We’re now living in a time with more baby-carrier options than ever — partly because Attachment Parenting activists have brought the ancient benefits of baby wearing to the mainstream, but mostly, and most importantly, because we need them. They give us the freedom to move and use two arms — whether it’s to run errands or vacuum the living room — all while having our babies snuggled close. Baby carriers are also a convenient (and often necessary) way to soothe, breastfeed, and lull babies to sleep.
Despite feeling overwhelmed by the variety of contraptions to choose from, this really is a good problem to have. The various carriers on the market come with different features and aesthetics that address different issues. I’m convinced that there’s no one “perfect” baby carrier for the masses — it depends on a number of factors: your build, your baby’s size, how you’ll be using the carrier, and how long you’ll be using the carrier, for example. And even beyond all of that, it can largely come down to a personal preference.
That being said, some carriers are simply designed better than others. I consulted with baby-wear experts at the popular boutique Waddle n Swaddle (who objectively fit hundreds of new parents for the right carrier), interviewed dozens of moms, and put the newest models to the test to find the best baby carriers for you.
My biggest piece of advice is to try on carriers before buying, preferably at a store with a baby-wearing expert on hand, and to definitely keep the receipt — because even the most versatile carrier isn’t one-size-fits-all. (Are you a baby-wearing newbie? Read our Reference Guide below for more information.)
What’s YOUR favorite? Tell us in the comments below what you want to see on next year’s list!
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Beco Butterfly II 2 of 33
Beco is well loved in the baby-wearing community, and their Butterfly II for babies 7 45 lbs. is one of the most raved about carriers across the board.
Ideal for: Parents looking for a foolproof design that's easy to transfer from person to person, and especially those who want a sturdy, secure back carrier for piggy-back rides. It's also a good option to start using with a newborn. The Butterfly II has a longer torso, similar to the Boba, and is typically good for just about any body frame, from petite to plus-size.
Pros: The inner panel securely holds a newborn without any separately sold insert, which makes it feel secure on your front or back. And although there's a bit of a learning curve with the inner panels and buckles, it's very easy to adjust on your body and then transfer from the front to back, or from person to person, without removing your baby.
Cons: The Butterfly II can't be used as a forward-facing or hip carrier. For those who like to breastfeed while babywearing, a carrier without an insert (like the ERGO, for instance) is typically a little more convenient for smaller-breasted moms, but not impossible by any means.
Get this from Beco, $140 - $145
Boba Carrier 3G 3 of 33
Boba recently released their newest soft-structure carrier, the 3G, while still keeping many of the features that originally set Boba apart, like the ergonomic foot stirrups for older babies and toddlers.
Ideal for: Active parents who like to hike or take long walking excursions, parents with longer torsos (heights 5'0" to 6'3"), and anyone looking to continue baby wearing into toddlerhood. It's one of the best options for parents looking to get a lot of use and longevity out of their baby carrier. However, if you're busty, large chests can sometimes cause the new back-adjusting tracking mechanism to slide up, which is an annoying issue. If you're a top-heavy lady, go with an ERGO.
Pros: Unlike the previous Boba carrier that was only suitable for bigger babies and toddlers, the new 3G can be worn starting at birth — giving the Boba 3G a versatile range of 7 to 45 lbs. And the built-in infant carrier means there's no bulky pillow-like insert that causes new moms to feel overheated in the warmer months. One feature that sets this carrier apart is their unique foot stirrups that help toddlers support their weight in a healthier and more natural sitting position. It can be worn on your front (with baby facing inward) or your back, and its lightweight fabric makes it one of the trimmer soft-structure carriers.
Cons: The Boba can't be used as an outward-facing or hip carrier, in case you really want those options. (To be fair, many babywearing experts don't recommend long periods of outward-facing or hip carrying.) And the new adjustable track on the back — meant for easier adjusting — causes a finicky fit in certain body types.
