Keep them close

Reviews and information about babywearing, slings, wraps and carriers for keeping your baby close and content


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Having a baby? Consider a stretchy wrap.

Before I really even understood what babywearing was all about, or had any idea of how it would become such an important part of my life, I bought a Hug-a-Bub stretchy wrap to carry my five-week old son. Looking back, it was probably the catalyst for what has turned into a life changing babywearing journey for my family and me.

Stretchy wraps are seriously comfortable. When my daughter grew out of the Hug-a-Bub I felt genuinely sad that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy those comfy stretchy wrap cuddles again, despite continuing to carry her in a variety of other carriers and wraps. There is nothing quite like it, in my opinion.

Stretchy wraps are suitable from birth to around 8kg (with a few exceptions, that I’ll note below). The manufacturers often state they are suitable to 10 or 15kg, and while you can technically carry that weight in them, it’s not particularly comfortable for the wearer for long periods, as the stretch creates too much sag with such a heavy weight. So, for most babies, this is around four to five months of age.

If you haven’t tried a stretchy wrap, I can see that four to five months doesn’t sound like a very long time to be able to use a wrap you’ve just invested your hard earned cash in. And while I agree it does sound that way, I feel that the comfort of a stretchy wrap makes it a worthwhile investment for those important first few months of bonding with your new baby.

Many new babywearers can be apprehensive about a long wrap, unsure if they can use it correctly, and think a buckle carrier like an Ergo or Tula would be easier. But for a newborn, the Ergo and Tula require a separate insert, which can be fiddly and hard to get baby seated correctly. It can take a fair bit of practice to get right – at least as much practice, if not more, than learning to tie a stretchy wrap. And once you’ve learned how to tie it, I think a stretchy wrap is actually quicker and easier to use than an Ergo or Tula with a newborn; you can even pre-tie it before you go out and just pop baby in at your destination.

I will admit, there is one downside of a traditional stretchy wrap – they can be quite warm to wear in the hotter months. In most parts of Australia, if your baby is born in November or December, I would probably suggest you consider a ring sling or woven wrap, or look into some of the thinner stretchy wraps on the market, given your four to five months of use will be through the hottest parts of the year. And similarly if you live somewhere in the tropics where it is hot and humid all year round – there may be better options for you. But for everyone else, I really do recommend considering a stretchy wrap for your newborn.

So what stretchy wrap options are there on the market?

Hug-a-Bub, Moby and Boba (formerly called Sleepy) wraps are three of the most well known brands in Australia. While fundamentally the same, they have slight differences. The Boba is probably the stretchiest of the three, which can mean it starts to sag at a lower weight than the others, the Moby is quite wide, particularly compared with the Hug-a-Bub, which can mean it needs to be folded with a small baby, and the Hug-a-Bub has a version with a pocket on the front, which is handy because the wrap then folds up into the pocket (with a drawstring) for easy transport. Another similar brand, popular in the UK, is Kari Me.

All four of these wraps are made from reasonably thick jersey that is warm to wear in the hottest months of the year. For a stretchy wrap that is a bit lighter, try the Solly wrap or Hana wrap. Or for an Australian made brand, check out Designer Baby Wrap – stocks are low at the moment, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this new brand and supporting an Australian business. And Stop Press! I’ve just discovered that Moby intends to bring out a bamboo blend lightweight stretchy wrap very soon, so keep that in mind too.

Another option in the stretchy wrap market is what is known as a hybrid stretch wrap. The hybrid nature of the wrap means that while it has all the great qualities of a stretchy wrap, it has a firmer hold, which means you can generally use it for longer, as it will remain supportive to a heavier weight. Three of the most popular hybrid stretchy wraps on the market are the Ergo wrap, the Wrapsody Hybrid and the Je Porte Mon BeBe (JPMBB). The Ergo and JPMBB are quite thick wraps, while the Wrapsody is much lighter weight.

