While some parents go for a soft-structured carrier or sling for hands-free "babywearing," others prefer the almost infinite versatility of a "wrap," and we think the one most parents will like the best is the new Midweight Modern wrap from Moby Wrap($45) because it's a safe, sturdy, not-too-hot wrap suitable for babies up to 35 pounds from a maker that's been adored parents for a decade.
While it was a close decision between the Moby Wrap and the slightly less expensive Boba Wrap, ultimately we chose the Moby. It all came down to the fabric. The Moby's fabric, a 100 percent lightweight cotton that isn't too stretchy or too warm, allows you to get a secure, comfortable wrap. On the other hand, the Boba's fabric includes 5 percent spandex, which gives it significant stretch. While it seems as though a fabric with stretch would be more comfortable and easier to work with, it just doesn't feel as secure as the Moby.
Who Should Buy This?
A wrap baby carrier is basically a piece of fabric between 4 and 6 yards long that you literally wrap around you and your baby in one of a dozen ways (sort of like a sarong). Of all baby carriers, wraps without a doubt offer the closest contact between parent and baby. If you're breastfeeding, you can do so discreetly with a wrap while still doing other things (cooking dinner, shopping, etc.). Additionally, baby can be worn on your chest facing in or out, on your back and your hip. And there are even a few wraps for twins!
There is a bit of a learning curve with wraps. Some folks freak when they unfurl the expanse of fabric. Parents who've mastered the wrap rave about the comfort — there are no rings, clasps or buckles, and if anything starts to ache, pinch or dig you can easily adjust baby's position. If you suffer from back problems and think babywearing is out, the versatility of wrap could be the answer.
Wraps have a been linked to "crunchy" and "hippie" moms who practice "attachment parenting," which advocates wearing your baby as often as possible. And the fashion statement made when wearing a wrap definitely leans bohemian — this is not a look you can pull off with a business suit.
Wraps are suitable for newborns (between 7 and 8 pounds) usually up to toddlers (35 pounds), although some parents report that as your child gets older — and more wiggly — maintaining a tight, secure tie on a wrap carrier becomes challenging.
Another thing we must mention: All that fabric wrapped around your body can make you very hot. So if you live in warmer climes, you may want to shop specifically for a wrap made of a lighter weight, breathable material.
What Makes A Good Wrap?
When you consider that you can kind of use any long piece of fabric as a wrap for your baby, a reasonable price should really the top consideration. (Think about it: Parents throughout the world have "worn" their babies for thousands of years, right?) But we know that you're not going to strap your baby on with just any old piece of fabric, and if you're not a crafty-sewing type, you're not going to make your own. So buying one is the easiest option. A name-brand, mass-market wrap is going to run you about $50, with prices going up or down depending on the fabric you choose (think organic, patterned, sustainable, dyed, logoed, UV-protected, etc.) Wraps made of gorgeous patterned materials can run upwards of $100.
How stretchy the fabric is a personal preference: Some parents swear by more and others curse it. The key is to have a wrap that lets you achieve a tie that stays tight — and doesn't loosen significantly with movement. Most parents will want a wrap that has a good safety record, is built to last, and is comfortable for both parents and baby. (We prefer products that meet standards for certification by the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association.) Looking good and not being bulky are great features but not deal-breakers.
If you're looking for the most wearing options, including using your wrap into toddlerhood, then a "woven" wrap is the best choice. These types of wraps have no stretch whatsoever, do a better job at reigning in fidgety types, and allow you to carry on your back. They also cost at least twice as much as a non-woven wraps. Our top two picks aren't suitable for back carrying.
How We Made Our Pick
We focuses on the major wraps that dominate this segment of the baby carrier market: the Moby Wrap and the Boba Wrap. We like that both are JMPA certified and are well-reviewed by magazine editors, bloggers and users.
The Moby Wrap, starting at $45, is longer and more popular; the Boba Wrap (formerly known as the Sleepy Wrap), at $38, is slightly shorter than the Moby but instead of being 100 percent cotton like a Moby, it has 5 percent spandex, which gives it a little more stretch. We think the best bet is the new midweight Moby Wrap. Why? Because Moby's design has been pleasing parents for a decade. Plus, the new, lighter-weight fabric makes it good choice for hot summer days.
