Oh, babies. So snuggly. So sweet. So exhausting. In those first months of parenthood you start to wonder if you'll ever get to do things with both arms ever again. After all, many babies–especially newborns–simply prefer to be held seemingly around the clock. Of course you need a break (and putting them down is always an option) but there's also a way to keep them close and get stuff done. Enter the baby wrap.

Used for centuries in cultures all around the world, baby wraps (and babywearing in general) are not just a total lifesaver–they're also an incredible way to bond with your baby. What's more, they can also reduce crying, help calm colic and may even reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

Most styles are made from a single piece of long cloth that can be tied in a variety of ways to distribute baby's weight across your hips and torso. Unlike structured carriers, they're free from any hardware like buckles or clasps that may dig or poke which makes them a great choice for the newborn phase. Recommendations vary from brand to brand, but most baby wraps are designed to be used from infancy through the first year and half or until they reach 25-35 pounds.

Related: 10 ways babywearing benefits both mothers and babies

According to Trained Babywearing Educator, Azja Pryor, "For most new or expecting parents I usually recommend using a wrap for newborns and infants under 6 months. Stretchy wraps in general are incredibly soft and luxurious to the touch, and that feels very natural next to a baby’s delicate skin. For recovering c-section mamas a wrap may feel more comfortable as there’s no waistband, so baby sits higher on the body and away from the incision site."

What should you look for in a baby wrap? 

According to Pryor, there are a few things to take into consideration. First, what climate will you be wearing your baby in? Fabrics vary from brand to brand and style to style, from thicker cotton to lightweight and breathable Modal and bamboo fabrics. If you're living in a warm climate or have a summer baby, you may want to opt for the latter to keep you both comfortable.

Another thing to keep in mind is the weight limit. If you plan to use it into the toddler years, go for a style that can support more weight.

And finally, once you've got it narrowed down, choose a color or pattern that speaks to your own personal style. After all, it's not just a baby carrier. It's likely going to become your most used fashion accessory! Luckily most brands are designed with that in mind and offer an array of gorgeous palettes that go with practically everything.

How to use a baby wrap

If you're intimidated by using a baby wrap, you're not alone! Wrangling a tiny, potentially mid-meltdown baby into a piece of fabric one-handed is enough to make even the most seasoned mama have a meltdown of her own. But with a little practice and a few deep breaths, it's totally doable.

Says Pryor, "Just like adapting any new skill, there’s a learning curve to babywearing so be patient with yourself. If you’re new to babywearing here’s a few tips that can help you get started. First, before placing your baby in the carrier make sure they’re fed, dry and not overstimulated. A calm baby will reduce any anxiety you may be feeling." And don't be afraid to seek help online or from experts themselves. "Watching tutorial videos on the manufacturers website or social media channels can be incredibly helpful for visual learners. Many babywearing companies such as LILLEbaby and MOBY also offer 1-on-1 virtual fit help. This complimentary service is available by contacting the brands customer service. Online support groups are also great for tips and advice from fellow parents and babywearing experts. If you’re still struggling to get a good fit, don’t give up. It may be a good idea to contact a local babywearing consultant."

Not sure which baby wrap is right for you? We've selected some of our favorites to consider!

Solly Baby Wrap

Solly Baby

$69

Wrap

Solly Baby wraps have a dedicated fanbase–and for good reason! (One Motherly editor even calls it her “most favorite piece of baby gear ever.”)  Made from a super lightweight and sustainable  TENCEL™ Modal fabric, they’re thinner than other wraps on the market and twice as soft as cotton. The breathability makes them a top choice for warm climates, though with the heat babies put off, it’s a great option anywhere, anytime.

And since it’s comprised of just one long strip of fabric, there’s no tricky sizing to calculate and it can be used by every caregiver on your roster! (It also makes it incredibly compact and easy to stuff into a diaper bag.) Note that babies can only be carried in the front, inward-facing position from 8-25 pounds.

Prices start at $69

Moby Wrap Classic

Moby

$44.99

Classic Wrap Carrier

The award-winning classic Moby is also made from a simple strip of stretchy fabric, however in this case it’s a thicker cotton. On the plus side, that allows it to be used in two different carry positions (inward front-facing and hip carry) and up to 33 pounds. Versatile baby gear that lasts? Yes please.

On the other hand, it’s quite a bit warmer for both wearer and baby. If you’re due in the summer or live in a warm climate, it may not be your top choice. It’s also quite a bit longer than other wraps which makes it tricky to tie when you’re out of the house and don’t want to drag it all over the ground. That said, it makes it easy to swap between caregivers that widely range in size. I’m a petite 5’2″ and shared with my very not petite 6’2″ partner with no problem at all.

Lillebaby Dragonfly Wrap

Lillebaby

$59.99

Dragonfly Wrap

If you’re worried that tying a wrap is too complicated, consider the Líllé Baby Dragonfly. The easy-to-use design is made from two pieces of fabric–one piece with two panels of fabric that pass over the shoulders diagonally across the body like a shirt and a second separate piece of fabric that’s tied horizontally around both caregiver and baby. Since the main piece is pre-threaded through the back, it’s easy to adjust and tighten without assistance.

The all-natural Supima Cotton and Modal blend fabric is soft and stretchy, and like the other wraps it’s made in just one size that can easily be shared. It’s designed for inward front-facing only and can be used up to 30 pounds.

A version of this story was published April 20, 2022. It has been updated.