Mamaruga Zen Sling Review

Suptumitously soft and super adjustable – the Mamaruga Zen Sling is a real gem of a baby carrier.  It combines the feel of a wrap with the intuitive practicality of a buckle carrier.  Whilst also being one of the very few carriers that genuinely works beautifully well for tiny babies and then seamless grows with your child to continue giving them a great fit all the way into toddlerhood.

See how it works and hear my full thoughts here on my video review…  or read on for more

 

Key Zen Sling Facts:

  • It’s massively adjustable!  Both the width and height of the panel can be adjusted allowing this carrier to shrink all the way down to accomodate a newborn and then seamlessly grow and grow and grow all the way to still give a perfect fit to a 2 year old, possibly even older.  Better still the height actually adjusts in two ways – with the overall panel height adjusting separately to the leg openings.  Most adjustable carriers only allow you to alter one of these – which means often either shorter babies with chubby legs or tall and slender babies aren’t as well fitted… but by offering both the Zen Sling offers all babies a completely customisable fit!  And one that’s really easy to adjust as baby grows.
  • This carrier is weight tested for use between 3kg (6.6lb) and 20kg (44lb).  Realistically this is one that will work for most babies from within a couple of weeks after birth through to 2 ish…  For reference my daughter was 13 kg at 2, 15 kg at almost 3 and my son didn’t hit 20kg until he was 5… but it’s always reassuring to know that the fabric has been weight tested beyond what you will need!
  • It is made from dreamily soft Jersey knit fabric.  Feels a bit like a favourite pair of jogging bottoms.  The kind you secretly want to wear all the time!  Except that the Zen Sling comes in all kinds of lovely patterns and looks really stylish and not at all slouchy and slobby!
  • The fabric is slightly stretchy, this is wonderful with babies as doesn’t feel rough or restrictive on them, allows them to wiggle while still holding them securely.  Consequently sometimes parents don’t like this as much with bigger toddlers as the stretchy material does feel like it has more give than a woven cotton.  The closely related Zebulo is a great alternative if baby is a bit older and you want something light but more toddler proof!
  • The Zen Sling offers 3 carrying positions – front carry (facing parent), hip and back carry.  It doesn’t offer a facing outward carry but it does do the hip carry really really well so often parents find this is an ideal alternative and do not miss facing outwards.
  • The shoulder straps are designed to fan outward across your shoulder if you find this comfortable, and are designed to cross across your back when wearing baby on your front.  When wearing baby on your back there is a chest strap that comes separately that can be threaded through the straps if desired.  This carrier doesn’t offer “ruck sack or H shaped straps when wearing baby on the front, as it is very difficult to attach this seperate strap to your own back!  So this is definitely a carrier for those who prefer to wear their straps crossed rather than those that prefer the H shape.
  • My one gripe with this carrier is the waist band.  It is also made from soft jersey and I find as baby grows this has a tendency to fold/scrunch under baby rather than lie flush and this can be a little diggy over time.  It’s a small gripe, against an otherwise amazing carrier but it’s the one thing I personally would change!!

 

-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

 

 

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).

 

Boba X review

Adjustability and longevity – if I had to describe this carrier in just two words they would be it, because this carrier has both in spades.  Many carriers on the market advertise birth till 4, but few actually really cover that whole range.  The Boba X is probably one of the very few that really will take you from birth (or a few weeks old) until as long as you would like to carry for.

35049203_1565384343590587_484277701725650944_oSo what’s their secret?  The panel adjusts, both the height and width of the panel can be fine-tuned to fit the baby and then can be let out bit by bit as they grow to grow with them and adapt to their needs as they develop and change with time.  The panel material is also really soft and light, which means when it is cinched down on the smallest settings it’s not too bulky.  If is of course a little more bulky than when it isn’t cinched down but it’s not overly so… which allows a really form hugging fit to be achieved on littler babies (without them feeling lost in oodles of carrier) as well as still having all that growing room for the future.

