Choosing one of them clippey carriers

Carrier: Ergo Embrace. Babywearing socks available from me

Choosing a buckle carrier (also called ‘soft structured carrier’, ‘baby carrier’, ‘carrier’ for short or ‘one of them clippey carriers’!) is tricky business. There are sooooo many types and brands, all offering something different and all claiming to be ‘the best’. The baby market is flooded with buckle carriers and it’s hard to choose or even know what’s safe. So here’s my bloggey blog, or more a ‘guide’, to help you on this journey! Bear with me, there’s quite a bit to cover!

The most important thing to remember is that buckle carriers don’t all fit everybody and every body shape or every baby from birth even if your baby is within the lower weight limit. This is why it’s super-mega-important (and I’m not even exaggerating!) to try a few carriers on before you buy. Some people like a very structured carrier with lumbar support and very padded straps, while others will prefer something more lightweight with a thin waistbelt and spreadable straps. Often both parents won’t like the same one (please don’t argue over that, it’s not my fault!). Slings and especially carriers are like shoes, very personal, not everyone is a stiletto fan, not everyone like flip-flops, I like trainers.

Pretty much every other parent who carries their baby will want to recommend or give you the carrier they used because they like it and think it’s the best (often, many of those parents have likely not tried other carriers on so have no comparison point). Make your own mind up by trying a variety on. Also remember: marketing plays a massive role in what baby products people will buy. New parents are often clueless as to what brand or product to buy before their baby arrives, and just go with what everyone else has. Main baby shops (evil!) have big money contracts to stock the biggest brands because those brands have a big budget for marketing and putting themselves out there. You’d be surprised to know the most popular carriers at the sling library are brands you’ve probably never heard off, and, bonus points, they’re a lot cheaper than the big brands (think about all the coffee you could buy!). I have countless parents coming to see me with their pretty expensive, very bulky carrier they bought at a main baby shop, in pain, because their carrier don’t fit their body shape or they find it uncomfortable, or worse, their baby is too small for it and is carried in an unsafe position because that’s what the salesperson showed them and it says on the box ‘from newborn’. Well, a newborn can weight 2.5kgs and will very likely be too small for a carrier at the beginning. So skip the recommendations, skip the big baby shop that is only here to sell you the most expensive carrier (or worse, tell you it’s better to buy an even more expensive buggy than a carrier if you’re in 2 minds ‘because it’s best for the baby to be flat on their back’ which is absolute BS!!). Go to your nearest sling library, we really love helping parents!

The market is saturated with carriers that all offer something different. This is a good thing, in a way, because it means there are lots of choices and there will be one that fits you. They come in all shapes and sizes (literally!). But it can be quite confusing and overwhelming when it comes to choosing. So let me highlight the main differences between carriers for you. Again, you won’t know what you like until you try some on. You can see all the carriers I have in my library here. Grab a cuppa and let’s dive in!

  1. Wide-based vs narrow-based carriers. In order to support your baby in an ergonomic position and respect their body shape, you want to support your baby from knee-to-knee at the base, with their bum lower than their knees to allow for what we call the ‘M-shape positioning’ to be respected (see pic below). This is optimum positioning promotes healthy hip development and helps respect the natural C-shape curve of your baby’s spine. This, in turn, helps your baby support their own head better and thus their airways, reducing the risk of suffocation. A good wide-based carrier will allow for this positioning.
The M shape positioning

A narrow-based carrier doesn’t support your baby knee-to-knee and the legs hang more straight compared to a wide-based carrier that supports from knee-to-knee (e.g., old-style Baby Bjorn carriers, Baby Bjorn Mini) These types of carriers are ok with tiny babies at the beginning and will likely offer M-shape positioning, but your baby will grow out of them quickly (see my video for a comparison and some tricks). Wide-base (left) vs narrow-based (right) carriers:

Wide-based carrier
Narrow-based carrier

2. Adaptable vs. non-adaptable carriers: An adaptable carrier grows with your baby. It will support your baby at the base from knee-to-knee and can be made progressively wider to preserve the M-shape positioning. Some have 2-3 settings, e.g., Beco Gemini, Beco 8, Tula Explore, Tula Free to Grow, Ergo Omni 360 – left pic-, Ergo Adapt, Izmi etc… Some are ‘micro-adjustable’ meaning you can make slow and progressive adjustments as your baby grows, (e.g. Hana Expand, Mamaruga Zensling -right pic-, Boba X).

