Stretchy wraps tend to be 4.5-5.5 meters long and made from a knit jersey or interlock fabric. They can me made from natural or synthetic fibres, though natural fibres like cotton have the advantage of being more breathable. Fabric with any spandex or lycra content will tend to be very stretchy - carriers which are 100% cotton or other natural fibres will tend to have less lengthwise stretch.
All wraps are incredibly versatile. Though they can not achieve as many holds as a woven wrap, there are still a wide range of ways to tie a stretchy wrap. The most common seen is the ‘front pocket cross carry’ but you can also achieve cradle holds, outward facing and hip carries.
They make hands-free breastfeeding very do-able in the cradle hold or upright position.
A lot of people find stretchy wraps are easier to learn to use than wovens, as you can pre-tie it onto your body before placing baby in. This is also helpful when removing baby, as you take baby out before removing the sling. This ‘poppability’ is really useful, as when you are out and about you don’t need to worry about re-tying on the street front after a car trip or toilet stop.
Stretchies are often used as a ‘starter’ wrap, as they are an awesome way boost the carers confidence in wrapping because they are very forgiving while you're learning, and they are still very comfortable even when not tied on perfectly.
Though a lot of retailers recommend them for back carries, we do not, as often they’re not as wide or as supportive as a woven wrap. Baby can push against the carers back, pushing themselves backwards, which combined with the stretchy nature of the sling puts the baby at risk of falling or getting into an awkward position on the carers back.
I tend to direct people to stretchy wraps if they have a colicky baby as it is so easy and comfortable to have the baby in an upright position (helping avoid stomach acid rising up) from newborn as their head can be fully supported. Being upright really seems to help soothe baby and the motion from the carer often helps them bring up wind.
The wonderful thing about slings, particularly stretchy wraps, is that baby can self regulate their stimulation by looking out sideways at what's happening around him, or up to the carer, and can snuggle into the carer and sling easily when they feel the need. Babies are really good at regulating themselves, and a sling enables them to do this easily. This is one of the criticisms of the outward facing position.
When a baby is facing out to the world they are unable to turn in when it is getting a bit much for them. The baby may signal this with a wriggle or whimper, and if not picked up by the carer the baby can become overwhelmed and unsettled. Stretchy wraps are a great way to balance this as you can help you baby avoid this by being aware of the risk and changing babes position in this wonderfully poppable carrier when they are showing signs that they need less stimulation.
We have a couple of stretchy wraps in the library, including the New Zealand made Popit wrap - so you can hire them to try or just have play and feel the different fabrics that various brands use.
And thank you to Natasha, Michelle, Rachael, Rhian and Popit for the use of your beautiful photos.