Top Baby Slings and Carriers

baby carrier

Nothing beats a baby carrier when you want to get a few things done while still holding your little one close. There are many designs on the market, ranging from simple, unstructured wraps to highly engineered, harness-style carriers. No matter what style you prefer, it's helpful to know which models are popular with parents and reviewers alike.

Types of Baby Carriers and Slings

Baby carriers come in three main styles, although some options are a hybrid of more than one style:

  • Harness-style carriers - These very structured carriers can support the baby on the parent's front, back, or hip. They feature multiple adjustments to get the appropriate fit for both the adult and the baby.
  • Slings - These are unstructured fabric carriers that parents can wear in multiple ways. They can support an older baby on your hip or a newborn in a recumbent position.
  • Wraps - These carriers are more structured than a classic sling and typically include straps or fabric sections that go over the adult's shoulders and around the waist. The baby is supported in multiple positions by folds of fabric.

Top Five Baby Carriers

The best carrier for you will depend on personal preference; however, these models stand out in reviews.

Ergobaby 360

  • About $160
  • Up to 33 pounds
  • Harness-style carrier
  • Best for versatility and use with older babies

The Ergobaby 360 is the best selling baby carrier on Diapers.com, where it has more than 180 consumer reviews and a rating of 4.6 stars. It allows you to position the baby in four different ways: front facing in, front facing out, back facing in, and side facing in. Padded shoulder straps and an easy-adjust harness make this model comfortable for many adults while the baby is always in an ergonomically correct position. You can adjust the back panel to offer privacy for nursing on the go. This model, which comes in four neutral colors, is a great choice if you're looking for a carrier you can use throughout your baby's first couple of years.

Some petite reviewers comment that it is difficult to get a good fit with this carrier. It's also important to note that you need to purchase a separate infant insert for about $25 in order to use this model with babies younger than four months old. Additionally, many people struggled with taking the carrier off without assistance.

Baby K'Tan Active

  • About $60
  • Up to 35 pounds
  • Wrap carrier
  • Best if you want an affordable, user-friendly, wrap-style carrier

The Baby K'Tan Active won TheBump's 2015 Best of Baby Award for best wrap, mostly due to the fact that parents can easily put it on without tying complicated knots or tucking lots of fabric folds. In fact, Baby K'Tan boasts that you can slip this carrier on like any T-shirt. Folds of fabric support the baby and your back, making this a comfortable choice for both you and the little one. You can wear it with the baby in front facing you, making nursing discreet and easy. You can also wear older babies on your hip with the carrier distributing the weight across your shoulders. This model comes in three colors and five sizes.

One possible downfall of the Baby K'Tan is that it isn't one-size-fits-all. Fortunately, the website has a helpful sizing calculator to assist you in getting the perfect fit. Another potential issue is that this carrier isn't designed to let the baby face out. Curious older babies may find this frustrating, as they won't be able to get a good view of the outside world.

Beco Baby Gemini

  • About $150
  • Up to 35 pounds
  • Harness-style carrier
  • Best for parents who want an attractive carrier to use throughout baby's development

Ranking #1 on BabyGearLab's review of baby carriers on the market, the Beco Baby Gemini stands out for its attractive and practical design. It accommodates babies from birth through the toddler years without the need for extra inserts, and you can wear baby in front facing in or out, in back, and on your hip. It comes in several stylish color combinations and cool modern fabrics, making it a great choice if you want your carrier to look lovely and perform well. This model is one-size-fits-most.

This is one of the most expensive carriers on the market, which may be a major drawback for some families. It also has a complicated safety buckle system that requires two hands to operate. This isn't always practical when you're trying to get a baby in and out of the carrier.

Líllébaby COMPLETE All Seasons

  • About $140
  • Up to 45 pounds
  • Hybrid wrap and harness-style carrier
  • Best for ultimate comfort in multiple positions and long-term use

The Líllébaby COMPLETE All Seasons won TheBump's 2015 Best of Baby Award in the category of most comfortable carrier. In addition to its parent-friendly, ergonomic design, you can zip or unzip panels to control the temperature. This model works from infancy and accommodates older children as well. You can use it in six different positions, including a special fetal position that allows newborns to tuck their legs up. It also includes a number of handy features like pockets, a sleeping and nursing hood, extendable shoulder straps for taller parents, and an adjustable baby seat. It fits most adults, and there are waist extenders you can buy as well.

Reviewers on Amazon.com loved this product, but there were a few minor complaints. One especially thin reviewer noted that the carrier straps could not adjust to give her adequate support. Another complained that the mesh material in the temperature control panels was too rough and irritated the baby's skin.

Balboa Baby Four Position Sling

  • About $60
  • Up to 25 pounds
  • Sling
  • Best sling-style carrier

The Balboa Baby Four Position Sling is the best-selling sling-style carrier at Target, where reviewers have given it almost five stars. This simple design features a cozy compartment for baby, padded sides, and an adjustable shoulder buckle for adults. It folds up into a compact package that's easy to toss in a diaper bag or stroller basket, and it's easy to adjust for older babies. It fits any size of adult and comes in several different colors and patterns.

Reviewers noted that this is the only carrier some babies will tolerate, but they had concerns about the security of the sling. Some also felt that this carrier offered minimal back support for the adult.

Choosing the Best Carrier

Although great reviews and positive consumer ratings can help you choose a great product, the best baby carrier for you also comes down to personal preference. Keep these tips in mind as you decide which one is your top choice.

Know Who Will Wear It

Who will be wearing the baby in this carrier? Will both parents need to use it?

  • If more than one person will use the carrier, it's best to purchase a model that is one-size-fits-all. While the Baby K'Tan Active is especially comfortable, most families would need to buy two of this individually-sized option to allow both parents to wear the baby.
  • If one or both parents are petite or tall, it's important to keep this in mind when choosing. Some models, like the Ergobaby 360, may not be ideal for smaller adults.
  • If parents, grandparents, or other care givers have back problems or health issues, you may want to try the carrier on before buying. Even the best designs can put some strain on your back, but there is likely to be a model out there that will work. Avoid slings, since they don't have the back support of other options.

Think About Baby's Age

Just as the adult's size matters in the fit of the carrier, the baby's size and age are also important considerations. Will you be using this carrier throughout baby's development? Will you need it for a newborn?

  • If you'll be using the carrier with a brand new baby, make sure you choose one that works for this age. Options like the Ergobaby 360 may also require an insert to properly support the littlest babies. The Líllébaby COMPLETE All Seasons may be a great option because it lets baby curl up in the familiar fetal position. Used safely, a sling may also be good for this age group, since it allows the baby to move in a natural position.
  • If you are planning to wear an older baby, choose a carrier that will allow the little one to see the world. Babies are curious and can get upset when the carrier doesn't allow them to face out. The Baby K'Tan Active and other wrap and sling styles may not be as useful when wearing an older baby.
  • If you are going to carry toddlers, choose a carrier that allows you to move the little one to your back or hip. Babies this age get heavy, and you need support for your body. Most carriers allow you to shift baby to one or both of these positions.

Important Safety Note About Slings

It's also important to note that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued new guidelines for sling safety in 2010 after reported infant deaths. Parents must ensure that the baby is facing upwards when in the sling and that the baby's face is visible. The CPSC also recommends that parents frequently check babies when using sling-style carriers.

Experience the Joy of Baby Wearing

No matter which carrier style you select, make sure you can return it if you don't like the fit. Every adult's body is different, and every baby has preferences about these things. The perfect carrier is out there, and with a bit of research, you'll be well on your way to experience the joy of wearing your little one.

Top Baby Slings and Carriers