Why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan

Probably seems a little harsh to say about a pretty decent, ergonomic, simple carrier aimed at newborns but I don’t generally recommend the Baby K’Tan for one simple reason – It’s sized.  It does not adjust to fit different sized parents, instead you need to buy the correct size to fit you.  There are a few problems with this:

  1. Unless you and your partner are exactly the same size it’s unlikely you can both use this carrier.  You’d have to buy two – one for you and one for them.  Likewise it might not be possible to share this carrier with anyone else who might carry your baby – grannies, granddads, aunts, nannies etc.  
  2. While this can be a great carrier if you do have the right size for you, many people find they fall between sizes.  Or outside the sizing.  K’Tan actually make a total of 6 sizes, however, at the time of writing this only 3 of these seem to be readily available in the UK.  Small, Medium and Large which apparently correspond to dress sizes 8-10, 12-14 and 16-18 respectively.  But in practise many people who follow this guide still find they end up with a carrier that is slightly too small or slightly too big and as a result can not use the carrier at all. 
  3. If your size changes significantly you may find the carrier no longer fits you.  This might sound unlikely but it’s very common to gain or lose weight quite a bit of weight in the months after birth.  Women’s bodies change loads in the postpartum period and men may find their body shape changes too with the new routine (my marathon running husband put about 8-10 kilos on in the months after the birth of each of our children until sleep and routine settled down enough for him to get back to running as much as he was pre-birth).  
  4. As baby’s size changes you might need to buy a new carrier or find that they no longer fit.  In theory, because the K’Tan is made of stretchy fabric, baby’s size shouldn’t matter.  Bigger children should simply stretch the carrier out more so that the same size carrier that fits the adult should worth whether carrying a newborn or a 1 year old.  However, in practise this is not the case at all – the material just isn’t that stretchy at all and many parents report baby no longer fitting without sizing up.

ktanUltimately, all these problems are solved by having a carrier that is adjustable rather than sized.  

I mean don’t get me wrong, if this carrier does fit you well – if you do have the right size, you don’t lose or gain lots of weight, your partner is the same size as you and your baby doesn’t grow too much (!) this is a really nice carrier.  It gives a lovely snuggly fit that’s perfect for the newborn period and it’s really simple to use.

But those are massive ifs, and the simple fact is there is another carrier on the market that does all the same things, that offers the same carrying position, offers the same ease of use, the same softness AND is adjustable.  And really that is why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan – why spend £50 on a Baby K’Tan when you can buy the Close Caboo and have all the pros without the massive cons for £55?

– Madeleine

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Beco 8 Review

20170828_185016In many ways the Beco 8 is the Beco Gemini’s big brother.  The Beco 8 shares so many of the features that I love about the Gemini. In particular;

  • Firm thick padding at the waist band combined with soft light padding at the shoulder straps.  This combination is rare in the carrier world, but is one that really works for some many people because it gives great support at the waist and weight transference onto the hips without feeling bulky on the shoulders.
  • Ability to wear the straps either ruck sack style or crossed acrossed the parents back depending on personal preference.
  • Easy to adjust seat. The seat of the carrier has two settings – narrow and wide that can be easily swapped between using a simple pair of poppers.
  • 4 carrying poisitions.  You can carry your baby on your front facing you, on your front facing outward, on your hip and on your back giving you plenty of flexibility to use this carrier in different ways.  And the adjustable popper seat means its super easy to quickly switch back and forth between facing in and facing out positions.

But where the Beco 8 differs from the Gemini is that it is bigger.  The panel is about 1cm longer on the Beco 8, while the wide setting is about 2cm wider.  The narrow setting is actually the same on both carriers.  The bigger panel simply means this carrier will last longer.  It will take longer for your baby to grow out of it.  The taller panels often mean smaller babies don’t fit as well but as the Beco 8 comes with a small infant insert to raise the height of the baby within the carrier this isn’t the case for the Beco 8.  This is a carrier that works really well from newborn (or at least a few weeks old) until around 2 years of age, quite possibly longer.  In terms of weights, the Beco 8 is weight tested from 3.2 to 20 kg (7 to 40 lb). When you compare this to the Gemini these extra few cm give you about an added 6 months of longevity and 4 kg extra on the weight max.

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Beco Gemini (Navy) laid over the Beco 8 (Grey)

The panel isn’t the only thing that is bigger about the Beco 8 – it also has a lot of extra features and stuff!  Which contribute to this feeling like a bigger bulkier carrier.  In particular it has;

  • Lumbar Support – a little panel that sits comfortably over your lower spine and helps support your lumbar region and stabilises the waist band.  This is fab while carrying a heavier baby on your front, and can be removed if you don’t like it or so that you don’t have a weird pad on the front.
  • Hood – to cover baby’s head for sleep or if there’s rain and handily hides away inside the head support cushion
  • Zip down mesh panel – the standard carrier is made from a durable but fairly soft polyester, then in warmer weather the central panel can be unzipped to reveal breathable “3D mesh”. I am not entirely sure what 3D mesh means other than you can’t see through it! Like overlapping layers of mesh, so there is no possibility of little fingers getting stuck or of it getting snagged on anything.  This is the same mesh as is on the Gemini Cool but the beauty of the 8 is you don’t need to choose between mesh or solid… you get both in one carrier.  (Unless you don’t like the idea of polyester and mesh, and in which case they sell a all cotton version which lacks this zip down panel).
  • Infant insert – which simply attaches via poppers so easy to remove if you don’t need it or don’t like it.  I like that this insert pillow has a narrow and wide setting as this allows different baby’s to be accomodated in different ways as suits them as they grow.

20181010_183528All of which is good stuff!  But the downside is that with all these added bits this carrier takes up quite a lot of space when folded!  Roughly about twice the size compared to the Gemini.   It’s also correspondingly more expensive.

This is a great carrier for those who want a long walk carrier and those who want all the features and bits and bobs.  But it doesn’t have the simplicity and sheer magic the Gemini has in being quite a slimmed down non fuss, easy carrier.  There are more bits and bobs to faff with and get used to.  Some love this, some people really want those extra bits… while for others less is more.  Really just depends on personal preference!

