Are you looking for a comfortable baby carrier to wear your little one? With so many kinds of carriers and brands, it can get confusing fast. We have all the insider details to help you find the right option for your family. We researched over 30 products and purchased 16 of the top products for side-by-side testing over several months with multiple children of different ages and sizes. A variety of parents used each carrier on children ranging from newborn to toddler and ranked the product's performance in various metrics. Carriers were tested 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
Best Overall Baby Carrier
Tula Ring Sling
The Tula Ring Sling is a sling style made of soft material for children from 8-35 lbs. This sling is super simple to use with only one adjustment point and somewhat stretchy fabric that allows for small changes to find the perfect fit for little ones and parents. The more extensive shoulder fabric portion disperses your baby's weight over your entire shoulder, and it prevents any pressure points from occurring.
This carrier is on the pricey side for a basic sling, so it may not be the best choice for families on a strict budget or who aren't sure if a sling is their thing. However, if it works with your budget, and you want a high-quality sling to use during your babywearing years, then the Tula is a great choice for the long haul. If your budget is limited, consider the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling, which is similar but has a lower price tag but still an impressive overall score.
Read review: Tula Ring Sling
Best Comfort Sling
Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling
The Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling is another ring sling with a similar design to the Tula Ring Sling, but the Maya has slightly rougher fabric and a zippered pocket on the tail end of the sling. The Maya is easy to use with only one adjustment point. It is comfortable to wear and cozy to sit in, but we do wish the fabric was softer for napping and sensitive skin. 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 the similar Tula Ring Sling.
If your little one has sensitive skin, the Maya is probably not the best option. The Tula fabric is softer and gentler on napping faces. However, the Maya is less expensive than the Tula and scored similarly, which makes it a good choice for families looking for an excellent carrier that is budget-friendly.
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 custom fit. This BabyBjorn has safety buckles that work well and forward pull adjustment straps for quick on-the-go fitting, 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.
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.
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), and it can be challenging to make small adjustments for fit or comfort. However, if you are an 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.
The Boba is just a wrap which 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 long 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 goals, it could be the right fit for you and your family.
Read review: Tula Free-to-Grow
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. Today's carriers are modern-takes on historical wraps, papooses, backpacks, and slings used in the past. Companies like BabyBjorn applied modern technology and approaches to babywearing over 40 years ago. They continue to evolve their designs today to meet the needs of modern parents and busy families looking for safe, hands-free alternatives of carrying little ones.
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. 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 a 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.
Why Use A Baby Carrier?
The first few days with your newborn can be some of the most blissful you'll experience as a new parent with nothing much to do but care for and stare at your little one. However, as the days pass and you begin to create your new "normal" life, the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities you had before your baby's arrival will come back. You may find that you wish could keep your little one close to you while you tackle ordinary life and a baby carrier can help you do that.
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.
Aside from keeping your baby close to you, a baby carrier can also be convenient and helpful, especially when you need to be hands-free. Here are a few examples:
- Soothing a fussy baby, day or night
- Getting chores/work done around the house
- Running errands
- Navigating crowded places where strollers can be a hassle
We were somewhat surprised by the wide-ranging styles, features, and quality in baby carriers today. These differences will impact your buying decision so that you can find the best carrier for your needs. For help on selecting the best carrier for your family, our Buying Advice provides additional information on what functionalities and aspects make one carrier better than another.
Wearing your baby isn't going to be a pleasant experience if your baby is not comfortable. We paid attention to which positions baby favored, and if the baby fell asleep, were they able to stay asleep comfortably?
The material also has a great impact on comfort, so we looked at which materials were hot or caused chafing, or which didn't offer enough support or the right kind of support. We looked for good head and neck support, a nice deep and wide seat, soft fabric 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 more comfortable for babies than others, and some are better for newborns but grow uncomfortable as little ones grow. In our tests, little testers seemed most content in carriers that were more adjustable for size and those made with softer and somewhat stretchier materials that allow natural body postures with a secure feeling. This preference means the slings have an advantage over the soft structured carriers with the Tula Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Ring Sling (above left) both earning an 8 of 10 for baby's comfort (the high score in the group). The most uncomfortable options have rougher fabrics, less adjustability, or designs that limit movement or growth, four carriers earned the low score of 5, and all were soft structured style products including the Infantino Flip Advanced (above right).
As with baby, if the parent wearing the carrier isn't comfortable, wearing the baby isn't going to stick. When it comes to comfort, one of the biggest complaints is 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 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) and the Tula Free-to-Grow both 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. The Tula Ring Sling earned a 10 of 10 with the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above left) hot on its heels with a 9 and a neat storage pocket near the end. The wraps are more difficult 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) earned 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 to be cleaned making it important 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 am ore 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. Five different carriers earned 9 of 10 for ease of cleaning. The Baby K'tan Original (above left), Boba Wrap, Moby Wrap Classic, Tula Free-to-Grow, and Tula Ring Sling are all machine washable and dryable. These products are also easy to spot clean on the go. 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.
Selecting the right baby carrier for you and your baby can be a complex decision. Our goal is to provide a thorough analysis of competing products, based on our extensive testing process, so you can narrow down your options to find the best carrier for your needs and wallet. We believe that while there may not be one carrier that is good for every family, there is a baby carrier in this review that is right for you.
— Wendy Schmitz & Juliet Spurrier, MD
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.