The Quest for the Best Baby Carrier

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We tested the top 15 baby carriers and compared them side-by-side to see which came out on top.
Credit: Adrian Hogel
Looking for the best way to wear your baby? In this review, we took 15 of the top-rated and most popular baby carriers on the market today, and tested them extensively over a four month period to find out which ones came out on top. Comfort? Ease of use? Back strain issues? To find out, we used each and every carrier on a cadre of babies ranging from newborn to toddler to see how performance changes with growth. Carriers were then rated side-by-side on the following: baby's safety, baby's comfort, parent's comfort, ease of use, and ease of cleaning. The biggest surprise is that the well-established brand BabyBjorn didn't fare well compared to the competition that has flooded the market in the last few years; as such, newer brands like Tula and Onya clearly outperformed even Bjorn's newest additions the One and We. Meanwhile, Ergobaby's newest 360 definitely shined as a very competitive option. Read on to find out which carriers landed themselves a top spot.

For those who are interested in wearing older babies and children in a structured, external frame backpack, take a look at our Best Baby Backpack Review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Adrian Hogel &

Top Ranked Baby Carriers

Displaying 1 - 5 of 15 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Tula Ergonomic Baby
Tula Ergonomic Baby
Read the Review
Onya Baby Outback
Onya Baby Outback
Read the Review
Ergobaby Four Position 360
Ergobaby Four Position 360
Read the Review
lillebaby COMPLETE All Seasons
lillebaby COMPLETE All Seasons
Read the Review
Beco Gemini
Beco Gemini
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award       
Street Price $149 List
$149 from Amazon
$139 List
$139 from Amazon
$160 List
$159 from Amazon
$135 List
$140 from Amazon
$130 List
$110 from Amazon
Overall Score 
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88
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83
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81
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78
100
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78
Editors' Rating
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Pros Simple, comfortable, excellent ergonomics, supportive, nice extrasDurable, breathable, simple, gender neutral appeal for dad, nice extrasSturdy, close/secure hold, excellent ergonomics, easy instructions, low profileSturdy, versatile, stylish, nice features, good ergonomicsStylish, lightweight, user-friendly, comfortable, ergonomic, versatile
Cons Limited carry positions, requires infant insertNo front carry facing out position, insert required for young infantsNoisy velcro waistband, difficult chest clip, low weight limitBulky, tricky seat adjustment, folded down head panel lacks supportAnnoying safety buckles, lacks added features
Bottom Line Easy to use, ultra comfy carrier that will span newborn to toddlerhoodGreat choice: sturdy, versatile, comfortable, feature-loadedVersatile and well made but only accommodates babies to 33 LbsComfortable, durable, and good value but bulky with cumbersome adjustmentsGreat carrier offering front carry facing out position, suitable for young infant to toddler
Date Reviewed Jun 19, 2015Jun 20, 2015Jun 20, 2015Jun 18, 2015Jun 20, 2015
Weighted Scores Tula Ergonomic Baby Onya Baby Outback Ergobaby Four Position 360 lillebaby COMPLETE All Seasons Beco Gemini
Baby's Safety - 35%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Baby's Comfort - 20%
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Parent's Comfort - 20%
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Ease of Use - 20%
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
Ease of Cleaning - 5%
10
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8
10
0
7
10
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7
10
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7
10
0
7
Product Specs Tula Ergonomic Baby Onya Baby Outback Ergobaby Four Position 360 lillebaby COMPLETE All Seasons Beco Gemini
