Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wraparound Slings - Stretchy or Woven?

Wraparound slings are the slings that are most likely to scare people! Admittedly they can be pretty daunting, especially if you are new to the world of babywearing - all that fabric and the different tying methods makes them seem very complicated and it is true that wraps have the steepest learning curve. However, using a long piece of fabric to carry your baby has lots of advantages and wrapping doesn't take that long to get the hang of if you have a bit of patience and are prepared to spend some time practising. As any die-hard wrapper will tell you, the rewards make it well worth it. Read on for information to help you decide which one is right for you.

Advantages of Wraparound Slings
  • Extremely comfortable - wraps hug your child close to you which means their weight is supported by your whole torso. Even a heavy baby can feel weightless in a correctly tied wrap. This also makes them very good for people with back problems.
  • Ultimate in adjustability - with no restrictions on tightening the wrap and no padding to get in the way the sling can be tweaked to suit the individual wearer.
  • Versatility - a wrap is arguably the most versatile of all slings, suitable from birth onwards and allowing both one shoulder and two shoulder carries on your front, back and hip.
  • Great for breastfeeding - due to a wrap being so adjustable they are possibly the easiest sling to breastfeed in and mean you can do it hands-free and on the go!
As with Soft Carriers there are two types of wrap - Stretchy and Woven. Although they are basically used the same way they are quite different so here's some info about each type.

Stretchy Wraparounds, such as the Moby or Tricot-Slen, are made of a stretchy material (funnily enough!) such as jersey cotton or fleece. They are gorgeously soft and a wonderful sling for a newborn, suitable for really tiny or premature babies and great for kangaroo care. You tie the sling before you put the baby in which means you can effectively leave the sling on all day and just pop the baby in and out when necessary. From day one you can carry a baby upright or in the cradle position and the latter is suitable for breastfeeding, the sling is tied the same way for both positions. It looks confusing but the tying method is pretty straightforward and once you get the hang of it will be able to tie it in under a minute. Stretchy wraps usually come in one length (over 5 metres) and are a one size fits most sling making them a great choice for parents who wish to share one sling. The designs are mostly quite plain making them very dad friendly.

The only real disadvantage of a Stretchy Wraparound is that the stretch of the fabric means they are not always supportive enough to carry heavier babies so do have a limited lifespan. When a baby reaches a certain weight some people find that the material can start to sag and this can pull on your back and shoulders. When this happens is impossible to predict, it will be at different weights for different people and can certainly be minimised by ensuring that the sling is tied tight enough and the fabric is well spread. Most people find they can use a stretchy wrap for at least 6-9 months (unless you have a very chunky baby), some a lot longer than that. Another issue is that as a baby grows and inevitably gets longer front carries become more difficult. In order to keep a baby in the correct position (with their bum at or above waist level) so it is comfortable for the wearer a tall baby will have their head in your face! Also carrying a heavy baby on your front does become less comfortable and will make your back ache more, for this reason most babywearers do start to use back carries at some point. While it is possible to do back carries in some stretchy wraps it is something we urge great caution over. Because the fabric is stretchy and also not as wide as a woven wrap there is a danger of a baby leaning back and not being properly supported, for this reason we would certainly not advise a back carry be attempted by anyone who is a novice.

Woven Wraparounds are the ultimate in versatility making possible a variety of front, back and hip carries from birth to toddler. As a result they do have the steepest learning curve of all slings but for the sling user who is prepared to take a bit of time to practice they do not take long to get the hang of, they all come with very good instructions and there are plenty more to be found on the net. The fabric has a special weave with just enough diagonal give to mould around you and your baby and making the wrap super supportive, even for heavy toddlers. Unlike their stretchy siblings, woven wraps come in different lengths. The shortest are usually around the 2.5 metre mark and the longest around 6 metres. The length you need depends on the carrying positions you want to be able to achieve as well as the size of the wearer. A short wrap will only allow you to do a few positions and some of the most comfortable front and back carries require a longer length of fabric. We recommend that for most families a wrap of around 4.6 metres will give you the most versatility although if either parent is very tall or broad a wrap over 5 metres may be better. Do contact us if you are unsure which length is right for you. Another difference between the different brands of woven wrap is the thickness of the fabric. Big Mama stocks a variety from the light and airy Calin Bleu gauze which is perfect for summer to the much thicker Didymos and Storchenwiege which are very supportive even for toddlers.

Which Wrap?
If you are interested in a wraparound, here is a quick guide:
  • Sling for newborn up to around 9 months - Stretchy
  • Birth to Toddler - Woven
  • Sling that is poppable - Stretchy
  • Quick to learn how to use - Stretchy
  • Lots of carrying positions possible - Woven
  • Breastfeeding on the go - Either

No comments: