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.
Baby wearing is beneficial (and convenient) for a lot of reasons. It can help settle a fussy baby, promote bonding, lower the risk of postpartum depression, allow parents to get errands and housework done while baby naps, and even makes hiking possible.
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.
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.
Truthfully, 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!
The only one I didn’t try with my babies was 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 20 lbs 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.
- Ensure that the carrier’s materials pass The Tot Test, meaning they are free of flame retardants, PFAS chemicals, carcinogenic dyes, PVC, BPA + BPS and harmful phthalates. You can find out more about The Tot Test and the chemicals we avoid and why here.
Our Best Baby Carrier Picks
Here’s a selection of Tot-approved baby carriers that have been tested for health, safety, innovation and style. You can’t go wrong!
The Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh Carrier might well be Ergobaby’s most advanced carrier yet. It boasts a newborn-ready design, comes with all the carry positions and is entirely made from breathable mesh for ultimate ventilation. Best of all, it can be used up to 45 lbs – about four years old!
Every bit as advanced as the Omni, this has a heavier weighted machine washable fabric that’s ideal for cooler climates. Easy to wear front, back or on your side, it’s machine washable, lightweight and can also hold up to 45 lbs.
Perfect for newborns, this lightweight mini carrier is where a sling meets a structured carrier! Suitable for use up to 24 lbs, it can be used forward and outward facing.
Made from organic cotton jersey knit and mesh fabric, the Nuna Cudl 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.
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.
Want a stylish carrier that doubles as a fashion accessory? Ergonomically designed to promote a natural spread squat that’s important for your baby’s hip development, the YEMA 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.
Available in more colors
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. From birth to one year.
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.
Available in more colors
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