The Mini Monkey TWIN baby carrier is a buckle carrier that emulates a similar carry to using a woven wrap in a tandem hip carry. The idea is to give the wearer the all the pros of a tandem hip carry without the learning curve that comes with using a wrap.
I have to say I was hugely intrigued. I have taught tandem hip carries to a number of twin parents and while some have picked it up really quickly and gone on to love the flexibility of use that the wraps afford them, others have struggled to quite get the knack for it and really yearned for a good buckle alternative. So there is a definite market for carrier like this! And I was keen to try it for myself and see if its as good as the hype.
My first impressions on receiving the Mini Monkey TWIN was complete surprise over both how small it is and how soft the material is. The whole package was a lot smaller than I’d have expected for a twin carrier, honestly around the same size as many singleton carriers such as an Ergo or a Beco carrier. And its super soft to the touch. From squinting at the photos, I had assumed it was made from a denim or canvas type material. So I was expecting it to feel quite thick and tough in hand – like a robust pair of jeans. But its actually feels more like a chambray … like a soft denim shirt, which was genuinely a pleasant surprise.
To put on, the Mini Monkey first slips over your head. Then you clip on the waist band. I found that it’s worth spending a little time making sure the cross at the back is low, the waist band is snug and nice and high on the true waist and finally that the two cross straps are not to loose … bit of space to help getting babies in but not too much so that you don’t have a fight on your hands to get it tight once both babies are in! Then its time to start loading the babies in!
For the babies there are two obvious pockets – one for each baby. Its a nice touch that you can slide these pockets along so you have control over how close or far apart your little ones are so that the carrier can cater for different parent body sizes and also different baby sizes (so you can start with smaller twins closer together more on your front and then gradually move over to a more true hip carry as they grow bigger and need more space).
Putting the babies into these pockets is fairly intuitive. You simply slip them in, guiding their legs either side of the ‘seat’ of the pocket, ensuring they have a nice pelvic tilt/spread squat position and using the excess fabric of the pocket to help support that position and then pull the rest of the fabric up to support the shoulders and back and clip the front clip into the center of the carrier and tighten as needed.
While intuitive to use, putting the second baby in is easier said than done! With one baby already in, its hard to use both arms fully as the 1st baby is now in the way and so its a bit of a struggle. This is not really a fault of the Mini Monkey but rather a draw back with ANY tandem hip carry! It’s definitely worth experimenting with which side you start on and which baby you start on. I find putting baby in easier on one side of my body than the other, so it was better for me to do the other side first then have the easier side to do last when it is a tougher job all round! Likewise, I can imagine that some babies will be more tolerant to being reached over than others and likewise some will be more tolerant of the slightly bigger faff of getting in second!
I also found it pretty hard to tighten the straps at the back up once the babies were in. The front strap, obviously was no problem. And after a few goes I have to say the Mini Monkey is much easier to use if you get the back straps largely tight enough before you start putting the babies in – only leave just enough space to allow you to get them in. Then hopefully you can then pull it tight enough. I really struggled to pull with enough force at the correct angle but I did crack it in the end. I then found it almost completely impossible to loosen the straps back off to get back out. For me the reason was these buckles were directly in the middle of my back and I have very poor flexibility so simply either couldn’t reach or couldn’t reach with enough strength left in my arm to physically flick the buckle up to loosen it. That meant I either had to wiggle babies back out having only undone the tiny front buckle, or I had to ask someone to help me! Not really ideal, but its worth saying this is body shape/size dependent. The buckles were in the middle of my back but someone who is shorter/taller, wider/narrower than me may well find those buckles in a far more accessible place!!
Logistics aside I was nicely surprised just how well this otherwise almost shapeless pocket was able to support both a 3 month old demo doll and my tall 14 month old! It gave both of them a great fit. The same pocket is really able to accommodate a range of different sized babies and I think this carrier should work well right from around 8 weeks ish to a little over a year if desired. I feel upper limit is really more about parent comfort and strength rather than what the carrier can do. In terms of what the carrier can do – the Mini Monkey is weight tested to 12 kg per child and for reference Rachel weighs just over 10kg. The carrier certainly could accommodate a slightly bigger child than Rachel, but not a lot bigger, which makes sense as she is nearing that upper limit. In terms of parent comfort – the softly padded wide waist band meant I was very comfortable carrying the combined weight of Rachel and the demo doll (approximately 14kg). Much more comfortable than I thought I would be. However, realistically carrying two Rachel’s on my front for longer periods than about 10-15 minutes at a time would be a challenge I think! One on my front and one on my back would always be my preference by this age for tandem carrying. So realistically I see this carrier as being a great option for twins aged ~8 weeks to 7-10 months. Which is absolutely great for anyone looking to ‘plug the gap’ between tandem carrying in a stretchy wrap and carrying one baby on the front and one on the back in something like the TwinGo or two separate carriers.
I mentioned at the start that the Mini Monkey is buckle carrier that emulates a similar carry to using a woven wrap in a tandem hip carry. So how does using the Mini Monkey compare to using a woven wrap? This is quite a hard question to answer because despite giving quite similar carries, they are really quite different to one another. The Mini Monkey definitely is a little more intuitive than tying a long piece of fabric for the first time. I wouldn’t say it is easier, either a Mini Monkey or a woven wrap is going to take a few goes and a bit of trail and error to master, but I would say the Mini Monkey is a bit more intuitively obvious so the learning curve may not feel as steep right at first! The Mini Monkey also has a lovely well padded but soft waist band that really helps distribute the weight of two growing babies. Which can also be achieved with the woven wrap although this depends on length of wrap used. Where the woven wrap really shines is in terms of fit over baby. The Mini Monkey can only be tightened in two places and this does mean parts of the pockets do stay loose and flappy. In contrast, it is possible to get a really smooth finish with a wrap no matter the size and shape of your babies (or you for that matter). Additionally, a woven wrap doesn’t have the issue of the buckles/tightening mechanism being behind the parents back – which was a struggle for me with the Mini Monkey. Instead all the tightening is done in front where it is easier to reach and tighten effectively. Finally, the woven wrap offers greater flexibility of use – as it can be used not only for tandem hip carries, but also tandem carries with one baby on the front and one on the back and of course to carry one baby at a time … on the front, back or hip. In fact with a woven wrap the are options to carry one or both babies from newborn all the way for as long as you’d like to carry for… there’s really no upper or lower weight limit. The Mini Monkey TWIN is more limited offering only the tandem hip carry and with a weight minimum of 3.5 kg each and a max of 12 kg. So really between the two options its well worth trying both on and working out which would work better for you personally – the flexibility of fit and use of the woven wrap verses more intuitive, flatter learning curve of the Mini Monkey.
Thank you to Paula at Ecoroos for organizing this tour and allowing me to try the Mini Monkey TWIN. The Mini Monkey TWIN currently costs around £115 and can be purchased from Koala slings, Love to be Natural and South East Slings.
Updated 23/02/2018 to add that we now have our very own Mini Monkey TWIN carrier in the Sling Library collection to try on and hire.