While there are countless boutique brands that make fashionable wraps, like the Ellaroo and the Didymos, the prices in excess of $90 effectively pushed them off our radar. Honestly, any of these will probably fit your fancy if you want to go get a wrap.
The parent-invented Moby Wrap hit the market in 2003 as a variation on pricey and popular European wrap carriers, like the Didymos. It is designed to distribute baby's weight evenly through the carrier's back and hips while keeping baby as close to mom or dad as possible.The 100-percent cotton wrap is designed for babies between 8 and 35 pounds. (Check with your pediatrician if you'd like to wear a preemie or smaller newborn in a Moby Wrap.) Moby Wraps range in price from $45 for the midweight and "Original" in a single color to $160 for a "woven" wrap made from Dolcino Jaquard. In between, you'll find a few with designs such as almond blossoms and butterflies ($50), Major League Baseball team logos ($55), UV protected ($56), and organic cotton ($60). (Moby Wraps are routinely marked down on website like Amazon, so you might be able to find a new one for less than $40.)
Since all of the wraps are designed and function exactly the same, our pick is the economical and breathable midweight Moby Wrap. (If you don't plan on spending time outdoors when it's hot, then the also economical Original Moby Wrap might be a perfectly fine choice for you.)
We enlisted the help of a veteran babywearer and her adorable 5-month-old to test the midweight Moby Wrap (and its closest competitor, the Boba Wrap). We both found that the Moby secured tighter than the Boba, which we thought sagged no matter how tight we pulled it. And the Moby was noticeably cooler, temperature-wise, that is.
"The midweight fabric has a lower thread count than the Original Moby, making it not as thick or heavy, but the integrity of the fabric is exactly the same and supports the weight of babies 8 to 35 pounds," explains Moby spokeswoman Becky Pratt. "Neither wrap would be considered better, just different." Of course, we think having the option to wear your wrap be outdoors when it's hot is better.
Who Else Likes It?
The midweight Moby is brand new to the market for 2014, so product reviews are nonexistent for the time being. But we know it's the same design as the uber popular Original Moby, which consistently ranks as a parent favorite. We also know that the biggest complaint about the Moby is how freaking hot it is, and the midweight Moby solves that problem.
In the wrap category on Amazon.com, the Moby is right on the top, and the Moby Wrap Original scores 4 out of 5 stars from almost 1,000 users.Babies R Us reviewers give it 4 out of 5 stars. Fans rave about how great it is for everything from breastfeeding to naps to everything in between. One mom even said it was a must for colicky babies.
The Moby Wrap was picked by Babble's team of bloggers as one of the site's best baby carriers in 2013, which praised its versatility saying, "the design allows you to carry in many styles and create a comfy fit for you."
A Pregnancy & Newborn magazine gear reviewer said the Moby "provides a safe and secure way for me to tote my little one around while keeping up with his older sister. It also keeps baby close and covered which means that other people and their (unwashed) hands can't get to him as easily as they could otherwise."
About.com's baby products reviewer had this to say: "Once you get the Moby Wrap on the way you want it, this baby carrier is very comfortable. The fabric edges are just serged, so there are no seams to add pressure, and there are no extra straps, buckles or rings to pinch or hurt. The Moby Wrap does a great job of spreading baby's weight over your whole back and shoulders."
While BabyGearLab.com prefers a soft-structured carrier over a wrap (too much fabric, learning curve, not good for toddlers, etc.) it loves "the Moby Wrap for its range of front carry baby wearing positions and snug hold."
Blogger Lindsey at The Wise Baby had this to say about her Moby Wrap: "Eloise is up to 12+ pounds now and I did not have any back, should, etc. pain. Did I mention it feels secure the entire time we walk?!? "
The Moby earns a grade of 86 out of 100 on the VIewpoints.com website, which has 50,000-plus real people reviewing a wide range of products. (And while the Boba Wrap, not the Moby, is the highest-rated wrap on the website, Moby boasts almost 600 reviews while the Boba has less than 40.)
