Comparing Apples to Chocolate — A baby carrier show down

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There is one very common question I get all of the time when people see me babywearing. “How does ____ carrier compare to ____ carrier.” While my default answer tends to be something close to “how do apples compare to chocolate?” — I do actually understand that people want to attempt to figure out which will work best for them and their baby by means of a carrier lineup.  Since most people don’t own close to every major carrier on the market, I’ll be happy to give you an honest breakdown of how these 4 particular carriers stack up and how they work for us. My point of view is somewhat unique, as I have to accommodate a below average (okay… he’s below below average..) size baby who is obviously not a newborn. I also have to accommodate my toddler.

Carrier Comparison FinalThe 4 soft structured carriers (SSC’s) I get asked about most often are the LÍLLÉbaby Complete, Ergo 360, Beco Gemini and the Beco Soleil. 3 of the 4 will allow for ergonomic outward facing, which is a very popular feature right now.

Lillebaby CompleteWe’ll start with the Lillebaby Complete: The name is very fitting for this carrier. I truly feel like it is a *complete* package. Boasting a weight limit of 7-45 pounds, this carrier will last a very long time, especially when you have smaller sized kids. A panel that narrows accommodates most newborns to be legs out from the beginning without ever needing an insert. You can also do a fetal carry with a wide seat and a rolled blanket if you or baby are uncomfortable in a legs out position. The narrow seat also accommodates outward facing carries up to the 45 pound weight limit, though I don’t know that I would recommend carrying a 45 pound child in an outward facing carry. Along with the nice weight limit comes a feature to help you bare that load comfortably. A feature I have yet to see on  another carrier. The lumbar support. This pad sits nicely in the small of your back and helps to displace the weight that the carrier belt puts on your spine. (It also makes an amazing muffintop reducer when used with back carries! The #lillegirdle, if you will..) The Lillebaby Complete has 6 carry positions – A wide base fetal carry, narrow base outward facing carry, a narrow base inward facing carry, a wide base inward facing carry, a back carry, and a hip carry. (The Lillebaby also allows you to cross the straps in any front or back carry) It also comes in 4 fabric options and several colors for versatility. The Complete Original (a soft brushed cotton canvas), the Complete Organic (a buttery smooth organic cotton), The Airflow (a soft, layered mesh panel for optimal ventilation and breathability.. This carrier has a standard canvas belt and straps), and then the Complete All Seasons (Essentially the ideal combination of the Complete Original and Complete Airflow. Cotton canvas with a zip down center panel revealing the airflow mesh underneath for ventilation) For my small baby, the narrow seat option on this carrier is a sanity saver. At a year old but the size of a 4 month old, he has no interest in being stuck in an insert or on a rolled blanket. (Also, let’s be real, no parent wants to have to stick their kid in an oven mitt of an insert then strap that little heater to their chest!) He’s also a very curious little toddler who loves to see the world around him, so outward facing is a huge hit! The adjustable head/neck support is cushioned and very comfortable and attach with elastic to provide maneuverability. For my older son, this head support allows the panel of the carrier to become taller supporting more of his back. This carrier also has a removable hood and two-way adjustability on the arm straps.

 

Beco SoleilNext we’ll discuss the Beco Soleil. A well made cotton canvas structure with a nice wide panel with a high back. This carrier is very nice for bigger babies. The Soleil has a weight limit of 7-45 pounds and offers a PFA (perfect fit adjuster) strap adjustment on the shoulder straps. This carrier has a nice cushioned neck support and cushioned leg openings for a comfortable ride. The Soleil provides 3 carry positions – front, back and hip – as well as the ability to cross the straps on back. As my baby got older but not bigger, this carrier is not as ideal for us, as it does require an insert for babies that don’t fit in the wide seat yet.. And at over a year old, he does NOT want to be in an insert, but is still much too small for the wide panel. It is very comfortable for our toddler, however and the PFA’s make adjusting the panel between kids of varying sizes quite convenient. The lap belt is very comfortable for front carries, but I find it a little narrow for back carrying, especially because we mostly use this carrier for our 27 pound toddler. The lap belt does adjust from both directions which is nice for the multi-tasking mama who only has one hand available! The only feature I wish the buckles for the belt had is a safety elastic enclosure to secure to buckle clip through. The Beco Soleil also has a removable hood and comes in a wide variety of colorful prints to choose from, but only one fabric option. It’s very clean looking and easy to use.

