This content was originally posted on WrapsodyBaby.com, a website and babywearing business formerly owned by the author.
I’ve been working on “The Ultimate Guide to Stretchy Baby Wraps” for years. I’ve continually refined and edited it, wanting it to be just right. This week, I’m finally telling my inner perfectionist to sit down and relax. Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments, and I can add or subtract from the post so it truly remains the ultimate guide to stretchy baby wraps!
Considering buying one of the many stretchy baby wraps available? For some, it’s a quick and easy decision. They walk into a local department store or independent retailer and just grab a wrap off the shelf. Others have heard amazing things about Wrapsody’s Hybrid wrap. (Maybe that’s how you ended up here?) Still others just want someone to lay out all the choices in easy-to-understand format. As an obsessive overthinker and reasearcher of all things, I would find myself in that last category. Luckily, I’ve designed our Hybrid to be everything I want in a stretchy wrap. However, each family is different and has different needs, and so for you, I’ve created the Ultimate Guide to Stretchy Baby Wraps.
(Please tell me you read that in the big booming voice of an over-the-top vlogger!)
The mind behind the Ultimate Guide to Stretchy Baby Wraps
My personal qualifications: I’ve personally manufactured 4 different styles of stretchy wraps.
- Wrapsody Hybrid (100% cotton, single-knit jersey) (often called the GMBBS or WHS/WSH in babywearing chatter)
- WrapDuO Water Wrap (100% polyester specialty knit, recently re-engineered for spring 2017)
- GypsyMama Wool Wrap (100% wool jersey) (out of production for several years)
- GypsyMama Winter Wrap (microfleece, discontinued in about 2006)
I’ve also tested a few hemp-cotton jerseys and other cottons for wrapping and used a Pikarru (sp?) a lot with a baby several years ago (don’t know if it’s still in production; it was a European brand and I bought it secondhand in like 2005).
Additionally, as a long-time babywearing educator and graduate of the Center for Babywearing Studies, I’m familiar with many of today’s popular wrap brands and regularly teach parents how to use them.
So, now that you know a bit of my background, I’ll share the details I wrote for a thread on TheBabywearer.com some time ago — revised for 2016.
The Ultimate Guide to Stretchy Baby Wraps
Factors to consider when you compare brands of stretchy wraps
Type of stretch
One-way stretch. Two-way stretch. Four-way stretch. Knit wraps that don’t stretch at all. How do they function differently from one another?
Stretch wraps that either: stretch in 4 directions, have spandex, or stretch heavily in two directions are prone to butt poppage in any carry that first goes over the shoulders of the carrying adult. I can’t explain it well, but it’s got to do with how the fabric snaps back after it’s stretched. Imagine a rubber band, and how it functions when stretched in different directions. So — with the majority of standard stretch wraps, this means you can do cross carry variations but not ruck variations.
For example: I don’t recommend back carries in our WrapDuO water wrap (too narrow and stretchy) but if I had to do one (say, a zombie attack), I’d only do it in a cross carry variation. Same with a Moby (r) or a Boba (r) wrap. In comparison, Wrapsody Hybrid stays put under the bum in rucksack carries because of the unidirectional quality of the stretch.
The Boba (r) wrap (formerly “Sleepy Wrap”) has a good fabric memory due to the spandex in the knit. WrapDuO Water Wraps have a good fabric memory, too, even though they have no spandex, and our Wool Wraps had fantastic fabric memory.
The hemp-cottons I tested had poor overall fabric memory (that is, they didn’t snap back after being stretched out). The Moby wrap is slower to return to its original shape than other stretchy wraps I’ve used, and the Wrapsody Hybrid is somewhere in between. In general wraps that are 100% cotton knits will have a slower “snap” back to their original shape.
