Stretchy wraps are amazing. They are super soft, snuggly and one of the best options for a newborn. They are amazingly versatile. They fit all body shapes and sizes because you tie them to yourself and when you find the right carry will work for all newborns because you can adapt them to fit however baby most likes to be held.
But there is a catch… most manuals only show one way to use them. And consequently most parents only really feel confident using these really versatile carriers one way. And sometimes that one way doesn’t work well for them, or baby or both. Or more normally is fine sometimes but on some days baby won’t tolerate it.
In this article I will explore several different ways a Stretchy wrap can be used. The videos demonstrate how the carry is done, while the descriptions of each carry discuss the pros and cons of each carry. What that carry is best for and what its worst for. It’s by no means meant to be an exhaustive list but rather a starting point to inspire you to explore further. To empower you with a great grounding in what can be achieved so you can get much more out of your carrier, whether that’s finding some carries that suits your and baby better or simply adding in a couple to your repertoire that offer you more functionality and/or longevity from your sling.
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#1 Pocket Wrap Cross Carry (AKA the normal one, Hug hold).
Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is the most commonly taught method for stretchy wraps. It gives a lovely snuggly carry that is perfect for the 4th trimester period and is one of the easiest ties for a beginner because you tie it off first before putting baby in. Once tied you can then can simply pop baby in and out as needed (without need to re-tie in between each time you take baby in and out).
This tie will works well for many babies right from day 1 and continues to be amazing until they start to go through the developmental leap at around 3-4 months. Not all babies will be developmentally ready to sit astride the cross (particularly those born early, lower birth weight or ones that are just very curled up), and there are positions below that work better in this case for the first few weeks until baby is ready for this position. After 3-4 months, you might still enjoy this position for nap times, but often during more awake periods baby might fuss for more freedom and a better less enclosed view. This position can also become less supportive for the parents back around this time. Again there are alternative positions below that can often be a better option for older babies.
Finally, because Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is pre-tied this is a tie that works much better with a 2 way stretchy wrap than a one way stretchy wrap. This is because there is a much greater window between too tight and too loose on a 2 way wrap than a 1 way (more on the differences here). If you have a 1 way stretchy wrap you might struggle to get this tie perfect reliably, and again there are other options below that work better for 1 way stretchy wraps.
#2 Front Double Hammock Variation
The Front Double Hammock Variation is tied exactly the same way as Pocket Wrap Cross Carry (#1), but baby is placed inside the sling differently. Rather than sitting astride the cross baby sits on the cross with no fabric dividing between the legs. Instead the fabric rests just in the back of the knee pit, similar to how you would sit in a hammock.
This makes this carry ideal for babies who are not yet opening out their knees and spreading their legs around their parents when they are held simply in arms. Babies vary a lot in terms of when they are ready to do this. Some are born already fairly opened out, while others remain much more curled up for a few weeks. This is particularly true of babies born prematurely or babies born at a lower birth weight. By sitting on the cross rather than astride it, their natural position is respected and maintained, allowing them to open up naturally once they are ready to do so.
This can also be important for babies who have hypermobility (such as commonly see in Downs Syndrome) or another medical reason to avoid material between their legs that might over spread them.
Another advantage of this position is that is is easier to breastfeed in because without material between baby’s legs it is easier to adjust baby’s position to bring them to the breast. However, without the material between the legs this is a position that can feel less secure with a more wiggly older baby.
Finally it is worth noting that, again because this carry is pre-tied this is a tie that is easier to do with a two-way stretchy wrap where you have a wider window between too tight and too loose compared to stretchy wraps with only one-way stretch.
#3 Front Wrap Cross Carry
In contrast to the two carries above, the wrap is not pre-tied for Front wrap cross carry. Instead baby goes in at a much earlier stage and then the wrap is tightened and tied around baby. This means that you don’t have to guess or measure how much space to leave for baby as you simply fit the wrap to baby and yourself exactly. This means this tie is a great option for one-way stretchy wraps or for anyone who is having difficulty getting the tightness correct using the pre-tied Pocket Wrap Cross Carry method. In fact this tie works better for one-way stretchy wraps than two-way ones because in general one-way stretchies are less stretchy than 2 ways and thus require less tightening using this method!
The downside of this method is simply that you tie it from scratch each time, so lose the convenience of simply popping baby in and out. Although you do quickly become very speedy at tying!