Usage Ranges Baby Carrier With Insert:
Birth to 15 Lbs or More (See Instructions)
Baby Carrier, No Insert:
15 to 45 Lbs
Toddler Carrier:
25-50 Lbs
With Booster:
7 to 45 Lbs
No Booster:
15 to 45 Lbs
4 Month Minimum
7 to 33 Lbs
Up to 3 Years
7 to 45 Lbs 7 to 35 Lbs
Carrier & Insert Weights Carrier:
1.5 Lbs
Insert:
0.3 Lbs
Carrier:
1.5 Lbs
Insert:
0.4 Lbs
Carrier:
1.6 Lbs
Insert:
0.6 Lbs
Carrier:
1.9 Lbs
Carrier:
1.3 Lbs
Seat Width 13.75" 11.5" 9" or 10" 7" or 14.75" 6.5" or 12"
Basic Use Instructions Tula Infant Insert >15 Lbs:
Use Insert Until Baby Holding Head Up Consistently for Extended Periods of Time and Tall Enough to Be Fully Seated With Back of Thighs Supported and Knees Bent at Right Angle
Back Carry:
12 Months. Requires Strong Head, Neck, and Torso Control Pushing Into and Remaining in a Seated Position Independently and Consistently
Under 12 Lbs and Up to 4 Months: Infant Insert Required Safety Harness:
Use Until Baby Ready for Wide Seat
Facing Out: May Begin When Baby Has Good Head and Neck Control (Around 4 Months)
Ergonomic Seat:
Adjust From Wide to Narrow Base to Transfer Baby's Weight Efficiently Btwn Carry Positions
Tri-Lock Buckles:
Squeeze Sides with One Hand While Pushing Top Button with Other to Open
# Carry Positions or Holds 2 Carry Positions:
Front Carry Facing In
Back Carry
4 Carry Positions:
Front Carry Facing In
Back Carry
Side/Hip Carry
Chair
4 Carry Positions: Front Carry Facing In Front Carry Facing Out Back Carry Hip Carry 4 Carry Positions:
Front Carry Facing In
Front Carry Facing Out
Back Carry
Hip Carry
4 Carry Positions:
Front Carry Facing In
Front Carry Facing Out
Back Carry
Hip Carry
Toddler- Friendly (In Our Opinion) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials 100% Öko-Tex Standard 100 Certified Cotton Body:
Rip-Stop Nylon Lining:
Air Mesh
Body:
100% Cotton
Padding:
67% Polyester Fiber,
22% Polyurethane Foam, 11% Ethylene Vinyl Acetate Foam
Outer:
100% Cotton Padding:
100% Polyester
Shell:
100% Cotton
Straps and Body:
100% PUR foam
Belt:
100% XLPE Foam
Available in Organic No No No Yes
Washing Instructions Machine Wash Machine Wash:
Fasten Straps and Zip Pockets Prior, Gentle, Cold, Separate, Mild Detergent
No Dry Clean, Bleach, or Iron
Air or Machine Dry Without Heat
Spot Clean to Avoid Frequent Machine Washing
Fasten All Buckles Prior
Mild Detergent
No Bleach, Perfumes, Dyes, Chlorine, or Optical Brighteners
Spot Clean
Machine Wash: Sporadically, Fasten Buckles Prior,
Mild Detergent
No Bleach, Perfumes, Dyes, Chlorine, or Optical Brighteners
Air Dry
Spot Clean to Avoid Frequent Washing
Machine Wash
Gentle Cycle
Mild Detergent
Air Dry
Included Accessories Hood
Storage Pouch
Hood
Chair Harness
Storage Pouch
Hood Lumbar Support Pad
Available Accessories Infant Insert
Free to Grow
Tula Drulas
Hood Replacements
Baby Booster
Teething Pads
Infant Insert
Teething Pads
Weather Cover
Teething Pads
Slip Cover
Stirrups
Cell Phone Pocket
Waist Belt Extension Strap
Personalization
Certifications EN13209-2:2005, ASTM F2236, CPSIA
Origin of Manufacture Mexico Ethically in Vietnam Vietnam China China
Warranty 12 Months 12 Months

  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
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Tula Ergonomic Baby
Tula Ergonomic Baby
$149
100
0
88
Editors' Choice Award
Onya Baby Outback
Onya Baby Outback
$139
100
0
83
Editors' Choice Award
Baby K'tan
Baby K'tan
$50
100
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67
Top Pick Award

BabyGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



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Baby Wearing is safer today than ever before.
Although baby wearing has been around for centuries, today's technology and understanding have presented more choices than ever before. Today's carriers are evolved designs, modern-takes on the historic wraps, papooses, backpacks, and slings used in the past. Companies like Babybjorn applied modern technology and approaches to baby wearing over 40 years ago, and have continually evolved their designs since. In 2002, Ergobaby ushered in further innovations with their classic Ergobaby soft carrier, and inspired today's many variations on that original design.

Why Use A Baby Carrier?


