Are you looking for a comfortable baby carrier to wear your little one? We researched over 30 products and purchased over 15 of the top products for side-by-side testing over several months. With so many kinds of carriers and brands, it can get confusing fast. We have all the details you need to find the right option for your family. A variety of parents used each carrier on children ranging from newborn to toddler and ranked the product's performance in various metrics. We test carriers for baby's comfort, parent's comfort, ease of use, and ease of cleaning. Continue reading for all of the details, so that you can choose the right carrier for your family and wallet.
The Quest for the Best Baby Carrier
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|Pros||Easy to use, comfortable to wear, cozy for baby, lower price||Comfortable, easy to adjust, pocket||Easy to put on, super comfortable to wear, cozy for kids||Comfortable to wear, machine wash and dry, cozy||Budget-friendly, easy wrap, machine wash and dry|
|Cons||Hang to dry||Hang to dry, rough fabric||Long drying time, lots of buckles and straps, expensive||Price, harder to adjust on the go||Size specific, no adjustability|
|Bottom Line||Easy to use, comfortable sling to wear and sit in||Easy to wear and adjust with comfort for baby but the fabric could be softer||Most comfortable to wear with a cozy seat and easy attachment||Comfortable carrier for parents and baby, but it's harder to use and expensive||Inexpensive, easy to use, wrap style without the wrap hassle|
|Rating Categories||Nalakai Ring Sling||Maya Wrap...||BabyBjorn One||Tula Free-to-Grow||Baby K'tan Original|
|Child Comfort (25%)|
|Parent Comfort (35%)|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Ease Of Cleaning (10%)|
|Specs||Nalakai Ring Sling||Maya Wrap...||BabyBjorn One||Tula Free-to-Grow||Baby K'tan Original|
|Min/Max Weight||8 - 35 lbs||8 - 35 lbs||8 - 33 lbs||7 - 45 lbs||8 - 35 lbs|
|Carry Positions||Facing In (8 - 35 lbs)
Hip Carry (8 - 35 lbs *BGL recommends Head/Neck/Torso Control)
|Facing In (0 - 3 mo)
Facing Out (3 - 6 mo)
Hip Carry (6 mo - 35 lbs)
|Facing In (0 - 36 mo./33 lbs)
Facing Out (5 - 15 mo./26 lbs)
Back Carry (12 - 36 mo./33 lbs)
|Facing In (7 - 45 lbs)
Back Carry (Head/Neck/Torso Control - 45 lbs)
|Kangaroo Position (8 - 35 lbs)
Hug Position (8 - 35 lbs)
Adventure Position (8 - 35 lbs)
Explore Position (8 - 35 lbs)
Hip Position (8 - 35 lbs)
|Weight||0.9 lbs||sm 0.92
lg 1.16 lbs
|2.26 lbs||1.25 lbs||sm 0.89
lg 1.04 lbs
|Cotton, Polyester||Cotton, Polyester, PU Foam||100% Cotton||100% Cotton|
|Storage Options||Pocket on the tail||Zippered pocket on tail||None||Velcro pouch on waist belt||Pouch on the belt.|
|Other Features & Notable||None||None||Adjustable Seat Width,
Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Class 1
|Adjustable Seat Width, Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Class 1||Azo Dye-free|
|Care Instructions||Machine wash cold, hang dry.||Machine wash cold, hang dry.||Machine wash warm, hang dry.||Machine wash cold, tumble dry low.||Machine wash cold, tumble dry low.|
Best Overall Baby Carrier
Nalakai Ring Sling
The Nalakai Ring Sling is a comfy sling that is easy to use and cozy for passengers. The fabric on the Nalakai is a soft bamboo and linen blend that offers some stretch for comfort and quick-drying properties to speed up cleaning. We liked the ability to make adjustments on the go to increase comfort for little ones and wearers. Being able to pull the fabric up for head support or tighten the sling to bring baby's face closer to yours can make a huge difference in comforting your baby and providing physical comfort. There isn't much to dislike about this budget-friendly straightforward sling.
The Nalakai is line dry only, which is the only real downside to this sling. This detail means it takes longer for it to dry than options that go in the dryer. However, the fabric is reasonably quick to dry, and drying times are significantly lower than padded or structural carriers. Overall, the Nalakai has a reasonable price, is easy to use, comfortable for parents and babies making it tough to beat and our favorite carrier in the lineup.
