Wrapping. Wrapping eluded me in my babywearing career for a VERY long time. With my first kid almost 9 years ago, we could have easily made one of those parody, viral wrapping videos currently floating around Facebook. Only it wouldn’t have been a parody. While we did eventually master front wrapping, back wrapping largely confounded me with the first until he was a toddler and slightly more compliant with my fumbling, t-rex arms. That trend continued with the second kid. And the third kid. It wasn’t until the fourth kid when I was finally able to receive help from a patient, benevolent, talented Babywearing International educator that I could master using a wrap to carry my child on my back. I’m eternally grateful for her assistance to help tame my confusion and frustration because she helped open up our babywearing world to many more possibilities.
This month, we’re dedicating our Babywearing 102 to the wondrous world of wrapping! Often described as the babywearing enthusiasts carrier of choice, we’re going to show how versatile they can be!
What is a wrap?
A wrap is a long, rectangular piece of cloth. Lacking buckles or rings, it is babywearing in it’s most unembellished form. Wraps can be intricately woven by hand or by machine, with an infinite variety of color and pattern choices. They can be used with newborns all the way up to toddlers, preschoolers, or even adults should the need arise!
It is important to note that woven fabric of various lengths, often handwoven with great care and imbued with cultural significance, have been used for carrying babies throughout history. In some places and cultural groups throughout the world, these babywearing traditions have been carried on continuously to current times. A few of the wrap types which are part of a living tradition include: the rebozo, still in use in Mexico and Central America today, the leso and kanga used in Kenya, the selendang used in Indonesia, and many others.
Wraps are divided into three categories: stretchy, hybrid, and woven. The Moby and Boba wraps are two examples of stretchy wraps. Stretchy wraps can be used In front or off-centered hip carries using three passes of the fabric to cover baby, are ideal for newborns up to approximately 15 pounds, but cannot be used for back carries due to the stretchy nature of the material making it unsafe for that purpose.
Hybrid wraps combine the t-shirt quality of stretchy wraps, but have additional support in the weave to make them safe for back carries. Examples of hybrid wraps include the Wrapsody Hybrid and Je Porte Mon Bebe.
Woven wraps have limited stretch, come from many different makers, and can be used for a wide variety of front, hip, and back carries. Woven wraps can be used for newborns all the way up to toddlerhood and beyond, and also come in many different sizes and widths.
What size do I need?
Wraps come in a variety of sizes, from the smallest size 1 all the way up to size 10. Several manufacturers carry size 9 and 10, including Risaroo, Soul, and Yaro. The size of wrap you need will vary from person to person and will be determined by the type of carry you want to do, as well as the size of the baby. Minus a few carries with fancy finishes, the only size you really need to do the vast majority of carries is your base size. Most caregivers start out by practicing with their base size, and then often branch out to other sizes depending on the types of carries they like to do. If you prefer for your carry to have shorter wrap ends or tails hanging down once you’ve completed the carry, you may choose to use a shorter wrap. Your base size is determined by what size wrap you can comfortably accomplish front wrap cross carry in. Aren’t sure what size you require for front wrap cross carry? Come to one of our monthly meetings to learn with our library carriers! For most caregivers, that will be between a size 5-8. Your base size will also be able to accomplish any carry that requires a wrap shorter than your base size, so if your base size is a 7, you’ll also be able to do any carries that require a 6, 5, 4, 3, etc. Check out this comprehensive guide that lists every carry you can do with each wrap size.
Tips for Wrapping Success
When trying any new carry or carrier, we suggest practicing over a soft surface and with an adult spotter when possible. Support baby with your hand or arm when securing them in the wrap and tightening it until it is fully tied. When wrapping a newborn, we recommend a tummy to tummy position with baby’s head resting on the boney part of your chest at a height where you can easily kiss the top of their head. Wrapping with legs in or out is going to rely heavily on the preferences of the newborn and whether they are developmentally ready to fully uncurl and be wrapped legs out. Generally speaking, babies can be wrapped legs out from birth. When wrapping legs in, it’s important to make sure that baby’s weight is resting on their bottom and not on their feet or legs.
