Tula is a popular company that makes high quality baby carriers. I’ve been using two Tula carriers with my children, the Tula Free to Grow, and the Tula Standard baby carrier. If you’re just getting started looking into the brand Tula you might be wondering: what’s the difference between the Standard and the Free to Grow Tula? The major difference is that the Free to Grow is more adjustable and does not require the use of an infant insert.
There are a couple other small differences and a bunch of similarities to consider when buying a Standard or Free To Grow. The Standard Tula baby carrier is the first Tula carrier they ever came out with. The Free To Grow is one of their top-selling options and offers a few updates on the original design. Let’s take a look at all the details and differences between the two carriers for an in depth comparison if you’re considering buying one or the other, so you can choose which might be the best baby carrier for you.
*Note on Coast Carriers: Tula labels their carriers as ‘coast’ when they have a mesh body panel instead of being completely made from cotton, linen, or hemp. This means you can have a mesh ‘Coast’ Standard Tula or a ‘Coast’ Free To Grow carrier. I hope that clears things up! ‘Coast Carrier’ is just an added term to let you know it is mesh.
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Feel free to jump to any section by clicking the table of contents, or scroll through the whole article for all the details:
Difference Between Standard and Free To Grow Tula Carriers
Infant Seat Differences:
The seat of the standard Tula only had one setting. This means it’s in a wide position and is only suitable for larger infants starting once they’re at least 15 pounds. An infant insert is available so you can start using a Standard Tula while your newborn is smaller. The reason you need an infant insert is to make sure the baby’s hips and knees are in the right position. If you’re trying to use a Standard Tula but it’s still too big for your baby, the carrier will extend past your infant’s knee and put pressure on the baby’s joints in a way that could be uncomfortable or dangerous.
The seat of the Tula Free to Grow can adjust from narrow to medium to wide width settings. This means it can accommodate a smaller infant with no need for an infant insert. You can see in the comparison photos I took of my carriers, how it’s possible to adjust the Tula Free To Grow adaptable panel with snaps on the waistband to get it in a good ergonomic position for your baby.
The snaps are fairly easy to adjust – you just have to remember to pay attention to them as your baby grows and adjust the carrier once in a while to keep up with your baby’s size. The ability to adjust the infant seat to narrow and wide settings is the main reason for the different carrier weight limits as seen in the next section.
Weight Restriction Differences:
The Free To Grow can accommodate babies from 7 pounds to 45 pounds without the need for an infant insert. The Standard Tula carrier can accommodate babies from 15 pounds to 45 pounds, or you can use the Standard carrier with an infant insert purchased separately and start using the standard carrier when your baby is 7 pounds.
Some people find the added infant insert needed in the Standard Tula to be hot and the extra padding to be bulky. Keep this in mind if you’re going to use the carrier with a newborn in the summer months.
The Standard Tula goes for $149 USD when it’s not on sale ($199 CND) and the Free To Grow goes for $179 USD when it’s not on sale ($239 CND). It makes sense that the Free To Grow is slightly more expensive because the extra details added into manufacturing the adjustable seat probably cost more to produce.
If you’re planning on using the baby carrier for a small baby (under 15 pounds) or you’re going to use the carrier for another baby in the future and want the option of using it with a newborn, you should take into account the price difference including an infant insert.
Standard Tula is $149 + $20 Infant Insert = $169 USD ($199 + $27 = $226 Canadian total)
Tula Free To Grow – no Infant Insert needed is $179 USD ($239 Canadian)
If you add on the Tula Infant Insert you would need to use with the Standard, it’s a very minimal price difference. You’re only saving about $10.
Leg Padding Differences:
The leg padding on the Free To Grow is thinner. You can see in this picture the thicker leg padding of the Tula standard carrier.
Sun Hood Differences:
This point really only matters if you’re interested in purchasing a used Tula or happen to have an older one. In the older models of the Standard Tula baby carrier, the sun hood or ‘privacy hood’ secures to the carrier with loops and hooks. If you’ve lost your sun hood for a ‘retired’ Standard model like this, it’s important to know that Tula doesn’t make or sell new ones that will fit your carrier anymore. Keep this in mind if you’re buying one second hand and ask if they have the original Standard Tula sun hood. If you’re purchasing a brand new version of either of these carriers, they both come with the same type of removable hood.
The Free To Grow has a sun hood with plastic snaps. It is also detachable which means it may get lost. Tula sells new replacement sun hoods for the Free To Grow model on their website.
You can see in the above photo how a replacement hood attaches to a Tula Free To Grow carrier with snaps on it. Every new Tula Free To Grow carrier comes with a detachable hood that matches the design on the main body panel. I have one for this carrier with the same confetti dots pattern you see on the main carrier body.
Similarities Between Free To Grow and Standard Tula Carriers:
Perfect Fit Adjusters:
They both have perfect fit adjusters. These are used to make the main body panel shorter or taller to fit your baby’s height better. You can adjust the height settings of both baby carriers with sliding toggles.
You can see that the perfect fit adjusters are identical on each model in the above photo.
They have one pocket on the waistband. Both carriers have only one pocket; there are no differences in the amount of storage space between these two.
In addition to testing for the ASTM standards that are required for all infant products sold in North America, Tula does their own third-party testing to ensure all their products are free from phthalates, heavy metals, and chemicals. This means the fabric is safe for your baby’s sensitive skin.
Hip Healthy IHDI Certified:
Both the Free To Grow and Standard Tula baby carriers are certified Hip Healthy by the International Hip Displaysia Institute, which means if used correctly, your baby can maintain a good ergonomic position for healthy hip and spine development while seated in your carrier.
Both carriers can be used in two carrying positions only (front face-in and back carry). Your baby cannot be in a front face-out position in the Tula Free to Grow Carrier or the Tula Standard Carrier. If you’re looking for a carrier that can do a hip carry, neither the Free To Grow or Standard Tula will allow it.
If you’re looking for a baby carrier that can accommodate a front face-out carry position, try the:
Both the Tula Free-To-Grow carrier and Standard carrier have a nice wide padded waistband that is flexible, not rigid. They’re both good choices if you’re interested in breastfeeding your baby in the carrier. As far as ease of use goes, they’re equally as easy to load your baby into and wear. They both have the ability to store additional webbing (on the adjustable straps) by rolling and tucking the webbing away neatly in elastics.
You can also purchase additional add ons for both carriers like drool pads, or an added lumbar support pad for either carrier. They also both have similarly padded shoulder straps for the adult’s comfort.
How To Choose Between Free To Grow and Standard Tula Carriers:
Why you might want the Free To Grow:
- No infant insert needed
- Good for 7 lbs – 45 lbs babies
- Priced slightly higher doesn’t bother you
- More versatile
- Potentially better resale value
Why you might want the Standard Tula:
- Your baby is already over 15 lbs
- You like using the infant insert (newborns in winter may find it cozy in a cold climate)
- You like the extra padding of this carrier style
- It’s priced slightly lower to help out your budget
Final Thoughts & My Personal Choice
I really do love the Standard Tula that I own; I enjoy the extra padding it has and my current baby is old enough not to need an infant insert so the Standard and Free To Grow function quite similarly for me. If you’re looking at my personal recommendation, and if I were only interested in buying one soft structured carrier, I would choose the Free To Grow. I think for most families it’s a more versatile option that fits a wider variety of babies and once you take into account the price of a Standard with an additional Infant Insert, the Free To Grow isn’t actually much more expensive.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful in taking a closer look at the two different models and choosing which is the right carrier for you.
For more articles on baby carriers, check these out!