Many parents end up buying multiple carriers before they find the right one. While you can do this cheaply, this guide will show you how to choose a baby carrier right the first time!
Follow our 7 step process that will help you understand what type of baby carrier styles will support your intended use, essential features, how you will use it, and most importantly whether it fits within your budget.
In This Post:
Baby Carrier Quality vs Cost
Before start going through our tips to help you choose a baby carrier, we wanted to first provide some guidance on how much each carrier will cost (before you get carried away!).
We always recommend the mid to high priced carrier models due to the following reasons:
- The more you spend the more durable the design usually is (potentially lasting years!).
- Ergonomics improve in better quality carriers, minimizing the chance of injury when you babywear frequently.
- More features and accessories.
The babywearing experience will improve considerably if you spend more upfront. But there are plenty of great value options in the mid-priced range as per the table below:
|Baby Carrier Design||Low||Mid||High|
|Soft Structured Carrier||$20-$80||$80-$150||$150-$220|
|Hip Seat Carrier||$35-$60||$60-$150||$150-$250|
7 Steps to Choosing The Right Baby Carrier
1. Baby’s Weight and Size
The age you plan to start babywearing will dictate what design categories you can use.
Generally speaking, wraps and slings are more suitable for newborns and smaller babies due to the extra support they offer and lower weight capacity.
Most structured carriers cannot be used until four months of age unless you use an infant insert. The trade-off is that the weight capacity is higher and can be used for many years to come.
There are exceptions to the rule but as a general guide the following are most suitable:
- Newborn to infant: Baby wraps and ring slings
- Infants to toddler: Soft-structured carrier
2. Define Your Intended Use
If you plan on babywearing through a broad range of activities then a carrier with a versatile design will be a must!
The option to remove panels to expose mesh ventilation can turn an everyday carrier into a great hiking carrier.
Or perhaps the option to remove the shoulder straps when babywearing at home would be helpful – some hip seat carriers offer this feature.
Other specialty carriers have very specific uses. For example, a backpack hiking carrier are bulky and only suitable for outdoor use with older babies.
Some forethought into how you will use your carrier will help narrow down the design options you need to get the best use out of it.
- Everyday use: Soft-structured carriers, hip seat carriers, baby wraps, ring slings, mei tais
- Specialty use: Waterproof carriers, and hiking backpack carriers
An extension of this is the positions you plan to use with your baby. Some will be hands-free, and others will command more attention from your little one.
This is also heavily dependent on your baby’s stage of physical development and you want to be sure that the carrier you select is able to support the carry positions you want to use:
- Inward front carry: From birth
- Outward front carry: >4 months old
- Hip carry: >6 months old
- Back carry: >12 months old
3. Be Clear About Who Will Be Using It
If mom will be the only one who will use the carrier then something with a lower weight limit and a tighter fit could be more suitable.
A baby carrier that makes breastfeeding easy could also be part of your essential criteria.
Perhaps a more stylish pattern that matches mom’s wardrobe will influence the buying decision as well.
On the other hand, if the dad is going to be the primary babywearer then a heavy-duty carrier with a high weight limit and a more masculine pattern could be more desirable.
They may also be less inclined to go through the wrapping process and want more ease of use and convenience that some structure offers.
4. Short List Design Categories
After going through the first three steps you should be pretty clear on what style of carrier will be unsuitable, and by process of elimination, you should have a list of viable types of baby carriers.
If you have not yet done this, then here is a complete list of your carrier options so you can discard the ones you don’t want!
- Soft-structured carrier
- Baby wrap
- Ring sling
- Hip seat carrier
- Mei tai
- Waterproof carrier
- Hiking carrier
Now you are ready to look at individual baby carrier brands and models.
5. Identify Desired Baby Carrier Accessories
Now we get into the fun stuff – but it is easy to get carried away (refer back top pricing table above)!
Does your budget support everything you want? If not, then focus only on what you need! Here are the most common accessories available:
- Wide bottomed seat
- Straight shoulder straps or a crisscrossed across your back
- Extra lumbar support
- Teething pads
- Sunshade or head cover
- Storage pockets
- Cooler compartments (found mostly in hiking carriers)
- Removable panels (exposing breathable mesh)
- Key chains
- Water bottle holders
- Removable carry bag
Some carriers will not include the above items but will have them available as an additional purchase.
I like this idea as it means you don’t have to pay for what you will not use, and it also helps bargain hunters find hidden gems with generous inclusions if putting in more legwork when choosing a baby carrier.
6. Identify Choices Within Your Budget
Now for the sad part… Discarding the carriers you want but are outside your budget.
Hopefully, this gets you down to a couple of choices that you love without sacrificing any of the features you really wanted.
It is time to make a decision and buy!
7. Try Them Out!
This final tip can be done before or after you buy it. It is very common for parents to buy multiple carriers so they can find the one they will stick with for years.
Sound expensive? The good news is that the resale value of carriers is very good if they are in good condition.
You can simply list it online and sell it without much hassle. Think Ebay, Gumtree, or any number of local Facebook groups.
Baby Carrier Material
There are two important criteria here that will make your life much easier when managing this important piece of baby gear; 1. it is easy to clean, and 2. whether it is soft on the skin of your baby and comfortable on yours.
The type of material varies for each type of baby carrier so we will break this up into two main sections.
Almost all of the best structured carriers are made from either cotton, polyester, or a blend of both.
The material, along with the strength of the stitching in the design is what gives this type of carrier the strength and durability it has.
One important differentiator is whether the carrier model you are looking for is machine washable. A huge time saver when it inevitably gets vomited on, or generally messy.
The larger hiking carriers will not have this option and cleaning is a much more manual task!
Wraps & Slings
The best part about wraps and slings is that they are usually made from a single piece of fabric that is easy to throw in the washing machine.
Each type of fabric is also usually much softer and often delightful to touch! The most common examples are:
- 100% cotton
- Cotton and spandex blend (common in stretchy wraps)
- Lenzing modal (environmentally sustainable tree pulp-based material)
All of these materials will hug your body to various degrees and provide a snug and comfy fit.
Does Your Child Have Loose Hips
If a child has hip issues then frequent baby carriers can cause further deterioration in the quality of hip development if incorrectly positioned in the carrier.
Most soft structured carriers and baby wraps allow your child’s legs to sit externally to the frame, and the legs and hips to sit naturally in the hip-healthy M position.
However, some pouch ring sling designs encapsulate your baby allowing them to sit in a straight stretched out position, with their legs extended.
This places additional stress on the hip socket and increases the risk for abnormal hip issues to worsen over time.
You May Need Multiple Carriers
If multiple parents are using the carrier frequently then you may find it helpful to just buy two carriers.
The constant adjusting of the straps and waistband can be an annoyance at best, and a health risk at worse.
A poorly fitted carrier can cause back pain or other physical strains. If you are someone who falls into the habit of taking shortcuts the short-term expense may save you money in health bills in the future.
While this comprehensive guide to choosing a baby carrier will help you get the right one the first time, don’t be afraid to just go with your gut and pick one that you just love!
You can always sell it and continue your search if it doesn’t live up to expectations.
You may be carrying your baby for many years and selecting a carrier that works for you is one of the keys to longevity and capturing all of the wonderful benefits of babywearing.