Wraps – The Whats, The Whys & The Hows

An Introduction to the World of Woven Wraps

I love sharing my passion for wrapping with other babywearing mamas. It’s not often that I spot another wrapper out in public, but when I do, I get a thrill. I want to run up to that mama and say “hello” because I know that she understands. She is like me, a kindred spirit who has taken the plunge into the wonderful world of woven wraps. I’m confident that if I actually did find the courage to approach this mama and if I were to ask to pat her wrap (after the pleasantries of course) that she would not find this strange at all. Not at all. She gets it. Instant BFFs us woven wrap lovers.

Unfortunately, such sightings are rare. Babywearing parents are more likely to be found sporting a Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) such as an Ergo or Tula. Of course this makes me happy too. It’s great seeing parents bonding with their little ones by keeping them close and carrying them whether it be in arms or using one of the dozens of baby carriers available today. The choices can be overwhelming to a new parent or just a parent new to babywearing. So, as an avid babywearing wrapaholic, my goal here is to offer a basic introduction and to demystify the sometimes intimidating yet, oh so, wonderful world of woven wraps.

So, what is a baby wrap?

One of the most common misconceptions about wraps is that they are complicated and that it takes some kind of babywearing mystic guru to be able to use them. When in fact, it is quite the opposite. A wrap is simply one long piece of cloth that can be tied in many different ways. There are two main kinds of wraps: stretchy and woven.

Stretchy wraps such as the Moby, Hana or Boba Wrap, are usually cotton, but some are blends using spandex or even bamboo. They are most appropriate for newborns and lighter babies (despite what the manufacturer says) and should never be used for back carries. They are extremely soft, easy to wrap with and, due to their significant amount of stretch, are very forgiving. Characteristics that are good for a beginner wrapper. These characteristics combined with the fact that they can be found on the shelves of most baby stores means that stretchy wraps are quite often a gateway into the world of wrapping.

Unlike stretchy wraps, woven wraps can be used to carry babies from newborn to toddler on the front, hip or back. They come in different lengths and are woven from all kinds of different materials from 100% cotton to linen and bamboo, silk, wool and cashmere to more exotic animal fibres like camel, alpaca and vicuna. Woven wraps also fall into two categories: machine or handwoven. Classic names in the world of machine woven wraps include Didymos, Storchenwiege, and Natibaby. Well-known handwoven brands include Uppymama, Woven Rainbow and Warped and Wonderful.

Sizing and choosing a wrap

Woven wraps come in different lengths in order to allow for different carries. The longer the wrap, the more versatile.

Length                                 Carries

size 1 –  2.0 meters                             Rebozo

size 2 –  2.7 meters                             Rebozo and super short carries

size 3 –  3.1 meters                             Shorty carries

size 4 –  3.6 meters                             Petite base size and short carries

size 5 –  4.1 meters                             Small base size

size 6 –  4.6 meters                             Average base size

size 7 –  5.1 meters                             Plus base size

size 8 –  5.5 meters                             Longer carries and fancy finishes

For beginners, it is important to determine base size and most babywearing consultants would suggest starting there when choosing your first wrap. Base size is determined by the Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC). The user should be able to comfortably tie off in back. As you can see from the above chart, the average base size is a 6. A FWCC instructional video is included in the “Carries” section of this article.

After determining your base size, the next step in choosing a wrap is to find one that can be described as “a good beginner” wrap, meaning they are soft, floppy and easy to wrap with. Wraps that are good for beginners tend to be 100% cotton or cotton/linen. There is no specific brand, but it’s helpful to decide on a price range to help narrow down the search. The average cost of a woven wrap is $40-$200USD. Finally, look for one that is aesthetically appealing to you – one that you’ll want to use every day, but also one that is not too expensive or too pretty that you’re afraid to use it!

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My first woven wrap was a pre-loved cotton/linen Didymos Ruby/Gold 1975 Old Standard size 3 that I bought for $125USD. One of my biggest concerns when choosing my first wrap was babywearing in Singapore’s hot and humid climate. I was determined to buy the absolute coolest fabric and airiest weave.  Didymos Indios seemed to fit my criteria perfectly. I ran an internet search for linen blend Didymos Indios and came across the Ruby/Gold 1975 OS, which I thought was gorgeous. After reading a couple of reviews online, I decided to buy a preloved one that was fully “broken in” or, at the very least, on its way. Most woven wraps, regardless of the fabric, have a breaking in period similar to a new pair of jeans. New linen can be a little difficult to work with for beginners. However, once linen is fully broken in, it is wonderfully soft – making it suitable for a newborn, yet supportive enough for a toddler.