In particular for infants I like that the hood, rolled up inside the carrier, can be used to support the neck and that this can be moved using the panel height adjusters to ensure it is in exactly the right position.  There is also a small lip of very light flexible fabric that then cradles the head… ensuring that the neck is well supported but baby still has freedom to move their head.  There is also lovely padding at the baby’s legs.  All in all this is a carrier that can work really well for a new baby.   Maybe not right in the first days – the first days and weeks I always think it’s very hard to beat the snuggliness of a stretchy wrap or Caboo.  But from around a month or so old, around the time you are starting to think about getting out and about more… this carrier would work perfectly.

33430673_1550005675128454_1748467291982397440_oAnd then grow with baby!  Simple velcro tabs adjust the waist band… and combined with the height adjusting buckle the panel with grow smoothly with your baby right into toddlerhood. Offering 3 carrying positions along the way – front, hip and back.  Then, and this is the real magic… it comes supplied with a pair of zip on panel extenders which convert the carrier from a standard sized carrier into a toddler/preschool sized carrier.  These extenders are nicely padded so really comfortable for the child and the zips are all hidden internally where they can’t rub. Which means the Boba X will still happily carry a 3 or even a 4 year old.  In fact you can see my son, aged 5 still just about squeezes in.  So the Boba X should last you as long as you need to carry.  And its so well made I am sure it would last through siblings… in fact I can see this being a great option for anyone with siblings that are quite close in age, because this carrier could be easily used with either.

34790196_1563244383804583_871256084751319040_oBut what about the parent?  Again the Boba X is really adjustable – you can wear the straps crossed or in ruck sack (H) style, and the chest strap is on a slider and so easily adjusted to fit a range of different shapes and sizes.  Likewise there are perfect fit adjusters allowing more petite or shorter parents to get a really snug fit, even when back carrying.  The straps are really easy to tighten thanks to the “pulley” system or dual adjust that allows the same strap to be tightened either from the panel end or from the strap end depending on which direction is easier.  This feature is really good for anyone who suffers from weak wrists or limited mobility through their arms or shoulders.

Boba have also thought about how you might carry your stuff!  There is a little zippered pocket on the waistband that is just big enough to house a phone, keys and a credit card.  And for those who can’t pack that light… there are bag clips on the shoulder straps – little flaps on poppers that allow you keep a bag strap on the padded shoulder strap allowing you to comfortably carry a bag at the same time as wearing your baby.

20180704_234811The one thing I don’t like about this carrier is how the straps cross across the parents back.  The straps are slightly curving – and as a result they work brilliantly in the rucksack/H configuration.  But this curve means that when you attempt to cross them… the curve is going the wrong way resulting in the straps sitting awkwardly on your back.  Ultimately, if I was to use this carrier I’d always choose to use it with rucksack straps and never to cross.  The thing is though, many people prefer crossed… and what I am finding is those who like crossed straps don’t find this carrier as comfortable as others where the straps don’t curve away while those who prefer rucksack style or don’t have a strong preference really love it and find it incredibly comfortable.

Another thing to be aware of is that when folded up the Boba X isn’t the smallest carrier.  If your looking for something that folds up small and fits in the change bag, something for more occasional use – this is not the carrier for you.  Instead the Boba X makes a good choice for anyone who wants to use their carrier for hours on end, and to work flexibly in lots of different situations.   Also with all this adjustability comes more bits and pieces.  The beauty of the older Boba’s (i.e the Boba 4G or the 3G) was they were very simple… just one strap to tighten or adjust.  I would get them out whenever I had a client who wanted something really easy or were confused by having too many things to adjust.  So while a big part of me rejoices at a super adjustable Boba, a very small part of me will miss the beautifully simple does less Boba’s … mainly for this subset of clients who find to many straps confusing or too much faff!

33475183_1549890681806620_2564568493345210368_oAll in all the Boba X is a hugely adjustable carrier that will last you as long as you want to.  It comes with oodles of features to ensure comfort of both parent and babe and is a really good choice for anyone looking for a very flexible carrier and one that will fit parents of different sizes and children of different sizes.  Cost is £125 and can be ordered through Sheen Slings or from Slumber Roo.

-Madeleine