The soft-structured baby carrier is the most common form of carrier used by parents. The user-friendly designs make them easy to use straight out of the box and are great for everyday use.
We think that babywearing is such an important bonding experience between you and your baby. Your baby carrier should not be a source of discomfort or pain that could get in the way of this.
We have tested and reviewed a lot of baby carriers over the years and understand that buying a baby carrier can be expensive.
This article will help you match the best baby carrier design to your intended use, body shape, and budget so you can buy well first time around.
In this article we will be reviewing the following soft structured baby carriers:
- Boba 4G Baby Carrier
- Tula Ergonomic Baby Carrier
- Ergobaby 360 Baby Carrier
- LILLEbaby Ergonomic Baby Carrier
- Onya Infant to Toddler Baby Carrier
Best Soft Structured Baby Carriers of 2021
The Boba 4G is our top pick as it offers the best value for money in our view. You get diverse functionality built into the carrier’s design, high quality and durable material, and no annoying add-ons to buy.
You can use the carrier with a child as small as 7 lbs due to the integrated infant insert. Most baby carriers require this as an additional purchase. So this will save you some money if you are planning to use it soon after birth.
The main carrier can accommodate up to 45 lbs which ensures excellent longevity of use. All the way from newborn to toddler age when you would likely switch to a stroller anyway.
The seat is comfortable, enclosed and a very cosy environment. This makes it great for naps on the run. It is very common for a baby to drift off to sleep from the gentle swaying and rocking motions.
However, the enclosed design of the baby seat can be a negative depending on where you live. This restricts ventilation and can make it uncomfortable in warmer weather.
So if you live somewhere with harsh summers then you may be limited to short periods of use until your baby starts getting hot & bothered.
I was also able to breastfeed my son while he was in the carrier without too much trouble. But could only do this while I was seated as I had to loosen the straps just enough for my baby to slide down.
The frame of the Boba 4G is bulkier than some of the others on our list. It is still very light at 2.5lbs + baby weight. But if you have a petite frame or are on the shorter side you may feel like there is a bit too much material around you.
But as long as you are over 5ft tall then you will be fine.
It will be a comfortable fit for most people though as long as you have the weight evenly distributed across your hip and shoulders. The padded shoulder straps also provide plenty of cushion.
You cannot carry your baby facing outward with the Boba. This wouldn’t both most parents with the outward-facing position probably the least popular.
- Adjustable straps accommodating most heights and body shapes
- Enclosed seat area provides a snug and safe environment
- Removable sleeping hood and foot straps
- Simple design
- Machine washable
- Poor ventilation, not suitable for warmer weather
- No outward-facing position
The shape of the seat area is where this carrier excels. It has been carefully designed to achieve optimal ergonomic positioning for your child courtesy of a carefully designed seat that leads to a near-perfect sitting position for your baby.
This natural sitting position reduces the tension on your back and shoulders, and when fitted properly with the fully adjustable shoulder and waist straps you get an unmatched ergonomic babywearing experience.
This enables longer use without the aches and pains that could come with it.
The Tula is available in two sizes:
- Baby – 15lbs – 45lbs (comparable weight limit to the Boba)
- Toddler – 25lbs – 60lbs (the highest we have found on the market)
The strength of the toddler model gives you an idea just how strong the material and Duraflex buckle is. When you get to the top end of the weight capacity you can see how important the ergonomics become.
The baby model is cheaper but still holds a comparable weight to most other baby carriers on the market. So you don’t give up anything in performance there.
Another big plus is the colorful designs available. You can add a bit more personality into your babywearing experience with some bright patterns printed on the back of the seatback.
- Up to a massive 60lbs weight limit (toddler model)
- Less physically taxing due to precise ergonomics
- Colorful prints available
- More expensive
- Cannot accommodate newborns
We have included the Ergobaby 360 as a great alternative for those who live in warmer climates. The open design of the seat area allows for far better ventilation when compared to the enclosed Boba and Tula seats.
Again you get a feature-packed and well-built carrier for a mid-range price.
A big differentiator is the velcro waistband. This allows you to adjust the wasitband easily to fit your frame without having to deal with buckles.
But, if you hate that tearing sound of velcro this may not be the carrier for you. I hate buckles, so the velcro was a win for me. It can also be an annoyance if you have clothes that tend to stick.
I also liked the built-in babyhood. Many other carriers include this as a separate piece that needs to be clipped, or buttoned on when in use. The Ergobaby 360 houses this in a zipper pocket so you can just pull it over your baby at any moment.
No digging through a diaper bag to find it!
However, it is a bit narrow at the base. So if you plan on breastfeeding with your varrier your level of coverage may not be as good.
Check out the demonstration below so you can see how this velcro strap works:
The clip that joins the shoulder straps sits a bit low and is hard to reach. Not everyone would be affected by this, but if you cannot reach then you will not be able to put the carrier on by yourself.
With a max weight of 33lbs this gives you a lot less growing room than the other carriers on the list. If you are unlikely to be carrying around a 30lb+ baby then it will not affect you.
It will limit that longevity of use if you plan on babywearing for years into the future.
There is a newborn insert that can be purchased separately if you wish to use with an infant.
