Baby Carrier Buying Guide: How To Pick A Carrier



Baby Carrier Buying Guide

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When it comes to taking care of your little one, having the right tools can make all the difference. Baby carriers can be an invaluable resource for busy parents, providing both convenience and comfort. However, selecting the ideal solution for you and your child can be a daunting task.

This guide will provide comprehensive information to help you choose the best baby carrier for your needs. From safety considerations to features and accessories, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

With the right knowledge, you’ll be able to find the perfect carrier to keep your little one safe, comfortable, and secure.

Key Takeaways

  • There are four main types of baby carriers: Ring Slings, Wraps, Soft Structure, and Solid Structure.
  • Parents should consider their body size, shape, and baby’s age and weight when choosing a carrier.
  • Recommended brands for soft structured carriers are LilleBaby, ErgoBaby, and Boba.
  • Wide seat carriers promote healthy hip positioning for babies.

Types and Styles

There are four main types of baby carriers available: Ring Slings, Wraps, Soft Structure, and Solid Structure. Each type has its own unique set of pros and cons, making it important for caregivers to consider all of their options before making a purchase.

TypeSuitable AgeProsConsIdeal For
Ring SlingsNewborn to ToddlerQuick to put on, promotes skin-to-skin contact, easy breastfeeding access, lightweight & portableWeight distributed on one shoulder can lead to discomfort, learning curve for proper useShorter periods of use, easy breastfeeding access
WrapsNewborn to ToddlerVersatile carrying positions, excellent weight distribution, promotes bonding, suitable for longer carrying periodsCan be intimidating and time-consuming to put on, may be too warm for hot climatesNewborns and infants, extended periods of carrying
Soft Structured Carriers (SSC)Infant to ToddlerAdjustable, excellent weight distribution, easy to use, suitable for long walks or hikesBulkier, less skin-to-skin contact, may be more expensiveParents needing back support, older babies, longer outings
Solid Structure CarriersOlder Infant to ToddlerGood back support for parent, easy to clean, baby can face outward to explore surroundingsLeast portable, may not be as comfortable for the baby, less close contactOlder infants and toddlers, messy adventures

Ring Slings

Ring Slings are fabric carriers that use two rings to create a pouch for your baby. This style is ideal for newborns and infants because it mimics the womb-like environment. The one-shoulder design is both stylish and allows easy breastfeeding access. It is also lightweight and portable, which is a huge plus for on-the-go parents.

However, the weight is carried on one shoulder, which might lead to discomfort over prolonged use. It also has a steeper learning curve to ensure the baby is positioned correctly and safely.

When buying a ring sling, consider the fabric. Breathable materials like cotton or linen are suitable for warm climates, while padded edges can provide added comfort for the baby. Ensure the rings are made from a sturdy, non-toxic material such as aluminum or stainless steel.

Choose a sling with enough length for you and your baby to be comfortable but not so long that it becomes unwieldy. Check if it’s adjustable for a snug fit. Look for safety features such as secure seams and safety-tested rings.

When considering a ring sling, keep in mind that they’re best for shorter periods of carrying due to the weight distribution primarily on one shoulder. It’s an excellent choice for parents wanting something quick and easy to use once the technique is learned.

Check if the sling comes with a detailed instruction manual, as proper positioning is critical for the baby’s safety and your comfort. Consider whether you’re comfortable with having one arm restricted during use.


Baby wraps are long pieces of fabric that you tie around your body to create a carrier. They are versatile and can accommodate various carrying positions. Wraps provide excellent weight distribution, making them comfortable for longer carrying periods. They are also great for skin-to-skin contact, promoting bonding with the baby.

On the downside, the process of tying can be intimidating and time-consuming for some parents. They can also be quite warm, making them less ideal for hot climates.

The material is crucial when purchasing a wrap. Stretchy fabrics like jersey cotton are more comfortable but less supportive for heavier babies. Woven fabrics are more robust and breathable but have a steeper learning curve.

Make sure the length suits your body size and preferred wrapping style. For newborns, choose a wrap that supports their neck and back adequately. It’s also beneficial if it comes with an instruction manual or video.

Baby wraps can seem complicated initially, but once you get the hang of it, they can be incredibly versatile. They’re excellent for newborns as they provide an intimate, skin-to-skin bonding experience.

However, as your baby grows, a wrap may not provide the necessary support, so consider your baby’s age and size. If you live in a hot climate, be aware that wrapping can be quite warm for both you and your baby.

Soft Structured Carriers (SSC)

SSC is like a backpack for your baby, with padded straps and a buckle system for easy adjustments. They’re often adjustable, accommodating different ages and sizes from infants to toddlers. This type allows the weight to be distributed between your shoulders and hips, reducing strain. SSCs are relatively easy to use and great for long walks or hikes.

