We are obsessed with babywearing here and understand the struggle of experimenting with various baby carrier designs to find what is just right for you and your baby.
We think that both baby wraps and structured carriers are awesome! But before you waste any money buying something you won’t use we wanted to help you understand what you will use it for, how it fits with your lifestyle, personality, and budget.
That way you can get it right the first time (and hope that your baby agrees with your choice!).
We have taken a detailed look at how baby wraps and baby carriers compare in a number of key performance areas to make your buying decision easy!
Baby Wrap vs Soft Structured Carriers
Here we will compare both styles of baby carriers on the key performance areas that you will use them for.
Check out the scoreboard below for a high-level summary. The importance of every measure will differ for every parent and your buying decision may be as simple as counting the gold medals that are important to you.
For example, baby wraps scored higher than the structured carrier. But I would personally choose a structured carrier every time unless I was using it with a newborn a few weeks old. Ease and speed of use are more important to me than the other factors when I am wearing my child.
Ease of Use
The first day you have a baby wrap is going to be a confusing one. A wrap requires more of a learning curve to ensure that you can tie it off safely and comfortably. It is essentially just a long piece of fabric.
Some stretchy wraps can be up to 18ft long!
At first it may take a few minutes to tie around your body and wear it in a way that is comfortable. But you will get good at it fast if you persist. But it will never be as fast as a baby carrier!
Most of the best baby carriers you could buy are very user-friendly and intuitive. You can pull them out of the box and be up and running in seconds. Completely hands-free, and very low risk of anything going wrong.
If you live a lifestyle that requires you to move fast (or you just don’t have the patience to be tying off wraps frequently) then a structured baby carrier is a winner.
Comfort for Baby
The comfort of your baby will vary a lot depending on the brand and model of the baby carrier that you buy. While there are some good budget baby carriers available, you generally need to spend more to get the best baby carrier experience for your little one.
Baby wraps are usually made from a stretchy fabric that is silky and super soft to touch. This feels great on your baby’s delicate skin.
You are also able to tie the wrap to a point of tension that supports your baby’s size, and level of neck strength. Because a baby wrap starts as a long piece of fabric that you can mold it however you like.
The only exception is if you are babywearing in warmer weather. There are some clever baby carrier designs that have removable panels that expose breathable mesh. This allows cooling airflow through the seat area.
A cotton baby wrap is the most breathable, but can still get hot and sweaty on a warmer day. But overall, the baby wraps still win out overall.
Comfort for Mom
The points above about the quality of a baby wrap’s fabric and how it feels on the skin apply equally to mom.
Assuming that the wrapping technique has been mastered you will also be able to customize the fit on your frame more so than with a carrier. This is especially handy for parents with a larger frame as not all baby carriers are suitable for plus size parents.
Yes, a soft structured baby carrier usually has padded shoulder straps that are fully adjustable. Plus a cushioned waist belt ensures even weight distribution – especially when carrying heavier toddlers.
But in my experience, you cannot get the same snug fit and comfort level that you can with a baby wrap.
This is another close call and there are plenty of baby carriers that do a great job when breastfeeding your baby.
You can easily get your child into a position to breastfeed while sitting or walking in both styles of carrier. So the deciding factor for us was privacy.
With a carrier, you have the adjustable straps on the shoulder which are thin and usually have some distance until the coverage of the baby seat. This potentially leaves you more exposed than with a baby wrap.
The Boba 4G baby carrier is the exception with a very high and enclosed panel on the back of the baby seat.
With a wrap, it is very easy to nestle your baby close to your chest and pull the fabric up on either side of your baby’s head. You can also loosen the tie to give you as much slack as you need.
The flexibility of baby wraps is unmatched when breastfeeding.
This is a big differentiator between the two styles.
Structured baby carriers generally have a higher maximum weight than wraps. However, this only matters if you plan on babywearing long-term.
The best baby wraps will have a capacity of 30lbs to 35lbs. The Moby and Boba wraps can both handle the full 35 pounds safely.