Get this from Boba, $120 - $125
ERGObaby 4 of 33
BabyBjorn may have revolutionized the baby carrier industry, but ERGObaby paved the way for alternatives. Unlike the Bjorn's design, ERGO created a pouch-like carrier to fully support baby's bottom and legs — claiming to be healthier for baby's spine, pelvis and hip development. Rather than dangling, babies sit in a more ergonomic seated position with their legs naturally spread around the carrier's body.
Although there are now quite a few similar-style carriers (like the Beco and Boba, to name two), the ERGO is still one of the most popular and recommended models.
Ideal for: Parents who want a simple, easy carrier. It's also a good option for breastfeeding moms because it doesn't have a built-in insert between mom and baby. More than that, the ERGO is best for people with short-to-average torso lengths and a medium-to-heavy build, and for babies between 6 and 24 months (although it can be used from birth, with an insert, and up to 45 lbs.).
Pros: One of the biggest perks of an ERGO is the options. They have sporty carriers with lighter-weight frames and breathable materials, plus organic carriers made with sustainably grown cotton and certified Oeko-Tex standard organic dyes. They also have plenty of add-ons — like clip-on backpacks, weather covers, and teething pads. And let's not forget their Petunia Pickle Bottom collaboration, which is, for me, their biggest perk of the moment. More things I love: easy breastfeeding access, plus a hip-carrying option, sleeping hood, and zippered storage pocket.
Cons: The ERGO requires a $25 padded newborn insert for newborns up to 4- or 5-month-old infants (or 7 to 12 lbs.), which makes it bulkier (and hotter!) than carriers with a built-in insert. For this reason, it's not the best carrier for babies under 12 lbs. The carrier's body is often too short for taller toddlers who need upper-body support.
Get this from Ergobaby, $115- $145
Beco Gemini 5 of 33
Beco's other very popular carrier, the Gemini, is a smartly designed all-in-one carrier that eliminates the guesswork and complications most parents encounter. Jenn Sullivan, the owner of Waddle n Swaddle, said that if she had to recommend one carrier, this would be it.
Ideal for: Parents looking for a simple starter baby carrier that's lightweight and trim, yet still very comfortable. It's also the best answer for anyone looking for an outward-facing carrier, because this is one of the few that still supports baby in a semi-seated position (not dangling) while facing out. And it's good for breastfeeding mothers because it doesn't have an inside panel to get in the way. This model isn't ideal for parents looking to get longevity out of the carrier. While the extra tall frame is great for newborns and babies, toddlers tend to outgrow the trimmer width faster than the Butterfly or Boba.
Pros: A very simple, easy-to-use design that can be worn four ways: inward facing, outward facing, hip carrying, and back carrying. It's especially designed for newborns and infants without any add-on inserts. One of the coolest features of the Gemini is the ability to cross the back straps, similar to a Mei Tai carrier, which gives the wearer better back support.
Cons: The Gemini has a relatively short life span with a weight limit of 35 lbs., but most babies need more leg support around 12 to 15 months. For those looking for extended baby wearing, this is most likely a first, but not the only, purchase. It also doesn't have a sleeping hood, which many moms said was their biggest complaint.
Get this from Beco, $130 - $135
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Stokke MyCarrier 7 of 33
If you're a fan of Stokke products, you already know that they design some of the smartest, most innovative baby gear in the industry with unmatched attention to detail and quality — which shows in the price.
Ideal for: The stylish techy parent who likes to show off the latest and greatest gadgets. (One of our testers called it the perfect "guy carrier" because of the build-before-you-wear design, with clips, fasteners, and buckles to adjust the fit.) It's also one of the best carriers for parents who like options. Besides being an inward-facing carrier (starting at 7.7-lbs.), it's a very secure back carrier and an outward-facing front carrier.
Pros: Besides the variety of baby-wearing options, the Stokke is highly adjustable for a variety of sizes and ergonomically supports baby's thighs and bottom in a wide-leg position. Stokke also uses the highest-quality fabrics that meet Global Organic Textile Standards — so you know it's safe for your baby to (inevitably) chew on.
