Knots or Buckles?

Something I hear over and over again from parents when investigating slings and carriers is that they feel safer with a buckle than tying a knot.  They are worried with a knot that they might do it wrong while a buckle just clicks in and then its safe and nothing can go wrong.

I totally understand this.  I hear this a lot and I genuinely understand this because I remember when I was starting out I felt exactly the same.

But 7 years of carrying my own children, 6 years of running a sling library and 5 years as a carrying consultant teaching and supporting over 1000 families has taught me that this one of those fallacies that gets repeated over and over again until it is so much in social consciousness that everyone just assumes its true.

So let me bust some myths;
  1. A knot can not be tied “wrong”.  If you’ve tied a double knot, it is secure.  There is no secret way special technique.  Even the sloppiest knot in the word, so long as its a double knot, can not undo spontaneously.  In fact, I actually dare you to try…. wiggle, pull on it, do your worst… it will not untie unless you actually purposefully look at it and untie it.  The only other way to get out of a double knot is to actually cut or tear the wrap.
  2. You can do a buckle up wrong.  A buckle requires you to line bits up, on some buckles its possible to get these misaligned and not immediately notice. If the buckle isn’t securely fastened it can undo.  It’s rare, and most people will notice but it can happen.
  3. The worst offenders are safety buckles.  Generally safety buckles require an extra bit to click in as well … a button and or specific prong… if the buckle is not all the way pushed in the safety bit won’t be down and actually the buckle is probably easier to now open than if it wasn’t a safety buckle at all.
  4. Buckles can break.  They are generally made from plastic and accidents involving stepping on them, slamming in car doors do happen.  This can render your carrier unusable until your are able to get a replacement buckle.  Again the safety buckles are often more sensitive to being stood on or other accidents than regular buckles. In the last 6 years I have had only 2 buckles break and both have been safety buckles.
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It is important to understand I am not saying that knots are necessarily better.  Buckle carriers can be hugely convenient.  And hugely comfortable.  And if you have tried both a buckle carrier and a tie on carrier (i.e stretchy wrap, woven, meh dai or half buckle) and you feel more comfortable and confident in the buckle carrier and it has the features you want … please please do go for it.  With my total and complete blessing.
I write this blog, really for the people with tiny newborns who want to use a stretchy, but are worried.  Are worried because they are worried they won’t do it right or because a relative has expressed doubts, because they’ve only seen buckle carriers.  So often I meet parents who have a buckle carrier for their baby but it doesn’t fit yet, and want something for the newborn period but knots scare them.  If this is you, please please do check out your local sling consultant or sling library and give it a go.  I hear over and over again, from parents once they have tried a wrap or tie on carrier “oh this isn’t difficult, oh it feels so secure” this is nothing like what I thought”.
It is always worth trying, because ultimately there is not “best” or “safest” sling… only what you personally find easy to use and are confident using.  And tying a knot and clicking a buckle in correctly both require the same amount of concentration!!!
-Madeleine.
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How to do a Hip Carry with a Buckle carrier

Many of us naturally will carry baby on our hips when carrying in arms, as doing so gives one arm free for making lunch and puts baby in a position where they can see what we are doing and and chat to us while we potter about.

Ever wondered if you can carry your baby on your hip in a buckle carrier?

Many baby carriers do offer this option (but its not always wonderfully clear or even in the manual).  Here is my method, shown with an Izmi Baby Carrier but this same method will work just as well with an Ergo Omni, Adapt orEmbrace, Connecta, Kahu Baby, Mamaruga Zen or Zebulo, Beco Gemini, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Manduca, JPMBB, Sleepy Nico and many others.

Developmentally, the hip position is one that works best once baby has “some” head control… so generally around 2-3 months onwards.  It is an absolutely great position for “nosy” babies who want to see everything while still getting a good view of their caregiver.  It’s a great position for communication and shared moments.  As such, hip carries can be a great alternative to forward facing, as it gives baby the same view but makes it easier for them to see you, for you to read their cues and also for them to tuck in and relax ready for a nap when needed.  It can also be less harsh on the parents back compared to forward facing.

Happy hip carrying!

