How to choose the right baby carrier

Think wraps and slings are only for baby-wearing, Earth-mamas? No way! There’s a baby carrier for every type of parent. Here’s how to figure out which one is right for you.

mom carrying baby on her back

When I had my first daughter, I was given two baby carriers. One was a structured carrier that looked like a backpack with two shoulder straps and a padded seat for my little one. I noted gratefully that it also featured a waist belt that would allow me to carry her weight on my hips rather than on my shoulders and back. I’d be able to wear her in two different ways on my front – facing inward from birth and facing outward when she had good head control.

The other carrier was a sling – a wide piece of fabric that I was meant to wear over one shoulder and across my torso. The edges were padded to help keep my daughter safely and comfortably inside the sling, and the size was adjustable thanks to metal rings on the shoulder. With the sling, I’d be able to breastfeed my daughter on the go if I wanted to.

As I stared at these slightly intimidating contraptions, I wasn’t sure whether baby-wearing was really my thing. But I’d heard that it had plenty of benefits – including settling a fussy baby, promoting bonding, lowering the risk of postpartum depression, allowing parents to get housework done while baby naps, and even making hiking possible – so I was willing to give it a shot.

Different strokes for different folks

I ended up using the structured carrier all the time for walks (my daughter loved looking at the world go by from the safety of her moving seat!) and sometimes to settle her when she was fussy at naptime. But I never got the hang of the sling – it felt too loose and unstructured despite all the padding around the edges and I was paranoid that my daughter would flip right out of it. My husband, on the other hand, LOVED the sling and shunned the structured carrier! He liked having our daughter cocooned into him while he went about his business. Naw.

When we had our twins, I tried two different brands of slings… but I still couldn’t relax. Yet there was Hubster wearing the babies around the house in them without a worry in the world. Instead, I made double structured carriers my thing – I wore one baby on my front and one on my back. The adorable photo ops were endless!

Another type of carrier that I’ve never tried is a wrap carrier – a stretchy piece of fabric that you wrap around your body and shoulders in an origami-type fashion. One of my besties swears by them because she loves the super-comfy customized fit and the fact that she can breastfeed her baby discreetly while she’s out and about. I’ve always looked up to her as one of those earthy moms who tends to her veggie garden and makes essential oils all while wearing her napping baby, so of course she can whip that piece of fabric around her body like nobody’s business. But to me, learning how to wrap it securely so that my baby doesn’t plop to the ground seems more complex than decoding the human genome. What can I say? I’m a girl who likes structure and support.

As you can see, baby carriers are a very individual thing. What one mom (or dad) loves, another might not. So, how can you figure out which type of carrier is right for you? Try before you buy. Ask other moms to try their carriers or bring your baby to the store and ask for a demo. You’ll quickly get a feel for the type of carrier you feel most comfortable with.

You should also think about how long you plan to use your carrier. Some models can be used without an infant insert from birth, but they generally only last until 12 to 15 months. Others can last well into toddlerhood, but you’ll probably need to buy an infant insert for the newborn stage. Keep in mind that only the most dedicated baby-wearers still want to use their carriers once their child weighs more than 20lbs because they can start to be uncomfortable – especially slings and wraps that offer less support than structured carriers. But if you’re super-keen, some models can carry up to 60lbs!

Carrier Safety Tips

While carriers can be wonderful tools to soothe, nurse and get your baby to sleep, it’s important to take a few safety precautions. Always make sure your carrier is securely wrapped and properly attached according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When your baby is napping, check on them often to ensure that their chin isn’t curled into their chest and that their mouth and nose aren’t covered by fabric or pressed into you. All these positions could cause suffocation. If your baby was born prematurely, at low birth weight or has respiratory issues, consult your healthcare professional before using a carrier.

 

Our favorite baby carriers

Here’s a selection of Tot-approved baby carriers that have been tested for health, safety, innovation and style. You can’t go wrong!

 

STRUCTURED CARRIER

 

 

The Stokke MyCarrier Front and Back Carrier allows you to wear your baby three ways: facing inward on your front, facing outward on your front, and on your back. MyCarrier is ergonomically designed, acknowledged as a hip-healthy carrier and made from Oeko-Tex Standard 100 approved textiles. Age recommendation:  Four weeks to three years.