Cons: The high price tag, for one, especially because it only has a 33-lb. weight limit. That being said, this carrier should last a solid three years — unlike the Beco Gemini, which has a similar weight limit yet is typically outgrown by the toddler stage. If you're looking to baby-wear beyond 2 or 3 years, your money is better spent elsewhere. It might also feel too structured for some.
Get this from Giggle, $250
Britax 8 of 33
If you have brand loyalty to everything Britax, you'll be excited about their new baby carrier that recently hit shelves. The Britax Baby Carrier can be used as a front-facing carrier (with baby facing in or out) from 8 to 32 lbs. (with the included infant insert).
Ideal for: No-fuss parents who want a simple, easy-to-use carrier from a brand they trust. It also has an organic carrier option for those looking for the most natural materials. The back isn't adjustable, which may pose a problem for petite or narrow-shouldered babywearers.
Pros: The Britax carrier is pretty convenient to use — just slip it over your head and take it off with its one-handed buckles. I also like that it comes with optional inserts — not just for infants, but for older babies who need/prefer better hip and bottom support in a more natural sitting position. It's nice to have options, because you never know what your baby will like best.
Cons: A relatively low weight limit (32 lbs.), non-adjustable back, and not quite as much support as other soft-structure carriers. I also wish the Seat Extender Insert (for babies over 14 lbs.) came with the carrier, but it's sold separately for $24.99.
Get this from Britax, $129.99 - $139.99
BabyBjorn Baby Carrier Miracle 9 of 33
Let us first tip our hats to the BabyBjorn for being the first to make babywearing cool and modern, and for jump-starting an industry that would soon be the cornerstone of attachment parenting here in the States. BabyBjorn is now a household name, and definitely the most recognizable carrier in the industry.
Ideal for: The parent who wants a Bjorn label. The Baby Carrier Miracle is also better for smaller infants as well as parents with specific hip, back, or shoulder issues.
Pros: The big improvement to the newest Bjorn carrier, which holds infants from 8 26 lbs. is that it's more ergonomically designed for the parent who needs/wants options. Rather than a strict "crotch dangling" design, as it's known, small infants can now be lifted higher up into a wider-leg position that better supports baby's bottom. Rather than for health reasons (BabyBjorn fiercely denies allegations that their design is unsafe for baby's hips, back or spine. See reference section below), BabyBjorn said that they made this change to increase the overall comfort. Another change is that the Baby Carrier Miracle has a support belt with several different pressure points that allow parents to shift the weight from the hips to the shoulders to the back (or a little of each). The BabyBjorn also comes in three different styles: soft cotton, breezy mesh, and organic cotton.
Cons: Even with the ergonomic changes, it's still not the best carrier for heavier babies. The Baby Carrier Miracle has the shortest weight recommendation (26 lbs.) because BabyBjorn has found that most toddlers lose interest in baby-wearing around 15 months. Another downside: It's extremely expensive, especially for something that can't be worn as a back carrier and/or last longer than 26 lbs.
Get this Giggle, $185 - $200
Boba Air 10 of 33
Made for parents on the go, this offering from Boba is a lightweight model that's easy to fold up and stow away for travel.
Ideal for: Frequent travelers and on-the-go baby-wearers who find traditional soft-structure carriers too bulky to pack. It's also intended for bigger babies starting at 15 lbs. The Boba Air is best as a secondary carrier, not a one-and-only carrier.
Pros: Well first of all, the price. At under $100, it's significantly more affordable than traditional soft-structure carriers — especially considering it can be worn on your front or back, and it includes a sleeping hood. And the 100% Nylon carrier is easy to keep clean, even easier to stuff into a bag, and nice and cool for hot baby-wearing days. To top it off, the Boba Air weighs in at less than a pound. Less than a pound!
Cons: With the good comes the bad. There's really not much support at all in the lightweight frame— so much that you might feel the urge to hold up your little one's bottom as you walk. It's the only "con," but it's a biggie — lack of support equals lack of comfort, so it's best to have another carrier (like the Boba 3G, perhaps?) for more serious baby-wearing.
