If you decided to wear your baby in a wrap after considering all the pros and cons (that we have already discussed in the first part of our “Babywearing 101” series), it is possible that you are now quite perplexed about what to choose. So many options – colours, patterns, lengths, weights, blends… Someone who has just entered the babywearing world is usually confused at first, and it is quite difficult for him/her to find his/her way through all the new information – and s/he definitely has no idea what to look for. Actually, the wraps are not ordinary pieces of cloth that would differ only in their looks – one could say it is a whole “wrap science”, in fact. However, it is not that difficult to gain basic overview in this area. Before I comment on “what, why and how much”, let’s take a look at some wrap terminology for beginners. 😉 

Types of wraps: The wraps suitable for babywearing can be divided into two basic categories, as to the material they are made of and to their elasticity: elastic wraps and non-elastic, woven wraps (there are also semi-elastic wraps on the market, but these are certainly in minority). The elastic wraps are usually made of cotton with elastane and they are suitable for the smallest babies up to approximately 6 kilograms of weight (I will discuss the reason for this later on). Generally said, woven wraps are not limited as far as the weight of the wearie goes, they usually contain cotton as the basic material and can contain different blends. The carries you can tie with the woven wrap are different than in case of elastic wraps. 

Length (size) of the wrap: Most manufacturers use standard sizing of wraps with numbers; size 1-8 (talking about the woven wraps; the length of elastic wraps is usually universal, 5 metres): size 1 – 2,2 m, size 2 – 2,6 m, size 3 – 3,2 m, size 4 – 3,6 m, size 5 – 4,2 m, size 6 – 4,6 m, size 7 – 5,2 m, size 8 – 5,6 m. Generally, you can divide the woven wraps into two categories – “short” wraps up to the size 4, and “long” wraps beginning with size 5. Babywearing beginners will usually use only the basic carries such as the front wrap cross carry or front cross carry and therefore, they should look for the long wrap, according to their clothes size and their height. The most universal size is 6 – a babywearing mum of an average height with size 38 to 40, maybe even 42, can tie “anything” without problems with a size 6 wrap. Slimmer mums can also look for size 5 wraps, bigger wearers should buy at least size 7. (However, be cautious when choosing the right size – not all the “sixes” are the same! Basically, the sizes of the wraps from different manufacturers differ in their real length; also the wrap is longer pre-wash, shorter post-wash and again longer after it is broken-in – this is beginning to be quite complicated but I wanted to mention it in case someone wonders why all the size 6 wraps do not measure exactly 4,6 metres.)

Composition of the wrap (blends): As I have already mentioned, the basic material the woven wraps are made of is cotton. There are different types of cotton that the manufacturers use – combed, Egyptian, mercerized, pima, supima cotton… They all have slightly different properties, but it is still just cotton which is relatively easy-care and is tolerated by anyone, even by people with atopic eczema. Aside from the 100% cotton pieces, there are many different blended wraps – ranging from polyester, several types of viscose, bamboo, linen, hemp to different types of wool and silk, as well as such epicurean blends as rose thread, peppermint or pineapple. Blends, together with the percentage in which they are contained, give the wrap specific properties, but they are generally more sensitive when it comes to the care for the wrap.

Weight of the wrap: The weight of the wrap tells you how “thick” the wrap is. It is not the weight itself in fact, but the number says how much 1 square metre of particular fabric weighs in grams (you can find several wrap-weight calculators on the Internet). To simplify the matter, according to their weight, you can divide the wraps into “thin” with the weight up to 220-240 g/m², “medium” from 250 to approximately 290 g/m² and “thick” with the weight above 300 g/m². Spider-webs below 180 g/m² are not really suitable and safe for babywearing, in my opinion (but of course, only generally said), on the other hand, not many wraps above 400 g/m² are really pleasant to tie and wear.

Weave of the wrap: There are countless types of weave when talking about woven wraps. However, there are two terms you may come across in the babywearing environment very often – twill weave and jacquard weave. The weaving terminology is very complicated and it gives me headaches, to be honest (here you can read the definition of twill weave on Wikipedia, uff), but again, to make it as simple as possible – twill weave wraps are the “simple” ones, generally thinner, striped or with simple diamond or herringbone weave; jacquard wraps are “those with pictures” and they are usually considered to be “more supportive” compared to the twill-weave wraps.

