Knowing that all carriers are technically safe, choosing the best one comes down to your lifestyle, budget, body, and — of course — your baby.
The following carriers get good marks from caregivers we consulted and in reviews for:
- being easy to use
- adaptable to different needs and carrying positions
Rest assured, these carriers have also been vetted by a team of medical experts. There are no current safety recalls or other issues with product integrity you’ll need to worry about. The companies that manufacture these carriers have put their products through testing to meet industry standards.
That said, there are some limitations to this list because reviews are subjective and may reflect opinions that you might not necessarily share. Still, we hope our picks will give you a good starting point for finding the carrier that’s ideal for you and your precious cargo!
Mission Critical S.01 Action Baby Carrier, Mission Critical Store
Ergobaby Omni 360 All-Position Baby Carrier Ergobaby Store
LÍLLÉbaby Complete All Seasons Ergonomic 6-in-1 Baby LILLEbaby Store
Osprey Poco Child Carrier Backpack Osprey Store
ClevrPlus Cross Country Baby Backpack ClevrPlus Store
In short: No. You don’t have to use a baby carrier with your infant.
In fact, most items you’ll see on registries aren’t absolute must-haves. A baby carrier is in the could-be-nice category. Some parents may do well without it. That said, others cannot see living life any other way.
For this reason, you may want to check around to see if your area has any local babywearing groups. You may be able to try out different carriers for free with the group’s loan program.
There are definitely pros when it comes to using a baby carrier:
- Allows your hands to be free. You’re able to do anything from washing dishes to caring for other children.
- Is an alternative to a stroller. If you’re small on space in your home/car or if taking a stroller doesn’t make sense at your destination, having a carrier can be beneficial.
- Gives your baby or toddler a convenient seat. This can be helpful if you’re out to eat or somewhere else where you might not have access to a high chair.
- May help to soothe baby. A very dated study from the 1980s showed that babies who are carried more, fuss and cry 43 percent less than infants who are carried mainly for feeding and when they cry in the first 3 months. A baby carrier may make this easier, though it’s not necessary.
- Allows for exercise. You have peace of mind while you’re walking or doing low-impact aerobics that baby is close and comfortable.
- Lets you breastfeed on the go. Some carriers, like ring slings, are particularly easy to figure out, but you can find a way to breastfeed in most carriers with enough practice.
When you’re shopping, try to remember to look for key features that make sense for your family’s needs.
These might include:
- Baby’s weight. Some carriers are made for the tiniest babies. Others are made for toddlers and preschoolers. Some help span the range by offering options to grow with your child. When shopping, remember your baby’s size and that they’ll likely grow quickly in the first year. Some carriers may require a special infant insert for smaller babies.
- Preferred carry position. Some carriers allow for just one way to carry baby. Others are adjustable or made for multiple carry positions. If adaptability is important to you, consider buying a carrier that will move and groove with you.
- Ease of cleaning. Babies spit up, have blowouts, and can otherwise make a mess of things. Try finding a carrier that you can easily wash in your washing machine. Alternatively, you may consider purchasing drool pads and other covers that you can secure around the dirtied areas and remove for easy cleaning.
- Budget. While certain brands or patterns may be hard to pass up, you don’t need to go broke buying a baby carrier. Keep your budget in mind. And if you can’t get what you want new at the store, try a local secondhand baby shop or borrowing/buying from a friend.
- Hip-friendly design. It’s important to choose a carrier that allows baby’s hips and knees to sit in an ergonomic “M” position to promote healthy development.
- Safety tag. Again, sling carriers that have been tested for safety will include a tag with that associated information. You may run across vintage or homemade carriers if you’re looking secondhand. Be careful when considering these choices. Safety standards are continually changing, so getting a more current carrier may be the safest option. And be sure to examine every carrier closely to make sure everything is in working order.
In addition to purchasing a safe carrier, it’s also important that you follow all instructions for usage. Injuries related to baby carrier use do happen, and babywearing products can lead to a greater risk of injury and hospitalizations in children under age 1. Check for the correct sizing, selection, and wear of your baby carrier to reduce risk of injury.
How long can I wear my baby in a carrier?
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to the weight/age that is appropriate for use in your carrier. Each baby carrier is different. If you find your carrier secondhand, look up the specs online before use.
As far as how long each day you can wear your baby, there is no set standard. It’s really up to you and your little one. Genevieve Howland, a doula and childbirth educator at the blog Mama Natural explains that as long as your carrier “supports healthy positioning, you can continue to wear [your child] for as long during the day as you are both comfortable.”
When can a baby face forward in a carrier?
Before anything else, make sure your carrier is intended to be used in a face-forward (or outward-facing) position. Again, all carriers are different. For example, the Mission Critical carrier may not be suitable until 12 months old, as babies need to be able to face forward without the carrier obstructing their mouths.
Other manufacturers, like Ergobaby, share that babies need to be between 4 and 6 months old and have good head control before facing forward in carriers. When in doubt, consult your child’s pediatrician.
Can newborns use baby carriers?
Some carriers are appropriate to use from birth. Others come with newborn inserts that allow you to use them with newborns. Others, like hiking backpacks, may not be suitable until your child has head control. Read your instructions to find this information.
How do I know if my baby is in a safe position?
There’s a helpful acronym — TICKS — that can help you determine if you are carrying your baby safely.
- Tight. Your baby should be snug against your body with no loose fabric or opportunity for slouching.
- In view at all times. You should be easily able to see your baby’s face/mouth to see if they’re breathing and not experiencing an obstruction.
- Close enough to kiss. You should be able to easily bend your chin down and kiss the top of your baby’s head.
- Keep off the chest. Your baby should not have their head tucked onto their chest (may restrict breathing).
- Supported back. Your baby should be worn close enough to maintain their natural spinal position — no slouching/slumping.
Trend or no trend, babywearing is here to stay. And, really, it’s a win-win situation. Your baby gets all the closeness and cuddles. You get both of your hands free to get stuff done, work out, or explore the world.
So if toting around your baby sounds like something you’d like to try — consider borrowing a friend’s carrier for a day or two. You may not find the right fit at first, but — in time — you’re sure to find one that works for you and your family.