I also chose not to follow the standard rule of starting with my base size, which is a 5 since I am petite. Instead, I chose a size 3 because I did not find working with too much length appealing especially in a hot and humid climate. I had also done my research regarding all the carries I could do with a size 3 and I was confident that I could make it work. And, I did. Within a couple of months, I was able to master quite a number of carries including FWCC tied under bum (TUB), semi-FWCC, Front Cross Carry (FCC) with a sling ring, Short Front Cross Carry (SFCC), Kangaroo, Poppins Hip Carry, Robins Hip Carry, Inside Out Coolest Hip Carry (IOCHC) and a Rucksack Back Carry.

w2The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and the more interested I became in trying other wraps and sizes.

In the year since I bought my first woven, I have tried many, many wraps. However, my Didymos Ruby/Gold OS survives the churn bug and remains. To me, it is still the ultimate wrap for Singapore’s weather and it is the one I reach for whenever I am planning to spend any significant amount of time outdoors.

Size 3s remained my favourite size for more than a year. However, as my little one grew and became more curious and squirmy, the less manageable wearing her on the front had become. It was awkward having an 8kg squirming, grabbing bulge on my chest all the time, especially when also caring for an older child. It seemed as though my baby had turned into a toddler overnight. And just as quickly, I stopped using my size 3s and found myself reaching for longer wraps that allow for more supportive, multi-layer back carries and ones that include a chest pass or chest belt such as a Double Hammock (DH), Double Hammock with a Candy Cane Chest Belt (CCCB) or a Rucksack Tied Tibetan (TT).

w3It is definitely possible to get similar support from a shorty (sizes 1, 2 and 3), but these wraps tend to be thicker, which often translates to warmer and more difficult to wrap with.

Carries

Just to reiterate, it does not take a babywearing mystic guru with godzilla arms and a gymnast flexibility to use a woven wrap. Of course, like most things in life, there is a learning curve. But watch a few YouTube videos and you will be amazed to see those seemingly complicated carries deconstructed before your eyes. Most beginners start with Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) and Front Cross Carry (FCC). Once you feel that you’ve mastered these, move on to other front and hip carries such as Kangaroo, Robins Hip Carry and Inside Out Coolest Hip Carry (IOCHC). Do not move on to back carries until you feel confident working with the wrap. However, once you do, a basic Rucksack Carry or Back Wrap Cross Carry (BWCC) are good starters. When learning and practicing new carries, always keep the “T.I.C.K.S.” of safe babywearing in mind.

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Why are woven wraps so expensive?

Another big misconception about woven wraps is that they are all very expensive. In reality, like all consumer products, there is a wide-range of brands to choose from for all budgets. For the budget-minded, some common classic brands on the market are Storchenwiege, EasyCare, Lenny Lamb and Little Frog. On the other side of the spectrum are brands such as Artipoppe, Woven Wings, Solnce, and Kokoro. Handwoven wrap brands such as Uppymama, MadHatter, and Farideh will always fall into the more expensive category. Like any handicraft, these brands are lovingly and painstaking custom designed and created by an individual weaver. However, there are also budget handwoven companies that mass produce wraps like Girasol and Inda Jani. And, of course there are many others that fall in-between. New brands are emerging every day. Retail prices can range wildly from as low as $45 to as high as a few thousand for some of the luxury high-end (HE) blends and custom handwovens.

Thousands???  You ask. I’m imagining that this has sparked a bit of shock and awe from a reader (or two) here. Maybe a few readers are wondering why anyone would spend any significant amount of money on a baby product that is inevitably going to be spit on, chewed on and there is a good probability that it is going to be pooped on. In part, retail cost are largely influenced by the quality and sourcing of materials – the more exotic or refined, the more expensive. Then, there is basic economics and boils down to supply and demand. Most woven wraps are produced in very limited numbers in a single release (some are even 1 or 2 of a kind) and don’t come anywhere close to filling the demand, especially the highly sought after (HSA) designs. In turn, this enormous discrepancy has created a huge resale market. It’s fairly easy to recoup some, if not all, the money spent on the wrap. Nor is it uncommon to see some high-end wraps that are highly sought after or hard to find (HTF) being resold for 3 or 4 times their original retail value.

