Babies love and need to be held, and carriers are a great way to keep your baby close and cozy even when you’re on the go. In a sense you wear your baby, which may make him or her feel secure and ease any fussiness. If you like using a carrier (and your baby likes it too), you may even be able to postpone buying a stroller for a few months, until your baby can sit up.

The basic types of best baby carrier are strap-on models and slings. Both are made of fabric. Strap-on carriers, as their name implies, strap onto you in front or on your back. They’re the most widely used type. Slings essentially consist of a length of fabric you wrap over your shoulders. Those we’ve seen aren’t secure enough during activities more rigorous than walking. With a primal feel to them, slings form a comfy, portable nest for infants and can be adjusted to tote toddlers. They’re an option for babies who haven’t reached the minimum 7 to 8 pound weight requirement of many strap-on carriers.

Quick Tip

Think about how much you’ll use a baby carrier. That will help you determine what to spend. A low-priced version may be fine for quick jaunts. If you foresee longer treks with baby or expecting to be using your carrier a lot, consider a higher-end model. You might also wait until after your baby’s born to see if the need for a carrier arises. There are carrier parents and then there are those who mostly leave their carriers hanging on a hook on the closet. Time will tell which one you are.


What’s Available

Slings

Made of fabric (sometimes pleated), a sling forms an over-the-shoulder “hammock” for holding a young baby across your front in a semi-reclined position. Some claim a maximum child weight of 30 pounds. And there is one made for twins.

Pros: A sling mimics the way you’d naturally carry your baby, but frees up your arms. Such a position may soothe a fussy baby. As with other kinds of carriers, you can get around easily in tight spaces where a stroller might not be able to go.

Cons: Having your baby’s weight in the diagonally frontal position may be uncomfortable, especially if you’re petite and your baby is large. Slings aren’t secure enough for activity more rigorous than walking.

Our Recommendation

Both mom and dad will enjoy the security and comfort that the Baby K’Tan baby carrier has to offer. This 100% breathable cotton baby sling is individually sized to fit either mom or dad, or maybe even grandma. It is easy to put on and change positions without feeling a loss of security. It is good for babies newborn to 35 pounds and can be adjusted to different types of positions. The sling allows you to hold the baby in a natural position, so you to move and shift weight naturally. Moms love this carrier because of its versatility and the fact that it can be thrown into a regular washer and dryer for easy care. It contains no metal buckles that will clang in the washing machine.

Price: $49.95

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Babies love nothing more than to be swaddled and held close to their mother’s heartbeat. The Cuddlebag Baby Wrap Carrier is a soft carrier baby sling carrier that gives the baby what he or she needs and allows mom to be hands-free. This is the best of both worlds for new mothers. One of the benefits of a baby sling is that the baby tends to sleep more because it is comfortable and is not exhausted by too much stimulation. Studies have also shown that being worn close to the body helps cognitive development too. The Cuddlebag allows baby to see and experience the world as you do. This is why moms and babies both love it.

Price: $37.99

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The Boba Baby Wrap is a comfortable baby sling that allows you to tie it for the best fit. This makes it the most versatile baby sling because it allows you to tie it to suit the way you move. It is made from 95% cotton and 5% Spandex, which means that it is stretchy but still firm and stable. It is free from harmful dyes and chemicals, which gives you confidence about putting it next to your baby’s skin. It is suitable for babies from birth to 18 months. Moms love it because it fits most adults and is compatible with breastfeeding discreetly and comfortably. This baby sling is a necessity for every new mom.

Price: $39.95

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Strap-on Carriers

A soft carrier holds a young baby in an upright position (facing outward or inward), which he or she may like less than the curled position provided by a sling. Some soft carriers can also be worn on your back.

Pros: A soft carrier helps keep your hands free and allows you to hold baby snugly against your chest. With a soft carrier, as with a sling, you can take your baby where strollers can’t easily go, such as on stairs and cramped elevators.

Cons: Our online readers report that wearing an infant carrier can put a strain on the lower back once baby weighs more than 20 pounds. Models that have a waist belt can better support the weight.

