Today I’m going to do a head-to-head comparison between two of the most popular baby carriers – the LILLEbaby Complete vs. the Tula Free-to- Grow – to help you decide which is the better overall baby carrier.
Personally I’m kind of a baby carrier junkie. It’s the one type of baby item that I’ve spent a long-time researching. I own lots of carriers, more than my husband thinks is normal (he has a fair point, the other day a bunch of them tumbled out of my closet on top of me in a heap, which did seem a little excessive).
In my defense I buy some of them secondhand. Plus I want to review them thoroughly for this blog. That’s my job! I’m kind of a professional baby carrier owner, the more I think about it.
Before I go into the details, I’ll cut to the chase: the LILLEbaby Complete is my go-to carrier right now. I use it with my 15-month-old daughter, and it has been fantastic. Although I like both carriers, in the LILLEbaby vs. Tula match-up my money is on the LILLEbaby.
That being said, there are pros and cons to each of these soft structured carriers (as there are to all of the 7 types of baby carriers, which range from soft structured carriers to slings to wraps).
Note: If you’re entirely new to baby wearing, this Baby Wearing for Beginner’s Guide can help answer any questions you may have about choosing and using various types of carriers.
First lets take a look at the LILLEbaby Complete.
The LILLEbaby Complete is comfortable and cute, and it can be used from birth through toddlerhood. If you’re looking for a practical carrier that’s not hard to use and that you’ll get a lot of mileage out of, I would highly recommend this carrier! I didn’t discover it until my third baby, and I wish I had known about it sooner.
So, what does this particular model have to offer?
The LILLEbaby Complete has 6 carrying positions:
- Inward facing (front carry)
- Outward facing (front carry)
- Wide seat front carry (inward facing)
- Back carry
- Hip carry
- Fetal position (for tiny babies)
You won’t necessarily use all of the positions, but it’s nice to have a carrier that gives you options.
Ok, so in my opinion there’s really a lot to love about this carrier.
- The LILLEbaby is VERY easy to adjust and put on solo. This is a big deal! It can be very hard to reach around to clip the neck buckle on a lot of carriers (Trust me, some are much harder than others. The LILLEbaby is way easier for me to buckle at the neck than the Ergo, for example).
- It has a built-in storage pouch large enough to hold a phone, wallet, and set of keys. Probably a diaper and wipes. Maybe a sub (ok probably not a sub). To me the storage is essential, and this pocket size is really good.
- The International Hip Dysplasia Institute acknowledged the LILLEbaby as a “hip-healthy product”.
- If you live in a warm climate, or really anywhere that has summer (so, yeah anywhere) – this carrier breathes well, which can make a big difference. *If you want to get the most versatile LILLEbaby in terms of adjusting for various temperatures, you’ll probably want to go with the LILLEbaby Complete All Seasons carrier.
- Straps can be worn crossed or parallel.
- Comes with a hood, which is good for sun protection and nursing.
- You can use the LILLEbaby starting at about 7 pounds without an infant insert. This is really helpful if you only want to invest in one carrier for the long-term, and you aren’t inclined to purchase a separate infant insert.
- The material doesn’t feel as durable as on some of my other carriers. I bought my LILLEbaby a few months ago, so I asked a friend who has used hers for several years about this. She said that hers has held up well even after heavy long-term use, and she has tossed it into the washing machine with no issue. So I feel good about that! But I did want to mention the fabric in case you think you’ll be very hard on your carrier.
- The rear lumbar support is a separate attachment that threads onto the waist belt, and I don’t love the way it looks. However, it does provide my back support, and I’m getting kind of old, so…
- The waistband is a bit wide, which may bother some people.
You can go the manufacturer’s website for pricing and material options.
The Tula Free-to-Grow has 2 carrying positions:
- Front carry (facing parent)
- Back carry
This is a durable and nicely designed carrier made of 100% cotton. I find it very easy to use, and love the fact that it’s not bulky or cumbersome at all. The body of the carrier has a streamlined feel to it that makes it especially nice to use with young babies. Actually, I included the Tula on my list of Best Baby Carriers for Newborns for just that reason.
Let’s look at some pros and cons.
- Very durable, high quality fabric. Not only does the fabric feel durable, but it is also soft to the touch.
- Comes with a hood, which is great to protect a napping baby from the sun, or if you’re trying to nurse in the carrier.
- Acknowledged by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute as a hip-healthy product.
- Adorable patterns to choose from! There are so many cute Tula carriers available, and I’m not gonna lie, this is a big selling point! I had trouble choosing my favorite. If you’re looking for a stylish and well-made carrier, the Tula is a compelling choice.
- Works for newborns without the use of an infant insert! This is a big advantage if you only want to invest in one carrier for use from infancy through toddlerhood.
- Waist belt is a nice size (not too wide). I’m 5’2″, so for me a giant waist band is a little much. For a taller person this probably wouldn’t matter all that much either way. Although I can’t say for sure seeing as I myself have never been any taller than I am today.
- The pocket is on the small side, and secures shut with velcro rather than a zipper. I would really prefer a slightly larger pocket and a zipper, since I’m often carrying things I can’t afford to drop, like my credit card, keys, and cell phone.
- Only offers two carrying positions, which may feel limited to some people. I don’t personally use the forward-facing out position or the side carry very much anyway, so to me this isn’t a big deal. But if you want either of those options, you won’t find them with the Tula Free-to-Grow.
Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison chart, in case you find charts handy!
Tula Free to Grow
2 pockets, one large zipped + a pouch
1 small velcro pocket
Crossable Shoulder Straps
Certified Hip Healthy
LILLEbaby vs. Tula: The Verdict
In a head to head battle of the LILLEbaby Complete vs. Tula Free-to-Grow, my vote goes to the LILLEbaby Complete.
I really enjoy both carriers, and I could make a case for either.
If you want the selection of cute patterns that Tula offers, I say go for it! It’s a great carrier and I love mine. I also think this carrier is ideal for newborns; it’s not bulky, easy to use, and cozy.
But in the end, the LILLEbaby offers more carrying options, is super comfy, and has a significantly better pocket, which to me really is a big deal. I can wear my LILLEbaby for extended periods of time without experiencing any back pain, and my 15-month-old seems very content and comfortable the entire time.
I really love how easy the LILLEbaby is to put on without assistance. The design makes it very simple for me to put it on solo, and I am not flexible AT ALL so that is saying something. If you’re into yoga you can probably work all these carriers without an issue. Ha!
The LILLEbaby is my new go-to carrier for, well, most everything. I can use it to carry my baby for well over an hour without an issue, and it’s equally comfortable in both the front and back carry positions. This one’s a winner!
Here are some other baby carrier head-to-head comparisons you might be interested in:
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