Carrying our babies around while we try to go about our daily lives can be a real hassle - especially when you need free hands. Of course, there are cribs, prams, and baby rockers, but it's just not the same, is it? Babywearing might seem like it's a new trend. It certainly seems to be growing in popularity, but in fact - it's been practised since time began. Baby carriers are one of the best products to invest in from the get-go on your new family journey.
'Baby-wearing,' as it's now known, is the practice of carrying your baby strapped to your person - like a Kangaroo. Think of the baby carrier as the human equivalent of the pouch.
Baby carriers really are superior; they are practical, convenient, comfortable, plus wearing your baby will allow ultimate bonding with your child. Your baby will love being cradled to you, and you will be able to have your baby close to you while still going about your business with free arms. Whether your hiking, running errands, or even doing chores at home, baby carriers will make everything easier.
It's super important to make sure that the baby carrier you use is perfect for both you and your little one. If you are unfamiliar with babywearing or baby carrying - you are probably confused and don't know where to start. There are so many styles and types of baby carriers and a lot of unfamiliar terms.
That's why we have created this post to help you get the hang of baby carriers and to introduce you to some of the best baby carriers on the market.
Whether you're at home, at work, the mall, or in the park with other kids - a baby carrier will free up your hands, making your day as normal as possible. Find the best baby carrier for you, and it's going to be a total lifesaver.
Types of Baby Carrier
There are loads of different types of baby carriers to choose from, making wearing your baby easy for everyone! There are wraps and slings, k'tans, and structured baby carriers with padded shoulder straps, all available to choose from.
Choosing a baby carrier is very individual for every parent. You may end up with separate carriers for different activities. The best baby carrier will also depend on the age of your little one, their stage of development, and other factors such as your baby's weight.
Let's explore them all in more detail!
Ring slings are generally considered the best 'starter' baby carrier. They are ideal for newborn babies and young babies in their first few months of existence. A firm favorite with parents, this option is easy to put on, compact and portable. This type of carrier is usually made from one piece of comfortable, woven, and super-soft fabric with a little bit of stretch for even more ease of use. The ring is used to keep the fabric and baby in place securely on your front and around your body. It is straightforward to adjust for a just-right fit. All you have to do is slide the ring (attached to one end of the fabric) through the other end of the fabric. You can then tighten the fabric to keep your baby in place. There is only one way to wear a ring sling; over one of your shoulders and then wrapped across your body. This creates a pouch to cradle your baby in. The baby will be comfortable, close to you, and naturally in a neck supporting position.
Usually made from a woven, stretchy fabric, the sling provides an excellent option for carrying your baby on your front for shorter periods.
These baby carriers are easy to use, machine washable, and provide great comfort for babies who can relax in natural positions, with their head and neck supported in the comfortable fabric sling.
Parents need to be wary that carrying a baby in a ring sling for a long time could be uncomfortable as the weight is only on one shoulder. If you suffer from back trouble or your baby is a heavier weight - you might want to explore other options! Ring slings are recommended for babies up to 25 lbs - it is best to check the instructions for the particular product you buy.
Soft Wrap Carriers
Soft wrap baby carriers are ideal for newborns and young babies in their first few months of existence. They are usually a 'one size fits all' solution made from one piece of super soft fabric.
A soft wrap carrier, sometimes known as a soft, stretchy wrap, can take some time to get used to. Unlike the ring sling, they are designed to be used in multiple positions. Of course, having multiple positions is great, but learning how to wrap and tie around the fabric for the desired effect can be a little tricky.
Thankfully there are loads of online resources that can help you get the hang of all of the available positions. If your lucky, there might even be classes in your area that can help you learn how to get the sling into position in person.
The fabric used is always made with parents and babies in mind. The fabric is usually made from materials such as lycra or spandex combined with cotton. The fabric blends used are designed to give optimum comfort and support while keeping your baby cool. They should be comfortable on you and not cause any digging or soreness. They are usually machine washable, which is a big plus for busy parents.
