Stretchy wraps usually get mentioned first when you ask people which carrier they can recommend as one to start with when your baby is little. But why? What makes them so special for newborns and young babies? And why are there also lots of people who stay very clear of them?
I will be answering all those questions and more in this in-depth post about stretchy wraps.
I am one of those mums who started their babywearing journey with a stretchy wrap. I was lucky enough to be shown how to use one during my antenatal class and I loved the ease and the feel of it for the first 5 months of my daughters’ life!
What is a stretchy wrap?
A stretchy wrap is a long piece of fabric (usually about 5 m) which is soft and stretches either one way or two ways. The material can be pure cotton, a mix of cotton and elastane, a mix of bamboo and elastane or a mix of cotton, bamboo and elastane.
One-way stretchy wrap:
A one-way stretchy wrap stretches only along the width of the wrap. This means that when you pre-tie your wrap (I will explain this later in more detail) you will need to leave a bit of room for your baby to fit in the wrap. It usually takes a few tries to find you and your babies “sweet spot” for tying a one-way stretchy wrap.
Moby wraps and older versions of Snugglebug wraps are usually one-way stretchy wraps.
Two-way stretchy wrap:
A two-way stretchy wrap stretches along the width and the length of the wrap. For pre-tying your two-way stretchy wrap this means that you need to tie the wrap as tight as a tight-fitting T-Shirt. The stretch length wise will still provide enough room for your baby.
Most common brands in New Zealand that offer two-way stretchy wraps are: Snugglebug, Boba, Je Porte Mon Bebe, Chekoh and Hana.
How do I find out if I have a one-way or two-way stretchy wrap?
It is important to know if you own a one-way or a two-way stretchy wrap as you will need to pre-tie your wrap differently (as explained above). So how can you find out?
The easiest way is to take one of the tails of the wrap (the very end of the wrap) and pull it length wise. If there is no or very little stretch, you have a one-way stretchy wrap and if there is significant stretch then you have a two-way stretchy wrap.
How do you wear stretchy wraps?
Stretchy wraps can be worn in many ways. Often only the most common pre-tie version (Pocket Wrap Cross Carry) is known and mainly used. I personally only used the pre-tie version, partly because I didn’t know anything else and partly because it was easy, and I was comfortable with it. Here are a few examples of how stretchy wraps can be used:
Pocket Wrap Cross Carry
As mentioned above, this is the most commonly known pre-tie version of how to use a stretchy wrap. This carry works well for newborns until 5 to 6 months old (depending on the weight of the baby). At some point baby will get to heavy for this carry and you will notice that the wrap will loosen more quickly, and baby will start to sag down.
Here is a great video tutorial from Wrap you in love.
Front Wrap Cross Carry
A Front Wrap Cross Carry is very similar to a Pocket Wrap Cross Carry. The main difference is that you start to pre-tie the wrap but stop half-way and put baby in the wrap, before finishing to wrap. Because in this version the wrap can be tightened much better than in the pre-tie version it is suitable even for older babies. This carry can also be used if you would like to breastfeed your baby in the wrap as it can be loosened and tightened (please be aware that babywearing and breastfeeding are two separate skills which should be learned separate first before combining both).
Here is a video tutorial from Wrap you in love.
Another great carry for a stretchy wrap is a Hip Carry. This carry comes in handy once your baby becomes very curious and wants to see more of the world around him. This carry can be used to breastfeed your baby in the wrap as the wrap can be loosened and tightened again.
Here is a video tutorial from Amy Wraps Babies.
A back carry should NOT be done with a stretchy wrap. The risk of baby leaning out of the wrap and thus falling and injuring itself are too high.
What if I can’t manage to figure out how to use a stretchy wrap?
I hear you! You are not alone! It can be awfully hard trying to learn how to use this very long piece of fabric and for some people a video or photo tutorial is simply not helpful at all.
In this case, I can highly recommend finding a local babywearing group or a consultant who can show you one on one how to correctly use a stretchy wrap. They may even have a weighted babywearing doll in case you are still pregnant, but already want to practise.
Don’t worry with some hands on help it is usually not too hard to learn this new skill. Just see it as a skill that you need to practise in order to master it, like learning how to tie your shoelaces. Once you know how to do it, you don’t even need to think about the motions anymore.
How long can you use a stretchy wrap for?
What people usually do:
When you ask this question, usually people (including me) will answer you that you can comfortably wear your baby in a stretchy wrap until he is about 5 to 6 months old. This assumes that the wearer is using the pre-tie carry. As mentioned above this carry can only be used until baby gets too heavy and the carrier starts to loosen quickly after being tied and baby starts to drop down in the carry and his head ends up being between your breasts rather than on your hard sternum.
What is possible:
However, the weight limit for a stretchy wrap is often between 12 and 15kg (please always check the manufacturers recommendations). This means that you can use your stretchy wrap way beyond the first few months of your babies’ life (at least if you’ve got a light child like I have). You will need to switch from a pre-tie carry to a wrap around your baby carry though in order to better support babies’ weight.
How much weight can a stretchy wrap hold?
Stretchy wraps can hold up to 12 to 15kg of weight! The actual weight limit depends on the blend of materials used. Please always double check the manufacturers recommendations.
Can I put my newborn in a stretchy wrap?
Stretchy wraps are perfect for newborn babies. In fact, lots of people will recommend a stretchy wrap for a newborn as it has many advantages:
- It is very soft and moulds around your baby
- It fits every baby, even preemies
- It fits every caregiver and does not need to be adjusted between different caregivers
- It can be easily worn over a C-Section scar
- It distributes the weight of the baby ergonomically
- It can be pre-tied, and baby can be put in and out as needed without taking the carrier off
Does a stretchy wrap fit plus size?
Stretchy wraps are often 5 m long, which is enough fabric even for plus size women. In fact, smaller women often struggle with all the left-over fabric after pre-tying and need to wrap it multiple times around their bodies.
Can you wash a stretchy wrap?
Stretchy wraps are one of the easiest carriers to wash. Simply put your wrap in the washing machine (it is best to wash by itself), add some mild detergent and wash on a gentle cycle (30C). Hang your wrap to dry or use your dryer on gentle.
Which stretchy wrap is best for Summer?
A light bamboo fabric is best as a Summer stretchy wrap as it is a thinner fabric which breathes more.
If even a bamboo carrier gets too hot in Summer, there is always the option of using a different wrapping technic. For example, instead of using a Pocket Wrap Cross Carry, which has three layers of fabric over babies back you could use a Front Wrap Cross Carry which only has one layer of fabric over babies back and is thus cooler for both baby and caregiver.
So, why should I choose a stretchy wrap?
- Fits newborns, young babies and even older babies
- Very soft fabric
- Fits different sizes and body shapes of caregivers
- Can be used in many different ways
- No need to adjust between different caregivers
- Distributes babies’ weight ergonomically
- There is a learning curve regarding the wrapping
- Can only be used for a limited amount of time
- Can not be used for back carries
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