However, they might not provide as much skin-to-skin contact and can be bulkier and more expensive than other options.

For SSCs, look for adjustable straps and waistbands to accommodate your baby as they grow. Consider comfort features such as padded straps and a wide waistband for better weight distribution. Some SSCs allow different carrying positions (front-inward, front-outward, hip, and back), offering flexibility.

Ensure the carrier provides appropriate neck support for newborns if you plan to use it from birth. Check if it has a sleeping hood or sun canopy for outdoor use. A removable and washable lining can make cleaning easier.

SSCs are versatile and provide excellent support, making them suitable for longer periods of carrying and for parents with back issues. They are a good long-term investment as most can accommodate a wide range of baby sizes, from infants to toddlers.

However, they are typically bulkier and may take up more space during travel or storage. Some parents may find SSCs less intimate than wraps or slings, as they often don’t allow for as much skin-to-skin contact.

Solid Structure Carriers

These carriers are typically made of a solid material and look like mini seats for your baby. Solid structure carriers are great for older infants and toddlers who want to explore their surroundings, as they often allow the baby to face outwards. They are also easy to clean, making them practical for messy adventures and make the best hiking carriers. They provide good back support for the parent, too.

However, they are the least portable option and may not be as comfortable for the baby. They also don’t provide the close contact that other carriers do.

Ensure the solid structure carrier has a secure harness system to keep your child safely in place. Consider the weight limit; it should accommodate your child as they grow. Look for a model with adjustable seat height and depth for a comfortable fit as your baby grows. Padding on the seat edges can add comfort for your baby.

If you’ll be using it for long periods, ensure it has padded straps and a waistband for your comfort. Choose one with a removable and machine-washable cover for easy cleaning. Some models also come with storage pockets, a beneficial feature when traveling.

Solid structure carriers are robust and provide excellent support for both the baby and the parent. They’re an excellent choice for older babies or toddlers who want to look around and interact with their environment.

Keep in mind, though, that they are usually larger and heavier, making them less suitable for travel or crowded places. You also need to check if the seat depth and width are adjustable to ensure a proper, ergonomic position for your child. Solid structure carriers usually offer less skin-to-skin contact compared to other types, which might be a consideration if this is important for you.

Safety Considerations

When selecting a baby carrier, safety considerations should be taken into account. Age and weight guidelines should be followed to ensure safe baby wearing. Structured carriers typically require babies to be at least six months old, and the baby’s weight should be taken into consideration when choosing a carrier. Common safety issues to consider when choosing a baby carrier include:

  • Comfort: Wide straps and padding provide comfort and distribute weight evenly for parents. Wide seat carriers promote healthy hip positioning for babies.
  • Durability: Solid structured carriers are more durable and rugged, perfect for hiking and outdoor activities. The price of a carrier is influenced by fabric quality and device durability.
  • Accessories: Use manufacturer-approved accessories with baby carriers for safety. Some carriers come with accessories like drool bibs, teething pads, and sun shades.
  • Fit: Trying on carriers before purchasing is important, especially for structured carriers. Consider ease of use, fit, adjustments, and baby fit when trying on carriers.

Choosing the Right Position: The M-Position

One of the most important guidelines when using a baby carrier is ensuring the correct positioning of your baby. Pediatric experts recommend the “M-Position” or “frog position.” In this posture, the baby’s bottom sits lower than their knees, and their thighs are spread around the wearer’s torso, forming an “M” shape when viewed from the front. This position promotes healthy hip development and prevents Hip Dysplasia, a common hip development disorder in infants.

Neck Support for Newborns

For newborns who lack the strength to hold their heads up independently, the carrier should provide good neck support. This usually comes in the form of an adjustable headrest that should be high enough to support the baby’s head and neck without obstructing their face.

Ensuring Visibility and Breathability

Visibility and breathability are key safety factors. Your baby’s face should never be obstructed by the fabric of the carrier or your body. The baby’s nose and mouth should be clear at all times, with their face close enough to kiss and always in view. The baby’s chin should not be forced onto their chest, which can restrict their airway. There should be enough space to fit at least one or two fingers between their chin and chest.

Choosing the Right Fit

Always choose a carrier that’s the right fit for your baby’s size and developmental stage. Adhere to the weight and age specifications of the carrier. A carrier that’s too big can cause the baby to slump, obstructing their airways, while one that’s too small may not provide the necessary support.

Material Selection and Comfort

To prevent overheating, opt for a carrier made from breathable materials. This is particularly important in hot climates or if you’ll be active while carrying your baby. Some carriers even have mesh panels to increase breathability.

Regular Carrier Inspection

Regularly inspect the carrier for wear and tear. Ensure that the seams are secure, the fabric and belts are not frayed or damaged, and that the buckles and snaps are working correctly.

