Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sling it, Mama! #9 Guest Post: Stretchy Wraps

We're continuing to explore babywearing options this week with Abigail... A fabulously informative post from a very knowledgeable lady indeed who has found time to pen this, thanks no doubt to having wrapped up her tiny baby for a bit... Thanks Abigail!

A stretchy wrap is pretty much what the name suggests, a long length of stretchy fabric wrapped around the body to carry the baby in place. I found wrapping totally confusing when I had my daughter in 2011. I had a Kari-Me stretchy wrap but gave up pretty soon after a couple of rather half hearted attempts. I found the sheer amount of fabric completely overwhelming and my daughter screamed blue murder whenever I tried to manoeuvre her into position. So the wrap went on eBay and I got a mei tai which I found much easier. I always wished I'd persevered with wrapping though and even mastered a woven wrap when she was older and felt more robust. But I felt sure when I had another baby I would master the stretchy! 
Strechies made perfect sense to me for newborns. They hold the baby super snugly in an anatomically correct position, with baby's head against mother's chest so they can hear their heartbeat, all mimicking the environment of the womb. I'm a firm believer in the idea of a 4th trimester and allowing your baby to make that slow transition from womb to world. They're perfect for combining your baby's need to be held close with your own need to play with an older child or simply do a bit of washing up!
I finally learned to use a stretchy wrap during my training as a BabyCalm teacher. I soon realised how easy it was once I'd seen someone demonstrate it, rather than trying to read an instruction book with one hand and manoeuvre a wriggly baby into a length of fabric with the other! Once I started teaching other mums it became second nature so I couldn't wait to wrap my son when I was pregnant with him.

The great thing about stretchy wraps is that you pre-tie them, meaning you tie the wrap around you first then "scootch" the baby in. No complicated holding baby in position while wrapping the fabric around them. Once the wrap is on you can simply pop baby in and out for feeds or nappy changes throughout the day, with a few minor adjustments to make sure you are following the babywearing safety guidelines known as TICKS*.

Using a stretchy wrap is second nature to me now. We haven't used the pram since my daughter was a couple of months old and haven't even dusted it off to use with my son. I would encourage anyone with a newborn to give a stretchy a go, I really regret not persevering with my daughter, especially as she wouldn't be put down for a second without screaming! Now she's 2 and a half I often need to be hands free to play with her too, so popping my son in the wrap is perfect. Here's a few tips for beginners:

* Ask someone experienced to show you how to use one first, be it an experienced friend or babywearing peer supporter/consultant at a sling meet. Or there's plenty of instructional videos on YouTube.
* Have your partner or friend around to help as an extra pair of hands for your first couple of attempts or stand over your bed. You won't drop your baby but you'll feel more confident if there's support around you.
* Don't be put off and give up if your baby screams when first in the wrap. This is where I went wrong! Once baby is in securely then MOVE! Walk, dance, jiggle, do anything. Remember, the womb is a busy place and babies are used to being rocked as you move. Instant sleepy dust, great for those fussy evenings.

Stretchy wraps can be used up to about 35lbs so you'll get plenty of use out of it for your investment and there's a variety of carries to try. They can be bought for around £40 new or from around £15 preloved. However, many people move on to a woven wrap or other type of sling/carrier before then for variety, extra support or a desire to wear baby on their back which isn't recommended with a stretchy due to the nature of the fabric. There's really nothing to lose and a lot to gain for both you and your baby, so why not give a stretchy wrap a try?

Wishing you hands-free fun!

In view
Close enough to kiss
Keep chin off the chest
Supported straight back

Abigail's blog is currently under a revamp but she tweets as @midwifetomum

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