Disclosure statement: I received no compensation of any type for completing this review.
People. Gather round. Are you interested in learning about a soft-structured carrier that combines wonderful quality with amazing value? Of course you are! Listen up.
Easy Feel Products is a company based in Gurgaon, India, that is new to making carriers, but has been in the baby products industry for about two years now, with cloth diapers. They have entered the carrier market with a lineup of soft structured carriers in both standard and toddler sizes, as well as ring slings. Easy Feel sent me a Standard size Full Buckle Ergonomic Wrap Converted Soft Structured Carrier to review.
Upon opening the package, I was struck by the high quality of the materials as well as the simple-to-use construction. In many carriers that are marketed as "affordable," I am disappointed by lower-quality materials. This is definitely not the case with Easy Feel! The waistband, shoulder strap, and legs out padding is thick, and the handwoven Ikat wrap fabric that covers the entire carrier is soft, vibrant, and beautiful. I was so pleased to discover that this "budget" carrier is a full wrap conversion! The function of the carrier is very simple as well, with a few thoughtful and useful convenience features. It allows for two wearing positions: on front or on back, facing in toward the wearer's body, and the shoulder straps adjust in one direction. For the average consumer, this simplicity makes the Easy Feel an easy-to-use carrier to use from about 4-6 months on up!
The wonderful features of the Easy Feel are worth exploring in more detail. Let's review the safety, comfort and function, materials, and value.
Easy Feel puts safety first. The soft structured carriers have passed testing and are certified compliant with ASTM F2236-14 safety standards, and there are some identifiable extra safety features that are standard on these carriers. The clip on the waist belt has an extra elastic band around it to help prevent falls should it become unfastened unexpectedly. All weight-bearing seams and sections of the carrier are reinforced with multiple lines of stitching, as well as "X-box" stitching to hold pieces securely in place.
Comfort and Function
For me, these traits go hand in hand. I tried this carrier with my very tall 2.5 year old in a front carry around the house, a petite 15 month old in a back carry for a 2 mile walk, and a petite 18 month old in both a front and back carry, and was quite pleased with its performance on all accounts. Remember that buckle carriers are kind of like jeans, meaning that each person has a favorite buckle carrier, because they all fit a bit differently. For more on that topic, see this post.
The padding in the waist belt and shoulder straps is thick, more so than just about any other soft structured carrier I've tried (and I've tried many)! The curved shoulder straps were one of my favorite parts about the Easy Feel. They were incredibly comfortable in both a back or front carry, The word "marshmallow" comes to mind, for that is how puffy and springy they were!
The density and thickness of the foam waist belt were very comfortable for me as well. One problem with some SSC waist belts is that they can "buckle" over time, meaning the baby's weight causes the top of the belt to fold a bit. I feel very confident that this will not be an issue with Easy Feel due to the density and thickness of the foam. The high structure of this waist belt also allowed me to wear the carrier a little higher in a back carry, which was a comfort factor for me. I have a previous back injury and continuing hip pain which renders many SSC's that sit at the top of the hips quite uncomfortable for me. This was not a problem for me with Easy Feel!
The adjustability of the Easy Feel allows it to fit people of many different body sizes and shapes. The shoulder straps expand from about 20 inches to about 39 inches, and the waist belt expands from about 25.5 inches to about 51 inches.
There were a few other important features that impacted comfort for me and my wearees. The panel had darts that were carefully designed to allow for a nice seat - not too deep, and not too shallow. I was pleased to find that the Easy Feel has Perfect (or Personal) Fit Adjuster Straps that allow the the shoulder straps to shorten for petite wearers, or bring smaller babies in a bit closer for a more comfortable ride for all. There is puffy "legs out" padding that was marshmallowy (there's that word again!) under my wearee's knees, but still compressed down so as to not affect baby's leg positioning or freedom of movement. The padded section of the shoulder strap extends quite far which helped me avoid the dreaded "underarm rub" problem that can make some SSC's less comfortable. The long Perfect Fit Adjuster Straps still allows the strap to shorten enough to compensate for any anticipated "too-big" fit problems with long padded section.
Easy Feel carriers have some key design features that are typical for many higher quality soft structured carriers. The webbing on the shoulder straps is adjustable in one direction (pulling towards the back when the carrier is worn in a front carry), and the straps are "fixed" on sliders that do not detach. The chest clip slides up and down to allow for maximum adjustability for a variety of wearer body types. There are elastics on the ends of all webbing that allowed me to roll extra webbing up and out of the way to keep it tidy. And there are a few nice convenience features, including a small internal pouch inside the panel that allows a fixed hood to be tucked away, and a small pocket on the waistband, located at the hip which means it is accessible in a front or back carry. This pocket is large enough to stash an ID card and some cash, but was not large enough for a phone or diaper.
