Interview: Beate and Kurt Frome of Children's Needs

By Beth Manning

This month Kurt and Beate Frome of Children's Needs give us a peak into their lives along with some great insights on wraparound slings.

Business Questions

Q. Describe your business in one sentence.
A. How about one word? Satisfying.

Q. What inspired you to get started, and when?
A. Depending if you ask Kurt or Beate, you could get one line or a novel.

Beate: Growing up I carried my nephews (nieces are rare in my family of 25 nieces and nephews and counting) in a Didymos sling. My twin sister got married and started a family while I was still trying to get rid of the travel bug that I had picked up somewhere. Whenever possible I stayed with her and carried her children in a wraparound style sling. There are actually several high quality wraparound style slings on the market in Germany, all organic, tapered ends, double hemline, etc. Everybody in my family owns at least one of the slings. When Kurt and I expected our first I knew I wanted this kind of sling. I had my sister buy one in Germany and mail it to me. That’s when the idea of our website got started. We couldn’t find this type of woven indestructible sling in the US but had so many strangers stop us to ask about it.

Kurt: With my natural cynicism, I enjoy trying to keep my enthusiastic wife in check with her continual business ideas. When my wife had the idea of a website with European products, we decided to try as we were already poor and so had nothing to lose.

Background Questions

Q. Where do you live?
A. We live in Northern Utah, home on the ranch, where the deer and the antelope play…

Q. With whom do you live and how are they related to you? Please describe them a little bit.
A. There is Kurt, the husband and father. He grew up in Star Valley, Wyoming. I guess that explains a lot about him.
Beate (wife and mother who unequivocally enjoys being both) is from Bavaria, about 20 minutes from Schloss Neuschwanstein (what is often called the Disney castle, only it is not).
Our sling babies:
Kaja –
an inquisitive bilingual almost 5-year old. Loves her piano lessons, reading, and learning about what makes the world turn.
Feliezcia – an inquisitive bilingual almost 3-year old. Loves all animals and is an artist. She can’t wait to start her piano lessons and practices reading.
Kaleb – the cutest little bilingual 1-year old. He likes to have his sisters run circles around him.

George – 20+ year old trail horse.Was supposed to be slaughtered but as he was Kurt’s horse many years ago and had been sold a couple of times, we had to give him an easy retirement. He is actually a lot more opinionated and high-strung than one would expect from an old horse.
Duchess and Princess – 20+ year old Shetland ponies. They are easy-going, low key "friends" to have around. They actually came with the place when we bought it.
Teancum – Boxer dog. He has been a great companion to our children when they play outside. He loves being right in the middle of the family and watches over the little ones. He usually just smells like dogs, unless he gets in arguments with a skunk.
Cats - we have lots of wild and not so wild cats that wander in and out.

Sling Questions:

Q. Your site features Didymos and now Bebina slings. Why have you chosen to focus on this type of sling?
A. We will soon feature Lana from Switzerland and Storchenwiege from Germany along with the Bebina and Didymos.

Beate: I have done a lot of research on baby carriers. There are so many out there but it is hard to know what to look for. Several European doctors, occupational therapists, and chiropractors have spoken on this topic. Probably the best known, Dr. Kirkilionis, a German Ph.D, wrote a book on baby wearing ("Ein Baby will getragen sein") and in her research on baby carriers, the woven wraparound style sling was the one she recommended most of all. She goes into detail on all the pros and cons of the different carriers. It is a really educating book and I based our pick of carriers on her research and her advice. She is meanwhile helping us with some translations of her articles and parts of her book. The top-quality wraparound style slings support the anatomically correct leg position and give the baby the needed back support. They are also so versatile and individually adjustable.

Kurt: The Bebina, Didymos, Storchenwiege, and Lana are excellent quality slings that we can be proud to sell.

Q. The Didymos slings are so pretty. Do you have a favorite color or pattern? Which one, and why?
A. Neither one of us has a favorite pattern or color. I have a Lisa in a wool/cotton blend. I liked the fact that wool is more stain resistant and dries quicker than anything else. We really do live in the country. I need a sling that I can use to do yard work, feed the horses with, paint, clean, vacuum, build sandcastles, etc. Unlike most people’s beliefs, wool is not hotter in the summer than cotton (ask some sheep). I can hang my "Lisa" to dry in the summer and wear it within 30 Minutes. I use my Bebina and Storchenwiege more for dress up.

Q. Can you explain the differences in weights of the different Didymos patterns? For example, which is thicker, the Indios or the stripes? Which are the lightest, and softest? The thickest, the warmest?
A. I have the luxury of being able to handle all the Didymos fabrics and checking them out in person. The weight or thickness is really the same on the Indio and the striped ones. They are all woven with the secret of the right stretch. Didymos advertises the Nino as the softest but I couldn’t really feel a difference. One of our customers figured out how to soften them without having to wash them. She ironed her Indio red with steam and it made it really cozy fuzzy comfy soft.

