Stretchy VS. Woven: Winning the "wrap" race.

Ah!! The wraparound baby carrier. Five meters of fabric that can literally change your life as a new parent. You don't believe me? Just talk to the any parent who has done some babywearing and ask them the one thing that they could not live without. I'll bet hard cash that a lot of them will likely say their wraparound carrier.

And why wouldn't they? This amazing piece of fabric holds your precious little baby nice and snug on your body in the perfect physiological position (upright and tummy-to-tummy) and puts everyone at ease. Babies are where they expect to be, close to their source of food, warmth and love. And mamas (and dads too) are holding on to their beautiful little bundles of joy without losing the full use of both of their arms.

And psst...did you know that there is some amazing (Canadian) research that shows that babies who are held and carried more actually cry 51% less than babies who are not? (1)  If that alone, does not convince you of the merits of a baby carrier of any kind, well, then go ahead and get yourself LOTS of Tylenol!!

Now that you are convinced that you do indeed need a wraparound baby carrier. Which kind do you get?

There are two main categories for Wrap Carriers: the stretchy wraps and the woven wraps.

Stretchy Wraps.

Stretchy wraps are, well...stretchy. They are usually made of a knit fabric like a stretch cotton or cotton-jersey blend or even a bamboo blend. Some are organic, some are not, but they are all made with a certain percentage of spandex or Lycra in them to allow for the stretchiness.

Stretchy wraps are ideal baby carriers for newborns. The wide straps cross over your back and shoulders and distribute the weight of your baby perfectly and evenly on your body. They keep them nice and snug and safe against your body and away from the prying eyes and hands of strangers. The learning curve for a stretchy wrap is not that steep and with a few days of practice you should be able to wrap that baby on you in no time.

There are lots of different brands to choose from and they are all very good. Moby, SleepyWrap and our very own Edmonton-based Cosy Baby Happy Mommy all make very nice stretchy wraps and you can't go wrong with one from any of these great manufacturers.

The nature of the stretchy wrap is, again, that it is stretchy, and that being said, it is a baby carrier that has limits. While most manufacturers will state that their stretchy wraps have been tested to anywhere from 30 to 45 pounds and a lot of their literature will show a big toddler being carried in a stretchy wrap, the reality is that this is just not that comfortable. Once a baby hits the 17-20 pound mark and is being carried in a stretchy wrap, you will start to feel the fabric pulling and tugging and sagging. You may find that you have to readjust or re-tie often to get the wrap snug again. And a 20 pound baby (think 6-12 month old) is likely also getting to the point where they are a lot more curious about their surroundings and are getting more squirmy in the wrap itself, thus adding to the loosening and pulling on the stretchy fabric.

Your initial thoughts at this point might be, OK, looks like it is time to turn baby forward-facing or time to get him or her onto my back in my stretchy wrap. (Or that your baby is too big to be carried anymore!)

STOP RIGHT THERE!! Neither of these is a good or safe option in a stretchy wrap!

I have written a lot about why forward facing in ANY carrier is not ideal for you or for you baby and why babywearing is not just for small babies. You can review that again here and here. As for back carrying, it is NEVER recommended that you do a back carry in a stretchy wrap. The nature of the fabric is just not strong enough or supportive enough to hold your baby or toddler as firmly as needed on your back. If your baby gets distracted by something or someone and decides to lean back a bit too far, they can pull the carrier back enough that they could fall out of it. If you need a visual demonstration of why back carries are not to be done in a stretchy wrap, please watch this video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J19oOkQ61hI[/youtube]

  • Stretchy Wraps are a good option for new moms and babies to introduce them to the fantastic world of babywearing.
  • They are a great baby carrier for newborns and infants and comfortably up to about 20 pounds in a front carrying tummy-to-tummy position.
  • They are never to be used for back carries and not recommended to use for forward facing carries either.
  • Price point is between $50-90.

Woven or NON-stretchy Wraps

A woven wrap is simply a wrap that is made of a woven fabric. And woven wraparound baby carriers (usually made of 100% Oeko-Tek certified fabrics and designed by textile engineers with babywearing in mind) are inherently stronger and have far less, if any, stretch or 'give' to them then the knit or stretchy wraps do.

Woven wraps are by far the most versatile of ALL the baby carriers out there. You can learn to do multiple different front, hip and back carries in a woven wrap. They can be used from newborn to preschool and they come in a beautiful and wide array of colors and styles to suit all tastes.

There is a learning curve to all baby carriers and the woven wrap is no different. It takes practice to get a woven wrap nice and snug around you and baby, but the extra effort is, in my opinion, SO worth it in the end.

Woven wraps have all the same babywearing benefits as stretchy ones and then some. They keep baby snuggled up to you beautifully, they distribute the weight evenly across your hips and shoulders and they are great for nursing in.

They can also be much more comfortable  for baby and you because of the degree of supportiveness that a woven wrap provides. They can be used for heavier babies and toddlers and don't stretch and sag and put strain on you, the wearer. I have worn both my kids extensively in woven wraps and can not think of a better carrier to use for both the newborn phase and the big toddler phase too! A woven wrap really is the work horse of the baby carrier world and and is ideal for those who want to get the most mileage out of their carrier.

  • Woven wraps can be used for front (tummy-to-tummy), hip and back carries.
  • Can be used from newborn to toddlerhood (and sometimes even beyond!)
  • Provides optimal support for the wearer and the baby for longer wearing time.
  • Nature of the woven fabric reduces the likelihood of pressure points and strain on the wearer.
  • Price point is between $90-160.00.

So while I think that a stretchy wrap is a great introduction to babywearing for moms and babies, I truly feel that if that introduction can be made with a woven wrap and the little bit of extra effort made to learn how to use it, the woven wrap, just like the tortoise, can and eventually will, slowly and steadily, win the babywearing "wrap" race!

Dolcino Woven Wrap in "Bali" and a 30+ lb 2.5 year old!

If you would like help choosing and using any kind of wrap around baby carrier, please email me at natasha@naturalurbanmamas.com and I will gladly help you find a carrier that fits all your babywearing needs!

Happy Babywearing!

Natasha~

References:
1. Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A random-ized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648

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Summer Blog Challenge posts for August 15, 2011