The 10 Best Baby Wraps
A Brief History Of Babywearing
The habit of fabricating contrivances to carry our progeny around with something other than our own hands is, in essence, human history.
In some aboriginal cultures, tradition calls for expectant parents to rise at dawn to fashion their little one's carrier in a single day, in the hope that it will bring the child good luck.
The term babywearing, which somewhat disturbingly evokes the employment of offspring as wardrobe accessories, was coined by renowned pediatrician and parenting guru Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha, an RN. Espousing the practice as part of their attachment parenting philosophy, the couple rose to fame in the late 20th century for their not-uncontroversial childrearing guides. However contentious the semantics may be, there's no question that the development of baby carrying gear has played an instrumental role in humankind's success as a species. Whether they're preparing food or practicing yoga, parents around the world have come to rely on slings, wraps, and soft carriers in all their iterations to keep little ones close while attending to the business at hand.
The habit of fabricating contrivances to carry our progeny around with something other than our own hands is, in essence, human history. For millennia, humans have carried their young on their bodies, using animal pelts, cloth, woven baskets, and other fabrications to keep their hands free as they go about the business of living with small children. Homo sapiens may very well owe their continued existence, at least in part, to these childrearing innovations. Doubtlessly inspired by observations of the diverse ways in which hominids' counterparts carried their young in the wild, humans have devised an impressive array of contraptions to allow parents to ferry their babies on their backs, chests, and hips as they carry on with the requisite tasks of survival — seeking nourishment, protecting themselves against the elements, and fending off existential threats — without forsaking the responsibility of caring for their offspring.
Long before the phrase handsfree device was used to describe an electronic earbud tethered wirelessly to a handheld computer, our forbears were coming up with ingenious ways of carrying their young that kept their hands free for other matters. The iconic Native American cradleboard — rather dubiously known by English-speakers as a papoose (the name being derived from an Algonquin word meaning “child”) — is one example. In some aboriginal cultures, tradition calls for expectant parents to rise at dawn to fashion their little one's carrier in a single day, in the hope that it will bring the child good luck. Among the Maori, countless generations of small children have snuggled in their caregivers' cloaks or ridden piggyback in a Pikau (backpack). And the soft, structured carriers now popular among Westerners are reminiscent of the ones in which Asian youngsters have historically accompanied their parents on errands and longer journeys.
Degrees Of Separation
For a period beginning in the late 19th century, the ancient tradition of carrying babies on our bodies fell out of favor in much of the world. Scientific and technological advances offered the promise of alternatives to the backbreaking work of lugging kids around, and families increasingly turned to so-called parenting experts — instead of their elders — for guidance. Stigmatized by such experts as primitive and potentially harmful, wraps were replaced by increasingly high-tech contraptions that served to physically distance humans from their offspring. By the mid-20th century, parents who carried their infants around were often seen as too poor or ignorant to care for their children properly, at once spoiling and depriving them, perhaps even doing irreparable harm to their physical and mental health.
But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a handful of Western parenting-practice outliers began to question the wisdom of keeping adults and their offspring separated, sparking a revival of the ancient art of baby-carrying in the industrialized world. Inspired by encounters with indigenous African families as a Peace Corps volunteer, nurse Ann Moore invented the Snugli, a brand widely attributed with the popularization of soft, structured carriers in the United States. Rayner Gardner’s ring-sling, originally designed for his wife Sacha’s use, resembles a Latin American Rebozo, with the addition of an adjustable ring for greater support and versatility. And one of the early adopters of baby wraps in modern Europe was Erika Hoffmann, whose Didymos wraps remain one of the most popular brands on the market.
Carrying Capacity And The Challenges Of Tying On
Generally speaking, how far or long a child may be carried using a wrap or sling depends on three basic factors: the size and weight of the youngster, the strength and stamina of the one doing the carrying, and the durability of the materials used. Newborns and infants up to a certain heft can safely ride in a stretchy knit wrap, pouch, or sling for as long as they're comfortable, or until they need a diaper change. A number of babywearing resources are actually devoted to making it possible to breastfeed without exposing baby or breast to the elements.
Newborns and infants up to a certain heft can safely ride in a stretchy knit wrap, pouch, or sling for as long as they're comfortable, or until they need a diaper change.
Children whose rapid growth and movements exceed the capacity of those soft, flexible fabrics require sturdier woven materials that can hold them securely and distribute their weight evenly to avoid injury to those charged with carrying them. Of course, the cost of added strength is the additional load and heat of those heavier fabrics, which may challenge the wearer's patience, not to mention encourage restless passengers to seek escape.
One of the primary advantages of wraps and slings over structured carriers is that of being relatively — if not always easily — adaptable to a range of configurations to accommodate the unique needs and preferences of those tasked with carrying, as well as being carried. But make no mistake: the initial learning curve for these tying arrangements can be steep, and time spent studying the various approaches to getting oneself and one's precious cargo into and out of the carrier is bound to be a wise investment.