Ergo Omni 360 adaptable waistbelt
Mamaruga Zensling

Some are adjusted by rolling the base and synching it (e.g., Connecta/Integra-left pics, Ergo Embrace -right pics, Kahubaby)

Integra
Integra, left, Ergo Embrace, right

Adaptable carriers also grows in height by either expanding the front panel or bringing the headrest up (more about that below).

A non-adaptable carrier has a base that you can’t adjust; it’s one size (e.g., Ergo All Positions 360 – pic below- Tula Standard, Beco Carrier) and will either need to be used with a newborn insert which is like a little cushion to place your baby in, or can only be used once your baby can fit the carrier without over-spreading the legs and hips (e.g., Sleepy Nico). The insert can make the carrier feel heavier, bulkier and warmer, and make fitting the baby in the carrier quite awkward, especially if it’s one that fills up the whole carrier (e.g., the inserts for the Ergo All Positions and Original, see pic below) (see my demo video here).

Ergobaby All Positions 360
Ergobaby insert for the All Positions 360 and Ergobaby Original carriers

Adaptable carriers that grow in width and height with your baby generally give a snugglier, better fit and respect your baby’s hip opening more easily compared to a non-adaptable carrier. You want to try as much as possible to not over-spread your baby’s hip to fit them in a carrier. The carrier should fit around your baby and not the other way around. I always recommend you choose an adaptable carrier.

3. Shoulder straps: Carriers come with all sorts of shoulder straps. Again, the way you feel they support your baby’s weight and the comfort they offer is very personal.

Some can be very padded and narrow (e.g., Ergo Omni/Adapt- see pic/All Positions/Original, Tulas) which some people prefer as they feel they cushion and support the weight nicely; while for others, they feel very bulky and may not always fit a petite frame quite well (think 80’s shoulder pads!).

Other straps can have thin padding but with wide straps (e.g., Boba X, Beco Gemini-see pic, Sleepy Nico) which fit most frames (they often fit petite frames better than very padded straps). Some people feel that they spread the weight over the shoulders better and distribute the weight overall more evenly than very padded straps.

Some straps are spreadable over the shoulder (e..g., Ergo Embrace, Zensling – see pic, Izmi). Some people prefer those over padded or narrower straps because they feel they distribute the weight of the baby more evenly across the shoulders.

Length of strap matters. If you are wearing the straps straight (see below for more on that) and you’ve tightened as much as possible and the carrier is still too loose (e.g., you have a small frame and/or small baby), then you will need to wear the straps crossed as this uses more webbing and you will get a much snugglier fit. If the straps can’t be crossed and the fit is still loose, then that carrier is not a good fit for you, sorry. Likewise, if you are a tall person, have wide shoulders or a large frame and you want to cross the straps but end up not having quite enough webbing, you will need to use your carrier with straight straps. Bear in mind that some carriers are straight- or crossed-straps only and don’t offer both options.

Some carriers have ‘Perfect Fit Adjusters‘ (‘PFA’s for short, e.g., Boba X – see pic-, Zebulo, Isara The One, Lenny Lamb Upgrade) which is a tightening/loosening adjuster where the shoulder strap meets the top of the panel that allows you to do 2 things:

a. you can loosen it to lower baby down to easily feed baby upright in the carrier (breast/chest/bottle) without having to loosen the shoulder straps too much (this can reduce the support while feeding). NB: For breast/chestfeeding, this may not always allow baby to be low enough in the carrier to be nose-to-nipple height to get a good latch, especially if the ‘landscape’ doesn’t allow for this (i.e., you got pretty big boobs!) and you might have to loosen the shoulder straps and/or the waistbelt as well.

b. The PFAs make the straps longer and can allow you to have more padding around your shoulders and/or just give you some extra needed length. This can make the straps more comfy and/or allow another user with a wider frame to use it. For a back carry, they can help keep baby close. It’s a win-win!

