriers were created by mothers who still own and run the companies. This week we focus on mother inventors.

Maya Wrap sling baby carrier

Maya Wrap

Susan Gmeiner first created a sling when she was a first-time mother trying to get things done while keeping her baby close. She preferred the adaptability of a ring sling. When she created her own pattern for a ring sling, she had a hit with neighbors and friends. She’s been making Maya Wrap baby carriers since 1996.

UpMama hybrid baby slingsUpMama

Corrine Mahar-Sylvestre is a mother of two children. She used baby carriers with her babies and promoted babywearing to others. She was still frustrated by what she had available. Since 2002, she’s been creating her own baby carriers. “I became determined to create a better baby sling, something attractive to mainstream parents and easy to use correctly, comfortably, and safely. My pouch-ringsling hybrid fit the bill.”

Catbird Baby mei tai baby carrierCatbird Baby

Beth Leistensnider created her first baby carrier in 2004 when she was planning travel with her 7-month old daughter and she needed a carrier that would be very comfortable and very compact. When she made her own carriers, “people on the street were offering to buy them off my back, so I thought I might be on to something.”

Sakura Bloom baby slingSakura Bloom

Lynne Banach is a mother of two children. When her daughter was born in 2005, her sister gave her a custom-made silk baby sling. She and her baby fell in love with babywearing. She made a sling for a pregnant friend, and a business was born. Now, her sister is her business partner, and they make gorgeous silk ring slings in a variety of colors.

Scootababy baby carriersScootababy

Audra Meng is mother to two children. Keeping her first child in arms was the only way she found to soothe him, and baby carriers helped her to meet his need for closeness as well as working with her busy lifestyle. She really wanted a carrier that allowed her to carry her baby in the position that felt most natural to her, on the hip, so she applied her engineering experience gained earning her doctorate to babywearing.

Be sure to see our extended profiles of these baby carrier manufacturers:

Many baby products are created by mothers who are meeting their own children’s needs. This week we will focus on those mother inventors of products. Monday we covered Mother-made Cloth Diapers.

Mother-made Cloth Diapers

Many of the cloth diaper brands that have become familiar were created by mothers who still own and run the companies. This week we focus on mother inventors.

Bummis Super Whisper Wrap flower


Betsy Thomas is a mother of three. She was one of three mothers who started Bummis in 1988 as a “kitchen table business.” They cloth diapered their own children and created the products they themselves needed. Bummis remained a home business until it grew to large. “My husband and I home-schooled our 3 sons – and so like many business-mothers, I grew the business slowly but steadily at the same time as raising my family. It was pretty wild at times!”

Motherease cloth diapers

Erika Froese is a mother of five. She created Sandy’s diapers in 1991 then Air Flow diaper covers in 1993 to meet the needs of her own children. “Shortly after Sandy was born, I set to work to design a diaper that would make my life easier and Sandy’s more comfortable.” She started her business out of her basement until she grew the business and opened a manufacturing facility.

Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers
Fuzzi Bunz

Tereson Dupuy is a mother of three children. She created her own cloth diapers in 1999 when her son had chronic diaper rash. She built a business from her diapers in order to stay home with her children. “As the business grew, balancing everything certainly became more challenging. I decided to surround myself with good people to help me with the business so that I was still able to stay home with my children.”

Happy Heinys cloth diapers
Happy Heinys

Linda Byerline is a mother of three children. She created her own cloth diapers in 2002. When her third child was born prematurely and developed chronic lung disease, her doctors recommended that she switch to cloth diapers. She found that this decreases her daughter’s need for hospitalization and medication, but she could not find diapers that fit her daughter well. Linda created her own cloth diapers with a focus on fit and comfort.

AMP cloth diapers

Annie Marie Padorie is a mother of five children. She began to sew her own diapers in 2003 when she decided she didn’t like the feel, the fit, or the care of the diapers she bought. She tried making many styles of diapers while looking for comfort, ease or use, and ease of washing. “Some friends urged me to make some for them and a company was born.”

Thirsties pocket diapers

Erin Kimmett was a cloth diapering mother who couldn’t find a diaper cover that worked well for her baby, so she designed her own. She made patterns, cut, and sewed the diapers on her dining room table with her secondhand sewing machine. She spent a year and a half perfecting her pattern before releasing her new product in 2004.