All in all the Beco 8 is another great carrier from Beco.  The 8 will particularly suit bigger babies, those who are higher up on the centile charts and will benefit from a bigger carrier that will last them longer before they grow out of it.  It’s a great sunday hike, wear all day carrier as it doesn’t comprimise on comfort or features!  It’s a flexible carrier offering multiple carrying positions and combines a firm supportive waistband with lighter softer shoulder padding.  The Beco 8 costs £125 and is available to purchase from Sheen Slings at sling library meets, consults and workshops (or please get in touch for doorstep collection or even postage).

-Madeleine

Connecta Review

img_2034The first time I ever saw a Connecta my first thought was “I bet that’s uncomfortable”.  At that point I’d only ever tried fairly well padded carriers like Ergo’s and Manduca’s and the thought of carrying my then 9 month old something with a completely unpadded waist band and barely-there padding made me shudder.  I was, of course, totally and utterly wrong.

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Rachel 9 months

What I realise now is padding is not necessarily an indicator of comfort.  Padding can be great if it fits you well, but if the shape is wrong for your body then that padding can actually make matters worse by ‘standing off’ your body in places and thus focusing the weight onto smaller pinpoint areas.  What matters far more than padding level is how a carrier fits you.  If it fits well it will be comfortable, if it doesn’t fit well then it won’t.  Simple as that!  The genius of the Connecta is by not having bulky padding it gives a lot of people an absolutely perfect fit – because the webbing waist band and the softly padded shoulder straps are able to mould exactly to your body and give a very even weight distribution.

Connecta currently come in 3 sizes standard (birth – 2 years ish), Toddler (18 months – 3 or 4 years), and Pre-school (3 or 4 years onwards). Each with two strap options – regular and petite straps. The petite straps have simply 1.5 inches less padding to enable more petite parents to get the straps tight enough while back carrying.  This review focuses on the standard (baby) size.  For further info about the toddler size specifically see separate review.

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Rachel at 5 weeks

The Connecta is a very flexible carrier.  It’s extremely simple – just 2 layers of fabric with some straps sewn on – but this means it can be worn in different ways:  In different carrying positions and at different heights.  All of which means it can fit a wide range of parents and personal preferences.

And the lack of padding and bulk means it’s really lightweight and not at all hot to wear – great choice for summer.  Also a great choice to use around the home as its so soft and comfy and you won’t overheat indoors.  It also packs down really small!  So it’s perfect to slip in your bag or under the buggy.  Sturdy, secure and comfortable enough for a long walk, but soft enough to wear around the home.

It fits a wide range of babies – generally speaking the Connecta works really well for babies from around 1 month of age through till about 2 years!  Which is a huge range!  This is because both the height and width of the carrier can be adjusted.  The width can be adjusted with the accessory strap that comes with the carrier, and the height can be manually adjusted by altering the position of the waist band on the adult and then simply putting the baby in deeper or shallower with respect to the carrier.  The intergrated hood can also help alter the height of the carrier and help support babies head – either by fastening as a hood for an older baby or by being rolled up into a neck cushion for a younger baby.

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Tandem Carry with 2 Connecta

Another reason this carrier lasts so well is the fact it offers 3 carrying postions – front, hip and back.  Front is great while they are little, then when they enter nosy, want to see everything stage the hip comes into its own and the back carry is fab as they start to get older and heavier.

It is worth noting that when front carrying the straps cross over the parents back.  Many carriers offer both crossed and ruck sack style strap configurations but because there is no attached chest strap it is difficult to wear the Connecta in ruck sack style while front carrying.  It’s possible when back carrying as the accessory strap can be then attached at the front to act as a chest strap, but this is very difficult to achieve while front carrying because of the difficulty in attaching something behind your body.  This is not a really a criticism as I find many people find crossed straps more comfortable anyway, but it is worth being aware of as there are people who don’t find crossed straps comfortable and prefer ruck sack style.  If you fall into the latter category but like the idea of the Connecta, then take a look at the Kahu which is a broadly similar carrier but does over rucksack straps.

20171110_114320The other thing to be aware of is that the shoulder straps adjust in one direction only.  This means that while they are very easy to tighten while back carrying, when front carrying you need to work against your wrist joint to tighten.  There are ways around this (reaching across your back from behind or doing the “chicken dance”) and while most people don’t find this an issue at all, some people really do struggle to tighten and for them this is a total deal breaker.  I’d say this is the case for about 1 in 20 – so definitely worth trying and seeing if this is OK for you or not.  If it is a deal breaker, the Kahu Baby and Intergra baby carriers both have two way buckles and can be a good alternatives.

All in all the Connecta is a very flexible, lightweight, simple carrier which will suit anyone looking for something they can use for a long time with their little one in different ways as suits their life!  Cost is £80 and these can be purchased from Sheen Slings at sling library meets, consults and workshops (or please get in touch for a doorstep collection or even postage).

 

Kahu Baby Carrier Review

New to the market the Kahu Baby is lightweight, sleek and very very cleverly designed.

20180813_204009.jpgThere is much to love about it!  It’s soft and malleable so it fits a wide range of babies and a wide range of parents and doesn’t skimp on comfort.  It’s lightweight design means it won’t make you or baby overly hot and it will fold up small enough to fit in the change bag or under the buggy.  Not to mention – it’s simply beautiful!!  I went for the “On The Wing” print and when it turned up it took my breath away!  This must be the most beautiful carrier I own, and the colours are just perfect… blues and greys that make this a wonderful combo with jeans (for those who – like me – like to match their clothes to their carrier!).

In terms of parent comfort, the barely there waistband allows for a really good fit on a very wide range of parents shapes and sizes.  While the softly padded straps hug the shoulders and back to give brilliant support.  These shoulder straps can be worn rucksack style or crossed according to parent preference and comfort.  These shoulder straps also features split dual adjust which simply means they can be tightened forward or backward, which means you shouldn’t have to strain your wrists to get a snug fit (always a boon if you have reduced mobility in your arms or in my case, if you’ve wrecked one of your wrists!!).

