Weighted dolls are fantastic teaching tools for babywearing educators, even those who have ready access to a baby of their own. Dolls never object to extended practice sessions, don’t take naps, pull hair, pop their seats, or need to be bribed to go up – plus, they’re much better at showing newborn positioning than a 25-pound toddler!
Professional demonstration dolls are available from companies like Touch Needs as well as occasionally through retailers or training institutes. These dolls are weighted and shaped to mimic real babies to help facilitate learning and teaching. But at more than $100 each, they just are not in the budget for many educators and babywearing groups, especially those that are are just getting started.
The good news is that it is fast and easy to make a DIY demo doll using readily available supplies – all for as little as $20! Buying supplies in bulk brings down the cost, so this is a great group activity for all the educators or trainees in a chapter/group.
Demo doll-making is an art, and everyone who has made one (or more) probably has his or her own technique. Below, I describe the method that has worked for me. I welcome you to share additional tips and tricks in the comments!
It is important to note that while weighted demo dolls are made from toys, once you modify and weight them them they are no longer toys! Some of the materials used in weighting and finishing dolls pose a choking hazard or could scratch a child. Additionally, the process of weighting stresses different parts of the doll such that they may not survive mistreatment or play. Treat your demo dolls carefully and with respect. Try not to carry them by the head or arms and never allow children to play with them at meetings or at home. Monitor closely for wear and damage and repair promptly if needed.
You will need a variety of materials to make your demo doll. Most of these can be obtained easily at the dollar store, craft store, big box store, etc.
The Doll—Finding the right doll is crucial to success. The easiest doll to find (and what we will use for this project) is the “My Sweet Love Cuddle Baby Doll” 20 inch doll (available at Walmart). These can often be found loose in bins underneath the boxed dolls in the doll aisle. They come in a variety of skin tones and cost about $10 each. Another good option is the 20″ baby doll from Berenguer/JC Toys (available on Amazon.com). Suitable dolls can also be found in consignment shops, on eBay, or purchased as a “Reborn” doll kit. Features to look for include: large enough size (minimum 18” but the bigger the better—24”+ dolls are great for back wrapping; removable head and limbs (attached with zip ties not sewn in place); and a curved bottom (shaped vs. flat—if the doll sits relatively nicely in a chair it’s a good sign it will work well as a demo doll). Don’t forget to look at stuffed animals and other “non-realistic” dolls too!
Weighting Material—My preferred material to weight a demo doll is a mixture of dollar store decorative rocks (generally found in the craft area) and poly pellets (available at craft stores). I use about half a bag of poly pellets and two 2-lb bags of rocks per newborn-sized doll. Decorative rocks will give you a nice heavy doll, but might also make your doll lumpy. Other educators have successfully used pea gravel, aquarium gravel, bbs, etc. Avoid any organic materials such as popcorn or rice as they can deteriorate over time and become a pest hazard.
Zip Ties—used to re-attach the head, other limbs (if needed) and to create knees. These are available inexpensively at the dollar store, big box stores (look in automotive) or on eBay. You need an assortment of sizes including large ones for the head.
Knee High Stockings—I use these to help contain weighting material. They’re optional but inexpensive. Old tights or stockings with runs can be repurposed as well.
Polyester Stuffing/Fiberfill (optional)—Your doll may not need any additional stuffing once you’ve added weighting materials but it is always nice to have a little extra on hand just in case.
Chopstick or Pencil (for stuffing)
Step 1: Disassemble your Doll
Begin by removing your doll’s head by clipping off the tip of the zip tie attaching it to the body. Remove all of the fiberfill stuffing from your doll and set aside to use later. Depending on the doll you choose, there may be some weighting material already inside—this can be saved to repurpose as well.
Look inside your doll to make sure you have access to the hands and feet. Depending on the design you may need to also remove the hands and feet by clipping the zip ties if you wish to weight the legs and arms.