Supportiveness of the wrap (i.e. what weight it is still comfortable to wear in a particular wrap): This is a very relative and very individual matter. Generally said, the greater the weight, the more supportive the wrap is. But it is still only a single number and sometimes it does not give the right picture about the wrap’s actual properties. The subjective supportiveness is given also by the blend (generally, blended wraps are more supportive than all-cotton ones with the same weight), type of weave, its density, elasticity of the wrap and, of course, individual dispositions, i.e. how much your own shoulders and back can endure (and these are not certainly all the factors by any chance).

Finally, let’s choose the wrap. Let’s assume that most parents are looking for an ideal wrap for their newborn baby. First, you need to ask two crucial questions – what do you expect from the wrap and how much are you willing to spend on it?

The most common answer is “we want something universal that we could use as long as possible” and “the cheaper the better”. This is obviously quite hard to fulfill. The cheapest wraps are not those which would last the longest (meaning they are not supportive enough to be comfortable with a bigger child). Let’s imagine two real-life situations. The first one – the ideal situation; the second one – not ideal, but still manageable.

In the ideal situation, you first buy a newborn wrap and after the baby gets bigger, you buy a more supportive one. In the most ideal situation of all the ideal situations, you can buy two newborn wraps – because of laundering, especially if your baby pukes a lot. Basically, you have two choices – either you buy an elastic wrap or a non-elastic woven wrap. Both of them have their pros and cons.

The elastic wrap is the most suitable babywearing “device” you can wear a newborn in, even a very small one, including preemies. The basic carry with the elastic wrap is front wrap cross carry with the pocket outside – this is a pre-tied carry, you just put the baby in it and you can go. There is no need to tighten it and, being elastic, obviously, it embraces the baby’s tiny body perfectly. Simply said, the manipulation with the elastic wrap is much easier for a beginner; moreover, you learn how to handle the baby and the wrap. Your little one and your back will have time to get used to babywearing and using a woven wrap will not be such a shock later. Another advantage is that you do not need to break in the elastic wrap (if it is not clear to you what “breaking-in” means, I will get to it later). Nowadays, you can buy a good second-hand elastic wrap for a few bucks – for 500 Czech crowns (i.e. approximately 20 Euro). My first wrap was elastic, too – I used to wear Emilka only in it for at least the first two months of her life and I can only recommend it. The main disadvantage of elastic wraps is that they do not last long – do not be fooled by the manufacturers’ proclamations that the wrap is “up to 15, 18 or 20 kilograms”! This only means that if you put 20 kg of bricks in it, it will not tear apart. With a baby weighing approximately 6 kilograms, the elastic wrap will begin to sag, the nosy baby will wiggle and fidget in it and the most agile ones will make an instant trampoline out of it – such babywearing is neither safe, nor comfortable. Therefore, I bought my first woven wrap quite a while before Emilka weighed 6 kg.

