Stretchies! Aren’t they all the same?

I love stretchy wraps for the newborn period.  Despite owning slings of all types and styles the humble stretchy wrap is still my go to for my newborn.  But there are so many brands and at first look they all look the same – just a long piece of stretchy material!

But there are differences…  Differences in length and width, material the wrap is made from, differences in thickness and thus overall warmth – always worth considering particularly if your having a summer or winter baby or regularly visit somewhere with a particularly warm or cold climate!  But most importantly they have different levels of stretch and elasticity, which affect how easy they are to use and how supportive they are.  Those with less stretchy and/or more elastic recoil will be more supportive and less prone to sagging with time.  Some stretch in two directions – both horizontally and vertically (referred to as two way stretchies), while others stretch only in the vertical direction (one way stretchies).  In general, the two way stretchies are much easier to use than the one ways.  Pre-tying a one way stretchy can be a bit like finding the right setting on an old toaster where there is only about a mm between still bread and completely burnt… the window between to tight to get the baby in and so loose that it sags after a few minutes can seem just as small!  While this window is much wider on a two way stretchy and so much easier for a new sleep deprived parent to learn.

Here I compare 13 brands (although there are a great many more!) and you can see how they compare in each of these attributes in the table below.

stretchy table

Looking further at each of these in turn… the Boba wrap is one of the most stretchy of these wraps, and has fantastic elasticity or ping back.  Consequently, while it is not the most supportive wrap it is fantastically easy to learn how to use.  The different textured sides helps too – one side is smooth while the other is french terry which means it’s easy to see if you have twisted the wrap.  Additionally the terry gives this wrap a really soft snug feel, it feels cozy while still being pretty light and airy.  I’d happily wear it any day of the year other than maybe the absolute height of summer.  Great for tiny babies and the newborn period but wouldn’t be my first choice if I had a higher birth weight baby and/or wanted something that would last longer.

The ByKay was my least favourite to use.  I found it very wide.  Its the joint widest along side the Kari Me, and I found it too wide15578810_1069647676497592_69531266827945960_n.  Combined with the thickness of the material it was a bit claustrophobic … too much fabric to deal with with a newborn and I just some how couldn’t get all 71cm of it comfortable on my shoulders, nor seem to be able to keep it away from Rachel’s face.  I would usually twist or ‘flip’ the wrap at my shoulder on the side her face is angled toward but I must have slightly over tightened the wrap as I simply couldn’t do this!  That said any looser and I think she’d have started to sag.  The lack of stretchiness and one-way stretch only meant that it was very hard to get the tightening correct… I had three goes and never got it quite right.  Also its worth stating that Rachel didn’t seem to love it either, she screamed like a banshee going in each of the 3 times.  Normally, I don’t really pay attention to things like babies screaming going into wraps because like having their nappy changed they just don’t like being interfered with and will normally settle in to a carry after a moment or two.  But this was the only one that she screamed like this going into!!  Of course she could just be feeding off of my own discomfort.

IMG_20171215_093451_875In complete contrast, the Ergobaby Aura wrap is absolute joy to wrap with and one of my favourites (alongside the Hana and Lifft discussed below). The fabric is a viscose made from fibres extracted from Eucalyptus and Acacia trees and the result is a wonderfully light, thin and deceptively strong wrap.    It has 1.5 way stretch (does stretch in both directions but much more so vertically than horizontally), which means while not quite as easy to get the hang of as a true 2 way stretchy its miles easier than a 1 way and has the added bonus that comes with less stretch of being more supportive and thus lasting longer.  Other features worth a mention include contrast stitching – the top and the bottom of the wrap are hemmed in different colours which means that your learning to tie your new wrap you can tell the top from the bottom and can immediately tell if you’ve twisted the wrap.  It’s such a tiny thing, but can make a big difference to a beginner and is a really a lovely touch.  As is the storage pocket – positioned at one end, which you can simply scrunch or fold the whole wrap into to give 1 neat, very small package to slip into the change bag.  The Aura wrap is a great option for a summer baby, complete beginners and anyone expecting a bigger baby and/or wants a wrap that will last a bit longer.