Step 2: Weight the Head
I like to put a small amount of weight in my dolls’ heads to mimic the floppiness of a newborn. It is helpful to have this weight pushed to the front/face area of the head. To achieve this, put the toe of one knee high stocking into the hole in your doll’s head and fold the stocking over the opening. Fill the knee high with poly pellets until the head is about half full (shake it periodically to make more room). Tie off the knee high and trim the excess fabric (this can be saved for another doll, just tie a knot in the end). Fill the rest of the head with fiberfill so that the weighted stocking sits in the face area of the doll.
Step 3: Weight the Hands and Feet
I also like to put a small amount of weight into my dolls’ hands and feet (if possible) to provide realistic drag. Filling the plastic hands and feet with poly pellets provides the perfect amount of weight. Simply pour 1/8 cup or so of poly pellets into each limb and shake until they fall through the holes in the tops of the feet and fill the foot cavity (this process may be slightly different for different dolls but it works great for the “My Sweet Love” dolls). Plug the hole with a bit of fiberfill using your chopstick or pencil so that the beads don’t escape during use. Repeat for each hand/foot.
Step 4: Weight the Body/Create the Knees
Putting the appropriate amount of weight in the appropriate places is crucial to demo doll success. I like to focus the bulk of my weighting material in the seat and lower trunk area of my doll with some additional spread through the upper legs. I use very little or none in the arms and shoulders.
It can be helpful to make packets of your weighting material so it doesn’t move around inside your doll. I like the dollar store decorative rocks because I can leave them inside their net bags and because I can use larger rocks individually through the legs to provide just a little weight in the right places. Your extra knee high fabric can also be used to make small packets of gravel, poly pellets, etc. by tying a knot, filling the knee high up, and then knotting again.
Beginning with the legs, fill each cavity with fiberfill (and a few rocks, if desired) up to approximately the knee area. Tie a zip tie tightly around the doll to create a “knee joint”. This step is optional but will help your doll better achieve ideal positioning (a common problem with demo dolls). Continue filling the legs and body with fiberfill and weighting material. I like to place an entire 2 lb bag of rocks right at the bottom of the butt area with just a thin layer of poly batting between it and the outer fabric for padding and then some additional smaller packets of weighting material above that. Fill the upper portion of the body and arms tightly with fiberfill.
In general, you want to weight a newborn/infant sized demo doll to approximately half the weight you would expect from a real child of that size. So for an 18-22” newborn-sized demo doll, you would want a finished weight of about 4-5 lbs. That is enough weight for the doll to function properly but not so heavy that it puts unnecessary stress on the doll (or on the person who has to carry it around to meetings!). Larger dolls can be weighted a little more.
Step 5: Reattach the Head and Finishing Touches
Using one of your large zip ties (find the right size by comparing it to the one you removed earlier), reattach the head to the body by threading the zip tie through the casing at the neck of the doll and tightening it over the ridge in the bottom of the head. Pull it very tightly to secure. This is the area of most stress on the doll, so monitor it carefully.
Reattach any other limbs if needed.
Clip all of the zip tie ends close to the body of your doll (including the ties at the knees). If desired, you can file down the rough edges to avoid snagging wraps or scratching skin. Dressing your demo doll will also help with this. A NB sized footless sleeper or bodysuit and pants usually work well, or use the clothes that came with the doll. If your doll has a less-than-perfect butt, a cloth diaper may help pad it enough to allow you to get a good seat in a wrap or ring sling.
That’s it! Now go show the world your demo doll in action!
This article, written by Linnea Catalan and re-posted with permission, was originally shared by the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. You can find it posted here.
There’s a lot of confusion around baby carrier compliance. Here’s the rundown on what it all means, what to look for and what to avoid when you are shopping for a baby carrier. Much of this information is specific to the US market. Have a question about compliance in another country? Contact us and we’ll do our best to add it to our FAQ.
Q: Why is compliance important?
