Mom's Guide 2014: Finding the Best Baby Carrier

Best Baby Carrier

Baby carriers have been around forever! Ever since we were cavemen and women caring for our lovable cave babies, we’ve been finding ways to strap them to our chests for easy transportation and to free our hands for various tasks. Needless to say, they can be a very useful device for any parent. So, you may be wondering: how do I choose one that will be comfortable for both my baby and me? Before you rush out and buy one, it’s important to think about the different types of carriers, the options available, and which might be the best baby carrier for you.

Every parent will have their own preferences in the style of carrier that’s best for them, so it’s not exactly possible to recommend a single baby carrier that will work for everyone. Having said that, there are some things you can keep in mind and look out for when you’re shopping.

The Scoop on Baby Carriers

Some parents choose to carry their baby around town in a stroller, and that’s always an option, but many parents prefer the closeness and convenience of baby wearing. If you’re going out shopping, it’s hard to beat how great babywearing is over pushing them around in a stroller; it leaves your hands free.

If you’re going to be taking public transportation, wearing your baby can be even more convenient. Imagine trying to lug a stroller or car seat around on the bus! Or, you could use a baby carrier and snugly and safely strap them to your body. It’s easy to see why so many parents prefer them.

Choosing a Baby Carrier: What To Think About

While baby carriers are fairly simple, you still need to take a few things into consideration before purchasing one.

Who will be using the baby carrier? There are several things to consider here. First of all, comfort is obviously one of the biggest factors to consider. There are many different types of baby carriers meant for different body shapes and sizes, and your personal comfort is going to be very important when it comes to making a selection. Babies can be heavy – there’s no doubt about that! You’ll definitely want to choose a carrier that is comfortable.

If more than one person is going to be using it, you should look for one that offers adjustments to the size and fitting. This will ensure that everyone who uses the carrier will be able to adjust it to their liking.

How old is your baby? Not all baby carriers are suitable for all ages. Some are best suited for a particular age, or a range of ages.

Which position do you normally hold your baby in? If you’ve never used a baby carrier before, you should think about what position is most comfortable to you when you are holding your baby. Depending on whether you normally hold your baby on your hip, shoulder, back, or cradle them, you can find a carrier that will allow you to carry your baby in a similar way.

Do you suffer from any physical problems that might be an issue? If you suffer from certain physical problems, it might make using a baby carrier difficult or even painful. Here is my advice on choosing a baby carrier if you suffer from certain ailments. If you suffer from back pain, a baby carrier that lets you wear your baby high, above your center of gravity, will help keep any problems to a minimum. You will want to find one that distributes weight widely across your back, which will help reduce strain.

Some Shopping Tips To Make Your Job Easier

Don’t buy a second-hand carrier. This is the case with most baby gear; it’s simply not safe to use secondhand equipment. Carriers and slings are often subject to recalls for safety reasons. To be safe, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website and search for the particular carrier you’re interested in, just to make sure that it hasn’t been recalled.

Watch for the return policy. Some babies are fussy about carriers and might simply not like the one you choose. This is why it’s important to make sure that you can return the carrier if need be. Also make sure to keep track of the receipt!

Try them in-store or try out a friend’s. The comfort and preference of baby carriers can be pretty subjective, and some models just wont work with some builds, which is why it might be a good idea to test them out before purchasing. If you have a friend that has one, ask them to try it out with your baby. You can also go to the store and ask to try out floor models; many places will be happy to help you out if it means making a sale.

The Best Baby Carriers: The Types Compared & Contrasted

You might be surprised to learn that there are several different types of carriers, each with their own pros and cons.

Ring Slings

Ring Slings

  • Age Range: Newborn to 3 years
  • Weight Range: Up to 45 lbs

Ring slings are baby carriers made from one single piece of fabric. The fabric is pulled through two rings to form a loop, and is worn over the shoulder, similar to a sash. You can adjust the size of the pouch by pulling the fabric through the rings in either direction. Some ring slings are very basic, while others have padding sewn into the shoulder, making them more comfortable to wear. You might prefer a ring sling without this padding, as it can sometimes make them bulkier and difficult to adjust.

Pros of ring slings
  • Simple, quick, and easy to use
  • Great for nursing, even for newborns
  • Can be used in a variety of carrying positions and styles
  • Makes it easy to lay down a sleeping baby without waking them up (great!)
  • Distributes weight between shoulder and pelvis
Cons of ring slings
  • Probably will not fit both parents
  • Weight is centered on one shoulder, which might get uncomfortable with extended use
  • Dads generally won’t like the look of them; better suited for moms
Ring slings are best for:
  • Parents who want to nurse their baby
  • Small babies
The best ring sling we found was the Maya Wrap, which a lot of moms love. You can check them out here to buy or read reviews.