Materials and Labor
The owner of Easy Feel, Shikha Nitansh Garg, told me that the handwoven wrap conversion carriers are made from cotton sourced in India and woven by South Indian weavers. There is a team of four tailors and her mother has designed the carriers. She reports that Easy Feel follows Fair Labor practices.
This particular carrier is made with Ikat fabric which was dyed using a resistive dyeing technique. It is advisable to wash this carrier before using it as it may have about 5-10% color bleed in the initial washes. Easy Feel offers carriers made from both vibrantly colored cotton prints and handwoven material. The carrier I had in hand was a full wrap conversion, meaning that the soft and beautiful Ikat fabric covers the entire carrier - panel, waistband, and shoulder straps.
One of the things that Easy Feel prides itself on is offering a high quality carrier at a value price. Depending on currency exchanges, retail on the Easy Feel website runs at around $71 (US) for a cotton print standard size, $83 (US) for a cotton print toddler size, $75 (US) for a full conversion handwoven Ikat standard size, and $87 (US) for a full conversion handwoven Ikat standard size. Shipping to the United States is around $22 (US) for standard (non-expedited) shipping. While every consumer may determine what his or her budget for a carrier might be, the pricing of Easy Feel is extraordinarily competitive, and they have not sacrificed quality in their endeavor to make this carrier accessible!
In summary, the Easy Feel soft structured carrier is definitely worth checking out if you are in the market for an affordable, high quality, and beautiful soft structured carrier from a family-owned business with fair labor practices.
While most people can understand and appreciate the benefits of babywearing for little babies and their families, there are a lot of good things to be said about wearing big kids, too.
My older daughter (now age 7) was a baby who loved to be worn. She would settle into any carrier I had and snuggle right into me. She went through a few months on "wearing strike" around the time she learned to walk, where she preferred walking to hitching a ride on my back. After the strike was over, she continued to love our daily walks or snuggling in a carrier around the house.
As she got (much) older and (much) heavier, I wore her less, but still found that wearing was a great tool: it was still a convenient way to carry her when I needed to keep her safe or she was tired of walking, it helped her relax when she was fighting sleep, and wearing seemed to bring her some calm and us both some connection, after an all-too-frequent preschool meltdown. In addition, it was still a wonderful way for us to have close interaction - as we took a hike or a long walk, she engaged in the constant stream of consciousness chatter for which preschoolers are famous. And when she was sick, it brought her comfort to be held close to my body. Now a "big kid," she still asks if she can ride on my back, and on occasion I indulge her. She still loves it (so do I!) and it still resets our connection if it's been strained.
Wearing can also be a special tool for parents of big kids with special needs. Parents of kids with low muscle tone, visual impairment, or sensory needs (and many other special needs) may find that using a carrier can be convenient, calming, or enriching for their child. If you have questions about using a carrier with your child with special needs, please consult with your child's health care professionals. Many babywearing professionals will collaborate with health care professionals to help families find the right carrying solution for their child.
Woven wraps and ring slings can be used with bigger kids, for varying lengths of time or dependent on the caregiver, child, and the situation. Many people prefer mei tai or buckle carriers for "big kids." Most toddlers can still be worn in standard size soft structured carriers like Ergo, Boba 4G, Tula, Beco Soleil and Lillebaby Complete. Some caregivers (and toddlers) find "toddler size" carriers to be more comfortable for a variety of reasons (taller and wider panel being the usual reason). Some toddler and preschool carriers are also tested to a higher weight limit than standard size carriers.
Here is a list of some of the current specifically toddler or preschool size carriers (buckle carriers and a couple of mei tais) on the market today. Most of these are only available from specialty stores or direct from the manufacturer.
- Tula Toddler
- Beco Toddler
- Angelpack MAX
- Kinderpack Toddler
- Kinderpack Preschool
- Kanga XT
- Kanga XTP
- Lillebaby CarryOn
- Soul Slings Full Buckle Toddler
- Lenny Lamb Ergonomic Carrier Toddler
- ToddlerHawk mei tai (from select retailers, limited supply)
- Fidella Fly Tai Toddler size mei tai
Remember when we talked about why you should avoid buying a fake or knockoff carrier? The temptation is strong but the risks are not worth it!