Woven Wrap Carrier
The woven wrap baby carrier might be the natural progression from a soft wrap or used in its place. Woven wraps work in the same way as soft wraps. The only real difference is that a woven wrap is made from a sturdier material, with less flexibility. They are still designed to be comfortable and accommodate a carry position to suit you while keeping baby cool and baby close to you.
Woven wraps can be the better option for older babies. This sling is just more support for when your baby gets heavier. It can even be used for toddlers and help keep your baby secured in a front or back carry.
Soft Structured Baby Carriers
If you are looking to purchase only one baby carrier on your parenting journey, then this might be the best baby carrier for you. A soft structured carrier is probably the best baby carrier if you are looking for long-term use instead of changing carrier type as your baby grows in pounds.
Soft-structured carriers are very different from the sling options. They use a combination of shoulder straps and padding and are worn like rucksacks. Spreading the weight can be great for parents to protect their head and neck.
Most parents find this option to be superior to a sling for longer activities or days out. They offer more lumbar support for weight, making it easier to get things done, keep your hands free, and help keep your baby happy.
Mei Tai carriers
Think of Mei Tai carriers as a combination carrier. Also knows as Meh Dai carriers. They offer a nice middle ground carrier between a structured baby carrier and a wrap or sling. They provide the same long piece of fabric that is stretchy and super-soft cloth as a wrap but also padded shoulder straps. It's a best of both worlds option that will allow little ones to be held in multiple carry positions both back and front easily.
This style of carrier offers flexibility but can cause discomfort in heavier-weight babies over 25 pounds. For that reason, it is suited to babies under four months. Like all of the carriers we have discussed, it is a great option that allows you to carry your little ones hands-free, and most parts are machine washable.
The baby K'tan is a modern, patented design that is becoming hugely popular with parents. It has a double-loop design that functions as a sling, wrap, and baby carrier. There are a variety of different models available, and they can accommodate babies up to 35 pounds.
The baby K'tan is another hybrid option designed to incorporate the benefits of different types of carriers. Ease of use is better than a sling, and they have the bonus that they are machine washable.
We have already mentioned carry positions quite a bit. How you want to hold your little one around your body will significantly impact the carrier(s) you chose. Let's talk about them in more detail to establish which would be more suited to your lifestyle.
Facing you is the traditional way little one would be carried. It's also the only option available until your baby is six months old. You shouldn't start experimenting with other positions until your baby can fully support its own head. The 'facing in' position can be achieved with a soft structured carrier, wraps, and slings.
During this stage of development, the best options are typically a ring sling or a soft wrap carrier. This is because they can give tighter support than a soft structured carrier. They can also be easily adjusted to accommodate changes in growth, especially around the baby's hips.
When your baby is six-eight months old and can support its own head, you might want to switch to the facing out position. This allows your little one to see the world around them and take in all of the sights, smiles, and sounds when you are baby-wearing. It's great for their development. When thinking about your baby carrier at this stage, you have several options available.
You might buy/have bought a carrier that's adaptable from the get-go. If not, you might need to buy a few attachments to adapt it safely into a front-facing carrier. Some soft structured carriers start closer to wraps or slings and then have various add ons to adapt as you go!
If you have a wrap or sling, they can be adjusted safely just as they are. Again they can be positioned to support your baby's hip support needs.
The third position follows your little one's development journey. This position can be adopted when your child can sit up unassisted. At this point, their spine and the surrounding muscles will have matured to a level that is safe for a supported back carry.
You don't have to adopt this position, but it will become an option. As well as being hands-free, it can free up space on your front, which might be more comfortable for you. At this point, your baby will also be gaining a few pounds regularly, so you may find it easier. If you haven't been using an adaptable carrier, then you would progress to a structured carrier. This means you will have the appropriate straps and buckles to keep your little one safe and secured. If you have been using a soft structured carrier all along, you will have been using the appropriate insert to adapt it for newborns and infants. This is the stage where you are likely to change or remove the inserts. Please always check the manufacturer guidance as they all differ depending on the brand.
