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Sunmi Cha is a Canadian originally from Korea. I was privileged enough to be invited into her home and hear her story. She wore her siblings growing up, to read about it click here.
What is it like to start babywearing again?
I was actually surprised that there’s a school of people that invest themselves in all these wraps. I did not know much about it.
I have watched a Korean documentary called Secret of traditional parenting.1 It was talking about how good it is to wear their baby. So the baby can observe the environment, learn social interaction from you, from being on your back all the time and it gives you lots of mobility. And you know babywearing, we all know how many benefits it offers. So it talks all about it. And the documentary was talking about how popular the podaegi is in Europe right now. How a lot of moms are looking into podaegi. After watching the documentary, I thought it is the best carrier in the world that’s why other people are looking into it.
In Korea sometimes there is propaganda happening. They try. By telling you that this part of our culture is the best, we are smart people, what we have is blah-blah-blah.
I think the podaegi is genius. It’s very practical. You took a blanket and put a strap on it. It is practical because it offers torso support instead of relying on the strength of the shoulders.
This comes in different length. There is a shorter one, this is a medium length one. Because every woman is of different height. Because some women are pretty petite.
Itâs the height of it, I didnât know, oh what I am learning!
It hides your figure, mothers feel more comfortable they donât have to worry about what they are wearing underneath. And traditionally, Asian women they donât wear revealing clothes, they are very conservative. For that it really helps, you donât have to worry about whatâs showing, about whatâs not showing.
So you found it insulated against the hot weather?
Yeah, so he loved it. He was falling asleep in it. I couldnât use the other, the Boba wrap. It [the podaegi] was so easy, put it on and wrap tight, thatâs it.
Now there are many different versions, you can attach the strap on an angle and wrap it around your shoulders.
The thing is that these are really cheap. I paid $35.
Thatâs really affordable. So you came to Ottawa, set up your practice and started your family. So he’s four months old?
Yes, he’s four and a half, he’s 20 weeks.
When I got pregnant, my sister wanted to give me a gift, what could it be? So I told her to send me a baby carrier. I saw my sister carrying the baby all the time, she used the Ergo hip seat. My sister was using it and she found it very useful for a toddler especially because the hip seat part is so convenient. So I searched Amazon and they didn’t sel lthis specific one here and I read that they only released this in Korea.
I didn’t know Ergo made them, it must be only for Asia. They have products that are not available here.
Only for Korea. I thought, âIs it because it is less safe?â Is this why they don’t release in Canada?2
It’s perception. It’s a different market.
But the podaegi isnât expensive, so why so few use it?
Itâs the fashionable perspective. I was wondering why donât they use better looking fabric?
When I was looking to buy podaegi. I searched hard to find something neutral, no bears or dots, or super colourful. Like bright blue, or bright pink I didnât like it. I still couldnât get rid of the monkey, but this is acceptable. I didnât like the ones that are made of so infantile looking fabric, I chose this one because of that.
I sometimes write on Korean online community. I asked there why people donât use podaegi much. People said that it is partly because of the look and some said they found that structured carriers are easier to use. There were lots of new carriers were on the market that I wasnât aware.
So people use more of their structured carrier. Ergo is very popular.
Ergo is everywhere. What about wraps?
That was another thing versus a wrap. Wraps are so beautiful, they use different colours. A lot of moms collect the wraps because of its beauty.
I got the woven wrap, the purple one. I was surprised at the price! It was over $200 for a long strand of fabric. I sew, so I tried to make it on my own and went to a fabric store. I tried to search for fabric that was similar to what I saw. I read online that I am supposed to look for jacquard woven and diamond woven. I asked the people at the store but they had no idea. Every fabric is woven was what they said!
Every fabric is woven. Except for knit. Exactly.
It wasn’t very helpful, but they had lots of items in the sales stash, rayon, 100% cotton. It was summertime and I had a Boba wrap, it was too hot. I was looking for something that was lighter fabric for the wrap and also that it breathes. I was looking at rayon, though I realized that rayon is synthetic, even though it is made from natural pulp. Okay so no rayon.
I wanted to buy something with a one way stretch like Wrapsody hybrid. So I bought 5 meters of fabric with a one way stretch. I made half of it into a ring sling and then I tried to wrap him with the other half. This fabric was too slippery and wasn’t easy to pull, it was awkward to put it on. It wasn’t as soft as a woven wrap, it was bulky, so I made the rest of the fabric into a pillow cover.
Oh that looks beautiful!
I also got this carrier cover from my sister.
Oh whoa – look at that! It’s got ears on the hood! It’s so cute, I love it. It’s got little pockets for your hands.
This attracts good attention when I put this on him and go out. It’s a whole set with ergo hip seat. I use the cover all the time.
Sunmi and I originally met October 15, 2016, and we spoke for about four hours. This article is a condensed and edited version of our interview. Her story, like many, was so interesting it became a three part series. The first is called Growing up Korean. The next article is called A journey to Canadian, where she shares how she moved to Canada and then stayed.
Sunmi Cha is a full trained and license naturopathic doctor in Ottawa. Visit her website here.
1. The first installment of the documentary of The Secret of Traditional Parenting can be found here. Here is the link to the second and third installment.â©
2. The Ergo hip seat is available for sale on Gmarket in Korea.â©
Out in Red Deer, Alberta, there is a little wrap company known as West of the 4th Weaving. This year, I was extremely lucky to have West of the 4th Weaving agree to create a custom colourway for Babywearing in Canada. Working with them was amazing, West of the 4th is made up of the husband and wife duo of Nancy and Corwyn Warwaruk.
Corwyn soon began with talk of weft by sending me pictures — pictures of spools!! — asking me if I wanted to do a cotton or flax weft. The flax weft is a light grey, imparting a bit of silver twinkle to the final wrap, and the cotton brings a brightness in with the white.
TWO gorgeous choices, how could I even decide?Â So I chose BOTH. Yep, that’s how things run when you just can’t resist babywearing porn.
Soon after, Nancy started working on the wrap’s design based on Babywearing in Canada’s colours, red, white and black. When I asked what was her thought process, this is the answer I received:
“Nancy looked at the elements of your logo and dissected out the primary elements. She wanted to design the wrap to be truly Canadian so that when some one saw the design they would immediately think of our country. The red back ground represents the red of the maple leaf, and the general placement of the white makes one think of the blend of red and white of the Canadian flag. The black element represents the outline of the babywearing person. The blend of the white and the black makes one think of the babywearing person in the logo.”
With this thought in mind, Nancy’s design quickly moved from conception to reality.
There is something just magical about working with a weaver on a new carrier. It’s a combination of your vision, and their interpretation. It can be pretty overwhelming to see your baby brought to live in the caring hands of a weaver — especially with a pair like Nancy and Corwyn at the helm. The communication was fabulous and to receive pictures of Nancy looking meditative and zen as she readies the loom to create a piece of wonder, is beyond words.
There’s nothing better than being than wearing a baby wrapped and keeping them close through our hot Canadian summers and cold winters. What do you believe you should call such a wrap? That sums up this country, warm summer days and cold winter nights.
Can you picture yourself wearing your babe in this wrap?
The winner of the naming competition gets first right to purchase. There are only EIGHT wraps available, four flax blend, four cotton.
Each wrap comes with a Babywearing in Canada Conference bag, and a limited edition certificate stating which wrap you have purchased, and in which length.