A: Primarily because it protects consumers. Many countries have laws that regulate lead and other chemical limits, and flammability. There are often standards to be tested to in order to ensure that a product can pass mechanical testing, and does not pose a choking, pinching or fall hazard. Regulations ensure that products come with appropriate labeling, care information and proper use instructions.
A company who is compliant with current regulations is illustrating a commitment to the industry, and to a best practice business model. If a company is willing to break the law regarding regulations, where else are they willing to cut corners?
Q: How do I know if a product is compliant?
A: In the US, the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) outlines current regulations under the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). These regulations are legal requirements. There are lots of requirements that you won’t see as a customer that have to do with record keeping and testing plans but there are a few things that you should look for. To break it down simply, a consumer is looking for three things:
- Proper labeling
- Product registration
- An indication that the product has been tested to any applicable safety standards
Q: What is a product registration card and do I need to fill it out?
A: This is a perforated postcard that includes the manufacturer information, product information (product name and model number) and is postage-paid. It should also include a website or email address to register online.
In the event of a recall or incident, manufacturers will be able to access customer data tied to a particular product quickly. It’s meant to streamline the process should a recall, even a minor one, ever take place. Please register your products! Many customers don’t, and this makes more work for manufacturers, and leaves you uninformed for longer if there should be a recall.
Q: How should a baby carrier be labeled?
A: Carriers require a few different labels, and we have outlined the required information below.
Permanent tracking label
This is a label (or labels) outlining manufacturer details (address or phone number, website), where a product was made as well as a product number and date of manufacture. If your product had special packaging, this info should be on the packaging as well.
Permanent tracking labels are one of the most useful regulations in the US. In the event of a recall or incident, it allows a manufacturer to pinpoint exactly the products that might be affected. It also tells you, as the customer, when your product was made, which can be very useful for determining how much life a product might have left. This requirement has been in place since January 2011, so if you find an untagged sling at a yard sale, know that it might well be over 4-5 years old and maybe it’s not quite the bargain it seems.
This is a requirement under the Textile Act. One of the tags should outline fiber content, product origin and care instructions so you know what your product is made of, where it came from and how to wash it. You can see a similar tag inside almost any other article of clothing.
Q: What is this giant warning label doing on my carrier?
The CPSC will often make testing to an international standard a mandatory requirement. Currently, all soft infant and toddler carriers (front packs, mei tais, soft structured carriers) made or imported after Sept 28, 2014 must pass the requirements outlined in ASTM F2236. That standard outlines things like:
- required mechanical/physical testing to the weight specified on the carrier label
- choking and strangulation hazards
- permanent warning label
- mandatory usage instructions
All carriers currently being produced should comply with the ASTM F2236 standard requirements in addition to the previously mentioned requirements (product registration etc).
Q: What about slings and wraps?
ASTM F2907 is the international standard used in the US for wraps, slings, pouches, carrier shirts and many hybrid carriers. At this time, the sling standard is voluntary. We expect to see it become mandatory in the US by 2022.
Many manufacturers are being proactive and testing to this standard while it is still voluntary. Others are starting the process with proper labeling and instructions, so don’t be surprised if you see warning labels and other small changes to your favorite brands.
Q: Can I still have a wrap converted into a ring sling/mei tai/carrier of my choice?
A: Yes, and no. Any of the soft carrier conversion manufacturers who are still making carriers out of wrap fabric should have come up with a testing plan. Unless the wrap layer is only a decorative panel on the outside, expect that converters are only able to work with new wraps in a fabric/blend that they have tested their product model to at an independent 3rd party lab. The manufacturer should be able to explain what their process is.
Slings can still be converted from your own supplied fabric until testing to the standard becomes mandatory, likely in 2016. Some manufacturers may preemptively begin changing their production models before this date in anticipation of the upcoming changes.
Q: Are accessories, inserts, suck pads etc. tested or regulated?