Read review: Nalakai Ring Sling
Best Comfort Sling
Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling
The Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling is a ring sling with a similar design to other slings, but the Maya has slightly rougher fabric and a zippered pocket on the tail end. The Maya is easy to use with only one adjustment point. It is comfortable to wear and cozy to sit in. We like that this carrier is intuitive, has a few hold positions, and works for babies from 8-35 lbs. The shoulder portion of the sling is lightly padded and includes more material for a more comfortable fit, so you can keep the adventure going for as long as you like without discomfort. This design makes the Maya Sling more comfortable than some of the competition.
If your little one has sensitive skin, the Maya is probably not the best option given the rougher texture of the fabric. In contrast, the Nalakai Ring Sling fabric is softer and gentler on napping faces. However, the Maya pocket is zippered and lightly padded, offering something other slings don't. Overall, the thicker wider sling fabric is comfortable and if used in the winter or for children without sensitive skin, the comfort makes up for the lack of softness.
Read review: Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling
Best Traditional Carrier
The BabyBjorn Carrier One is a soft structured carrier that works in three positions for little ones between 8-33 lbs. This carrier is a quality option with multiple adjustment points to give various sized parents and babies a more custom fit for comfort and security. This BabyBjorn has safety buckles that work well and forward pull adjustment straps for quick on-the-go changes, and the seat width can be altered depending on baby's age or size. The One is easy to put on, and you can attach it before you pick up your baby, making it significantly more straightforward (and potentially safer) to use than the wrap carriers we tested that often require a helper.
This carrier is more expensive than some of the competition, which puts it lower on the list for parents on a strict budget, but for a soft structured carrier, it is closer to the average price for the type. It also requires hanging to dry, which can cause significant downtime with no carrier depending on your climate (humidity is not your friend). However, despite the unfortunate washing instructions (haven't they experienced a baby blowout?!), we think most families will find the One can be the potential "one" for them.
Read review: BabyBjorn One
Easy to Use Wrap
Baby K'tan Original
The Baby K'tan Original is a wrap "like" carrier without the traditional wrap design that is often challenging to master without help. This "special" wrap is two loops of fabric joined together, which makes it easy to put on without holding your baby and easy to put the baby in once the carrier is securely in place. We love this unique design, the soft, somewhat stretchy, fabric, and the use of 100% cotton for little ones from 8-35 lbs. The price is reasonable and great for families on a budget, and the easy to use design makes it worth the small price bump over traditional wraps, which are nothing more than large swaths of fabric with complicated wrapping designs.
The K'tan's only potential downside is the design is not as versatile as a regular wrap, and it could be harder to make this wrap fit parents who are vastly different in size (think petite and linebacker); it can be challenging to make small adjustments for fit or comfort as there are no adjustment points. However, if you are average size and you and your mate aren't the odd pair, then the K'tan is an easy to use carrier solution we think you'll love.
Read review: Baby K'tan Original
Great Wrap on a Budget
The Boba Wrap is a wrap style product that looks like a broad swath of material that you wrap around your body in various configurations depending on the position or age of your baby. Wraps can be challenging to use because they require a higher learning curve and often holding your baby while you put it on. However, the Boba wrap is super duper soft and made of stretchy fabric that helps tuck your little one securely to your body with more freedom of movement with a snuggly feel. We love that this carrier is budget-friendly, versatile, and works for babies from 7-35 lbs. The Boba is machine washable and goes in the dryer, which keeps your cleaning downtime down to a minimum (potentially during nap time), so you can go on more adventures without waiting for your carrier to line dry. It is also useful for parents of different sizes and growing little ones because you can make adjustments on-the-go for a personalized fit for comfort or size and the fabric is long enough to work with almost any size adult.
The Boba is just a wrap that could cause trouble as your baby grows and becomes more interested in the world around them. While it has positions that let little ones look out and explore, it can be limiting because the fabric gives and some babies won't want to be so snuggly pressed against their parents. However, if budget is a concern, or you want a comfy, easy to care for option that may not last until 35 lbs, then the Boba Wrap is a great choice your wallet will love.
