I thought my babywearing, diapering, breastfeeding days were completely over. My “baby” was almost 5, out of diapers, no longer nursing, and had stopped letting me carry him years ago. The last bit of “baby” I had from him was that he still crept into bed with me in the middle of the night for much appreciated snuggles on all sides.
The beginning of the school year came with challenges on mine and my youngest son’s part. Because my oldest son goes to a charter school I pick him up each day. Rather than using the carline- a nightmare parents are familiar with- I chose to park in the shopping center next door and do “parent walker pick-up” each day. The walk isn’t far and usually my son was fine with walking to and from school with me. I say usually because on certain days he completely rebelled and I was forced to carry his heavy body to and from. Either that, or argue with him (while he cried) to get him to walk. Those days SUCKED.
I had to make a choice- suffer through those hard days, 1-2 times a week, or go back to the carline and spend an extra 45 minutes of my day in the car and without my older son. Those minutes are precious on weekdays. Then it hit me- use a toddler carrier!
I have to admit, it’s been really great babywearing again. I missed carriers and having my “baby” close to me. It’s not the same as wearing a squishy newborn in a ring sling or a chubby infant in the SSC but it’s been really nice to reconnect with something I loved so intensely about having babies.
I tried out the Beco Toddler, Líllébaby Carry On, and Tula Toddler SSC’s (soft-structure carriers, AKA buckle carriers). I’ll be going over each one’s pros and cons as I discovered in my time using them these last few months. Disclosure- this post comes from an experienced babywearer but I do not claim to be a babywearing expert or perfectionist. Each photo was taken after I put my son in the carrier alone using the superman toss, his shirt is bunched up as they tend to do, and he’s as centered as possible without a mirror or person to center him. The reality of babywearing is that you are often solo- these images are a reflection of reality and not of a staged babywearing photoshoot with experts on hand to tweak us. Don’t chase perfection- aim for safe and enjoy the journey you and your baby/toddler plan to share in your carrier.
Overview Comparison of Líllébaby CarryOn, Tula Toddler, and Beco Toddler Carriers
Enjoy this short and sweet chart that compares the basic features of each toddler carrier. Then we can get into my own thoughts on them.
This was the first toddler carrier I tried. The Beco, stylistically, is most appealing to me and the options are almost all ones I adore. For the extra fashionable there are “Bekni” carriers made from woven Tekni fabric and they’re TDF (and also a good bit more price-wise).
The Beco is well constructed and comes with a zipper pouch that fits your carrier perfectly when you roll it up. The pouch is made from the same material as the carrier and is NOT waterproof (a wetbag for the carrier included would be nice but the pouch is a total bonus, no other carriers include one that I tried). The carrier also comes in a great giftable box, A+ for presentation.
Ev and I first tested this one at home and we were both a little rusty. Being that he is so old and speaks perfect English it’s a whole different world. I just told him to climb on my back from the bed and pulled the carrier around his back, on my arms, and secured the chest buckle.
The Beco was the only carrier that I really fiddled with to get the perfect fit on the straps and chest clip. Initially I was struggling with the straps being pulled up on each side- I needed them to be tight enough that he was secure on my back. I played with the chest strap level and tightness, along with the padded shoulder straps until it was workable (the Beco has PFA which are perfect fit adjusters for finer tuning) It took several times of wear to achieve this and was admittedly uncomfortable until I got it right. I stress this because I did get it eventually and as an experienced babywearer I want others to know they may have issues too but it doesn’t mean the carrier won’t work (always) it could just mean that you need to make small adjustments.
The Beco Toddler has an appropriately high back panel for taller toddlers. It was good enough for Ev though he is certainly at the tail end of it’s max. I didn’t feel nervous that he would stretch or arch out of it and feeling that he is safe is so important. The seat has padding at the legs, good for toddlers and preschoolers since they have longer and heavier legs.
The biggest drawback to the Beco Toddler is the availability. I was looking to buy one and couldn’t find it in stock! I understand they are working on making it more available so if you’re in the market hopefully it will be easier for you to find one than it was for me. I am too old for this stalking nonsense.
The Líllébaby CarryOn
The Líllébaby CarryOn is also a toddler version of their standard carrier. Unlike with the Beco, I had never used a Líllébaby branded carrier with any of my babies since it was newer on the scene. I’ve tried their carrier on before with a weighted baby and LOVED the extra panel for your back that really helps with longtime wear and comfort.