Many baby products are created by mothers who are meeting their own children’s needs. This week we will focus on those mother inventors of products starting with cloth diapers.

The New Year for Parenting by Nature

During the past year, Eco Baby Steps has posted profiles of some of the great people who manufacture products that Parenting by Nature carries. As a New Year’s treat, I want to give you an opportunity to learn more about the woman behind both the store and the blog: Nature Mom, Tamara Champion.

Tamara Champion, Parenting by Nature

Tamara Champion, Parenting by Nature

What motivated you to start the kind of store you did, focusing on natural and attachment parenting?

I always knew I was going to use cloth diapers. I was raised with a very frugal and eco-conscious grandmother who used cloth diapers, and it seemed to me that it was the natural thing to do. I just couldn’t imagine using paper & plastic diapers on my new, precious baby. The cost of disposables, the waste that continues to pollute our landfills and the chemicals used in disposable diapers also turned me off. When I was pregnant with my first daughter 5 years ago, I searched for cloth diapers locally and found them nearly impossible to find. When I turned to the Internet I discovered a whole new world of cloth diapering with the advent of pocket cloth diapers and all-in-ones. Unfortunately these were equally difficult to find in Canada, and at the time, I had to order from a US-based company. This scenario repeated itself when I started looking for a simple baby sling that I had wanted for my new baby. These items became the first products sold through our store.

With a background in retail management, sales and customer service I had been researching business ideas that I could do from home when my new little bundle arrived. I was already passionate about the products I was looking for and it didn’t take long to realize that a ‘natural baby store’ was a perfect fit for me. Parenting By Nature was one of only a handful of its kind back in December of 2004 and today I still get excited every time I talk with new parents that are interested in using cloth diapers or looking for that perfect baby sling.

You get to talk to a lot of people about their parenting choices. Have you noticed any changes in parents’ concerns in the past year?

This past year we definitely heard more concern about the cost of raising a baby with the present economic situation. The wonderful thing about our products is that we really try to find items that go the distance and parents have started to realize that quality will outlast much of the inexpensive department store finds. While some products may seem more expensive up front, such as our Stainless Steel Sippy Cups, when you consider they can be used by both a toddler and an adult simply by changing the lids, you actually have a very economical product.

Similarly, cloth diapers can save parents a substantial amount of money, particularly when they can be passed down from one child to the next. We’ve noticed many parents are turning to cloth diapers today because of the money they’ll save. A few years ago parents were happy choosing cloth diapers because of environmental benefits or health benefits for their child. Today, an economical cloth diapering system is just as important. Two years ago pocket cloth diapers were our top selling item but today we are selling more prefolds and covers – the same products used by diaper services for home laundering.

How has your store and your blog helped you create the life you want to live?

Parenting By Nature started as an desire to bring natural, reusable products I was passionate about to more families in Canada but has turned into so much more for me personally. My original goal for the store was to bring in some extra money for groceries and necessities at home, but living on only one income (my husband’s) was proving to be more difficult than we thought. It had always been my dream to be home when I had children and Parenting By Nature helped make this dream a reality. I have an amazing amount of flexibility with the store, and this allows me to focus on what matters most. I can drop everything at a moment’s notice if my kids need me or if an opportunity comes up for our family or friends.

Working with two young children under foot is not without its challenges, but overall my two girls see a very happy, productive and fulfilled mommy. That’s very important to me. I’m also very thankful that I get to wake up every single day to a job I love. Whether it’s helping a new, confused mother wade through her cloth diapering options, or speaking with a new father that is enjoying bonding with his baby in a sling, I genuinely enjoy working with parents knowing the future of our children will benefit from their discerning choices.

When it comes to the choices you advocate—cloth diapering, babywearing, and natural parenting—what is going really well for you? Has anything only recently really clicked or fallen into place for you?

Cloth diapering seemed to come naturally for me. I was determined to make it work so that I could keep disposable diapers off my girls and out of landfills. There wasn’t any other option for us as a family. The joy and convenience of babywearing was something that came as a surprise. Before my oldest was born I knew I wanted to carry her in a sling for the first few weeks when we would go out, so she’d be close and safe. I didn’t expect to be carrying her around in the sling at home as much as I was. She was in her sling daily, for hours, and she just loved it. For me, it was such a relief to be able to have my hands free in those early weeks, so that I could accomplish chores around the house, prepare a sandwich or spend time getting Parenting By Nature up and running.