 

For baby, the Kahu offers 4 carrying positions.  3 of the 4 work fabulously!  Front facing inward (baby on your front, facing you), hip and back all work brilliantly, super comfy for parent and babe.  In particular, the hip carry position works really well with this carrier because the straps are so soft and flexible.  Likewise I love the back carry position as the chest strap is integrated and the dual adjust straps make tightening easy whether front or back carrying.

 

The position that works less well is forward facing (carrying baby on you front, facing away from you).  In fairness there are very few carriers that truly offer forward facing well without compromising the other positions.  The main thing is the other 3 positions aren’t compromised at all, and this is just as well as while forward facing can be fun for short bursts, it’s not a long-term position.  It’s far more important for any carrier to do the front and back positions well.  So this isn’t a huge criticism, but more of a warning – if you are specifically looking for a carrier that will allow you to do forward facing this maybe isn’t the carrier for you.  As while it is possible, it’s very hard to get good positioning without the carrier seeming awfully tight around the babies legs.  20180730_180351The three babies I’ve tried forward facing in the Kahu have been uncomfortable and quickly made their discomfort known.  Most hilariously and dramatic was my own daughter who screamed “I stuck, I stuck, I stuck!” and pointed to where the carrier was cutting into her thighs for the 30 seconds until I took pity and released her!! I did find rolling the carrier in on itself to releive the worst of the cutting in helped a bit but she still hated it.  She was as happy as anything in the other three positions (as were the other babies), it’s an issue only with the forward facing position in this carrier.  It seems to stem from the way the carrier adjusts, ultimately it appears the adjustment strap isn’t quite in the right place to really change the inward facing seat into an equally comfortable outward facing seat.

20180728_090331In terms of age, the Kahu Baby works well from about 6-8 weeks or so through to about 2 years.  In theory the Kahu Baby can be used from birth although in practise I am finding the integrated synching strap doesn’t quite go small enough for a brand new newborn.  However, once baby is a few weeks old (depending on size of course, some will be earlier or later than others!) the Kahu baby works really well because the synching strap can size down the seat width, you can control the height by the depth you put baby into the carrier and then there is a lovely little strap at the top which can tighten up the top part of the carrier making it a bit snugger and providing support to baby’s neck.  There is also a lovely shaped hood that can be used in a number of ways to provide more neck and head support as need.  Then as baby grows the synching strap can be let out and this carrier will last really well till about 2 years ish child depending… my daughter Rachel is a relatively tall 20 months and is still fitting quite nicely.

So how does the Kahu Baby compare to other carriers on the market?  It’s closest comparables are the Connecta and the Intergra.  All three look and feel pretty similar, they are very lightweight with similar barely there waist bands and soft shoulder padding.  In comparision to the other two the Kahu Baby has slightly wider and longer shoulder straps (although the difference isn’t huge), and like the Intergra these straps feature dual adjust (they can be tightened forwards or backwards).  The hood is shaped rather than flat but fastens the same way and there is a strap to synch the very top of the carrier for a smaller baby.  The biggest difference is that the Kahu Baby has both an intergrated synching strap and intergrated chest strap, while the Connecta and Intergra have a seperate strap that can be used to either synch or as a chest strap.  The benefits of having these straps intergrated are as follows;

  • You don’t run the risk of losing them (which does happen … about 2 or 3 go walkies from the library each year and likewise a couple of times a year past clients email me asking where they can buy replacements as they’ve lost theirs).
  • The intergrated chest strap means the Kahu baby can be worn on the front with ruck sack straps or crossed straps, while the Connecta and Intergra can only be worn crossed as its much harder to attach the accessory strap around ruck straps behind your back.
  • The intergrated synching strap is a bit conceptually easier and doesn’t move as your putting the carrier on.

Conversly the cons are;

  • When the synching strap is tightened to the max, this pulls badly on the waist band of the carrier such that it no longer lies flat and this can be a bit diggy on the parent’s waist.  This doesn’t happen with the accessory straps of the Connecta and Intergra.
  • You can’t alter the height of the synching strap because its sewn in. On the Connecta/Integra I’d place this strap at a different height on a very young baby verses an 8-12 week old.  Obviously this isn’t possible on the Kahu baby and this is one reason I prefer the Kahu once babies are already 8ish weeks old rather than a brand new newborn.

All in all the Kahu Baby is a lightweight, sleek, cleverly designed carrier that packs alot design into a small space.  I love how easily this folds up, it’s great to slip in the change bag, under the buggy or in the car.  It’s versatile, comfy and very easy to use … all winners to my mind.  Cost is £95 and can be bought from Kahu Baby

-Madeleine

Toddler Carriers Compared

There are a number of Toddler carriers on the market, and confusingly they vary HUGELY between brands!  In particular, they vary most in terms of size!  Both in terms of how old your baby needs to be before they are big enough and in terms of how long they will last for.

We currently have 7 Toddler carriers in the Sling Library collection and to help me compare them on size and longevity I have enlisted the help of both my children.  Rachel is 18 months, 80cm tall and 11.5kg and she represents roughly the age I most commonly see parents starting to entertain looking for a toddler sling.  Tom by contrast gives an idea of the absolute upper end! He is 5 years old, 116cm tall and just over 20kg.  I stopped regularly carrying Tom at around 3.5 years old, and have only really carried him very occasionally on holidays or long trips since then.  Many people find carrying naturally peters out sometime between 2 and 4 years old.  That said there is a significant number of families for whom carrying may well last a lot longer than this – particularly for a child with additional needs such a developmental delay, low muscle tone, ongoing medical treatment that might cause fatigue etc.  Tom helps give an idea of those carriers that are a bit more roomy for those who might want to carry a much older child.

Taking a look at each in turn…

Connecta Toddler 

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Connecta advertise their toddler size as being “suitable from 12kg to 24kg and giving a supportive and comfortable fit for most children from 18 months until around 3.5 years or older.”

The panel is a fixed size and doesn’t adjust or grow with the child, but despite this I do completely agree with the advertised age range.  Rachel is supported all the way knee to knee and all the way upto the back of her neck, so there is plenty of growing room for her and I agree that this carrier wouldn’t have fitted her well much before 18 months.  Tom despite being 5 is still supported reasonably well.  Yes the carrier is only just about supporting him to mid thigh (and so wouldn’t be as comfortable for him over longer periods), it is supporting him right the way up his back to under his armpits so it’s still a safe secure carry.  It is worth noting that Connecta also make a pre-school size so if I were still carrying a child Tom’s size I’d select that carrier over the toddler size.  But it is clear this carrier will comfortably manage from 18 months to at least 3.5 years old as advertised.

