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While buggies or strollers are still the default mode of transportation for a baby, using a baby carrier — or "babywearing" as it's often referred to — is becoming increasingly popular. Like many products for babies, however, you can find a huge range of options and varieties, so selecting the right carrier for you and your little one can seem like a challenge. If you're struggling, you're in luck — we at BestReviews are here to demystify the world of baby carriers and help you make an informed purchase.
In order to produce fair, thorough, and unbiased reviews, we test products in our labs and out in the field, talk to experts, and consult existing customers to find the opinions of real people who use these products day in, day out. What we never do is accept free products or samples from manufacturers.
Read on for our full guide to baby carriers and prepare to start your babywearing journey.
Here we examine some of the reasons why you might like using a baby carrier.
Unlike using a stroller, babywearing leaves your hands free, which can be useful if you're walking the dog, out and about with older children to look after, or simply trying to get some chores done around the house.
Many babies — especially newborns — enjoy the closeness to a parent when in a baby carrier, and may be easier to soothe.
Strollers can be a nightmare to push over uneven terrain, but that's not an issue with a baby carrier.
It's easier to maneuver around crowded places when wearing your baby, as opposed to using a stroller.
While they might seem boring to us, most babies are deeply entertained by watching everyday tasks, so putting your little one in a carrier while you get on with your day can keep him happily occupied.
Some babies nap better in a carrier than in a crib or cot.
Some parents find using a baby carrier helps them to bond with their infant.
Soft structured baby carriers are made from soft, often padded, material sewn into the correct shape, with straps and buckles for fastening. So, you just put it on, fasten it, and pop the baby in.
Easy to use and quick to put on, many models can be worn on the front or back. Some have a minimum weight or require an extra insert for carrying newborns.
Not as adjustable as wraps or slings, so shorter parents may find some models uncomfortable. They can be relatively costly.
Generic models start at about $40 but may not be hugely durable; expect to pay $100 to $200 for a highly-rated carrier from a trusted brand.
Some soft structured carriers have pockets on them, which are very handy for holding a few baby essentials.
A baby carrying wrap is essentially a long length of slightly stretchy fabric, which can be arranged and tied in a number of ways to carry your baby in various positions.
Distributes baby's weight evenly, so it's not all on your back and shoulders. A wrap is one of the most inexpensive baby carrying options, highly adjustable to suit any height, and can be tied in a huge number of ways to best suit you and your baby.
Not as quick or easy to put on as other carriers, may have a lower maximum weight limit than structured carriers or baby backpacks.
$20 to $50. You pay more for name brand models, but all wraps are very similar.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
ERGObaby Four Position 360
Carry Every Which Way
The main draw of the Ergobaby 360 is that it can be used to carry your baby in a range of positions. With the carrier on your front, baby can be faced in or out, and older babies can be carried on the back or hip. It's likely to have a longer shelf-life, as babies often favor different carrying positions as they grow. It's also more likely to suit both parents, who may each have their own preferred carrying style.
Slings are made from woven, non-stretch material, and are worn over one shoulder.
Fairly inexpensive, easier to put on than a wrap, good for discretely nursing your baby.
Can be uncomfortable once your baby gets too heavy, less supportive than other types of carriers.
Around $15 to $60.
You can find two types of sling baby carrier — ring slings and pouch slings. The former are adjustable, whereas the latter are not.
Baby backpacks are designed to be worn on the back. and may be framed or unframed.
Good for older children, who might be uncomfortable to carry on the front as they get heavier, tend to be rugged and durable, ideal for hiking and carrying for longer periods.
Can be bulky — especially framed models. Even lower-end models are expensive.
$90 to $300.
Baby backpacks are very supportive, and suitable even for very long periods of babywearing.
Consider whether you want to wear your baby on your front or on your back.
Many parents prefer front-carrying at first, as this allows you to keep a closer eye on your baby, plus nursing moms can feed in most front carriers. Some people also feel emotionally closer to their child in a front-carrying position, which can help with bonding.
However, you may find carrying your baby on your back less uncomfortable, especially as she gets older and heavier. What's more, some babies simply prefer being carried on the back, so you just have to find what works for you and your little one.
