Finding the best baby carrier can be a godsend for busy parents, allowing you to keep your little one snug and close while you use your hands for other things. They also give you the freedom to go to places that a buggy can’t.
Most parents claim that baby carriers are their favourite baby product. When choosing a baby carrier, there are a few things to consider to find the right one for you. We break down the different types of baby carrier and give you 8 of the best for you to choose from.
What is the best type of baby carrier?
There are three main types of baby carriers that parents swear by:
- Sling baby carriers: As opposed to a traditional, structured carrier, sling carriers are wraps made with super-long pieces of fabric which keep you and the baby closer. They are lighter than regular carriers and have a more natural philosophy, look and feel. A lot of parents swear by their sling carriers and you can read our guide to the best baby slings.
- Traditional baby carriers: A "traditional" baby carrier will have a structured waist and padded shoulder straps and can be fastened with buckles or straps. It can conveniently convert into multiple seating positions (front, back, and hip).
- Backpack baby carriers: These are an upgrade of the traditional baby carrier, suitable for babies six months and onwards. They're structured like a hiker's backpack, offering great back support so you can take your child on big adventures on your back. If you like travelling and hiking, or if your day consists of a lot of walking, a backpack baby carrier can prove extremely helpful. Read our guide to the best baby carrier backpacks.
While others prefer traditional baby carriers, others swear by slings, so the best one for you and your baby really depends on your personal preferences or needs. Baby carriers are usually age-specific –some are designed to cater to children from newborn and up, while others are only for toddlers– so before buying one, make sure that your baby fits the age range required.
If you’re not sure what kind of baby carrier you need, some areas have baby carrier libraries that allow you to borrow a carrier for a couple of weeks for a small charge. They also run advice workshops on sling-wearing, which could be well worth checking out before parting with your cash.
What are the best baby carriers to buy?
See below 8 of the best baby carriers, traditional, backpack, and sling, so you can find the right one for you.
The Best Baby Carriers UK
The ease and comfort of using this carrier on both the front and the back positions are second-to-none. Although it’s not designed for newborns, it’s suitable for babies from six months onwards in the front-facing position, and from eight months on the back. It folds away into a small bag so it's portable, and it's light too.
Any downsides? It only comes in one colour. Yep, that’s pretty much the worst our testers could find to say about it. No wonder it won the Mother & Baby Awards 2018 Best Carrier/Sling award.
This baby carrier has a high-comfort factor, with our testers commenting on the thick straps and padding around baby’s joints. It’s also machine washable and is suitable for babies from 3.2kg and up. It won the bronze prize in the Mother & Baby awards 2018 Best Carrier/Sling category.
Any downsides? The instructions are little hard to follow, our mum testers recommended finding YouTube videos to help instead.
This has four ergonomic wearing positions: parent facing, on the back, on the hip, and on the front but facing forwards. The ‘cool air mesh feature’ helps parent and baby stay cool in hot weather thanks to the breathable material.
Any downsides? Our testers pointed out that you need to buy a newborn insert separately.
Baby Björn are pioneers in infant carrying, so you know you’re in safe hands. This model is developed with pediatricians and approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI). It’s machine washable and is suitable from birth due until around three years.
Any downsides? It’s at the pricier end of the scale.
Mother & Baby testers report that the Izmi baby carrier is very simple to use and the instructions are a breeze to follow. It is also easy to clean as it's made from fabric and can just be put in the washing machine. It’s also endorsed by the IHDI. You can carry your baby in four positions: front, outward facing, hip and back.
Any downsides? Our testers reported it was quite tricky to put the baby into the back position if you’re on your own.
This is a very reasonably priced carrier. Our testers liked that you put it on like a t-shirt, meaning there is no need for an extra pair of hands or complex instructions. Your baby can face inward or outward.
Any downsides? It’s only suitable until age six months.
Best Baby Carrier Backpacks
One for serious adventurers, weight is distributed equally in this carrier, avoiding any strain on mum. It’s lightweight at 1.9kg and has snack storage space. It’s designed so that it stands alone on the floor for you to safely put your child inside and lift it to put on your back. Suitable from six months onwards, it was awarded the Mother & Baby Awards 2018 silver Carrier/Sling award.
Any downsides? You need to buy a sunshade separately.
Best Baby Carrier Sling
This is a multi-use wrap sling which works from when your little one is a newborn baby and later on when they get to the toddler stage too. With this product, you can only carry your baby in one position but weight is well-distributed across the back and shoulders. It's highly recommended for newborns and for mums after a C-section.
Any downsides? Limited positions for your little one.
Couldn't find what you were looking for? Check out our articles on best baby carrier backpacks and best baby slings.
Safety tips for wearing a baby carrier
Follow ‘TICKS’ checklist: The British Association of BabyWearing Instructors offers guidelines about safe babywearing. They recommend following the ‘TICKS’ checklist, developed by the Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers. "Your baby should be in a position where he is close enough to kiss by tipping your head forward, and he should never be curled so his chin is pressed on to his chest as this can restrict breathing," explains NCT’s senior policy adviser Rosie Dodds.
Don’t use loose fabric: While you might think that loose fabric on a sling would be comfortable for your baby, it can "allow your baby to slump down which can hinder his breathing," says Rosie. Instead, make sure you can always see your baby’s face when you glance down but that the sling is tight enough to hug him close.
Check the weight guidelines: Double-check the weight guidelines on each sling you consider buying as it’s not a case of one-size-fits-all. Then adjust it every time you wear it, especially if other people are wearing the sling too.
Don’t zip up your coat over your baby: Even when it’s cold out, refrain from zipping up your coat to cover your baby as it can put them at risk of suffocating. Providing they're wearing enough clothing, they'll be cosy enough –and your own body heat will keep them warm.
Wear your baby high up: The higher up on the body your baby is, the easier the sling will be on your back. Similarly, the closer they are to your face, the better you can monitor their behaviour and wellbeing.
Don’t forget their head: A newborn baby’s head always needs support. Whether you’re carrying them or wearing your baby in a sling, make sure to support the head and keep an eye on it. Don’t let your baby slump. While babies will naturally gravitate towards a slight C shape in a sling, try and keep their spine as straight as possible. "Carrying him upright with his hips and legs in the ‘M’ position is likely to be safest and is most suitable for his developing hips and spine," Rosie from NCT explains.
Make sure baby is wearing the right kind of clothes: Could the baby be too hot? Think about the sort of clothes your baby is wearing as the weather gets warmer. You wouldn’t like being stuffed up and swaddled inside excess fabrics either. If you're hot, chances are your baby is too.
Don’t let your baby’s legs dangle: Your baby could be at risk of developing hip dysplasia if their legs dangle. Instead, they should be in a frog stance where their bottom and hamstrings are supported by the sling. Also, look out for products that are endorsed by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI).
Find the right one for you: If your baby is resisting the one you’ve bought, it might just mean that you'll need to try a different type. Thankfully there are plenty of options.
Find the correct position: Safety experts recommend that the baby is facing the parents in a carrier from newborn to 6 months. When your baby can hold their head up, they can then be moved to the forward-facing position as this position is great for development, allowing baby to explore the world and be stimulated by its surroundings.
Don't keep a newborn in a carrier too long: Just as you wouldn't like to be stuck in the same position for hours, newborns should have their positions changed often. Regularly check that your baby’s hips, head, neck, and back are well-supported and that their arms and legs can move freely.
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