ABC, Connecta & Sleepy Nico Carriers - A Detailed Comparison
Having recently added a new Action Baby Carrier to the Dorking NCT sling library and another Sleepy Nico (due to the one we have always being on hire!), I thought it would be useful to compare these 3 types of carriers. These particular three carriers are similar in that they are not as structured as some of the other soft-structured carriers on the market such as Tula, Ergo or Manduca for example... (another post perhaps.....!)
ACTION BABY CARRIER
Action Baby Carrier, or ABC as it can be known, is an American-made sling which is imported to the UK. It has a soft, padded waist band and padded shoulder straps which buckle on the sides, This means you can wear the carrier either by crossing the straps (which is shown in the instructions) or ruck-sack style straps, using the chest strap as shown below. They come in lovely vibrant colours and designs, The cotton is very soft, straight out of the packaging and it was immediately comfortable to use. The webbing is quite soft which makes it easy to tighten.
The Action Baby Carrier has a unique internal support system. So all the elements go through the panel of the carrier, rather than being stitched to the edges. This gives it a nice, smooth finish.
Below image credit - http://www.modernclothdiapers.com/actionbabycarriers.html
The waistband is quite straight-edged so is the same width all the way around to the webbing. Whilst it is quite thick, it is very light ie not too firm so it moulds well and doesn't dig in anywhere.
Connecta is a UK-based, family-run company that is local to us in Surrey. We have four of these in the library, three standard and one toddler and they are always out on hire. The Connecta is the least padded out of the three carriers, as it doesn't have any padding on the waist at all. The webbing simply attaches to the panel and you buckle this up, then, pulling up the straps to create the seat of the carrier. The Connecta is worn with cross straps for front carries and then ruck-sack style for back carries and you can use the accessory strap looped through the shoulder straps across your chest if you find the shoulder straps slip down on your shoulders (like a chest strap on the other carriers).
Newer Connectas have a firmer webbing which does take a while to soften up with use, this can feel a little 'diggy' under the arms and on the waist depending where you wear it, I tend to wear it quite high. It can also be harder to tighten as it's stiffer through the buckle. However, ensuring you tighten correctly you should get a good fit. It does then mean the webbing is less prone to twisting through the buckle which older, softer straps do if not tightened carefully. I highly recommend reading this great post from Ellie at Peekaboo Slings, with tips for troubleshooting your Connecta with tips on how to tighten etc. It is about finding the sweet spot for you, as your posture and shape will impact where is comfortable for you. It is worth playing around with the settings trying it higher or lower or tighter or looser to see what works best for you.
Connectas come in a huge variety of fabrics including Liberty fabrics, organic denim, wrap conversions by great brands such as Ali Dover, Woven Wings, FireSpiral, Baie, Didymos, Oscha, Little Fellows, as well as Harris Tweed and Solarweave, which is a sun-protective fabric that blocks 95- 99% of the suns harmful UVA and UVB rays.
They also come in a petite strap option which the others don't, which means the padding on the shoulder straps is shorter. The denim one below is a petite strap (29.5cm) while the cream one is a standard strap (36cm).
You can see how this impacts the fit on a front carry, the padding forms part of the cross on the cream one whereas it doesn't on the denim one. I thererfore find it more prone to slipping and pulling up on my neck, if, for example I lean forward. This doesn't happen with the denim one as the webbing is the part of the cross.
It impacts more significantly for back carries when using the straps in ruck-sack style as this uses less of the strap than when crossing them. With the standard strap, I can't tighten any further than it is in the image whereas with petite straps I have more webbing to be able to tighten further if needed.
Close up showing there is no more webbing to tighten on the standard strap on the left whereas there is on the petite strap on the right.
Which strap works best, will vary depending on your size, your shoulders and back and your baby's size. As your child grows, they fill more of the carrier so you require less strap length. Now my son is bigger, it's fine for back carries with the standard strap, I tend to tighten as far as I can, as you can see from the images. However, when he was smaller I couldn't get it snug enough and meant he tended to be lower on my body, than when I use the petite strap. I like to wear him high as this is comfiest for me. Different body shapes have a different centre of gravity and therefore posture, and this will impact how you carry comfortably.
Sleepy Nico is a UK based small business based in Suffolk. The straps and waistband are made of super soft corduroy. Sleepy Nico can customise your carrier, choosing your own fabric and colour of the straps if you like! This does take a bit longer than buying one in stock, so worth baring in mind, The waist band is slightly shaped so is thicker in the middle and tapers upwards towards the ends. The buckle is fixed to the left side if front carrying, whereas the buckles of the Connecta and the ABC are fully adjustable so you can decide on the placement i.e. in the middle or to the sides.
Note: Jude is not wonky in this he was being extra wriggly!
Another great feature is the pattern-matching of the hood. The ABC hood is plain black on both sides, the Connecta hood is part of the same fabric as the body and the hood is cut from one piece of fabric, On the front facing is the pattern and is plain cotton on the inside so it depends if you have it clipped in or just hanging down as to what is seen. If the hood is in the way this is a handy tip tucking it away, Thanks Ellie at Peekaboo Slings! or you can do a few different things with the hoods on these carriers as shown here by Nicola for Connecta. The Sleepy Nico hood pattern matches the fabric underneath when it's hanging down so none of the stunning fabric is obscured, this one is particularly stunning!
