These days, everywhere you look you see children — both the newest and smallest, and some well into the toddler years —strapped to the torsos of moms, dads, grandparents, nannies, and caregivers alike. Baby-wearing is more popular than ever, as modern lifestyles require parents and kids to be going and going. Parents need the portability of carriers in order to move about quickly and efficiently, and it’s a helpful (often) hands-free solution as we juggle cell phones, grocery carts, laptops, and older children as we move about our days.
As baby-wearing grows in popularity, the carrier market is following with new brands, styles, and options hitting shelves every day. To a new parent, it can seem overwhelming to choose just one or two, particularly since most will set you back around an average of $100. I’m here to help eliminate some of the guesswork and show you some of the best options available today. I tested the carriers myself, polled moms in person and through social media, and researched brands and reviews to make sure I found the cream of the crop. See below for my favorite baby carriers of 2013!
Best Baby Carriers of 2013 1 of 21I tried them all — wraps, slings, and backpacks — forward-facing, back-facing, and hip-carrying options. Click through to find my favorite ways to wear your baby this year!
Soft-structured Carriers 2 of 21Probably the most popular carriers here in the states, soft-structured carriers can be strapped on both the front and the back, and some have additional forward-facing and hip-carrying options. Tested for safety, durability, and versatility, these are my favorite picks out this year.
Ergobaby | Soft-structured Carrier 3 of 21I asked a lot of new moms on Twitter for their favorite carriers, and 90 percent answered with a resounding: "Ergo!" Quite honestly, I agree. I used an Ergobaby carrier almost daily from the time my son was three days old until his first birthday. And since then, I've continued to carry him in the Ergo for things like airport travel.
The original Ergo is designed to be the most ergonomically correct for both parent and baby. It's available in both organic and original cotton and includes fabulous patterns (such as the Petunia Pickle Bottom collection) and great accessories. The Ergo allows for both front-, back-, and hip-carrying, and all models include a zip storage pouch and sun protection hood.
The only major drawback to the Ergo is that there is no forward-facing option, which can be frustrating for older babies who want to look out and see the world.
Fits babies: 7 - 45 pounds (using additional Infant insert)
Get it at: Ergobaby for $115 - $165
Beco Gemini | Soft-structured carrier 4 of 21Years of improvements and design enhancements have made the Beco Gemini one of the hottest carriers on the market. With its smart design and 4-in-1 carrying capabilities, it's a versatile carrier for new moms who are looking for an all-in-one solution. The biggest thing that sets the Gemini apart from competitors is the width-alternating base on the front panel, which allows baby to face toward the parent or away (which so many of them want to do!).
The Gemini also sports a padded headrest that can be folded up for more support (best for newborns when front-facing or toddlers who need more rear support when back-carrying), or folded down to provide more cushion (and a soft spot for teething babies to chew). And it wouldn't be fair to talk about Beco without mentioning the stylish patterns and designs that are conveniently gender-neutral for mom and dad. Another plus: the straps can be crossed in the back, allowing for better ergonomic support.
The only drawbacks I've heard about the Gemini is its lack of a sun shade/hood and storage pocket, and the slightly narrower front panel that makes it more difficult for older/bigger babies to find a comfortable fit. It also has a slightly lower weight limit than some of its competitors.
Fits babies: 7 - 35 pounds
Get it at: Beco Baby Carrier for $130
Beco Soleil | Soft-structured Carrier 5 of 21While the Beco Gemini can provide moms and dads with everything they need, the new Beco Soleil — marketed as a "build your own" carrier — provides customizable options to give parents everything they want.
The carrier itself has improved from the Gemini with a widened front panel, allowing for a better fit for older and bigger babies, and an increased weight limit. They have also built in a small storage pocket and key ring tiny things that make a big difference to moms on the go.
Beco has also created the Soleil Accessory Pack, which includes a sun shade/hood, infant insert, and drooling pads for the shoulder straps. What sets these accessories apart from other brands is that they are available in colors and patterns to mix and match with carriers.
While the Soleil solved many of the drawbacks of the Gemini, I was disappointed to see it drop down to a 3-in-1 carrier from the Gemini's 4-in-1 (there is no forward-facing, front-carry option). Also, while the Accessory Pack certainly enhances the carrier, it comes at an extra cost, making it a bit more expensive.
Fits babies: 7 - 45 pounds
Get it at: Beco Baby Carrier — $130 for the Soleil carrier; $40 for the accessory pack
Boba 3G | Soft-structured carrier 6 of 21The Boba 3G includes a few unique features that set it apart from other soft-structured carriers. For one, it doesn't require a separate infant insert for the newborn days, which means less extra fabric when toting baby around in warmer months.
