No matter how you choose to safely carry your baby in a cloth carrier, to keep baby close and loved is the ultimate goal. In my babywearing journey, I've used every major type of carrier and so many different brands and I can tell you without a doubt, for me and in my experience, the best baby carrier you can buy is a woven wrap. Actually I'd take that even further - a woven wrap is the best, most useful piece of baby gear I've ever owned. The title of this article might as well be "Woven Wraps: The Most Versatile Baby Product Ever." Here are some reasons why:
1. Woven Wraps Fit Perfectly.
A piece of woven fabric molds itself to a body's unique shape every time it is tied on. Pull a little bit more here or make a twist there and the fabric can be completely customized to my body and my baby's body. An extra pass can reinforce when we need more support for wiggly days, a little gather and tuck can put padding on my shoulders in just the right places. Don't like waist belts? Chest clip is a bother? Backpack-like straps don't stay up? All these can be avoided with a woven wrap. Whether I put up a newborn or a preschooler, one piece of fabric can fit me and my "wrappee" like a glove every time. Which brings me to...
2. A Wrap is the Most Versatile Baby Gear you can buy. Or make. Or that exists. Period.
I could go on and on about this one... A woven wrap is a baby gear item, no, a baby care tool, that will serve you well from the moment your baby is born (or before!) and well through toddlerhood and maybe even the preschool years if you're both willing! I have used one wrap throughout my entire wrapping career: it wrapped my belly during pregnancy, it carried my newborn just a wee few hours after he was born and it carried my three year old daughter that very same week. I have used one wrap to do every thing - run errands, to work around the house, to be hands-free at parades, to show off in professional pictures... All while holding my baby in front carries, hip carries, carrying my baby on my back - carrying two babies at the same time!! And that same single piece of woven fabric fits me, my husband, my mother, my friends, our babysitter. It could fit virtually any body. It is the single most versatile baby carrier one could possibly own.
A woven wrap is the best, most useful piece of baby gear I've ever owned. The title of this article might as well be "Woven Wraps: The Most Versatile Baby Product Ever.
Not only is a woven wrap versatile for carrying babies, but it also doubles - triples - octdruples? It's a blanket or pillow of course, but it's also a hammock, a swing, a high chair and shopping cart cover and padding, a nursing cover or sun shield... The tags make a great baby toy and it is even a soft lovey for baby to snuggle (or sometimes for me to snuggle too!). Short woven wraps are used for support in labor and deliver and even as tools for parenting special needs children beyond their "wearing" days. (4)
4. A successful wrap job makes me feel awesome.
When it comes down to it, a woven wrap is just a long rectangle of fabric. It has no "cheats," not a lot of room for error. Conquering that fabric - transforming a practically featureless item into a safe and secure carrier for a person... that's pretty awesome. Babywearing in general helps me feel more capable - it empowers me and gives me confidence to be the best parent and caregiver I can be. But when I wrap up that fabric around my baby and me... that takes my "mama power" to a whole 'nother level.
5. Woven wraps have variety of beautiful looks.
Even MORE versatility here. Not only are there are so many different wraps out there, in countless colors, patterns, and fiber blends, but there are also dozens and dozens of different ways to tie woven wraps! Trying all the wraps could keep one busy for ages, but even if you only had one or two you can absolutely get a whole bunch of different looks (and feels!) and keep the variety going with all the different carries. Wrapping has helped me feel more "put together" - even on my most "blah" days when I'm really feeling like a frumpy mom, a nice wrap is a really great pick-me-up and a well-tied wrap job... even better. Wrapping has made me feel like I haven't lost my personal style even through there's baby poop and split snacks on my yoga pants.
6. The wrapping community is amazing.
Community is a huge part of being a babywearer and a wrapper - there are local babywearing groups in nearly every major city and online groups for fans of any brand you wish, plus groups for wrappers to talk about theory, fibers, groups for weavers, special needs - really a group for anything related to wraps that can be thought of (I've listed many in the Support section under Communities). The wrapping community is so generous with their knowledge, kindness, and stash. The people I've met through wrapping (through babywearing in general but specifically wrapping) have taught me so much, well beyond mechanics, especially on topics of social justice. I am a better person because of the wrapping community.