The first few days after having a baby can be some of the most blissful you'll ever experience as a parent. Staring for hours at this new little person you've just welcomed into the world; congratulations and helpful hands all around making life easy; dreams and anticipation of what lies ahead; it can all be very euphoric. As the days pass and you slowly begin to transition back into "normal" life, the day-to-day tasks and not-so-beautiful responsibilities begin to creep back in. You crave the feeling of keeping your baby close to you but you know life isn't going to allow you to just sit and rock your newborn all day every day until, well, forever if possible.

Did You Know? Wearing your baby not only adds ease and convenience to your daily routine but the practice also contributes positively to baby's social, emotional and physical development.

So what's a new parent to do? You can try the tricky and often not-so-safe one-handed juggle: baby in one arm, dishes/typing/cleaning/etc. with the other, or, you'll have to set baby down (if they'll allow it) and go about your business feeling disconnected. Neither are optimal choices. This is where "wearing" your baby in some sort of carrier can be an excellent solution, and as you'll see, it can be an asset to all involved.

For the baby, being carried in this manner comes with a myriad of benefits. Baby wearing advocates claim that when babies are kept close to a parent in this manner they tend to be calmer and cry less and pediatric experts agree. In fact, it can help in all areas of development, including social and emotional. Whether you plan to wear baby throughout the day or just when you need to get some laundry done or run into the grocery store, you can be confident there are mutual benefits.
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Doing yard work while wearing baby in the Tula Ergonomic Baby carrier was a treat for both dad and son.
Credit: Adrian Hogel

For the parent, wearing baby close can help increase your bond with your baby, and this is a really good point for dads to remember as more and more dads are jumping on the baby wearing bandwagon and looking for ways to connect with their little one. Manufacturers are noticing this trend and are creating carrier designs that include neutral colors and sporty designs that will suit either mom or dad.

Helpful Tip: Avoid the hassle of navigating a bulky stroller around when heading into crowded places like airports or sporting events and use a baby carrier instead!

Aside from the benefits both baby and parent will experience, a baby carrier can also just be flat-out convenient and helpful, especially when you need to be hands free. Here are a few examples where we found this to be true:
  • Soothing a fussy baby, day or night
  • Getting chores/work done around the house
  • Running errands
  • Walking/hiking
  • Navigating crowded places where strollers can be a hassle (airport, farmers market, sporting events, etc.)

Selecting the Right Product


Choosing which carrier to purchase can be an overwhelming task because there are so many excellent options in a wide range of styles, colors, and prices. For this review, we considered 72 of the most highly regarded and popular carriers and narrowed it down to 12 modern finalists and 3 "legacy" carriers for a total of 15 carriers that we put through our detailed hands-on testing.

In our tests of 15 top competitors, we were amazed at the wide-ranging and quality implementations for baby carrying available today. Best of all, we discovered that wearing your baby is not only extremely easy and beneficial, but can now be considered fashionable as well. For more information on selecting the right carrier for you, take a look at our Buying Advice article.

Types of Baby Carriers


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Sioux Indian Papoose 1908
Credit: Edward Curtis
Probably since the beginning of time, mothers have been keeping their little ones close to them while they go about their daily chores and activities. Historically this was done by using a "wrap" or a long piece of fabric to secure child to parent.

Known in more modern day lingo as "baby wearing", and using new designs that seek to improve on traditional wraps, this method of parenting has become as natural and accepted as using a stroller.

There are five basic types of baby carriers:
  • Wrap
  • Sling
  • Mei-tai
  • Soft-structured
  • Frame backpack

This review focuses primarily on wraps and soft-structured carriers (as well as one mei-tai style carrier), because we believe that they are the best options for your comfort and your child's development and safety. Below is a description of the five styles of carriers.

Wraps


Wraps are pieces of long cloth that wrap around your body and your baby. Wrap carriers have no clasps or rings and offer many different positions for holding your baby at various ages. Wraps offer optimal head, neck, and back support, and are also comfortable for the wearer as they distribute your baby's weight well and there are no pressure points. However, there is a learning curve for properly tying a wrap and it may take more time to secure baby compared to other types of carriers. The fabric tends to be very long and it's often difficult to keep it from dragging on the ground when wrapping.
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The Moby Modern Wrap is a classic wrap-style carrier consisting of just one long piece of fabric.
Credit: Kelly Beson

Slings


Baby slings are single pieces of fabric that go over one of your shoulders and form a pouch to hold your baby in front of you. Sling-type carriers have many fans and have been used for centuries, but we can't ignore safety concerns such as those cited in the CPSC's warnings about suffocation risks with slings.