PFA tightened vs loosened (not a great breast/chestfeeding demo, sorry!!)

Single- vs dual-adjust straps: some shoulder straps can be tightened by only pulling them one way, forward or backwards (e.g., Tulas- left pic-, Ergos), making them quite simple to use, but doesn’t suit all mobilities. Some people are unable to pull backwards to tighten a carrier either because of mobility issues (I see a lot of new mothers with pains in their wrist or shoulders who find tightening by pulling a strap backward either painful or impossible), or simply because they find it awkward and not intuitive. For them, having dual-adjust straps (e.g., Boba X – right pic- Beco 8/Gemini, Zensling, Izmi) where you can choose to either pull forward or backward to tighten offers more options.

Tula Free-to-Grow, single adjust straps pull forward
Boba X, dual adjust straps pull forwards or backwards

In addition, single-adjust pulling forward straps (e.g., Tulas, Ergo All Positions/Original) may be super simple and quick to tighten but it means that the buckle/loosening system will be placed towards the back of the carrier/near your shoulder blade or even further back on your body if you are a tall person (and thus need a lot of webbing to go around your body.) Some people may not be flexible enough to reach there to loosen the strap (you need to loosen a carrier to feed in it, take baby out or loosen it to lift the shoulder strap to bring the chest strap upwards to unclip it if you’re wearing it with straight straps – see an example here with a Tula). Again, try before you buy to make sure you can take the carrier off easily!

Straight vs crossed straps: Some carriers can be worn with straight straps (also called ‘H’ straps or ‘rucksack’ straps), crossed straps or both. For carriers whose straps are non-detachable (i.e., they are sewn to the front panel), they can be worn as straight-straps only (e.g., Tulas) with a chest strap placed between your shoulder blades to stop them from falling off your shoulders (see more about the chest strap below). As explained earlier, if you have a very petite frame and you can’t tighten these types of carrier enough, it will be difficult to get a snug fit to keep baby well-supported. A smaller carrier or one where you also have the option to cross straps may be a better option, in this case. Some people prefer how straight straps feel on their body compared to crossed straps. Others don’t like the feel of the chest strap on their back and prefer crossing straps. It’s very personal!

Beco Gemini straight vs crossed straps

Any carrier that has straps that can be unclipped (e.g, Zensling, Ergo Omni/Adapt, Izmi, Beco Gemini/8…) can be worn with either straight or crossed straps (e.g., Beco Gemini-see pics above). Crossing straps has many advantages:

  • you can get a snugglier fit if the carrier is too loose
  • some people find that crossing straps support the weight of the baby better
  • some people don’t like the feel of the chest strap on their back with straight straps
  • people sharing carriers sometimes like the straps in different positions or have different body shapes, so it’s good to have options
  • you can do a hip carry to allow more visibility for baby, or even a torso carry or a seated sideways one

An Ergobaby Omni 360 ins a hip carry

4. Chest straps are little straps attached to the shoulder straps that you clip so as to stop the shoulder straps falling off your shoulders. It’s a pretty important strap! It needs to be clipped at all times when front or back carrying to ensure safety of your baby (no need for it with crossed straps). It sits somewhere between your shoulder blades and defo shouldn’t be super high up on your neck for easy access as this can cause some pain! Some people find it to be the most annoying thing ever when it comes to clipping/unclipping it, but good news: you never have to do this! We are here to show you some handy techniques! You can also check out my video for some tricks of the trade 😉 If the chest strap feels uncomfortable, go see your nearest sling librarian or just message me for a fit check.

