Top 5 Most Recommended Baby CarriersPublished on 08/04/2022 · 10 min readBaby carriers are a great option for having access to both hands, while still toting your little one around! Baby and Toddler Expert Alex K. lists the best carriers to fit your needs and lifestyle!
Photo by Josh Willink
If you’ve ever heard the term “babywearing,” it might have made you think twice about what wearing a baby actually looks like. With the amount of time parents spend holding their newborns, infants, and young children, it can feel like they’re actually wearing their children all the time. But the beauty of babywearing is that you can hold a baby or small child without using your arms—keeping your hands free for other tasks.
Babywearing is also an incredibly useful way to bring your baby outside the house and rejoin society—whether it be at an outdoor party or the grocery store—without having others get too close to your baby. The product that makes this possible is called a baby carrier, which is essentially a soft fabric pouch or pack you wear on your front, hip, or back.
Turns out, there’s a huge market for babywearing, with products that range from bohemian-looking wraps and ring slings to thoroughly engineered, padded frontpacks and backpacks.
While all of these can be considered baby carriers, the best carriers are comfortable and supportive for both the wearer and the baby, ergonomically designed (good for baby’s hip development), and can hold babies as young as newborns up to toddlers (age three and sometimes older!).
Some are easier than others to put on and adjust to fit both you and your baby. Some can’t be put on without someone else’s help (i.e., if you want to carry your child on your back, you’ll need someone else to place them in it). And if you find scarves challenging, good luck figuring out how to properly crisscross and tie a wrap around your body while your newborn is screaming at you to pick them up!
That said, many parents and caregivers swear by wraps for their comfort and the snuggly feel they provide babies with, while others prefer something more structured and easier to put on. Soft-structured carriers are the latter, with padding for comfort, mesh for breathability, greater adjustability, position options (inward-facing, front-facing, and on the back), and more back support for the wearer.
A soft-structured carrier (SSC) typically has a higher weight limit than a wrap-style carrier, making them more attractive for those who plan to use them with their toddlers (some max out around 40lbs, which could theoretically mean you could carry your child past their toddler years until they’re around age five; at that point, however, they’ll likely want to run rather than be carried). There are also dedicated backpack carriers with slightly higher weight limits, but a baby must be older and able to sit up on their own before they can be put in those.
So which baby carrier is the best, or even the most highly recommended by baby experts? To determine the top baby carriers, I canvassed reviews from across the internet from sources such as BabyGearLab, WhatToExpect, Healthline, Verywell Family, and more. I also checked out many of the products firsthand to give the best expert advice from parents who know what kids like—and what you as their caregiver actually need.
For the sake of fairness, the following is a list of the most recommended carriers in each category, because comparing a wrap to an SSC to a backpack carrier isn’t exactly apples to apples! Carriers were chosen based on their comfort, fit, supportiveness, versatility, durability, ease of use, and ease of cleaning (machine washability is a must!). All of the featured SSCs and wrap-style carriers allow for discreet nursing/breastfeeding and were deemed “Hip Healthy” for babies by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
Best Soft-Structured Carrier: Ergobaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier
Made of cotton or mesh, the Ergobaby Omni 360 can be your child’s one and only carrier for their first four years. It’s capable of carrying newborns weighing 7lbs and can hold them until they grow to be 45lbs or 48 months old, whichever comes first. (As I said, at that point, they’ll be ready to run!)
It’s easy to put on and adjust for both the wearer and the baby, making it ideal for couples who want to swap carrying responsibilities. The baby can be worn or carried four different ways: front-facing in (for newborns and older), front-facing out (for babies about five months), hip/side carry (for babies about six months), and back carry (for babies about six months to toddlers).
Ergobaby is serious about the ergonomic designs of its products, with carriers that promote healthy hip development in babies. This company emphasizes the “M” shape a baby’s legs and bottom should conform to while in a carrier, with their bottom positioned low in a deep seat.
The carrier itself only weighs 1.7lbs, which is incredibly lightweight for an SSC. The Cool Air Mesh version is even more breathable for summer months, and both the cotton and mesh Omni have a baby privacy hood with UPF 50+ sun protection. The carrier also has padded lumbar support for the wearer’s back—a key feature for those who plan to carry their child for extended periods of time or into their toddler years—and a head and neck pillow for enhanced comfort for the baby.
Ergobaby also offers an ErgoPromise Lifetime Guarantee that replaces carriers or parts at no charge in the event of a manufacturing or material defect.
Runner-Up: BabyBjörn Baby Carrier Harmony
Speaking of ergonomic carriers, it would be remiss not to mention the array of hip-healthy baby carriers made by BabyBjörn. Just like Ergobaby, they offer products that are OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Class 1 certified, meaning they are toxin-free and safe for a baby to touch and taste. My “Best In Class” for BabyBjörn’s soft-structured carriers goes to the BabyBjörn Baby Carrier Harmony.