The 3G's most unique feature is the addition of foot straps for older toddlers, which keep them more comfortable and help prevent little legs from kicking the back of mom or dad. This is an ideal carrier for parents who plan to use it well into the toddler years. In order to make that possible, the Boba also has a few extra inches of height, which may also result in a better fit for particularly tall parents.
Another big plus: storage compartments. A zip pouch located up at the top can store anything from the detachable sun shield to your wallet. A handy cell phone slot on the waistband is easy to access (for moms, not kiddos!) and zips closed for security.
It is worth noting that Boba has also partnered with Diaper Dude (famous for their masculine diaper bags) to create several dad-friendly styles, like camouflage and pinstripe. They have also created the coordinating Boba Vest, soft fleece that fits comfortably over any baby carrier (with a stretchable hole for baby's head to fit through, of course). It keeps baby's body safe from the cold and mom's hands warm with a front pocket.
Fits babies: 7 - 45 pounds
Get it at: Boba Family — $125 for the Boba 3G Carrier and $55 for the Boba Vest
Stokke My Carrier | Soft-structured Carrier 7 of 21Brand-savvy parents know that Stokke is associated with high-end, modern, and innovative children's products, and their My Carrier doesn't disappoint. This 3-in-1 carrier allows for both forward- and back-facing front-carrying, as well as back-carrying. Unlike other carriers, it comes with a parent harness and two different carrying attachments for the front and back.
It's a very supportive carrier made with high-quality material and a sturdy design. The carry options make this carrier more versatile, and able to be used longer than single-use carriers. The organic cotton material is chemical-free, making it safer for both moms and babies. (Also worth noting: Stokke plans to introduce a mesh fabric carrier for warmer climates in May this year.)
The major con? The price. Quality does not come cheap, and at $229, the My Carrier is one of the most expensive baby-wearing products out there. Also, while the separate front- and back-carrying attachments are customized to provide a better fit for baby, it eliminates the possibility of switching from front to back seamlessly.
Fits babies: 7-35 pounds
Get it at: Amazon for $220
Moby GO | Soft-structured Carrier 8 of 21Perhaps in response to critics saying their wrap is better suited for newborns, Moby has recently launched the Moby GO. It features straps with a cross-shoulder design, similar to the wrap, and a larger ergonomic seat meant to support bigger toddlers.
The Moby GO is designed for older babies who have excellent head and neck control. The GO's wide, contoured seat keeps baby's knees up, avoiding undue pressure on the crotch and spine. It also features a removable hood and padded leg openings for added comfort.
For parents, the GO's wide, criss-crossing shoulder straps provide comfort while the easy-to-reach side buckles make putting it on simple and convenient. Designed to fit parents of all heights and weights, the GO features a unique foam waist belt that adjusts from 26 inches to 54 inches.
Fits babies: 15 - 45 pounds
Get it at: Moby Wrap for $79.95
Onya Baby Outback | Soft-structured Carrier 9 of 21Onya Baby is relatively new to the carrier market, arriving in the past year and a half. Like many of the other soft-structured carriers, the Outback can be worn on both the front and back. But the feature that really sets it apart is the integrated chair harness, allowing the carrier to quickly convert into a safe seat for your baby. This is a great option for traveling parents who don't have easy access to a high chair or booster seat.
The Outback's water-resistant, moisture-wicking nylon exterior and air-mesh lining make it perfect for hiking the trails on hot, sweaty days. Built-in features include two zippered pockets, a tuck-away sleep hood, toy loops, a d-ring for keys, a high-backed body for support, and backwards/sideways lean-control for an older baby. There are only two colors available now, but more are set to be released later this spring.
The only drawback to this carrier is that it isn't recommended for newborns.
Fits babies: 15 - 45 pounds
Get it at: Onya Baby for $149
Lightweight and Travel Carriers 10 of 21These travel carriers have taken everything you love about your favorite soft-structured carriers, and transformed them into lightweight, packable options that can easily fold down and be stored in a diaper bag or purse. While these are not best (or intended for) everyday use, they are a great choice for families looking for an easy, compact carrier.
Ergobaby Stowaway | Lightweight, Travel Carrier 11 of 21The Stowaway is Ergobaby's new lightweight travel carrier that retains the same ergonomic design of the original, but eliminates the added bulk. The breathable material is durable and appears easy to clean, and the mesh lining of the straps and waistband will be appreciated on warmer days.
I'm an avid Ergobaby user, and one of my only gripes is that it is a bit bulky and cumbersome to take with me when I'm not wearing it. The Stowaway is the answer to that problem. The entire carrier folds up into the carrier's front pocket to become a pouch small enough to stuff into a purse or diaper bag. Ergobaby, you complete me.
