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How Do I Know What Size Tula To Get?

Written by Frank Stickney


Posted on August 26 2016

“Moooom! Where’s my motorcycle?” hollers the three and a half-year-old.

“Up! Up! Up!” begs the eighteen-month-old, pulling at my shirt.

Another active day has already started at our house, and I’m doing the best I can to get everybody dressed and out the door in time for our playdate. Being a #boymom and chasing a toddler and preschooler around can make it hard to keep up. This is where babywearing saves the day–every. single. time. I grab my diaper bag and our standard and toddler Tulas, and off we go.

Now, if you caught that – I have a standard size Tula, which I use for my eighteen-month-old toddler, and a toddler size Tula, which I use for my three and a half-year-old preschooler. As you can see, the name “toddler size” for the Tula (or any other soft structured carrier or "SSC") can be deceiving. Though they are meant to give general guidelines for caregivers, a “toddler size” carrier may or may not fit a child best as soon as he/she starts toddling around. It can be even trickier when you start comparing the differences in dimensions between various brands of “toddler size” carriers. So how does a person know what size Tula (or other SSC) to get? The magic answer is to know what to look for in fit for your SSC. If you keep these key concepts in mind, finding the right size for your first Tula will be easy peasy, and you’ll also be confident in knowing when the time comes to size up. 

Key Concepts for SSC Fit

A soft structured carrier (SSC) supports your child how you would naturally hold him/her.

    The next time you pick up your child and hold him/her to the front of your body, take note on where your two hands end up. It’s likely that one hand is under your child’s bottom and the other is between the shoulder blades, somewhere around the middle upper back. A SSC is designed to “hold” your child at these same locations, providing support across the bottom/thighs and at the upper back, resulting in a comfortable seated position for your child. 

    Are you both comfortable?

      It’s important for both you and your child to be comfortable when babywearing with your SSC. For you, the wearer, most of the weight will be carried in the waist belt, so any discomfort or pain in the shoulders or back is most likely related to the fit of the SSC. Small adjustments to waist belt positioning, shoulder straps, perfect fit adjusters (PFAs), or chest clip location often helps ease the discomfort. For your child, a comfortable seated position will allow his/her legs to hang freely on both sides of the carrier with the bottom of your child’s feet parallel to the ground. The right fitting SSC will be most comfortable for both you and your child, resulting in a happy day for all.
      Are both you and your child comfortable photo

      Is my Tula too small?

      If you think that your Tula is too small, i.e. the body panel isn’t tall enough for your 90th percentile in height toddler, first do a quick check on your waist belt positioning. You’ll likely be most comfortable positioning it at your natural waist, slightly above your hip bones, tightening it until it’s nice and snug. If the waist belt is too high – a common problem that I’m guilty of in my early babywearing days – it will shorten the body panel of the SSC. This is because the body panel will fold over the waist band as your child sits in the carrier, leaving less of the body panel to cover the child’s back (see photo below). You can see how a small adjustment in the fit of the SSC can make a big difference in ensuring that you have the right size SSC for your child.

      Is my Tula too small photo

      Is it okay if my Tula is a little too big?

      When an SSC is too big, it changes the fit of the SSC, making it less comfortable for both you and your child. If the base of the SSC is too wide for your child, his/her legs will extend instead of being able to bend and swing freely at the knee. If a child rides “arms out” in a carrier that is too big (perhaps because his/her head doesn’t clear the top of the body panel of the SSC), this will change the pressure points on the carrier for both you, the wearer, and your child.
      Is it ok if my Tula is a little too big photographHe/she will be bearing their own weight with their arms at the point where their arms are hooked over the body panel, instead of in their bottom/thighs across the base of the body panel. This switch in location of pressure points to the arms can cause two problems: 1) atypical wear/damage at those points of the SSC, since the carrier is not designed to bear weight in that manner, and 2) discomfort for the caregiver due to the child’s weight being carried in a different manner and at a higher location on the body.
      Is it ok if my SSC is too big photo
      Long story short: you’re likely to be better off with an SSC that is slightly too small than one that is too big. If you’re looking to save some money by purchasing a bigger carrier (because, hey – having kids is expensive!), I’d urge you to think again and keep reading because I have some awesome ideas to help you get by until your fast-growing toddler is really ready for a toddler-size SSC.


