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- Best no-frills baby carrier: Boba Wrap, Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Ring Sling
- Best baby carrier for toddlers: Tula Toddler Carrier
- Best baby carrier for dads: Mission Critical S.01 Action Baby Carrier
- Best baby carrier for plus size: ErgoBaby Omni 360, Tula Free-To-Grow Baby Carrier
- Best front-facing baby carrier: BabyBjörn Original Carrier
- Best baby carrier for hiking: Osprey Poco, Clevr Cross Country Child Carrier
- Best baby carrier for summer: LILLEbaby Complete Airflow, Baby K’tan Active
- Best budget baby carrier for multiple positions: Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Convertible Carrier, Evenflo Breathable Carrier
- Best baby carrier for twins: Twingo Carrier
Your little one was carried for 9 long months in the womb. While that may sometimes have been a challenge for the person doing the carrying, your baby was likely pretty happy with their cozy digs.
Since babies tend to know what they like (and let you know, loudly) some parents choose to continue carrying their infants in the fourth trimester (newborn days) all the way to the toddler years (and sometimes beyond).
While baby wearing may seem trendy, it’s actually been practiced for thousands of years. These days, there are a number of baby carriers on the market — indeed, it can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with all the styles and terms.
Don’t worry, though, because you can’t necessarily go wrong. To be sold and marketed, baby carriers must meet certain safety criteria set forth by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other organizations.
So it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. That’s where we come in.
Knowing that all carriers are technically safe, choosing the best one comes down to your lifestyle, budget, body, and — of course — your baby.
The following carriers get good marks from caregivers we consulted and in reviews for being easy to use, durable, and adaptable to different needs and carrying positions.
Note: There are some limitations to this list because reviews are subjective and may reflect opinions that you might not necessarily share. Still, we hope our picks will give you a good starting point for finding the carrier that’s ideal just for you and your precious cargo!
Best no-frills baby carrier
Soft wraps and ring slings may be a simpler choice than some other types of carriers, as they have fewer buckles and adjustments.
Even though they seem basic, it’s important to thoroughly read and follow instructions, as they can pose risks if used incorrectly, especially for babies younger than 4 months.
- Weight range: Up to 35 lbs
- Material: Cotton and spandex
- Baby position: Front, facing inward
Key features: This inexpensive wrap is a bestseller that comes in a rainbow of colors. While you can use this wrap with infants from birth, it’s also handy for toddlers up to 35 pounds. It’s made from 95 percent cotton for breathability and has 5 percent spandex for some stretch and hold. This wrap comes in one-size-fits-all that may be helpful with changing postpartum bodies and fitting other caregivers in the family.
Considerations: Soft wraps may take some time to master. There are a variety of ways to tie them, but it may be frustrating for some users — especially when out and about. Other parents share that the life of this wrap is relatively short because, despite the weight limit, they don’t find it comfortable with larger infants and toddlers.
- Weight range: 8–35 lbs
- Material: Cotton
- Baby position: Front, facing inward; front, facing outward; hip
Key features: A ring sling may be a better option for you if tying a wrap is intimidating. Putting it on is simple, making it a smart choice if you’re traveling or otherwise out of the house. Just place it over your shoulder, put your baby in the pouch, and gently pull the tail to adjust to size.
The Maya Wrap is padded for comfort. Plus, some reviewers note that they can easily breastfeed in this carrier.
Considerations: You’ll need to purchase this sling in the correct size for your body, which means you may not be able to share it with another parent or caregiver. While some people love the padding, others say non-padded slings may actually be more comfortable. Others yet say the fabric is too thick, making it difficult to adjust.
Best baby carrier for toddlers
Toddlers are often on the move, but may still like to be carried from time to time. Good carriers may help protect your back with good ergonomic support and padding.
Best baby carrier for dads
Men can use any baby carrier they like, provided it fits and is comfortable. There are a few carriers on the market that may fit a male build better.
Best baby carriers for plus size
You’ll find carriers, particularly wraps and slings, that come in different sizes. Soft-structured carriers, on the other hand, tend to be one size with adjustable belts. The good news is that there are options made to accommodate larger bodies.
Key features: The Omni 360 is a versatile carrier that’s adjustable to fit petite to larger body types. The waist belt can adjust from 26 to 52 inches and the shoulder straps can move from 28 3/4 inches to 48 3/4 inches. Along with carrying baby on the front, back, and hip, you can wear the straps backpack style or crossed. Reviewers share that the straps are nicely padded and that the material is sturdy but soft.
Considerations: A few reviewers shared that it was hard to get the hang of using this carrier with its many options. Those who are familiar with an older fabric used with this model explain that the current fabric is stiffer and doesn’t breathe well in warm weather. Shorter women say that this carrier just isn’t a good fit.
Best front-facing baby carrier
Younger babies are safest when positioned on your front, facing inward. However, as your baby gets a bit older, they may not be as content facing in toward your body. Moving your baby to face outward gives them a bit more stimulation and entertainment.
Best baby carrier for hiking
You may be able to get away with other baby carriers for short or easy hikes. If you’re more of a high peaks kind of adventurer, though, you might want to invest in a structured hiking pack for making trips more comfortable.
