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Stretchy Wrap Tutorial

Long stretchy wraps are a great snuggly choice for newborns* and small babies. You can pre-tie and pop baby in and out as needed, plus they are excellent for nursing. However, although most commercial stretchy wraps are safety rated up to 30+ lbs, most moms agree that after 15 lbs, they become almost unusably saggy and uncomfortable. So don’t spend a ton of money on something you’ll only use for a few months. Stretchy wraps for water use need a different fabric, and because being in the water supports a lot of baby's weight, can be used more comfortably up to 30lbs or so.

That said, although DIY is usually a lot cheaper for most carriers, it can often be cheaper to find a second hand Moby or Boba in a thrift store or online yard sale group unless you can find a really great deal on fabric (although keep in mind that, due to width, however much fabric you buy may make 2 or even 3 stretchy wraps.) Check both DIY and second hand prices to make sure you are making the best decision!

Talk to your doctor before using a stretchy wrap with a premature infant or infant with low muscle tone. Stretchy wraps often do not provide the support they need and you may be better off with a woven wrap or ring sling. For healthy, full-term babies, however, stretchy wraps can be used from birth.

1) Pick your fabric

The best/easiest choice is too look for 100% cotton jersey (the same material as a t-shirt.) You preferably want fabric that stretches because of its weave, not added lycra/spandex/etc. Jersey is great because it is widely available, inexpensive, and does not need to be hemmed. Another popular option is cotton interlock. A little bit of added spandex is okay (especially under 5%) but because this can change the way fabric stretches, I would only recommend buying fabric with added spandex in person where you can feel it and compare its stretch to a normal men's t-shirt. If you are ordering online, I would try as much as possible to look for 100% cotton.

Picking fabric for a water wrap:

You CAN use 100% lycra/swimsuit material for a water wrap; just know that these tend to sag even more than a regular stretch wrap. The “best” material for a water wrap is athletic mesh/football mesh with stretch only from rail to rail (none from tail to tail) - this material can be used for either a short traditional sling carry or a long wrap - but if you use something with 4-way stretch it needs to be a long wrap with 3 reinforcing passes going over baby for support (like a Pocket Wrap Cross Carry.) Remember to always wash and dry your fabric before starting any project.

NEVER use cotton/linen/wool/silk/rayon etc (or a blend thereof) in the water. Rayon gets exponentially weaker when wet, and the other fibers all will absorb water and become MUCH heavier, saggier, and diggier. Think about how much dry jeans weigh compared to soaking wet jeans. In addition, chlorine from a pool can damage the fibers of your wraps.

2) Determine your length

For a stretchy wrap to be safe, it must be worn on the front or hip with 3 spread passes supporting your baby. The most popular ways to tie them is in a PWCC or FWCC (Moby calls a PWCC a “Hug hold.”) Most women can FWCC with 5 yards of fabric, but a standard Boba wrap is 5.8 yards, a MOBY wrap is 6 yards, and the MOBY plus size wrap is a full 6.6 yards. Remember, you can always trim down, but you can’t add length, so always buy a little more than you think you'll need.

It is perfectly safe (and actually recommended by Babywearing International) to wear newborns legs-out from birth, with the two cross passes going under their knees and the horizontal pass supporting under their bum, and their lower legs exposed. That said, if your newborn is still in a tight fetal position with his/her knees tucked up under his/her body, it is fine to wrap them up with the passes going under their bum and legs and their feet inside the carry. Just makes sure that their weight is resting on their bottom, not on their feet, and switch them to a legs-out carry as soon as they start to relax their legs. For some babies, this only takes days, and for others, it may be several weeks.

3) Cut to width

While woven wraps are typically close to 30” wide, stretchy wraps are usually much narrower. A MOBY wrap is only 24” wide, and a Boba comes in at only 20” wide. With 3 passes and smaller babies, the width isn’t quite as crucial as it is with woven wraps. If you bought 45” wide fabric, the easiest option would be to simply cut it in half. If you bought 60" wide fabric, you might be able to get 3 wraps out if it as long as it doesn't shrink with the initial wash and dry.

BONUS: Save your extra wraps as backup carriers in your car. (Just keep them out of the sun, as sunlight can damage fabric fibers.)

4) Learn to use it

The “standard” carry for stretchy wraps is a PWCC. It’s pre-tied, so you can just leave it tied onto yourself while you take baby in and out as needed. That way you aren’t trying to wrap 6 yards of fabric in a parking lot. Just remember that when pre-tying, the wrap needs to fit you quite snugly without the baby. Pre-tied, the wrap should fit snug against your chest, with none of the passes sagging below your natural waist. The fabric will stretch to make room, but you want all the support you can get to prevent baby from sagging or slumping. WrapYouInLove has a good video for learning to tie a Pocket Wrap Cross Carry.

Safety Tip: Make sure when you pop baby into the wrap, all three passes support baby all the way from shoulder level down to under bum and from knee-pit to knee-pit.

5) TICKS Safety Reminder
  • Tight
  • In View
  • Close enough to Kiss
  • Keep chin off chest (clear airway)
  • Supported back (if you lean forward, baby should not come off your chest)

Safety Reminder: Stretchy wraps are NEVER safe to use for back carries and ALWAYS need three passes over the child to be safe. Make sure you always tie off in a double knot.

6) “This is just way too much fabric!”

Love the idea of a stretchy wrap but get overwhelmed by dealing with 6 yards of fabric? Try the No-Sew T-shirt Carrier!

7) “My baby is too heavy for a stretchy wrap...what now?”

If you love the feel of wrapping, perhaps you’d be up for trying a woven wrap. There is a distinct learning curve when switching from a stretchy wrap to a woven, but woven wraps are infinitely versatile, can be used for front, hip and back carries, and have nearly unlimited weight limits. Plus...if you decide wrapping isn’t for you, most woven wraps can be converted into a ring sling, meh dai, or buckle carrier so the fabric doesn’t go to waste.

-- Alyssa Leonard - 2016-07-16

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Topic revision: r4 - 2017-04-29 - AlyssaLeonard
 
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