So, what do you do if you are a parent who wants to wear your baby, but you are on a limited budget? Everyone is telling you that you need a Tula, or you see woven wraps that you think are beautiful but that price tag is steep!
With all baby carrier purchases, it's important to be informed.
One great opportunity for research is attending a babywearing group meeting. Many babywearing groups have lending libraries where you can borrow a carrier for a month to see how you like it. You can keep borrowing, month after month, in many cases! Sometimes there are fees associated with borrowing, but these are almost always lower than the price of a carrier. Some groups have scholarships for families who cannot afford membership or rental fees.
If you are willing to buy a secondhand carrier, you can often find really great bargains. See this post for more details, including the importance of inspecting your carrier. And DIY is another great option for affordable carriers. Learn more here!
If you prefer to buy a new carrier, there are many great options available in the "under $50" and "under $100" price ranges. If you are coupon savvy or regularly scan the clearance racks and pay attention to sales, you can usually save even more off the list price. Some of the carriers listed below are available at big box stores (or their online versions), some are available from the manufacturers themselves, and some are only available from online specialty retailers. Use caution when buying from Amazon (be sure that the seller is authorized) to avoid ending up with a counterfeit.
Below are just some of the options that retail for under $50 and under $100. There are many carriers that retail for higher than $100 but can be found for less if you buy secondhand. (Boba, Ergo, Beco, and Tula come to mind).
Options under $50 (retail)
Moby Wrap (stretchy wrap)
Boba Wrap (stretchy wrap)
Happy Wrap (stretchy wrap)
Baby K'tan - original (stretchy wrap)
Sleeping Baby Productions - twill (ring sling)
Soul Sling - certain models (ring sling and some lengths of wraps)
Bibetts - linen (ring sling)
Zanytoes - cotton (ring sling)
Wallypop - cotton or linen (ring sling)
Peanut Shell (adjustable pouch)
Seven Sling (non-adjustable pouch)
Infantino Sash (meh dai)
WallyPop - canvas without padded straps (meh dai)
Mothers on the Move, or Mo+M (buckle carrier)
Evenflo Natural Fit (buckle carrier similar to an Ergo)
Infantino (various buckle styles)
Options under $100 (retail)
Stretchy or Hybrid Wraps. These are usually best for newborns and smaller babies. If you plan to wear your child past 15-16 pounds, be aware that you will probably need to buy another carrier then (unless you buy the Wrapsody hybrid, as it can be worn comfortably for much longer). These wraps are snuggly and the carrier can be put on first, then add the baby. Stretchy wraps cannot be worn in back carries (hybrid wraps can).
Baby K'Tan - Breeze, Organic, Active, or Print models
Wrapsody Duo (can be worn in water or on land)
Babylonia Tricot Slen
Ring Slings. These are wonderful for newborns through toddlers. Sometimes thinner slings will not be as supportive or comfortable for wearing a larger baby or toddler. Many of these are slings offered from woven wrap companies, but others are from companies that specialize in slings.
Comfy Joey (linen)
Sleeping Baby Productions (certain materials)
Lil Peepers Keepers (some models)
Fidella (some models)
Soul Sling (some models)
Bibetts (wrap conversion)
Wallypop (wrap conversion)
Mei Dais/Beh Dais/Mei Tais. These carriers are also very versatile, for newborns through young toddlers. They are adjustable between body types as well. They can be worn on front, back, and hip, and are fairly simple to learn to use.
Wallypop (models with padded shoulder straps)
Soul Slings Meh Dai (some models)
Lenny Lamb Wrap Tai (some colors)
BaBy SaBye (some models)
Buckle Carriers. These carriers are generally best once baby is past the newborn/small infant stage. They can be worn with baby on front and back. I recommend trying them on before buying (or buying from somewhere that has a generous return policy) if possible, because they all fit a bit differently. Each person has a different body shape and size, and buckle carriers are like jeans - they don't fit everyone the same!
Easy Feel (read my review here)
Action Baby Carrier
Soul Slings (some models)
Pognae Baby Carrier
Bitybean (a compact, narrower carrier, can be used in water)
Boba Air (good for travel, packs down very small)
Woven Wraps. These are incredibly versatile, from newborns through toddlers (and even preschoolers or big kids). They can be worn with baby on front, hip, or back, in a variety of ways to accommodate for different people's body sizes and comfort. There is a learning curve to using them but they can be the only carrier you'll ever need.
