There are so many great options for wearing your baby. Parents can choose from stretchy wraps, slings, mei teis, soft structured buckle carriers, and woven wraps. Babywearing is good no matter how it is done, but there are definitely optimal ways to carry your baby. The goal in choosing a carrier is to find something that works well for both the wearer and the baby – if you both like it, you will babywear more frequently. The more a baby is worn, the more they benefit from the positive effects of babywearing. With two years experience and having tried all the options, I believe that using woven wraps is the ideal way to wear your baby. From my chiropractic viewpoint, I see lots of ways that wearing baby in a woven wrap is ideal. As a dad with a tiny 2 month old and a much bigger two year old, I also can attest to wrapping with a “simple piece of cloth” as my favorite way to wear my children. This was not always the case, so to bring you fully through why I recommend mothers and fathers learn to wrap, I will share my experience.
When our son was born, I tried both the long stretchy wrap and the soft structured carrier with an infant insert. The fabric was so long and I felt like I just couldn’t get it right. The soft structured carrier was okay, but with the infant insert our son was clearly just not comfortable. In order to wear him, I made due with the stretchy wrap, even though it wasn’t something I felt I had the hang of. I often deferred to my wife, Claire, wearing our son instead – she had it figured out and could put it on so quickly, and it was still a challenge for me to get the right fit. When he was ready to sit with legs splayed out in the bigger soft structured carrier, wearing him became my job. I am tall and lean, so even with the ease and convenience of just buckling here and tightening there, I never really felt like I had a great fit. When Claire learned how to wrap with our first woven wrap, I could tell that it was the best babywearing fit for both her and our son. Our newest addition presented new opportunities to wrap with the stretchy wrap again. After a few less than optimal attempts, I decided I wanted to learn how to wrap with the woven wraps. I am still a “beginner” wrapper, but I am definitely experiencing the benefits of using a woven wrap compared to other carriers.
Primarily, wrapping allows for ideal fit – both for the wearer and the child. Because I view babywearing from a chiropractic, biomechanical standpoint, a perfect fit is pretty important. For the wearer, no matter what your size or shape is, woven wrapping allows for baby to be placed high enough for ideal posture. As you begin to wrap, you will learn how high on your front and back you like to carry your child. Wearing them securely at the exact right height on your body allows you to stand up straight, comfortably maintaining proper posture rather than hunching your upper back or hyperextending your low back. When baby is too low, the wearer will compensate with poor posture. Because woven wraps are not stretchy, they can be tightened exactly as much as needed. The wearer can tighten the wrap over the the child as much as needed, securing them in an ideal position. With a stretchy wrap, tighetening only does so much – the fabric will sag and stretch within minutes of putting it on. With buckle carriers, you can only tighten as much and where the carrier allows. With a woven wrap, you can also tighten exactly where is needed by targeting different sections of the wrap. Because the wearer can get such a custom fit with a woven wrap, it allows for evenly distributed pressure on the child’s back, which means a lighter, more “weightless” feeing for the wearer. Test this out after you’ve mastered a high back carry like the ‘double hammock.’ Your child will feel much heavier in the soft structured carrier compared to the woven wrap.
Many of these features allow for a perfect fit for the child as well. Bigger and older babies can be placed high on the back, and in my experience they are more comfortable and can see what the wearer can see. A wrap exceeds all other carriers in the ability to tightly wrap over every part of baby’s back. Because wraps can be tightened evenly from the nape of the neck down to the bottom, pressure is placed evenly across the back. This allows for less pressure to be placed directly on the baby’s bottom, which helps to maintain the optimal C-shape of the baby’s spine. Babies who are worn in a carrier that fails to maintain a C- shaped curve before the other spinal curves and musculature are developed have a greater risk for damaging their spine or developing a spondylolisthesis (forward shifting of a vertebrae in relation to the one below) from the forward shearing force of a hyperextended low back. Wrapping also helps to ensure that the baby’s hips remained splayed in a natural position, with knees higher than hips. Infants maintain a specific hip position that is flexed to 90-110 degrees and spread outward about 45 degrees. This is the position that an infant naturally takes when laid down or held upright on a caregiver’s chest. Infants have a very shallow acetabulum (hip socket) and the natural position they take allows the head of the femur (thigh bone) to be forced into the joint and begin to establish a deeper socket and more stable hip joint. Therefore it is important to find a carrier, like a wrap, that enables and supports this positioning. When newborns begin to “unfurl” on their own and begin to hold their heads up, sit up, stand, and walk, evenly distributed pressure from wraps is still ideal. It allows baby to feel more weightless themselves, and they will be more comfortable being worn for longer periods of time.
Though wrapping is not something you can learn and perfect in a day, with a little effort and practice it is the most versatile of babywearing options. You can select a wrap in different lengths and fabrics, helping wearers find that ideal, custom fit. If you chose a medium length wrap, one wrap is really all you need to be able to carry newborn to preschool age (or longer – woven wraps can securely support as much weight as you can hold). There are hundreds of different carrying options for carrying your child on your front, back or hip. Believe me, if I can learn to wrap, so can you!