Your fast-growing baby is now taking their first steps, and that snuggly carrier that was great form newborn is no longer feeling so supportive. Here’s how what to know about Toddler carriers and whether you need a Toddler Carrier for your baby…
What is a Toddler Carrier?
A toddler carrier is simply a carrier that’s designed to fit a walking-age baby or toddler. This means that the body panel of the carrier is wider and taller than a standard baby carrier that you might use from the first few months.
As a standard, many specifically designed toddler carriers are suitable from around 18 months, and will offer at least parent-facing front carries and back carries. Some models are more versatile than others and can also offer hip carries and/or greater adjustability for a wide age range.
Whilst there are also many tied or wraparound sling options for carrying toddlers, in this article we’re just focusing on multi-position soft structured carriers that fasten with buckles.
My baby is huge! Do I need a Toddler Carrier already?
Even if you have a very large baby, most toddler carriers are not suitable for babies under 12-18 months (depending on the brand and sizing). This is very important as having a carrier that is too big for your baby can be as un-supportive as having a carrier that is too small. A carrier that is too large can allow your baby’s weight to hang uncomfortably away from your body, and could even become unsafe for your baby.
If you have a fast-growing baby who is already too big for their newborn carrier, then you may need to get an in-between size carrier, or a very adjustable one, before moving to a toddler carrier later.
For the optimum safety and comfort in a carrier, make sure that your carrier is a good fit for you and your baby at each stage.
How do I know whether my carrier still fits my baby?
Firstly, check that the size of the carrier seat is wide enough. For the comfiest carrying, the carrier seat should spread across your baby’s full seated width, from the back of one knee to the back of the other. This is what we call ‘knee-to-knee support’, and it offers the most optimal, hip supporting sitting position for your baby.
Many new models of carrier have an adjustable seat width (using Velcro, buttons, poppers or drawstrings) so check whether you’re able to extend the seat panel as your baby grows.
The body panel of the carrier should reach up to at least your baby’s armpits in order to prevent them from arching out of the carrier. In addition, you’ll probably also want your carrier to have an extra extension or head support for when your baby or toddler is sleeping.
Sometimes simply adjusting where you fasten your carrier around your body (waist or hip height) can change the height of the panel on your baby, so you can experiment with the height your carrier waistband sits to see what difference it makes for you both.
How do I know when to size up?
The most common clue that you may need to size up is when a previously comfortable carrier becomes less comfortable for your back and shoulders when you’re using it. This is a sign that your child’s weight is no longer well supported by the carrier you’re using.
Check whether your current carrier can be adjusted to give the extra width and height your toddler needs. If the carrier seems to fit your baby but is still not comfortable for you then it may be worth getting one of our consultants to check that you’re using it in the best way to suit your body. Small tweaks to the carrier or your carrying technique can make all the difference!
If your carrier is still comfortable then even if your baby is starting to walk, you may not need a toddler carrier just yet. An adjustable baby-to-toddler carrier may be suitable for up to 2-3 years if your toddler is a slimmer or smaller shape. However, if you have a very chunky baby then you’re more likely to need a toddler-specific carrier by 9-18 months.
The most important thing is that your carrier is the right size for you and your baby.