A: There are no official regulations specifically for accessories. General children’s product requirements will apply. Do not assume that an insert, or suck pads will have been tested with your carrier, and exercise caution with aftermarket products. For more information, see our article on accessories.
Q: Can I (cinch the base/use a receiving blanket/use another manufacturer’s insert) with my carrier?
A: If the carrier you are using recommends using an insert for a proper fit it is strongly advised that you follow the manufacturer guidelines. The insert is designed to support a small baby at the sides to prevent slumping in addition to boosting baby up to kissable height. It is difficult to predict if another manufacturer’s insert will fit your carrier appropriately or if DIY adjustments (ex. a rolled up receiving blanket) will be suitable.
Q: I really only want to buy one carrier. Can I buy a ‘toddler sized’ carrier and my child will grow into it?
A: No, you really can’t. Baby carriers, like jogging strollers and carseats really should fit your child properly and securely. This is especially critical in the first 4 months of life when babies require optimum stability and support. A too big carrier can present a potential slumping, falling or asphyxiation hazard. Buy the carrier that meets your needs now, not where you think you’ll be in 2 years!
Q: I want to make a carrier or sling for myself. Does it need to be compliant?
A: Products made for yourself are just that, made for yourself. These do not need to be tagged, labeled or tracked.
Q: I’d like to sell my DIY carrier after I’m done with it. What do I need to know?
A: That is a trickier question. As soon as you sell a product, even for the cost of materials, you are entering into commerce and are in essence becoming a manufacturer with all the risks and responsibilities that comes with (the CPSC really doesn’t care if you are making a profit or not!) If you are making a product for yourself, make a product for yourself. If you want to set up shop, do it legitimately for your own protection as well as that of your customers.
Q: If I hem or shorten slings and wraps does this make me a manufacturer?
A: No. Hemming a pair of pants doesn’t make you a pants manufacturer, it makes you a seamstress or tailor. Shortening a product or making minor repairs and alterations does not make you a manufacturer.
A note about altering or customizing carriers- in most instances this will void any warranty from the manufacturer so proceed with caution. Some alterations (ie. covering a carrier panel with a slipcover, dyeing a carrier) can make carrier wear and tear harder to spot or can potentially shorten the lifespan of a carrier. It’s always best practice to look your carrier over thoroughly on a regular basis.
Q: What about the second hand market? Do those carriers have to be compliant too?
A: The second hand market is not exempt from regulations. The CPSC resale/thrift store guide can take you through the ins and outs:
Technically, non-compliant products are not to be resold. It is definitely illegal to resell or donate a recalled product, so do a search on http://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/ to see if your product has been recalled first. Reselling includes personal sales, auctions, yard sales, consignment stores and secondhand shops.
Q: I found a cheap carrier on the internet, is it safe?
A: Impossible to say. Following the guidelines outlined above will give you a place to start in determining safety. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Compliance, safety and suitable materials come at a cost. Counterfeit and knock-off copies of well known carriers are untested, unknown, and often of subpar construction. There are lots of places to save money when buying baby gear, but buying the cheapest carrier possible off the internet shouldn’t be one of those places. For more information about fakes and how to spot them:
Q: Can/should I report noncompliance? How do I do that? What about unsafe carriers?
A: Great question! Anytime the manufacturer of a product becomes aware that their product is not in compliance with a mandatory standard or they receive information that indicates to them that their product may pose a substantial hazard they must by law report to the CPSC themselves. However, the regulations themselves are complex and confusing. So if a consumer believes that a product is not in compliance with a mandatory standard or may pose a substantial product hazard, he or she should always contact the manufacturer first to determine the facts and scope of the issue. The product may be subject to an exemption contained in the regulations or the issue of concern may be the subject of a voluntary standard but not a mandatory standard.
Since the agency’s inception, consumers have also been invited to call the CPSC’s hotline if they have an experience where they are concerned that a product creates a substantial hazard. More recently, consumers can report concerns regarding product safety on CPSC’s public database at SaferProducts.gov. Consumers can also search SaferProducts.gov to search for past recalls.