Front Wrap Cross Carry is also the same method that is most commonly used for woven wraps so if you are thinking about trying a woven and not sure if you could do it or not you can give this a go with your stretchy wrap and see how you find it!
#4 Adjustable Pocket Wrap Cross Carry
In this variation of the standard carry, the wrap is pre-tied but it is pre-tied using an adjustable knot at the shoulder. The knot is placed at the shoulder to make it easy to get to and using a slip knot means the wrap can very easily be tightened and loosened, without untying or taking the wrap on and off.
This makes this tie particularly great for;
- breastfeeding in the sling (as easy to lower baby ready for a feed, then raising them back up after the feed without waking them)
- for older babies – where the sling needs to be tighter to support their weight but getting it tight enough doesn’t leave you with enough space to get them in!
- for one way stretchy wraps for anyone having difficulty getting the tightness correct using carry #1.
This carry does work just as well with a two-way stretchy wrap too, it can be a great option to have in your tool box, well worth giving a go!
#5 Seated Sideways (Pocket wrap cross carry variation).
In this position the wrap is tied exactly as for pocket wrap cross carry (#1), but this time baby is loaded in completely differently. Instead of going “tummy to tummy” with the adult, baby sits upright, side on to the parent.
The advantage of this is the baby has no pressure on their tummy, so this is an excellent position for babies with reflux or any baby who is have a painful digestion day or currently struggling with a poo. Or for any baby who has had to undergo chest or abdominal surgery. It’s also fabulous for communication as baby can stare up at your and you can see each others faces much more easily than in the standard tummy to tummy position. Some babies simply prefer being held this way. Or enjoy it as a change.
When I work with new parents I always watch how parents hold babies in arms and often parents hold baby naturally like this and so are really excited to find that is a position that the sling can replicate.
The one thing to be aware of when using this position is the important to having baby sat upright in the sling. As long as baby is upright their head will nicely stack onto their spine and should be easy to support by either tucking their head or using a muslin roll in the 3rd layer. If baby is not upright there is a danger baby can slump into the pocket and there is a danger the fabric could cover them or place pressure on the head resulting in a chin on chest position that can restrict airflow. So when using this position it is key to ensure the sling is tight enough and baby is upright so that you know they are safe and comfortable.
#6 Simple Hip Carry (pocket wrap cross carry variation)
Hip carries can be great for babies who have reached “nosy baby” phase. This typically starts in earnest around 3 to 4 months (although sometimes a little earlier or later) and around this time you will notice baby starting to fuss and craning for a better view when awake in the stretchy wrap on your front. A hip carry gives them that better view while still giving them a snuggly carry they can relax and fall asleep in if they wish.
There are other ways you can use your stretchy on your hip but this method is the simplest because you start by tying it exactly as you would for carrying baby on your front using the pocket wrap cross carry method. There is just one change – once you have tied you work out which hip you’d like to carry baby on and then drop the strap on that side off your shoulder and bring it under your arm. The tightness of the wrap will then need to be adjusted and then your ready to simply load your baby into the wrap on your side!
Because this method is pre-tied again this is a method that works best for a two-way stretchy wrap. It is important to ensure it is snug before you start because as this is a one shouldered carry you will find it will put more strain on your back if it is loose.
#7 Robin’s Hip Carry
Robin’s Hip carry is a carry I often teach with a woven wrap, but it does work just as well with a stretchy wrap. For this carry you start by creating a pouch that you then tighten around baby and then reinforce with additional cross passes.
Because this carry is tightened around baby, this is a carry that works just as well for one-way and two way stretchy wraps. It’s also great for bigger babies, as you can allow enough space to get them in easily and still get it tight enough to support their growing weight.
It’s a fabulous option for nosy babies, and can be a more comfortable option than the simple hip carry because of the double layer on the shoulder and how the straps spread out around parent. It is a few more steps, but can be worth it for that extra comfort.
#8 Double Hammock Back Carry
Of all the carries shown here, this is the one that I would say is quite advanced and needs good deal of practise and confidence. Again this is a carry that is commonly used with woven wraps, and is one that many babywearing consultants choose not to teach with a stretchy wrap because it is that bit harder (compared to a woven) to really get as tight as you need to.
