If your babywearing journey has continued on into toddlerhood you may be considering what your ‘next step’ soft structured options are. A large number of ‘standard sized’ ssc’s on the market are absolutely fine right through to ages 3-4 if the child is still under the weight limit, however a toddler/preschool sized carrier is likely to be more comfortable for both the child and the wearer once the child is bigger if you are wearing regularly and for extended periods of time.
Generally speaking, a toddler sized carrier is suitable from when the child is 10kg, 85cm tall and wearing size 2 pants (lengthwise), this does vary a little between brands so always make sure to do some research on the brand/s you are considering. Your child is big enough for a toddler sized carrier when they can comfortably fit knee to knee i.e their legs are supported up to, but not beyond the knee pit. The legs should be able to bend and move freely from the knee joint, and the fabric across the child’s bottom and legs should not be wrinkled/scrunched.
There are other toddler sized ssc’s available on the market, however this post will be comparing toddler Beco, toddler Tula, Lillebaby carry-on, and Lenny Lamb toddler ssc because these are the ones I have access to and have personally used. Read on for carrier specifications and then my personal reviews. The Babywearing Wellington Slinglibrary has a toddler Tula and Lillebaby Carry-on available for hire, as well as the Beco Toddler Carrier available for try-ons at meets.
The Beco Toddler Carrier:
Panel measurements: 46cm x 49.5cm
Weight guidelines: 10kg – 27kg
Waist belt: 66cm – 150cm
Features: Shoulder padding. Aside from the chest clip, all buckles are 3-click safety buckles. There is snaps for adding a bigger pouch pocket accessory on the back panel. The hood is removable. There is a padded head rest. There is a ring on one shoulder strap that can be used for attaching toys or mirror. There is a small built in pocket on the waistband with a velcro close. Legs out padding. Straps are able to be crossed and have both personal fit adjustors and side fit adjustors.
Review: My child is 3 years old, 16kgs and wearing size 3-4 pants. I am 7 months pregnant and approximately a size 12. Without being too flashy flashy or overwhelming this carrier has several features which I like: the padded head rest, the option of attaching an additional pouch bag, the toy ring… (along with the legs out padding, and pocket on the waist band). We have never been big hood users so I liked that I could easily remove the snap on hood and leave it at home, the up/down with my toddler means I often have the carrier buckled onto my waist and hanging down, and a fixed hood often ends up dragging on the ground or getting in the way. The first time we used this it was easy to put on and tighten the side adjustors, I had the pfa’s totally loose and I ended up with slightly sore shoulders, the next time we took it out I had those tightened up and got a much better and comfortable fit. The overall size of the panel is larger in both height and width than the Tula, Lillebaby and Lenny Lamb, and it’s noticeable when putting it on how easy it is to get the back up high and a good seat. The shoulder padding was good, not too thick, not too thin, I found with the pfa’s undone I had it tightened to the point where it dug a little at my armpits, but as soon as I tightened the pfa’s up and loosened the side adjustors the padding moved and was no longer uncomfortable. The waistband is firm, and a good height to provide good support around the hips/waist. The waistband pocket is very similar to the Tula pocket, my iPhone 6 just manages to squeeze in (along with a car key and eftpos card). On our first outing this even came with sleepy dust! We really like the Beco toddler and will be happily taking it on many outings for when little legs get tired.
Find out more about the Beco Toddler Carrier on the Beco website: Beco Toddler Carrier
The Toddler Tula Carrier:
Panel measurements: 44.5cm x 47cm (47cm wide at the base and 51cm wide at the top)
Weight guidelines: 11kg – 27kg
Waist belt: 68.5cm – 145cm
Features: Shoulder padding. Safety elastics for clips. Removable snap-on hood. Small built in pocket on the waistband with velcro close. Legs out padding. Personal fit adjustors and side fit adjustors.
