Want the best baby carrier for wearing your baby? We researched more than 32 products before selecting the 16 top contenders for comprehensive testing with varying-sized parents and babies over several months. We looked at several factors that contribute to a product's overall performance, such as baby's comfort, parent's comfort, ease of use, and ease of cleaning. We also took note of specific product details and used the carriers in real-world applications, such as around the home or on excursions with little ones. Picking the right one can be challenging, but our review can help you narrow down the options. Continue reading for all the information and details you need to select the best choice for your family and budget.
The Nalakai Ring Sling is a straightforward, comfortable sling that is easy to use and super cozy for passengers. It is a soft bamboo and linen blend that stretches somewhat for comfort and has quick-drying properties for fast cleaning. We appreciate that you can make adjustments with your baby in the sling to improve fit or comfort for passengers and parents. You can even pull the fabric up for head support or tighten the sling to bring your baby closer to you. This ability can make a huge difference when offering comfort to your baby by increasing close physical contact. We love almost everything about this sling, including its budget-friendly price.
The Nalakai requires line drying, which is disappointing as it can take longer to return to use than products that can go in the dryer. As a result, there is the possibility that you'll need your sling and won't have one. However, the fabric dries fairly quickly (climate dependent). In our tests, it had faster drying times than the padded or structured carriers. Overall, the Nalakai is reasonably priced, easy to use, and comfortable for most users, making it tough to beat and one of our favorites.
Carry Positions: 3 | Material: Cotton, Polyester & PU Foam
REASONS TO BUY
Adjustable seat width
Easy to put a baby in
Comfy for parents
REASONS TO AVOID
Harder to keep clean
The BabyBjorn Carrier One is a soft structured option with three positions for little ones between 8-33 lbs. This product is a quality contender with multiple adjustment points providing parents and babies with a custom fit for comfort and security. This BabyBjorn has safety buckles that work well and has forward pull adjustment straps for quick on-the-go alterations, and the seat width is adjustable depending on the baby's age or size. The One is easy to put on. You can attach it before you pick up your baby, making it significantly more straightforward (and potentially safer) than the wrap carriers we tested, which can require a secondary helper.
This carrier is one of the most expensive in the review, which might put it lower on the list for parents with smaller budgets. However, the price is average for a structured carrier compared to the competition. The One is also drip dry only, resulting in a significant downtime depending on your climate (humidity is not your friend). Outside of the unfortunate washing instructions (babies are messy, and cleaning could be frequent), we think most parents will find the One can be the potential "one" for them.
The Baby K'tan Original is a wrap "-ish" carrier without the convoluted wrap features that make them harder to master without assistance. This "special" wrap is two loops of fabric linked together, making it easier to put on without holding your baby and easy to put the baby in once the carrier is 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 K'tan's price is reasonable and ideal for tighter budgets, and the easy-to-use design makes the minimal price bump over ordinary wraps worth it.
The K'tan's design isn't as versatile as a regular wrap, and it can be more challenging to fit this wrap for parents who are vastly different in size or shape. There is also no fit or comfort assistance, as there are no adjustments. However, if you are average size and you and your mate have similar shapes or don't plan to share, then the K'tan is an easy-to-use "wrap" we think you'll love.
The Boba Wrap is a wrap carrier that is essentially a broad length of material that wraps around your body in various ways depending on the desired position for carrying or the age/size of your baby. The Boba wrap is super duper soft and has stretchy fabric that pulls your baby securely into your body with the ability to move while retaining snuggly comfort. We love that this option is budget-friendly, versatile, and works for little ones from 7-35 lbs. The Boba is machine-washable and dryable, reducing cleaning time (potentially during a nap or overnight), so you can use it more often without waiting for air drying (a standard method in the competition). It is also helpful for parents of different sizes and growing little ones because you can make adjustments on the go for a custom fit for comfort or size, and the fabric is long enough to work with almost any size adult.
Wraps can be somewhat challenging because there is a learning curve that often requires holding your baby as you maneuver the fabric ends around your body. Some even need to carry a cheat sheet card on wrapping for several weeks before committing the process to memory. The Boba could be trouble as your little one gets bigger and becomes more interested in the world around them. While it has positions where little ones can look at the world, it can be limiting because the fabric stretches and some babies won't want to be pressed so tightly against their parents. However, if budget is a concern, or you want a comfy, easy-to-care-for wrap that may not last until 35 lbs, the Boba Wrap is a good choice that will fit most budgets.