Inspired by the death of 14 infants in slings, twelve of whom were under 4 months of age, the CPSC produced this 3 min video, urging parents to use extra caution with infant carrier slings:


As we note in our companion article, Best Practices for Baby Wearing, due to credible concerns about suffocation risks and hip dysplasia risks with slings, we do not recommend the use of sling-type carriers for use with newborns to 4 months age.

Mei-Tai


Mei-tai carriers have four straps attached to the body of the carrier. Theses straps can be tied in a variety of configurations to wear your baby on your front, back or hip. Mei-tai style carriers are simple and easy to use, and can accommodate infants to toddlers. However, many have little to no padding which may cause digging or pinching (especially in the shoulder area).
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The Infantino Sash is a mei-tai style carrier that consists of four long straps attatched to one central square of fabric.
Credit: Adrian Hogel

Soft-Structured Carrier


Soft-structured carriers are similarly structured to a backpack. The various designs are generally worn on your front, back or hip and are ideal for older babies and toddlers, although many have an infant insert that makes them compatible with newborns. They are generally easy to use, adjustable, and ergonomic.
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The Beco Baby Gemeni is an example of the ever-popular soft structured carrier. Unlike the mei tai, it utilizes buckles and snaps, has more padding, especially in the shoulder area, and often comes with added accessories.
Credit: Adrian Hogel

Baby Backpacks


External frame backpacks offer a built-in frame that enables you to wear your baby on your back. To use a frame child carrier, your little one must be capable of sitting upright without assistance (typically at least 6 or 8 months old). These types of carriers are best for travel, hiking and use around town. For more information on baby backpacks, see our Best Baby Backpack Review.
Backpack style carriers have a structured frame and are designed for b...
Backpack style carriers have a structured frame and are designed for babies who can independently support themselves upright.
Credit: Jessica Stevenson

Criteria for Evaluation



Baby's Safety


If a carrier isn't safe for your baby, there's really no point in using it. None of the carriers we tested were really "unsafe" but there were definite features we looked for to help make them more safe.

Safety Tips
We urge those interested in wearing their baby to first read our safety guidelines article entitled Best Practice Tips for Baby Wearing.

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The Bjorn Original particularly shines in how it holds younger babies in an upright and close position up against parent with great head and neck support.
Credit: Adrian Hogel
First off, we made sure that baby was well supported. This means adequate head, neck, and back support, especially for tiny babies. Carriers with high backs that formed a deep seat scored the best. We also found that the wider seats were more supportive for our testers as well as promoted healthy hip positioning. Many of the soft-structured carriers like the Tula Ergonomic and the Ergobaby Four Position 360 were best at this. These features combined usually gave us the best sense of security. We urge parents to always check to make sure baby's airway is not obstructed. This can be particularly tricky with wrap-style carriers like the Moby Modern Wrap or the Boba Wrap because of the way baby is held so close to you in a tight swaddle. Please refer to the User's Manual of the carrier you buy to learn how to best keep baby positioned well and safe.

Baby's Comfort


Wearing your baby isn't going to be a pleasant experience if your baby is not comfortable. We really paid attention to which positions baby favored, and if baby fell asleep, were they able to stay asleep comfortably? Material also has a great impact on comfort, so we looked at which materials were hot or caused chafing, or which just didn't offer enough support. As it was in safety, support is also a big deal when it comes to comfort. We looked for the same features here: good head and neck support, a nice deep and wide seat and an overall sense of security.
The nice, wide seat and extra padding around the leg openings makes th...
The nice, wide seat and extra padding around the leg openings makes the Tula Ergonomic baby one of the most comfortable carriers for baby.
Credit: Adrian Hogel

Parent's Comfort


As with baby, if the parent wearing the carrier isn't comfortable, it just isn't going to work out. When it comes to comfort, one of the biggest complaints is shoulder and back strain. We looked at how long we could go before our shoulders just couldn't take it anymore. Some, like the Infantino Swift Classic, we wanted to rip off within a few minutes, while others went the long haul, giving us well over an hour of comfortable carrying. Things that made a difference for us were padding (especially in the shoulders), strap width, lumbar (back) support, and the addition of a waist strap. Being able to wear baby in a number of different positions was also a key to comfort, where we could quickly and easily switch them from front to back, etc. if needed.
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Ease of Use


