When parents (usually moms) decide to take the plunge into the world of woven wraps, they are often overwhelmed by the product offering. Wraps not only come in different sizes, they come in different fabrics and each brand has it’s own texture and feel. Each brand has its lovers and its detractors and it’s no wonder that newbies are affected by a bad case of paralysis by analysis.
It would be next to impossible to give a write-up of each brand with a comparative analysis of how it stacks-up next to the others as a beginner wrap. First, I have not tried them all. Second, I don’t know everything. Third, I don’t know what you like. Instead of telling you which wrap you should buy, I will tell you what you should consider when buying your first woven.
I live in Canada and the main woven wrap online retailers are Birdie’s Room (for everything Dydimos), Tadpole & Butterflies and Precious Earth (for the rest). There are also countless Facebook pages and online fora dedicated to buying, selling and trading woven wraps (also know as FSOT — For Sale or Trade). The Elder Statesman of babywearing forum is The Babywearer (TBW). On Facebook, everything FSOT is defined in comparison to the Babywearing Swap, also know as “the big swap”. There are therefore “smaller swaps”, “local swaps”, and so on. The big swap is a fast moving and sometimes drama-fulled online jungle. I was almost burned in a trade and quickly left. I prefer dealing locally, or at least in the smaller, slower, Canadian swap page or on TBW.
For the purpose of this post, I will focus on wraps that are easily found online new or used. Even beginners can enjoy a hard-to-find limited edition wrap but until you get your sea-legs online, you may prefer buying a wrap to stalking one for months.
You may also shop over the border with US retailers or through European retailers. Just be aware that you may have to pay customs upon delivery, expressed as a percentage of your total purchase. It is an unwelcome — if random — surprise and should be budgeted accordingly.
The first consideration in choosing your first wrap is price. How much are you willing to pay? I usually categorize wraps in three price tiers. Lower tier wraps cost less than $100. Middle tier wraps cost between $125 and $175 according to length. Higher tier wraps are at least $150. Some wraps increase in value on the used market whereas other brands retain their retail value or decrease in value.
Wraps are made of cotton, linen, hemp, silk, wool or any mix thereof. A few companies also make bamboo fiber blends. The most affordable wraps are 100% cotton, followed by cotton/linen blends. Hemp/cotton blends are more rare and difficult to find. Most Hemp blends are more expensive used than new. Bamboo is usually quite slippery and I don’t recommend it for novice wrappers.Wool and silk blends are usually more expensive and require special care.
Any wrap, regardless of the brand and fabric, need a “breaking-in” period during which the fiber stretches and softens, not unlike a pair of jeans. Different wraps require more or less breaking-in and an unbroken “stiff” wrap will be more difficult to use than a soft and floppy one. The only sure-fire way to break-in a wrap is to use it but it can be difficult to learn wrapping with a stiff wrap. A little bit of online research for user feedback will go a long way in giving you a point of reference as far as thickness and stiffness go since few wrap makers will advertise their products as “stiff and impossible to use.”
As a new wrapper, you would be well advised to buy a 100% cotton or cotton/linen wrap in the second price tier ($125-$175). Less expensive wraps are often thinner or very difficult to break-in. For someone who is still learning, a broken-in wrap will be much easier to handle. You should consider buying a second-hand wrap from someone who has done the breaking-in for you. Heavy babies (20+lbs) break-in wraps in no time but smaller babies don’t test it quite as much. It’s good to keep in mind that using your wrap will break it in but you may not enjoy using your wrap until it is broken-in. Don’t give-up and wrap every day.
Another consideration as a new wrapper is fabric care. At the beginning, you will step on your wrap and it will drag on the floor. Cotton, linen and hemp wraps are easy to care for and can usually be thrown carelessly in the washer and dryer. If you are planning to build a wrap collection, all you will need is a special shelf to look at your wraps and snap weekly pictures. But if like me you are buying a wrap to carry your baby daily, keep in mind that babies will drool, puke (milk or actual food), bite, poop and pee (leaky diaper anyone?) on woven wraps and that the helliest hour of the day (i.e. when you need babywering the most) is supper time. My wraps have seen every bodily fluid that can reasonably come out of a baby, plus curry, spaghetti sauce and olive oil.
Once you narrowed it down to a style and colour that you enjoy, you need to pick a size. This is relatively easy as long as you know your shirt size. I wrote an entire post on sizing and you can read it here. Above almost everything, you must choose a wrap that you find pretty in a colour that suits you well. You are more likely to stick with wrapping if you enjoy the aesthetics of your wrap. My first wrap was an Ellevill Paisley Ink . I traded it for an Oscha linen grad better suited for tandem wrapping but I still love the look of Paisley, even thought the pattern made it very challenging as a beginner.
The brands I usually recommend as good workhorse wraps are: Hoppediz, Girasol, BBSlen and Storchenwiege Leo. The Storchenweige wraps with stripes are known to be difficult to impossible to break-in but the Leo are more supple.
In the end, nothing beats trying different wraps to know for sure what you like and dislike. I don’t like thick wraps but I do like textured wraps. Find out if you can find a local babywearing group to tap into. Look it up on Facebook: It’s babywearing Heaven in there! But most of all, don’t wait forever. Babies grow-up too fast.