Consider the weight of any baby carriers you're considering. Most are fairly lightweight, but even a couple of pounds can make a difference when you also have to support the weight of your child.
Once your baby can hold his head up independently — usually at about four to six months old — you can choose to position him facing outward in a baby carrier that sits on your front.
Not all carriers support the outward-facing position, so if you want to have the option, choose your carrier appropriately.
The only issue is that some baby carriers just let baby's legs hang down when in the outward-facing position, which can cause hip problems. So, only opt for an outward-facing baby carrier if it allows the proper M-shaped leg position.
Some babies love to see the world going by in an outward-facing position, whereas others become over-stimulated. Only you know what's best for your child in these kinds of scenarios, so don't be swayed by popular opinion.
Think about the comfort of both the wearer of the carrier and passenger inside. For the person wearing the carrier, even weight distribution is key. Thick straps and padding can help on structured carriers and baby backpacks.
The nature of the baby wrap means that the part of the wrap that acts as the straps is very wide, so weight is evenly distributed — as such, many users find baby wraps extremely comfortable.
For your baby, a well padded structured carrier or a soft, stretchy wrap will increase her comfort.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Boba Baby Wrap
When you use a sling like the Boba Baby Wrap, you share an intimacy with your child that imparts a lifetime of benefits. The carrier is machine washable, so you don't have to worry if it gets a bit sweaty from time to time. Parents who choose to use a carrier for its skin-to-skin benefits understand this trade-off and generally don't see it as a major inconvenience.
Structured carriers are the easiest variety of baby carrier to use, since you simply put them on like a backpack (or a front-pack, as the case may be), fasten a strap around your waist, and slip your baby inside.
Wraps are arguably the hardest to use, since you have to learn how to tie them, and this varies, depending on how you want to carry your baby.
That said, although there's a bit of a learning curve involved with wraps, once you get the hang of them, it should only take you a couple of minutes to put yours on.
Generally, newborns should be carried on your front only, so pay attention to any minimum age or minimum weight for back carriers.
Parents come in all shapes and sizes, so it's nonsensical to expect one baby carrier to fit every mom and dad, unless it's adjustable.
Wrap-style baby carriers are the most adjustable, since you tie them on yourself, and you’re completely in control of where they sit on your body.
Soft structured carriers and baby backpacks usually have adjustable straps to suit people of a range of heights.
Parents under about 5'2" sometimes report soft structured carriers have straps that are too long, thus holding their baby too low, and making it uncomfortable. Some models are better suited to shorter users, however, so it's worth looking into if you have your heart set on a structured carried, rather than a wrap.
To avoid improper hip development, and issues such as hip dysplasia, babies should always be carried with their legs in the "M" position — that is, with knees bent up and legs spread wide. Ensure your chosen carrier allows your baby to sit in this position.
Some towns have baby carrier "libraries" that allow you to try on different baby carriers, and sometimes even borrow them for a short trial, which can help you find one that's right for you and your baby.
Be careful your baby doesn't overheat while in her carrier. Treat it as an extra layer of clothing and dress your child accordingly.
If your baby can't yet hold up his own head independently, make sure your chosen carrier will offer appropriate support, as it's a pain to have to use one hand to hold up your baby's head at all times.
Q. Are baby carriers safe to use?
A. Baby carriers are safe to use, but you should still take some precautions, especially when wearing a newborn. Always make sure the baby carrier is tight, holding your baby close to you so that he doesn't slump back, which could affect his breathing. Young babies should be in your sight while wearing them — on your front, rather than back — and with the face turned upward, not tucked down into the carrier or in a chin-to-chest position. Also, ensure your child is as high up in their carrier as is comfortable — her head should be close enough for you to kiss.
Q. Are all baby carriers suitable for newborns?
A. Most baby carriers are suitable for most newborns — though they do have a minimum weight limit, so check this out before using, especially if you have a small or premature baby. Some soft structured carriers have a special insert to be used with newborns or babies under a certain weight.
Q. Is there a maximum weight limit for baby carriers?
A. Yes, all baby carriers have a maximum weight limit. Be sure to pay attention to it, particularly if you intend to wear your baby well into toddlerhood. You may, however, find that using a baby carrier becomes uncomfortable for either you or your child (or both) before she reaches the maximum weight limit.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.