-Madeleine

Carrier shown here is the Izmi Baby carrier and is available here.

FAQ – In search of a “easy” carrier… what are the easiest baby carriers?

Whenever I ask a parent what they want in a baby carrier, top of the list is always “something easy”.  Over the years I’ve had different ideas about what makes a carrier easy to use, or easier than other carriers.  I have come to the conclusion the biggest factor by far is not actually anything to do with the carrier or carriers in question but the parent’s personal experience and way in which their arms work.  

IMG_1080You see, over the years every time I would think oh this carrier is easier than this other, a parent would come along and find the opposite.  I had one hilarious sling library session a while back where parent A came in with a carrier that they found fiddly and difficult and so I suggested carrier B. Which they tried and adored and found soooo much easier and intuitive and then as they were trying this on and falling in love with it parent B walks in wearing carrier B, and says how difficult and fiddly they find carrier B and how its impossible and can they try something else.  You can probably guess the ending here … yep Parent B falls in love with Carrier A.  You see Carrier A just had buckles that flummoxed the first parent but made total sense to the second parent, while Carrier B had a strap the second one couldn’t reach but the first had no trouble reaching it and found this strap much more intuitively placed and much more secure.  Easiness is not a measurable parameter – it depends entirely on the individual and is not something that can be easily guessed by reading reviews. 

IMG_1116The only way to know if a carrier will be easy for you is to try it.  Don’t listen to marketing gumpf… actually try it! Check for yourself that you can reach the strap, that you can undo the buckles, that you can tighten in that direction, that the method for putting it on and taking if off actually works with how your arms like to do things … what feels right for you.

In fact, actively beware of slings that market themselves as being “easier”.  This ease often comes at a price.  For example, I have blogged before about the Baby K’Tan, which markets itself as being very easy with nothing to tie or adjust.  All of which is true but what it doesn’t tell you is that because you can’t adjust it, if it doesn’t happen by pure chance to fit your exact body shape perfectly, you’ll struggle to get a really comfortable safe carry out of it.  This is just one example (of many) of a sling where comfort has been sacrificed for ease!

IMG_1091The key I have found is to try 3, once a parent has tried 2 or 3 they can start to articulate what exactly they are finding easier about one over another then it becomes an easy task to pinpoint what is working for that individual.  This is where sling libraries and babywearing consultants come in, we have huge product knowledge and can easily spot these patterns once you’ve tried a couple of carriers on make recommendations to try based on what is suiting you personally.  We can show you different ways to put a carrier on, ones that aren’t in the manual but may well be easier for you, and we can help you gain confidence not only in using that carrier but also that your spending your money wisely on something that will actually work for you.  The easiest and best sling for you.

-Madeleine

Lillebaby Complete All Seasons Review

20170427_080049 (2)The Lillebaby Complete, as its name suggests, has and does everything!  It has a frankly staggering 6 carrying positions, works from a newborn (or maybe a month old) until at least 3, maybe even 4 years old.  Its filled with clever design features and has a emphasis on parent comfort with oodles of padding and lumbar support.

So what’s the catch?  …It is not small.  All this padding and features means this is a pretty bulky carrier.  If your after a lightweight travel sling or something that folds up pretty small to slip into your change bag or under your pushchair – this is not it.  However, if you’re looking for something you can wear a growing baby in for hours on end during long Sunday walks or on buggy free day trips this maybe just what you’re looking for.

Like ALL buckle carriers, it’s definitely worth trying this on before you buy.  All buckle carriers fit different body types better or worse.  In particular, as the Lillebaby is bulkier, it tends to work less well on a more petite frame.  More slender parents usually find the level of padding too all encompassing, and find a better fit with a less bulky carrier.  The length of padding on the shoulder straps also means that this carrier works better for taller parents, parents below around 5’4” ish or whom are very petite will often struggle to the straps tight enough when back carrying.  This is definitely a carrier that works best for more average to bigger builds.