5. Waistbelts: The majority of carriers have a waistbelt (old-style and the Baby Bjorn mini don’t have one, for example) and it’s here to help evenly distribute the weight and give you some support around your waist/lower back. Waistbelts are pretty important. The are very personal and the comfort and support they offer feel different from person-to-person. Often I see couples who don’t like the same types of waistbelts (a totally viable reason for divorce! that’s why you try before you buy!). A waistbelt should always sit on your waist (the clue is in the name! waistbelt, not hipbelt) and high enough on your body so baby can be close enough to kiss the top of their head (this is so you can monitor their airways, ensuring it’s tight enough but also to stop their faces getting squashed in breast tissue – see TICKS lealfet at the bottom of this ‘thesis’). Learning how to position baby on your body, creating a deep seat and learning the tension is something us sling librarian can help you with. Waistbelts vary enormously in style!

Some carriers have very soft, thin waistbelts (e.g., Izmi, Integra/Connecta which has a waistbelt made of just webbing). Often, I find people with small waists like these, some find them a bit ‘diggey’

Some can be rolled to adjust the height of the front panel (e.g., Integra/Connecta, Embrace – see above) and some are adjustable at the base to grow with the baby so they are always supported from knee-to-knee (‘adaptable’ carriers; see above for more)

Some are very wide and hard or ‘sturdy’ (e.g., Beco Gemini, Tulas…see pics below)

Beco Gemini
Tula Free-to-Grow

Some are padded and squishable (e.g., Zensling, Sleepy Nico) – often preferred after a c-section

Some are made of velcro (e.g., Marsupi – see pic below, old-style Ergo All Positions 360 – not manufactured anymore)

Marsupi velcro carrier

Some come with a lumbar support pad (e.g., Ergo Omni-see pic) for some lower back support (you can also remove it or buy one to fit on yours). Having a bulky waistbelt with lumbar support doesn’t always necessarily mean you will find it more comfortable or more supportive than a carrier with a simpler, smaller or thinner waistbelt. Also bear in mind that if you have a very thin waist and you have a bulky waistbelt with integrated lumbar support, you may not be able to tighten it enough, so it’s best to (you guessed it) try before you buy and to remember that your body shape may change after giving birth for the birthing parent (or the other parent who ‘sympathy’ ate though the pregnancy! hope my husband never reads this!).

Ergo Omni 360, front and back of the waistbelt with lumbar support

5. Front panels, just like straps and waistbelts, vary a lot between carriers:

Some front panels are fully adjustable, meaning they expand gradually as your baby grows so your baby is always supported all the way to the nape of the neck, which is especially important to support a new baby’s head when they don’t have head control (e.g., Tula Free to Grow, Zensling, Boba X). On the Zensling, for example (see pic), there are adjusters on the panel to expand the fabric.

Some grow in height with your baby by bringing the headrest up (e.g., Ergo Omni 360 – see pic/Adapt/All Positions, Tula Explore, Beco Gemini/8, Izmi…). Some headrests are padded, some are an extension of the panel, just simple fabric. NB: You don’t need to have the headrest right behind your baby’s head to give good head support. If the carrier is tightened enough, waistbelt high in the body so you can kiss the top of your baby’s head, your baby is sitting in a deep seat with bum lower than their knees, C-shape curve of the spine respected and the top of the panel all the way to the nape of the neck/under the earlobe, you don’t need to have something behind the head. In fact, support behind the head can tilt the head forward and obstruct airways, so you need to be careful.

Some adapt to the height of your baby by rolling the waistbelt (e.g., Integra/Connecta, Embrace…see above)

A lot of them can be shortened by having the waistbelt high on your body and letting your baby’s bum sit over the waistbelt, a bit like a hammock if the panel isn’t adjustable and a bit too tall for your baby (e.g., Beco Gemini/8, Ergo Omni/Adapt…). Small babies shouldn’t ‘sit’ on the top of the waistbelt; create a hammock instead to make a deeper seat to create better head support – seek help to learn those adjustments.