- Adjustable bucket seat
- Accommodates front carry position
- Includes built-in babyhood
- Lower weight limit at 33lbs
- Newborn insert sold separately
- Shoulder clip sits low
The Lillebaby Ergonomic has attempted to provide an additional level of support for your lower back with a uniquely shaped lumbar support that rests on your spine at the back of the waist strap.
When you combine this with the option to wear those shoulder straps in a cross position, or the standard H position. This gives you options to make sure the fit is comfortable with your body type.
You get the best of both worlds on the issue of ventilation with the outer layer of the structure being removable when the weather is warmer.
The seat can be adjusted to fit an infant as small as 7lbs, without the need to purchase a separate insert. This is a cost saver and also removes what can be a bit of an annoyance as a buyer.
Adding in the possibility of six different carrying positions the Lillebaby definitely takes out the prize for being the most versatile carrier on the list.
- Unique lumbar support
- Up to six carrying positions
- Breathable mesh panels
- Mesh can be a bit rough on the skin
- Can be complex to move into some positions
The Onya Infant to Toddler bundle makes the list due to the clever design and multi-functionality.
A transformer like transition allows you to turn the baby carrier into a mobile high chair equivalent no matter where you are.
The following product demonstration shows you how:
The carrier comes with a bundle including an infant insert which enables use with a newborn. This broadens the recommended weight range from 7lbs to 45lbs and will allow many years of use.
With a non-rip nylon body, you can be sure that the carrier will stand up to those years of use. The strength and quality of the build is exceptional.
The inclusion of organic teething pads in the bundle is a handy extra.
My little one continually nibbles on whatever is within reach while in the seat and so having that added protection ensures that you have a clean and removable bit of fabric to cop the punishment – not the carrier frame itself.
The nylon material does not breathe as well as some of the other carriers on our list. So this is another one that will not be as suited to warmer climates.
Unfortunately, the trade off for the additional functionality is that it is not as user friendly. Lots of buckles and straps that make it harder to get the right fit if you are transferring between users often.
- Can be used as a mobile baby seat
- Very strong material
- The Chewy is awesome
- Infant insert included
- Not as much ventilation in baby seat
- Design a bit more complex
Baby Carrier Assessment Criteria
When reviewing these products we have concentrated on the following elements to determine what represents quality and value for money.
By understanding these elements you will best be able to find that carrier that matches your needs.
All soft-structured baby carriers can be worn on the front with the baby facing in. Some may also offer a back-carry option which can be handy as your baby gets older and stronger.
If you have a fussy baby that likes a bit more variety some designs will allow for front facing and hip carrying options.
This can give your baby a change of scenery and also mix up the pressure points on your body if you are putting in a long day wearing your baby.
Accessories like an infant insert will also be available with some brands, like the… This can broaden the possible use of your carrier further.
The further down the price scale you go the more you compromise your own and your baby’s comfort.
There are some decent budget baby carriers out there, but we have chosen to prioritize ergonomics and the comfort of your baby when finalizing this list.
If you plan on more than casual use then investing a bit more upfront will provide a more pleasant experience long term. Plus you will have greater longevity in your carrier with higher quality materials.
Age And Weight Range
Unless there is an infant insert option with the design, everything on this list is intended for babies about six months and older.
This should ensure that neck strength is appropriate for this style of carrier.
Again the longevity you may get to use your carrier will come down to the quality and capacity of the carrier.
A higher priced carrier is likely to get you far more for your money in the long run.
Especially if you are physically up to carrying a larger toddler.
Ergonomics And Comfort
The weight of your baby can lead to sore shoulder blade and back pain if you do not achieve the optimal distribution across your frame.
We have looked for carriers that are evenly balances and adaptable to fit a range of sizes without.
The shape of your baby while seated is also important to ensure a happy and cooperative baby. Which also means a happier time for you.
It is good practice to have a well supported “M” shape position so that there is no pressure placed on the baby’s legs and hips.
No one likes a screaming baby in their face or ear so a comfortable seat was high on our list.
Ease Of Use
Soft-structured carriers are amongst the easiest to use and are very intuitive. No complicated knots or straps to master before you can get the baby inside.
All of the models included on this list are usable straight out of the box with a simple clip and strap adjustment once your get your shoulders in.
They are almost idiot proof! Which means Dad can use them too 🙂
Speaking of Dad, the simplicity of the adjusting straps will also be important so that you can quickly go from Mom size to Dad size if need be.
The soft-structured design in most cases really envelopes your baby in place. So the risk of an accident is very low as long as you are standing upright and have stable feet.
The only real risk is that you slip and fall. Which is not really the carriers fault….
A tight fit with minimal room for the baby to move around will ensure stability and would also be less taxing on your body.
It is very common for new parents to buy multiple baby carriers when trying to find one that works for them.
There is a false economy trap that many fall when trying to save some money upfront by going too cheap.
Everything that made our list of soft structured carriers is at the mid to high end of the market. But over the long run, the higher upfront cost allows you to buy once if you buy well.
This can be a big money saver and will provide you with the best babywearing experience from day one.
When making a larger investment it is important to only pay for features you want, and discarding those you don’t.
So I hope our list has been a time saver for you and can help you get that decision right the first time.