Review: My child is 3 years old, 16kgs and wearing size 3-4 pants. I am 5 months pregnant and approximately a size 12. We have used this carrier regularly for about a year as our main ‘toddler carrier’. It’s been a good fit since my daughter was 2 and I was a size 10. I love the simplicity of the Tula and how easy it is to use. The waistband is very similar to the Beco toddler in terms of the size, foam padding, and pocket. As with the Beco I find I need the pfa’s done up tight prior to tightening up the size adjustors, otherwise my shoulders get a bit sore, and the padding digs in around my armpits. The panel height and width is slightly smaller than the Beco, and for long walks my daughter now asks me to hold her feet as her legs get a bit dangly. I find the Tula slightly easier to tighten and adjust as the tightening direction is a down and backward pull, compared with the up and forward pull of the Beco – but this could just be because that is what I have used more often!
Find out more about the Tula Toddler Carrier on the Tula website: Tula Toddler Carrier
The Lillebaby Carry-on Carrier:
Panel measurements: 45cm x 44.5cm
Weight guidelines: 9kg – 27kg
Waist belt: 65cm – 132cm (additional extension accessory available for purchase)
Features: Shoulder padding. Crossable straps. Safety elastics for clips. Removable hood with hide-away pocket. Big zip-close pocket on the panel. Legs out padding. Personal fit adjustors, side fit adjustors and torso fit adjustors. Chest clip with padding. Removable lumbar support.
Review: My child is almost 3 and in a size 3. I am a size 10. The smallest of the panel sizes, but you wouldn’t know it – the bottom of the panel is the same width at the Tula, however it is wider at the top. Out the box the Lillebaby seemed bigger and bulkier than the Tula, Beco, or Lenny Lamb. The padding on the shoulders is a bit thicker, and the waistband is slightly thicker too. But I think the main impression of bulk comes from the attached pocket on the panel and the additional lumbar support (which I removed for the back carry). It took slightly longer to get the fit right with the Lillebaby due to the extra torso adjustor. We ended up with everything pretty much as tight as it went and that was good. The hood on the lillebaby can be removed or tucked away, if it’s removed you end up with two fixed pocket options.
Find out more about the Lillebaby Carry-On Carrier on the Lillebaby website: Lillebaby Carry On
The Lenny Lamb Toddler Ergonomic Carrier:
Panel measurements: 45cm x 48cm
Weight guidelines: 6kg – 20kg
Waist belt: 68.5cm – 147cm
Features: Shoulder padding. Crossable straps. Three point safety buckle on the waist plus safety elastics for clips. Fixed hood. Legs out padding. Large cotton quilted waistband. Personal fit adjustors, side fit adjustors and torso fit adjustors. Made from woven fabric.
Review: My child is 2 years old, 14kgs and wearing size 2-3 pants. I am a size 8-10. Super soft straight out the box, we love that the Lenny Lamb’s come standard made with woven fabric! To be fair, I haven’t tried a Tula wrap conversion, or a Beco wrap conversion, and suspect I would be equally impressed and happy with them in regards to this aspect as well. Overall, the smallest of the carriers – the weight limit goes to 20kg, vs the 27kg limit of the Tula, Beco, and Lillebaby. I suspect that this wouldn’t fit comfortably for quite as long as the other toddler carriers as little legs and torso’s get longer. First time putting it on was easy, the seat made itself without any effort and it wasn’t until I took it off about 40 minutes later that I realised I didn’t have it adjusted evenly and it was still very comfortable! I did need to have everything just about as tight as it would go though to get a good fit, so this carrier may not be a good fit on a petite wearer. The waistband is much softer than the Beco, Tula and Lillebaby, made with a padded quilted cotton, rather than thick firm. It is also wider and I was worried that it would dig in – however the softness of it meant it moulded around my waist and hips and was very comfortable, and barely noticeable on my hip bones in fact. The hood of the Lenny Lamb is massive, and actually big enough to be of use with a toddler if needed, but being fixed on means it’s always there, and when flipping up the back panel it got in the way a little (as well as touching the ground when I only had the carrier buckled onto my hips).
Find out more about the Lenny Lamb toddler ergonomic carrier on the Lenny Lamb website: Lenny Lamb Toddler Ergonomic Carrier.