If there’s any one product that helps you live life with baby easily in tow, it’s a baby carrier. Babywearing can be pretty glorious once you’ve nailed down the best baby carrier for your baby’s age and your own needs. Will you be carrying a newborn or an older baby? Are you buying one so you can get around quickly for errand runs, or do you plan to carry your kid during trips where big gear just isn’t an option? Thinking about these considerations will ultimately help drive which is the best baby carrier to buy for your family.
What Is A Baby Carrier
For centuries, moms have been wearing their babies. (And we’re not the only species to do so: From kangaroos and sloths to alligators and chimpanzees, baby toting is embraced across the animal kingdom.) While the modern baby carrier is typically constructed from a stretchy piece of fabric or a durable, structured material with straps, belts and buckles, it still serves the same purpose: to keep baby close to your body so your hands are free. Sure, there seems to be a neverending assortment of carriers to choose from, but the very best baby carriers offer parents and babies comfort and safety, style and plenty of snuggle time.
Types Of Baby Carriers
While a baby carrier is anything that physically holds baby close to your body, there are different ones that fit your family’s needs. Here, a quick and dirty summary to help you figure out the best baby carrier for you.
• Sling. Shaped like a fabric loop, a sling is perfect for carrying newborns who want to be held close 24/7. Since they’re meant to hold lightweight infants, there is no heavily padded shoulder strap. You simply wear the sling over one shoulder.
• Fabric wraps. It’s the origami of baby carriers: spectacularly versatile depending on how you fold the fabric. Some fabric wrap baby carriers are specifically meant for the 1-and-under set; others can hold a baby of any age once you get the hang of the different ways to wear them. The one caveat: it does take some practice to learn how to put one on.
• Soft, structured carriers. While this baby carrier is good for any age, it’s great for an older child since the supportive pieces—shoulder straps and waist sash—evenly distribute your child’s weight to minimize back aches and pains.
• A Mei Tai carrier. This minimalist baby carrier does away with buckles for straps that tie off for a personalized fit every time. The downside: no padded fabric.
• Frame carriers. This type of baby carrier provides back support when you’re babywearing for long periods, for instance, hiking. These are recommended for older babies who can sit up and have good head and neck control.
One last thing: In any baby carrier, baby should sit with her legs in an “M” shape: legs wide, knees bent and slightly above her waist. That’s the proper position for baby’s hip and back health. Okay, ready to take a look at our best baby carrier picks? Here we go:
Best Newborn Carrier
The mom behind the Solly Baby Wrap designed it especially the first nine months. This best baby carrier for newborns is a long piece of fabric with a tag that helps you guide it on; there are tutorials to watch here. It stretches to fit your body (important, as your size is in flux in those early postpartum months) and you can customize the head and neck support for a young infant. Oh, did we mention they have amazing new patterns out every season?
Suited for babies : Up to 25 pounds
Buy It : Solly Baby Wrap, $65 to $80, sollybaby.com
Best Sling Carrier
A sling is also an ideal baby carrier for a young infant. LÍLLÉbaby’s Ring Sling is lightweight, so it’s no strain on you, and breathable, making it safe for sleepy infant snoozefests. You adjust the fit with a fabric-padded metal ring, which sits comfortably against your chest.
Suited for babies : 7 to 35 pounds
Buy It : LÍLLÉbaby’s Ring Sling, $97, lillebaby.com
Best Front-Facing Baby Carrier
There are so many to choose from, but the classic front-facing baby carrier that comes to mind when you hear the words “baby carrier” is the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier Original. It was invented to make babywearing a no-brainer for parents, with straps and buttons that easily secure baby in place. Baby can be seated inward or outward, which is especially cute for a curious kid eager to see the world.
Suited for : 8 to 25 pounds
Buy It : BabyBjorn Baby Carrier Original, $80, babybjorn.com
Best Soft Structured Baby Carrier
The Baby Tula cotton canvas baby carrier has a huge devoted mom following for good reason. This best baby carrier has a wide waistband so it feels secure on your body, a large fabric panel that keeps baby comfortably facing you (or riding on your back) and a ton of stylish patterns, with new ones rolling out all the time.