Woven wrap is something that the new mums are “afraid of” and want to buy a carrier instead. Yes, it is necessary to learn how to tie a wrap, but you do not need any wrapping university – mainly if you buy the “right” wrap. An ideal newborn woven wrap should have these properties: it should be thin, soft to touch, pliable and as easy-care as possible. Thin: we are talking about the weight up to 220 g/m² in an ideal case – in this category, you will surely be able to find a lot of twill-weave wraps. Soft: so it does not irritate the baby’s delicate skin; I recommend to avoid certain blends – metallic fibres, some types of tussah or burette silk that can be quite rough to touch especially in brand-new wraps; also some types of wool may be irritating, too. In this aspect, you cannot go wrong with pure cotton. Pliable: i.e. not new, if possible. Do you know the feeling of new or freshly-laundered jeans? This is a similar feeling you will get from a freshly-laundered wrap. There are only few wraps that come “soft as butter” straight from the box. You usually need to “break in” the wrap so that it gets the best wrapping properties possible. I assume that a new mum and a wrapping beginner does not wish for breaking in a new wrap, therefore, I recommend to look for a second-hand piece. I would also recommend to avoid wraps with high per cent of linen or hemp – these blends are usually very stiff in the new wraps and require quite an intense breaking-in process (even the second-hand ones can still be quite tough, depending on how much they were worn by the original owner). And the last point – as easy-care as possible. The most easy-care wraps are those containing polyester (in wraps, you can usually find its recycled version with the brand name of Repreve) – they can be laundered as often as you wish and moreover, there is no need to iron them. The all-cotton wraps are only a little less easy-care – they are friends with washing machines, too, but you need to iron them now and then because some tend to develop permanent folds in which the threads might break. Another very popular newborn blend is bamboo viscose (careful, not to be mistaken for pure bamboo!). It makes the wrap as soft as a feather, cushy, cuddly and pliable, it does not wrinkle, but it makes the wrap subjectively less supportive – you need to count on that it will sag and be less comfortable on your shoulders earlier than, for example, an all-cotton piece of the same weight. If you are confident, your baby does not puke (and in an ideal case, does not poop every 3 hours) and you are not afraid of a less easy-care piece, there are many wonderful newborn wraps with silk, merino, cashmere or other sophisticated blends I could recommend. Here, you need to count on that the care of such a wrap is much more demanding – usually, they must be hand-washed only, it is not possible to spin-dry them and you should dry them flat (i.e. not on a clothes dryer). Also, wraps with certain blends that tend to wrinkle a lot, like linen or hemp, need to be ironed after every wearing. These blends certainly give the wraps great properties – be it tying, wearing or thermoregulatory properties, but speaking from my experience, such pieces are usually preferred by experienced wearers and not babywearing novices. Not speaking about the fact that these blended wraps are usually quite expensive.

Regarding the price, it is possible to get a very decent second-hand woven wrap for a few hundred Czech crowns nowadays, mainly in the category of thin newborn pieces. Actually, even the cheapest brand new ones do not cost more than 800 Czech crowns, i.e. 30 Euro.

The main advantage of a woven wrap is that you will be able to use it longer, compared to an elastic wrap. Most newborn woven wraps are quite comfortable to wear in the basic carries up to approximately 8 kilograms – if you re-count it in months of age of your baby, it takes quite a long time for a baby to grow from 6 to 8 kg (6 kg being the general weight maximum for an elastic wrap). Another advantage is that it is much more variable – with the elastic wrap, there is basically only one recommended carry and that’s it, while with a woven wrap there are countless different and beautiful carries you can tie! Front carries, back carries, hip carries – of course, this is not something that a babywearing beginner would really appreciate, but it is quite probable that in time you will need to use different carries than the FWCC only. And also, you cannot make an under-table swing out of an elastic wrap. 😀

If you choose a thin newborn cloth as your first and primary wrap, you need to bear in mind that you will probably have to buy a more supportive piece, because it will become uncomfortable after some time, with the weight the baby gains.

Then, there is the non-ideal situation; however, a quite frequent one in real life – in this situation, the parents look for a wrap “from newborn to preschool”. The main reason is often that they do not want to invest in more than one wrap, or that they do not have much money to spend. The first reason or the other, as I mentioned in the previous article about babywearing, there is no such ideal wrap – even the most universal piece out of all the universal wraps in the world will be a bit too much for a newborn and too little for a toddler. Moreover, it is always much better for a beginner to learn how to tie a wrap with a super-skinny, pliable newborn piece.

So be it, the request is “a wrap that lasts as long as possible”. In such case, you should look for wraps with lower-medium or medium weight (and you may completely ignore the elastic wraps here). I cannot quite imagine tying a tiny newborn in a wrap with the weight above 260 g/m² or so (talking about 100 % cotton). Here, I strongly recommend to buy an already well-broken-in piece. Medium-weight wraps can be quite comfortable in certain carries also with 10+ kilograms. I would also look for a durable piece – nothing with a sensitive blend, and I would also avoid wraps with loose weave that are prone to pulls and tearing threads.

In any case, when choosing (not only) the “universal” wrap, one should be careful and cautious and should focus mainly on the reliable e-shops or second-hand marketplaces (such as in babywearing groups on Facebook) – and of course, before buying anything, consult with someone experienced.

And a little advice at the end – do not hesitate too much, a truly “perfect” wrap does not exist. 😉 Time flies and your little one might get big in a blink of an eye – and that would be such a shame! 🙂