Parent Comfort

Prioritizing Parental Comfort: Straps, Waistbands, and Padding

As a parent, you may find yourself wearing your baby for extended periods of time. As such, it’s crucial to consider not just the comfort of your child, but your own as well. Features such as adjustable straps, waistbands, and adequate padding play a significant role in this. Straps should be adjustable to your body size and easily tightened or loosened to ensure a comfortable fit.

A well-designed waistband can effectively distribute the baby’s weight, reducing strain on your shoulders and back. Adequate padding on the shoulder straps and waistband can prevent discomfort and pressure points, allowing for more extended wearing periods without pain.

Weight Distribution and Ergonomics

The way a baby carrier distributes weight significantly affects the comfort of the parent. An ergonomically designed carrier evenly distributes the baby’s weight across the parent’s body, minimizing strain on any one area.

Ring Slings and Wraps: Single-Shoulder and Whole-Body Support

Ring slings and wraps can offer excellent comfort when used correctly. Ring slings are typically worn over one shoulder, spreading your baby’s weight across your shoulder and back. While they’re comfortable for short periods, the single-shoulder design may cause discomfort over time due to asymmetrical weight distribution.

On the other hand, wraps distribute weight across both shoulders and the wearer’s entire torso. This distribution makes them a comfortable choice for extended periods, especially with lighter infants. However, wrapping styles vary, and some may be more comfortable for you than others, making a bit of experimentation necessary.

Soft Structured Carriers: Even Weight Distribution

Soft Structured Carriers (SSCs) are often hailed for their comfort, thanks to their even weight distribution. The padded shoulder straps and supportive waistband work together to spread the baby’s weight evenly across your shoulders and hips. This even distribution can help prevent discomfort and fatigue, especially during longer periods of babywearing.

Solid Structure Carriers: Focus on the Hips

Solid structure carriers are often the go-to choice for hiking or lengthy outings, as they typically offer robust lumbar support. They are designed to distribute most of the baby’s weight to your hips, easing the load on your shoulders and back. However, due to their solid structure, they may not fit as snugly as other types, potentially making them less comfortable for shorter everyday activities.

Customizing Fit and Adjustments

Regardless of the type of carrier, the ability to make adjustments is a significant factor in comfort. Look for carriers that offer a wide range of adjustments, allowing you to achieve the most comfortable fit as your baby grows and as you switch between different wearers.

Small details like the ease of pulling adjustment straps, the placement of buckles, or the availability of a “cross-strap” option on SSCs can make a significant difference in your comfort.

Body Size and Age

Body size and age can significantly affect the type of baby carrier selected, with some structured carriers requiring babies to be at least six months old.

On average, babies can safely wear carriers after they reach approximately four months of age. Factors such as body size and premature birth should be taken into consideration when determining which type of carrier is best for the baby.

Soft structured carriers and solid structured carriers often have different weight limits, so it is important to ensure the chosen carrier can safely accommodate the baby’s weight. Parents should also keep in mind the size of the baby when choosing a carrier, as some may be too small or too big. Choosing the right size carrier can help ensure the baby is securely and comfortably held in the carrier.

Rings slings and wraps come in different lengths and fabric patterns, so it is important to consider the fabric and size of the rings when selecting a carrier.

Carrier Adjustability

Baby carriers should be versatile and adaptable, adjusting to accommodate your child’s growth over time. This adjustability ensures comfort and safety while also providing longevity and added value to your purchase. Look for carriers that offer adjustable seat widths and panel heights to support your baby from infancy through toddlerhood.

Harnessing Value: The Longevity of Your Carrier

Carriers with multiple adjustment points and variable positioning options often provide the most value. These allow for varied carry positions (front-facing, rear-facing, back carry, hip carry), accommodating the baby’s changing needs and developmental milestones. For example, younger infants need neck and head support and require a face-to-parent position, while older babies may prefer exploring the world in a front-facing or back-carry position.

Carriers that allow for sharing between different-sized caregivers extend their usability. Features to look for include easy-to-adjust straps and waistbands that can fit a range of body types.

Brand and Price

Recommended brands for soft structured carriers include LilleBaby, ErgoBaby, and Boba, while the best wrap baby carriers are made by Boba, Moby, and Solly. All of these manufacturers have a solid reputation for producing high-quality products.

LilleBaby and ErgoBaby are known for their ergonomic design, adjustable straps, and clip enclosures. Boba, Moby, and Solly are also known for their wrap carriers, which are made of soft, breathable fabrics with stretch for a snug fit.

For those on a budget, there are also more affordable budget baby carrier options, such as the Bebamour and Infantino brands. These brands offer quality products at a fraction of the cost of the more well-known brands.

No matter what brand of carrier you choose, always consider factors like body size, shape, age, and weight before buying.