Get this from Boba, $65
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BabyHawk 12 of 33
BabyHawk is one of the more popular Mei Tai carriers out there, and it comes in two sizes: the regular Mei Tai made for newborns up through toddlers (40 lbs.), and the Toddler Mei Tai made for toddlers 18 months and older, with a weight recommendation of 15 to 45 lbs.
Ideal for: Mei Tais are best as second carriers (in addition to a sling or wrap, or as a slim part-time travel carrier), especially when a soft-structure carrier is out of your budget. They're also especially good to carry newborns and small infants in a fetal position. Steer clear of this one if you want to quickly snap a carrier on and off with little to no learning curve.
Pros: Mei Tais are not very bulky on the body, and they're easier to fold up in a diaper bag than, say, a BabyBjorn. The biggest perk of the BabyHawk, specifically, is the sheer style options. With over 300 fabrics, 15 strap colors, and optional add-ons like pockets and toy rings, you can build a carrier based on your personal taste. And more than that, the BabyHawk is reversible, so you can have two different fabrics for different outfits, moods, or even different genders. Options, ladies. Options!
Cons: Believe it or not, Mei Tai carriers can have a higher learning curve than a wrap. According to our baby-wear experts, Mei Tai carriers are some of the most misused carriers. Additionally, some may feel that there's a little more security in hearing a buckle snap closed.
Get this from BabyHawk, $89 - $124
Catbird Baby 13 of 33
The Catbird Baby is another popular Mei Tai on the market, and it can be used from newborns up to 40 lb. toddlers.
Ideal for: New parents looking for a high-quality carrier for less than $100. (Plus all of the other Mei Tai perks listed for the BabyHawk.)
Pros: The Catbird's fabric feels much sturdier than the more popular BabyHawk, and they have an organic option. It's also slightly less expensive.
Cons: If you prefer to try before you buy, Catbird Baby isn't in too many retailers. Although you can send in your own fabric for a custom-made carrier, they have less than 10 ready-made style options (compared to the hundreds at BabyHawk). Then again, if endless options overwhelm you, then this could actually be a perk.
Get this from Catbird Baby, $75 - $96
Infantino Sash 14 of 33
It's no secret that Infantino has had a rocky history within the babywearing community after their sling recall controversy a few years back, but their recent redesigns are better than ever — specifically their Mei Tai-style Sash carrier, which is similar to other Mei Tais at a fraction of the price. It's ergonomically designed and can hold babies from 8 - 35 lbs.
Ideal for: A second back-up carrier. It's also an option for anyone looking for a decent part-time baby carrier for the least amount of money — and who doesn't mind a wrap-and-tie design.
Pros: It's $35. The end.
Cons: While Mei Tai carriers typically aren't best for long-term use as is, the Infantino Sash has a little less support than, say, the Catbird Baby — especially for older babies and toddlers.
Get this from Infantino, $34.99
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ZoloWear 16 of 33
Slings can be remarkably versatile, but they're also one of the more frequently misused baby carriers. For that reason I'm going to only recommend adjustable ring slings that can re-adjust for not only different caregivers, but for postpartum weight loss as well. Even if your sling is adjustable, it's important to fit them correctly.
Ideal for: Parents of newborns and small infants (although a ring sling is often used well into the toddler years), and for those not afraid of the higher learning curve. A sling like the Zolo is also better for newborns than slings with padded rails along the edges, which are thought to be more of a suffocation risk. Ring slings are best for more formal occasions, because they can look dressier than a soft-structure or wrap carrier.
Pros: The Zolo has a wide variety of styles, all with wide shoulder spreads that evenly distribute baby's weight, and with extra sturdy fabrics that won't slip out of the rings. And for under $100! I also love that the Zolo has a zippered pocket for your keys, phone, money, etc., and that it's easy to breastfeed in, to travel with, and to comfortably cradle a newborn. Plus you can choose between silk, organic cotton, and cotton sateen.
Cons: Any ring sling can take some getting used to — the positions, the re-adjusting, etc. It's definitely not as foolproof as an ERGO or Boba Wrap.