For those it does work well for – it has some really lovely parent comfort features.  First and foremost is the lumbar support.  This was one of the first carriers to add a lumbar support panel, and I still think it’s one of the best because of how it’s shaped.  Its shaped so it sits right in a the middle of your lower back and support radiates upward.  I also love the fact its removable!! Because while its fab for front carries, when you move to back carries you might not want a lumbar support panel right in the middle of your tummy.  Secondly, the straps can be worn crossed or rucksack style across the parents back according to personal preference and comfort.  Again choice is great as often different partners have different preferences and the Lillebaby is a carrier that will often work really well for partners who have very different body shapes and difference preferences.  And the straps tighten in two directions so you can either pull forward or backward so works well with different mobility levels and relative wrist strengths!  Many carriers tighten in only 1 direction and some parents find tightening backwards a real challenge! So two way tightening can be a real boon.  Thirdly, it has a very wide firm waist band that really anchors the carrier combined with firm long padded straps.  As discussed above the amount of padding doesn’t suit everyone but for those it does fit well, the firm padding does make for a supportive comfortable carrier.

For the baby, the Lillebaby complete is weight tested from 3.2 to 20 kg (7 to 45 lb) and the manual demonstrates 6 different carrying positions.  These are;

  1. Fetal – wide seat setting.  Suitable for first few weeks only, if at all.  In this position baby goes legs inside the carrier.  You start by rolling up a blanket to make a little cushion for the baby to sit on, then sit the baby on it and bring the whole carrier up and around them.  Lillebaby suggest this for newborn – 3 months.  In reality, I don’t like this position and only very rarely show it to people.  I don’t like it because by having the legs in the carrier this can put extra stress on developing ankle joints.  Also parents are often confused by the whole blanket thing and essentially making their own infant insert out of a rolled up blanket.  Most babies can actually skip this stage and go directly to the second position.  It’s only really the very curled up babies who would benefit from this position and usually most parents with a very curled up baby find this carrier too all encompassing for their tiny baby and opt to use something like a stretchy wrap or Caboo until baby is a bit bigger and fits in one of the other positions anyway.
  2. Infant facing inward – narrow seat setting.  Suitable from a few weeks old until around 6 months.  In this position baby sits directly in the base of the carrier using the narrower seat setting.  In this setting the bottom of the panel is tapered, which allows you to fit a smaller baby by putting them in the part that is narrowest and then as they grow you sit them deeper into the panel where it is wider … so that in this way you can get a great knee-to-knee fit for babies all the way from a few weeks old upto 5 or 6 months.  Likewise you can alter the position of the neck support to ensure baby is supported upto the nape of the neck but no higher as they grow.  So in theory as soon as baby can open their legs wide enough to sit astride this narrowest part, this carrier can be used.  This varies from baby to baby but for most this is usually from a few weeks.
  3. Older baby facing inward – wide seat setting.  Suitable from 6 months onwards. This is actually the same position as number 2 in that baby sits directly in the base of the carrier with legs out either side, but differs in that now you use the wider setting.  The Lillebaby is so wide on this widest setting that babies are not usually big enough to do this until they are around 6 months old – often older.  This wider seat position will then go on supporting them until they are at least 3 years old (although many parents will prefer to use the back carry position from a year or 18 months onward for their own comfort).  Likewise the infant neck support can be used clipped up to extend the height of the carrier to continue to support a growing toddler.  Often parents are worried about knowing when to move from the narrow seat to the wider one – and it’s simply a case of being guided by your child and how long their legs are!  Once baby is long enough to sit comfortably in the wider seat without any material passing the backs of their knees they are ready for this position and will find it more comfortable verses the narrower setting as they are better supported.  While, if the material does pass the backs of their knees then they will be more comfortable in the narrower seat position.
  4. Infant facing outward – narrow seat setting.  Generally from 6 months plus.  In theory the forward facing position can be used once baby has strong neck and head control (for more facts on forward facing and how to tell if your baby is ready please click here), however they do also need to physically fit the carrier in that position.  And because the Lillebaby is a relatively big carrier, while many babies might be developmentally ready earlier… few actually fit the Lillebaby Complete in this position before 6 months.  This can sometimes be frustrating for parents who feel they’d like to forward face earlier and there are other – smaller carriers – where you can forward face earlier.  The flip side is that because this carrier is bigger it can be more comfortable in the forward facing position as baby is more contained and thus puts less strain on parents back (as the forward facing position is, for absolutely any carrier, the position that puts the most strain on parent’s backs.  The physical size of the Lillebaby carrier can help mitigate this, but the con is baby has to be bigger too which of course means more strain anyway… so it is all a bit Catch-22!).
  5. Hip Carry – either seat setting. Suitable once baby has reasonably good neck and upper torso control.  The hip position can be a lovely alternative to forward facing, as it affords the same view for baby while giving both them and you a little more support.  It’s a particularly good option for babies who’d like to forward face but are not quite big enough yet.  The one downside to this position with the Lillebaby specifically is the firmly padded shoulder straps often don’t sit as comfortably over the shoulder in this position compared to lighter weight/softer straps.  If the hip position was one you were using a lot a more softly padded strap would be more desirable, although as this is a position people tend to use more infrequently it’s not really a big critism. 
  6. Back Carry – wide seat setting. Suitable once baby can sit independently, roughly 6 months onward and can last realistically to around 3 years or even beyond.  Last but not least the back carry position is one where the Lillebaby really shines!  An adjustable chest strap and all that padding means many parents will continue to be comfortable carrying their growing toddlers on their back to at least 3 years of age!  The one thing to check is that you can get this carrier tight enough!  Because the padded shoulder straps are relatively long, more petite parents can find that they simply can’t get the carrier tight enough to be comfortable on their back.  It is really worth being aware of this and checking before you buy – parents of young babies must always think I am mad when I make them try this carrier on their back with a doll before letting them buy one but there is nothing worse than shelling out for a carrier for your 3 month old, happily use it on your front and then discover a few months later that it doesn’t fit you on your back!!

