*Before reading on, please know I am not an expert on the subject my any means, but it can be confusing starting out ‘babywearing’ and having recently done a lot of research I simply wanted to share all my new found knowledge in one place here.
Before I had Bea, I had certain intentions – having a baby ‘wasn’t going to change my life’, where I went or what I did. I had decided I’d buy a baby carrier of sorts and our Ergo360 was an early purchase when she was 3 weeks old. Not long after I bought a stretchy wrap, so I could wear her around the house – keeping her close kept her happy and giving me my hands back. I heard a bit about ‘babywearing’ during my research into both of these but it’s become such a big part of our lives now and ignites so much curiosity among other parents and passers by when I have her wrapped that I thought I’d share a bit more of my experiences.
Firstly, what is ‘babywearing’? Well, it is what it says on the tin. Wearing your baby on your front, hip or back in a structured carrier, stretchy wrap or woven wrap (both sometimes called slings.) Why would you do it? Loads of reasons! I started wearing Bea in the stretchy at around 4-6 weeks (you can babywear from birth with the right carrier and knowledge,) when she went through a fussy phase and I needed to get my hands back to do things around the house. I found the Ergo too bulky around the house and couldn’t really sit in it, wheras the sling was just like hands free carrying. Fans of BW say wraps are ‘full of sleepy dust’ and mine rivals any other means of getting her to sleep, even the pram and car. I can also keep it on when we get back from a walk and she has just dropped off, or transfer her to the cot. Now she’s getting older and more mobile, it’s a lifesaver for that 5 o’clock meltdown period of tiredness pre-dinner. I can simply put her in the sling while I cook and she’s happy. Bea hasn’t got teeth yet but other babywearing mama’s say it’s a godsend for the fussy, clingy, teething baby or unwell child and you can even discreetly breastfeed in stretchy or woven wraps while you’re on the go. Going back even further, historically babies have been carried for thousands of years in many cultures, keeping them safe and secure and it’s now a big part of the attachment parenting movement to increase bonding between caregiver and child.
For me, going back to my original sentences in this post, it’s also given me a huge amount of freedom. I think few new parents think when they research that pram purchase endlessly that it can actually be really restrictive travelling anywhere with a pram. They’re huge, heavy, unweildy and often prevent you doing the most basic things like shopping between clothes rails or down jammed supermarket aisles, walking off pavemented paths, getting through doors and up steps, or on public transport. Even lugging our pram in and out of the boot is a hassle. With my wrap, I can take Bea anywhere my legs will carry me and keep her out of harms way in public places or give her a place to nap when we’re on the move. She’s interacting with me, seeing the world at my height and feels secure. I’m kind of evangelical about it.
I’m focusing here on wrapping with a woven wrap – essentially a long piece of fabric that you can wrap in different ways to carry your baby in. You can carry your baby on your front, hip or back, from birth (when you know how,) for as long as you feel able, though most people stop around 2-3 years. If you think baby wearing might be for you, or like me, you want to keep wearing but are outgrowing your stretchy wrap, read on!
A great first port of call if you’re interested in baby wearing is your local sling library or sling meet – just google one in your area or look for one on the Sling Library site. They all stock a range of different types (not just woven wraps) of carrier that you can try and hire, along with friendly advice from experienced baby wearers.
What to look for in a wrap
There are MANY different wraps available and I’ll direct you to some stockists and highlight some brands in a moment, but first there are a few factors common to all wraps that you should consider.
- Firstly, the blend, or what the wrap is made of. Wraps can be made from 100% cotton (the most common,) or a combination of fibres, like linen, wool, silk or even mohair, alpaca and baby camel! Different fibres give different qualities like softness, warmth or affect how easy it is to use, making it grippy, or adding some stretch.
- Wraps also come in a variety of sizes. What size you need depends on your size and the size of your wrapee too, and affects what you can do with it – some of the many possible carries need more length whereas others are better with a short wrap. An average sized person usually starts with a 6, then as you learn you can decide if a shorter one is right for you but there’s nothing to stop you starting with a short wrap, you’re just a bit more limited with what you can do with it. This is a great blog post on choosing your wrap size. Oscha also has a sizing table showing what you can do with each wrap size according to your size.
- Care. Baby wraps are first and foremost practical items. Your baby might soil the wrap in a myriad of ways, you might drag it on the floor or want to put it on in a muddy car park. Cotton and/or linen wraps can usually be machine washed and tumble dried. This doesn’t apply to silk or wool and other blends, which need hand washing and may be more delicate. The weave can also affect the wraps susceptibility to getting pulls from jewellery or velcro. Think about how careful you can realistically be when you’re choosing your wrap. Another great blog post on how to choose your first woven wrap.