Get this from ZoloWear, $89 - $99
Sakura Bloom 17 of 33
Sakura Bloom makes some of the most coveted carriers across the board — but they come at a cost.
Ideal for: Fancy occasions and stylish outfits — or really, just for anyone who can afford them. Their linen carriers are also a great breathable option for anyone living in warmer climates.
Pros: Sakura Bloom, hands down, makes the most elegant carriers from high-quality natural fibers in either linen or silk — both sturdy and luxurious. Contrary to what you might think, their dupioni silks have a grippy quality that holds the sling in place while also molding to you and your baby. The super-soft linen, on the other hand, is naturally antibacterial and breathable, wicking away moisture and keeping babies warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The slings come in single-layer or double-layer linen (all of their silk slings are double layered), and they even have certain two-tone varieties that are reversible.
Cons: The price. Although there are basic single-layer linen carriers under $100 (which are gorgeous), most tread into unaffordable territory. And like any sling, there's a higher learning curve. They also don't have a pocket, like the ZoloWear sling does.
Get this from Sakura Bloom, $88 - $540
Maya 18 of 33
The Maya Wrap sling (for babies 8 35 lbs.) is similar to the ZoloWear sling, except it only comes in 100% cotton and has fewer style options. But the styles they do offer are timeless.
Ideal for: Sling users on a budget. And like all slings, they're best for newborns and small infants (thanks to their comfortable cradle hold) and for parents with patience in learning how to use it correctly.
Pros: Besides all of the other perks for using an adjustable ring sling with non-padded rails, the Maya Wrap is one of the most affordable carrier options — especially because they have a Maya Outlet on their Web site for gently used and discontinued carriers. I also like that these slings have a pocket.
Cons: There's not as much variation in their fabrics and styles, although their hand-loomed cotton is beautiful. And many moms have complained that the padded shoulder rides up to their neck, which can get annoying.
Get this from Maya Wrap, $44 - $74.95
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Wrapsody 20 of 33
In all of my interviewing and testing, the one carrier with the most universal support is the wrap. Regularly cited as a "must-have" for newborns and infants, a wrap snuggles a baby close while feeling like a T-shirt pouch. And the Wrapsody is my top pick.
Ideal for: Pregnant women who want a baby carrier from the get-go without worrying about shopping with a newborn, and/or new moms.
Pros: The softness of this wrap is enough to want your newborn nuzzled inside. Plus, unlike other wraps that easily stretch out, the Wrapsody Bali Stretch is made from a super-soft lightweight cotton that has plenty of stretch widthwise (to fit any size body), yet not as much stretch lengthwise as other wraps. Of all the wraps, this one has the best longevity without having to re-adjust and re-tie. It's also more lightweight than the Moby, making it a great summertime carrier.
Cons: It's a little more expensive than other wraps. And like all wrap carriers, some find the long piece of material a bit daunting at first. A downside of the Wrapsody Bali Breeze is that the gauze material is so light that it requires more precise wrapping. The Bali Stretch, on the other hand, is a little more forgiving for beginner wrappers.
Get this from Wrapsody, $79 (Bali Breeze) - $84 (Bali Stretch)
Moby 21 of 33
The Moby Wrap is arguably the most popular wrap on the market, with the name "Moby" sometimes used synonymously for "wrap carrier."
Ideal for: Again, pregnant women and new moms. There's no need to get fitted for a wrap, so it's easy to buy before baby arrives. Wraps, in general, are best for breastfeeding moms.
Pros: The Moby's biggest perk is the options: solid colors, special designs, UV-protected material, organic material, and even Major League Baseball-themed wraps! It's also a thicker, cozier material for colder months.
Cons: The one complaint I heard from Moby users, over and over, is that the fabric eventually stretches out too much. According to our baby-wear expert, this is attributed to the ribbed-knit material (as opposed to the lightweight cotton in the Wrapsody), but, in the Moby's defense, excessive expanding is probably attributed to not fitting it correctly. Wrap carriers like the Moby have a higher learning curve than you might expect, and you'll get the best results if you basically memorize the length of leftover material once baby's wrapped up and replicate it each time.