Compared to others here, the Connecta is the most lightweight and folds up the absolute smallest.  I have to say I love how small it folds… Rachel wants to walk everywhere so having a carrier that folds up small enough to slip into the change bag while we are not wearing it is an absolute boon.  I also love how comfortable it is – until I tried a Connecta for the first time, I always used to equate padding with comfort.  However, it’s simply not the case with this carrier, despite the lack of padding this nifty little carrier makes great contact with your body to give a perfect fit and brilliant weight distribution … even with 20kg of Tom.

This carrier can be worn on the front, back or hip.  When worn on the front, straps cross across the parents back.  When worn on the back, straps are worn ruck sack style and the accessory strap can be used as a chest strap to hold the two shoulder straps in place.  I have to say I never find this strap the most comfortable and am often forgetting it at home anyway so I often don’t bother! But it can be helpful for some shoulder types and to make the carrier feel a little more secure if you have a very wiggly toddler.  Cost is between £90 and £110 depending on material.  Full review of the Toddler Connecta can be viewed here.

 

Isara Toddler

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The Isara is so clever in its sizing.  Both the width and length of the carrier can be adjusted, allowing this carrier to very smoothly adjust incrementally from around 10 months (minimum of 8 or 9kg) all the way through to 4 years (max of 20kg).  It’s just a fab size range and one that works really well… particularly for those who are moving on from one of the smaller carriers on the market (like the Bjorn, Stokke, Izmi baby etc) and are looking for something that will fit now but last as long as possible.  The adjustable seat means that it will fit earlier than most other toddler carriers on the market and last longer.

The Isara can be worn on the front, back or hip.  When front carrying the straps can be worn crossed over the parents back or worn rucksack style.  Padding wise, it has a relatively firm wide waistband and softer well cushioned shoulder straps.  Consequently, the Isara doesn’t fold up as small as the Connecta or Izmi, but the increased padding will be more comfortable for some.  It’s a good option for those who carry for long periods, where the carrier spends less time folded up in a bag or under a buggy!  The material is lovely and soft and there is also very soft light padding at the leg holes to ensure toddler comfort.

It fits Rachel absolutely beautifully and is an option I am starting to use a lot for her.  At 18 months old she is roughly at the halfway point sizing wise – in the photo above I have both the velcro adjustment on the waist and the buckle that adjusts the height set at the roughly halfway point.  So this carrier will go considerably smaller than her.  I do think 10 months to a year is realistic.  For the photo with Tom the carrier is on its biggest setting.  And you can see that even though he is beyond the upper age range and weight, he still fits reasonably well – he is supported to at least mid thigh with his bottom lower than his knees.  The back panel is a little too short for him as it doesn’t quite reach to under his armpits, but it would have definitely still fitted him well at 4 so this is not really a criticism!  The Toddler Isara costs between £124 and £150 depending on material and print.

 

Izmi Toddler

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The Izmi Toddler carrier is also adjustable and also covers a huge age range from 9 months/1 year ish (or 8kg) through to roughly 4 years old.  It’s weight tested to a staggering 27kg (or 60lb)!!

Unlike the Isara the adjustment isn’t smooth/incremental but stepped.  There is a narrower seat setting and a wider seat setting.  The narrower setting works from 9 months and will take you through till about 18/20 months.  Rachel is shown on the narrower setting and its supporting her to a little past mid thigh and still giving a lovely M shape.  She is close to being able to move to the wider setting – she’ll be ready when she can sit in it without the material passing the backs of her knees.  Tom is shown in the wider setting and on this wider setting he is supported to at least mid-thigh and again has a great seated position with his bottom lower than his knees.

The height of back panel on this carrier doesn’t adjust.  For Rachel it supports all the way up to the top of her shoulders/base of her neck.  Which does mean she struggles to get her arms out, which is always a bit of a source of frustration for her!  For Tom the panel is a bit short for him… similar to the Isara … but this would have been plenty long enough when he was 4.

The Izmi is another lightweight option.  Like the Connecta it folds up relatively small and doesn’t weigh much and so is a good option for independent toddlers who are up and down alot and thus you end up carrying the sling empty as much as you actually use it!  The Izmi toddler has a very softly padded waistband which is shaped so that its very wide in the centre and then quickly tapers.  I find this shape really comfortable – gives support where you need it without bulk and as its so soft it moulds perfectly.  At the shoulders there is no padding at all but instead has spreadable fabric straps.  The Izmi toddler can be worn on the front, hip or back.  When I am wearing it on the front or hip I find spreading the straps make this carrier superior on comfort – it really works well for me and I don’t miss padding at all.  For the back carry however, its more difficult to spread and use the chest strap and while I am still comfortable enough on shorter journeys… I start to miss the padding if I am carrying for more like an hour or so!   Cost is £80, which makes the Izmi the lowest cost toddler carrier on our list (and that I know of) and certainly makes it amazing value for money!

 

KiBi 

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Not technically a toddler carrier the KiBi is the most adjustable carrier I’ve ever come across.  It smoothly adjusts to accommodate children anywhere from 6 months old all they way to beyond 5 years of age.

The offers front, hip and back carrying positions and its possible to wear the straps either crossed on in rucksack configuration when carrying on the front.  It has a relatively firm but thin padding at the waist and wide but softly padded shoulder straps.  Its superbly adjustable – not only for the child but also for the parent with 3 points of adjustment for the shoulder straps ensuring a great fit for a really wide range of adults.  For the child, the flexibility comes from the ability to adjust both the width and the height of the carrier.  The width has 4 poppered settings and a drawstring to give fine tuning between each of the poppered settings.  Rachel is shown on the third popper, Tom on the forth.  The height of the panel then adjusts in two ways – there’s a ladder lock buckle that adjusts at the leg openings, and then the top half of the panel can be pulled up or scrunched down as needed.  I love that the two adjustments are separate – you can really get a great supportive fit on a wide range of different sized children as a result.  It means that Rachel is just as well supported as Tom.  And the fact I can squash down the back panel means Rachel can have her arms out if she wants and then I can work it upwards once she is ready to sleep.