Read review: Boba Wrap
Lifetime Carrier for Infants to Toddlers
The Tula Free-to-Grow is a soft structured carrier with a variety of possible adjustments, so it grows with your baby and works for the life of your babywearing years, potentially translating to a "one and done" buying decision. This carrier is super comfortable for parents to wear even on prolonged adventures, and the strap style means you can make small adjustments on-the-go for comfort or fit. The more structured design gives little ones a little more space to wiggle than wrap style carriers.
This carrier may not be a good choice for families on a budget or parents who want a larger variety of positions for baby to ride in. This Tula is one of the most expensive in the review and only has two position options. However, this carrier is a quality choice that works well, feels good, and will work for several years without worry. Depending on your wearing goals, it could be the right fit for you and your family.
Read review: Tula Free-to-Grow
Why You Should Trust Us
BabyGearLab has been testing baby carriers for over 5 years with a variety of styles and types under our belt. Founder and board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Juliet Spurrier uses her background as a mother of two and a pediatric doctor to help her during product selection and test development to choose products that are safe for developing hips and convenient for parents.
Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz began her carrier love after having her first child 10 years ago. With a closet containing over 10 carriers, she's tried every style and brand with her own two children, as well as almost every carrier tested at BabyGearLab. The team also includes Senior Analyst Bob Wofford, father of 7, for the male perspective on child wearing. Bob has been professionally testing baby gear since 2014 and has a vast knowledge of baby carriers and their recent rise in popularity. Senior Review Editor, Abriah Wofford a BabyGearLab contributor since 2015, rounds out the team.
Related: How We Tested Baby Carriers
Analysis and Test Results
Babywearing has been around for centuries, and today's technology and advances in design present safer wearing choices than ever before. Carriers continue to evolve in their designs to meet the needs of modern parents and busy families looking for safe, hands-free alternatives for carrying little ones. We tested each carrier for parent and child comfort, ease of use, and ease of cleaning so you can find the option that best suits your needs.
Related: Buying Advice for Baby Carriers
Avoid the frustration and hassle of using a stroller in crowded places by using a baby carrier instead! Not only is it quick and easy, but it also takes up no more space than you do, and most babies find the experience to be soothing, which cuts down on crying and disruption to those around you.
Possibly one of the best things about purchasing a carrier for your baby is they come in a variety of price ranges, so most families can find a good product that meets their budget needs. Also, should your carrier of choice be out of range, you can consider adding it to your registry or forgoing a stroller until your baby is older to offset the investment. The Boba Wrap is a basic wrap in the $40 range and features a variety of wrapping methods that hold little ones up to 35 lbs. The Baby K'tan Original has a similar price and is easier to use with almost 10 more points for its overall score. The Nalakai RIng LSing is also relatively inexpensive and offers a lot for the price. Looking for a more structured carrier? High-quality carriers can last for years through multiple children making a larger initial investment worth it over time. Many parents skip the stroller and opt for something like the Tula Free-to-Grow with a list price of $160. While structured products come with a higher price tag, you can usually use them for longer, and if it translates into skipping the stroller purchase, it can save you even more money in the long run.
Wearing your baby not only adds ease and convenience to your daily routine, but the practice also contributes positively to the baby's social, emotional, and physical development.
Wearing your baby isn't pleasant if your baby isn't comfortable. We paid attention to which positions baby favored, and if they fell asleep, were they able to stay asleep comfortably?
The material also has a significant impact on comfort, so we considered which materials were hot or caused chafing, or which didn't offer enough support or the right kind of support. We looked for proper head and neck support, a nice deep and wide seat, soft fabric, stretchy materials, and an overall sense of security.
We urge those interested in babywearing to read our safety guidelines article entitled Best Practice Tips for Baby Wearing.
Some carriers are inherently more comfortable for babies than others, and some are better for newborns but can grow uncomfortable as little ones grow. In our tests, little testers were most content in products that were more adjustable for size and those with softer and somewhat stretchy materials that allow natural body postures with a supported feeling. These preferences means the slings have an advantage over the structured carriers with the Nalakai Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Ring Sling both earning an 8 of 10 for baby's comfort (the high in the group). The most uncomfortable products have rougher fabrics, less adjustability, or designs that limit movement or growth, several carriers earned a low score of 5, and all were soft-structured products, including the Infantino Flip Advanced.