The hood attaches onto it's own strap with velcro so you pass it through loops on the shoulder straps. This means it's fully adjustable and easy to do as it doesn't have to be precise. The ABC and Connecta attach using small buckles which can be a little bit fiddly especially if back carrying!
The Sleepy Nico has slight padding to the edge which can make it more comfy although if you get a good seat and pelvic tilt (see here) the leg shouldn't be uncomfortable in a carrier without padding.
The buckles feel very different too, the ABC is quite square compared to the other two, which are slightly shaped, which impacts on how they feel when clipping them in and out. (ABC at the top, Connecta then Sleepy Nico)
The Sleepy Nico has the narrowest of the webbing out of all three carriers at just 2.5cm, compared to the Connecta being the widest at 5cm and the ABC in between at 3.75cm. This impacts how it feels in the hand to adjust them, the Connecta is quite hard to grip inside your hand so I tend to use my finger and thumb to pull it, whereas the other two are narrower so easy to grip inside your hand. This does mean it can be quicker as you can pull it in one or two goes compared to the Connecta which is smaller movements and takes a few more times to adjust (I am being picky, it's still very quick!)
This therefore impacts on the buckle size, smaller ones can be slightly harder to place into the female part as both are smaller, so less room to manoeuvre, so pros and cons really! Depending where the buckle sits, it can be right under your arm pit so some may find the smaller buckles less bulky, but for me the Connecta buckle sits a bit further back. The webbing on the ABC is softer and a tiny bit stretchy compared to the others.
The most interesting comparison is the angles and placement at which the shoulder straps come off the carriers. The ABC is sewn into the body of the carrier as part of the internal system. This means the straps come out of the side of the carrier rather than the top of the carrier.
The angle is wider than both the other carriers. This impacts the fit as it naturally sits wide on the shoulders but then crosses at a lower angle also and why the buckle is quite close to the strap itself. I found this meant it was easy to get positioned well without the cross coming up too high as it encourages a wide fitting on the shoulders away from the neck.
ABC at the back, Sleepy Nico in front, you can also see the difference in buckle placement on the sides
This image shows all three carriers on top of each other, the Connecta and ABC straps are more similar and the Sleepy Nico straps are at quite a different angle and why the buckle placement is far lower down on the body panel than the others whereas the ABC the buckle is very close to the strap on the side of the panel so it gives a different shaped cross on the wearers back.
The images below show how this impacts on the fit, not just on the wearer but on the baby too. I found with the Sleepy Nico straps being sewn in the top of the carrier panel rather than the side, that the straps came closer to baby's face than the others and immediately got chewed! It also meant the top of the carrier felt quite narrow. The Connecta is slightly shaped and at the top it flares out where the straps are sewn in and this gives it a nice snug shape to it around baby's head. The ABC straps sit furthest away from baby so didn't get chewed and are not obstructing the baby's view. The angle of the ABC straps meant it was easier to get a good wide cross on my back and not too close to my neck. I usually remind parents that hire slings with crossable straps to pull it down behind you then across to the buckle rather than straight across to the buckle as that tends to mean the straps ride towards the neck and the cross tends to be higher which can be uncomfortable.
Overall, all three are great carriers, each offering slightly different fit and features, ultimately the only way to know how they are going to fit you is to try them! Visit your local sling library see www.slingpages.co.uk if you don't have one local to you then some do postal hire such as www.itsaslingthing.co.uk. Also, what works may vary as your child grows, if a sling is not comfortable it can be worth going to see a carrying consultant who can make suggestions and help tweak the fit.
This is a useful chart to compare width, height and waist and shoulder sizes of carriers. However this doesn't necessarily give you a full idea of how the sizing and dimensions can impact the fit of the carriers.
ABC - £69.99
Depth of waistband - 10cm
Buckle placement - middle
Width of panel at bottom - 31.5cm
Width of panel at top - 35.5cm
Depth from shoulder strap to webbing - 2cm
Length of padding on shoulder strap - 53.5cm
Webbing width on shoulder straps - 3.75cm
Height of panel - 34cm
Connecta - £68.00 upwards it varies by type as some wrap conversions and other fabrics are more expensive
Depth of waistband - nil
Buckle placement - middle
Width of panel at bottom - 34cm
Width of panel at top - 38cm
Depth from shoulder strap to webbing - 10.5cm
Length of padding on shoulder strap - 29.5cm (PS) 36cm (standard)
Webbing width on shoulder straps - 5cm
Height of panel - 47cm
Sleepy Nico - £79.99 they also do custom carriers enquire for prices
Depth of waistband - 11cm
Buckle placement - left if front carrying
Width of panel at bottom - 32cm
Width of panel at top - 33.5cm
Depth from shoulder strap to webbing - 14cm
Length of padding on shoulder straps 47.5cm
Webbing width on shoulder straps - 2.5cm
Height of panel - 36.5cm
All these brands also make Toddler sized carriers, however, not all toddler carriers are the same in terms of sizes etc so worth doing your research on these. See my post comparing 3 toddler carriers