We have a great selection of slings at both of our stores, however, one type of sling is noticeably absent from our lineup. We have stocked a variety of woven wraps over the years, but we've never had much luck in terms of selling them, not because of the products themselves, but more because of customers' apprehension about what appears to be nothing more than a 'simple piece of cloth'.
Contrary to their basic appearance, woven wraps are probably the most versatile type of baby carrier currently available for sale. Despite other carriers' claims as a front/back/side carrier, woven wraps are the only type of carrier that will allow a parent to carry a baby in all three positions, both safely and comfortably. The Scootababy hip carrier is a close second -- although most soft-structured carriers (SSCs) claim to be suitable for a front/back/hip carry positions, they are really only suited to either a front or back carry. Since its shoulder straps are so narrow, when an SSC is are used for a hip carry, it can be quite uncomfortable because of the pressure placed on the wearer's trapezius muscle.
The most popular carrier we sell for newborns is a stretchy wrap. Although it looks quite similar to a woven wrap, a stretchy wrap is an entirely different beast. Stretchy wraps are less intimidating to new parents because they are tied on first, then the baby is placed into the carrier. The elastic fabric of a stretchy wrap makes this possible -- it is more forgiving than a woven wrap, which requires that a baby is placed into the carrier as the user ties it on. The benefit of being able to tie a carrier on beforehand is that a user can have the carrier ready to go at a moment's notice (immediate satisfaction!). The user can also remove the baby from a stretchy wrap without having to remove the carrier. Poppability (placing a baby in and taking a baby out of a carrier) is important when you're out and about, or if you have a fussy baby. Speed and ease of use aside, being able to tie a stretchy wrap on beforehand (at home before you start running your errands, for example) reduces the likelihood that you'll be tying your wrap on outside in the slush, rain or snow -- a drawback to wraps (both stretchy and woven) is that it's hard to avoid the wrap touching the floor as you tie it on -- better inside than outside, right? Fear not, however, most wraps are manufactured from a cotton or cotton blend, so they are quite easy to care for, simply machine wash and dry as needed.
Both stretchy wraps and woven wraps claim a weight limit of approximately 35 lbs, however, due to the give of a stretchy wrap, a weight limit of 20 lbs is more realistic. I have attempted to wear a baby who weighs 25-30 lbs in a stretchy wrap, only to have them sagging well below my waist after ten minutes in the carrier (not comfortable or practical!). Tying a stretchy wrap tighter will help compensate for a heavier child, but only to a certain degree. A woven wrap, on the other hand, is made from a significantly sturdier fabric. As a result, you can safely and comfortably carry a child who weighs 35 lbs in a good woven wrap. Keep in mind that not all woven wraps are created equal, a thin fabric will create more pressure points than a plusher fabric (anyone who has felt the difference between a Didymos woven wrap and an Ellaroo woven wrap can attest to this!).
Because they are so versatile, woven wraps have a higher learning curve, however, with a little patience and perseverence, it's easy to fall in love with this simple carrier and all it can do. A good wrap will come with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. Alternately, there are lots of great online resources that offer both written and video instructions. We often refer customers to Wear Your Baby, a fabulous website that provides instructions based on age, position, and type of carrier. If you are nervous when you start using your woven wrap, it's a good idea to wrap your baby over a soft surface, like a bed, for example, or to have a spotter close by, particularly when you are learning back carries.
While stretchy wraps tend to come in a one-size-fits-all format, woven wraps are often sized. Different ties require different lengths of fabric. A rucksack back carry requires significantly less length than a front wrap cross carry, for example. Aside from position, the user's frame also determines which size woven wrap is appropriate -- when in doubt, size up. You can make something bigger, smaller, but you can't make something smaller, bigger (I'm talking about wraps, get your dirty minds out of the gutter!).
In terms of cost, stretchy wraps usually cost less than most woven wraps, priced anywhere from $50.00 - $80.00. Woven wraps tend to cost upwards of $100.00, however, when you consider the longterm use of a woven wrap (you can comfortably expect to use a quality woven wrap for three or more years) compared to the short-term use of a stretchy wrap (typically 4-6 months), it's a worthwhile investment. If you want a woven wrap, but you can't justify its cost, you can always DIY, although it's important to note that woven wraps are typically manufactured from a fabric that has been woven specifically for that purpose, you will not likely be able to duplicate the comfort of a Didymos with fabric purchased at Fabricland -- sad, but true.
I will fully admit that before using a woven wrap myself, I regarded them with disdain. Like most people, I couldn't see past the meters of fabric before me until I actually tried a woven wrap on. The more comfortable I became using a woven wrap, the more enthusiastic I became about this 'simple piece of cloth'. Anyone who has had the pleasure of using a quality woven wrap will certainly agree with me -- it's not uncommon for 'wrappers' to own more than one! We've had many requests to stock a woven wrap again at both stores, and thanks to some gentle prodding from the fabulous Annie at PhD in Parenting, we're going to take the plunge again and bring back woven wraps to The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe. We want you to feel the woven wrap love too!