Troubleshooting your Soft Structured Carrier: Fit Check and 5 Comfort Tips

Sometimes finding comfort in your soft structured carrier can be a matter of making a small adjustment. Small adjustments can make a big difference in how the carrier feels for you and for baby! In this post we will cover how to tell if baby fits in the carrier and then go over a five soft structured carrier troubleshooting tips that can make a difference in your comfort.

Fit Check

Infant Fit Check

To check if your soft structured carrier fits your infant, ask yourself these two questions:

  1.  Is the baby’s head completely visible above the panel?
  2. Are the baby’s knees able to bend freely?

Let’s take a look at a couple of images.

Image 1 (Left) –  This carrier is too big.  Baby’s face is not visible above the panel.  The carrier panel comes too high on baby’s head and baby’s face is not visible.  The panel should go no higher than the bottom of baby’s ear.   Baby’s legs also cannot bend freely.  The caregivers should use an infant insert with this carrier or wait until baby grows to use it.

Image 2 (Right) –  This carrier fits well.  The panel does not cover baby’s face or head.  The panel comes to the top of baby’s shoulders, but does not cover the ears.  The baby’s knees can bend freely.  Baby’s face is completely visible.

You should not use your carrier if it is too big for your baby.  Read the carrier instructions to see if the carrier has an infant insert.  Some brands of SSC fit smaller babies with an insert.  For others, you just need to wait until the baby fits.

Toddler Fit Check

To check if your toddler fits in the carrier, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your child below the weight limit of the carrier?
  • How much of your child’s thighs does the carrier panel support?  It should support from at least mid-thigh to mid-thigh.  The panel should not extend past the knee.
  • How high does the carrier panel go on your child?  It should be at least to the shoulder blades and no higher than the bottom of your child’s ear.
  • Is your child comfortable?

Your child will likely fit the carrier until he or she reaches the weight limit of the particular carrier. Children tend to be comfortable if the carrier panel supports them to about mid-thigh to mid-thigh and comes up to the bottom of the shoulder blades.

These two images show a baby the same size (wearing 2t pants and about 30 pounds, 38 inches tall). Baby fits well in BOTH of these carriers!

Image 1 (Left) –  This is a standard size Tula.  This carrier fits well.  The carrier supports from mid-thigh to mid-thigh.  The panel comes up to the middle of the shoulder blades.  This is a good fit, especially for a baby who prefers to be arms out.

Image 2 (Right) – This is a toddler size Kinderpack.  This carrier also fits well.  The carrier panel supports the baby from knee to knee, but does not extend past the knee.  The panel comes to the bottom of baby’s ear but doesn’t cover baby’s face.  This carrier fits well, especially for a baby who prefers to be arms in.

Five Soft Structured Carrier Troubleshooting and Comfort Tips

1.  Position your waistband parallel to the ground and snug.  

Adjusting your waistband positioning can make a big difference to your comfort.  Many people prefer to wear the waist band snug and parallel to the ground.

Like a hiking backpack, a snug waistband will really make the carry more comfortable for you. For example, with a hiking back, keeping the waistband snug means that the weight of the pack loads more to your hips than your shoulders.  A snug waistband in a soft structured carrier can also  load the baby’s weight more to your hips than your shoulders.  You can play with tightening and loosening the waistband to find the tightness that feels best for you.

Image 1 (Left):  The waist band is a bit loose and is sinking down in the front. You could fit a hand in between the wearer and the waistband in the front.  This tends to put additional pressure on the wearer’s lower back. To adjust, bring the front of the waistband up slightly, hold it to the torso and then pull on the waist straps to tighten.

Image 2 (Right):  The waist band is snug and parallel to the ground.  You could fit a finger in-between the waistband and the wearer, but not a whole hand.  The waistband would stay in this position and not sink down during wearing.  Most (but not all) people find this more comfortable.  You can play with the position of your waist band to find what is comfortable for you.