Practice when you and baby are both content and well rested. While back carries in a woven wrap can be attempted with babies under 6 months of age, we recommend mastering front and hip carries first if you’ve never back carried a baby before and moving on to back carries once baby can sit unassisted. Back carries with infants under 6 months of age require special consideration and positioning to protect their airway, and it is often easier to practice more complex carries with an older, more compliant child who is better able to protect their airway while you are learning. Stretchy wraps, such as a Moby, should not be used for back carries because of the stretchy nature of the material making them unsafe for that purpose.
The Anatomy of a Wrap Carry
Wrap carries are built with a series of passes that go around baby and caregiver. Each pass has it’s own name, and when combined together, they create a carry. There are three categories of carries. The first category will bring the wrap over both shoulders, known as a two shouldered carry. The second category will bring the wrap over one shoulder and under the opposite arm, known as a single shouldered carry. The third category will bring the wrap under both arms and around the torso of the caregiver, known as a torso carry. Each category provides different benefits to the caregiver, such as ease of nursing and feeding, or may be better for those with limited mobility.
Types of passes – Check out our woven wrap resources page for more details on the different passes here. In the mean time, this image shows many of them:
Types of knots – We recommend always tying off with a square or double knot to secure your wrap. Some carries call for a slipknot, which is an adjustable knot that will allow you to loosen or tighten the wrap without fully untying it. This can be helpful for lowering to feed, or taking baby in and out while doing car seat transfers and running errands. If you’re new to making slipknots, check out this clever video which has been shot downward at the same angle you’ll be looking when you tie the knot.
Making a seat – If the passes are what built the carry, the seat is the foundation. Regardless of whether baby is in a front or back carry, the bottom edge of the wrap should extend from the back of one knee to the other and baby’s bottom should rest lower in the wrap than the knees. This is an excellent blog post and visual from Modern Babywearing of what a proper seat looks like.
When making a seat for a newborn or smaller infant, their thighs will stay more in line with their hips and will not be able to straddle the caregiver’s body in the same way an older baby or toddler can. The infant’s shins will press into the caregiver’s body rather than facing outward, and this is known as a narrow squat with knees higher than bottom.
Getting Started – Beginner Carries
Front wrap cross carry is often the first carry we recommend when learning how to wrap. Pocket wrap cross carry is a variation that many stretchy wrap users begin with. Both are good for learning how to get baby into and out of the wrap, practicing making a seat and strand by strand tightening, and gaining muscle memory before moving on to more advanced carries. I like this Front Wrap Cross Carry video from Wrapping Rachel that has some excellent tips for how to make a seat and perform strand by strand tightening. A variation of front wrap cross carry that can be accomplished with a shorter wrap is Front Wrap Cross Carry Tied Under Bum. A note on passes for newborns – Some newborns do not have the joint flexibility for passes to go over and under their legs in front wrap cross carry. If you find that to be the case, you can either bring bunched passes behind both knees before tying off in back rather than over and under, or do a Lexi twist under baby’s bottom to allow you to tie lower on your body and not interfere with baby’s legs.
Another two shouldered, base size carry to consider is front cross carry. Rather than starting your middle marker at the center of your chest as with front wrap cross carry, you’ll start it at the center of your lower back. This carry can be pre-tied and is considered poppable because you can take baby in and out without untying and retying. Check out this video on Front Cross Carry to learn more.
If you’re learning how to use your stretchy wrap, I recommend this Pocket Wrap Cross Carry video. This video is geared toward newborns but still provides some excellent tips for completing the carry for older infants as well.
Hip carries are a good option for babies who’ve become more curious about the world and like to look out, but aren’t yet ready for a back carry. If you’re able to comfortably hold baby on your hip in your arms and they have good control of their trunk and head in that position without flopping over, they’re likely ready for a hip carry. Another milestone to indicate hip carry readiness is the ability to push themselves up off of the ground with their arms during tummy time and be able to turn their head from side to side without getting tired and needing to rest their head back down.
Hip Wrap Cross Carry is an excellent hip carry to transition to from front wrap cross carry because they are very similar to each other, and it also requires a base size wrap. This is also one of my favorite hip carries for a toddler because it is very supportive for long periods of time.
Sling Carry or traditional sling carry (formerly know as Rebozo), is very comfortable for warm weather because only a single layer of fabric goes over baby. It’s also easily adjusted with a slipknot to lower baby or take them in and out without untying. Sling carry is typically done with a size 2+ wrap. Robin’s Hip Carry is also a great beginner hip carry because it can be done with a base size wrap and tied to use up extra length, plus it has a double layer of fabric over the shoulder for more comfort.
