Carrying children and holding them close to you is a natural way to care for the little ones. While carrying it is useful to pay attention to ergonomics from both your and your child’s point of view. Carrying a child close to you in a sling or a carrier is referred to as babywearing – or toddler wearing, preschool(er) wearing or big kid wearing. This means carrying the child does not have to be limited to those first baby months!
An ergonomic carrier respects the natural posture of your child (often referred to as ’wrappee’) and is supportive and comfortable to use also for you (’babywearer’). A woven wrap is an ergonomic means of carrying the child and many consider it as the best aid for holding the child close. This is because woven wraps may be used already with a newborn for as long as your child likes to be carried. Woven wraps are produced in a range of lengths (referred to as sizes) and they are woven in different materials in a variety of weave patterns. Respecting the development stage of your child, woven wraps make it possible for you to carry them in front of you, on your hip or on your back.
This article offers you up-to-date information on babywearing and its benefits. It gives you an overview of woven wraps, how to choose one for yourself and how to use them. We also interview two experienced babywearers and you will receive tips on how to get started in ergonomic carrying of your child. Welcome to the fascinating world of babywearing!
Besides eating and sleeping, the need for touch and closeness is a basic need for a human being. Being held offers the child experiences of love and safety. Carrying recreates the kind of environment familiar to the baby from the womb where the heartbeat and motions of the babywearer soothe the child. While being carried, your child can safely observe and explore the surrounding environment. Carrying activates a baby‘s hearing, sight and sense of touch and also reduces stress. Ergonomic babywearing offers your child versatile sensations of balance and movement and thus enhances the development of their muscles and nervous system especially in the young age. Babywearing further supports the early interaction and attachment: your child is able to familiarise themselves with your face and voice while you are able to more easily recognise the early signals of your child and respond to them faster.
Ergonomic carriers facilitate holding the child close while freeing your hands, if necessary, for simultaneous activities. While babywearing, you may do anything that you would do while carrying the child in your arms – for instance, many outdoor activities, grocery shopping or travelling may just go lighter with your child in a carrier. It is easy for a small child to become overwhelmed and, when facing inward (tummy against the babywearer) in a carrier, they may lean on to the babywearer to shelter from the environment in case of overstimulation or tiredness.
Every day needs inspired Helena Joronen from Eastern Finland to start babywearing. She has carried her firstborn since he was six weeks old and her secondborn from birth.
Since summer 2016 Helena has worked as a voluntary babywearing peer supporter and runs a sling library, both activities under registered Finnish Babywearing Society. ”As a baby, my firstborn mainly slept while being held and I soon missed having hands free”, Helena explains. ”I started babywearing with a stretchy wrap I received as a gift. I soon got myself an ergonomic structured carrier and the first woven wrap arrived to us when our firstborn was five months old. Since then, we have tried many different ergonomic structured carriers but woven wraps have always been the number one thing for me since I got to know them”, Helena tells. Structured carriers are also referred to as buckle carriers.
Vanamo is a high quality woven wrap collection of Wearababy (in Finnish Liinalapsi). Already during the active babywearing period with her firstborn Helena tried a couple of Vanamo woven wraps. Her secondborn Helena has carried in a number of Vanamo wraps: Kide Merimies since her baby was two months old, Kide Vellamo since her baby was five months old and Kide Inari since her baby was nine months old. In the babywearing world, wraps are often borrowed or sent on tour. This way, Helena has also got an opportunity to test Kide Uni, Kide Korento, Kide Vappu, Kide Ohdake, Kide Egholm, Ahven Riutta and Ahven Vesi woven wraps. Kide, Ahven, Pitsi and Solki are names of Wearababy’s own weave patterns – ’kide’ means crystal, ’ahven’ means perch, ’pitsi’ means lace and ’solki’ means buckle in Finnish. Most of the Vanamo woven wraps are named after Finnish words.
Vanamo wraps are designed and produced in Finland. They are inspired by the diverse northern nature and also the materials used in Vanamo wraps are safe high-quality natural fibres, such as GOTS certified organic cotton. ”Exactly the known origin, beautiful designs and the comfortable touch”, Helena tells why she likes Wearababy products so much.
There are Wearababy items also in the sling library that Helena is running: a ring sling sewn of Vanamo Kide Tuli and a medium size Wompat carrier. A ring sling is a shorter sling sewn of woven wrap fabric with aluminium seamless sling rings placed on the shoulder. Wompat carriers are famous ergonomic soft structured full buckle carriers designed and produced by Wearababy. As her favourite Vanamo wraps Helena highlights linen and hemp blends woven in the Kide pattern. Linen and hemp are both supportive and breathable natural fibres that absorb and transfer moisture away from skin and thus feel pleasant while being worn.