Hip carrying is an available option from as early as three months old. Again this depends on your child and their development and may take 6-8 months. The key sign they are ready is when they can hold their head up unassisted. It's best to make sure you are confident about this before you switch.
You will often find yourself carrying your little one on your hip as it's a natural position to fall into. This is fine for very short periods. If you plan to carry out other activities while carrying your child, you can add the ring sling or woven wrap for safety and support. These will give your baby adequate support and allow you to tackle the task at hand safely.
How to Choose The Best Baby Carrier For You?
Choosing the baby carrier that best suits you, your baby, and your lifestyle is not always an easy decision. Besides wanting to keep your baby close to you, there are other things to consider, such as your health, your child's weight, how and when you intend to use carriers. We have devised a list of quick questions to help you narrow down the search and make a decision.
- Do I want to purchase a new carrier or wrap at different stages of your baby's development?
- When am I going to be using it?
- Will my baby's weight become an issue for my health?
- Would I prefer front or back carry positions?
- How important is the ease of use?
- What activities will I be doing with this additional weight strapped to my front/back?
- Will I be the only one using the wrap or carrier?
- How quickly is my baby's weight expected to increase?
- Will I need to wear it for longer durations of time?
- How long will I be wearing it for?
- What carrying positions do I want it to manage?
- Do I want padded straps, or do I want a sling or wrap style?
- Will I need to buy an infant or newborn insert?
- Can it take my baby's weight/ what is the weight limit?
- Is it machine-washable? Machine washable will save you a lot of time in the long run!
Are Baby Carriers Safe?
The short answer is YES.
There are heaps of great benefits to babywearing emotionally, cognitively, and physically. Your baby can feel comforted and secure. They promote bonding and allow you to go about your day-to-day life without having to sit your child aside. They really can be such a huge win-win for the family in many ways.
It goes without saying that there are best practices involved in babywearing. You always need to exercise extreme caution with your little one. Babies are very vulnerable, and there are dangerous mistakes that you can make when using a baby carrier.
Remember, baby carriers can be the general term for all babywearing products. Still, it can also refer to the soft-structured variety only. Structured baby carriers are not suitable for newborns and up to 4/6 months. At this stage, they have to be kept in a ring sling or wrap-style carrier. Your baby must be able to comfortably hold up its head before you make the switch.
Top Safety Tips For All Carrier Styles
It is vital that your carrier fits well and is secured properly. Your baby should have room to move their head around freely if they need to. They should have plenty of room to breathe, never pressed against you or the carrier. It is essential to make sure their chin is not tucked down towards their chest as this can cause difficulty breathing. All limbs should be able to move around a little. Baby should be held close to you securely and not slumped in any way that could harm their limbs or affect breathing. While the carrier shouldn't be ill-fitting or loose, it can't be too tight either.
Make sure to check in with your little one regularly and watch out for signs of wriggling or discomfort while using the carrier.
Make sure your little one is dressed for the weather. Body heat can be hotter than we think, so it's also essential to make sure your baby is nice and cool not to overheat, especially on a hot day.
Close Enough to Kiss
If you can see your baby's face at all times, it can help keep them safe. You can regularly check for signs of discomfort and keep an eye on their head position. That means your baby should be healed in a high position on your body.
Baby's Hips Are Flexed
Your baby has loose ligaments and soft bones during their first few years, and their pelvis is still developing. This leaves them susceptible to a condition called hip dysplasia - this occurs when your baby joints around the hips become out of alignment.