 

There are a whole host of other cool features on this carrier too, including:

  • head support panel attaches via buckles that are on elastics which allows this panel to support gently and move with baby rather than being rigidly fixed into place.
  • If your not using the head support the buckles neatly tuck away and the panel poppers into place.
  • There is very soft light padding under the side buckles to ensure that these do not dig uncomfortably into parents side or into breast tissue.
  • A breathable zip down mesh panel to give the “All Season’s” aspect of this carrier.  This panel can be neatly tucked away to help keep baby cool during the summer months then zipped back up to help keep baby snug on cooler days. It’s definitely a nice feature although, how much cooler it is I have never been too sure – I’ve always found padding level and bulk to have more of an affect on overall warmth of a carrier than the presence or absence of mesh.  

 

My one complaint about this carrier, however, is that it is not easy to switch between the narrow and wide seat positions.  If your are only using this carrier to face baby inwards this is not so much of an issue as you’ll only have to do this once when baby grows out of the narrow seat position.  But if you are using this carrier to carry your baby facing outwards – you’ll need to swap ALL the time.  Forward facing is a position best done in short bursts, and I encourage parents to follow their baby’s cues and turn them inward before they get too tired or overstimulated…. HOWEVER, because the Lillebaby requires you to take the carrier off and put the baby down and faff for 2 minutes completely reconfiguring the waist band, this is A LOT easier said than done. It’s a real shame as it’s often this that puts parents off and they choose a carrier where they can switch back and forth more easily.   

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All in all the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons is a feature packed, long lasting behemoth of a carrier – perfect for those looking to carry for long periods and use their carrier for a long time.  It’s well made and very well designed.  Like all carriers it’s well worth trying before you buy as it doesn’t fit everyone, but for those it gives a good fit to this can be a great versatile option.  The Lillebaby Complete costs around £140.

 

-Madeleine

 

 

Review of the Kaya Babywearing Baby Carrier from Nomad Children

New to the UK, KAYA are a Bulgarian based brand whose gorgeous carriers are being brought to the UK by London based Babywearing shop Nomad Children.  Their range includes woven wraps, ring slings, full buckle carriers, meh dai and stretchy wraps.

Here I review their full buckle carrier, which is made from their beautifully soft woven wrap material.  The soft material and adjustability of this carrier means that it is soft and moulds beautifully around your child to give them a great fit.

To see it in action and hear my full thoughts, please watch the video below!

