First time mum & baby carrying – Guest Blog by Cat Lamin

Getting around with a newborn can be hard work. You spend months researching the best carry cot only to discover that your post-birth recovery means that using it is out of the question. Or maybe you live on the third floor and can’t get it up and down the stairs. Perhaps you’re just not confident enough at steering to risk your brand new little one rattling around inside. Whatever your reason, sometimes the carry cot isn’t your best option and that’s when carrying might come in to play. 

There are so many options for baby carrying and so much confusing advice that knowing what to get can be a little overwhelming and that’s where sling libraries can be really helpful. 

For the majority, sling libraries are run by enthusiastic individuals who have a passion for baby carrying and are keen to help and support parents in finding the best route for them and Sheen Sling Library is no exception.

We visited Madeleine at her home for a private one to one session when I was around 37 weeks pregnant. We knew that we both wanted to carry our little one, but we weren’t sure what the best option for us was going to be; we’d also been given a sling ring which we couldn’t quite get our head around so I sent over an email and off we went.

The first thing that Madeleine explained to us was that a lot of carriers claim to be for newborns, but most aren’t suitable for the first few weeks and if you want to get carrying right from the get go, you need to look at stretchy wraps, caboos and slings. She recommends coming back once your little one is three or four months old so that you can look at more rigid carriers and figure out what suits your lifestyle best. The idea is that by then, firstly your little one can hold their head up a bit and secondly, you’ll know how much you use your sling, which will help inform your choice of what to buy next.

The second thing we learned was that everyone is different and what suits one person might not suit another so you’re better off trying out lots of different ways of carrying to find what you’re most comfortable with. The joy of the sling library is that Madeleine has around 100 different carriers to try so there’s no shortage of ideas and she even offers short term loans so you can really get your head around what works.

Madeleine has a selection of ‘newborn’ dolls which weigh about the same as an actual baby so if you’re still pregnant you can at least get a feel for how the different carriers work – she recommends that for slings and wraps it’s fine to try them on while you’re still pregnant, but that it’s not worth trying on a rigid carrier until post birth as you need to find what fits your body best once you’ve lost the bump.

IMG_4813We brought along our sling ring to try out and agreed that, while it was a lovely idea, it didn’t really suit either of us so we quickly moved in to stretchy wraps and caboos. I have to admit that I thought we’d end up going with a caboo, especially as the stretchy wrap looked like some sort of origami torture, but we both fell in love with stretchy wraps on first try. There was something very special about the way the baby sat in the stretchy wrap and since neither of us struggled to get it on, we decided that would be the way forward. All credit to Madeleine who got us both to try several different textured wraps and made sure we were comfortable with tying it in before we left. My other half fell in love with a bright red Izmi wrap and we decided that since we’d only need it for the first three or four months, we might as well hire it from Madeleine rather than buying one that will sit in the drawer afterwards and never be used again. We were so grateful that hiring was an option and is well worth considering if you know you’ll only use it in the short term! 

IMG_4864Our little one was born on 8th July and by 10th July his dad had already tied on the wrap and taken William to meet his aunty Jacky for lunch at the local pub; it was great for daddy and baby to have some skin to skin time so easily. It has been a lifesaver for us both – when my other half went back to work it gave me the freedom to get things done while he slept on me. When the baby has been inconsolable and I’ve not slept, his dad had been able to put him in the sling and get on with work while he and I both slept. In fact, I’m writing this post right now with William in the sling as I sit on the bench on Twickenham riverside. It’s safe to say we use our sling nearly every single day and I would definitely recommend looking into getting one.

IMG_5372It’s also been interesting for me as a number of the other mums & dads from my Bump & Baby course have since gone to the Sling Library and, while everyone is happy with their carriers, we’ve all formed different opinions and chosen different options. I can’t stress how valuable it is to try things on and see what suits you best.

After two months with our baby, we’re big carrying fans now and can’t wait to go back to try on some more rigid carriers so that we can decide what our next step in baby-carrying is going to look like. I will be sad to give up the sling, but I’m looking forward to having a quicker option for getting our baby strapped on and ready for adventures!

– Cat Lamin of https://catlamin.com

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

My favourite Newborn carriers

Today Rachel turns 3 months old, marking the end of the 4th trimester.  As she leaves the newborn period behind, these were my favourite carriers to use with her during her newborn phase;

image-20170104_090516.jpg1. Hana Baby stretchy wrap – I just love stretchy wraps for those early days.  Super soft, easy to tie, easy to pop baby in and out of, and perfect fit for parent and baby every time. Perfect for round the home as well as out and about… David and I would both wear her for hours on end in a Hana.  See previous posts for more on the Hana and other stretchy wrap brands.

2. Mid-Length woven wraps – namely my size 4 Didymos Prima Severn Sky and my size 3 Firespiral Brimstone Kaleidoscope.  These were great to grab for when Rachel was unsettled and needed a quick calm.  The shorter length compared to 1. and 3. meant I could very quickly throw them on and be quickly rocking her without needing to worry about oodles of fabric.  Mainly I’d use a kangaroo carry although sometimes also a front wrap cross carry tied under bum or at shoulder.  Useful for quick ups around the home and short trips out… although the reduced support would mean I’d choose something else for further afield or if I knew she’d be in there a while.

3. Long woven wraps – namely my size 7 Didymos Lisca Achat, size 6 Girasol Earthy Rainbow, and my size 6 Didymos Rosalinde Doubleface.  All three are beautifully thin and super soft and just feel perfect around a little baby.  While I used these from the beginning as well, I probably reached most for 1. and 2. during the first few weeks, while as Rachel grew, I started preferring long wovens more and more.  The extra support provided by the woven fabric compared to stretchy and by the extra length when compared to mid-length wraps meant these were absolutely great for long trips out, for around the home as she started to have longer more defined naps.  And as she started to want to stretch and flex more in a sling.  My most used carries were the front double hammock, front wrap cross carry and reinforced kangaroo carry.  Front double hammock in particular is my favourite for this age.

4. The Connecta Baby and the Izmi Baby.  While I generally preferred the perfect fit, comfort and closeness afforded by wrap style slings for this 4th trimester phase… there were days where the simplicity of a buckle carrier was really useful.  I.e. on days we were going to the doctors or health visitors and I knew I’d need to get her in and out of the carrier quickly and probably in a confined space.  Or on days when it was raining heavily and I was likely to need to retie while outside…  On these occasions I loved the Connecta and the Izmi.  Both are very light and can be easily sized down to give a lovely snugly fit for a little baby.  Which one I choose simply depended which one wasn’t on hire.  I marginally preferred the Izmi, but as it was out on hire so much I didn’t get to use it as often!  Please see previous post if you’d like to see how both of these sized down for a newborn compared to other buckle carriers.

Please note that these were my personal favourites.  Carrying your baby is a really personal thing and different people prefer different things.  Its always always worth learning about different carrier types, trying a few different brands and finding out what fits you best.  Both in terms of physical fit and fits your needs.   Its worth noting that both the Caboo and Ring Slings are really popular choices for newborns and ones I’ve seen work many many times with many parents.  I personally preferred stretchy wraps to the Caboo as these fit my body better, but I’ve met so many parents who’ve found the ease of simply slipping the Caboo over their head has meant that this is the best fit for them.  Likewise I often compare ring sling to marmite… you love them or you hate them.  They just aren’t my jam, but I’ve had so many clients for whom the ring sling is the perfect newborn and beyond carrier.

Ultimately its all about finding your personal favourite or favourites!

-Madeleine

(Photo of Didymos Rosalinde by the talented Alex Cetera)