The Carry On includes this panel but for me, I am only wearing my preschooler on my back. Those with younger toddlers may find you still wear them on the front and in this case, the back panel is great. I unthreaded it and kept in the package for later.
The company kindly sent a Tokidoki print and I’m not obsessed yet but after ABC Kids Expo I’m understanding more and more why people are! It’s very cute and also something a lot of parents who don’t fall into the beige category will love (and rock).
I appreciate a pocket for the hood since it’s not something I use. Even with little babies I can count how many times I used the hood on our SSC’s on one hand. I’d rather see the cute patterns than have a draped hood.
Fans of their breathable carrier will be happy to know it’s also in the toddler CarryOn. Even though babywearing is always going to be warm for the parent (that skin on skin is hot, no way to really combat that except a wet towel between you) the breathable mesh can be cooler for the child on their back or front.
My favorite thing about the CarryOn is that it’s easy to find in pretty much any print they offer. If I’m being honest, sometimes being able to get the thing I want is more important than other features.
The Tula Toddler
I tend to go against the grain when it comes to trending items. I never had the chance to wear my sons in the Tula when they were babies because it was just starting to become available as my babywearing days were on the way out.
Try as I might to resist the mania over the Tula I can see why it’s so popular. The Tula Toddler was a great fit for both Everett and I and adjusting the straps was simple. I think if I were to pick a carrier that fit us both best it would be this one. This isn’t to say this is the best toddler carrier since every parent/toddler pair is different. The waist belt and buckle were comfortable, though the Líllébaby had a more comfortable waist belt IMO.
The straps were the most comfortable for me, I was carrying a good deal of weight and the padding was generous.
The panel was plenty high for my 5 year old and the fabric was wide enough that his legs looked and felt supported. When I look at the images it appears that the seat is wider than the other two carriers even though the Líllébaby measures wider- this could mean it would be too wide for wearing the younger toddlers but it was perfect in our case. The padding at the edges is really thoughtful for the toddler’s comfort.
The hood is removable and this is my ideal situation, we just don’t use hoods.
The downside of Tula anything is that it can be hard to get the one you want- if there is a pattern you love it might not be at the store you prefer to buy from. It can be a hunt to find it, or you have to settle for a print you like less. Is this my favorite print ever? No. Was it at the store I wanted to buy it from? Yes. #thereyougo
Is there a clear favorite?
No! I wish. I’m too indecisive for that to ever happen. When it comes to aesthetics the Beco is my favorite, though since I began writing this post Líllébaby has released more prints that I love. I just find the Beco prints to be closer to my own taste, they choose modern patterns I would easily put into my home. Líllébaby and Tula are more colorful and playful. Tula patterns are also ones that seem more for the baby than the parent overall.
The Tula did fit me best, I liked the Líllébaby waist belt and back support option most, but the Beco felt to be made the best with the highest quality of construction. Since Everett is 100% able to have a vote I did ask of one was more comfortable than the other and he wasn’t able to say any over another. Take that however you’d like.
I also rediscovered how nice it is to wear a larger toddler with a wrap conversion SSC. This isn’t a quick and easy SSC but the long wrap straps made it possible to get a wider seat than the one on the carrier itself, which is why woven wraps are still a versatile option for wearing newborn to toddler to preschooler.
Why Can’t He Just Walk?
Toddlers and even preschoolers have their moments when they just can’t EVEN. If you’ve been a parent before you realize this Extreme exhaustion, pure stubbornness, sickness, whatever it is- sometimes even older kids want or need to be carried. Wearing them is no different except that it’s a million times easier on your body and arms.
One of the reasons we stopped babywearing was that my son equated being worn in a carrier to missing out on the fun. He fought it. We took a long break and resumed for school pick-up as needed or the occasional shopping trip. Now he loves that he has an option for when he is too tired or sick to walk. Life has to march on, parents have other things they need to do. Carriers are more convenient than strollers to have on hand.
It should also be pointed out that for children with special needs babywearing into toddlerhood and preschool is a godsend for the families. Toddler carriers that accommodate the weight and height of children up to 60 pounds are filling a need and judging by their popularity, one that is only going to grow as people see the value in extending their babywearing into toddlerhood and beyond.
If you’re looking ahead to wearing a toddler the best advice I can give is to try carriers before you buy. Look to babywearing groups such as the local BWI Chapters. Ask a friend who already has one if you can try it on. You can narrow down your choice using charts and reviews but there is nothing like trying them firsthand to understand which fits your body and your baby best. Happy Toddlerwearing!