- Weight range: 16 lbs. minimum child weight, 48.5 lbs. maximum (includes any gear you may be carrying)
- Material: Nylon
- Baby position: Back
Key features: Made of durable nylon, this structured carrier has an aluminum frame for lightweight support. It has 6 inches of adjustment in the torso to fit a variety of body sizes. There’s a “halo harness” in the seat area to help secure your baby in the carrier. Your little one will also appreciate the built-in sunshade on sunny days or for extra privacy when napping. Bonus: Osprey will repair this carrier for free if it becomes damaged for any reason.
Considerations: At almost $300, this carrier is expensive. It’s important to make sure it’s properly fitted before wearing. The waist belt can dig into the hip area and even cause bruising if it doesn’t fit properly.
This carrier should only be used once your baby is old enough to hold their head up and sit up on their own. This usually happens by about 4 to 6 months of age.
Best baby carrier for summer
Yes, snuggling close with your baby in a carrier can be cozy. It may also get quite warm, especially in summer weather. The good news is that companies have addressed this by making carriers from materials that breathe.
Best budget carrier for multiple positions
Don’t have a ton of money to spend on a carrier? Or maybe you want to buy a few types without breaking the bank. That’s OK. There are some good options that come in well under $50.
Best baby carrier for twins
Maybe you’re having multiples or have babies quite close in age. There’s a carrier for that!
In short: No. You don’t have to use a baby carrier with your infant.
In fact, most items you’ll see on registries aren’t absolute must-haves. A baby carrier is in the could-be-nice category. Some parents may do well without it. That said, others cannot see living life any other way.
For this reason, you may want to check around to see if your area has any local babywearing groups. You may be able to try out different carriers for free with the group’s loan program.
There are definitely pros when it comes to using a baby carrier.
- Gives you your hands free to do anything from washing dishes to caring for other children.
- Is an alternative to a stroller if you’re small on space in your home/car or if taking a stroller doesn’t make sense at your destination.
- Gives your baby or toddler a convenient seat if you’re out to eat or somewhere else where you might not have access to a high chair.
- May help to soothe baby. A very dated study from the 1980s showed that babies who are carried more fuss and cry 43 percent less than infants who are carried mainly for feeding and when they cry in the first 3 months. A baby carrier may make this easier, though it’s not necessary.
- Allows for exercise, like walking or low-impact aerobics, with baby close and warm.
- Lets you breastfeed on the go. Some carriers, like ring slings, are particularly easy to figure out, but you can find a way to breastfeed in most carriers with enough practice.
If your head is still spinning with all the brands and options, try breaking it down by type. Maybe a certain style of carrier speaks to you — but you may not know until you try.
You may even find that your preferences change as your baby gets older. If you don’t have a local babywearing group, consider asking a friend if you can borrow their carrier for a test run.
The main types include:
- Soft wrap. Long piece of material that you tie around your body (stretchy).
- Woven wrap. Long piece of material that you tie around your body (no stretch).
- Ring sling. Wrap with a ring that allows you to adjust the tightness with ease.
- Meh dai or mei tai. Asian-style carrier that’s made of a panel of fabric around baby; two wide, padded straps that go around the waist; and another two that go around the shoulders of the caregiver.
- Soft structured carrier. Carrier with padded shoulder straps and adjustable belts. Can be for infants and older toddlers.
- Structured carrier. Carrier with a frame, usually aluminum, that’s used for hiking or other longer trips.
When you’re shopping, try to remember to look for key features that make sense for your family’s needs.
These might include:
- Baby’s weight. Some carriers are made for the tiniest babies. Others are made for toddlers and preschoolers. Some help span the range by offering options to grow with your child. When shopping, remember the size of your baby and that they’ll likely grow quickly in the first year. Some carriers may require a special infant insert for smaller babies.
- Preferred carry position. Some carriers allow for just one way to carry baby. Others are adjustable or made for multiple carry positions. If adaptability is important to you, consider buying a carrier that will move and groove with you.
- Ease of cleaning. Babies spit up, have blow-outs, and otherwise make a mess of things. Try finding a carrier that will easily wash in your washing machine. Alternatively, you may consider purchasing drool pads and other covers that you can secure around the most dirtied areas and remove for easy cleaning.
- Budget. While certain brands or patterns may be hard to pass up, you don’t need to go broke buying a baby carrier. Keep your budget in mind. And if you can’t get what you want new at the store, try a local secondhand baby shop or borrowing/buying from a friend.
- Hip-friendly design. It’s important to choose a carrier that allows baby’s hips and knees to sit in an ergonomic “M” position to promote healthy development.
- Safety tag. Again, sling carriers that have been tested for safety will include some kind of tag with associated information. You may run across vintage or homemade carriers if you’re looking secondhand. Be careful when considering these choices. Safety standards are continually changing, so getting a more current carrier may be the safest option. And be sure to examine every carrier closely to make sure everything is in working order.
In addition to purchasing a safe carrier, it’s also important that you follow all instructions for usage. Injuries related to baby carrier use do happen. You should also be aware of proper positioning to prevent hip dysplasia in your precious cargo.
Trend or no trend, babywearing is here to stay. And, really, it’s a win-win situation. Your baby gets all the closeness and cuddles. You get both your hands free to get stuff done, work out, or explore the world.
So, if toting around your baby sounds like something you’d like to try — consider borrowing a friend’s carrier for a day or two. You may not find the right fit at first, but — in time — you’re sure to find one that works for you and your family.