Over the years, Moby Wrap has been showered with praise in the form of awards, including being named best baby carrier by American Baby magazine in 2010, by Kiwi magazine in 2011, and by iVillage in 2010.
All of this is not to say that the Moby Wrap is without fault. But the complaints — not good for babies over 15 pounds, taking a lot of practice, dragging the ground when putting it on — are issues that arise with any wrap.
The Also Greats
If you're sold on more stretch, than the Boba Wrap (previously known as the Sleepy Wrap) is the wrap for you. The parents who love the Boba say the little bit of added spandex helps them get a tighter tie and secure fit. Some also say the material feels softer. Reviewers at Amazon and Diapers.com love it. (4.5 out of 5 stars). It's just not as many reviewers who rave about the Moby.
The Baby Wearing Blog did a side by side comparison of the Moby and the Boba, one of the few places to do so, and they felt the same way. "I love that the Boba Wrap has that little bit of stretch to it that makes it so snuggly to wear your baby. The difference for me really is the extra stretch the Boba Wrap has. It is so helpful in getting it around small bodies and getting it adjusted to my body for the perfect fit."
A reviewer for Pregnancy & Newborn magazine loves the Boba Wrap because "the fabric is soft against sensitive newborn skin and is stretchy in a way that ensures the baby is secure against me without feeling like either of us is wrapped too tightly.
Honestly, the stretchiness of the fabric made it tough for my tester and me to get our little guy safe and snug, and we felt downright nervous going hands-free. Compared with the sarong-like feel of the midweight Moby, the Boba Wrap felt like we were wrapping baby in a thick blanket.
Then there's the Happy Wrap, which is made of bamboo, making it breathable and lightweight for summer, and spandex, making it stretchy. While the price ($48) is in the same ballpark as the Moby and the Boba, we're not sold on its universal appeal, considering it only has 25 reviews on Amazon.com.
Variations on the wrap theme
An interesting wrap alternative is the Baby K'Tan. It's almost like a vest, in that you actually put it over your torso to wear it, and it feels like a hybrid of a soft-structure carrier and a traditional wrap. What you are putting on is a carefully constructed mass of stretchy cloth that you tuck around your baby to find the right position. There are no snaps or clasps with the K'Tan. There are four wearing positions — most of them different varieties on your chest (including a front-facing carry) and then a side position.
The biggest drawback to the K'Tan is that you cannot adjust the size of it for different wearers, unlike a traditional wrap. Since it's sized for the adult, you will get one for you, but if there's someone else who wants to wear it, they won't fit unless they are your same size. It comes in a small through extra large, so this is really only for one parent, not necessarily both. Overall, the Baby K'Tan is a solid option if you're looking for the comfort of a wrap without the steep learning curve and if only one parents plans on doing all the babywearing.
Infantino's Sync Comfort Carrier is another wrap hybrid, this one incorporating buckles to help flatten the learning curve (and give you the option of back carrying). Amazon, Babies R Us, Walmart reviewers love it (4 out of 5 stars), but it's hard to tell if that's because it's the best on the market or if it's great because it costs almost half ($28) of what other wraps do. At this price, you may find it's worth a shot.
Care and Use of the Moby
You'll get a nice illustrated booklet to show you the various ways to carry your baby using the Moby Wrap. Sure pictures are worth a thousand words, but moving pictures (you know, videos) are worth a million words. Click here to see Moby Wrap's official tutorials on YouTube.
All Moby Wrap are machine washable (cold) and can go in the dyer (low). The makers recommend prewashing your wrap before using with baby. Expect — but don't worry about — some shrinkage.
Wrapping It Up
From the lightweight fabric that provides a nice, snug and secure tie to the tried-and-true design, plus a price that doesn't break the bank, the midweight Moby Wrap is a perfect pick for parents looking for a soft, comfortable, versatile hands-free wrap for babywearing.
Kim Hays is a former senior editor at Parenting and Babytalk magazines currently working as a freelance writer and wrangling her elementary-school age twins.
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