Get this from Moby Wrap, $44.95- $52.95
Baby KTan 22 of 33
The Baby K'Tan's innovate double-loop design is somewhat of a hybrid between a sling and wrap. The K'tan (suitable for 8 35 lbs.) is basically two slings sewed together (over both shoulders), made from the same stretchy cotton knit material of a wrap. So it gives the close support and swaddle of a wrap without the long fabric.
Ideal for: New parents who want a wrap without the wrapping. It's also popular in the special-needs community, as it was created for the son of owner Michal Chesal — a single mom of three — who has Down syndrome and needed something more supportive than a sling or soft-structure carrier, yet easier than a wrap, for his low muscle tone. The K'Tan is suitable for babies 8 35 lbs., but I've found that it works better with infants than toddlers.
Pros: As long as it's sized correctly, the K'Tan is a versatile wrap-like carrier that can hold babies in over 8 different positions — including positions for twins. And unlike a wrap that has 6 yards of fabric to wrap and a high learning curve, the K'Tan is easier to get baby in and out. More perks: They make a Baby K'Tan Breeze carrier that is 50% breathable mesh (perfect for warmer climates), and a portion of every carrier is donated to the American Heart Association and the National Down Syndrome Society.
Cons: The biggest downside of the K'Tan is that it's sized for your body. Not only is it important to use the correct size (which doesn't adjust for weight loss/gain), but Mom and Dad (and any other caregiver) can't switch off with the carrier. I highly recommend trying it in a store with a professional baby-wear expert before buying.
Get this from Baby K'Tan, $49.95- $59.95
Boba Baby Wrap 23 of 33
What used to be known as the "Sleepy Wrap" is now rebranded under the bigger Boba name.
Ideal for: Premature babies. Jen Sullivan, the expert at Waddle n Swaddle, says that this is absolutely her top recommendation for preemies because you can wrap the Boba tightly to your body, and then it will stretch to the size of your baby — giving a nice tight hold for the littlest preemies.
Pros: Because you can just tightly wrap it snug to your body, it has a smaller learning curve than wraps like the Moby.
Cons: Although the Boba wrap is labeled to carry babies up to 35 lbs., Sullivan argues that it has a 15-lb. max. But for those just planning on using a wrap for the very beginning before switching to a soft-structure carrier or ring sling, the Boba is an easier-to-use option.
Get this from Boba $48 - $65
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Onya Baby 25 of 33
The Onya is another supportive, padded carrier with a natural frog-like carrying position that can be worn on the front (inward-facing) or back from 15 to 45 lbs. The breakout feature, however, is that the Onya converts into a portable highchair via a harness that conveniently stores in its front pouch. It also has zippered pockets, loops for toys and keys, and a tuck-away sleep hood.
Keep in mind that the Onya isn't made for newborns and small infants, but it could be perfect for the parent who has frequent lunch dates.
Get this from OnyaBaby, $149
Mamas & Papas 26 of 33
If you prefer innovative, techy, different-than-the-masses baby carriers, the Mamas & Papas Morph is unlike anything on the market. The harnesses come in small/medium and medium/large sizes, and it has an attachable "baby pod" that can be transferred from harness to harness. The carrier looks more like a gadget — with easy-fit buttons and snaps — for parents with no patience for adjusting and re-adjusting. It's cool, yes, but there are other adjustable carriers on the market that don't require a pricey second harness to share, and it has a fairly low weight limit for the price. But if you love everything Mamas & Papas — and if you especially want something that turns heads — then give it a try.
Get this from Babies R Us, $139.99 + $59.98 for a second harness
Cybex 2.Go 27 of 33
Cybex worked with orthopedists and midwives to design a carrier that's both comfortable and adjustable — not to mention quite modern-looking. (In fact, this might make the perfect guy carrier for someone who wants a more "manly" look.)