Some panels are soft and mouldable (some are made of a stretchy wrap-like material such as the Zensling or Embrace), some are more padded (e.g., Beco Gemini), some are made of simple, strong cotton (e.g., Boba X) and some are very hard across the back (e.g., Stokkee, some Baby Bjorns). I usually recommend against very hard panels (some even have a metal in the panel!). You want to try and respect the natural C-shape curve of your baby’s spine and this can be nicely achieved with a soft-pannelled carrier. This allows them to sit in their natural position and thus support their own head better and their keep their airways clear more easily, especially when they are very small.

I classify these types of carriers as ‘lightweight’ (e.g., Zensling, Embrace, Izmi, Sleepy Nico, Integra…). It can be tricky to get a god fit with a carrier that has a hard panel as the baby can end up being carried in a more upright position, making it harder to respect their natural sitting position. If you can ‘knock’ on the front panel, I recommend you steer clear of that carrier, especially for a young baby!

Here’s an idea: hold your baby in arms in their natural position on your chest. Look in the mirror. Observe their positioning. You want to have a carrier that respect their natural positioning as much as possible.

6. Positions: Carriers offer different types of carrying positions.

front
hip
facing out
back

All of them offer the facing-in or ‘parent-facing’ position on your front. This is how you carry your baby from birth until well… forever!! You can carry your baby on your front for as long as you want! There is no obligations ever to start carrying your baby in other positions (as we speak, I am still carrying my 4 years-old on my front!). This is the snuggliest position that offers prime verbal and visual communication exchanges, and feedback and reassurance for the baby.

The majority of carriers offer a back carrying position (always check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if you can back carry with a carrier), which we recommend doing from around 6 months old when baby has full head control and is tall enough so their faces are visible just above your shoulder so you can monitor their airways the whole time. Before that, it would be hard to bring your baby high enough on your back to monitor them as you can only bring the waistbelt that high on your body! There are different techniques to safely bring baby on your back; you don’t need anybody to assist you. Get professional support to learn some techniques!

Carriers that has straps that can be crossed offer a hip carry positioning option (see above). Hip carrying is handy to offer nosey babies a bit more visibility as this allows them to look around a bit more and moves the shoulder straps away from their vision field. Hip carrying is also handy to feed in and to give your baby more visibility to engage with them in tasks – all those times you’re carrying your baby on your hip in arms can be done with a carrier too and allows you to be hands-free, it’s a win! – read my related blog about this here.

Some carriers are dedicated to hip carrying like the Scootababy and have 1 strap that goes across the body.

Some carriers also offer the facing-out position (or ‘facing away’/’world facing’/’front facing’) (e.g., Ergo Omni/Breeze, Beco Gemini/8, Kahubaby, Tula Explore, Izmi) whereby you can turn your baby facing the world (on your front) to offer them more visibility.

Izmi
Beco 8
Ergo Embrace
Ergo Omni 360
Beco Gemini
Tula Explore
Kahubaby

Not all carriers offer this positioning; you will need a carrier that can be narrowed at the base at an angle so as to continue offering your baby a deep seat (‘M’ shape positioning). This will ensure their weight is well supported when you carry them this way. This can be done from about 5 months old when baby has very good head control and there are some guidelines to respect:

  • Monitor your baby at all times and turn them back facing you if they fall asleep (or chin and chest will be touching, increasing the risk of suffocation
  • Turn them back if they become distressed
  • Short amount of times for small babies (20-30mins) to avoid over-stimulation, but also to preserve your back as the weight is shifted forward
  • You need to decide as to whether you want to carry in this position before you buy a carrier, or not! You can hire from your local sling library (~wink wink~) for as long as you want so you can change carriers as your baby grows without forking out all those hard-earned pennies!

For a more thorough discussion about carrying facing out, safety and types of carriers, head over to my blog!

