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.
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?