Once you and baby are ready to move onto back carries, there are a few important steps involved. The first being getting baby onto your back. There are a number of ways to get baby onto your back, such as the Santa toss method, hip scoot, and superman toss. Choosing a method is somewhat subjective, but some may also work better than others depending on the age of the baby and how heavy they are. This video demonstrates each method with a toddler. Getting baby down is usually easiest with the hip scoot method, and this is done by bringing one side of the wrap under your arm and sliding baby and wrap around together and under your arm until they’re on your hip. Check out this video for a demonstration.
Ruck is often the carry most people start with because it’s symmetrical in that it goes over both shoulders and is slightly easier to learn making a seat and strand by strand tightening with. It can usually be done with a size 3+ depending on the finish. Check out this video for ruck instructions as well as tips on making and maintaining a seat. There are a variety of pass variations and finishes to practice before moving on to more advanced carries as well, and you can view several different finishing methods located in this video. Back wrap cross carry is another excellent beginner carry because you can use your base size. I like it as a beginner carry because you start the carry by securing it with a knot at your chest and can take breaks before moving on to the next step. This will naturally be lower on the body because of both passes starting under the arms.
Moving on – Intermediate/Advanced Carries
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will help you get started if you’re looking to move on to something more advanced.
Once you’re ready to move on from Front Wrap Cross Carry, there are a variety of intermediate or advanced front carries to consider. Kangaroo carry is a nice carry if you’re looking for a two shouldered carry that requires only a single layer of fabric over baby. You can complete this carry with a size 3+ wrap. It’s especially nice for newborns, or for not disturbing sleeping children who need to be wrapped or transferred to bed after falling asleep. It’s slightly more advanced because of the shoulder flip and strand by strand tightening involved. I love this video with some great tips for a successful kangaroo carry.
Front double hammock is a highly supportive front carry for long-term wearing because there are multiple spread passes over the caregiver’s back. It too has the option of a shoulder flip and requires careful strand by strand tightening. This video shows how to complete the carry both with and without a shoulder flip.
Poppins is usually done with a size 4+ wrap and has the added benefit of having a really fun finish at the end, plus a pass that can either go over or under the leg for added security. It can also be a tummy to tummy position for smaller babies. There are several different methods of completing the Poppins hip carry, but my favorite by far is the partially pre-tied method. Because of the strand by strand tightening this carry requires, I find it much more easy to start the carry and have it partially completed before adding baby. This video has some helpful tips for Poppins using the partially pre-tied method.
Coolest hip cross carry is one of my favorite poppable hip carries and can be done with a size 3+ wrap. The passes can also be reversed which some people find the be more easily adjustable. Check out these videos for coolest hip cross carry and reverse coolest hip cross carry.
Double hammock is one of the first advanced carries that a lot of wrappers move on to because it can be done with a base size, and it’s very comfortable for the caregiver with a spread chest pass to help distribute the weight of the baby. There are also many different pass variations for wiggly babies. I like double hammock because I can change up how I choose to finish the carry, whether that be with a candy cane chest belt, freshwater finish, saltwater finish, etc. Double hammock tied at the shoulder is one of my favorite variations for those starting out because it allows you to start the carry at the middle marker rather than off-centered from the middle marker, which means you don’t have to guess how long either tail needs to be. Other carries that I would place in the intermediate/advanced category are Giselle’s back carry, Jordan’s back carry, half Jordan’s back carry, Shepherd’s carry, and Christina’s ruckless plus several others and their variations.
I hope you enjoyed our (almost) definitive guide to wrapping! There are endless possibilities for wrapping up your baby, and I hope you’re inspired to give wrapping a try or perhaps branch out into some new carries if you’re already familiar with wraps. For the month of July, our meetings will focus on wrapping during the 102 portion and we invite you to bring your questions and curiosity for our accredited educators! We’ll also be hosting a wrapping challenge in our discussion group for both front and back carries! If you’re interested in receiving one on one help with wrapping from one of our educators and would like to schedule a consultation, we’ll be offering 20 minute appointments during our carrier workshop on July 9th from 1-4pm. They will be $20 for our members, or $30 for non-members. Please visit here to sign up!