How easy a carrier is to use on a day-to-day basis can also make or break it. We began with each carrier out-of-the-box-new so we'd get the full experience. We liked instruction manuals that offered clear pictures and words. We also took a look at how simple a carrier would be to grab and go. Could it fit in a diaper bag or stroller basket? How easy was it to quickly put on in public? Once on, we noticed carriers that were easy to adjust, both to fit and readjust if baby needed to change carry positions. We also considered if a carrier would allow for breastfeeding while wearing baby. Finally, carriers with additional features like sleeping hoods and storage pockets scored higher due to their added convenience when out and about.
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Features like a storage pocket as seen here on the Boba 4G are convenient for keeping items like keys and a cell phone when out and about with baby.
Credit: Adrian Hogel

Ease of Cleaning


Cleaning is another key consideration, and you can anticipate a lot of wear and tear with a well-loved carrier. They're often grabbed, stuffed, dragged, chewed on, drooled on and more. In other words, carriers need to be cleaned and we wanted to know how easy this would be to accomplish. The carriers that scored highest in this area could be machine washed and dried. Some recommend machine wash, but hang-to-dry. Others say spot clean, which is great, but not as thorough or convenient. Sometimes only a washing machine will do.
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For more on how we performed our tests, and how our ratings were scored, please check out our complimentary "How We Test" article.

And now, without further adieu, allow us to share the results of our test to find the best baby carrier:

Editors' Choice: Tula Ergonomic Baby and Onya Baby Outback


The two top-scoring carriers were so close that we couldn't pick just one, so the Tula and the Onya are sharing this honor. With functional and friendly infant inserts and a maximum weight of 45 pounds, both the Tula and the Onya are very worthwhile, long-term baby wearing investments.

Tula Ergonomic


The feature that sets the Tula Ergonomic Baby (lower left) above the rest is its simplicity. All of our product testers agree on its intuitive nature as it is super straightforward and easy to use. It is also exceptionally well-made, has a fantastic fit, and comes in a variety of lovely patterns. Another feature that sets it apart from its competitors is the overall coverage of the carrier, meaning the seat is much wider and taller than other carriers. This wideness keeps baby's legs and hips in an ergonomically correct position, while the height of the seat helps better support baby's head.
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Onya Baby Outback


The Onya Baby Outback (upper right) has also been selected for an Editors' Choice award due to its versatility. Besides, carrying baby, it configures into a soft chair restraint for baby when out and about. Instant high chair…genius! With keyrings, toy loops, pockets, and other extra features, the Onya is the veritable Swiss Army Knife of carriers. It's rugged appearance makes it a favorite among dads, but the fit is anything but rugged. It has deluxe padding in the straps, waistband, leg holes, and seat that make for a comfortable ride for both baby and parent alike.

Best Value Award: Infantino Sash Mei Tai


The Infantino Sash Mei Tai (lower left) is a wrap-style carrier that is sort of a hybrid between a classic "wrap" carrier or sling like the Moby Wrap Original and a heftier soft-structured carrier like the Beco Baby Gemini. It is lightweight and compact enough to throw in your diaper bag, but also versatile and supportive enough to keep both parent and baby happy. The instructions were simple and we love that they also added discreet labels on the inside of the carrier to remind us which strap goes where for use on the go. It's stellar performance, combined with a price tag of just $35 make a great value in our opinion.
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Top Pick Award for Use with an Infant: Baby K'tan


If there's one place a newborn loves to be, it's swaddled tightly and close to mom or dad. The Baby K'tan (upper right) does this perfectly, and without a lot of hassle. It's made of an ultra-soft, 100% cotton mix that keeps tiny babies in a comfy, womb-like hold, but can also be used in different positions as baby grows. It comes in its own stuff-sack which makes it convenient to take on the go.

Adrian Hogel & Juliet Spurrier, MD
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Baby Carrier - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Baby Carrier

by Juliet Spurrier, MD, Adrian Hogel & Lindsay Ellis
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