However, it is possible. Not with all stretchy wraps, but ones that are wider and stronger like the one shown in the video (a JPMBB Original) it is possible with practise and understanding. While often when it comes to back carries there are other easier options (like buckle carriers or a woven wrap) it is something that some parents do want to have in their repertoire and it is a fun snuggly bouncy carry for an older baby. If you would like to learn how to do this, I would highly recommend face to face support with a consultant as there are many methods for getting baby onto your back and getting the passes into place behind you and having input can really help flatten the learning curve and help you gain confidence with tightening.
This is definitely a carry where tightness is really important – you can see this at the end of the video when I ask my daughter if she can break out. Funnily enough in our practise 5 minutes before she couldn’t get her arms out at all, but when I filmed it was a tiny bit looser and you can see how much further she can get!
#9 Pregnancy Support
Did you know you can actually use your stretchy wrap before baby arrives? Wrapping your bump, back and hips with a stretchy wrap can provide some short term support to your growing body. It is worth noting that this is something I’d advise for short time periods in the later months of pregnancy only, as its important for your body and muscles to strengthen up as your bump grows. But in those final months, on longer days, this can provide some very welcome short term relief to your back and hips!
Any stretchy wrap 1 way or 2 way will work equally well as a pregnancy support and that time spent wrapping your bump will translate into muscle memory and confidence using your wrap when it comes to actually wrapping baby.
#10 Carrying Twins (Pocket Wrap Cross Carry variation)
A stretchy wrap can also be used to carry newborn twins! The simplest way to do this is tie the wrap just like in carry #1 – Pocket Wrap Cross Carry but instead of loading one baby into both sides of the cross, you load one baby each into either side of the cross.
This carry works really well right from newborn, and can be a lovely way to carry newborn twins as it gives them the comfort of each other (just as they had in the womb) and the comfort of being on their parents chest! When they grow out of it varies a lot between twin pairs, depending on size and how early they arrived etc, but typically somewhere around 8 weeks (give or take!) they will start to feel like they fit less comfortably. You can use this carry for as long as you still feel comfortable – even if that is a lot longer than 8 weeks! While there are dedicated Twin carriers available, none work as well for these first few weeks as a Stretchy Wrap. It can be a really lovely option to start with, and then decide if you want to invest in a twin sling or other options later once babies start to grow out of this, and once you know more about how you will want to carry them (whether singly or together).
In terms of which stretchy wrap are best for this carry – generally wraps that have a bit more width can be helpful when wearing twins in this way. As are wraps that are fairly supportive and not too stretchy. Again two way wraps can be easier as it is a pre-tied method but many stretchy wraps are very stretchy and that can be less helpful! In particular the JPMBB Original wrap, Izmi Baby and even Kari Me wrap are among my top picks for twins as they are all two-way wraps but have have less stretch than many other 2 way wraps and are wide and strong! A good quality strong one-way stretchy wrap like the Moby can also be a good bet, because while they are harder to get the pre-tie right, the additional support and strength can make up for this when it comes to wrapping 2!
#11 Kangaroo Carry
The Kangaroo carry is another option where there is no material between babies legs. You start by creating a pouch on your front, slip baby in and then tighten the wrap around them creating a snug pocket which is then reinforced with 2 further layers of wrap across babies back. For older, stronger and more wiggly babies you can then pass fabric between the legs and tie under bum, but for smaller babies you don’t need to bring any material between their legs at all.
This means this is a great option for premature babies, low birth weight babies or babies who are simply not opening out their legs yet. Likewise babies with hypermobility (such a Downs Syndrome) or other medical reason to avoid pressure on their legs. It’s also the option that of all the carries shown here give the biggest surface area between parent and baby and so can be great for skin to skin cuddles. Again great winner for premature babies! But also any baby that’s feeling a bit under the weather and needs the extra comfort and temperature regulation.
Because this carry is tied around baby it works really well with 1 way stretchy wraps, it works well with 2 way wraps too but can feel a bit easier with a 1 way.
Finally, while I have shown the tummy to tummy position here, this same carry can also be used with the Seated Sideways position.
A final note…
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that all the carries I have shown here show babies legs outside of the sling. You can read more about why I generally only teach legs out here. I am aware that this is in contrast to many manuals that suggest the legs in position should be used until baby is ready to sit astride across, however, legs in comes with its own challenges which are often not made clear in manuals. Experience has taught me that alternatives such as the double hammock variation or even the Kangaroo carry can give the best of both worlds, allowing baby to sit comfortably on their bottom without being overspread while still having their legs and feet free to move naturally.
Hope these tutorials help inspire you! Happy Wrapping!