Fits babies: 7 - 45 pounds (with infant insert)
Get it at: Ergobaby for $115 - $135
Boba Air | Lightweight, Travel Carrier 12 of 21The Air is a lightweight travel version of the Boba soft-structured carrier, designed to be portable and packable for quick and easy trips. The material (100% nylon) is much lighter, making it durable and very easy to clean. The entire carrier can be tucked and zipped into its built-in pouch (which doubles as a storage pocket when in use) to weigh less than one pound.
I used the Air on a recent beach vacation and found that it was much easier to travel with as opposed to the bulkier soft-structured carriers I'd used in the past. My son is over 25 pounds now relatively big for any carrier and I did find that while the Air fills a need for something smaller and more portable, the lack of padding and ergonomic support did not go unnoticed. I think this is a great carrier for quick travel and short trips, but I can't imagine logging too many miles without a bit more cushioning on my shoulders. However, at less than $100, this is an affordable option that will appeal to more budget-minded parents.
Fits babies: 15 - 45 pounds
Get it at: Boba Family for $65
Wrap Carriers and Slings 13 of 21While most of the wrap carriers can technically hold the weight of a toddler, new moms love them because they are a snuggly way to cuddle and wear newborns. The wraps tend to be comprised of either long strands or loops of fabric that wrap around the body, allowing you to customize the fit for both yourself and baby.
Slings are incredibly popular worldwide, but are seen as somewhat controversial here in the States. This is because there are some suffocation risks for newborns when slings are used incorrectly, however when used properly and responsibly, slings are a great babywearing option for moms who want to take something on and off easily, and for babies who need a little extra support sitting on the hip.
Moby Wrap | Wrap Carrier 14 of 21I have a good amount of personal experience with the Moby; my son lived in one for much of his first few months. I remember pulling it out of its little storage bag when he was just a few days old, my eyes widening as I saw yards and yards of fabric fall to the floor. While the Moby has an intimidating learning curve, it is easy to use once you get the hang of it. I recommend watching online videos to learn the best techniques.
While the fabric itself can seem overwhelming at first, the design allows you to carry in many styles and create a comfy fit for you. The Moby product specs say it can carry a child up to 35 pounds, but from my personal experience it is best used for small infants. Once a child reaches a certain weight around 15 pounds the fabric tends to stretch quite a bit, causing the fit to be too loose and put too much strain on the parent. It's a great carrier for the early newborn days, however, and fits easily under a winter jacket during colder months.
The original Moby Wrap comes in a variety of colors. They have also expanded the line to include designs, prints, organic options, and even a Major League Baseball collection.
Fits babies: 8 - 35 pounds
Get it at: Moby Wrap for $47.95
Baby KTan | Wrap Carrier and Sling 15 of 21The Baby K'Tan is different from many of the other newborn carriers because it's almost a hybrid of a wrap and a sling. It's comprised of two large loops of fabric that wrap around and across the parent's body to snugly secure baby to your chest. This design eliminates the long, single piece of fabric other newborn carriers have (I'm looking at you, Moby), which makes it easier to use in public and a bit less intimidating for first-time parents.
While the loop system is more user-friendly, it also limits some of the versatility of the carrier. Unlike the Moby, the K'Tan is sized to the individual parent (ranging from XS-XL), which makes it harder to transfer the carrier from mom to dad, unless they are very similarly sized. And while it says that it can be used in multiple positions through the toddler years, most moms I've talked to agree that it's best for newborn use. In general, the stretchy wrap carriers tend to feel too weighed down and saggy beyond about 15 pounds.
Fits babies: 8 - 35 pounds
Get it at: Baby K'tan for $49.95
Sakura Bloom | Sling Carrier 16 of 21For moms who prefer an alternative to wrap or traditional soft-structured carriers, the sling can be a great option. The Sakura slings are some of the most beautiful carriers on the market. They are crafted from all-natural fibers: soft Irish linens, lush dupioni silks, and rare, wild silks. If you have expensive taste, this is your ultimate accessory. Slings from the luxe silk collection can run you up to $540. Don't let that scare you away, though Sakura offers something for everyone. Slings from the most basic (but still high-quality) pure linen collection run $88 still not cheap, but much more realistic for the average family.
There is a vast assortment of slings in both the linen and silk lines, and you'll be hard pressed to pick a favorite color or style. These beautiful carriers are perfect for fancy occasions when a traditional carrier would look bulky or out of place. The ring sling design allows for easy adjustments between caregivers and carrying positions, and is ideal for breastfeeding moms.