Parents have tons of options with the Cybex 2.Go — wear it inward-facing (starting at 8 lbs.) or outward facing, as well as on your hips or back. And in a cross between an ERGO and a Bjorn, the Cybex has an easy zip-down feature that adjusts not only the leg support (from a frog-like position to straighter legs), but also the neck support for growing babies. And it holds a fairly heavy load, up to 40 lbs.
The Cybex carrier also places 70 percent of the weight on your hips — which is especially good for those with bad backs or shoulders. (Not so good for those with bad hips.) The only downside with this carrier is that it's a little difficult to get the baby in and out, especially if you want to put a sleeping baby to bed. But if you prefer longer baby-wearing period (including naps in the carrier), the Cybex 2.Go is definitely one to check out.
Get this from Cybex, $120
Hava Slings 28 of 33
While the owners of Waddle n Swaddle don't recommend ring slings with padded rails (for the suffocation risk), they're impressed with the HAVA sings so far. One mom told me that it's easier to adjust than her ZoloWear sling, and it seems to perform well with older babies and toddlers.
HAVA slings might be better to use after the newborn stage, but it's a good option for anyone who wants an affordable yet stylish sling — perhaps for dressier events.
Get this from HavaSling, $69 - $79
Kokopax 29 of 33
The Kokopax is unlike other baby carriers mentioned here because it's a framed back-carrying carrier — and it's really like strapping on a backpack. There's no learning curve, no finicky fit, no size specifications, and it's surprisingly more lightweight than it looks.
If you find yourself only wanting a back carrier for your older infant — maybe for cooking over the stove or grocery shopping — this is an easy and foolproof design. And your baby will sit nice and high (secure in a 5-point harness) to see everything.
Get this from Kokopax, $99.99 - $179.99
Kelty Child Carriers 30 of 33
The Kelty child carriers are really designed for active, outdoorsy families in mind — whether you're frequently camping or hiking. They have a variety of styles at a variety of price points, but they're all basically like strapping your child into a backpack — including features like a sun canopy, kickstand, built-in backpack/organizer pockets, toy loops, and water bottle holders. And they're all extremely secure with a five-point adjustable harness, just like a car seat or stroller. Although the styles vary, they can hold about 40 to 50 lbs.
Get this from Kelty, $169.95 - $279.95
Snugli 31 of 33
You might know Snugli as a lesser-quality BabyBjorn, and they've been equally criticized for their "crotch dangling" design. Yet Snugli isn't exactly what it used to be.
The support still isn't as great as other soft-structure carriers (the original Front Snugli is for babies up to 26 lbs.), but they've expanded to a Front & Back Snugli (up to 32 lbs.) and the Front Back & Hip Snugli (up to 40 lbs.). The latter is their best-supported design yet, with babies fitted in a more wide-leg position. And to top it off, Jennifer DeLonge, the well-known furniture and interior designer, redesigned the entire Snugli line for an edgier look.
This one might not be the best of all carriers out there, but they certainly have the best prices. And the new designs make the purchase that much more tempting.
Get it from Target, $39.23 - $69.99
The Baba Sling 32 of 33
theBabaSling is unique in that it uses buckles and straps instead of rings to adjust and secure the sling. Some parents might like the more structured sling — it gives peace of mind from securing a buckle, and it has much more padding than the typical sling — but others will prefer a ring sling's easier adjustability, especially while it's on your body. The straps and extra fabric can feel cumbersome at first, but it just takes some practice to get used to.
Get it from Joovy, $99.99 - $119.99
Osprey Child Carrier 33 of 33
The Osprey carriers are for serious hikers and outdoorsy families that need their baby to keep up with their active lives. And babies would be more than happy to ride along in this cushiony "cockpit," as Osprey calls it, while you lug around your water, snacks, and travel gear in the surrounding pockets. This carrier is extremely adjustable and versatile — think of it like a structured backpack that also happens to hold your kid — and their "Plus" and "Premium" models have extra features like a built-in sunshade, detachable daypack, and included changing pad. But my favorite features are the built-in feet stirrups — perfect for older toddlers — and the adjustable torso length — perfect for extra petite or extra tall hikers.