And if you are still concerned about learning how to manage all that fabric, there are a couple of alternative stretchy carrier options. The Caboo is like a pre-sewn stretchy wrap with rings for adjusting the tightness. The Baby K’tan is three pre-sewn stretch sections that you wear arranged in the same fashion as you would tie a stretchy wrap. The Baby K’tan is not adjustable, and comes in different sizes. It is important that you get the right size; if it is too big it will not be safe. In my opinion, you would be better off learning to tie a wrap than trying to get the right fit with a Baby K’tan.

Lastly, it is possible to make your own stretch wrap. You can buy 5 metres of stretch jersey from the fabric store and then half it lengthways to get the right width (so you’ll end up with two wraps). It won’t need to be hemmed as jersey wont fray.

Three different stretchy wrap

From left: Hug-a-Bub with pocket, Wrapsody Hybrid in Wish design exclusive to Angelrock Baby, and a Moby with print design

How do you wear a stretchy wrap?

As with all wraps and carriers, following TICKS guidelines is important. A stretchy wrap needs to be tied tight enough so baby is close enough to kiss. Use the stretch of the fabric to put baby in, rather than leaving slack in the fabric.

It is also important with stretchy wraps that the carry includes three layers of fabric, as baby can push back against the stretch of the fabric which they can’t do with a woven material. The carry used for stretchy wraps that creates three layers is called Pocket Wrap Cross Carry. With the Baby K’tan, it is imperative that the third horizontal cross pass is always used as the third layer, not just the two cross passes. Note: another pre-sewn stretch carrier called Yoli and Otis has recently been marketed, but as far as I can tell it does not have a third horizontal pass so I do not recommend it.

Stretchy wraps should also never be used for a back carry, and while you may see instructions on how to use a stretch wrap for a front facing carry, I don’t recommend it. Similarly, some stretch wraps provide instructions on keeping a newborn babies feet inside the cross passes for the first few weeks, rather than putting legs through the cross passes. I don’t recommend this either, the secure seat is created by the legs going through the cross passes and the fabric sitting behind the knees of the baby; without this I don’t feel the seat is as secure.

The stretch-hybrid wraps however are an exception to some of these rules. Due to the hybrid nature of the fabric, they can be used for back carries, and you can use a front wrap cross carry rather than a pocket wrap cross carry if you prefer.

And one last point about safety. While stretchy wraps can be used from newborn, special care needs to be taken with premature babies, and the three layers of fabric may be too much for a premature baby, especially if they have breathing issues, so please, if you do have a premature baby, speak with other babywearers experienced with premmies before deciding on the carrier you will use.

Did you use a stretchy wrap with your newborn? Do you have a favourite brand?


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Babywearing on a budget

You’ve just had a baby. You’re no longer working. You’ve just forked out all your savings on a cot, car seat and pram. There’s not a lot of spare cash around and then you see wraps and carriers selling for more than $150 and you feel like it is out of reach for you. Don’t despair, there are cheaper options.

One of the misconceptions about babywearing is that it costs a lot of money. Sure, you certainly can spend a lot of money on high-end wraps if you want to, but by no means is that the only way to carry your baby. You don’t need an expensive stash of different carriers to be a ‘real’ babywearer – anyone can babywear, even on a tight budget.

First though, consider this. Wearing your baby in a carrier is a legitimate way to transport your baby, comfort your baby, and bond with your baby. Try not to listen to people who say you can’t spend that much money on “a piece of fabric”. If you can spend a few hundred dollars on a pram, it is perfectly reasonable to spend a similar amount on a baby carrier (if you can afford to) that you may end up using more often than you use your pram (I certainly do!).

That said, sometimes there isn’t a couple of hundred dollars in the bank account, but your baby still cries and wants to be held, and you can’t get anything done.

So, what are your options?