While it’s only weight tested to 20kg this carrier is perfectly capable of carrying a much larger child.  As can be seen with Tom – he’s legs are supported to at least mid thigh, in a good M shape and his back is supported all the way to the top of his shoulders.  The KiBi is a great choice for anyone looking for a carrier that will last a long time.  In particular, this would be a fab choice for close in age siblings where both are still regularly carried –  because this is a carrier that can easily be used to carry either.  Giving you the flexibility to carry either while the other walks or is in the pram as needed.  This carrier is also a great option for anyone looking for a carrier that will last longer in order to continue carrying a child with additional needs.  While many of the carriers on this list will carry an older child, the KiBi is a great choice for a child with low muscle tone and/or a developmental delay because the back panel is so high – this means even if they are tired and now struggling to support their upper torso etc the carrier will fully support them.  With many other toddler carriers, it’s often that lack of upper back support that can prove difficult in additional needs situations (depending on the individual need of the child).  Cost is £99 and full review of this carrier, including photos with a 6 month old can be viewed here.

 

Lillebaby Carry On

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Of all the toddler carriers I’ve tried the Lillebaby CarryOn has the smallest range in terms of ages/sizes it can be used for.  As can be seen on the photos above its too wide for Rachel at 18 months.  The material is rouching at her knees and her legs are close to being over extended (the one on the right side in particular is not able to bend to give completely free range of motion).  It’s also too wide at the top which means she is able to lean back and her weight is pulling away from me (making it heavier for me).

In reality most children won’t fit the Lillebaby Complete until they are 2 years old.  Or as a general guide until they can fit into size 2-3 trousers.  Then because this carrier doesn’t adjust at all and is fairly fixed (i.e less flexible that the Connecta) it doesn’t last as long either.  We can see that for Tom his legs are right on the border of still being supported upto mid thigh and the panel is only reaching to his mid back… its way way below the safe region of right under the arms pits.  So really he doesn’t still fit in this… if he wasn’t fairly compliant when it comes to being carried, this could potentially be dangerous.

Lillebaby market this carrier as “a roomy carrier made specifically for growing toddlers from 20-60 lbs (9-27kg)” and a “versatile, ergonomic and comfortable way to carry your child for many years”.  However, I think more realistically this carrier only really works from aged 2 through to 3.5 maybe 4 but certainly no older.  And 27 kg seems honestly optimistic!!!  Good option for those on the upper centile lines, but for Tom who is on the 50th centile and weighs 21kg… there’s absolutely no way he could be safely carried in this carrier when he reaches 27kg!!

In terms of parent comfort this carrier is one of the bulkiest I’ve looked at here, with pretty pretty wide firm shoulder padding and a wide firm waist band.  Consequently it’s a fairly large bundle when folded up and is a bit warmer for the parent to wear.  This particular model is their airflow mesh so it is pretty breezy for the child at least.  And surprisingly bouncy… the mesh is pretty springy so gives the carrier a little bit of “bounce” for the child as you walk!  Cost is around £125 to £150 depending on material and print.

 

Neko Switch Toddler

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Of all the carriers compared here the Neko Switch is the biggest!  Or at least has the capacity to become the biggest.  Like the Isara and KiBi both the height and width of this carrier can be adjusted.  Where it differs from these two is it’s a bigger carrier to start with.

Rachel is shown on the absolute smallest setting.  The width alters via a series of poppers, while the height can be adjusted via a drawstring.  Widthwise she is near knee to knee on this setting (but slightly over extended on the next setting up), while the absolute smallest height setting barely allows her to get one arm out!!  So this is definitely a carrier that won’t fit before roughly 18 months.

But once it does fit… my does it have growing room!  It will grow and grow and grow… all the way to a carrier that will carry Tom with absolute ease.  Tom is supported way past mid thigh in a lovely deep squat, and then all the way up his back to his shoulders.  He shows no sign of growing out this carrier for sometime to come.  I could see this still working for a 7 or 8 year old, possibly even more.  It’s weight tested to 27kg (60lb) so certainly has the strength to carry a 7 or 8 year old too.  Making the Neko switch a great option for anyone who wants a carrier that will last as long as possible.  In particular this is a fantastic option for a child with additional needs – for any child over about 18 months/2 years where there is a reason they might need to be carried for longer, i.e. developmental delay, on-going medical conditions or low muscle tone.  As discussed for the KiBi, this is a great carrier for a child with low muscle tone because the back panel is so high.  There is also a detachable hood that can be used to support sleeping heads!

The Switch is made from Neko’s really lovely woven wrap material, which makes this carrier very soft and also really pretty!  It comes in a huge range of gorgeous designs.   In terms of positions the Neko offers a front carry and a back carry (unlike each of the others, a hip position is not easily possible).  Straps can be worn rucksack style only (they don’t cross), which means while this carrier works a treat on my back, neither me or my husband like wearing it on our fronts – we find our daughter too heavy without the ability to cross the straps across our back.  However, on the back its really comfy with fairly firm padding at the waist and shoulders.  Cost is £135 and the Neko Toddler Switch can be purchased from Slumber Roo.

Beco Toddler Carrier

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The Beco Toddler carrier is another one with a fixed panel (it doesn’t adjust) and it’s relatively large.  So large that Rachel – aged 21 months and 84cm tall only *just* fits. The material is reaching all the way into her knee pits and possibly a little further, but its soft and light enough she can squish it down and still move her legs freely so that she isn’t over extended.  The panel reaches all the way to the top of her neck, which does mean she can’t get her arms out which she doesn’t love but does mean she could sleep very comfortably without needing to put the hood up.  It’s worth noting that Rachel is tall for her age… most babies won’t fit well before 2.  And Rachel certainly wouldn’t have fitted prior to 21 months old – she has had a huge growth spurt over the summer jumping from 80cm to 84 in just 3 months and this has made all the difference in terms of fitting the Beco Toddler.