IMG_20170930_220035_365Made from 100% Modal the Fornessi Carry Me is super soft, ultra thin and very light.  It’s a great summer baby option as the material actually feels cool to the touch – sounds odd but think like a swimming costume or gymnastics leotard… cool to the touch and won’t make you over warm while walking, getting on with jobs etc.   I have to say I really like this as I am very prone to overheating, especially while wearing my daughter.  It has 1.5 way stretch similar to the Ergo Aura wrap, which means while quite as easy to get the hang of as a true 2 way stretchy its miles easier than a 1 way and has the added bonus that comes with less stretch of being more supportive and thus lasting longer.  In fact this is definitely a great option for anyone looking to use a stretchy wrap for longer or who is expecting a bigger baby because it is also very strong.  Modal is deceptively strong for such a thin material!  Full review of the Fornessi can be found here.

img_1850Hana Baby Organic wrap remains a strong favourite, for all the reasons I’ve given previously.  Its sumptuously soft and light and really very easy use with great stretch and elasticity.  It’s made from Bamboo which, as well as having anti-microbial properties, is a thermo-regulating material so it feels light and cool in summer but will still keep you warm in winter. Thus making it a great all rounder, it will suit babies regardless of the season of their birth and also regardless of their birth weight.  I’ve seen this work equally well for 97 percentile babies and the tiniest of preemies.  In fact as the manufacturer’s recommended weight minimum is just 1kg, combined with feeling so light and thin, this wrap is usually my first port of call for anyone coming for a consult with a baby born early or with IUGR.  It’s also a UK based brand – hailing from London.

The Hana does come in two different sizes – regular and shorty.  The shorty is a meter shorter – 4.5m versus 5.5 – and can be great for more petite parents who can be put off by the oodles and oodles of fabric of most stretchy wraps.  Hana baby state anyone upto a size 14 can fit the shorty size, while the regular fits all.  To put this in context, my husband is 180cm but very slender and wears the shorty size.  He can tie this at his front, and in fact if he uses the regular size he has incredibly long trailing fabric ends that are trip hazards unless he passes these round his body again.  While I am a size 16 and 170 cm and I need a regular.  I can use a shorty but I need to tie behind my back and I personally prefer to knot at the front.  Firstly because I can tie a better knot if I am looking at it (!) and secondly because then if I sit down I don’t have a knot in my back. But I have met many people who have tried both and choose the shorter and knotting behind their back because they simply prefer to have less fabric.

20171129_172440Also made from gloriously soft bamboo is the Joy and Joe Organic Bamboo Stretchy wrap.  It is very very similar to the Hana Baby wrap above, and just like the Hana is an absolute joy to wrap with.  However, it differs from the Hana in two key ways – price and width.  It is very narrow, the narrowest of any I have tried and in my opinion simply too narrow.  I couldn’t spread this out as much as I’d have liked.  It is also £6 cheaper than the Hana so worth figuring out how much the extra width is worth to you personally!  Full review of this wrap can be found here.

I often think of the Je Porte Mon Bebe (or JPMBB) Stretchy wrap as the Rolls Royce of stretchy wraps.  Its one of the wider and longer wraps, and weighing in at almost 900g it is certainly the heaviest and thickest!  It combines really great two way stretch with fantastic elasticity.  So while it is one of the stretchiest on this list, the ping back is so great this wrap with never sag, not even with an older child.  There is no trade off between stretchiness and support with this wrap.  In fact it is classed as a hybrid, which means it is strong enough/safe enough to be used for back carries.  Back carrying is not recommended with most stretchy wraps, as they are not supportive enough to ensure a safe back carry with an older baby, but hybrids such as the JPMBB are the exception to this rule. It is one of the more expensive stretchy wraps on the market but its longevity, support and fact it can be used on the back, hip and in a wider variety of ways than most stretchy wraps makes it well worth it.  It’s only downside is as one of the wider, longer and heavier wraps it can feel a bit inundating to beginners and/or the more petite.  I would recommend this to anyone who is unsure between a stretchy wrap and a woven, or anyone with a bigger baby, and to twin parents as its strength, stretch and overall flexibility of use make it a great choice for tandem carries… either for carrying two newborn twins together in one wrap or later in combination with another sling.

