There are so many baby carriers out there these days, with baby wearing becoming very popular. So the question of how to choose a baby carrier is one that many are asking.
With the popularity of babywearing nowadays (and for good reason) there are now an abundance of options. But not all baby carriers will necessarily be suitable for you, personally – and not all baby carriers are created equal.
Some are more comfortable, some are more ergonomic, some are safer and some may or may not be suitable for the purpose and the specifications that you want.
How to Choose a Baby Carrier
Below are some of the top considerations to think about when choosing your baby carrier.
- Types of carriers
- Age/weight range
- Carrying Positions
- Suitability for newborns
- Hip health for baby
- Comfort for wearer
- Comfort for baby
- Safety for baby
- Extras, like sun hoods and pockets
OK let’s take a look at each of these and see what carriers might be the most suitable for your own personal situation.
Types of Carriers
There are many different types of carriers, like:
- Mai Tai Carriers
- Structured Carriers
- Hiking Carriers
To name the main ones.
For more on each of these types check out:
Which one you prefer will depend on a few things. Generally:
If you are happy to take the time to wrap up your little one, are good with things like that or are willing to take the time to learn, and want your baby as close as possible when you are carrying them, then wraps are a great option.
They’re also great if you are going to be taking your baby in and out all day and you are happy to leave the wrap tied around yourself. Makes it faster as you just have to wrap once in the morning. Not necessarily something you’ll want to do in the summer though!
Check out what we consider to be the best wraps:
Like wraps slings can keep you really close to your baby. And some are a little easier to put on than wraps.
But are limited in other ways, like more limited in terms of safe carrying positions.
Also, the rings (on ring slings) can become uncomfortable and there have been some safety concerns regarding slings too.
Mai Tai Carriers
Mai Tai Carriers are typically a little easier to use than wraps and slings (but still require some learning).
They also have the advantage of being able to carry baby on back, hip and front (depending on baby’s age).
You’re likely going to need more than one (i.e. need to get a different size once your baby is bigger) if you intend carrying your baby from newborn and well into toddlerhood. Also be careful to select a quality one as there some safety concerns with poorly sewn on straps.
Structured carriers, aka carriers, soft structured carriers, are typically the easiest to use, and depending on the model, are often the most versatile and convenient.
But there a lot of structured carriers going around and some are a lot better than others.
Watch out for carriers that don’t promote a hip healthy position for baby – aka Crotch Danglers!
Hiking carriers are more specialized and are more for bigger babies that you take on long hikes.
These carriers have a solid frame and are too bulky for day to day use, but are a great option for those that like to hike.
Different carriers are often suitable for different weight ranges.
So, if you’re looking for something that you want to be able to carry your baby right from newborn all the way into toddler hood, without having to change carriers, there are options for that.
But some carriers aren’t suitable for newborns, and others aren’t suitable for bigger babies/toddlers, so that’s something you need to look out for depending on your situation.
If you’re looking for a carrier for newborns, check out:
If your baby/toddler has outgrown their current carrier, or if you are just starting carrying and your baby is already bigger, then check out:
Some carriers offer more carry positions than others.
Some can give you up to 6 different positions including:
- Front Facing In (and often some variations on this depending on the size of your baby)
- Front Facing Out
- Hip Carry
- Back Carry
So, what carry positions you would like also comes into your decision. If you don’t think you’ll need a front facing out option, there are many carriers that don’t offer that, and if you’re OK with that, they might be otherwise perfectly suited.
Similarly, other carriers might not offer a hip or back carry option.
Depending on your preferences will depend on the carrier you go with.
Suitability for Newborns
People often buy, or are given carriers, that aren’t suitable for newborns. In this case, if you want to carry your newborn in a carrier, you sometimes need to get an infant insert (if that’s even possible for the carrier that you have).
So, if you’re on the hunt for a carrier that you want to be able to use for your newborn, make sure that it’s suitable.
It’s better to get a carrier that’s suitable for newborns without an insert as they can sometimes make it more cumbersome to use your carrier. And if its summer or you’re in a warmer climate, then they can make the carrier more stuffy.
Hip Health for Baby
This goes for any type of carrier.
You don’t want a carrier that is going to be bad for your babies hips – and be a possible cause of hip dysplasia.
The “M” position is considered the best position for your babies hips. This basically means that an “M” shape is created – which means that babies knees should be higher than their bottoms.
You want to avoid the dreaded Crotch Dangle where your babies legs basically just dangle almost straight down from their hips.
Comfort for Wearer
If you’re carrying your baby, especially for long periods, you want a carrier that is going to be comfortable.
There are few different considerations in terms of comfort, namely:
- Even weight distribution: A carrier that evenly distributes the weight over your shoulders, back and hips is much more comfortable and can be worn longer.
- Padding: The padding in the waist belt and shoulder straps really contribute to your comfort
- Placement of buckles etc: If buckles or rings are placed poorly, then they can dig into ribs, armpits and other parts that can be very uncomfortable.
- Adjustability/Size: If a carrier is too big or too small for your body type, you won’t be able to get it comfortable. A lot of carriers are highly adjustable to suit a range of wearers but if you’re outside the norms, it pays to look out for that.
Another thing that can make adjustability really valuable, is so that you can have one carrier that suits more than one person, so you only have to buy one carrier – e.g. one that will fit both mom and dad.
Comfort for Baby
Having a carrier that is comfortable for baby is very important. If baby isn’t happy in their carrier, then its not going to be much good.
So, some things to consider:
- The position that the carrier puts the baby in
- The padding around the where baby’s legs sit
- The softness of the material
- The type of material (e.g. is baby sensitive to certain materials)
Safety for Baby
The most important part of carrying your baby is that they are safe.
Check out the following to see all the things you should consider with regards to your baby’s safety in their carrier.
Some carriers are more or less suitable for different climates.
If you are in a really hot climate, then something like a wrap might get too hot – or even a structured carrier (especially with a newborn insert) without some kind of mesh material, might be too hot for you and baby.
Check out the following for the best options for different climates/seasons:
There a few extra considerations that you might have like:
- Pockets: Not usually a deal breaker, but having a built in pocket in your carrier for your keys, phone, spare diaper etc, can be really convenient.
- Sun/Sleeping Hood: Having a hood to keep sun off your baby or to provide a distraction free environment for sleeping, is a good thing to have, particularly for the summer or in climates where you see a lot of sun
- Adjustable Newborn Head Support: Particularly important if you are going to be carrying a baby that doesn’t yet have neck/head control. Is also handy to give head support for a sleeping baby, even if they do have that control.
There is a wide range of prices for carriers. You can expect to pay anything from $20 to $250.
Some won’t have the budget for the high end of the range.
But even if you have a low budget, try to make sure that you get a carrying option that is going to be safe for your baby and that promotes a good position for them to be carried in. Wraps are often the best choice for those on a low budget.
Baby wearing has so many benefits for both baby and caregiver. But there are a lot of things to consider when buying.
But learning how to choose a baby carrier that is going to suit you and your baby the best, will ensure that you get a carrier that will give you the maximum benefits of baby wearing.
Not all carriers will be suitable for you personally (even if they might have been great for friend), so it pays to think about the different things to make sure you get the one that is just right for you.