Get it from REI, $199 - $299
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Baby Carrier Reference Guide:
Soft-Structure Carriers (SSC): BabyBjorn revolutionized the industry with their soft-structured carrier — a simple, modern-looking carrier that straps, snaps, and buckles a baby to your chest. There are now a slew of different soft-structure carriers that vary in support, bulkiness, and carrying options. This is probably the most popular carrier option here in the States, mostly due to its shorter learning curve.
How do soft-structure carriers support babies?
There are two main types of soft-structure carriers: Those that suspend babies from their crotch and have their legs dangling more straight (such as the BabyBjorn, Snugli, Chicco, and Britax), and those that support their bottom and thighs in a more wide-leg, frog-like position (such as the ERGO, Boba, Beco, and Stokke).
One of the biggest controversies in the babywear world is that “crotch-dangling” carriers can cause hip dysplasia — a condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop normally and causes pain later in life. While organizations like International Hip Dysplasia do recommend carriers that support the thighs (not dangling straight), the medical literature (including Boston Children’s Hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine) cites that hip dysplasia is caused by genetics and conditions in utero — not baby carriers.
That being said, Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) affects one or two out of 1,000 babies with virtually no early symptoms, and with the highest incidents being in breech-born babies, first-born babies, females, and children with a genetic history of DDH. If the condition is caught in the first six months, babies might be put into a harness that splays legs into a frog-like position — suggesting that a wide-leg carrier might be healthier for those predisposed for DDH. That’s not to say that a BabyBjorn (or Bjorn-like carrier) causes hip dysplasia, and that’s not to say that an ERGO (or ERGO-like carrier) cures hip dysplasia. The research is still ongoing.
Another issue is baby’s comfort, and many in the babywearing community claim that a dangling design simply can’t be comfortable on the crotch area. While this is largely up to you to decide, BabyBjorn argues that a baby’s center of gravity isn’t the same as an adult’s; therefore a child’s weight is distributed differently. “The brunt of the weight is not on the seat, but is also distributed onto the baby carrier’s back, head and neck support,” writes BabyBjorn in their FAQ section. “The child’s low body weight is also a vital factor resulting in almost no pressure being placed on the baby’s crotch.”
Again, it’s a judgment call on your part as there isn’t an overwhelming amount of scientific and medical research to support either claim.
Mei Tai Carriers: Inspired by traditional baby carriers in Asia, the Mei Tai carrier is basically a rectangular piece of fabric with four straps at each corner that securely tie without any big buckles or bulky structure.
Wrap Carriers: Wrap carriers wrap and tie around your body to form almost a pouch-like T-shirt, and they’re notoriously praised for keeping newborns and small infants snuggled close while supporting their entire bodies. In fact, most wrap-using moms will be quick to say how life-changing a wrap carrier is during those first few months, especially for those who want to discreetly breastfeed in public. Some people are intimidated by the wrapping, but this choice can be an incredibly versatile, long-lasting baby-wearing option once you get the hang of it.
Sling Carriers: There are basically two kinds of slings: ring slings and pouch slings. A ring sling is a rectangular piece of fabric that’s threaded through two rings to create a sling-like pouch that can be adjusted for your baby’ size and your body’s frame. A pouch sling, on the other hand, is basically a tube-shaped piece of fabric that you can slip on quickly and easily. Both of them distribute weight over one shoulder (unlike a wrap carrier) and can be used for a variety of carrying positions.
You might be uneasy about slings — someone probably told you that babies can fall out or be suffocated — but it’s a safe carrying method if used correctly. For that reason, I highly recommend choosing an adjustable sling (typically a ring sling), because the danger lies in using one that’s too big or too small for your frame. If you prefer a one-size pouch sling, always get it professionally sized for your body and never share with bigger or smaller caregivers.
And regardless of which kind of sling you choose, it’s important to read the instructions carefully. The learning curve is higher.