Made of soft 3D mesh that contours to the baby’s body and keeps them (and you) from overheating, the Harmony feels like a gentle hug for your baby. It provides them with flexible head support and ergonomic support for their legs and hips. For the wearer, it has padding in the shoulder straps and back area, and a comfortable, pressure-relieving waistband.
This carrier can hold children from zero to three years old weighing up to 40lbs in four carry positions: newborn facing in, baby facing in, baby facing out, and baby on back.
Best Wrap-Style Carrier: Baby K’tan Original Baby Carrier
The Baby K’tan Original is widely recommended as a top option for newborns and for its ease of use. At about $100 less than many SSCs, this carrier is budget-friendly and marketed as “a wrap-style baby carrier without the wrapping.” Unlike an SSC that involves buckles and/or snaps, this 100% natural cotton wrap slips on like a T-shirt and comes in various sizes (XS through XL) to accommodate the wearer.
The double-loop design (with a smaller third loop that supports the child’s bottom) can be worn five different ways—mostly with the baby facing in at different angles, but also facing out once they’re at least six months old. It can carry children up to 35lbs and evenly distributes their weight across the wearer’s back and shoulders. One of the biggest perks of a wrap is that there’s no hardware to fumble with. It also weighs about 1lb or less, depending on the size, and can be machine-washed and dried.
Best Hybrid: Boppy ComfyFit Baby Carrier
If you’re craving the comfort and look of a baby wrap and the support of a structured carrier, the Bobby Comfy Fit is a hybrid that combines the best of both. This carrier is essentially a single piece of fabric with a padded waist belt that buckles and shoulder straps that make it easy to put on. It tightens by tying the excess fabric in a double knot off to the side.
This carrier is made of a polyester blend with a touch of spandex on the outside that makes it soft and stretchy and mesh on the inside that keeps the baby ventilated. Babies weighing 8 to 35lbs can be worn in three positions: newborn front-facing in (legs in frog position), baby front-facing in (legs out), and front-facing out.
Unlike the Baby K’tan Original, it comes in just one size, which can make it tight or restrictive for larger wearers, but it doesn’t require any adjustments other than the tightness of the knot. It also packs small and is a solid budget pick.
Best Backpack Carriers: Osprey Poco Child Carrier and Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier
There are several great child-carrier backpacks, but few that we’d want for all-day hiking or traveling with a baby on your back. For this category, Osprey Poco Child Carrier is number one, followed closely by the Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier in second. Both are certainly heftier child carriers, weighing around 7lbs without a kid in them and taking up a sizable footprint (these are not compact carriers). But they’re robust for a reason, as they double as backpacks with storage compartments and built-in protective sun shades that come in handy out on the trails.
For the wearer, the Osprey Poco boasts padded shoulder straps, a breathable back panel, adjustable waist and chest clips, a hydration sleeve, and easy-access pockets on the hip belt, sides, and front of the pack. For the child, who must weigh at least 16lbs and be able to sit up independently, there are removable foot stirrups and a “deluxe child cockpit” with mesh-covered foam, ventilated panels, and an adjustable seat height. This carrier can hold kids up to 48lbs.
The Deuter Kid Comfort can be used with babies around eight months old who are able to sit up on their own. It also has a maximum carry load of about 48lbs. Like the Poco, it works well for hikers of different heights and has a variety of features, including ergonomic cushioning, mesh ventilation, and a safety harness with color-coded buckles.
Note: Due to the size and aluminum frame design of these carriers, the Poco and Kid Comfort are not machine washable.
Other Carriers and Considerations
This list of best baby carriers just scratches the surface as there are a plethora of babywearing options for parents and caregivers. You may also hear about ring slings and hip seats—with ring slings being a minimalistic approach for carrying and nursing newborns on the go, while hip seats are means of holding older babies on a fanny-pack-like seat that helps offset their weight. (Note: Hip seats are not hands-free, and a baby must be able to support their own head and neck before they can be carried that way.)
When deciding which carrier would be best for you and your child, it’s worth considering the following:
- How long you plan to use it: If you don’t envision yourself carrying a toddler around, a newborn-specific carrier, like the BabyBjorn Mini, should be just fine (and you’ll save some money, too). Pay attention to weight and size ranges for carriers as some might be overkill for your needs.
- Who will be wearing it: If you plan to switch the baby carrier between differently-sized adults, make sure it’s adjustable.
- How you want to position your child: If you want to eventually put your child on your back, make sure the carrier can be worn that way. If you have a newborn, make sure the child carrier is sized appropriately and will properly support them (sometimes, an infant insert is required). Note: A baby should face inward for at least the first six months as this is a critical time for hip development. They can be turned to face outward after six months, but keeping them facing inward for the first year promotes healthy hips.
If you’re looking for a baby carrier, be sure to reach out to a Baby and Toddler Expert who can help you with your search. We have the knowledge and compassion to help you find the best baby gear for your needs!