Jenni Aronen from Haparanda, Sweden, introduces herself as a great fan of Wearababy and Vanamo wraps. ”I started carrying with a stretchy wrap when my baby was about four weeks old. He slept mostly in my arms and I looked for a way to have my hands free.
I found the stretchy wrap somehow difficult and did not use it much at the end. When my baby was three months old I received a structured carrier from my cousin. It felt easier to use than the stretchy wrap. However, I had already admired woven wraps on the Internet and wanted to try them out”, Jenni looks back. She visited an event in Finland where Vanamo tour wraps from Wearababy were present, too. A representative from a local sling library taught Jenni how to tie the front wrap cross carry with a woven wrap and Jenni decided to borrow a wrap for herself. In a couple of days, she decided to purchase the first woven wrap of her own – a Vanamo Kide Kaarna.
Since then, Jenni has had numerous Vanamo wraps in different sizes, including ring slings. From the age of four months until 21 months, Jenni’s child has been carried in Kide Kaarna, Solki Kivi, Kide Kultakuume, Kide Ruka, Pitsi Pallas, Kide Punastus, Pitsi Tuhka and Ahven Utu. Besides ready-made wraps, Vanamo fabrics are sold for sewing in two different widths. Jenni has also carried with a wrap sewn and fringed of Vanamo Kide Minttu fabric. Do-it-yourself fringes add personality to a wrap – in-stock Vanamo wraps come without fringes and they have tapered ends to make finishing a carry with a double knot easier.
Jenni admires Vanamo wraps especially because of the beautiful and timeless weave patterns. ”The selection of colours and materials is broad and the quality-price ratio is excellent. I would also like to highlight Wearababy’s extremely well-functioning customer service!” Jenni praises. Wearababy is active in social media and you can reach the customer service easily through telephone or e-mail.
In Jenni’s opinion, all the Vanamo wraps she has tried would be suitable from the age of two months and work for carrying a toddler, too. ”I love to carry my toddler in Vanamo wraps with linen, both in one-layer and multi-layer carries. All-cotton wraps and merino-cotton blends are wonderful in multi-layer carries”, Jenni sums. She finds it difficult to name her own favourite among all Wearababy products but, living up in the north, for winter she likes to choose Vanamo Pitsi Tuhka and Pitsi Pallas which both have 65% merino content. The wool used in Vanamo wraps comes from a European manufacturer and it is soft superwash merino which does not felt. The merino wool used by Wearababy is suitable for most people with sensitive skin and it can be machine washed at cold 30 C (86 F) temperature in a wool or a delicate cycle. Wool is thermoregulating and brings elasticity to woven wraps.
Vanamo woven wraps by Wearababy are suitable for both beginners and more experienced babywearers. Helena and Jenni agree and state that, especially once broken in (this means wraps getting softer and easier to tie in use) almost all Vanamo wraps suit a new babywearer. Besides simply carrying your child in the wrap, you can help a new wrap get softer for instance by ironing it according to its care instructions. New wraps should always be washed prior to use.
Most Vanamo wraps are medium thick in weave and are suitable for carrying both babies and toddlers. ”For a new babywearer looking to buy an unused wrap, I would recommend a woollen Vanamo wrap which in my experience are extremely soft already after first wash and ironing. For carrying small babies, for instance, an all-cotton Vanamo Solki wrap is a good choice. A ring sling is also a very good carrier for small babies”, Jenni lists. ”Vanamo Ahven wraps work super straight from the birth, they are easy and mouldable to wrap with. Wearababy also produces special Vanamo newborn slings, so there are wraps to choose from also for beginners”, Helena states for her part. ”There are special Vanamo newborn slings which are narrower in width than the regular Vanamo wraps. These would be a good choice for a small wrappee”, also Jenni hints. Vanamo newborn slings by Wearababy are specifically designed for small babies: woven fabric is thinner and the wrap has been cut and sewn approximately 10cm (3,94 inches) narrower than the regular Vanamo wraps.