So while this carrier is unlikely to fit much before 2 years of age… it will last and last.  The shape of the seat means that Tom aged 5.5 years still has beautiful support well past his mid thigh – giving a great M shape – and the back panel reaches all the way upto right under his armpits.  In fact he could get his arms in too but he choose not to as he said arms out is more comfy mummy!  Plus there is a detachable hood that can be added to support his head while he slept if needed.  So he is still held very safely and securely and is still way below the very generous weight limit of 27kg (60lb).

In terms of parent comfort, like all Beco carriers this carrier has a relatively firmly padded waist band that feels very secure and supportive.  While the shoulder straps are relatively wide but very softly padded which means the shoulder straps do not feel overly bulky and fit very comfortably over the shoulders.  Additionally there are perfect fit adjusters on the shoulder straps which allow more petite parents to get a nice snug fit while back carrying.  The Beco toddler offers front, hip and back carrying positions and it is possible to wear the straps either crossed or in rucksack configuration when carrying on the front.  The main strap pulls in one direction only, which does mean that while its easy to tighten this carrier when back carrying, its a little harder when wearing on your front.

 

It is worth noting there are also several “standard sized” carriers that do last a good long time.  In fact many standard carriers last a lot longer than you might think… but if you have an older baby who isn’t quite ready for toddler carrier but needs something that will last a good year or two it’s well worth investigating the Boba X, the JPMBB Physio carrier and the Lillebaby Complete.

-Madeleine

Which Ergo?

Ergobaby carriers are really popular, and it’s very easy to see why.  They are very well made, well designed and fit a wide range of parents and babies.  They don’t fit everyone of course – like any buckle carrier it’s definitely worth trying on before you buy – as different brands fit different body types differently.  As a general rule Ergo’s are on the bulkier side so its worth checking the padding agrees with your shoulders and they can often feel too much on smaller frames.  But for many many people they fit like a dream and for them Ergo carriers represent a fantastic option.

What takes most people by surprise, however, is just how many different models there are!  Over the last few years, Ergo have brought out a new carrier or new variant on one of their existing models out every single year!  Most people coming to the sling library ask me simply if they can try “THE” Ergo, but there are 4 main models and then 3 of these models have mesh versions – 2 of which differ from the non-mesh version in ways other than simply having mesh.  So it does take a bit of thought to work out which model will suit you best.

So what are the differences?  How do I help people work out “Which Ergo?”  There are 3 main factors to consider when comparing each model;

  1. Would you like to use this carrier with a newborn/baby under 4 months old? (While in theory all can be used from newborn, 2 of these models require the use of a bulky infant insert that most parents don’t get on well with, while the other two have a really great adjustable seat which removes the need for any inserts).
  2. Would you like the option to face baby outwards?  (All 4 models offer front facing inwards, hip and back carrying positions, only 2 offer the outward facing position as well).
  3. Would you like the option to cross the straps across the adult’s back? (All models can be worn in ‘Rucksack’ mode, but only 2 give you the option to cross the straps as well).

I also encourage parents to think about budget and how much value they place on each of these considerations, because there is of course a price difference!   And its not insignificant – the difference between answering no to all 3 questions and answering yes to all 3 is currently £55!  With prices in between for each iteration in between.  So its very much worth considering the pros and cons of each carrier in conjunction with the price.

So with all these considerations in mind – lets look at each model in turn…

The Original

  • Requires an infant insert
  • Weight tested from 5.4 kg (12 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb) without the insert, from 3.2 kg (7 lb) with the insert
  • Does not offer a facing outwards position
  • Straps can not be worn crossed across parents back
  • Has an absolutely huge pocket that will easily fit a nappy or two, wipes and a few other essentials
  • Cost £99.90*

Where the Ergo Original really shines is for babies aged 6 months to ~2 years. Its the simplest, and cheapest of all the Ergo models and it is a great carrier for older babies through to toddlers. It has a slightly shorter back panel than the other models (as it doesn’t have a fold up head support that also acts to extend the panel) so it won’t last quite as long as each of the others but it will nonetheless last well into toddler-hood.  While the Original can be used for newborns, it requires the addition of the Easy Snug Infant insert – which in all honestly is a faff, pretty darn hot and seems to confuse literally every parent I’ve ever met.  If you want a carrier you can use from the beginning, I would avoid anything with an infant insert.  The newest version of this model now features the same amazing lumbar support panel as seen on the Adapt and the Omni. Previous versions of this model just had webbing only, and the lumbar support is a nice addition.

Mesh Version – Ergo are not currently selling a mesh version of the Original carrier.  They did sell a mesh version in the past (I think it was called the Ergo Performance), but this is no longer on the market.

 

The All Position 360

  • IMG_2452Requires an infant insert
  • Weight tested from 5.4 kg (12 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb) without the insert, from 3.2 kg (7 lb) with the insert
  • Adjustable head support
  • Does offer forward facing carrying position
  • Straps can not be worn crossed across parents back
  • Has a wide Velcro waistband
  • Cost £134.90*

The 360 is the model I am most frequently asked for – it’s the one everyone has heard of!  It’s not necessarily the one people most frequently go onto buy, however!  Like the Original it needs the bulky hot infant insert to carry a newborn, so this is a carrier that works best from ~4 or 5 months.  It has a slightly narrower seat than the Original so does tend to work a bit earlier, typically from 4-5 months rather than ~6 months for the Original.  It also has a longer back panel, because the head support can be used to extend the length of the panel, which means this carrier will often last a little longer too – typically until around 2.5 years, maybe even 3 years with a relatively petite child.

What’s really popular about this carrier is the deep ‘bucket’ style seat for the baby, which gives an excellent position for babies in both the parent facing and the facing outwards position.  Swapping between the two carrying positions is as simple as switching over a couple of buttons (“When facing away, go to Grey!”).