      What if my child is in between sizes?

        For most of us, there will be a time period when our toddlers are growing like weeds and he/she may seem to be “in between” the standard and toddler size SSCs. Your toddler daughter may have such a long torso that the standard size Tula seems too short, but the toddler size is too wide for her and doesn’t allow her knees to bend. Or your toddler son may have such long, gangly legs that you feel like they’re sticking out five feet on either side of the standard Tula, but he can barely see over the top of the toddler Tula’s taller body panel.
        When looking at a SSC for the best fit for our child, we look at the SSC’s body panel for two things: height and width. For height, the top of the body panel will ideally hit somewhere between your child’s armpits and nape of the neck. Look for your child’s head to clear the top of the body panel. For width, the SSC will support your child in a comfortable seated position, allowing the knees to bend, the legs to dangle freely, and the feet to be parallel to the ground. Among the large number of SSC options we have available to us, the height and width of the body panel will vary among them even though they might all be labeled “toddler” size.

        If your heart is set on getting a Tula and you’ve tried on both a standard and toddler size and still can’t decide which fits your toddler best, you’ll probably notice that these key concepts for optimal SSC fit can be achieved in the smaller of the two sizes, but not the larger of the two. This is often times due to the body panel width being too wide to allow for your child’s knees to bend and legs to dangle freely in the larger size SSC. When considering all of the key concepts of SSC fit discussed above, in most situations, the standard size Tula would provide the most comfortable fit for both you and your child during the “in between” period of your toddler’s growth. I’d guesstimate that this “in between” time will last a few months for most children, some more, some less.

        There are other magical answers to get you through this in between time too: 

        • If your standard Tula is fine in height but your child’s legs are dangling down to your knees, check out the Tula Free to Grow Extenders. They provide extra padding and support to the width of the body panel, allowing our long-legged toddlers a more comfortable seated position in the standard Tula. I used these on our standard Tula for my oldest son because even though his long legs fit in the toddler Tula, it was still several months until he was tall enough for his head to clear the body panel in the toddler Tula.

        Tula Free to Grow Extenders 

        Tula Free to Grow Extenders
        • Check out your local babywearing group’s lending library! You might consider borrowing a smaller sized SSC for a month or two until your child fits into a toddler Tula. The added bonus is that you can try lots of different brands of SSCs and really see the differences in sizing between manufacturers. Double bonus is that you’ll get to meet lots of other fantastic babywearers and support babywearing education in your local community! #babywearingftw

          Tula Free to Grow Extenders

          Tula Free to Grow Extenders
          • Remember to take into consideration your child’s behavior tendencies when choosing what SSC will work for you and your child during this “in between” time. If you have a toddler like mine who always likes to ride arms out, lean, and do other toddler craziness while being worn, having a taller body panel on your SSC may be a more important factor than another child who likes to ride arms in most of the time. You know your child best and can determine how these key concepts of fit will apply in your own situation.

            What's the Answer?

            After all of this discussion, the answer to your question "How do I know what size Tula to get?" really comes down to one three-letter word: fit.

            Now that you know what to look for in SSC fit – in a nutshell, that your SSC is designed to keep your child in a comfortable seated position (the same position that you would hold him/her in your arms) – you can take this information and run with it! Because, let’s face it, we spend a lot of time every day running after those sweet little faces.

            Kimberly Peterman and children

            Find the Tula that fits you best and run with it! 

            - Kimberly Peterman

            Kimberly Peterman

            Kimberly Peterman is a stay-at-home mother to her two sweet, active sons in Columbus, Ohio and has been babywearing for over three years.  She helped start up a local BWI chapter when living in Illinois and is recognized as a Volunteer Babywearing Educator with Babywearing International.  In her *spare* time, she is a LuLaRoe fashion consultant, speech language pathologist, yoga instructor, and nature lover.


            #purpleelmbaby #babywearing #toddlerwearing #toddlertula #standardtula #babywearingftw #boymom




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