Last updated: June 8, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-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.