The Tula Free-to-Grow is a soft, structured carrier with various possible adjustments so that it can grow with your baby. This option should work for the lifetime of your baby-wearing years, potentially translating to a "one and done" choice to save you money and hassle. This carrier is super comfortable for parents to wear even on prolonged adventures, and the strap style means you can make minor adjustments on the fly for both comfort and fit. The structured design of this Tula gives babies a little more space to wiggle and breathe than wrap or sling options.
This carrier might not be the best choice for those on a budget or families looking for various positions for a baby to ride. This Tula is one of the most expensive in the review and only features two potential riding options. However, this carrier is a high-quality choice that works well, feels good, and can function for several years without issues. Depending on your wearing goals, it could be the right fit for you and your goals.
BabyGearLab has tested more than 32 baby carriers since 2012, including various styles and types in the competition. Our testing protocol for baby carriers is extensive, and our tests show that baby carriers differ in performance and best application. We purchased each product ourselves, accepting no freebies from manufacturers to guarantee complete independence and unbiased deliberations. Next, we perform a series of tests to examine several factors.
Our testing of baby carries is divided into four rating metrics:
Child Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
Parent Comfort (35% of weighting)
Ease of Use (30% of weighting)
Ease of Cleaning (10% of weighting)
Each metric's contribution to the overall score is based on what we believe influences most families' purchase-decision making.
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, such as selecting 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 over ten years ago. With a closet containing more than ten carriers, she's tried every style and brand with her children and almost every carrier 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.
Analysis and Test Results
Babywearing has been around for centuries (probably as long as there have been babies), and today's technology and design advances present safer wearing choices than ever. Baby carriers continue to evolve in their designs to meet the needs of modern parents looking for safe, hands-free alternatives for carrying little ones for comfort, convenience, and bonding. Our testing considered baby comfort, parent comfort, ease of use, ease of cleaning, and more. Read on to learn how each contender fared in the competition.
Avoid the frustration and hassle of a stroller by using a baby carrier! Not only are they quick and easy, but they take up significantly less space, and most babies find the experience soothing with increased feelings of closeness, which can decrease crying and public meltdowns.
One of the nice things about carriers is the variety of price ranges available, which means most families can find a suitable option within their budget that meets their needs. Alternatively, should the carrier of your dreams be outside your budget, you should consider putting it on your registry or skipping a stroller until your baby is older to postpone the purchase until you aren't spending as much on gear. The Boba Wrap is a straightforward option with a reasonable price and various wrapping methods that work with little ones up to 35 lbs. The Baby K'tan Original is in the same price range and is easier to use, with higher points for its overall score. The Nalakai Ring Sling is also relatively inexpensive compared to the competition, and it offers a lot for the price. Want a structured carrier? High-quality soft structured carriers (SSC) can last for years through multiple children, which can justify a more significant initial investment. Some parents skip buying a stroller and choose something like the Tula Free-to-Grow with a higher list price but small compared to a quality stroller. While structured options typically come with higher price tags, you can usually use them for longer, and if it translates into forgoing a stroller, it can save you even more money.
Did You Know?
Wearing your baby not only adds ease and convenience to your daily routine, but the practice also positively contributes to a baby's social, emotional, and physical development.
Wearing your baby isn't going to work for very long if your baby isn't comfortable. Therefore, we considered which positions the baby favored and whether or not they showed signs of being comfortable or uncomfortable.
The material also significantly impacted comfort, so we considered which materials were hot or caused chafing, or 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.
Some carriers are more comfortable for babies than others, and some are better for newborns but grow uncomfortable as little ones get larger. In our tests, little testers were happiest in options with the most adjustability for size and carriers with softer and somewhat stretchy fabric that allow natural body postures without sacrificing support. These preferences mean the slings have an advantage over the structured carriers, with the Nalakai Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Ring Sling scored well for the 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 lower scores; all were soft-structured products. The Infantino Flip Advanced was the lowest-scoring option.
As with the baby, if the person wearing the carrier is uncomfortable, using it regularly isn't going to happen. The chief complaints are shoulder and back strain, so we tested how long we could wear the products before experiencing discomfort.
Things that make a difference for us are padding (especially in the shoulders), strap width, lumbar support, and waist strap adjustability. Being able to wear your baby in various positions is also crucial to comfort, including quickly and easily switching from front to back, etc., when desired.