Of course, the safety of all children being carried in these products is the top concern, so something that poses a serious risk to safety is certainly reportable to either the manufacturer or to the agency.
Q: Are there rules about how a carrier should be sewn? What is “sewing compliance”?
A: There is no such thing as sewing compliance. There are certainly industry best practices and indications of quality workmanship, but there are no hard and fast rules determining how a carrier must be constructed. A carrier which has passed testing to an international standard (like ASTM F2236 or F2907 or to the European standards EN13209 or TR16512) has undergone rigorous testing to determine its safety for market. The standard does not dictate how a carrier is constructed, only how well it must perform under the testing process.
Q: How does the BCIA (Baby Carrier Industry Alliance) fit into the compliance process?
A: The BCIA is a non-profit trade organization that represents manufacturers, educators and retailers who work in the industry. We promote the growth of the industry, help our members navigate compliance issues and work together under a common voice to achieve things like public safety campaigns, work on the regulatory standards and encourage best practice.
The BCIA is not a certifying or governing body. There is no such thing as ‘BCIA Certified’ or ‘BCIA Compliant’. We do expect our members to adhere to our code of conduct and maintain industry best practices but we are not regulators or bound by duty to report. Regulations in the US are dictated by the CPSC under CPSIA.
Q: If I buy a carrier from overseas, does it have to be compliant?
A: It is expected that all carriers imported into the US are compliant with current regulations. Some overseas manufacturers may choose to work with a US-based retailer or distributor in order to share compliance responsibilities. Non-compliant product may be seized, destroyed, and/or excluded from the US at the point of entry (via Customs).
Q: If a carrier is non-compliant is it considered recalled? Can it still be safe?
A: Products should be recalled in the event of serious potential safety hazards but products are also frequently recalled as a precautionary measure or for quality reasons that have nothing to do with safety. A product that is say, improperly tagged would technically be considered non-compliant, but this would not necessarily indicate the need for a product recall. One thing to keep in mind is that these regulations apply to the US only. Other countries have different regulations and safety standards in place.
So many acronyms, I’m still confused about who does what!
This video does a great job of explaining all the ins and outs and the history of the industry:
Babywearing is the practice of keeping your baby or toddler close and connected to you as you engage in daily activities through the use of one of a variety of types of baby carriers. It is a traditional practice in many cultures that is not widely used by modern industrialized societies, but it nonetheless has many benefits for both children and caregivers. Babywearing promotes bonding, supports breastfeeding, can help combat postpartum depression, makes caregiving easier, and can be a lifesaver for parents of high-needs children. Carried babies sleep, feed, and grow better. One study found that carried 6-week-olds cried 43% less than other children.
Babywearing is not about any particular parenting philosophy and it is not about any specific carrier. It can be practiced by a wide variety of caregivers including moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, nannies, nurses, doulas; in short, anyone who cares for a newborn, infant, or toddler. There are safe and effective carrier options for every budget and taste.
Because of its many benefits for both caregivers and children, it is Babywearing International’s mission to make babywearing a universally accepted practice. For more information and assistance please visit a chapter near you or explore our site to learn more about baby wearing safety and choosing a baby carrier, or see some of our curated educational resources.
Medical professionals agree that infants thrive through touch; “wearing” your baby is another way to meet this need. The benefits of babywearing don’t end there … babywearing offers many other advantages, some of which include:
- Happy Babies. It’s true … carried babies cry less! In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours. (1)
- Healthy Babies. Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not. (2)
- Confident Parents. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced for these we also need to maintain ourselves healthy as a parents, so it’s important that parents have both an active lifestyle and healthy diet. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression. (3) (4)
- Loving Caregivers. Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!
- Comfort and Convenience. With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps to reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier!
1 – Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A random-ized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648
2 – “Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants”. J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
3 – Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
4 – Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.