 

Ergo 360Now on to the Ergo 360. Truth be told, I was very hopeful to have success with this carrier. My very first carrier was an Ergo and I loved it’s low maintenance wearability. With my small baby/insert issue, I was thrilled to hear Ergo had made a narrow based carrier with the ability to outward face, as well. With a weight limit of 7-33 pounds, I anticipated a carrier capable of nicely accommodating a smaller child — but still able to accommodate my toddler. I quickly realized that my baby was still not big enough and would still require the infant insert in the 360 to get a good fit for his legs. (A narrow base carrier that still requires an insert?!) Oddly enough, Even though his legs didn’t fit quite right, I found the structured seat aspect a little snug on his bum – pretty sure if he gained 5 pounds, his little booty would be suction-cupped into it. (Though, I guess he would be secure!) Our toddler is well within the weight limits of this carrier, but I am unable to get a proper seat for him in it. It may be partially because the seat often collapsed back somewhere between wide and narrow while wearing it, and the fact that the structured seat just wasn’t quite a good fit for his bum. The Ergo 360 has 4 carry positions (inward facing front carry, outward facing front carry, hip carry, and back carry). The fabric is a very nice quality, true to Ergo’s traditional carrier material. Quite sturdy, work-horse material! It comes in limited colors, but they are nice color options. The adjustable neck support was nice and padded, attaching to the structure with buttons.. and the straps were quite cushioned. It also has a stowable hood, which stows really well. The waist belt was definitely lacking, though. You secure it with Velcro first, which I had a hard time attaching tight enough. I even asked my husband to help and we, together, still couldn’t get it to give a good, sturdy feel to the belt. Then, once the velcro is attached, you hook a thin webbing buckle strap around it. The webbing is clearly there for extra security, but seemed like an after thought. The velcro was incredibly loud to remove and startled my baby. Thankfully he wasn’t sleeping. The waist panel is over all very flexible and floppy and not structured.. it bent easily while wearing. Though, this may be due to the fact that with the velcro, I was unable to get it as tight and fitted as I need to create a good stable carry.

 

Beco GeminiFinally, the Beco Gemini joins the party! A close sibling to its Soleil counterpart, the Gemini gives the fun prints and comfortable fabrics of Beco a more versatile structure. This carrier has a weight limit of 7-35 pounds and does not require an infant insert. An adjustable width base allows for smaller babies to fit comfortably before the widest seat fits, as well as allowing for ergonomic outward facing carries. The Gemini has 4 carry positions, inward facing, outward facing, hip and back carries. It also allows you to cross the straps on your back and has the dual side waist belt adjusters, just like those on the Soleil. The bulk of the shoulder strap is padded and very comfortable, but the part closest to the panel had no padding at all and feels, well, odd. The panel is a soft cotton canvas and very plush/padded. Moreso than any of the other carriers. I felt like baby was sitting inside a plush pillow.. So nice! (It definitely restricted ventilation, though. Baby gets quite sweaty in this one) This carrier is very comfortable to use for front carriers, but was awkward feeling when I attempted a back carry with my toddler. The waist belt not only accentuated my muffin top, but split me in half and gave me two! (Less is more.. especially when we’re talking about muffin tops! Haha) Speaking of the belt — The 3-point “safety” buckle makes the carrier quite interesting to get off of yourself when front carrying. Also, take caution. I didn’t press the safety release hard enough and the side prongs snapped back and pinched/cut my finger. (While this was probably a user error issue, I’m super paranoid – maybe even scared – of the buckle now.. hahaha. The Soleil has the same buckle enclosure.) The back panel on the Gemini is a bit narrow for a toddler, it does support his legs, but not as well. It is very accommodating of small babies, though. In both the wide and the narrow positions. It’s narrower panel width allows my small baby to fit the wide seat well, long before the wider panel’d carriers. The neck support was substantial and very cushioned. Attaching to the carrier with a buckle clasp. Unfortunately, however, the streamlined simplicity of this carrier means there is no hood. With no hood and the thick fabric, this is definitely not a good hot weather carrier.

So there you have it. A nice break down on these 4 carriers. We use the LÍLLÉbaby most often because of its versatility to be used well for both of our wearable kids. We also keep both Beco’s in rotation – one for each child as each accommodates one of them  well – but neither works for both kids. The Ergo 360 is not in rotation. It is simply not practical for us to use for either of our kids.

My biggest suggestion to you is, if you are able, find a local retailer and go try on multiple carriers. See how they fit your kids and your body. Baby carriers really are like jeans.. Some fit well, others won’t work for you, and one is bound to be your perfect match. Also, just like jeans — sometimes you need (okay.. want is a better word..) more than one. 

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