img_1894The Kari Me is one of the older more established brands and also hails from the UK – they are based in Nottingham.   Its is a great all rounder.  Like the Boba and Hana Baby wraps it has great 2 way stretch and is easy to use.  It is a little thicker than both of these but much less thick than the Ergo.  I would happily use this with a Winter, Spring or Autumn baby.  I’d probably avoid it in the height of summer, as it is a bit thicker but perfect for the rest of the year.  In terms of supportiveness I would say it is more supportive than the Boba, Hana Baby, Joy and Joe etc but on a par with the Fornessi, Ergo Aura and the Lifft.  It is very wide, but unlike with the ByKay this didn’t bother me as much.  It does roll up quite a lot at the sides so it seems less wide than it really is.  My only downside to this wrap compared to the others is softness.  My Kari Me which has been the library a couple of years and been tried on numerous times and been out on a few hires is pretty soft, but I am always shocked when someone brings me a brand new one just how stiff and slightly rough it feels.  It makes me think of a brand new woven wrap that needs ‘breaking in’ to reach its full lovely potential… but one of the main advantages of starting with a stretchy compared to a woven wrap is that stretchies are soft from the outset and don’t need breaking in.

20170304_122240The Lifft Stretchy wrap new to market but has fast become a favourite here.  Again, like the Boba, Hana and Kari Me – the two way stretch makes it very easy to use and tie perfectly every time.  In terms of support the Lifft is more supportive than both the Hana and the Boba, so will last you longer.  While the Kari Me and the Ergo wrap both offer a similar level of support to the Lifft, the advantage of the Lifft is it is thinner. It’s not quite as soft and thin feeling as the Hana, Ergo Aura, Fornessi or the Lillebaby, but it is the thinnest of all the cotton stretchy wraps I looked at.  I’d happily use the Lifft pretty much all year round, even in the summer (unless it was really really hot and then I’d probably opt for one of the thinner bamboo/viscose/tencel type wraps).  It is unusual compared to all the others in that the ends are not tapered.  Generally, stretchy wraps have tapered ends to give less bulk and make it a bit easier when tying a knot.  That said, I still found it very easy to tie a knot and found the blunt ends gave a bit more usable length.  The length was a about perfect for me, in between the long and short Hana lengths, I can comfortably tie in front but with very little extra length left over.  I did, however, find the width almost a bit too narrow.  I like to pull the wrap right up to the back of Rachel’s neck and then stretch the bottom part over her feet and I found at 52cm, it is a stretch to do both.  It’s not a big deal, but in an ideal world I’d like an extra couple of cm.

img_1889The Lillebaby Tie the Knot is made from Tencel – which is a fabric very similar to the Modal of the Fornessi and Mezaya wraps.  While man made fabrics, both Tencel and Modal, are sustainably produced from natural material (wood pulp) via a very eco-friendly process – so it has serious green credentials.  The resulting fabric is extremely lightweight and really luxurious feeling.  It feels almost like silk; shiny, super smooth and deceptively strong and supportive.  This wrap is a great choice for anyone living in or visiting a very hot climate.  Of all the wraps compared here it is the absolute lightest and thinnest.  But it’s only a little thinner than the Ergo Aura and the Fornessi Carry Me, and I would say a little harder to get the hang of than these two.  Like Aura and the Fornessi it is also a 1.5 way stretchy, but i found it a bit stiffer in hand and much more slippery than either of these two… which made it a little harder to handle.  Interestingly, this wrap has two features that sets it apart from other stretchy wraps.  1 – It has a two part pocket at the front.  The larger part acts as a pocket to neatly store the wrap when not in use and the smaller part provides a space to place a muslin for head support.  This is a nice feature as many parents worry about head support… properly tightened a muslin shouldn’t be needed with a stretchy wrap but a rolled up muslin can bring peace of mind for any parent worrying about this.  I don’t usually need to use a muslin with most stretchy wraps, but I did find it really hard to get the top part of this wrap tight enough, despite really focusing on it!!… so of all the wraps the Lillebaby was the one I felt most needed a muslin for head support.  2 – While it is very very long (over 6m!) it has little pockets at each end, enabling the user to roll the ends up to the desired length.  This means this wrap is a good choice for families where adults of very different sizes will be sharing the same wrap.  Often more petite parents feel inundated by a wrap if its too long but don’t want to buy something their partner can’t use as well… at over 6 m even the most broad and tall of men would easily be able to tie this at the front, while a more petite parent can simply roll up the ends to have a lot less fabric to deal with.  However, the issue with this is that when rolled up and secured with the little elastics the ends do look a little bit like a pair of dangling testicles!!  Its not a good look! Plus they do seem to come undone all the time so all in all I am not to sure of these little pockets!