- Style. I was determined after months of wearing a hideous beige stretchy (that I bought because it was cheap and I didn’t know if we would like or use it) that I wanted a beautiful wrap this time and set about looking for one. I’ve always associated woven wraps with being a bit hippyish in rainbow weaves or faded dyes but there’s loads more designs and patterns out there in fact, from stripes to stars to intricate ethnic inspired designs right through to modern geometric ones. Just make sure you have a think about the points above before choosing style over substance.
So where can you buy a woven wrap?
Obviously, online. Many of the brands are european and BW is big in the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. UK stockists of several brands I sugesst as starters include Love to be Natural and Pour La Bebe (Yaro stockists.)
Great brands to look at for starting out include Didymos, Lenny Lamb, Elleville, Firespiral and Yaro – all well priced wraps. Other well known ones include Girasol, Kokadi, Hoppediz and many more!
Like anything, there’s also a high end market for woven wraps with stylish designs and luxury fabric blends. My favourites are Oscha, Woven Wings and Sling Studio, but there are also many more including Pavo, Uppymamma and one of the most highly sought after, Artipoppe. With all wraps, but more so the high end brands, many are limited edition. There is an obsessive baby wearing community and many releases are snapped up within seconds of them being stocked online so they can be very hard to come by. Yaro slings can be bought for around £40, average prices for middle market are around £70-100 and the high end wraps can cost from £120+ – of course, the blend also affects the price, 100% cotton is always cheapest.
Which leads me to the second way you can buy – preloved. Woven wraps if treated properly can last a very long time so are often sold on. Because wraps often sell out very quickly they can be very hard to get hold of and become highly sought after, priced way above retail value, which is a little bit crazy at times. If you do want to delve into this world, there are fan pages for many of the brands where people buy, sell and trade their used (or sometimes new) wraps. Look on ebay, Facebook fan pages, or there are a couple of dedicated marketplaces on Facebook – BabyWearing FSOT and High End Babywearing FSOT. As with any unregulated online transaction though, take care. Use paypal for some buyer protection and ask to see the wrap in the sellers hand to make sure they have it to sell. It pays to hang around the boards seeing how people do it for a while before taking the plunge. The upside of all this selling and trading means you can often sell a wrap on if you don’t get on with it and trade up or just try something else out.
Once you’ve got your wrap, what next?
First up, your wrap if it is new or has been washed before being sent to you preloved, will need breaking in. If you feel it’s stiff or difficult to wrap with, PERSIST! When I recieved my first woven wrap (a size 6 Oscha) I was completely overwhelmed by how much fabric there was. A lot of sweating and tugging fabric into place, fear I’d drop Bea or frustration that I couldn’t reach, drag it into place, or get it tight ensued. I’d say it only took a few attempts before I felt more more confident and I still get better every time I wrap her. The wrap was also fresh out of the wash and softened up brilliantly in a couple of weeks.
As I said above, sling libraries are great for advice although you won’t be able to get 1 to 1 wrapping demo’s as they’re often busy. You can often pay for a consultancy session 1 to 1 if you feel that would be good and I think if you plan to BW a lot it would be a worthwhile investment. However there are huge amounts of tutorials online and BW bloggers. Most people start with a FWCC (front wrap cross carry) and I’ve linked here to a tutorial on how to do that carry by my favourite three youtube baby wearers: Wrap You In Love (above), Baby Wearing Faith and Wrapping Rachel. These are just some of the very experienced baby wearing women out there and it’s worth watching lots of them as they all have little tricks that can help!
And practice! Practice at home, wear your baby round the house, use a mirror to see what you’re doing and pick a time when your baby isn’t grouchy or hungry. Giving them a toy to play with if they’re big enough helps distract them. I now have 3 wraps, a size 6, a 3 and a 4. An Oscha and 2 Woven Wings. 1 silk and cotton blend and 2 merino wool and cotton blend. I’m still getting to grips with different carries, putting Bea on my back and the different lengths and blends but it’s been liberating and fun and satisfying learning how to wrap and keeping her close. I’ll certainly be doing it for a long time yet
I hope if you were curious this has answered some of your questions – feel free to fire more at me and if you’ve thought of trying BW, don’t let anything stop you. I love it