7. Woven Wraps are from long and rich cultural traditions.
Babywearing is not a trend. Babywearing is not a trend. Babywearing is not a trend. Humans have been carrying babies in cloth for as long as we have been using tools.(1) Babywearing was an essential skill for our ancestors and we are lucky that it has been maintained in many cultures (5) while the West has been overcome with devices for putting one's baby down. When I wrap my baby, I feel connected to all the other caregivers who have come generations before me and wrapped their babies securely to themselves in cloth. It is a connection that further empowers me and motivates me through caring for small children.
Babywearing is not a trend. Humans have been carrying babies in cloth for as long as we have been using tools.
There is a wonderful ritual that comes along with each part of wrapping. Except for times that wrapping must happen in a hurry (errands and tantrums come to mind), we have a routine of selecting the wrap (together if my wrappee is old enough) and thinking of just the right carry for that wrap and that situation. Even when rushed, the act of pulling the pass of fabric around us and tightening it strand-by-strand is a soothing ritual for us both. We both go from tense or upset or rushed or doubtful and as we are bound together we both soften as our closeness soothes each other. That feeling somehow carries over into the care of my wraps as well. From folding them and ironing them, checking for flaws and fixing the occasional pull - caring for wraps better than I care for my or my family's clothes! Caring for my wraps is a ritual in and of itself that in some way extends from or mirrors the love I feel in caring for my children.
9. Wrapping as Therapy.
This could be a completely separate post, and maybe it should be to fully tell my own story. For now, let's keep it general because there are so many people who can give an account much like mine of how wrapping helped bring them up from postpartum mood disorders, or struggles with relationships, special needs children, high needs and sensory issues, or securing attachment again after developmental leaps or time apart. (6) The physical bond that babywearing gives us, in any kind of carrier, gives us an emotional attachment that can be so healing, both for the caregiver and the baby (if I had unlimited space here we could talk more about the amazing therapeutic benefits for children, too!). For me personally, add in the rituals of wrapping and the perfectly customized fit of a wrap and it takes the therapeutic benefits of babywearing to another level.
10. Wrapping as a Practice (and Challenge).
Wrapping is kind of like yoga. One is always a student, never fully a master, and often ends the practice sweaty. At times we may achieve the most perfect Double Hammock ever, and that same afternoon execute the sloppiest ruck with a sagging seat that just won't snap into place. With all love and admiration I have for wrapping, I acknowledge it is mentally and physically challenging work. No matter how many times I tie on a carry I am still working for it every single time; the fabric never just pops right into place like with a more structured carrier. The challenge is part of the appeal though - learning how to manipulate that much fabric, learning mechanics and new carries, and learning terms of the wrapping lexicon. It has given me something to work on, goals to make and meet, which again has been highly therapeudic and a most welcome distraction to some of the struggles of parenthood and caring for small children. Wrapping is not the easiest way to babywear but the easiest thing is almost never the best thing for me, personally. For me the work is worth it, it is part of the reward, because I find encouragement in watching my skills continue to improve, I find therapy in the rituals, I find physical comfort and convenience from my favorite baby gear item.
Need some help with your wrapping skills? Amy is now available for online babywearing sessions! 90 minutes for less than $25 now through Mother's Day - reserve now but schedule whenever you're ready. Makes a great gift! More info here
(1) Babywearing history (global, written by Australian) - http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/History_2.ashx
(2) 10 Reasons Babywearing Rocks - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-canvasser/10-reasons-why-babywearing-rocks_b_5936984.html
(3) Dr. Sears - http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/baby-wearing/benefits-babywearing
(4) Gena Kirby Rebozo for Labor - http://genakirby.com/; Rebozo Me Mommy - http://genakirby.com/store/products/rebozo-me-mommy-e-book-pre-sale/
(5) Please see more resources on cultural appropriation in babywearing and social justice in the Resources section.
(6) Babywearing International - http://babywearinginternational.org/category/babywearing-saved-me/
For more on getting started with a woven wrap, see the Beginners page.