 

 

If you only plan to wear your baby on your front (inward or outward), the Stokke MyCarrier Front Carrier could be right for you. With its padded waist belt, back support and shoulder straps, you’ll be able to comfortably carry your little one from four weeks to three years. Age recommendation: 3 weeks to three years.

 

 

Ergobaby’s award-winning baby carriers offer an impressive array of features. With four carrying positions (front-inward, front-outward, hip and back), the highest standards in ergonomic design, a new extra-supportive waistband, padded shoulder straps and an easy-to-use infant insert, the Four Position 360 Carrier Bundle of Joy will rock your world. Suitable from 7 to 33 lbs.

 

Live in a warmer climate? Ergobaby’s Four Position 360 Cool Air Carrier has all the same features as the Bundle of Joy and it will keep your baby cool even in the hottest weather  thanks to its breathable 3D Air Mesh lining. From 7 to 33 lbs.

 

 Ergobaby 360 Cool Air Carrier in Pearl Grey

The Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh Carrier might well be Ergobaby’s most advanced carrier yet. It boasts a newborn-ready design, it comes with all the carry positions and it’s entirely made from breathable mesh for ultimate ventilation. Best of all, it can be used up to 45lbs – about four years old!

 Ergobaby 360 All Positions Carrier in Pure Black

Comfortable and easy to put on, the Ergobaby Pure Black 360 offers four carrying positions with an added lumbar support waist belt making it a highly popular option for parents who need that extra back support. Button adjustments allow parents to adapt the seat width to the baby’s size and position and adjustable padded shoulder straps offer neck and shoulder comfort for the wearer. Start with newborn infant insert (sold separately): 0-4 months/7-12lbs

 

 

Want a stylish carrier that doubles as a fashion accessory? You’ll love the Cybex YEMA. Ergonomically designed to promote a natural spread squat that’s important for your baby’s hip development, it allows you to carry them on your front, hip and back. For an even sleeker, leather-look style, try the YEMA Black.  From birth to two years.

 Cybex Yema Carrier Dark Spring Blossom

The Cybex Spring Blossom YEMAtakes baby carriers to a new level of style. Featuring the same ergonomic design as the classic YEMA, it’s also a timeless fashion piece with embroidered appliqués and stunning embellishments set against a floral landscape. From 7.7 to 33 lbs.

 

I loved my first-generation BABYBJÖRN carrier, but the Baby Carrier One Air is something else. With four carrying positions (two height positions facing in on your front, facing out on your front, and on your back), an ergonomic design, extra-padded shoulder straps and child-friendly mesh fabric, it’s the Cadillac of structured carriers. From newborn to three years.

 Nuna CUDL in Frost

The Nuna CUDL carrier is made from organic cotton jersey knit and mesh fabric and comes with two removable GOTS certified organic cotton bibs. It also has padded straps, four carry positions and an integrated infant booster to guarantee a comfortable, safe and customizable carrying experience. From 15 to 35 lbs.

 Zarpar Bebe Snap Carrier in Sand on woman

Adventurous mamas will love the Zarpar Bebe Snap Baby Carrier. Featuring a simplified design and an ergonomic shape that provides optimal safety and support, it’s the perfect choice for long hikes and travel. The carrier is made with breathable 100% linen to keep your baby cool while the front panel is fashioned from handwoven fabrics sourced from Nepal. Includes front, hip and back carry options. From 12 to 35 lbs.

 

WRAP CARRIER

 

The Solly Baby Wrap Carrier earns rave reviews from wrap-loving moms. Made from lightweight and eco-friendly 100% certified lenzing modal, it creates a safe and comfortable womb-like environment for your little one to curl up in. It also comes with a booklet of instructions and a safety guide. Available in Original XL or New Standard size. From birth to one year.

 

HYBRID CARRIER

 

Baby K’Tan’s Original Baby Carrier is like no other carrier on the market. Blending all the benefits of a sling, wrap and structured carrier, it lets you wear your baby in six ergonomic positions from birth to 35lbs. And you can breathe easy knowing it’s made from 100% natural cotton and free of any harmful chemicals or dyes. From birth to 35lbs.