Before using, it's important to familiarize yourself with the safest positions for carrying in a sling, as they are a little less secure than traditional soft-structured carriers. For newborns, they can also pose suffocation risks when used incorrectly.
Fits babies: Newborn age 3
Get it at: Sakura Bloom for $88 - $540
Joovy Baba Sling | Sling Carrier 17 of 21The Baba sling is slightly different from its ring sling competitors in that it's still fully adjustable, but features safety buckles and adjustable straps in lieu of the ring design. With five different carrying positions (including two breastfeeding positions), it provides a versatile option for babywearers who prefer the added security of a buckling system.
Its thoughtful design includes extra padding on the shoulder strap to support all the weight you're slinging onto your side as well as a padded infant head support and railing for smaller babies. The deep "hammock" of fabric allows the sling to grow with babies as they get older, so that it can be used as long as babies are willing to be carried.
The Joovy line also includes a lite option for warmer climates, as well as an organic option.
Fits babies: 7.7 - 33 pounds (or ages 0-2)
Get it at: Joovy for $99 - $119
Hiking Backpacks 18 of 21These big-framed hiking backpacks are meant only for the back. They are mostly large packs supported by metal frames, with lots of storage pockets and bells and whistles. These aren't for everyday use, but are a nice option to have for families who love to hike and be outdoors.
Kelty Pathfinder | Hiking Backpack 19 of 21Kelty was the first company to introduce backpack-style child carriers to the outdoor world, and their line of six carriers ranges from compact and budget-friendly options to high-end, luxury carriers.
The Pathfinder is Kelty's premium child carrier, and all the bells and whistles seem to be there. My husband was really impressed with the ease of adjustment for both the child seat and the adult fit. It has ample storage, including an additional zip-off daypack, as well as a sun hood, changing pad, toy loops, water bottle pockets, under seat storage, and much more.
Unlike the Osprey, there are no toddler foot straps, and the look is a bit more old-school than some of the sleeker, newer brands. However, despite being first into the market, Kelty is keeping up with the best in innovation and safety standards to provide high-quality carriers worthy of an afternoon in the wilderness.
Fits babies: up to 40 pounds
Get it at: Kelty for $279.95
Kelty Transit | Hiking Backpack 20 of 21My husband is really the backpack-wearer in our family so he was excited to put this pack to the test. The first thing he noticed about the Transit was the extra lumbar support in the back of the waist belt so critical for long hikes spent hauling heavy kids. The Transit is much smaller than many of its big-framed counterparts, making it a great option for travel or for carrying smaller kids (that might be overwhelmed by the larger framed packs). It features an adjustable five-point harness for kids, as well as a sun hood, changing pad, toy loops, substantial storage pocket, and a hip belt water bottle pocket. Unlike some of the bigger carriers with stabilizing "kick stands," the Transit has a stationary stabilized base that allows for safe loading.
While this is a great carrier for smaller adults and smaller babies, the lower weight limits the life of the carrier more than some of the bigger packs. However, its still a nice, less expensive alternative to its bigger counterparts.
Fits babies: up to 30 pounds
Get it at: Kelty for $199.95
Osprey Poco Series | Hiking Backpacks 21 of 21If you are the outdoorsy or adventurous type, you are likely already familiar with the Osprey brand. Known for their high-quality backpacking line, they have channeled all their research and experience with creating backpacks into the new Poco series of child carriers. These are hardcore, heavy-framed packs intended for serious hiking and adventure.
We hike quite a bit here in Seattle, and we've been using an Osprey Poco series carrier for the past year. The child seat is safely suspended within a hard frame pack and easily and quickly adjusts to the size of your child. Adjusting between parents is seamless too simply slide a lever up the back to clearly marked size positions and click into place.
All Poco models include a removable, washable drool pad, adjustable foot stirrups for older toddlers, a hydration sleeve behind the back panel, and a breathable mesh backing. The Poco Plus is one step up, and the upgrades included with this model are substantial: a built-in sunshade, extra padding on the hip belt, a large, zippered lower storage compartment, extra cell phone storage pockets on the straps, and more. For the most adventurous hikers, the Poco Premium is the Osprey's top-of-the-line carrier featuring an additional detachable daypack and changing pad for families who need extra storage.
Fits babies:maximum weight of 48.5 pounds for child, gear, and pack
Get it at: Rei for $199 - $299
Searching for something specific?
Check out my favorite soft-structured baby carriers:
Traveling with baby? Here are my favorite lightweight, travel-friendly carriers:
Looking for something simple? Try one of these wrap carriers and slings:
Get rugged with these hiking backpack carriers:
On a budget? Check out these affordable carriers – all under $200!
What did we miss? What are YOUR favorites? Tell me what you’d like to see on next year’s list in the comments!