Firstly a big thank you to Angeline at Sleepy Nico for sending the toddler carrier travelling to various sling libraries and consultants to try out. We have enjoyed trying the Toddler Sleepy Nico and wanted to compare it to the other toddler slings we have in the Dorking NCT sling library, a Connecta and a Tula.
I have been using a toddler carrier since my son turned 16 months old and the Ergo original I was using was no longer comfortable. The sling wasn't supporting him far enough up his back and he would lean backwards and it pulled on my shoulders. As a child gets bigger more depth comes out of the panel to create the seat plus they get taller. The Ergo is one of the shorter panelled slings. This chart is useful for comparing dimensions of slings including panel height, waist strap sizes, shoulder strap sizes etc. Thanks to Roamy Hunt at South East Slings for creating this helpful resource.
I have been using our denim toddler sized Connecta nearly daily since then and he is now 3.5yrs old. Both myself and my partner use it and it's very simple to go between different users. I have rarely carried him on my front mainly using it to back carry, meanings the straps are always in rucksack style.
I have a petite strap version which has approximately 1.5inches less padding on the straps this enables me to tighten it enough as I found with the standard I couldn't get it tight enough for it to be comfortable. This matters less if you use it for front carries and cross the straps as you use the length of the webbing.
Many people upsize from standard to toddler in the same brand of sling, if the brand does a toddler size. If they know they suit a particular brand then they tend to stick with that brand due to them simply being a bigger version.
Both the Connecta and Tula are simply wider and taller versions of the standard sizes up-scaled for larger children, whereas the Sleepy Nico has some differences to the standard sized one.
The Sleepy Nico toddler has a different way of connecting to the buckles on the shoulder straps compared to their standard. This makes crossing the straps far harder and when I asked about this Angeline did say it's really set up for back carries as most people are likely to do those and that is my experience, also I don't mind using rucksack style straps when front carrying which the Sleepy Nico can do due to the integrated chest strap
Many may assume you can easily do cross straps as you can on the standard one and so maybe disappointed that they can't on the toddler version. Angeline suggested doing the cross set up first and putting it on jumper style and then popping the child in but I then found I couldn't get my son in (he is big though!) and I found it tricky (nearly impossible!) to reach the webbing to tighten. This may work for smaller children.
The other difference is the perfect fit adaptors on the shoulder straps towards to the top of the panel this tightens the top part of the carrier and shortens the shoulder straps. This is useful if you are petite and I found I needed it more for back carries than front due to the landscape of my chest compared to my back, which is flatter. It is also useful to get a good fit when swapping users so it is likely to fit a good range of different sizes due to the Sleepy Nico's adjustability.
It is very comfy for front carrying with the soft padded cord making the straps nice and supportive as well as the slightly padded waistband. The buckle on the waist band is in a fixed location to the left side (if back carrying) so you pull only one piece of webbing in the opposite direction to tighten. A nice feature is a small pocket off centred on the waistband. There is slight padding to the edge of the body of the panel for extra leg comfort.
I love that the hood is pattern-matched so it is not hiding any detail of the pattern on the sling itself. The Sleepy Nico toddler is made to order so you can choose the fabric, or even send your own in, adapting the cord colours to match. It means it is a very personal business, I know a library customer ordered one but wanted the fabric from one sling and the cord that was on another and they were able to, which is a wonderful selling point. Some of the prints are 100% Organic cotton and all Sleepy Nico carriers are handmade in the UK by a team of dedicated seamstresses. Standard size Sleepy Nico's that are special orders can have the perfect fit adjustors on them however they are not on the in stock ones they sell.
The toddler Tula is similar more so to the Sleepy Nico than the Connecta as it also has a padded waistband and perfect fit adjusters on the straps. It has a thicker and chunkier padding on the panel compared to the Sleepy Nico and the waistband is more rigid. It is made from 100% Öko-Tex Standard 100 certified cotton but isn't as soft initially as the Sleepy Nico but it does soften up with use, not quite as soft as the cord of the Sleepy Nico though.
The waist buckle does up on the right hand side (if back carrying), the opposite side to the Sleepy Nico so again just one direction to pull the webbing to tighten.
Tula do some amazing prints and also do wrap conversion versions too. They are the most expensive out of the 3 here starting at approx £106.50 upwards depending on the print.
The Connecta is the least structured of the 3, with no padded waistband at all which many people are sceptical can be as comfy as padded waistbands but this does surprise you in terms of how comfortable it is. The buckles are fitted with free mobility meaning you can have the buckle in the middle or to one side as the buckle is not fixed to one side of the waistband. This means you can adjust both sides when tightening which I feel gives a snugger fit.