Ergonomic babywearing respects the natural posture of the child without compromising on comfort of the babywearer. When being carried ergonomically, the child is in an upright deep squat position natural to them and the woven wrap is tied around this natural position. Little babies often hold their hips slightly less spread apart while bigger wrappees have a more spread position. In a carrier, ideally, the knees of the wrappee are on the same level or higher than their bum. Woven wrap fabric is carefully spread from the wrappee’s knee pit to knee pit. Respectively, if a structured carrier is used, the panel should reach the knee pits of the child. The edges of the panel may reach the knee pit’s fold in a way that the fabric supports the bum and thighs of the baby from the whole way. The panel of a structured carrier should not limit the free movement of the child’s legs.
When carried in an ergonomic position, the pelvis of the baby lightly turns onwards so that the lower back of the baby may round. Especially when carrying small babies, it is important to take care of sufficient neck and sideways support, however always in a way that the baby can freely turn their head, if n
eeded. Even a small baby can advance the posture control related to the movement in babywearing as long as the hands of the baby rest against the babywearer’s body with elbows bent. This also prevents the baby from curling and the baby’s chin from reaching their chest while they sleep, which could restrict their breathing.
The head of the baby should be close enough to kiss for the babywearer. This way, the centre of gravity is high enough and carrying is ergonomic for the babywearer, too. Close enough to kiss, monitoring the breathing and signals of the baby is easier. The carrier should be tied tight enough so that the fabric supports the natural position of the child’s spine and there is no extra space between the babywearer and the wrappee. Any twists or slack should be removed from the wrap so that the carrier is snug without feeling diggy.
There are numerous carries for woven wraps. Different carries allow a child to be carried according to their developmental stage in front of the babywearer, on the babywearer’s hip or on the babywearer’s back. As the first carry to learn, both Helena and Jenni recommend the front wrap cross carry (abbreviated ”FWCC”) which is pictured in the image above. ”Front wrap cross carry suits even the smallest but is also good with a toddler as you can reinforce the carry by spreading the passes from each side towards the child’s back”, Jenni says. ”Front wrap cross carry is an excellent carry with a long woven wrap. It serves as a basis for different variations such as pond finish or front wrap cross carry tied under bum, the latter of which can be tied with a shorter woven wrap”, Helena adds. Front wrap cross carry can be tied with a base size wrap which for most babywearers is size 6 (approximately 4,6-4,7 meters or 182 inches long woven wrap). Smaller babywearers may tie front wrap cross carry with a size 5 woven wrap (approximately 4,2-4,3 meters or 165 inches) and bigger babywearers may choose a size 7 wrap (approximately 5,2-5,3 meters or 205 inches). In the Vanamo wrap instruction manual you can find some of the most common woven wrap carries demonstrated with images accompanied with written guidelines.
Carrying your child is always beneficial. In addition to multiple benefits babywearing may become a nice hobby and offer you peer support to the life with children. ”I suggest trying out different ergonomic carriers so that you will find your own thing. Don’t give up after the first try”, Helena encourages. She is now weaving unique wraps under her own Grus Handwoven brand. For instance local sling meets are open for everyone and also wrap tours are an excellent way to get to try out woven wraps. During her family leave, Jenni has participated in many wrap tours. Also Vanamo wraps by Wearababy have been on tour and available in local sling meets across Finland and other countries several times.
Both Helena and Jenni also recommend contacting a nearby voluntary babywearing peer supporter at an early stage. In Finland, babywearing peer supporters work under the national babywearing society Kantoliinayhdistys and they offer support and advice in babywearing on a voluntary basis. Upon request, the peer supporters help you, for instance, in the use of woven wraps. Elsewhere, you may book an appointment with a local sling educator or babywearing consultant.
*** If you have any questions about baby carriers or babywearing, we are happy to help you out! Our e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org and phone: +358 44 5943011 ***
Background information for this article has been obtained from a printed Finnish brochure ”Kantaminen kannattaa – Lapsen ergonominen kantaminen” written by Vuokko Ruokolainen and Henna Sillanpää in spring 2015 as their thesis for Savonia University of Applied Sciences. The thesis in Finnish ”Lapsen ergonominen kantaminen – Asiakasopas äitiys- ja lastenneuvolaan” (in English ‘Ergonomic Babywearing. A client information leaflet for maternity clinic and child health centre’) and its English abstract are available electronically.
The article has been reviewed by trained babywearing consultant Hanna Grankqvist in November 2019 – thank you to Hanna for her valuable comments! Thank you also to Helena and Jenni for the interviews and permission to use their photos!
The English version of the article has been proofread by Maria Airaksinen – thank you to Maria for her time!
You can find your closest babywearing peer supporter in Finland through the national babywearing society Kantoliinayhdistys.
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