Little Frog (some models)
Tekhni (budget line)
Wrapsody Breeze (gauze wrap - read my review here)
Fidella (some models)
Babylonia BBSlen (certain sizes)
Lenny Lamb (some models)
Many thanks to this wonderful source: http://www.bwiaustin.org/babywearing-on-a-budget/
Special thanks to the babywearing families who graciously shared their photos for this post!
What are some of your favorite baby carriers for families on a budget?
Everyone loves a bargain, right? Right! I do, too.
There are plenty of bargains to be found when it comes to baby carriers. Some bargains are found on buy/sell/trade boards, and others at consignment shops. Some are on the clearance racks at the big box stores, and others are from flash sales at online specialty stores.
There is a type of bargain baby carrier that is really NOT a good deal, and that is the copy/knockoff or fake carrier. These come in two types: one that kind of looks like a specific brand carrier but is not labeled as that brand (copy/knockoff), and one that looks like, and is labeled as that specific brand, trying to pass for that carrier (fake). Many of these copies and fakes can be found on Amazon, eBay, or the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba.
Major brands that tend to be copied are Ergo, Freehand (a brand of mei tai that is no longer produced), Beco, Hotslings, Tula, Lillebaby, Bjorn, Moby, and more. Ergo is by far the most frequently copied and there are many FAKE Ergos out there. They are now copied so closely that some of them are impossible to tell the difference. The only ways to ensure you aren't buying a fake Ergo are to buy new from an authorized retailer (Ergo maintains information about these on their site), or contact Ergo with the information on the tag if you are buying used.
It pays to be cautious. The fakes are everywhere, and sometimes they are being re-sold by people who do not realize they are fake. Swap boards, consignment stores, and garage sales have turned up fake carriers, and it is always a sad day when someone is excited about their new carrier, only to find out that it is a fake, and essentially worthless. Then, they are without a carrier, and often out the money they paid for the fake.
You might be thinking: "well if it looks like an Ergo, and functions like an Ergo, who cares?"
Here's why you should care and beware:
If you are looking for a carrier and feel like a fake or copy is your only option due to budget, please reconsider, for the health and safety of your baby and your family. There are a number of authentic carriers that are comparable in price to a fake or copy, and I will highlight these in an upcoming blog post.
For further reading on fakes and copies, please see:
Put your mind (and baby) at ease, and only buy authentic carriers!
"What buckle carrier do you recommend? My friend told me I should get a Tula. She loves hers!"
This question has been asked many times! When someone finds a carrier they love, they cannot wait to tell everyone about how awesome it is. Comfortable babywearing is life-changing for a family! So, if your friend has found that her Tula has made such an amazing impact on her life, it makes sense that she would recommend it to you as the BEST carrier.
However - no matter much your friend loves her carrier, and no matter how wonderful it might be for her, it may not be the right carrier for you! Every carrier fits differently, and every body (and baby) is different. Would you buy a new cut of jeans without making sure they fit just the way you wanted? Probably not. You try them on, check yourself from every angle, sit down, bend over, and make sure they are the perfect fit.
Buckle, or soft-structured carriers are very much like jeans. They might fit your hips, but the shoulder straps might rub under your arm. The panel might be the right height, but the seat might not be deep enough for your (or your baby's) preference. The construction of a buckle carrier means it is adjustable only to a point. There are some things that just cannot be changed, and those are the things that may impact your comfort.
Ingredients of a Buckle Carrier
There are a few different types of features that contribute to the fit and function of a buckle carrier, and why you may (or may not) like it.
Go to the Fitting Room!
When you have a stack of jeans to try, you take them to the fitting room, try them on, and compare. Similarly, the best way to figure out what works for you is to try on a variety of carriers. Most people can tell fairly quickly (as long as the carrier is being used correctly) whether or not a carrier feels good and fits well. Little tweaks in position of carrier and straps do make a big difference, so it helps to have a person knowledgeable about carriers help you. The quickest way to do this is to attend a babywearing group meeting, or to schedule a consultation with a babywearing educator. At a group meeting or a private consultation, you may have access to a wide variety of carriers to try on, and can get assistance with the tweaks and tips that may help you find the right carrier for your body.
Just like jeans, when you have found the carrier that fits, you KNOW. And you can buy with confidence, knowing it is the right choice for you and your body!
Beth. The babywearing lady.
copyright 2016 Beth Secrist
All photos used under the Creative Commons license through Flickr. Photography by: littletuesday12