Stretchy wraps

From newborn to around 8 kilograms, a stretchy wrap is a wonderfully comfortable and snuggly way to carry your baby. While new ones can be a bit expensive, there are often second hand ones available through Facebook groups, eBay or Gumtree for $50 or less. Some brands to look out for include Hug a Bub, Moby and Boba wrap. Another option is to buy some cotton jersey from a fabric store and make your own. You’ll need about 5 metres in length and you can then split it down the middle and make two wraps, it wont fray so no hemming required – go halves with a friend in the cost!

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Ring slings

Ring slings are also suitable from birth, and being a relatively simple construction with a shorter length of material they are often cheaper than long wraps or structured carriers. When looking for a cheap ring sling though, there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to avoid the bag or pouch style slings with padded rails, these can be quite hard to adjust and hard to keep baby in a safe position. A ring sling should have rings made from a continuous piece of aluminium, with no visible join. Consider how long you want to use the carrier for. Some cheap cotton ring slings will be fine for a small baby, but you will probably find it uncomfortable as baby starts to get heavier, which will mean you either stop wearing or have to buy something new – spending a bit more initially on a ring sling made from a woven wrap can be a better long term investment. Woven wrap ring slings can be purchased for as little as $74, check out my useful links for vendors.

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Mei tais

Mei tais can often be picked up cheaper than a buckle carrier, and can also be easier to learn how to use than a wrap. A basic mei tai such as the one by Infantino is under $60. Baby Hawk and Kozy mei tais should also be available for under $100, or maybe even less second hand.

DIY

While not specifically designed for babywearing, there are a number of materials available from fabric stores that could be used for that purpose. I’ve already mentioned cotton jersey, but once bub has outgrown that, there are cotton options like osnaburg or even all linen. There are downsides to this: it probably won’t be as comfortable as a wrap made for babywearing, particularly as baby gets heavier, and you can’t be sure that chemicals used in the manufacture of the fabric are safe for children, but it can be a cheap way to see if babywearing is for you. Keep in mind, unless you find yourself a fabric on the bargain bench, it might not actually be much cheaper than buying a woven wrap, which you can pick up for under $100.

If you can sew, making your own ring sling is not complicated; there are instructions online. You can get a size 5 or 6 woven wrap for under $100 and chop it in half and make two ring slings – which is excellent value.

Gifts

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved my friends or family to pool together and have purchased me a carrier as a gift for my newborn that I might not otherwise have been able to afford. Two hundred dollars is a stretch for a lot of people’s budgets, but if 10 friends chuck in $20 you can get just about any sort of carrier that you’d like – and I reckon that’s better than another pair of baby socks, muslin wraps or onesies!

And a final word on buckle carriers

Buckle carriers (or soft structured carriers/SSC) are very popular due to their comfort, convenience and ease of use. If this is the type of carrier you are looking for, please be aware that there are many counterfeit Ergos on the market, sold mostly through eBay, for prices well below recommended retail. They seem to be too good to be true, and they are. Fake Ergos have not been safety tested to meet the required standards for baby carriers, may use fabric that contains unsafe chemicals and dyes and buying one supports the unethical practices of counterfeiters. The only way to know if an Ergo is real is if it was originally purchased from an authorised retailer.

Baby Bjorn is another popular buckle carrier and probably one of the most well known babywearing brand names. While expensive new, they can often be picked up cheaply second hand (particularly early models). Baby Bjorns have been given a bad rap in the babywearing community over recent years, mostly due to the less than optimal position for baby’s legs and the ability to carry baby facing out. And while it is true that ideally baby’s legs would be better supported in an ‘M’ position like in an Ergo and that facing out isn’t something I would recommend, Baby Bjorns are safe (if TICKS guidelines are followed). So if you’ve been given one or can pick one up very cheaply then don’t be afraid to use it – keeping your baby close is the key, however you make that happen! But be aware that the other major drawback of the Baby Bjorn, particularly the early models that you can get cheaply, is that they won’t be very comfortable for you once baby gets heavier – so do consider some of the other options I’ve outlined above.

Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!