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Wraps can be most simply compared to shoes. Most peopw6le have more than one pair of shoes, some more expensive than others, for different occasions and purposes. However, unlike shoes, woven wraps do not wear out. Instead, wrapping qualities tend to improve with use or after the breaking in period. This is another factor that contributes to the strong resale market and has, in turn, created the expectation that money spent isn’t necessarily gone forever, which certainly makes spending it much easier. It also allows for “churning,” the trying out of different wraps, through buying, trading and selling on the numerous “B/S/T” (Buy/Sell/Trade) Facebook groups. This is where the slope can start getting slippery- very slippery for some and is lovingly referred to as the rabbit hole of the wonderful world of woven wraps.

Most seasoned wrappers will agree that not all wraps are created equal. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Each wrap is special and has it’s own unique wrapping qualities (WQs). However, WQs do not necessarily correlate with price. Wrapping qualities are entirely subjective and come down to personal preference. Ask any seasoned wrapper to choose their favourite wrap and you will more than likely get a different answer from each. Personally, if I had to name my favourite wraps, most would fall more into the budget-friendly category. For example, my current favourite based solely on wrapping qualities, is Tiny Tiger Baby’s American Beauty. It is a 100% cotton, plain weave natty (natural coloured wrap) that is thin, airy, and moldable. A perfect beginner wrap that has the perfect amount of stretch and a little bit of bounce. It is extremely soft, making it ideal for a newborn, yet supportive and cushy enough for a toddler.

 

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Why choose a woven wrap over other carriers?

There are so many reasons to choose a woven wrap over other carriers, but my first response is always, versatility. No other carrier can carry a child in such a myriad of ways on the front, back and hip from newborn to toddlerhood. Breastfeeding in a woven wrap can be done both easily and discreetly. No other carrier can fit all body types as comfortably as a woven wrap. When wrapped correctly, woven wraps are also the most ergonomically suited for both parent and child conforming to the body, distributing weight evenly and alleviating pressure points. Finally, it’s impossible to leave out aesthetics. They are beautiful: allowing parents to maintain a sense of style while also keeping little ones safe and close.

My journey down the rabbit hole of the wonderful world of woven wraps has brought me far more than I could ever have imagined. I think everyone can agree that life changes dramatically with parenthood. Gone are the days of spontaneous, carefree adventures. Gone are the late nights out with friends and the lazy mornings lying in. Time spent previously on favourite hobbies and activities is now relegated to tending to babies and young children. We see less and less of our childless friends and it can be challenging making new friends that fit into the children’s varying nap schedules. The transition into parenthood is rarely smooth and easy for most. For me, I could never have known that the day I bought my first woven wrap would become one of the most significant choices I would make influencing my happiness.

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Since becoming a mother, my marathon training has been put on hold and my stilettos are buried in the bottom of my closet. However, journeying into the world of woven wraps has taken me on a new adventure – one that has become a new hobby that I can explore, most importantly, with my children. I have a new appreciation for textiles and the intricacy of these beautifully designed pieces of fabric – each woven wrap is special with it’s own unique wrapping qualities. The wide-array of colors and myriad of designs to choose from has also allowed me to maintain my sense of style. Even though I still wear my “mommy uniform” (shorts and a tank top or t-shirt) on most days, using a woven wrap helps me feel beautiful, while performing the important yet, not-so-glamorous, work of motherhood.

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Lastly, but certainly not least, is the community I have found on my journey. I have spent countless hours chatting, stalking and geeking out over wraps with other wrap-loving mamas. The wrap chatter inevitably turning into conversations about our lives, family,  and children – sharing with one another the highs and lows of our day, offering support when a child is sick or providing a much needed giggle at the end of a long day (a recipe containing breastmilk and curry comes to mind here). Eventually, we are sharing our wraps with one another and organising playdates. Babywearing connected me to a community of like-minded parents, while wrapping has bonded me to some amazing women and lifelong friends.

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Written By: Mummy Kristi

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