Mother and Baby

The best baby carriers to keep your baby happy and your hands free

Section: Shopping Ideas
best baby carrier

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.

Which 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 some parents 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 suitable for newborns, 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 towns 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.

Which are the best baby carriers to buy?

See our shortlist of the best baby carriers - traditional, backpack, and sling - so you can find the right one for you.

Winner of the Silver M&B Award in the 2020 Best Baby Carrier/Sling category. Our mum tester Eliana said: "The material is lovely and soft - great for newborn skin. The size and head support are fully adjustable, which means the baby carrier is easy to adapt as your newborn grows. I really like the tape-measure section which helps you adjust it to your baby's size. It comes with clear instructions and you can also download this on the internet. It is reassuring that you have to hear the click noise to know you have locked the carrier securely. The main back support is easy to hook in which is important while you are supporting the baby. We found it easy to adjust the straps between myself and my husband who are over 8 inches different in height." 

This wrap was the Gold winner in the 2020 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling category. It is silky soft, breathable and eco-friendly, and worn by celebs such as Joe Wicks. Our mum tester Lindsey said: "I would highly recommend the FreeRider as it has been impeccably designed, from the beautiful pattern on the sling right down to the (sustainably sourced) packaging it comes in, which is a gift box in itself. The material is incredibly soft and strong which gives me confidence that my baby will be not only comfortable in it but safe too. It even comes with a little pouch to keep it clean and safe; it folds up perfectly to fit into my nappy changing bag."

The Beco 8 is a smart baby carrier with a built-in headrest and hood, and leg padding.The carrier has three ergonomic carry positions and straps that you can easily adjust. It won the Bronze Award in the 2020 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling category.

Our mum tester Nichola said: "I would recommend this product to fellow mums. The variety of features that it has makes this product really convenient and practical. It is really lightweight and very easy to use. The design of this product is great, especially having the option to adjust straps easily and also the seat width and waist belt. It even comes with a handy little padded cushion insert, providing extra height if needed."

Baby Tula is an award-winning brand which designs ergonomic carriers. This toddler carrier easily adjustable, and features a streamlined, taller, and wider design to improve comfort. This carrier won the 2019 Silver Best Baby Carrier/Sling M&B Award.

Mum tester Claire: said: "This product is a total lifesaver. I've always used a carrier, but I've never had a toddler sized one before. It makes life so much easier as I know that my son is guaranteed to fall asleep. It's really handy if we're going somewhere that it might be hard to take a buggy - e.g. the beach or a very crowded place. I can pop him easily on my front or back and carry him comfortably. I really love this carrier."

This all-in-one, newborn-ready Ergobaby Omni 360 carrier has several different carrying positions (forward-facing, backwards-facing, side-facing and backpack style). It takes you from week one to 20kg and has crossable straps to give you a personalised fit. This carrier also features lumbar support for back comfort.

It won the 2019 Bronze Best Baby Carrier/Sling M&B Award. Mum tester Amy said: "I have always struggled with babywearing, so was a little dubious when I discovered that I would be testing this. It's safe to say that I am completely converted. I have used the sling every week and it has been absolutely brilliant. I have used it for so many things, including - but not limited to, walking the dogs, trips to the nursery, at the airport and whilst on holiday. Additionally, we were able to utilise it for both girls - so could carry our three-year-old on our back when the baby was sleeping in the pushchair."

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.

Tested by mum Allana King; she said: "I wish I had discovered this product sooner! I would certainly recommend the Caboo DXgo to other mummies and daddies too (my husband is desperate to try the carrier out). Design is spot on, it’s easy to roll up and squeeze into the attached bag, allowing for it to be carried about with us. Also, the carrier was a lovely soft material that didn't stick or pull on my clothing, which has been a problem with other carriers that I've tried."

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 award in the Mother&Baby awards 2018 Best Carrier/Sling category

Tested by mum Kimberley Allanson; she said: "Despite the hefty price tag, I would recommend the Ergobaby Adapt Baby Carrier to a fellow mum. This is because of its comfort - my baby sat in the carrier without upset, and the way it is designed meant it didn't put any strain on my back or shoulders. This afforded us opportunity to walk for longer than when we had used other carriers. Being able to use it with baby facing forward or back is good too as we could keep trips out interesting and fun. Also regarding foldability - the carrier folds up nice and small meaning it is easy to transport."

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. This carrier was Shortlisted for the 2018 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling

Tested by mum Beata Jenner, who said: "The mesh design is great especially during the summer days, meaning your baby can't overheat and I love the fact it comes in different colours. The Ergobaby 360 Cool Air Baby Carrier is very practical and a lot smaller and easier to carry around than our previous carrier. The best element of this carrier for me as mum is the even weight distribution, this is thanks to the wide back strap and padded shoulder straps."

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. 

This Baby Björn carrier was Shortlisted in the 2015 and 2016 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling category. It was tested by mum AK Templer, who said: "I love the fact that Baby Bjorn brought out a ergonomically Baby Carrier and, like many mothers before me, started my baby-wearing journey with my first child with a old-style BB. I like the buckle fasting because it feels very secure although it does involve a bit of practice at first. It's great to see that you have different options regarding carrying babies/toddlers. The Newborn Zip helps you to have you baby in a higher position and the supportive neck straps and flap makes sure the head is supported too. For toddlers you can put them into a lower seat."

Any downsides? It’s at the pricier end of the scale.

The Best Baby Carrier for Newborns: 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. It was shortlisted in the 2018 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling category.

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. It was Shortlisted in the 2018 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling category.

Any downsides? It’s only suitable until age six months.

Best Baby Carrier for Hiking - 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.

Tested by mum Clare Smith, who said: "I would definitely recommend this product to anyone wanting a backpack carrier. It is designed so that it stands alone on the floor for you to safely lift your child inside, before putting it on your back. The carrier is lightweight, meaning no extra strain is placed on your back when transporting your child. I have found it easy to use and comfortable when carrying my son."

Any downsides? You need to buy a sunshade separately. 

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.

This wrap was Shortlisted in the 2016 M&B Awards Best Baby Carrier/Sling category. Mum tester Lucy Shaw said: "I really liked this wrap. Once I'd figured out the instructions (they were a bit long winded) it felt really comfortable and secure. I loved the material as I felt like she could breathe easily through it and it was really comfortable to wear. I liked the design too. The name on the front helped me to get it in the right position too."

Any downsides? Limited positions for your little one. 

Need more info? 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.

Which carrier do you use?Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

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  • Author: Sophie Knight Sophie Knight
  • Job Title: Contributing Editor

Sophie is a journalist and mum of one, and previously edited motherandbaby.co.uk before moving on to write about family cars for Parkers.co.uk - now Sophie is Commercial Content Editor for M&B, Closer, Heat, Empire, and WhatsTheBest.co.uk 

She is passionate about raising awareness around postnatal depression and is a Mental Health First Aider.

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