2.  Adjust the tightness of your chest clip.

You can also adjust how tight the chest clip is.  It should be tight enough that the straps don’t slip off of your shoulder, but not so tight that the straps pull at your arms.  A comfortably snug chest clip usually forms the shape of an H on the wearer where the shoulder straps are the vertical lines on the H and the chest clip is the horizontal line.  A too-snug chest clip will pull the shoulder straps in too tightly changing the H shape.

Image 1:  Chest clip is too tight.  See how the chest clip is being pulled inward, losing the H shape?  Over time, this will cause discomfort.
Image 2:  Chest clip is too loose.  The straps are slipping off of the shoulder.
Image 3:  This chest clip is just right.  See how the straps form the shape of an H?

3.  Adjust the height of your chest clip.

You can adjust the position of the chest clip by sliding it up or down.  During a back carry, most people like the chest clip just below the collarbone. For a front carry, most people find it most comfortable just between the shoulder blades (about halfway between the two positions shown). The left image is too high and the right image is a bit too low.  Just like waistband positioning, you might find it helpful to try a few different chest clip positions to figure out what you prefer.

Image 1:  The chest clip is too high.  Placing the chest clip this high can cause discomfort on the neck.

Image 2:  The chest clip is too low.  When the chest clip is this low, it’s difficult to reach.  It also can cause underarm discomfort.

The perfect height (for most people) is just a bit higher than in image two.  When the chest clip is between the shoulder blades, you can see the H shape of the straps that we talked about in tip 2  It can really help to play around with your chest clip positioning to find out exactly where you like it.


4.  Bring the panel high on the baby’s back.

Getting the panel nice and high on the baby’s back can make a big difference for both your comfort and the baby’s! It gives you more support in the carry and also gets the baby nicely seated in the carrier.  A lot of people have trouble getting the panel nice and high on baby’s back in a back carry. There is a simple trick to this!

Before tightening your shoulder straps, take one strap in each hand and lift UP. Your body will look like the shape of a Y, with your arms extended up over your head. Bounce gently and pull up on the straps. This will bring the panel nice and high on baby’s back and help get baby into a good “seat.”

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5. Adjust the tightness of your shoulder straps.  

Soft Structured Carrier strap that are too loose or too tight can be uncomfortable after a while, causing neck ache, tension headache, back ache, or uncomfortable chaffing.

If the straps are too loose, your baby will not feel secure and well supported. Sometimes babies even cry in a too-loose carrier because they do not feel secure. This also makes the baby feel much heavier for the wearer and can cause shoulder and back discomfort over time. If you have baby in a front carry, you should be able to lean forward just slightly without the baby’s body pulling away from you. To adjust, you can support baby’s weight with one hand and with the other hand pull the shoulder straps to tighten.

Straps that are too tight can be uncomfortable for the wearer as well. Too tight straps will rub under the arms and cause discomfort. You want the straps just snug enough that baby is well supported, but not so snug that you feel chaffing or rubbing from the straps.

This image shows perfectly adjusted shoulder straps in a front carry.  The baby is held snugly against the wearer, and is nice and high on the wearer’s chest, but the straps are not pulled so tight that they are causing discomfort.
This beautiful photo was taken by Amanda Glenn Photography who does amazing babywearing photography.

I hope that the fit check and the five SSC troubleshooting tips that I have shared here will help you get more comfortable with your soft structured carrier.  If you are having a problem with your SSC that I did not address here, please leave a comment and I will write back as soon as I’m able.

Happy Babywearing!

Further Reading:

How to Use your Soft Structured Carrier  – This post includes tips for getting the chest clip position just right when you do a front carry and has a video that shows how to clip the chest clip (which can be hard to reach!)  It also includes videos for hip carries and back carries.

Positioning a Newborn in your Carrier – Images of newborn positioning in each type of carrier

Positioning an Older Baby or Toddler in your Carrier – Images of baby and toddler positioning in each type of carrier

How to Tell if your Child fits in a Toddler Sized Carrier  This post can be help also if you aren’t sure if you should size up your carrier.