The world of baby carriers is confusing – especially when you’re just starting out. Here at CarryingBabies, we want to make things as simple as possible by helping you answer the question of how to choose a baby carrier. Below, we’ve outlined the five main types of baby carriers – wraps, slings, pouches, soft structured carriers, and mei tais. First, however, there are some considerations to take into account when you’re choosing a carrier to suit you and your baby, such as:
Who will be using the carrier?
Will it just be you, 100% of the time? If there are multiple caregivers, you probably want to look at something that’s either a tie-up carrier (see woven wrap, mei tai) or easily adjustable (see soft structured carrier).
How long do you plan to babywear?
It pays to look at whether you only want something to get you through those first couple of months at home with your newborn (see stretchy wraps and pouch slings), or whether you want something that’s built to last your baby as they grow (see woven wraps, mei tais and soft structured carriers).
What is your budget?
Baby carriers can be expensive, but many of them are designed to last your baby right up until they reach preschool age (and in some cases, beyond). The more affordable pouches and stretchy wraps are perfect for those who want to wear for a short time. For the “investment” wraps, for approximately 3 years of fewer tantrums, easier travelling, and happier, more content babies, we think that’s money VERY well spent!
Also called: woven wrap, stretchy wrap, baby wrap
There are two types of wraps – woven and stretchy.
Stretchy wraps are made from a soft jersey or fleece fabric, and usually come in one size fits all. They are best with babies 6 months and under, though if you have a particularly heavy baby, you may not even make it to 4 months before you want to switch to something with a bit more support. With stretchy wraps we also recommend you only use front carry, and adjust for nursing as needed. Back carry is not recommended for stretchy wraps.
Advantages: Very comfortable and excellent for beginners, tying methods are limited but you can pre-tie them to get your baby in and out more easily.
Disadvantages: These tend to have a lot of fabric, so if you live in a warmer climate, you will probably find a stretchy wrap to be too hot to wear. Recommended up to 15kgs by most manufacturers, but from experience we can say you’ll want to switch when your baby is around 7-8kgs (approximately 17-18lbs).
BEST FOR: newborns & smaller babies
Woven wraps are the most versatile baby carrier you can own. There are a number of ways you can tie them, so you can find a method that suits you and your baby best. They can be used for every size baby from preemie through to a sleepy 4 year old whose legs are too tired to walk! They come in a variety of lengths, but the most common is around 4.5m. You can carry your baby on your front, hip, or back, and there are also carries that allow you to breastfeed (for those times when you want to be a straight-up rockstar parent).
Brand examples: Ellaroo
Advantages: You can do just about anything with a woven wrap, from wearing a premature baby, all the way up to wearing a near school aged child (back carry, naturally). The beautiful patterns are strangely addictive (master this type of carrier, and you WILL end up with more than one, just wait), and because you tie it, it will fit you perfectly every time.
Disadvantages: Has a bigger learning curve than any other carrier and requires more practice to find a type of hold that suits you best. However, we would urge you to stick with it – woven wraps are well worth the effort for their durability, versatility, and all-round awesomeness.
BEST FOR: all-round babywearing
Also called: ring sling, baby sling
Brand Examples: Ellaroo
Slings, or ring slings, are a more modernised version of the baby carriers traditionally used in cultures in Indonesia and Mexico. It’s a one-shoulder carry, pieced together with a pair of nylon or metal rings, and baby can be worn on your front, hip, and (for toddlers only) back. Easily adjustable, this carrier is quite a bit easier to use than a woven wrap, but still has a bit of a learning curve.
Advantages: the long tail of the sling can be used as a nursing cover, sun shade, emergency rain shield, or even a light blanket. It’s quick to put on, great for breastfeeding, and quick to adjust.
Disadvantages: You don’t have a lot of options with different holds, it’s not great for people with back or shoulder problems (due to the one-shoulder carry), and the ‘tail’ can be annoying for some people.
BEST FOR: people who need a fast on/off; who want to breastfeed ‘on the go’
Soft Structured Carrier
Also called: buckle carrier, SSC, baby carrier
Brand Examples: Patapum, Ergo baby
Structured carriers are probably the easiest, most user-friendly baby carrier on the market today. Because they have buckles, there’s little to no learning curve, they’re super easy to adjust (ever had a backpack? It’s the same principle) and they are really popular with dads as well. You can use them with newborns (some may require a special insert), right through to pre-school age children.
Advantages: Comfortable for longer carries with heavier children, great for beginners, feel very secure, widely available.
Disadvantages: Not as cosy, buckles and padding can feel very bulky (especially for petite people), too large to throw in nappy bag, newborn inserts can be cumbersome, don’t adjust easily for breastfeeding.
BEST FOR: beginners, reluctant babywearers, heavier children, people who don’t have the time/desire to learn how to tie a woven wrap.
Also called: baby pouch, pouch sling
Brand Examples: Hotslings
Pouches are extremely portable baby carriers that are suitable for newborns through to toddler age. You can cradle a newborn or hold a toddler on your hip with ease with a pouch sling – no adjusting required!
Advantages: Very easy to use, fast on/off, they look great and pack up small so you can carry them around easily.
Disadvantages: Sizes matter – you will need to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the appropriate size for you, because these slings do not adjust. They also have fewer carry positions, and because of the one-shouldered design, are not well-suited to longer carries, particularly with heavier babies.
BEST FOR: fussy toddlers, shorter carries or newborns, taking anywhere
Pronounced “may tie”, the mei tai carrier has been used for centuries by mothers in Asia. It resembles a soft structured buckle carrier, but with ties in place of the buckles. The straps are often very wide, to provide extra comfort for the wearer, and they come in a range of gorgeous designs (again, dangerously addictive). They’re perfect for wearing while doing housework, or for longer carries, as they are built to be comfortable for longer.
Advantages: provides a custom fit every time, many carrying positions, easy to learn, suitable for all age groups, easily adjustable & shareable amongst caregivers, very comfortable
Disadvantages: Knot tying can feel less secure for beginners, can be frustrating for toddlers who want quick on/off options, long straps can be cumbersome
BEST FOR: all-round babywearing