7. Narrow-based carriers and hip dysplasia: A quick word about this: I always recommend that you go for an adaptable wide-based carrier which will support your baby from knee-to-knee (all the way the the nape of the neck) allowing them to sit in a deep seat with their bums lower than their knees. As explained above, this is called the ‘M shape positioning’ because their position looks like an ‘M’ from the front (of ‘J’ from the side). To keep it short: this is how babies sit naturally. Almost all babies bring their knees up when you pick them up; it’s an evolutionary reflex (‘the clinging young’). This enables them to keep their back rounded and preserve the C-shape curve of their spine which in turn helps them support their massively heavy heads (!) and again, in turn, help them keep their airways clear by stopping their head bobbing forward. When the knees are lifted above their bums, the hip joints and hip sockets connect together nicely and this is what promotes healthy hip development in young infants (their hips keep developing for a while).

Hips in a narrow-based carrier
Hips in a wide-base carrier

So, supporting your baby from knee-to-knee with a sling is pretty good for their hip development, but it also helps support their weight better (they feel also weightless). A ‘hip-healthy’ sling or carrier is one that allow for the M-shape positioning to happen. Long story short: this is particularly super-mega-important if your baby has a hip condition and/or has to wear a harness. A narrow-based carrier that doesn’t support your baby knee-to-knee (or does when they are very tiny but soon enough the legs are not supported anymore as they grow – e.g., Baby bjorn mini, Mothercare carriers…list of ‘Hip Healthy’ carriers here) and lets the legs hang straight is not ‘unhealthy’, it’s just not optimum, it’s not very supportive or comfortable for you, but you can’t damage your baby’s hips and nobody should be parent-shaming someone for using a narrow-based carrier! It can be an issue if your baby has a hip condition though, so seek help from a sling consultant (just be aware that physios and other health professionals are not versed in baby carriers and shouldn’t be making recommendations; this is our job!). Here’s a video of nifty scarf trick to improve a narrow-base carrier and infogram below:

Lots of info on the hip dysplasia’s website (NB: babies’ face should be always clear and visible -not as shown in one of the pics on their website)

8. Hip seats and framed/hiking carriers are a bit different from buckle carriers.

Hip seats carriers basically have a hard seat integrated in the waistbelt. They can be handy for sitting babies or babies who have a tendency to kick their legs a lot. The majority of them can be awkward to offer good positioning, bulky and heavy and often not suitable for newborns as the base (the seat) can’t be adapted and it’s very, very hard to position them safely, thus not suitable from birth (pic: Ergobaby Hip seat carrier)

Framed or hiking carriers are basically like a big chair to carry your baby in on your back. Although some people find them handy to go hiking with as baby can sit high up and some models enables you to store stuff in them, they are very heavy and not always very comfy. They are not suitable for babies who can’t sit and it can be tricky to support the head when baby falls asleep. You can go hiking with baby in a normal buckle carrier (front or back) absolutely fine and take your baby everywhere in it! You don’t ‘need’ a hiking carrier to hike, end of. (pic: Littelife Adventurer Hiking carrier)

9. Full cotton or mesh :Many brands make their carrier models either in full cotton fabric or in mesh fabric (e.g., Beco Gemini- left pic- and Beco Gemini Cool – right pic, Imzi, Tulas), some have a mesh panel included (e.g., Beco 8).

Some carriers are made with lightweight, breathable special ‘solar’ fabric (e.g., Integra Solar – right pic, Boba Air- left pic, Tula Lite) designed for the hot weather.

Boba Air
Connecta Solar

Mesh and solar fabrics are designed to make the carrier leas heavy and more breathable especially when the weather gets warm ( a rare sight in the UK!). Babywearing can get a bit sweaty with the close contact of 2 bodies, so choosing a breathable carrier might be a good option (or you can hire one for your summer holiday!). It ‘s completely fine to use a mesh carrier in the cold weather (layer accordingly – here’s my blog about babywearing in the cold weather). More info in my babywearing in the hot weather blog.

10. Clips and loosening mechanisms differ between carriers:

Some carriers have very simple buckle clips (e.g., Integra – left pic, Izmi – right pic, Zensling….)