What would you like to work on in the coming year with your own family?

I’m constantly working on leading a simple, less commercial life which seems to be harder the older my kids get. The holidays are always a tough time. When I look at the number of gifts their very generous family and friends have given them this year, I wonder how I will ever teach them that there is more to the holidays than toys and ‘things’. This is my current battle and likely one I will be working on for a few years to come.

What changes do you see for your store in the coming year?

The baby I was due with during Parenting By Nature’s early days will be 5 years old in March. As she grows I’m constantly learning new ways to parent with a simple, natural approach, and I’m discovering new products along the way. Parents have told me over the years that once their child has grown past the baby stage they are at a loss for stores in Canada to support their parenting choices. I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet, but let’s just say our natural ‘baby’ store will be expanding in 2010. I’m very excited about our plans – this will be a great year.

What changes do you see for your blog in the coming year?

We plan to continue covering a variety of topics that pertain to natural parenting. We hope you’ll enjoy our articles whether you’re a new parent or parenting older children or teens. We also anticipate working with more guest blogging parents over the next year so that our readers can benefit from a diverse range of experiences. And watch for another exciting contest we’ll be launching in the Spring.

Baby Carrier Manufacturer Profile: TogetherBe / Peekaru

As we put together our Babywearing 101 guide last year, we loved the personal stories of how each baby carrier was created, usually as one mother looked for a solution that would work for her and her babies. We want to share these great stories of baby carriers with you.

This week, we start our baby carrier profiles with Melissa Radcliffe, founder of TogetherBe, which includes Peekaru baby carrier vest, Peekaru Ozone, and FreeHand Mei Tai baby carriers.

Melissa of TogetherBe

Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.

TogetherBe was started by myself, Melissa, and my husband Hamilton. We have 3 children, William 7, Nora 4 and James 18 months. We live in Denver CO and are lucky enough to work together as a family out of our home. TogetherBe manufacturers baby carriers and baby carrier accessories including the FreeHand Baby Carrier, Peekaru Original, Peekaru Soft Shell and Peekaru Ozone.

I’d love to know how the name TogetherBe and Peekaru came to be.

When we were brainstorming names for our company, Hamilton and I had pages and pages of names, but none of them felt right. One day he looked at me and said, well, even if we can’t name our company, we can still be together, maybe we should call it BeTogether, or what about TogetherBe? It just felt right!

The Peekaru was originally named Nori, after our daughter Nora. After a year with the name Nori, we discovered that Nori was already the name of a brand of clothing. We didn’t want to infringe on their copyright, so we sent the call out to our customers and friends to help us rename it. Peekaru is a play on ‘Peek A Boo’ which is my sons favorite game while in the Peekaru, and Kangaroo, which is what the Peekaru resembles.

What inspired you to become a manufacturer of baby carriers?

When my daughter was a baby, I had her wrapped up in a baby carrier while dropping my son off at preschool. We live in Denver, and it was cold out. I was wearing my husbands XL ski coat, and looked a lot like a bright orange watermelon. So, I went home, pulled out my sewing machine and created the first Peekaru. I wore it around for a few weeks and was stopped often by other moms who wanted to know where I got it. I knew I was on to something when I went into my local baby store and she practically attacked me with questions. So, I contacted a pattern maker, and lined up a sewing house, created a website and jumped in with both feet. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’m so glad I took the leap.

Melissa of TogetherBe wearing Peekaru vest
Did you ever have an ah-ha moment when you realized how much a baby carrier really does help?

I’ve had hundreds! My first son was very high needs. He wanted to be held ALL THE TIME. I loved holding him, but really needed to get things done. Simple things, like brushing my teeth and making a sandwich. I got a ring sling when he was about 3 months old and used it for hours everyday until he was 2.5! When my daughter was born, I again learned the value of a good baby carrier. Now I had to hold my baby and chase my toddler at the same time! I explored wraps and Mei Tais with my daughter and was a pro at back carries by the time she was 6 months old.

Are there unexpected ways that you have seen a baby carrier make your own life or the lives of your customers easier?

Once, I was flying alone with two kids. Our plane landed at midnight and I had 2 sleeping kids, one was 3 years, the other 6 months, to carry through the airport with our luggage. I luckily had a long wrap with me, tied them both on, one on the front, one on the back and easily pulled the suitcase through the airport. I even held the door for another mother who was trying to maneuver her stroller!