We love babywearing at BabyCalm.
We understand though that for many parents wrap slings can be daunting, we also understand that many (especially dads!) are keen on the idea of a more structured buckled carrier – one that they can simply “click and go” and one that looks a little more mainstream and a little more like the baby carriers sold in most high street shops. Enter the ‘Soft structured Carrier’ – a baby carrier that carries baby in an ergonomically/physiologically correct position and one that is comfortable for the wearer. A carrier that can be used on the front and back (and often hip) and can often be used well into the toddler and even preschool years.
There is one problem though – the huge choice – what one should you buy? We would always recommend trying one of first, but if that isn’t possible for whatever reason there are a few points to bear in mind:
- Who will be using the carrier? Are they petite? plus size? very tall? Will the waistband fit? Do the straps cross to provide a better fit?
- How long do you want the carrier to last? From birth? Well into toddlerhood? Consider the weight capacity and height and width of the carrier and whether you need to purchase a seperate invoice to use the carrier from birth?
- Do you want to back carry or hip carry as well as carry baby on your front?
- Does the carrier have a sleep hood? To support your baby’s head if he or she falls asleep in the carrier?
- Will you be using the carrier in very hot weather? Does it need to fold up small to pop in your bag?
- Finally – what sort of budget do you have?
We have created the table below as a good starting point (by no means does this cover all SSCs on the market) – read on for detailed reviews of some of the most popular carriers:
Boba 3G – £89.99 from Slumber Roo
Review by Gwen – her son is 3yrs old in this picture.
I bought the Boba 3G as I wanted a semi-structured carrier that I would be able to do a back carry in when I was on my own. After trying out a few I fell in love with the Boba 3G. I couldn’t believe just how it easy it is get my toddler on my back; it is just like putting a ruck sack on.
The wide padded straps are extremely comfortable, other carriers started to pull on my shoulders after a while but the 3G stayed comfortable. The wide hip belt sits comfortably on both me and my husband and both the 15 month old and the 3 year old love it. The straps are very easily adjusted for each parent and child combination. There are a few extras that make it even better, the rain/sleep hood is very useful and folds into a pocket when not in use. There is a pocket for money and keys and even better there is a loop to secure a light bag in place with a popper rather than having it fall off your shoulders.
All in all I would highly recommend it.
Connecta Solarweave – £56.99 from Connecta
Review by Claire – her daughter is 16mths old in this picture.
For me a Solarweave Connecta is an indispensable addition to my luggage for any sort of holiday and wonderful at home too!
Not only is the fabric cool and highly breathable, while being extremely soft and supportive, but it also offers sun protection as the fabric blocks out most of the harmful UVA and UVB rays. All factors that make it the perfect carrier for any warmer weather babywearing.
It also dries extremely quickly and folds up tiny to shove in your bag, not only fantastic for the beach or pool but also for active, rainy-day activities – I’ve often scooped up a damp toddler who’s been puddle jumping onto my back in ours!
They’re comfortable and extremely easy to use, making them a great beginners choice, and with very little adjustment the standard size can fit from newborn to around two years or more.
All in all a Solarweave Connecta is very versatile choice with lots to offer – but in my opinion a holiday must-have whether it’s sun or snow!
Ergobaby – around £95
Review by Alexandra – her son is 20 mths old in this picture
The ergobaby carrier can be found in almost any childcare shop. You can carry your baby on your front and on your back (and on your hip according to the instructions but clearly I would not recommend it as it is quite uncomfortable!) up to 18kg.
It is made in 100% cotton in lovely colours or designs. There is an extendable waist belt in option so any parents can use it (It can fit sizes 4 to 26.). The body of the Ergobaby is not adjustable and quite small so it will be quickly overgrown by your LO. However, its dimensions are well suited from 6 month old to about 18mths old.
I didn’t like the pocket on the panel as it is on your baby’s back…. but I must admit it is quite spacious and could be useful.