Suited for : 7 to 45 pounds Buy It : Tula Baby Carrier, $149 to $159, babytula.com
Best Backpack Baby Carrier
If you plan on wearing your baby carrier on your back (nice for you and your kiddo!), you’ll want the main piece of fabric to be generous and supportive along baby’s spine. With the Boba 4G Carrier, you can start wearing baby on your back once he hits 20 pounds. Back carrier instructions on the site can walk you through how to easily load in your child.
Suited for : 7 to 45 pounds
Buy It : Boba 4G Carrier, $150, boba.com
Best Hip Carrier
The Cybex Yema baby carrier has a unique, cocoon-like design that lets you wear baby in the front or back. But thanks to its highly customizable back straps that can be tied diagonally across your back, it’s also suited for wearing baby on your hip, a natural carry position for many moms.
Suited for : 7.5 to 26.5 pounds
Buy It : Cybex Yema, $200, cybex-online.com
Best Baby Carrier For Hiking
For a serious hike with a baby on your back, your best baby carrier is a frame carrier, like this one from the outdoors company Deuter. Built like a hiker’s backpack, you can unload it while keeping your kid inside; with the kickstand, this baby carrier becomes a makeshift stand-alone seat. And because you may be using it for several hours at a time, there’s storage for toys and pockets for parent necessities. Purchase a hood accessory and rain or shine, you’ll be able to trek with baby in tow.
Suited for : Up to 48.5 pounds
Buy It : Deuter Kid Comfort 2 Child Carrier, $249, rei.com
Best Baby Carrier For Dad
Because it’s designed to fit so many body types, BabyBjorn’s Baby Carrier One is great for fathers and mothers to share. And with fathers having a hand in engineering the design, it’s no wonder the Swedish brand is committed to using #DadStories to highlight the supportive global community of men rocking this best baby carrier for dad.
Suited for : Up to 33 pounds Buy It : BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One, $190, amazon.com
Best Baby Carrier For Breastfeeding
You can have a private nursing experience with the Baby K’tan baby carrier. This wrap is a closed loop with arm holes, so it’s easy to get on when it’s time for breastfeeding. The stretchy fabric provides a screen and holds baby to your breast. Of course, it works just as well as a regular baby carrier for everyday babywearing too.
Suited for : 8 to 35 pounds Buy It : Baby K’Tan Original Cotton Wrap, $50, babyktan.com
Best Baby Carrier For Hot Weather
The mesh fabric on LÍLLÉbaby’s Complete Airflow baby carrier allows for ventaliation so baby stays cool and comfy. You can wear it any which way—front, back or hip—depending on what’s best for you and your little passenger.
Suited for : 7 to 45 pounds
Buy It : LÍLLÉbaby’s Complete Airflow, $125 to $135, lillebaby.com
Best Baby Carrier For Back Pain
Parents give a lot of credit to Ergobaby for thinking about the comfort of moms and dads. The brand’s newest baby carrier, the Omni, has serious lumbar support and straps you can cross (or not) in the back, depending on what feels best for you. A baby can ride on your front or back, and no infant insert is required, even though the baby carrier can be used from infancy through toddlerhood.
Suited for : 7 to 33 pounds
Buy It : ErgoBaby Omni, $180, ergobaby.com
Best Mei Tai Baby Carrier
This old-school style of baby carrier uses a strap-tie system to secure baby, so no buckles are required, allowing for a simple and personalized fit every time. As for versatility, the Infantino Sash Mei Tai can be worn front-, back- or hip-facing.
Best Affordable Baby Carrier
Evenflo has been making easy front carriers that buckle on the sides for years now. For quick errands, this breathable, lightweight and affordable baby carrier is all you need!
Suited for : 7 to 26 pounds
Buy It : Evenflo Breathable Carrier, $20, evenflo.com
Best Baby Carrier For Toddlers
A baby carrier isn’t just for a tiny infant, it’s a genius way to keep your active toddler by your side. Kindercarry makes models sized especially for ages 18 months to 4, with thicker fabric and straps all around.
Suited for : 25 to 45 pounds Buy It : Toddler Kinderpack, $169, mykinderpack.com