IMG_2455The two things that can be less popular are the waist band and the ruck sack style shoulder straps.  The 360 has a very wide Velcro waistband.  Some parents absolutely love this waistband as they find it fits them better because of how wide and form fitting it is, and how it’s continuous and thus there isn’t any webbing to dig etc.  However, the vast majority don’t find they get a better fit with the Velcro, find more traditional webbing easier to tighten correctly and dislike the noise and clothes ruining potential that comes with Velcro!  I can’t count how many times that Velcro has woken babies up during Sling Library sessions – it can be really annoying!  For the straps, again like the Original, the straps do not cross across the parents back on the All Position 360.  Many parents really struggle to get the chest strap done up on their back and thus opt for the Omni 360 or another carrier to avoid this struggle!  However, if the Velcro waist or the Ruck sack straps put you off, don’t despair as both the next two models have these sorted!

All in all the 360 is a good option if your baby is 4-5 months plus, you’d like to be able to forward face, you like velcro and have flexible shoulders allowing you to easily do up the chest strap.

Mesh VersionAll Position 360 Cool Air Mesh, cost £144.90*

Interestingly, the 360 Cool Air does not have the Velcro waist band.  Instead, it has webbing and the same lovely lumbar support found on the Adapt and Omni 360.  The shape of the carrier and the shoulder straps and everything else remain unchanged, its just the waist band that differs.  The waist band, and of course the presence of Ergo’s “Cool Air Mesh”.  As mesh goes, this is very very soft and not at all scratchy.  Although there isn’t really that much of it.  Only the upper panel, the leg padding and one side of the shoulder straps (the side touching the parent) has been replaced with mesh.  So the jury is out on how much cooler this carrier is verses the standard cotton version.

 

The Adapt

  • 20170906_173009Adjustable seat – no infant insert
  • Weight tested from 3.2 kg (7 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb)
  • Adjustable head support
  • Does not offer a facing outwards position
  • Straps can be worn crossed across parents back
  • Lumbar support
  • Cost £119.90*

This is my favourite of the Ergo models.  It was the first Ergo to offer the amazing lumbar support panel and to offer the option to cross the straps across the wearers back.  These two things make such a difference to parent comfort and ease of use for me.  I am not very flexible and have always struggled to do up the chest strap on the Original and the 360 so at last having an Ergo where I could cross the straps and avoid that strap altogether was a big deal for me!  Although my one and only bug bear about the lumbar support is that it is not removable and it does look a bit funny across your tummy when carrying baby on your back.  That said it is supremely comfy and feels a bit like wearing a tummy support!  But out of vanity I’d probably remove it if I could for back carrying!!  The other reason this is my favourite model is the adjustable seat.  It adjusts using velcro within the carrier and poppers on the outside… to give an absolutely beautiful fit to any baby from about 4-6 weeks old all the way through till 2-2.5 years old.  The bucket shape of the seat make it so easy for parents to get a good positioning and super comfortable carry for both them and their little one.

The one thing the Adapt doesn’t do is allow baby to face forwards.  It offers 3 carrying positions – front facing inwards, hip and back carry.  For both my children these 3 positions have always been enough, neither have really needed or wanted to forward face.  If your debating the pros and cons of forward facing this article might help!  However, if you want to forward face but like all the advantages of the Adapt over the All Position 360 then the Omni is most likely the carrier for you.

Mesh VersionAdapt Cool Air Mesh, cost £129.90*

The Adapt is available in a mesh version, and unlike the 360 and the Omni there are no differences (aside from mesh of course!) between the mesh and cotton versions of the Adapt.  A large proportion of the carrier is replaced with mesh and a very soft mesh, so I would expect this carrier to be a fair bit more breathable than the cotton version, and worth considering if you travel a lot, have a summer born baby and/or someone who finds they get hot easily.

 

The Omni 360

  • IMG_20170828_230307_088Adjustable seat – no infant insert
  • Weight tested from 3.2 kg (7 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb)
  • Adjustable head support
  • Does offer forward facing carrying position
  • Straps can be worn crossed across parents back
  • Lumbar support
  • Cost £154.90*

The Omni really is the model that offers absolutely everything.  It has a super simple and intuitively easy to adjust seat, which is very similar to the Adapt and allows this carrier to be realistically used for babies from  4-6 weeks old all the way to 2-2.5 years.  The size adjustment is done via Velcro tabs, which are conveniently colour coded to help you know how to size it for your baby as they grow.   Like the All Positions 360, the Omni can be used for forward facing and has the same buttons which allow it to be simply switched from inward to outward facing modes (“When facing away, go to Grey!”).  Like the Adapt it has the lovely lumbar support panel and the option to cross the straps across parents back for increased parent comfort.  It also has safety buckles at the sides, which can be easily opened with one hand (once you’ve got the knack!)  And a detachable zippered pocket on the waist band.

The one and only thing it doesn’t have is a small price tag!  But then that is the price of everything and for many parents the improved parent comfort verses the 360 and the ability to forward face compared with the Adapt makes the extra price tag worth it.  It’s worth paying the extra if it means you get more use out of the sling.

Mesh VersionOmni 360 Cool Air Mesh, cost £129.90*

The main difference with this version (other than the presence of mesh) is that the buttons that you use to switch between inward and outward facing carrying positions have been replaced with sliders.  While the buttons are a nice intuitively easy system for switching they are a bit fiddly to do with one hand and thus hard to do while holding baby or with baby still in the carrier.  The sliders on the other hand are dead easy to change with one hand – you just push.  Its a fab update and one I hope will be rolled out onto the other 360 models in the future.

 

All in all Ergo have 4 great carriers and its worth spending a few minutes considering the differences so you can ensure you can get the one that suits your needs and budget!  Ergo do also make a stretchy wrap which is lovely for newborns and as a soft around the home sling.  You can read more about their wrap here.

 

-Madeleine

*Please note all prices quoted here are based on RRP, and are correct as of April 2018.  Ergo and other stockists do offer sales from time to time and the RRP may well change overtime so please don’t take these prices as Gospel!

The Myth of the “BAD” Carrier

At least a couple of times a month a parent comes in and says they have a Baby Bjorn or other narrow based baby carrier which they were using, perhaps not comfortably but happily using nonetheless, but now they are worried because they heard that it was “BAD”, “Bad for their babies hips” or even worse that it was “dangerous”.  Once a parent even dissolved into tears because they thought they’d damaged their baby.  As much as I love the internet, I really wish people would stop using it to scare parents.