While most parents can wear any of the carriers in this review for a short time without significant discomfort, we feel they should be as comfy as possible to get the most from your baby-wearing and bonding time. The BabyBjorn One is the most comfortable carrier for parents, with nicely padded shoulder straps and a supportive waistband that helps distribute your baby's weight evenly for a comfortable fit. This carrier earned a perfect score in this metric, something unrivaled by any competitor. The Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above left), Nalakai Ring Sling, and the Tula Free-to-Grow all impressive second-place scores, making them almost as comfortable as the BabyBjorn One. So whether you prefer a soft structured carrier or a shoulder sling, there is a carrier that works for you. The most uncomfortable option is the Infantino Flip Advanced (above right) has less padding in the shoulders with a supportless waistband. While you can wear this product for short durations, it won't work for long adventures or frequent use.
Ease of Use
The level of effort a baby carrier requires can make or break whether you use it daily or let it collect dust. We evaluated several elements to capture a product's complete ease of use experience.
We started by unboxing each carrier before assessing and comparing how straightforward a contender is to grab and go without assistance. We asked ourselves: Does it fit inside a top-ranked diaper bag? How quickly can you get it on? Is it easy to adjust? We also examined each product's instructions and prefer those with clear illustrations and directions.
Simple carriers are easier to use, both out of the box and on the go. The slings have only one ring adjustment point and one end to pull or loosen, making them the easiest to put on, use, and fit. The Nalakai Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above) earn impressive results in this metric.
Most of the soft structured carriers vary for ease of use, and the number of straps and adjustments correlate to how hard they were to use with the baby on board. The BabyBjorn Mini is a soft structured carrier and an exception. This contender is intuitive, quick to set up, and adjusts easily. It has nearly no learning curve, which is why it scored slightly higher than the other structured carriers.
The wraps are more complicated, with a giant swath of fabric that requires wrapping skills while holding your baby as you put it on. The learning curve is high, including remembering how to perform the wraps and holding the baby while you do it. Both the Moby Wrap Classic and the Boba Wrap function similarly with the same challenges.
Ease of Cleaning
Cleaning is critical when narrowing down the options, as you can expect significant wear and tear with a well-loved carrier. Carriers are often grabbed, stuffed, dragged, chewed, drooled on, covered in spit-up, or victims of accidental blow-outs.
To put it simply, your carrier will require regular spot cleaning or laundering, depending on the mess, making it essential to know how easy or difficult this process will be. When testing and scoring this metric, we considered a carrier's cleaning instructions, fabric content, and whether or not it has padding. Logistically speaking, padding can take longer to dry and potentially distort from laundering, no longer feeling the same as when it first came out of the box.
Knowing that washing textiles in cold water can reduce the potential for fading or shrinking, we appreciate it when manufacturers suggest this in their washing instructions. Therefore, contenders that tend to rank higher for ease of cleaning include slings or wraps with cleaning instructions that state a carrier can be machine washed on cold and dryable. Some baby carriers that meet this profile include the Baby K'tan Original (pictured above), Boba Wrap, and Moby Wrap Classic.
The second best option includes contenders that are okay in the washer but must air dry, such as the Nalakai Ring Sling and Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling. Although air drying can prevent potential shrinking and damage, it can translate to increased downtime between uses. Living in a humid climate could result in more than a day for a padded soft structured carrier to completely dry. This extended drying time means you'll be waiting to use your baby carrier longer than those that can be machine dried.
Baby carriers that are more difficult to clean tend to be soft structured carriers with thick padding that require air drying. Depending on the ambient environment, this drying method can take time to dry, leaving you without a baby carrier when you may need one. The LILLEbaby Complete All Seasons has very thick padding compared to the group, which prolongs the drying time. Also, from our experience, regular washing of the Ergobaby Omni 360 can cause the padding to no longer feel the same. However, we don't think this is an issue unique to the Ergobaby; it's a risk you run with any padded carrier you regularly launder. It doesn't make the product ineffective, but it's something to note. So, in regards to laundering, we suggest not overdoing it to preserve the product's integrity and trying to spot-clean it when possible. When you do wash it, remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Travel Gear for Baby
Many parents appreciate a baby carrier for stroller-free travel around town or when getting on and off an airplane during air travel. Our lineup of baby travel gear can make traveling with your little one smoother.
Finding the best baby carrier for your little one can be challenging with so many styles, types, and fabrics available. Our research and extensive testing include an analysis of performance, features, and functionality for each carrier. We use a hands-on, side-by-side comparison process to help you narrow your options, so you can find the right one for your baby, budget, and goals. We don't believe there is one carrier that will work for all families or every baby because everyone is unique, with unique body shapes and lifestyles. However, we think there is something for everyone in this lineup, and you can find an excellent carrier for your baby in our award winners or high-ranking selections.