 

 

Vital facts about this carrier:

  • Adjusts in both width and height to allow the carrier to a perfect fit for babies from 8/10 weeks or so all the way through to toddlerhood.
  • Waistband is wide and relatively well padded at the sides (unpadded at the centre) and is worn apron style which means it can be worn quite high and good for those with relatively shorter torsos.
  • Wide and firmly padded shoulder straps, which are designed to be worn in “ruck sack style”.  theoretically it is possible to cross the straps over parents back but in reality this is challenging.
  • Offers two carrying positions – front carry and back carry.  Back carry is relatively low compared to some other carriers.
  • Has a detachable hood which attaches via poppers.

-Madeleine

Baby Bjorn One Review

There are some carriers I have in the library because they fit a wide range of people, are very versatile and are generally brilliant.  And then there are ones that are a bit different and I have because they are good for a specific situation or a particular subset.  The Baby Bjorn One definitely fits into the latter category.  It does not fit a wide range of people, it isn’t particularly versatile but there are some for whom this is the right choice.

It’s also a carrier that is asked for A LOT!  Which is understandable, because it’s readily available in high street stores and one you often see out and about.  But it’s also one I see brought to troubleshooting sessions over and over again.  Often its possible to tweak it and get a better fit but sometimes it just doesn’t fit well and ultimately something else ends up being better.  And of those who come asking for the Bjorn One who haven’t yet bought one, the vast majority opt for something else following trying a range of different options on.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Bjorn One only fits a relatively small range of people really well.  There are two main reasons for this

  1. The torso of the carrier is very long. The Bjorn One has a fixed panel that runs between adult and baby between the waist strap and the shoulder straps.  The panel doesn’t adjust, only the shoulder straps and unfortunately this panel is very long.  Generally if you are below about 5’8” (172cm) and/or have a shorter torso this panel will be too long for you.  It’s still possible to wear the carrier – either by scrunching the panel or by dropping the waist belt to your hips rather than your waist but the result will be a less good fit and will be less comfortable for you the wearer.  If you drop the waist band this will put more pressure on your shoulders and is likely to give you back ache, while if you scrunch the panel it will be more comfortable except that you might feel the rouched panel material against your (and your baby’s) tummies.  Which is a little non-ideal.  Consequently, anyone over about 5’8” tend to find this carrier far more comfortable than anyone under this height.  In fact this carrier can be good option for the very tall – 6ft and over, because the shoulder straps can go pretty long and accommodate taller frames.
  2. The panel running between adult and baby tends to sit over breast tissue on women.  This can be very uncomfortable for new mothers, particularly those who are breastfeeding.

Consequently, it is often the case that the Bjorn One works a lot better for men than women.  This is not an absolute, there are some taller women who it does fit well and isn’t uncomfortable over boobs and conversely there are men for whom it doesn’t fit at all well… but it’s really not at all uncommon for couples to come to me for help with their Bjorn One baby carriers and for the dad to say he is pretty comfortable, while the mother is experiencing back pain and/or discomfort when her boobs are feeling full.

But for those who it does fit, the Bjorn can be a great choice.  In particular parents who love it love it because;

  • You fit the parent first and then the baby slots in after.  Compared to carriers where you do the straps up around you and baby, some parents find they feel more secure getting baby in and out.  This is particularly true of those who are very nervous about using a baby carrier.
  • The Slide and Release buckles.  While most carriers use standard buckles, the baby Bjorn have these special buckles that involve overshooting then sliding back.  They then have a seperate button that needs to be pressed while sliding the buckle the other way again.  The advantage of these buckles is that because they need very specific movements they can’t be undone by mistake or by a parent who is on “autopilot” … you have to think about it!  Again for nervous parents this adds to a feeling of security and safety.  Although its worth saying while some parents find these buckles really intuitive to use, others find the sliding past really tricky and can’t seem to ever get the hang of them!  So this is definitely a marmite feature.
  • The straps are not overly padded and not too bulky on the shoulders.  Which can be a draw for slimmer taller people who can find more bulky padding a bit too much.

