When it comes to baby carriers, there are some common complaints that can really put a damper on your baby wearing experience. We focused our testing on the main trouble spots a carrier can present, such as comfort and ease of use, and then gave each a score of one to ten based on our findings. Using the carriers interchangeably and being able to compare them side-by-side really gave us a clear perspective on their individual performances. The following explains the methods and testing metrics we used.
We rated each carrier across five weighted rating metrics. Each product was given a 1-10 score on each metric, with the rating factors relative to each other. A 10 score indicates exceptional performance, and a 1 means very poor performance.
Each rating metric was given a % weighting, depending on how strongly we felt the importance of that metric influenced our testing and scoring. Scores were based on the following spread:
- Baby's Safety: 35%
- Baby's Comfort: 20%
- Parent's Comfort: 20%
- Ease of Use: 20%
- Ease of Cleaning: 5%
Baby's safety was the category we placed the most emphasis on because if a carrier isn't safe for your baby, there's really no point in using it. Adequate support for baby's head, neck, and back was an important factor we looked at. The carriers with a high back and a wide, deep seat gave the most support and felt secure. They also made it easy to ensure a clear airway for baby. Our top-scoring carriers, Tula Ergonomic Baby, the Onya Baby Outback, and the Ergobaby Four Position 360 were also the highest rated carriers in the Baby's Safety category.
One of the biggest complaints when wearing a baby is shoulder and back strain. We looked at how well the carrier distributed the weight of baby and how comfy the padding was. We also considered the material and whether or not it was breathable. Some, like the Infantino Swift we barely even got out the door with, while others, like the Tula Ergonomic Baby, proved comfortable enough to wear for long outings. The difference, we discovered, was in sufficient padding in the shoulders, back, and waistband.
An uncomfortable baby = an unpleasant experience for both baby and wearer. A tell-tale sign of baby's comfort is whether he falls asleep and stays asleep in a carrier. We considered this, along with additional features such as support and breathability of the fabric when assessing how comfortable baby was in each carrier. The more comfort a carrier offered, the higher it scored.
Ease of Use
How easy a carrier is to put on and off and adjust on a regular basis can also play a big part in your baby wearing experience. Our favorite carriers, like the Tula Ergonomic Baby were simple and intuitive, and didn't even require instructions. We liked instruction manuals that offered clear pictures and words. Carriers that offered more carry positions while also providing proper ergonomics, like the Ergobaby Four Position 360, got high marks in this category while carriers with complicated buckles like the Beco Gemini or those that had a steep learning curve like the Moby Wrap Modern lost points. One of our pet peeves is a carrier that lacks features like a storage pocket and sleeping hood — they are so simple but add so much convenience. The carriers that had these added features fared better in our tests. We also looked at whether you could easily and comfortably nurse your baby while wearing the carrier. Finally, the carriers that could be folded up and stowed away easily while still providing a comfortable fit scored higher.
Ease of Cleaning
Carriers that are machine washable and can be thrown in the dryer afterward, like the Boba Wrap rated the highest in this category. On the opposite end of the spectrum, carriers that can only be spot cleaned or have a long list of requirements for laundering scored lower.
As part of our side-by-side comparisons, we also took several measurements and looked at the specifications for each carrier. We measured things like the total weight of the carrier and the width of the seat, including the width of the seat in the "narrow" position if a carrier offered that feature. We also took into account the age and weight range for each carrier.