The Ergobaby seems to be the least flexible SSC compared to the Boba and Manduca: you have to buy a newborn insert, the body of the carrier is not adjustable and the simplistic settings do not allow optimum adjustment. I know many parents who had invested in the newborn insert and found it inconvenient and difficult to install correctly. On the other hand it is perhaps the simplest SSC: no accessory to the basic version, no zips (except for the two pockets/pouches on the panel), no safety button on the buckle belt (which makes it easier to un-clip with one hand), a single point of control for the belt and suspenders. The adjustments are thus simplified but less accurate. A strong point in the settings is that the straps can be unbuckled, allowing a hip carry or to cross the straps in the back.
It was our 1st SSC and I found the Ergo rather limited with our 20mth old boy. A large part of the belt is not padded and “dug” into my, rather not flat, stomach (when use for a back carry) and I didn’t really appreciated the shape of the belt on my lower back. I also found difficult to use it higher on my back. My husband who is quite thin didn’t find it uncomfortable though. I have since tried out the Manduca with my son and found it more comfortable and more flexible. The Ergobaby still is compact, lightweight and the fabric is nice.
Manduca – from £99.99 from Cheeky Rascals
Review by Kate – her son is 7mths old in this picture
I initially wanted to upgrade from wraps to half or full buckles mainly for ease of use for my husband. One of the first full buckles I tried on was a Manduca and immediately I liked the structure to it and how versatile the padded buckle straps were, being able to wear them in a ruck sack style, crossways and use the sling for front, back and hip carrying. What also immediately appealed to me was the fact that it has a zip feature to extend the body length and so would be suitable for toddlers and small children – a sling you would definitely get extended use from. It really is so comfortable and easy to use.
The Manduca is structured without being too hard and inflexible, it has a lovely deep seat for larger babies and toddlers whilst also having an insert for newborns – (handy for the next one!). One of my favourite features is the deep, padded waistband as this takes some of the weight of the baby off your back and shoulders onto your hips. I myself have a little extra padding in the waist department and found tie wraps have a tendency to dig in and slip after a long wearing session. Not so with the Manduca. It’s incredibly comfortable and the push and click locking buckle at the waist gives that extra peace of mind that its not going to pull or pop open if strained. I also really like the thick padding on the shoulders which feel much more comfortable than some of the other lesser padded slings.
I prefer the cross over front carry at the moment as my baby is only 7 months old and I like to keep him “close enough to kiss”. However, I can see the back carry becoming a favourite once he’s a toddler and we can play “piggy back” comfortably.
My husband is very happy with the Manduca as not only is it stylish and modern (and doesn’t make him look like a hippy!) but it feels secure, is easy to adjust and he loves the “click and go”aspect which is perfect when you’re rushing about and the weather is not so great – the last thing you need is trailing straps of fabric dangling in puddles while you’re trying to tie it in a downpour!
I can’t recommend the Manduca highly enough especially those who are new to Babywearing and perhaps a bit intimated by the huge varieties of fabrics and ways of tying fabric wraps. It’s been an interesting and educational journey for us so far and I’m really glad we’ve found a sling that suits all our requirements – I’m especially looking forward to snuggly winter walks in the snow.
Tula Toddler Carrier £103.99 Tula
Review by Emma – her son is 4yrs in this picture
I was so excited to get a Tula Toddler last year – which in my opinion is more preschool sized than toddler sized – because I was not ready to give up carrying my 3 and a half year old yet. Also he was born with bilateral talipes which meant his legs often got tired especially walking on uneven ground and up and down hills.
As we go to at least 2 festivals over the summer a carrier is an essential part of our kit, the Tula Toddler is great because both myself and my husband can use it. (I also use wraps but he is purely a buckles man) I am 5’1″ and a size 18/20, he is 6’1″ and of stocky build so finding a carrier that suited us both had proven tricky in the past.
The Tula Toddler is very adjustable giving both of us a comfortable fit. We used it quite a lot this summer – even though Alfie turned 4 in February and is above average height and weighs 19kg – carnivals and festivals are a regular occurrence on the Isle of Wight where we live. We use the optional leg extenders with it now Alfie is so big and it has meant that this carrier has lasted us a long time.
I recommend this carrier for larger toddlers and into preschool years.