The panel of the Tula is a different shape to the Sleepy Nico, it is slightly v shaped so is wider at the top than at the bottom as is the Connecta, whereas the Sleepy Nico is pretty straight with just a 2cm difference. This means the Tula and Connecta seems to hug the top of the child more. You can see this in the comparison images below and from the following measurements:
Sleepy Nico bottom 43cm - top 45cm (2cm difference) (baby 33cm)
Tula bottom 44cm - top 50cm (6cm difference (baby 37cm)
Connecta bottom 42cm - top 49cm (7cm difference) (standard 36cm)
There isn't much difference actually in panel width at the bottom with the Connecta being smaller by only 2cm to the Tula and the Sleepy Nico being in the middle of them. The Tula is the only one with darts in the fabric at the bottom which helps shape the seat slightly.
The Tula has no clip in buckles on the shoulder straps to attach to the panel which means they only have the one position of rucksack style. The webbing is narrow to pull to adjust the strap length and is the same width as the Sleepy Nico at 2cm, it's very easy to grasp in your hand being narrower compared to the Connecta which has the same sized webbing on the waist and shoulder (5cm) which means it is held differently in your hand as my hand can't grip it in the palm so I hold it between my thumb and fingers to tighten and this may impact if have limited mobility in the hands/wrists.
The Connecta can be used with cross straps for front carrying or rucksack style for back carries using the accessory strap which is one loop with a buckle, as a chest strap, as this isn't attached to the sling it can be lost if not careful whereas on the Tula the chest strap is attached to the sling and moves up and down for adjustment.
The Sleepy Nico is similar in that it's 2 parts are looped round the shoulder straps and the buckle joins them but they aren't sewn on, these move up and down but do need tightening in case when undoing the buckles to adjust between cross straps and rucksack they can fall off however if using rucksack style and not swapping to cross then unlikely to be an issue. Just worth baring in mind.
The buckle of the Connecta can be right in the arm pit of the user which some people find can dig a little. The Tula doesn't have any buckles to click in just the tightening buckle which is smaller. On the Sleepy Nico the buckle is higher up on the shoulder strap so is well out of the way both when crossing straps or ruck straps. So in theory there is the option to wear it either way but practically ruck straps are more likely to be used as its hard to do cross straps for front carries.
They all vary in terms of height from shoulder strap to the webbing which impacts how it feels and fits in that some may find the bigger gap of the Sleepy Nico is more comfortable. I am quite petite on my shoulders and back and found the bigger gap less comfortable as I prefer a snugger fit. Again you can see this in the image above comparing all three carriers together. This will vary person to person depending on individual's dimensions so it is helpful to try a range of carriers before purchasing one.
Connectas also come with wrap fabric panels so come in a large variety of prints/fabrics such as the 100% organic denim, solarweave fabric which is lightweight and offers uv protection, tweed, as well as using Woven Wings, Oscha and FireSpiral woven wraps for the panels. The cotton lining and straps are 100% organic cotton.
They are designed in the uk, and made in the EU.
Sleepy Nico - £89 custom design and made
depth of waistband 12cm,
width panel at bottom 43cm to 45cm at top,
depth from shoulder strap to webbing under arm 19.5cm
webbing on shoulder strap 2.5cm
Height of panel 46cm
Tula toddler - £106-£120 approx
depth of waist band 14cm
width of panel 44cm at bottom (has darts in fabric at bottom) to 50 cm at the top
depth from top of shoulder strap to join with panel under arm 12cm,
webbing on shoulder strap 2.5cm
Height of panel 48cm
Connecta toddler - £78 more for wrap conversions
no waist band
width of panel 42cm at bottom, 49cm at top
depth from top shoulder to strap under arm 13cm
webbing on shoulder strap 5cm
Height of panel 56cm (no waistband)
Each carrier offers something different in terms of fit and adjustability and flexibility and as to which works best it depends on what features are important to you and your child. Overall all 3 offer a great comfortable way to carry your toddler or in our case 3.5yo pre-schooler!
Some brands do preschool size too including Connecta which is 48cm wide (toddler 42cm and standard 36cm).
There are many other toddler/preschool carriers on the market ABC, Beco, Emeibaby, to name a few and are in listed in the table given earlier. One brand's toddler size maybe comparable to another brand's preschool size so it is worth trying them at your local sling library.
If you don't have a local sling library or they don't hold the particular sling you wish to try, some libraries offer postal hires such as It's a Sling Thing and also try before you buy - South East Slings.
From all the images we took I had to share this one as its my favourite, I just love Charlie's expression :)