The fabric memory numbers in the chart are a bit complex to understand — and this is why.For instance: the Boba wrap is only 90% while the Hybrid is 95%.However, even though the Wrapsody Hybrid has the higher number, the Boba has overall better memory. This is because the Boba has so much stretch from which to snap back. The Hybrid stretches much less to begin with, and therefore has much less “snap-back.”
Finish of the rails
In general, a hemmed wrap offers more lean-back support than a serged wrap. (Here’s an article if you want to get geeky about some different sorts of hem/serged edge finishes.) There are cases where this isn’t true, but generally speaking, that extra reinforcement in the rails helps hold them in place.
On the other hand, some fabrics are going to wrap better serged vs. hemmed, depending on their intent and function. For example, I felt comfortable using our wool wraps in back carries even though they were serged, and the fabric functioned better serged rather than hemmed. Wrapsody Hybrid wraps are hemmed; it helps keep the fabric where it belongs and they function better this way. WrapDuO Water Wraps are serged because with the springiness and memory of the fabric, it just makes a better wrap serged. Hemming makes it binding in an unsatisfactory way and more prone to butt poppage in general. When testing hemp-cotton, I found it worked better hemmed than serged, but this would vary with the knit and weight of the fabric.
Width of the wrap
I find that for back carrying in stretch wraps, more width is better. WrapDuO Water Wraps are only about 20″ wide and not at all suitable for back carrying. They’re just too narrow to spread and support reliably. I liked our wool wraps for back carrying. The width and the fabric memory held everything where it belonged. However, when my baby was in leaning stages, I didn’t use it for back carrying much. I just didn’t find it supportive enough against a pushing, leaning baby.
The Moby is a bit wider at 24″, but most babywearing educators do not find the Moby Wrap suitable for back carrying. When I did winter wraps, they were also narrow — I still have one I use often, and occasionally for back carrying, but I don’t think it’s an ideal back carrying wrap because you’ve got to really attend the spreading of the fabric to keep it just right.
Wrapsody Hybrid wraps are about 30″ wide. They tend to stay where you put them with plenty of fabric to adequately cover and support a toddler on the back.
Amount, quality, and direction of stretch
The specific amount of the stretch in a wrap is hard to quantify, because there are so many factors involved. Stretch of knits is generally measured in percent. I prefer a stretch wrap with less than 25% lengthwise stretch overall.
However, quantifying the amount of stretch doesn’t accurately describe the stretch. There are also stretch in directions — widthwise v. lengthwise v. diagonal v. overall stretch. This drastically changes the quality of a fabric — think about the fabric for tights vs. sweatpants vs. leggings — all perform differently.
Our WrapDuO water wraps stretch about 23% and are stretchy primarily in the width and length, rather than 4-way stretch. Our Wrapsody Hybrid stretch primarily in the width of the wrap but only 22% in the length (and only when pulling with adult force to stretch it). Because they’re 100% cotton, the width stretch doesn’t “spring back” the way a fabric knitted with spandex would, for instance, or the way the wool jersey I used to use did. However, because it’s easy to manipulate and not super stretchy, it doesn’t tend to sag out of place much. Microfleece tends to stretch primarily in 2 directions, as do most cotton knits/interlocks.
Thickness of fabric
This affects both the feel and performance of any wrap. I personally tend to prefer lightweight wraps, so that’s what I’ve always tended to manufacture. Our Wrapsody Hybrid wraps and the Hub-a-Bub were the thinnest standard stretchy wraps on the market for some time. Wrapsody’s WrapDuO are lighter still, and Solly Baby Wraps are even lighter than those.
A thicker fabric is going to give you more “cush,” which some people really like especially with a tiny baby, but it will also be hotter, heavier, and bulkier. Fabric thickness is determined by a combination of yarn weight, density of the knit, and the style of the knit. Your personal preference will be based on a number of factors, and the best thing to do is to try a few different weights to see what works for you.
