It’s kind of fun to be in a community long enough to actually see products developed as a result of customer feedback. Something we hear a lot at BWI is the desire for a soft structured carrier that fits from the earliest newborn days *without a bulky insert* and will last into the toddler years. Caregivers asked, and Baby Tula has delivered with their new Free-To-Grow SSC. Plus, Tula very generously donated TWO Free-To-Grow carriers to the BWI of STL Gateway library. TWO!
The claim to fame here is that the panel adjusts in both width and height to fit newborns from 7 pounds, with a maximum weight of 45 pounds. The width of the panel slides inward over the waistband and snaps in place, which minimizes the bunching of fabric, and the height can be shortened or lengthened with simple webbing and a sliding buckle. Plus the redesigned hood snaps on in such a way that it can be used with the panel at any height.
I am so excited to say that I really think this carrier lives up to expectations! Since the standout feature here is the ability to adjust to most babies, I really wanted to see as many babies in it as possible.
At the wide setting, the panel is basically the same size as a standard Tula. This baby model wears 9-12 months pants, and is just at the point of switching to the wide setting.
Here is a slightly larger toddler riding at the wide setting:
I even put my 28lb 2.5yo wearing 3T pants in it, and while her knees extended several inches beyond the panel width, she was plenty comfortable (trust me, she tells me when she isn’t).
And I *LOVED* the adjustable panel height with her, because often a carrier that comes up high enough to support her if she wants to snuggle down with her arms in is too tall if she wants to ride arms out, and she ends up scrunching the top of the panel down under her arms which can put extra stress on the seams where the panel meets the shoulder straps (not to mention extra stress on the wearer’s shoulders). The adjustable panel height solved that!
It was no surprise that these toddlers fit well in the wide setting since we have some standard Tulas in the library. I was most curious to see how the middle and narrow settings would fit.
When I first met up with this mom, I assumed her 4mo would need the narrow setting and we started there, but it was quite a bit too narrow. We moved the panel to the medium setting for a perfect fit.
Seeing that a young baby in 3-month clothing needed the medium setting gave me hope that the Free-To-Grow might actually fit a newborn! We had both carriers at a recent meeting, and got a chance to try it with several brand new babies (under 1 month old), and it really did fit beautifully with a newborn! And guess what? I failed to get a picture. (I’m sorry – meetings are busy!! We need you to volunteer to lighten the load a bit!)
Since I didn’t get pictures of any of the stellar newborn models at the meeting, I tried the carrier again with a small demo doll. And then I took this terrible mirror selfie that looks like demo baby and I are standing on the deck of a severely tilting ship. [Funny story: I was hanging out with a photographer at this very moment and failed to take advantage of her services. What was I thinking?!]
I didn’t take a ton of photos or post a bunch of details on the carrier because Tula has done a great job of providing those; the specifications and videos on the Tula Free To Grow product page are worth a look, and there is more info on their Facebook page as well.
The bottom line(s):
- If you like the way Tula carriers fit, but wanted one without an infant insert, try this on!
- If you are interested in one SSC that fits from newborn to toddler, try this on!
- If you have a baby or toddler who doesn’t fit well in some other SSCs (long in the torso but shorter in the legs, or vice versa), this could be a great option because you can adjust the panel height and width independently. Try it on!
Basically what I’m saying here is that you should really try this on. The fabric is flexible and supportive, and the adjustments are quick and simple. Although the panel at its largest is not equal to the actual Toddler Tula, the 7-45lbs weight limit will truly take you from infant into the toddler years. The library’s two Free To Grow carriers will be travelling to each meeting for trying on and education before they are available for checkout at the end of May.
Many thanks to Baby Tula for the wonderful development and for supplying two Free To Grow carriers for our babywearing teaching and lending library. We are so excited for all the babies and caregivers who will enjoy these carriers!