The soft structured baby carrier is the most common method of baby wearing due to the user friendly designs and ease of use straight out of the box.
Designs incorporate convenient and versatile features, and multiple wearing positions that allow you to use whatever is most suited to your baby’s growth stage.
Similar to a backpack in design, these carriers can often be worn on the front and back, and are easy to fasten with buckles on the shoulder straps and waistband.
When you consider the toll that baby wearing can take on your body, the soft structured carrier is the best out of the box solution that will provide sound ergonomics that minimize the strain on your body.
All while ensuring maximum comfort and safety for your baby.
Soft Structured Carrier Comparison
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 options out there (check this post), 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.
In all models included on this list they 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.
Best Soft Structured Baby Carriers
The Boba 4G is our top pick due to the diverse functionality of the carrier's design, and quality of the materials used.
You can use the carrier with a child as small as 7 lbs due to the integrated infant insert, and the main carrier can accommodate up to 45 lbs. This alone enables the carrier to see you through your whole baby wearing experience from start to finish.
This makes it excellent value for money in our eyes.
We did not experience any deterioration in the fabric and stitching around the baby seat over a solid 12 months of use.
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. Whereas with a wrap I was able to feed him while i was walking.
The seat has been comfy enough for my two year old to sleep while on the move. He is generally a good sleeper though and loves being in the carrier.
I am only 5ft tall and found the size of the soft frame to be manageable for me, but it is bulkier than other carriers that we tested. I have had trouble with other carriers feeling a bit awkward, but the weight distribution on my hips and shoulders always felt comfortable.
While this did not make it hard to carry, you do have to have a baby that enjoys the enclosed space for it to work.
The big drawback to the enclosed space is when you are in a warmer climate it will be uncomfortable. We spent some time in a warmer tropical climate and we just couldn't use this carrier for any length of time.
You cannot carry your baby facing outward with the Boba. This never bothered me as my Son would become too restless in that position.... He would want to run!
The Tula has some subtle improvements in the design that improve the comfort and safety and will overall provide a slightly better experience than the Boba 4G.
You will achieve optimal ergonomic positioning for your child courtesy of a carefully designed and near perfect sitting position of your baby.
This natural sitting position reduces the tension on your back and shoulders and again should deliver a slightly more enjoyable experience than the Boba.
So why do we have Boba as our top pick? It mostly came down to price.
Unless you have a sensitive baby, or really plan to use your carrier a lot we found that the additional cost was a nice to have, but not a must. At least for our circumstances anyway.
If you have the budget and want the best experience then the Tula is an upgrade and a worthwhile one if that is what you want.
A small word of caution. The Tula is available in two sizes; Baby and Toddler.
The toddler version can hold up to a massive 60lbs. This gives you an indication for the quality of the material.
This may be overkill for your needs though and the cheaper Baby model still holds 45lbs which is comparable to the Boba - and can be found for a comparable price.
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 and this topped our list of carriers that have this style of design.
A big differentiator is the velcro waist band. This allows you to adjust this very easily to fit your frame without having to deal with buckles.
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.
Check out the demonstration below so you can see how this velcro strap works:
There are some limitations to the 360 model which can hurt the user experience.
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 if you do plan on baby wearing for years into the future.
There is a newborn insert especially designed for this carrier, but this is a separate purchase.
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.
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 makes it harder to get the right fit if you are transferring between users often.
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 baby wearing 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 first time.