As with baby, if the person wearing the carrier isn't comfortable, wearing the baby regularly isn't going to stick. For comfort, one of the biggest complaints are shoulder and back strain. We looked at how long we could use the carrier before we experienced discomfort or pain.
Things that made a difference for us were padding (especially in the shoulders), strap width, lumbar support, and waist straps. Being able to wear a baby in different positions is also key to comfort, where we could quickly and easily switch from front to back, etc. if needed.
While most parents can wear any of the carriers we tested for a short period without significant discomfort, we think a carrier should be as comfortable as possible for longer trips so you can get the most out of your babywearing and bonding time. The BabyBjorn One is the most comfortable carrier for parents to wear with nicely padded shoulder pads and supportive waistband that helps support your baby's weight and distributes it evenly for a comfortable fit. This carrier earned a perfect 10 of 10, something unrivaled by any other option we tested. The Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above left), Nalakai Ring Sling, and the Tula Free-to-Grow all earned 9s making them the second most comfortable choices for parents. So whether you prefer a soft structured carrier you wear like a backpack or a sling that rests on a single shoulder, there is a baby carrier that can work for you. The most uncomfortable carrier to wear is the Infantino Flip Advanced (above right) with a 3 of 10 and less padding in the shoulders with no real supportive waistband. While you may be able to wear this product for short durations, it won't pass muster for the long haul or frequent use.
Ease of Use
How easy a carrier is to use on a day-to-day basis can also make or break whether you use it more than a handful of times. 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 instructions. We considered how simple a carrier would be to grab and go or for use without help. Could it fit in a diaper bag? How quickly can you put on? Once on, we compared which carriers are easy to adjust, both for fit and if your baby needs to change positions.
More straightforward carriers are easier to use, both out of the box and on the go. The slings with only the ring adjustment point and one end to pull or loosen are the easiest to put on, use, and fit. Both the Nalakai Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above left) earned 9 for eas of use. The wraps are more complicated with a giant piece of fabric that requires wrapping skills and holding your baby while you put on the carrier. Not only is the learning curve high to remember how to perform the wraps, but holding a baby while you do them alone is also hard. Both the Moby Wrap Classic and the Boba Wrap earned 4s and function the same way with the same challenges. The Storchenwiege Woven Wrap (above right) received the lowest score with a 3 of 10 thanks to more positions and wrap options and material that doesn't "give" like the other wraps. The soft structured carries varied for ease of use between 4 and 7 depending on the number of straps and adjustment points and how hard they were to use while wearing the carrier with a baby inside.
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, drooled on, and more.
In other words, carriers need cleaning, making it essential to know how easy this will be to accomplish. The carriers that scored highest in this area can be machine washed and tumble dried. Others are machine wash, but hang-to-dry. Unfortunately, when it comes to babies, sometimes only a washing machine will do.
Being unable to put a carrier in the dryer means more downtime between uses. If you live in a more humid climate, it can take more than a day for a padded soft structured carrier to dry thoroughly. This prolonged drying time means you and your baby will be waiting to use the carrier longer than if you had a product you could toss in the drier. Several carriers earned 9 of 10 for ease of cleaning. The Baby K'tan Original (above left), Boba Wrap, Moby Wrap Classic, and Tula Free-to-Grow are all machine washable and dryable. These products are also easy to spot clean on the go. Several, including the Nalakai Ring Sling, can be machine washed but require hanging to dry. Slings will dry quicker than structured carriers like the Tula Explore that have padding that will increase drying time. The hardest to keep clean or those with the longest possible downtime for hang drying earned 4s and include the Beco Gemini (above right) and the Infantino Flip Advanced.
Choosing the best baby carrier for you and your little one can be a daunting decision filled with different styles, types, and materials. Our goal is to provide a complete analysis of competing products, using our extensive testing process, so you can narrow down the plethora of potential options to find the right carrier for your needs and budget. While there may not be a single carrier that is good for every family or every need, we do believe that there is a baby carrier in this review that is right for you.
— Wendy Schmitz & Juliet Spurrier, MD