Integra
Izmi

Some have buckles that need to be brought through an elastic band before clipping for extra safety. The elastic band will hold the shoulder strap together if the buckle is unfastened by accident (e.g., Ergo Adapt/Omni, Beco 8-see pic)

Some have tri-locks buckles whereby you have to release a middle safety clip before unclipping the main buckle. Those can be difficult to work with for people who have certain mobility issues (e.g., Ergo Omni – see pic, old-style Beco Gemini)

If clipping/unclippling is a problem for you (either this impacts your confidence or you have mobility issues), then remember that you don’t actually ever have to clip/unclip a carrier! There are techniques where you just loosen/tighten a carrier for you to put baby in/take them out. Go to your local sling library to find ‘THE‘ technique that works for you.

and if clips are just not for you, there are velcro carriers like the Marsupi which involves a total number of 0 clips!

Finally, some carriers don’t have shoulder straps clips but have loosening mechanisms instead (and likely a chest strap, e.g., Tulas) that you lift to release the webbing. If you can’t reach them, seek help and maybe consider a carrier with clips on the front!

11. Sizes: Carriers come in pretty much 3 sizes: baby, toddler and pre-schooler. Some carriers expand a lot to last well into toddlerhood (e.g, Boba X, Hana Expand, Isara the One) and some even come with seat extenders (or those can be purchased, e.g. Tula) so they will last quite a while. But even with expandable carriers, there is always a point you’ll have to move to a toddler carrier at one point (I know some carriers say 0-4 to years old on the box, but that’s an over-promise!! (read about this here).

At what age your baby will need to move to a toddler carrier is simply impossible to tell. All babies grow at a different rate. I would say on average around 18 months old, but it varies enormously! There is often a bit of an ‘in-between’ time when baby is getting too big or too heavy for their baby-sized carrier but are still too small for a toddler-sized one. I recommend hiring a bigger baby/expandable carrier for a few months until they are big enough for a toddler carrier so as to avoid having to buy another carrier that won’t last long.

There are many brands of toddler carriers. Some will grow with your toddler and expand (e.g., Izmi Toddler, Lenny Lamb Upgrade), some are 1-sized (e.g., Beco Toddler, Tula Toddler, Sleepy Nico Toddler):

Tula Toddler
Beco Toddler
Izmi Toddler

Things to look out for that indicates you need to move a size up:

  • Your baby/toddler has hit the upper weight limit of the carrier (usually around 15kgs-20kgs, unless you have a newborn/young baby specific carrier like the Embrace or Baby Bjorn Mini) and you should stop using it at that stage as you have a risk of breakage
  • Your baby/toddler isn’t supported knee-to-knee at the base of the carrier. This is will make their weight feel heavier – though not hip damaging.
  • The top of the panel (with headrest up where applicable) arrives around the shoulder blades: the front panel isn’t tall enough anymore and they can start wriggling out of it, it’ll also start to feel less supportive for you.
Here, Harrison had outgrown the Beco Toddler

If you want to continue carrying your not-so-baby baby once they’ve grown out of their toddler carrier, you can get a preschooler carrier (e.g., Tula Preschooler, Lenny Lamb Upgrade – see pic below- Integra size 3, Easy Feel)

Lenny Lamb Upgrade, fits small toddlers to big preschoolers!

12. Other bits: Carriers can come with (more or less) fancy options and accessories:

‘Sleep’ hoods are like a flap of fabric with strings/clips/poppers attached to the front panel that you attach to the shoulder straps. These can be handy in a front carry to provide some extra head support for small babies (you can roll them around the neck – carefully fold them in half on the diagonal to support the back of the head to ensure that the airways are clear). If you are going to use them to help them sleep by blocking sunlight/minimising stimulation, always ensure you are not blocking your baby’s airways and not reducing airflow. Use with caution! They are particularly handy to support the head when baby falls asleep on the back and their head tilts backwards. Also handy if it suddenly rains and you’re caught out! (not a rare sight in the UK!!)

Hood on an Ergo Omni 360

Some carriers come with pockets or detachable pouches where you can store your millions of pounds£££ haha!