20171024_100944Also made predominantly from Modal, the Mezaya baby wrap is light thin, and very very stretchy.  Unlike the other wraps made from fibres extracted from wood chip (Fornessi, Ergo Aura and Lillebaby), the Mezaya has true 2 way stretch due to the addition of elastane.  The result is a wrap that is incredibly easy to tie and is extremely forgiving – there is a wide window between too loose and too tight.  In fact it is so stretchy I think it must be impossible to tie to tightly – there is absolutely no need to leave any space for the baby at all.  But the downside is that this wrap is one of the least supportive, as baby grows it rapidly becomes too bouncy with the added weight.  I would say this wrap is perfect for newborn until about 3 or 4 months but likely to be quickly become less comfortable soon after that.  Its also interesting to note, that despite being made from the same material as the Fornessi, the Mezaya feels completely different.  In fact while all the other ‘wood-chip-fibre’ wraps feel very soft and cool to the touch, the Mezaya is slightly thicker than the other three and feels more like a cotton wrap.  Full review of the Mezaya wrap can be found here.

img_1924As I’ve mentioned previously, the Moby wrap was my first ever baby carrier.  I bought it while pregnant before Tom was born.  I bought it simply as it was the one everyone recommended, and it remains the one everyone has heard of and the one people recommend.  In fact the phrases Moby wrap and stretchy wrap are often used synonymously.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why, because of all of them the Moby is one of the hardest to use.  While I found the ByKay harder to use, I think that’s more to do with the fact I used this for months with Tom and I simply got used to it eventually rather than it being any easier!  So why is it one of the hardest to use – it is a one way stretch, and it’s the least stretchy of them all… which just means there is a very small window of error between having this wrap too tight and too loose.  In fact it is easier to use this wrap more like a woven wrap rather than as a stretchy wrap.

img_2813

Tom starting to slump in the Moby wrap

What it does have going for it, is that if you do get the tightening correct on it, the Moby wrap is very strong and supportive and won’t sag with a bigger child or twins … but even a little bit too loose this carrier will really sag!  I have so many photos of my husband David wearing our Moby with Tom deeply slumped inside!!  While I did eventually learn to tighten it correctly, and have successfully taught dozens of parents who’ve brought their own Moby wraps to sling library sessions… poor David never did learn to tighten it correctly!  While this time around with Rachel, he’s figured out using the Hana wrap with no fuss at all.

20171109_094029The Wrapsody Hybrid stretchy wrap is like the JPMBB classed as a ‘Hybrid’.  However, this is where the similarity ends.  While the JPMBB is thick, warm and heavy, this is light and cool and feels (and looks!) a bit like a sarong.  The JPMBB is very stretchy and elastic, while the Wrapsody is barely stretchy at all and stretching only in 1 dimension rather than 2.  In fact, it’s very easy to see why this is classed as a hybrid as it feels like a halfway point between a woven wrap and a stretchy wrap.  So what does this mean?  Well it means this wrap is really really supportive, and strong.  And you can do loads with it – basically any multilayered tie you can do with a woven wrap you can do with the wrapsody – front, hip and back carries.  You can also pre-tie it like a normal stretchy too.  However, the lack of stretch does make this a bit of a challenge… just like the Moby it has a really narrow window between too tight and too loose and so it does take a good bit of getting used to and maybe isn’t the most beginner friendly.  However, the Wrapsody is a great option for anyone who is on the fence between a stretchy wrap and a woven.  Anyone who likes the idea of a woven but intimidated by the price tag,  and/or want something lighter than a woven for the height of summer or a warmer climate.

-Madeleine

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10 thoughts on “Stretchies! Aren’t they all the same?

  1. Alex Duxbury says:

    Really informative article. It would be great to include the 2 way Lifft Stretchy Wrap in this comparison, when it is next updated.

    Like

    • sheenslings says:

      Its on my list! Don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten you guys over at Lifft….. I fully intend to update it next time I have a chance (already done all the weighing and measuring etc!)… just need to find the time to do this and a whole host of urgent website updates. Not to mention updating the newborn in buckles article too since Ergo kindly sent me an Adapt 😀

      Like

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