Comparing Toddler Carriers – Beco, Kinderpack, Tula, & Líllébaby
As my youngest son turns three this spring, I know my babywearing days are numbered. I continued to wear my oldest son through airports and on occasional hikes until he was almost four and we shared a closeness that I adored. The workout for my core and legs was helpful too.
Standard baby carriers usually top out with weight limits between 35 and 45 pounds. Most kids outgrow them in height long before they reach the weight limits. Often they reach the point where they don’t want to be worn anymore or the parents don’t want to wear anymore, it’s different for everyone. My kids seem to be taking their time to reach that point; my 2.5 year old still loves it and even my 7 year old still asks to be worn on occasion.
Knowing that I wanted to continue to wear my youngest for as long as possible, I looked at some of the toddler carriers that are available and borrowed a couple from my local BWI Lending Library for a couple of weeks at a time.
Toddler carriers are bigger and wider in the panel to accommodate the longer legs of toddlers and preschoolers. Weight limits top out between 50 and 60 pounds depending on the brand, but most are weight tested to even higher numbers and can be ideal for families with special needs kids. They are not meant for infants.
My youngest still fits in most standard-sized baby carriers, but he’s a snuggler and we’ve been enjoying the panel height of bigger carriers for the last six months.
How do you know when your baby is ready for a toddler carrier? A toddler’s legs need to be long enough in the femur to allow their knees to bend to 90° freely. For most kids, this happens when they are fully wearing a 2T in pants. Since all kids are different, some may be ready a little later too. Comfort for both of you is key.
I’m 5’9″ tall and wear a size 12 in jeans.
M is 2.5 years old, 30lbs, and 37″ tall.
And I wore my oldest a few times too, TJ is 7 years old, 50lbs, and 49″ tall.
Disclaimer: I’m the first to admit that there is no perfect baby or toddler carrier for every body. All makes and models fit everyone differently, so keep that in mind when reading. What doesn’t fit my frame may be another mama’s favorite carrier and vice versa. I included an infographic at the bottom of this post that lists the measurements, price ranges, and features of each carrier. I received a baby carrier to help write this review, but all opinions are my own. There are affiliate links in this post that help keep our website running.
I adored my Beco Butterfly carrier when my oldest was a baby, so I had high hopes for their toddler carrier. Upon first impression, I was really wowed by how soft the cotton fabric was. The one I borrowed was in their Arrow print, a style I would definitely go for. I ran errands and went on a couple of short hikes with my youngest son and it was noticeably taller in the panel than we were used to.
First off, I’m not a fan of Beco’s tri-lock buckles. I’m sure some can figure out how to unbuckle them with only one hand, but I haven’t figured it out and it’s a feature I really don’t love.
We struggled to get a good fit with the Beco Toddler. The fabric kept wanting to bunch under his butt and no amount of me tugging on the straps was fixing it. If another adult had been with me, I would have asked them to pull up on the panel. But the majority of the time I wear my son, I’m the only adult around. I also had a hard time getting the waistband to stay level with the ground. It felt like I was constantly needing to tighten and readjust the waistband and, after a while, it was uncomfortably digging into my stomach.
Overall, this one wasn’t our favorite. So much so, that I completely forgot to take any photos of us using the carrier!
The price range on Beco carriers is kind of all over the place with Amazon showing only $96 for some prints and a bunch are 40% off on Beco’s website. Considering Beco merged with Boba (another baby carrier company) this year, I suspect they may be beginning to discontinue their toddler carriers. Or perhaps they are coming out with something new?
Kinderpack has a great reputation in the babywearing community as making great carriers in more sizes than any other brand. They sell four different sizes: Infant, Standard, Toddler and Preschool. The Preschool is the largest carrier that I’ve been able to find. You can also order longer straps, depending on your own body. For this post I borrowed a Toddler carrier from my local BWI lending library. This model had their Koolnit mesh fabric in the center panel.