20180305_174345The Baby Bjorn One offers 3 carrying positions. Baby facing parent on the front, Baby facing outwards on the front and a back carry.  Although in practise, while the 2 front carrying positions are pretty straight forward, the back carry is a bit more tricky! Because of how the straps are configured, to get baby onto your back on your own you need to first place baby on your front and then get your arms out (walk like an Egyptian method – one over, one under) swizzle baby around to your back then put your arms back in.  It’s a mega faff, and most babies complain alot during the process!  The lower waist band position of the Bjorn One also means this carry is pretty low and so its harder to monitor your little one once they are back there.  Consequently, Bjorn don’t recommend the back carry position before 12 months.  You can see the method for getting a child on your back here filmed with my very tolerant, bribed with a biscuit now 3 year old here;

In terms of size baby can be carried on the front from 3.5kg.  The one contains an built in infant insert which acts to raise the height of the baby within the carrier.  The width of the carrier also adjusts through ‘locking’ zips at the bottom.  In practise the carrier still feels a little large for the smallest newborns but works for most from around 6 weeks onwards.  Then as baby grows the infant insert can be unzipped, and the zippered base can be made incrementally wider so the carrier can grow with baby.  Generally speaking it fits baby reasonably well up till about 18 months to 2 years give or takeHowever, many parents move on from this carrier earlier than that (more like 11-15 months ish), simply because front carrying becomes heavy and many parents struggle to back carry with the One.  So instead they often move onto a bigger carrier than is easier to get baby onto the back with.

The forward facing carry can be used once baby has full neck control and is tall enough that their face fully clears the top of the carrier.  Unfortunately, a hip carry position isn’t really possible because of how the straps are configured.

Another thing to consider is the material – Bjorn has a number of finishes for this carrier but the standard one at least is pretty rigid and not entirely soft!  Many parents don’t like how “hard” it feels for a newborn.  However, this is something Bjorn have improved on and their newest models are softer and they do also offer a mesh which is softer and lighter and many parents prefer for this reason.

Finally – do consider if you think you’d like to breastfeed in a carrier.  Because the Bjorn has material running between you and baby, it is extremely hard to breastfeed in this sling without taking it off first because part of the carrier sits over the boobs.

You can see it in action and here my thoughts in my video review here

 

All in all the Baby Bjorn One can be a good option for parents with longer straighter/flatter torsos and particularly those who are more nervous about babywearing but it is very worth trying on before you buy, and comparing to a few other brands as it certainly doesn’t fit everyone.  It works well from around 6 weeks to somewhere between 1 year and 18 months, which is a smaller age range than many of its main competitors and at a cost of £139 it is maybe not quite as good value for money as other similar carriers from brands such as Ergo and Beco.

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 has two way buckles and is an excellent alternative.

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 webshop here, or by arrangement at sling library meets, consults, workshops or doorstep collection.

-Madeleine

Carrying Stories – Ana … Carrying in a warm climate

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Ana’s story….

“From the get go I knew I wanted to carry my baby, the only question being how.

IMG-20180804-WA0004My mum had kept a newer version of the carrier she had loved back in the seventies when she had my fussy big brother whom she had to carry almost 24/7. Sadly when I tried on the Snugli it was clearly not a good fit for me. My mum on the other hand has loved using it with my son.

So for me it was Madeleine to the rescue with a lovely Hana stretchy wrap. I was so happy and excited to use it that it went straight into my hospital bag. Inevitably there were some teething problems which were simply lack of confidence as a new mum with a tiny baby, but after some perseverance and a pep talk from Madeleine everyone was happy and the love story truly began.

IMG-20180804-WA0005Those first few months with the Hana were amazing. It was so lovely carrying Anton close especially when we went anywhere busy, and absolutely essential for our first few flights.

When Anton got a bit bigger it was time to get something else, and I ended up opting for the Amazonas Smart Ultra Light. It provided me with substantial support for my lower back without being bulky. I also needed something slightly more light weight for a warmer climate. I love how compact it is so that I can just always have it with me even on days when we are using the buggy. Slowly but surely we mastered back and hip carrying.

For quick ups and popping into the shops I now also have a ring sling which my son absolutely loves (more than I do I have to admit). But it’s incredibly convenient at times.”

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