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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©