It is well past time to bust the myth of the BAD carrier. Time and time again I hear sentences like “I’ve been told the Baby Bjorn is bad and only the Ergo holds baby correctly”.  While there are differences between narrow based carriers and more ergonomically designed wider based carriers (of which the Ergo is just one of a great many!)… the most important thing is baby positioning and NOT the carrier they are in.  It is more than possible to get good positioning in a narrow based carrier if you know what you’re looking for, equally if you simply plonk your child in even the most brilliant wide based carrier with no idea what you are looking for it is certainly possible to end up with a suboptimal carry.

 

So as a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s take a look at what I mean!  My models are the wonderful Cat and William, and William is just 8 weeks old in these pictures (albeit he is quite a tall 8 week old).  Looking first at a narrow based carrier – here we have used the Baby Bjorn Original carrier.

 

The first two pictures (on the left) were taken just plonking poor William in without paying any attention to his positioning.  Note how his legs hang straight down and this in turn pulls his spine straight.  This means he is bearing the weight of his legs and the weight of his body is resting on his upper thighs and crotch.  Developmentally his spine should be curved into a c shape so the carrier is currently artificially straightening him out.  None of this is dangerous, it’s just all less comfortable for him.  It’s also less comfortable for his Mum as all of his 6kg is resting solely on her shoulders and upper back only.

Now let’s compare this to the two pictures on the right.  Here we have thought carefully about William’s positioning, and how to achieve a better position for him.  First and foremost we have tucked his pelvis so that his weight is resting on his bottom and not on his inner thighs.  To do this Cat literally reached inside the carrier and swept downwards and toward herself to tilt his pelvis such that his bottom is right in the base of the carrier.  Then, because the carrier isn’t wide enough to continue to support him in this position (he could easily re-straighten from this point), we have used a scarf to support his legs in this “spread squat” position.  By supporting his legs so his knees are at least as high as his hips (or higher), he is bearing none of the weight of his own legs and all of his weight is resting quite comfortably on his bottom.  The other knock on effect of this more tucked position is allowing his spine to adopt its natural curved c shape and consequently bringing his head to rest comfortably on his mum’s chest.  The addition of the scarf seems like such a tiny change, but you can see from the photos what a massive difference it makes to how William’s body is positioned in the sling, and consequently to his comfort levels.  And not only his comfort, the scarf also helps give his Mum support at her waist helping to distribute baby’s weight better.

Now let’s take a look a wide based more ergonomic carrier.  Here we have used the newest Ergo model – the Ergo Omni 360.

Again the first two pictures (on the left) were taken just plonking William in, and generally putting the carrier on in the manor most parents do if they haven’t ever been professionally demonstrated a buckle carrier.  You will note the base of the Ergo Omni is much wider and thus William’s legs do not hang down.  But if you zoom in you will see his knees are pointing downward and his weight appears to be resting on his thighs rather than on his bottom.  Likewise, again his back has been artificially straightened out by the carrier.  In this has happened in part because his pelvis is not tilted toward his Mum, and partly because the waistband is too low with respect to Mum – which has ment baby is too low and due to this is straightened out as Mum tightens the straps.

 

By contrast, the two pictures on the right show optimal positioning.  Again we have performed a pelvic tilt – sweeping William’s pelvis toward his Mum so that he sits directly onto his bottom in the base of the carrier.  We have also raised the carrier’s waistband so that it sits on Cat’s true waist, rather than her hips.  The result is that we can see William’s legs are in a beautiful spread squat, weight is firmly on his bottom and not being carried in his hips or thighs and his back is once again in a beautiful c shape with his head resting comfortably on his mothers chest.  So much more comfortable.  And likewise Mum is more comfortable because, by having the carrier tight and on her true waist, William’s weight is transferred onto her hips.

Again small changes have made all the difference!

While I have shown just two carriers here, the same applies for literally any carrier on the market.  It matters less WHICH carrier you have versus HOW you are using it.  

Don’t get me wrong here – I am not suggesting we all go out and buy Bjorn Originals! There are big big differences between narrow and wide based carriers, in terms of how easy it is to get a great positioning for your baby and a comfortable carry for you.  And in terms of how long those carriers will last you.  Most narrow based carriers such as the Bjorn Original only really work from around 4-6 weeks until around 5-6 months after which they generally become too heavy and too uncomfortable even with the scarf trick.  Whereas the vast majority of wide based carriers will last well until around 2-3 years of age.  In fact you can just how well they fit a 3 year old here.  These wide based carriers do vary in terms of how well they fit a newborn, with many working best from 4-6 months but there are an increasing number on the market that do fit newborns well such as the Ergo Adapt, Ergo Omni, Izmi, Mamaruga Zen sling and Tula free to grow to name a few.  Hence I would always advise anyone purchasing a new buckle carrier to purchase a wide based carrier.

However, many people are given second hand carriers by friends, and often these are narrow based carriers such as the Bjorn Original (in fact, I would say nearly 50% of the time someone brings a sling that they have been given to one of my sessions its a Baby Bjorn Original!).  While I wouldn’t advise spending money on one of these, anyone who is given one shouldn’t feel bad using it.  Yes it won’t last as long as a wide based carrier, and yes it won’t be as comfortable for you as a wide based carrier but it does give you a flavour for carrying your baby!  Following the advice above will make it more comfortable for you and your baby and gives you time to see how carrying your baby works for your family and how it can help you and then you can spend the money on buying your own carrier safe in the knowledge this is something that you’d like to do!  In fact, I have worked with a great many parents who have used a newborn sling such as a stretchy wrap or a Caboo around the home for the fourth trimester period, then used a gifted Bjorn for a couple of months for out and about when their little one is starting to grow out of the stretchy or Caboo developmentally and then move onto a wide based buckle carrier around 5-6 months when baby fits into these better.  Moral of the story – used correctly with a little help from a scarf, a narrow based carrier can have a time and a place.

There is no such thing as a “Bad Carrier”, only poor positioning or a carrier that that doesn’t fit well.  No matter what carrier you have (or if you haven’t bought one yet) the best thing you can do, is go along to a sling library or visit your local consultant and get advice on how best to fit your carrier to you and baby.

-Madeleine

 

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