Today we’re going to get a little more specific about carriers that are ideal for newborns: stretchy wraps. Stretchy wraps are some of our favorite carriers to recommend for newborns and new wearers. They are relatively inexpensive and are very easy to find. Most retailers that carry baby items have stretchy wraps along with frontpack carriers like Baby Bjorns.
There are three “big names” in the stretchy wrap market: MobyWrap, Boba, and Baby K’Tan. The Moby and Boba wraps are both long lengths of jersey knit fabric, while the K’Tan is made of two loops of jersey knit fabric plus an additional sash piece. All three of these carriers are rated for babies from 8-35 pounds, although most wearers find them uncomfortable after baby reaches 15-20 pounds. It is possible to wear babies who are under 8 pounds as well, but it is recommended that caregivers check with a doctor before wearing if baby was premature or has any other concerns.
We love stretchy carriers for new wearers because they are simple to use and can be pre-tied to create “poppable” carries. This means the wrap can be completely tied before baby is in the carrier. Once the caregiver has “popped” the baby in the carrier, minor adjustments can be made if the carrier is too loose or too tight.
As I mentioned in our newborn wearing post, positioning of a newborn in any carrier is vitally important. Stretchy wraps are fantastic for learning proper positioning because they are perfect for mastering a high, tight front carry. Remember, baby should always be close enough to kiss with his/her face visible to the wearer at all times and with his/her chin up and away from her chest.
Another reason we love stretchy carriers is that they are very easy to adjust for nursing. Nursing a newborn is very rarely a hands-free endeavor, even with a carrier, but once baby has a bit of head control and is able to latch vertically, hands-free nursing can be accomplished simply by lowering baby to the proper height to latch. With a newborn, a cradle hold is preferred to nurse, and baby should be repositioned in a tummy-to-tummy as soon as s/he is finished eating. Either way, stretchy carriers are a wonderful “gateway” to nursing in a carrier.
Since stretchy carriers are, well, stretchy, they tend to sag as baby gets bigger. The material is not terribly supportive with a larger baby, so most wearers find they want to find an alternative once baby reaches about 15 pounds. Most babies are 3-6 months old by the time they reach this weight. They also have good head control by this time and some are sitting unassisted and even working on crawling. These indicators of torso strength, combined with natural curiosity about the world that a three-month-old suddenly develops, lead many parents to want to carry their babies so baby can see the world, usually in a front-facing-out carry.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a front-facing-out (FFO) carry, but we have found that they are generally uncomfortable for the wearer for any extended period of time. It is difficult to provide ergonomic support for the baby and the wearer in an FFO carry, and they also don’t provide any head support for baby if s/he falls asleep while being worn. As such, we don’t routinely teach FFO carries and do not recommend them for long periods of time. That said, if your baby is unhappy in a front-facing-in carry and you want to learn other options in your stretchy wrap, we will be happy to teach them to you!
We find hip carries to be a wonderful alternative to FFO carries in many cases. Stretchy wraps can be used for hip carries once baby has good head control and can sit unassisted. All three stretchy carriers include instruction manuals with a variety of carries, hip holds included.
The one thing we never, ever endorse or recommend is to use a stretchy wrap for a back carry. These wraps do not offer the kind of support that back carries need, and it can be very dangerous for an inexperienced wearer to try to back carry in a stretchy wrap. Years ago, stretchy wrap manufacturers included instructions for back carries in their manuals, so if you have one of these older books you may find those there. If you happen to have one of these older stretchy wraps, just disregard the back-wrapping instructions and follow the front and hip advice.
If you are new to babywearing and have a small baby, stretchy wraps are a fantastic, relatively inexpensive option to get started in the babywearing world. We have two in our lending library, and several stores in our area carry them as well. Join us for a meeting to get some hands-on help with your stretchy carrier!