Our Recommendation

Gone are the days of lugging around bulky prams and strollers. There is no need for the additional room in the car or hassle with new strap-on carrier designs such as that by Ergobaby. The Ergobaby Four Position 360 Baby Carrier, as its name implies, is one of the ergonomically best designs out there. It keeps baby in the ergonomically preferred frog-leg position. This is the correct position for proper development of hips, legs, and back. It is also ergonomically designed for moms and dads too, even for those who may be on the petite side. It is 100% cotton canvas lined with 100% cotton poplin, making it machine washable and durable. This is only one of the reasons why everybody loves it.

Price: $158.99

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The BabyBjorn Original Baby Carrier was developed with the help of pediatricians to make sure that babies head and neck are properly supported. The carrier only has two positions, because these are the two best ones for your baby. There are only a few adjustments to be made to make it fit perfectly, so it is not complicated. Also, this strap-on carrier is phthalate free, Latex free, lead-free, and BPA free. It’s sturdy cotton design makes it easy to care for and means that it will last until your baby outgrows it. It is perfect for babies from 8 to 25 pounds. Babies and moms both love the comfort that this carrier has to offer.

Price: $43.49

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The LilleBaby Complete Original Carrier is one of the most popular strap on carriers because it has more carrying positions and a longer life span than other similar brands. This carrier will last up to 45 pounds. No extra insert is needed for newborns. The ability to change positions often helps mom to avoid fatigue from carrying baby in one position too long. Ergonomics and comfort are the main reasons why moms, dads, and babies all love this popular carrier brand. It is made from durable, soft 100% cotton which means that you can feel good about putting it next to your baby’s delicate skin. This carrier comes with an instructional video that will help you understand how to make the most of its many different positions.

Price: $119.99

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Features to Consider

Fabric

Slings and strap-in carriers are made of fabrics such as cotton, corduroy, flannel-like materials, or moisture-resistant nylon, and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Slings and front carriers should be completely washable. If you like, wash your carrier a few times before use to soften it and remove chemical odors. Bear in mind that drying time may be long, and some carriers can be line-dread only.

Fasteners

Carriers available today usually have different buckles and fasteners, either for shoulder or waist straps or babies’ seats. The buckles that supports the shoulder and waist trap must be adjusted easily and not gradually loose once the carrier is in use. The most effective buckles are those that require two separate actions by adult hands to unlatch. Snaps are usually sturdy and require a lot of force to unfasten, which may make them inconvenient to use.

Lumbar support

Well-made carriers may have a special padded waist strap that helps distribute baby’s weight from your shoulders to your hips and pelvic area. This is a definite comfort advantage. Fasten the belt to test that it’s long enough and neither too high nor too low when the carrier is in place. Padding should be firm rather than mushy.

Shoulder and waist straps

Shoulder-strap padding should be firm and wide. Straps should be positioned so they won’t slip off your shoulders or chafe your neck, and they should be adjustable even while you’re carrying your baby.


Getting the Hang of It

You may feel a little awkward the first few times you use any type of infant carrier. To begin with, you have to figure out how to put it on. Then you have to adjust the straps or fabric so the carrier will fit your body comfortably. Last – and this is the fun part – you have to get your baby inside the carrier without provoking a fuss, then learn to trust your carrier and get used to the initially uneasy feeling of having your baby suspended.

Some manufacturers recommend that you practice with a teddy bear or doll until all steps become natural. That’s not a bad idea.

Learning how to move with a sling or strap-on carrier can also take practice. You can’t lean over, and your back, shoulders, and legs must adjust to the extra weight. You’ll also have to be mindful of your extra dimensions when you go through doorways and around corners so your baby won’t bump into anything. Although many carriers are designed to adjust and “grow” with your baby, some parents complain of lower back pain with front carriers once their baby reaches about 20 pounds. A simple rule is to stop using a carrier when you sense you’re approaching your own physical limits. (You’ll know.)


Shopping Secrets

Read the instructions in the store

If you don’t understand how to adjust and use your carrier, chances are you’ll be frustrated once you get it home. Be sure to note and follow the manufacturer’s weight and size limits.

Try on a floor model

And have your spouse do the same if you’re both going to use it. (Incidentally, there are carriers designed for large-stature parents.) You’ll want to be able to see if you like wearing it, and whether it will fit your baby comfortably. Keep in mind that some babies dislike any carrier that makes their head feel confined. Test for softness to make sure the carrier won’t chafe your baby’s skin.

Keep your receipt

If you or your baby don’t like the sling or strap-on carrier you select, you’ll want to be able to return it.