A wraparound carrier (or wrap carrier) consists of a very
long piece of cloth (3 to 6m) that is wrapped around the wearer (and baby)
and then tied. There are many, many different ways to tie wraparounds, enabling
your baby to be positioned almost any way you choose. Most of the wraps go
over both of the wearer's shoulders and around the waist, giving very good
support, great security, and spreading the baby's weight to the wearer's hips,
shoulders and back. Many babywearers consider wraps to be the most comfortable
There are also ways of wrapping that go over only one
shoulder and these generally use less fabric.
Wraparound carriers have been very popular in Europe since
the early 1970s. They are even offered as standard issue in some German maternity
hospitals. They have rapidly been increasing in use in North American in recent
Figure 1. Roman with Gilles in the cross carry using a woven wraparound
Figure 2. Kate with JJ in a rucksack carry in a woven wrap carrier
What are the differences between wrap-carriers?
Some wraps require more fabric than others. The wearer's size
also affects the length of fabric needed. In fact, because the fabric is wrapped
a few times around your body, your size makes more difference than it does
with most other types of carriers. On the other hand, excess length just means
longer tails. Some wraparound carriers are available in varying lengths and
others are sold only in one length (to suit most wraps and most people). Avid
wrappers often own a few different lengths to suit different
wraps but most people buy the longest length they would need to be able to
do the wrap cross carry, as it requires the most fabric of the popular wraps.
Wrap carriers vary in width from about 45cm (12") to 75cm (30"). Most wraps can be done with any width of fabric, in fact the fabric is sometimes folded in half length-wise before wrapping. However the rucksack carries (front and back) need at least 60cm (24"), according to most users.
The fabric may be equally wide along it's length, tapered at the ends, or tapered from near the centre. Tapering makes the fabric easier to knot and makes the knot less bulky.
There are two classes of fabrics used for these carriers: stretchy (knit) fabrics
and woven fabrics.
Stretchy wraparounds can be made of jersey, interlock, and lycra blends usually
in 100% cotton. Stretchy fabrics must be wrapped quite tightly in order to
hold your baby securely. The more stretch the fabric has, the tighter it must
be wrapped in order to support the baby high enough, without sagging. Usually
you would wrap and tie the fabric first, then stretch it a bit to 'pop' your
Stretchy wraparounds tend to be preferred for younger/smaller babies due to inherent amount of bounce or give of the fabric. Many wearers find stretchy wraparounds extremely comfortable and easy to get the baby in and out of (ie. very poppable#). Others find them too bouncy, or find that they have to adjust the tightness of the carrier quite frequently. The most commonly-used wrap is the pocket wrap cross carry (or p-wcc#) which is identical to the wrap cross carry, except that the "wrap" is over the "cross" instead of under it. With this wrap the baby can be positioned verically, or horizontally, depending on the baby's age.
Figure 3. Melanie with Fallon in a stretchy wraparound in the pocket wrap cross carry -- the most widely used wrap for stretchy wraparounds.
While any woven fabric could feasibly be used to make a wraparound carrier, manufacturers
emphasize the importance of the fabric's "give". Woven wraparounds are generally made of "diagonally-woven" fabric or hand-woven fabric. Wearers also find the "give" very important for holding the baby close and enhancing comfort. Woven fabric wraparounds are usually 100% cotton, but vary in terms of the weight or thickness of the fabric. Those aimed primarily at the European market tend to be thicker and warmer than others. A very thin fabric, although cooler, is more likely to cut into your flesh than is a fabric with more body and weight. Manufacturers work hard to get this balance just right. If you wish to make one for yourself, you may need to experiment with different fabrics to find one that works well for you.
Figure 4. Kate with JJ in the rucksack carry with an extra wraparound tied around them both to support JJ while he sleeps. Not for very warm climates!
Woven wraparounds can be wrapped and tied in many different ways. For some wraps, the baby is positioned, then wrapped. For others it is easier to do the wrap first and then insert the baby. This is more tricky as you must guess the correct tightness, however with practice it becomes almost second nature.
Most wearers find woven wrap carriers less poppable than stretchy wrap carriers, with the most poppable wrap being the pocket wrap cross carry (mentioned above). They can, however, be used up to age 3 (or beyond). I regularly carry Ben (3.5 yrs) on my back quite comfortably in a woven wraparound.
The flattest, and most comfortable, knot to use is the "reef knot" (a.k.a. "square knot" or "flat knot"): left over right, then right over left (or vice-versa) - see a picture (courtesy of the 42nd Brighton scout troupe, UK).
An advantage of this knot is that it is easy to undo.
# Terms coined by members of the Yahoo Babywearing group J
© Jennifer Norton, 2005. All rights reserved.