What is a wrap around sling?
Is a long (2.7 – 5.7 metres), narrow (50 – 75 cm) piece of material that is wrap and tied or tucked to secure your baby firmly against you. It involves a bit of a steep learning curve for some, but with a bit of practice starting with a simple pre-tied style your knowledge and confidence will grow. Practicing with a doll or pillow first is a good thing to do.
The material maybe fully stretchy, usually made of cotton lycra or spandex. Half stretchy made of jersey cotton knit type of material making it fully stretchy width ways but only half stretchy length ways. A hybrid wrap is similar to a half stretchy being fully stretchy width ways but having very little stretch length ways. This is achieved through a blend of materials, batiking or adding a non-stretch material through the middle section. A non stretchy (normally woven) wrap has no stretch as such, only a little diagonal ‘give’ to make it workable and comfortable. Woven wraps are often woven in countries such as Guatemala or India. The Natural Mamas website has a guide to woven wraps. Simply buying hand woven material is difficult, but would make making your own a lot cheaper.
Making your own stretchy (best for low weight or premature babies only) or half stretchy is cheap and easy if you have a sewing machine. You can make your own non-stretchy wrap from a cotton bed sheet. Download the explanation here. Half stretchy wraps are great with young babies, as they feel soft and pliable on your delicate newborn. As soon as your baby gains some weight they can start to sag the stretchy wrap making it difficult for you to keep them high on your body. They may require re-tensioning more often. This is a good time to switch to a non-stretchy wrap that doesn’t sag with your baby’s weight.
Oscha Slings website has a good sizing guide. It shows the wrap size recommended for a particular dress size.
It also gives you the actual sling length of each size. This is handy if you want to make your own wrap.
Wrap around slings are easy to make and reasonably cheap to buy, though woven wrap are over $100NZ. Although there is a bit of a learning curve and the long length of material can be tricky to manage they are one of the most versatile baby carriers. A non-stretchy wrap is great for a newborn and can also be used for hip carries and back carries as your baby grows. If you think you’ll enjoy the artistry of wrapping your baby a wrap around sling is definitely for you!
Styles covered in the Wrap around sling chapter:
The pre-tied Front pocket cross carry is a great style to start you off with a fully or half stretchy wrap. A hybrid can be used too. You start by tying the wrap onto you and then putting your baby in. This avoids having to hold your baby while wrapping making it a good beginners style. Thousands of babies start their babywearing journey in a half stretchy worn this way.
The beginners style with the woven wrap is the Front cross carry (FCC). Like the front pocket cross carry it is pre-tied then your baby goes in. A bit of tensioning may be needed once baby is in. This style is great for a baby that wants in and out often, either for frequent feeding when little or for toileting if you are practicing Elimination Communication.
The Front wrap cross carry (FWCC) can be done with a half stretchy, hybrid or woven wrap. With the half stretchy the tails must be spread for more support. This style involves wrapping your baby onto you and is a good ‘next’ carry. It’s great in hot weather as it allows for one layer over your baby (if you’re using a hybrid or non-stretchy wrap). It also doesn’t involve guessing the tension you need like the Front pocket cross carry and the Front cross carry require, as you wrap to fit. It has many possible positions for breastfeeding. When you baby is getting heavy but you still want to wear them on your front this is the style to use. With a wee bounce as you lift your baby’s legs with the wrap and tying high and firmly you can transfer some of your baby’s weight onto your waist and off your shoulders. The demonstration for the FWCC can be seen with a newborn, but also includes a tip on how to get more weight onto your waist with a heavier baby. There are also two demonstrations of ways you can breastfeed in this carrying style.
The Hip cross carry is a pre-tied hip carry with a non-stretchy wrap or hybrid. It’s quick and easy to tie but your baby must have good head and upper back strength as it is difficult to create support high on your baby’s back. With a long wrap you’ll have a lot of excess tail to wrap around you. It’s great for allowing your baby to see a bit more of the world and a quick dash into the shop.
The Adjustable hip carry can be done with a half stretchy wrap but it will take you some time to tension the wrap correctly. A hybrid or non-stretchy is best. It is more supportive than the Hip cross carry, takes longer to tie but is also more comfortable for you. It is worth swapping sides each time you use a one shoulder carry.
The Reinforced rucksack carry is a good back carry for a young baby. You must use a hybrid or non-stretchy wrap as the half stretchy and stretchy wraps are not supportive enough. Back carries are another steep learning curve. Many traditional cultures use a back carry from birth as they need to continue with their work. It’s a handy style to master when you need to make the bed or work in the garden with a baby who doesn’t want to be put down or you want them close.
The Rucksack carry is the simplest back carry and can be used with a baby from a few months old. Like with the reinforced rucksack it’s a steep learning curve. It’s great for a heavy baby as it is a better carrying position for you. Wearing your baby high in the rucksack carry allows them to see over your shoulder or when they’re young, hear their breathing and feel their breath on the back of your neck. The demonstration of the Rucksack carry also includes a couple of ways to get your baby on your back, how to create a good seat for your baby and what to do if you can’t and some tying variations.
The following clip shows how wrapping an unwilling toddler is tricky. With patience and perseverance it can be done!