For this reason, it is important to make sure the carrier you choose offers good hip positioning, especially if your child is known to be a risk of hip dysplasia or has a hip condition. Your baby's thighs should be supported, and they should be in an 'M' position with knees higher than their bottom.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before you use a new carrier, practice putting it on, taking it off, and making adjustments before using it with your baby. Speak to your pediatrician for further guidance and advice on the risks.
You might even be able to find classes in your local area that can help you safely use the carrier.
Try to avoid secondhand products where possible - simply because they could be damaged in a way that's not clear to you.
Buy At Home
Purchase your carries in the USA - to be sold or advertised here, they have to meet the safety criteria set out by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Speak To Your Family Doctor
Again, we cannot stress this enough, discuss baby carriers and babywearing with your family doctor or pediatrician. Always make sure your baby is happy and comfortable in the carrier.
Parenting is a very personal journey for you and your family. You should always do what's right for you and your little one. Babywearing comes with many emotional and practical benefits that can help you enjoy this journey even more if practiced safely.
Do some research, speak to your doctor, and explore what's out there to find the perfect baby carrier(s) for you!
Our top baby carriers currently on the market
Solly Baby Wrap Carrier
The Solly Baby wrap carrier is one of the best baby carriers out there for newborns or parents wanting a light and breathable soft wrap carrier. This baby carrier is made from Lenzing modal fabric, giving it a great combination of support, softness, and breathability for your baby. The carrier is machine washable and has a weight limit of 11 kilos, making it a perfect baby carrier for newborns without the need for any adapters or inserts, making this an excellent option for day-to-day usage. Since this is more targeted at newborns, it is only usable as a front carry wrap. Still, it provides a perfect choice for parents looking for their first carrier and need something that is not only comfortable for baby but simple for them.
Moby Ring Sling Carrier
The Moby Ring Sling Baby Carrier is a great value, simple to use baby carrier for anyone wanting to try different carrying positions without necessarily wanting a soft wrap or structured carrier. This ring sling baby carrier has excellent adjustability, allowing it to grow with your baby until they are a toddler, which is helped by its 15-kilo weight limit. This carrier is breastfeeding-friendly and capable of being used in the front or hip carrying positions with zero difficulties, and its breathable fabrics mean your baby stays cool and comfortable for as long as they like.
Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier Move
The Baby Bjorn Carrier Move proves to be a great example of structured carriers' functionality and stretching capabilities. This carrier comes with excellent support for your baby's back and neck while also being made of a breathable but sturdy 3D mesh, making it great for parents with an active lifestyle. A bonus of this carrier is that it can be used from newborn without an infant insert! This means you can use the Baby Bjorn Carrier Move until your baby is 15 months old (or 12 kilos in weight) without issue! One drawback with this carrier is it is only for front carrying; however, it is well suited to facing in and facing out positions meaning your baby can see the world as and when they want to.
ergobaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier.
The ergo baby Omni 360 Baby Carrier is a great structured carrier for every situation a parent or baby could have. It comes with a padded headrest that is foldable as well as a hood that can be stowed away when not needed, meaning you can avoid your baby being woken or uncomfortable due to windy or sunny conditions. It also has a privacy screen for when you need to breastfeed in public and small pockets that can easily fit keys, a phone, or a dummy for your baby so that you're ready for any scenario. Some of the other great features of this carrier include a supportive waist belt that provides excellent lumbar support for parents and functionality for front, back, and hip carrying, as well as a 20-kilo weight limit meaning you are all set for when they grow to a toddler.
Infantino Flip 4-In-1 Baby Carrier
The Infantino Flip Baby Carrier is a great value baby carrier for anyone looking for a structured baby carrier that is cheap but effective in supporting both themselves and their baby. This baby carrier supports both back and front baby carrying positions, has padded straps for the parent's shoulders, and a supportive waist belt to help distribute the weight and avoid discomfort. The Infantino Flip carrier can support babies up to 14.5-kilos heavy, all for a fraction of the price but without any loss in quality creating. An excellent experience for both you and your baby.
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