Some have Perfect Fit Adjusters to make the straps longer, handy for boobing on the go… (read me rambling on about them above)

Some have add-ons such as lumbar support pads, seat extenders, coffee machine, radar, microwave (only kidding! can you tell I’m getting tired of writing this blog?!!)

13. Sharing carriers: I have a lot of people who are worried about resetting a carrier to switch between partners, making things faffy and complicated. In reality, the only thing you may need to re-set is the chest strap as you will be loosening and tightening the straps to put it on and off anyway. So worry not! It’s not that complicated or annoying! If the chest strap annoys you, cross straps (if possible).

14. Feeding: You can feed in pretty much any carrier whether that is breast/chestfeeding, bottle-feeding, tube feeding, cup-feeding and in different positions: upright, cross-craddle, seated sideways, rugby hold. Some carriers are easier to feed in than others (bulky, hard-panelled carriers can be tricky to loosen to lower baby down enough to chest/breastfeed, sometimes) and if you are breast/chestfeeding, whether you’ll be able to lower baby down enough to nipple height will depend on, well, the ‘landscape’! It’s worth talking to a sling consultant to find the best way or carrier for you to feed in as this is really quite personal.

Feeding in a hip carry (roughly!)
Feeding in a front carry (roughly!)

Here’s a video showing different ways to feed and pretty much all my videos on my Youtube channel show how to feed in the carriers demo-ed.

15. Back/pelvic floor problems: If you have back problems whether they are a long-term problem or they arose after the pregnancy or birth, or if you had a c-section or any pelvic floor damage (e.g., prolapse), It’s very important to talk to your sling librarian before choosing a carrier. For example, a very wide, bulky, hard waistbelt can feel uncomfortable when tightening it around the scar area and/or can put pressure on the deep abdominal muscles, then in turn, putting pressure on your pelvic floor/scar area. The waistbelt really matters in these cases and making adjustments or trying out a variety of carriers can really make a difference. More on Babywearing with back problems in my blog

16. The money bit: Carriers pricing vary enormously. You can buy a pretty decent carrier for around £50 and pricing can go into hundreds for some fancy, instagrammable carriers all celebrities have! News flash: it’s not about the money! Buying the most expensive carrier on the market, or the bulkiest one or the one with fancy options doesn’t mean it will be the best option for you. Try before you buy, and try a few with some professional guidance. Skip the big baby shops; they are here solely for 1 thing: selling you the most expensive one and bullsh*tting you so you can part with your cash (yes, I’m angry!). They have 0 knowledge of babywearing and a very limited range of carriers. Marketings only matters in these situations. Sling libraries are impartial (even the ones ran by carriers manufacturers!), not here to sell but only here to guide you. Gifting one is also not always a good idea. Let the new parent road test a few before they decide which one to buy. Gift them a consultation instead!

17. Fakes: Finally, a word about fakes, second hand carriers and safety. There are a lot of fake carriers out there, especially Ergobaby carriers (mostly the Omni 360). I collect them all to educate others! Buying a fake carrier can be very dangerous. I have seen some fakes whose buckles would snap open when tugged on a bit, some fake carriers are dyed with toxic dyes (babies chew on straps, remember), they come apart in the wash, they can give you back problems. If you are buying a carrier online, check that the retailer is an authorised one and avoid Ebay and Amazon as much as possible. Buying on Facebook can also be dangerous; those sellers operate from there or you might have someone selling their used carrier with absolutely no idea they’ve been using a fake. If you have any doubt about your carrier, take it to your local sling library who may be able to help. Selling a counterfeit is an offence punishable by law. My video explaining how to spot a fake may help also!

Right! Are you still here? I told you buckle carriers are not as simple as they seem! There is a lot to consider. and I’ve only scraped the surface. Moral of the story: skip the baby shops, go to your local sling library to try before you buy, contact me for help. A great carrier will be comfortable and will take you and your baby on many adventures!

Love, Mel

Contact me to try some carriers on. See? I know what I’m doing!

and don’t forget safety:

One thought on “Choosing one of them clippey carriers

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