I was really surprised at how comfortable the Kinderpack was with my son. The panel is thin and not at all bulky. We wore it running errands and a on couple of short hikes and my son took a beautifully long nap while walking through Costco. This carrier came with a ton of sleepy dust. I was able to adjust it and find that sweet spot with the fit right away and it really made me consider ordering one for myself (much to my husband’s chagrin). It’s a straightforward carrier with PFA’s on the shoulder straps and options to get breathable mesh in the center panel, and they come in a bunch of colors and patterns.
The hood isn’t detachable, which I prefer, but it stashes beautifully inside the panel. I really like that the hood was made of the same mesh that’s on the panel.
I only have two negatives: I wish it had a usable pocket. Even with mostly back carries, I like to keep a spare diaper and pacifier in the pocket. The other issue I have with Kinderpack is their availability. They are made by work-at-home parents here in the U.S. (which is awesome!) and they are only available for purchase twice a week, a few at a time. They sell out fast, so it’s not easy to get your hands on one. It’s both awesome and annoying all at the same time to me.
Tula carriers have a tremendous, loyal following. I’ve always thought their standard size carriers were comfy, but not as comfy on my frame as my Lillebaby Complete carriers. With that said, I borrowed a Toddler Tula from my BWI Lending Library to see how it worked for us. I really liked the travel-themed print!
Honestly, I struggled to get a comfortable fit for myself. I realize in the photo, my youngest is a little crooked, but after a couple of weeks of running errands with it, I never did find that sweet spot with the fit. The carrier I borrowed was well broken in too.
Lastly, I wasn’t impressed with the pocket on the waistband. It’s a very similar design to the one on the Beco Toddler, on the small size and it just barely fit my iPhone and my keys. I have an iPhone 5 and I’m curious if one of the newer, bigger smart phones would even fit. While I love Tula’s big variety of prints and patterns and the option to get one with mesh in the panel, I wasn’t a fan of the fit.
I have a CarryOn Air that I purchased in the spring that I use often and love. It’s been hiking with me and exploring all sorts of fun places over the summer. Lillebaby launched a redesigned version of their toddler carrier this week and wow, is it amazing. They listened to their customers and made a few small changes to improve the fit and shape of the waistband, the height of the panel, and they shortened the straps a little bit to accommodate smaller-framed parents. To spice things up even more, they combined their 3D mesh with four of their beautiful prints.
It took a little bit of tweaking to find that sweet spot when I wore the previous model CarryOn for the first time back in April. Despite tightening the straps as small as they would go, it felt like my son was leaning pretty far back. Looking in the mirror reassured me that we were both fine, it just felt different than the Complete and, thankfully, I got used to it pretty quickly.
The panel is noticeably taller and a little bit narrower and so far I’m really loving it. I noticed right away that the straps were a little bit shorter. I don’t have to cinch down the PFAs at all to get a great fit, which was a relief knowing that there are tons of mamas out there smaller than me! The taller panel is fantastic for when my son takes his nap on my back, which I feel lucky to say still happens often.
I love the little details they put into these new carriers. The beautiful patterned fabric shows up on the chest clip pad and the lumbar support and I love the contrasting teal fabric on the reach straps of the hood.
The CarryOn has two pockets on the panel that are stacked on top of each other. One is a spacious zippered pocket that I can fit quite a bit into, including but not limited to, my iPhone, keys, wallet, a spare diaper, pacifier, and a Snickers Bar. It’s been really handy when navigating airports to keep my boarding pass, ID, and phone in that pocket rather than carry a purse. The second pocket is right on top and is a fantastic spot to stash the mesh hood when it’s not in use.
All Lillebaby carriers have two-way adjust on the shoulder straps and the CarryOn has the addition of PFA’s too. These let me customize the fit so easily.
For my frame and my son, the new CarryOn is the sure winner in our house. It’s definitely worth giving a try if you’re considering one for your family.
Here’s a graphic that lists all four brands I tried including their panel measurements, price range, and their features.
Do you wear your toddlers or older kids?? What is your favorite toddler carrier?