Good quality soft structured baby carriers usually have a weight limit of 45 lbs. This can handle most babies and by the time they outgrow this, you probably don’t want to carry them anymore.
The Tula can even go as high as 60 lbs if you wanted to go there. So the soft structured carrier is a clear winner when it comes to handling a baby’s weight.
A good quality woven wrap or stretchy wrap will usually cost you somewhere between $40 and $60 and will be as good as you can get.
This price range will barely get you an entry level carrier and you are more likely going to be spending upwards of $100 depending on the brand and model you go for.
For long term use, I would also choose the carrier despite the higher price tag. But for the purpose of this comparison, the wraps are just cheaper.
Baby Wrap Summary
Baby wraps are great for newborns. That snugness you feel right up close to that heartbeat is about as close to being as the womb as you can get once they have entered the world.
It takes a certain skill level to use a wrap well. It is not hard to learn but it will take you a few goes to get it right.
The versatility you can achieve with a little bit of skill will provide you with an unmatched babywearing experience in those early months.
You should be able to see baby’s face easily while strapped in, while also being able to move their head forward so it nestles into your chest. This provides a great environment to help get your baby to sleep, and the calming effects of being so close to Mom can be instant.
As the child gets older the stretchy fabric most stretchy wraps are made from can wear out. Woven wraps are less prone to this deterioration in performance. If this makes it difficult to evenly distribute weight then you should replace it immediately before it can lead to back and shoulder pain.
The time commitment is important to consider before buying. It only takes less than a minute to wrap, but if you are the kind of person who is always running late – if you are not you probably will be now you have a baby – then the time can be an inconvenience.
The simplicity of the wrap makes it a very cost-effective option for the budget-conscious.
- Best for the newborn stage
- Cheaper option
- Custom-fit when wearing your baby
- Easy access for breastfeeding
- Baby settles in quicker
- Get baby to settle faster and sleep longer in a wrap
- Easy to get around any parent’s waist
- Less structure
- Wrapping techniques take practice!
- Time-consuming to put on at first
- The stretchy fabric may not suit larger babies
- Can be harder on the back as your baby grows
Soft Structured Baby Carrier Summary
Soft-structured carriers are preferred by many parents and are more of an easy out of the box solution. This makes it great for new parents that want to reduce any points of frustration.
There are different styles within this category and most are not complex and can be used in seconds – no video tutorials required!
You can use some models with a newborn, and some will require an infant insert that offers extra head support. So you can still get away with buying just one carrier.
If you invest in a higher-end carrier you could find yourself using the same carrier for multiple kids. They are durable and could easily last you the best part of a decade if you look after them.
You may also find that Dad is more enthusiastic about using a carrier. Especially if you get a carrier with very male prints.
- More durable and great for larger babies
- Some can also be used with newborns
- Quick and easy to start wearing
- Multiple positions in most designs
- Padded shoulder support
- Even distribution of weight makes it easier to use for an extended period.
- Set natural position for baby’s legs if designed well
- More gender-neutral
- More expensive
- Less flexible and not as snug to the body
- You may have to buy an extra insert to use with a newborn
- Requires head and neck strength required
- Bigger and less portable
Alternative Baby Carriers
If you are not convinced that either of these styles is how you want to carry your baby then you can also check out these alternatives:
- Mei Tai – This is a hybrid design that has a structured frame, and also a long ribbon to wrap around the wearer for that little bit of extra control over the support level.
- Ring Sling – We are not big fans of ring slings but they are good for newborns and can be picked up much cheaper. Check out our baby wrap vs ring sling comparison here.
You may end up buying both at different stages of your parenting journey. Wraps are amazing with newborn babies, but carriers can handle a toddler for longer and are easier for first-time parents.
The benefits of babywearing are scientifically proven for you and your baby, plus it is just a nice feeling to stay close to your baby.
So it is important to choose the design that will allow you to carry your baby the most.
Be sure to check out all of the links in this article and below if you need help choosing a specific type of carrier and are interested in our recommendations. There are quite a few things to consider when choosing so we update all of our recommendations regularly.