Finish of the ends
Like any wrap, you can finish a stretch wrap with any variety of tapers or a flat edge. I personally prefer a long taper, so I have always designed our wraps with long tapers that taper in on both sides symmetrically — so the Wrapsody Hybrid and Wrap DuO water wrap are both finished in this way.
Length of the wrap
I find that length with stretch wraps is not at all cut and dried (or cut and tied!). A wrap with more stretch can fit larger people even though it’s shorter, because you’re wearing it more snugly and pulling the stretch out of the fabric as you wrap, as opposed to a less stretchy wrap which is not stretched over the wearer in the same way.
The Wrapsody Hybrid wraps are 6 yards long because a shorter wrap would max out around approximately a women’s size 20 dress size. Our WrapDuO water wraps come in 2 sizes: regular (5 yards) and long (6 yards). Because they’re overall stretchier, a 5 yard wrap will fit you until about size 14/16, whereas a 5 yard woven would fit up til a size 12 comfortably.
Most stretch wraps on today’s market come in 1 standard length, but “standard” seems to vary from one company to another. Some companies offer special order sizes in shorter or longer lengths than their standard size.
Grippiness of the fabric
Different fabrics have more or less grip — and by grip, I mean its tendency to cling to clothes or to itself. A fabric with less grip does not glide as smoothly over itself (or your t-shirt!) as a fabric with more grip. Less grip can cause a wrap to feel more slippery; more grip can make a fabric harder to adjust.
Our WrapDuO water wraps are among the least grippy on the stretch market overall (that is, it wraps like a bathing suit, so slides very easily over itself — one reason it’s not good for back carries). It is, however, one of the grippiest water wraps on today’s market, so not so slippery that you can’t wrap it snugly over your baby.
Our Wrapsody Hybrid wraps are a mid-grip wrap; they stay put but slide easily for tightening and adjusting. One of the reasons I didn’t like the hemp-cottons I tested is that they were SO grippy I couldn’t get the fabric to stay just where I wanted it. I have not tried any existing hemp-cotton wraps on the market, however — my testing happened before they existed.
Washability/pill tendencies of the fabric
This doesn’t really affect the wrapping, but it’s something to consider when purchasing either a stretchy wrap or fabric to make a stretch wrap. Some knits pill more or less than others. Some fabrics are more or less washable than others. For instance, our wool wraps needed to be hand washed, line dried. Our WrapDuO Water Wraps and Wrapsody Hybrid wraps can be machine washed and dried. Neither pills even with repeated wash and use. I can’t speak to other stretch wraps on the market, although overall, cottons, polyesters, and cotton/poly blends are easy to wash and dry.
One thing to note is that pilling is caused by deterioration of the fibers in the yarn, so a fabric that pills may wear out faster.
For more information
About knit fabrics
This article in Threads Magazine has a sequel, and together, they are a pretty comprehensive primer on knit fabrics (used to make stretchy wraps).
About stretchy wrap geekery in general
If you want to dive further into the geekery of the stretchy wrap or to learn more about the explosion of brands on today’s market both in the US and abroad, you can check out your local babywearing group or join the conversation at TheBabywearer.com .
Don’t overlook your local retailer of baby carriers, either — they have likely chosen the brands they carry after careful consideration, and they can offer you support and instruction you will not get at your local department store. Although you may pay a few dollars more to purchase the carrier at a local retailer, the price includes their training, expertise, and service, all of which are well worth the small additional cost. Check out our listing of Authorized Retailers to see if there’s a store near you that you don’t know about!
If you have already purchased a stretchy wrap from your local department store, or if you were gifted one, your local retailer may also offer a babywearing consultation service in addition to their retail services. If not, they can likely hook you up with a local babywearing educator who can offer you specialized 1:1 instruction for learning to wrap.
“Moby Wrap vs. Wrapsody” at Quirky Baby
Wrap Comparison Chart at Carry Me Away
“Stretch Wrap Comparisons” at Zerberts
“Choosing a Wrap” at FrogMama