Features and Accessories

Features and accessories should be considered when selecting a baby carrier to ensure a safe and comfortable fit. Carriers should be adjustable and have wide straps for comfort, as well as padding to reduce stress on back and shoulders.

Look for carriers with wide seats to promote healthy hip positioning for babies.

Accessories such as drool bibs, teething pads, and sun shades are often available for added convenience. These should only be used if approved by the manufacturer. Washability and ease of cleaning should also be taken into account.

Parents should try on the carrier before purchasing it, paying attention to the fit, adjustments, and overall comfort. Solid structured carriers are more likely to last through multiple children, making them a more expensive but more durable option.

Try-On and Fit

Trying on a carrier prior to purchase is crucial to ensure the desired fit and comfort, with the added bonus of adding a touch of flair to any look. When trying on carriers, parents should keep in mind a few helpful try-on tips:

  • Check the size and fit of the carrier. Make sure it fits your body type and is comfortable for your baby.
  • Check the adjustments and how easy it is to adjust the width and length of the straps.
  • Ensure the carrier supports healthy hip positioning for your baby.

Finding the right fit for both parent and baby is key. Carriers should have adjustable straps, clip enclosures, and multiple positioning options. Look for wide straps, padded shoulder straps, and support to reduce stress on the back and shoulders.

Accessories such as drool bibs, teething pads, and sun shades can also add to the convenience and comfort of baby wearing.

Benefits of Wearing

Wearing a baby can provide a variety of benefits for both the parent and the infant. Baby wearing has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the comfort and convenience it provides.

Studies have also found that it can positively impact the development of the baby, as it facilitates bonding and attachment between the parent and the infant. Carriers that provide ergonomic support are particularly beneficial, as they help reduce strain on the parent’s back and shoulders.

Research has found that babies who are held frequently in the early months are more likely to cry less and feel safer. Baby carriers can make breastfeeding easier for nursing mothers. Safe, comfortable carriers are essential for the benefits of baby wearing to be realized.

It is important to follow age and weight guidelines for safe baby wearing, as well as to ensure a proper fit. Parents should also consider the materials of the carrier, as well as the additional features and accessories. When used correctly, baby carriers can provide a range of benefits for both parent and infant.

Cleaning and Care

Regularly cleaning and caring for a baby carrier is essential for maintaining its longevity and ensuring maximum safety for its users. Here are some tips for cleaning and maintenance:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and care, and follow them closely.
  • Hand wash fabric carriers in lukewarm water with a mild detergent.
  • Air dry carriers away from direct sunlight, never in a dryer.
  • Inspect buckles, straps, and fabric regularly for signs of wear and tear.

Cleaning instructions must be followed closely to preserve the integrity of the materials and ensure that the carrier remains safe for baby. Maintenance tips include checking and replacing buckles, straps, and fabric if necessary.

Fabric carriers should be hand washed and air dried, as the heat from a dryer can damage the fabrics. Rgular inspections can help detect any potential problems with the carrier before they become a safety issue.

FAQS on Baby Carriers

From what age can I start using a baby carrier?

Most baby carriers can be used from birth (around 8 lbs), but it’s essential to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Some carriers or carrying positions may only be suitable for older infants who have developed adequate neck and head control.

How long can a baby stay in a carrier?

As a general rule, if both the baby and parent are comfortable, babywearing can continue for as long as desired. However, you should regularly check the baby’s position, ensure they’re comfortable, and take breaks if needed. It’s also important to change positions periodically to prevent discomfort.

Can I breastfeed in a baby carrier?

A: Yes, many carriers are designed to support discreet breastfeeding. You may need to adjust the baby’s position and the carrier’s setting to achieve a comfortable breastfeeding position.

Can baby carriers cause hip dysplasia?

A: When used correctly, a baby carrier should support the baby in a healthy “M” position, with the knees higher than the bottom, supporting healthy hip development. Carriers that force the baby’s legs to hang straight down could potentially contribute to hip dysplasia.

Can a baby sleep in the carrier?

Yes, babies can sleep in carriers. However, it’s crucial to monitor the baby’s position, ensure their airways are clear, and that there’s no risk of overheating.

Are baby carriers safe for newborns?

Yes, as long as they offer proper support for the newborn’s head and neck, and they allow the baby to maintain a safe airway. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use with newborns.

Can I use a baby carrier if my baby was premature or has health issues?

Always consult with a healthcare professional in these cases. While baby carriers can often be used with premature babies or babies with health issues, you’ll need to take extra precautions and may need to choose a specific type of carrier.

Is it safe for the baby to face outwards in a baby carrier?

Some carriers are designed to safely carry older babies in an outward-facing position. However, babies should always be monitored for overstimulation, discomfort, or if they fall asleep (they should be turned to face inward to protect their airways while sleeping).

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