They are all about the same in the weave as they need to have a certain thickness to support the baby’s back properly and to give the right shoulder support for the baby wearer. Anything thinner wouldn’t do for a Didymos. Because they are woven, they allow for airflow. My theory, if it is hot, you are going to be hot. I know a baby would rather be hot and carried than hot sitting in a car seat or stroller. The wraparounds are so versatile, in the summer it is nice to use the hip carry to allow for more air to flow (a smaller length is great for the summer). More advice, have your babies in the fall and move to Alaska. I am packing my bags... just kidding.

Q. What’s your favorite carrying position?
A. We both like the, what I call, reverse Wrap’n cross carry. It starts on the back rather than the front and allows me to support the baby with my shoulders and waist. I can leave it on all day, just take the baby in and out. I nurse in it as well (even in the store and although I suspect people might have a hunch about what I am doing there, they certainly can’t see a thing to prove it). If you twist the sides under when doing it (all you Didymos owners, variation 3 on the Cross Carry page 11, only tie it in the front), it will stay in place all day. Without a baby, it looks kind of like a beautiful vest.

Q. Do you have any helpful hints for those of us still struggling with the back carries?
A. The backpack carry is one of the hardest ones to learn, although this is actually easier than trying to do a wrap’n cross carry on your back, which feels like yoga to me. The most important part, which tucks the double hemline (necessary for the simple backpack carry) under your baby’s buttock, is to twist the sling above your shoulders before you bring it down over your shoulder and to the back again (like backpack straps). This twist is what holds your baby in and gives your baby the back support s/he needs. I do advise to practice this over your bed with a large mirror. You learn what it feels like, when it is tight enough, and know when it is too loose. If all else fails, give me a call as it’s easier to describe on the phone. I use the backpack carry from 6 weeks on safely.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about selling baby carriers?
A. Probably to know which ones will sell well and which ones don’t. It is hard to guess what brand/color/pattern/fabric people like at any given time and I hate to run out of a color/pattern that customers would like. Another challenge is to keep my phone conversations with customers under 40 minutes. Our customers have been marvellous and we love talking to them about natural family living. We’ve gotten some great book suggestions from them and just enjoy a good chat.

Q. What is the most rewarding?
A. See last question. It is the customers. Getting positive feedback and referrals makes the headaches all worth it.

Q. Tell us a little more about your own sling use. Any interesting stories?
A. I have used the wraparound slings for many years. Like I said before, I started using them with my nephews. For the past 5 years I have used the Didymos, Storchenwiege, and Bebina daily. Even through my pregnancies I have carried my children on my back. I don’t know how mothers survive without one. The fun part is to listen to parents comments while pushing their children in a stroller. Most think I am using an afghan or blanket.

Q. Do you ever use your slings for anything other than baby wearing? What do you do with them after the kids are grown?
A That is a very good question. If you were to ask my brother-in-law Werner this same question, he would say he is going to use the sling as a tow strap when they are done having children, hence they need the largest size possible. I on the other hand use my slings as blankets. I have used them as sunshades as well. When camping, they make great pillows. When playing at Bear Lake, they double as towels for the children. I have so many fond experiences with my slings that I just can’t get myself to sell any of them or even give them away to friends. (Their quality is indestructible and they could be passed down through many generations.) I have decided to make a quilt of my baby slings once we are done having children. This way I can still wrap myself up in my sacred memories of raising children.

Q. Do you like any baby carriers that aren’t wraps?
A. We’ve tried several but besides the Kelty backpack we have given all of them away. Once you know how to work the wrap carriers, there is no need for anything else in my opinion. I know I am biased.
Kurt: I never got into rap but I do like the organic wrap.

Q. Do you have one personal favorite sling? Describe it and tell us a little about what it’s been through.
A. I am not sure if I can name just one. I used a Huckepack wrap to get me through the airports traveling to Germany with two small children. I have used my Didymos to paint and it has stains to prove it. I use my Storchenwiege with my 4 year old. The red Bebina is more for going to town. I guess they have all been through their share of work.

Fun questions:
Q.
Do you have any hobbies? If so, what?
A. We like children, camping, horses, swimming, reading books, sewing, organic gardening, everything that can be done as a family as children grow so fast anyway we want to savor this magical little time we have with them.

Q. What did you do before you went into the baby business?
A. What exactly do you mean by the "baby business?"
Beate: I was in a masters program for second language teaching, worked teaching school, and in a nursery before having children. Now our children are our baby business.

Kurt: Has been self employed for years after growing up in the western tourism business and going to college (bachelor and MBA). He is still working in a service business.

Q. How do you manage balancing personal and professional life?
A. That is a good question. Christmas is probably the worst time for balancing. One thing that saves a lot of time is to refrain from having a TV. In my opinion watching TV wastes a lot of time. You can still be informed without a TV. Budgeting your time wisely is important. The children come first.