Wraparound Carriers (Wraps)

Wrap-Around Baby Carrier

  • Age Range: Newborn to 4 years
  • Weight Range: Up to 55 lbs (woven & gauze) & up to 25 lbs (stretchy)

Wraparound baby carriers are generally a long piece of cloth that is wrapped around the carrier and baby and then tied, creating a tight, secure, and supportive carrier. The technique used with these carriers takes some getting used to, and require some practice. On the upside, they have a lot of versatility when it comes to carrying positions, and are also very comfortable for those of us with heavier babies. Many parents consider wraparound carriers to be the most comfortable of all types of baby carriers.

Pros of wraparound carriers
  • Great for hands-free nursing
  • Versatile, with many options for carrying position, material, etc.
  • Very comfortable; most parents find them to be the most comfortable of all baby carriers
  • Can be used with newborns all the way through to older toddlers
Cons of wraparound carriers
  • Takes some practice to get the tying technique right
  • Can be somewhat hot and cumbersome due to the length of the material
When it comes to wraps, we love the Boba Wrap. It comes in a variety of designs and you can check them out here.

Baby Pouches / Slings

Pouch Baby Carrier

  • Age Range: Newborn to 3 years
  • Weight Range: Up to 35 lbs

Baby pouches are among the simplest and most straightforward of all the baby carriers. This makes them great for new mothers, or those that are new to using baby carriers, because they’re almost foolproof. Simply put the pouch on, slip your baby inside, and you’re ready to go!

Baby pouches tend to be small and light-weight, making it possible to easily slip them inside a diaper bag or purse, which can be a great convenience for most parents.

Unlike the similar ring sling carriers, these pouches have no ring, which makes it a lot more comfortable on the shoulder.

Pros of Baby Pouches
  • Easy to use; great for parents new to baby carriers
  • Lightweight and easy to fit inside a diaper bag or purse
  • Comfortable, especially when compared to the similar ring slings
  • Possible to nurse your baby while he or she is in it
Cons of Baby Pouches
  • Limited carry positions and versatility
The Baby K’tan is our recommendation for a pouch-style carrier. Be sure to check it out here for more information.

Mei Tais (Asian-style baby carriers)

  • Age Range: Newborn to 4 yearsMei Tai Baby Carrier
  • Weight Range: Up to 45 lbs

Mei Tais (Asian-style) are based on traditional Asian baby carriers. They are generally worn on the front or back, but can also be used in a hip carry position as well. Because the design of the Mei Tai uses straps on both shoulders, this makes them great for parents with heavy children as it distributes the weight to both shoulders, not just a single shoulder like most other carriers.

Mei Tai carriers offer a lot of versatility, making them great for both moms and dads no matter what position they prefer to carry in.

Pros of Mei Tai carriers
  • Versatile & can be used in many positions
  • Dual-strap design distributes weight over both shoulders, making it more comfortable for use with heavy children
  • Fashionable – many parents love the way the Mei Tai looks
Cons of Mei Tai carriers
  • Not quite as compact as slings or pouches
  • Long straps which may possibly drag on the ground which can be annoying in wet weather
The most popular mei-tai carrier is, by far, the Infantino Sash. For more information, check them out here.

Backpack / Structured Carriers

Structured Baby Carrier Backpack

  • Age Range: Ages 1 through preschool age
  • Weight Range: Up to 55 lbs

Structured carriers are by far the most supportive and heavy-duty type of baby carriers. They are heavily influenced by hiking backpacks, and come with a variety of different features, including padded shoulder straps, storage compartments, buckles, and more.

Because baby backpack carriers are sturdy and have lots of carrying features, they are among the most comfortable carriers, especially for heavy children.

Baby backpack carriers are literally hiking backpacks that can be used to carry your older child. They are worn just like a regular hiking backpack, and your child sits snugly in a harness. These are great for hiking and camping, and can be a great way to introduce your child to the outdoors! If you are someone that loves to be in the outdoors, you can’t go wrong with a baby backpack.

Pros of Backpack Carriers
  • Can be more expensive than other types
  • Not the cutest type of carrier
  • Come with a variety of features and storage spots
  • Very comfortable to use, especially with heavier children
Cons of Backpack Carriers
  • Not quite as compact as slings or pouches
  • Bulky and can get tiring to use for long periods of time
  • Might not be appropriate depending on where you’re going
Our favorite structured backpack carrier is the Osprey Packs Poco. You can get a look at it here where there are many reviews from moms and dads who love it too.