Q. Choose any day of the week and describe it in as much or as little detail as you wish.
A. Beate: Busy, anyone with children knows. I pick up the same stuff many times, vacuum the same carpet, mop the same floor (especially in the country), do the laundry day in and day out, cuddle my children, fix meals, bake bread, feed the horses, read books with the children, build marble runs, sleigh a dragon, rescue a princess, ride into the sunset on a Rody hop horse (it is safe for an adult to sit on), search for answer to children’s questions in the encyclopedia, cuddle my children, have my hair done by my daughter, take a walk, stand on my head, sing a song, nurse little prince charming occasionally, pet the dog, listen to the birds, cuddle my children, enjoy the sun, feel the breeze on my face, read e-mail from my twin, cuddle my children, write to my twin, say a prayer, do dishes, listen to the news, wipe the table, cuddle my children, and so on. Of course, every now and then we take brakes to talk to our valued customers, take orders (we only take them from customers not each other!) or answer questions.

Kurt: Works on-line, heads out for the real hard physical labor of property clean-up or saving the trees by recycling barn wood, works some more on-line, helps with the dishes, takes over cuddling the children, renovates the house whenever he has a minute.

Q. What is the last good book you read, and why? I hate to admit it but you just hit on one of our biggest weakness (or strengths depending on how you look at it). I am always reading several books at a time and can’t seem to get enough. Some of the latest and best are

  • Ashley Montagu’s "Touching, The Human Significance of the Skin" (A must for baby wearers)
  • Shinichi Suzuki – "Nurtured by Love" (Music teaches character)
  • Glen Doman – "How to Teach your Baby to Read" (Fascinating, fun, and supports the benefits of early education)
  • Buck Brannaman- "The Faraway Horses" (Although about horses, he also teaches about child rearing. You might want to have tissues handy when you read this.)
  • Ina May Gaskin – "Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth" (Even after 3 home births I love reading other home birth stories. Ina May is US's leading midwife.)
  • The Bible and the Book of Mormon (I find it important to keep Christ in our lives.)
  • Bert Hellinger- "Acknowledging What Is" (Shows a little bit how a family is intertwined through the generations.)
  • Ingrid Bauer – "The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene" (Wow- no diapers, no kidding)
  • Jenni Overend -‘Welcome with Love" (A must for homebirth mothers and their children. My children can’t get enough of it and it helped us prepare them to watch the birth of their little brother).
  • Hope Edelman – "Motherless Daughters" (My 2 brothers and 5 sisters lost our mother as children, finally we could read about others who understand.)
  • Pauline Willis – "Reflexology & Color Therapy" (Will help you pick therapeutic colors for your slings?)
  • Vimala Schneider McClure – "Infant Massage" (Even though she leans heavily on Ashley Montagu’s book "Touching," it is a great book to back the carrying, holding, hands-on parenting)
  • Thomas Gordon- "PET – Parent Effectiveness Training" (If you have children, you need to read this book. Great help in non-threatening communication. Helps with a spouse, too.)
  • Alfi Kohn – "Punished by Rewards" (As a teacher and parent, I love this book. Helps to support your children in being intrinsically motivated without constant sticker rewards waved in front of them. It really works.)
  • Gary Chapman- "The Five Love Languages" (Helps in all of our relationships, be it spouse, children, siblings, parents.)
  • Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman – " A Midwife’s Story" (A lot to learn about life and death and of course home birth.)Ford Truck Diesel Engine Repair Manual (A must for back yard mechanics in the country.)
And oodles of German books we won’t bore you with.

Q. The last good movie?
A. We don’t watch a lot of movies but a couple we enjoy and like to watch again are"Shadowlands," the original Cinderella filmed in the Czech Republic and "The Sound of Music."

Q. What's the most useless talent that you possess?
A. Beate: I can touch my nose with my tongue.
Kurt: I can rope a child.

Q. What are your three favorite websites?
A. Just three?
Beate: Children's Needs; www.baby-sling-experts.com; www.half.com (for books); www.sltrib.com (Newspaper)

Q. Assume money and time are no issue – where would you most like to visit?

A. Beate: Lembach, Germany. My twin sister (and my other siblings as well) would love to see us and meet Kaleb. I would love to see my twin's 5 boys and meet Mirijam, her 6th child and finally a girl. Of course we would love to see all the other sling nephews and few nieces as well.Kurt: The Shoshonee forest in Wyoming. It is magnificent.

Q. What is one important thing you think we could all do to make the world a better place?
A. Trust your savage instinct mama.

Q. Is there anything else the babywearing world should know about you?
A. We love to hear from other baby wearing parents. Any questions regarding any of our products or philosophies are welcomed. So if there is anything the babywearing world would like to know, don’t hesitate to contact us.

© Beth Manning, April 2004. All rights reserved.