Best baby carriers: The best structured baby carriers, wraps, ring slings and papooses
The best baby carrier, also known as a papoose or sling, is one that is practical and comfortable for a crowded bus, a walk in the woods, or a trip to the shops, without having to struggle one-handed with a trolley or basket.A baby carrier is also a great way to keep your little one close when you need your hands free – whether that’s outside or around the house – and to lull them to sleep if they just refuse to nap anywhere but on you. READ NEXT: Best baby monitorUsing a baby carrier is great for your baby, too. Newborns love being close to you, and a baby carrier keeps them warm and cosy, close to the reassuring sound of your heartbeat; it’s almost like being back in the womb. If you’re breastfeeding, a baby carrier provides a convenient way to keep your child snuggled in the right position while you’re out and about.Here’s our pick of the best baby carriers around. And if you’re new to the market and wondering what makes the best baby carrier, check out our expert Buyer’s Guide.READ NEXT: Best prams, buggies and pushchairsOFFER ALERT: Amazon is offering a free Grocomforter from The Gro Company when you create a Baby Wish List and spend £10. The deal runs from midday on 1 November until either all the comforters are claimed, or midnight on 30 November – whichever comes first. To claim the free owl or penguin comforter, create an Amazon Baby Wish List and add eligible products from the Baby Store to this list.Buy now from AmazonHow to buy the best baby carrier for youBaby carriers fall into three categories: structured, wraps and ring slings. Read on to find out what sets these carrier types apart and decide on the best baby carrier type for you.1. Structured baby carriers: Just strap on and goThese baby carriers are like backpacks, usually made from technical or canvas materials and are adjusted with straps and buckles. They tend to appeal to active and pragmatic types who don’t want to spend time fiddling with wraps. Even though they often come with newborn inserts, or additional clips to keep the baby’s legs in the correct position, they’re actually often better suited to babies older than three months, who can support their own heads and look round.Structured carriers: Pros and consProsConsYou only have to adjust them onceLess suitable for very young babiesEasy to take on and offCan be expensiveLike a backpack, they’re clearly carriers, not a fashion statementBewildering array of different designsUsually offer a number of carrying positionsBaby can be lower in a back carry than in a stretchy wrap2. Stretchy wraps: Keep younger babies snuggled upStretchy baby carriers used to be associated with a certain middle-class stereotype, but that’s no longer the case. There are more stretchy baby carriers on the market than ever because more and more parents are realising how perfect these wraps are for newborns, plus babies who can’t yet support their own head.They offer a comfortable way to carry your newborn, and are often more comfortable for you too as they stretch and move with your body when compared to the more rigid body of the structured baby carriers. The downside is they don’t feel as secure as the rigid baby carrier models and that can take a little getting used to.Stretchy wraps: Pros and consProsConsSupport baby evenly all over his body and hold him close to yoursIt takes a bit of practice to master the tying upPromote closeness and bonding between parent and childKeep you warm in cool weather, as your baby acts like a little hot water bottleOffers front and back carriesEconomical3. Ring slings: Best for short-term carriesWorn on the shoulder with the fabric spread out like a fan, ring sling baby carriers are the showiest of the carriers and usually come in luxurious, patterned fabrics. They’re essentially one strip of material, like a wrap, but with a ring fastening the two ends together like a giant belt. The child fits into the pocket of the sling around your hip.READ NEXT: Best breast pumpsSome, like the Baba Sling, clip around your shoulder so the baby cradles into you similarly to how they would in a hammock. These have the added benefit of putting your baby in a more natural sleeping position so you can take the baby carrier off your shoulders and place your child down to sleep in one movement. Of course, many parents will attest it’s rarely that straightforward – and of course you need to make sure the material isn’t covering their face, and the baby is lying on its back. For more information about safe babywearing, scroll to the bottom of this article.Ring slings: Pros and consProsConsQuick to put on, once you’ve got the hang of adjusting itThe weight is all on one shoulder, so heavy children put a strain on itCan be tweaked to fit any body shapeTakes a bit of practice to get the hang of spreading the fabricCan be used from newborn up until toddlerCan only be used in one positionThe best baby carriers to buyBabyBjörn Original, BabyBjörn One and BabyBjörn Air: The best baby carriers for newborn to toddlerPrice when reviewed: £64.99 (Original), £119.99 (One), £144.99 (One Air) Launched in 1961, the BabyBjörn baby carrier remains the most popular carrier on the market and for good reason. They’re comfortable, stylish and incredibly easy to use. In fact there’s now a range of carriers to choose from based on you and your baby’s needs. The original BabyBjörn is perfect for your baby’s first few months. As they grow, the BabyBjörn One baby carrier adds an outward-facing option, with quick-release buckles and mesh fabric panels to help keep everybody cool. The BabyBjörn One Air baby carrier is an even lighter model made almost entirely from mesh fabric – this makes it the perfect option for summer, as it’s breathable structure helps keep you and your baby cooler. More recently, the company added a BabyBjörn Mini Carrier to this line up which is perfect for newborns. On first use, the larger BabyBjörn carriers may feel a little like you’re strapping your baby into a climbing harness and, as a result, they’re a little bulky (other than the original model), but once you’re all set it hardly feels like you’re carrying your baby at all. Weight is evenly distrubuted to save your back and to make your little one feel as snug as possible. We used the BabyBjörn Carrier One in denim with our 18lb 8oz chunk of a four-month-old and often went on hour-long walks with him. Of course, by the end of each walk, he started to feel a little heavy but considering we had more than a stone of weight strapped to ourselves, we were really impressed. And without fail, the carrier was so comfortable, he would be asleep within minutes and stay asleep – this often saved us from an overtired, screaming child at bedtime! READ NEXT: Babybjörn Original, One and One Air baby reviewUntil he outgrew it, we also used the BabyBjörn Carrier Mini which can neatly be stored in a changing bag, is lightweight and fits comfortably. It’s not suitable for heavier babies as you don’t get the same weight distribution as on the larger models but it was the size, shape and style for carrying our baby round the house when cooking dinner or washing up. It’d be remiss of us not to mention that the brand has been dogged by suggestions that its carriers’ carrying positions could be damaging to newborn’s hips, but don’t panic: BabyBjörn carriers are developed with paediatricians, and accredited as “hip healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. As ever, the best thing is to head to a sling library (scroll to the bottom of the page for more info) and try the baby carrier with your own little bundle of joy. Some baby carriers will simply suit some babies, and parents, better than others. And if you’re a fan of the BabyBjörn’s design and styling, you’ll be joining 30 million parents who have, over the years, chosen to carry their children the Scandinavian way.Key features: For babies weighing 3.5-15kg (8-33lb); original has three positions (front facing in, back facing in, hip carry); One and One Air have four (optimal newborn, front facing in, front facing out, back carry)Babybjörn Carrier One Outdoors: The best baby carrier for the great outdoorsPrice: £185 | Buy now from Amazon This ruggedised version of Babybjörn’s classic range of baby carriers is perfect for longer walks and hikes. Clad in water- and dirt-resistant material, this baby carrier is fast-drying and easily washable. The thick, padded shoulder straps and hip belt are purpose-designed for more ambitious trips into the countryside. The outdoors-friendly design means that even the heaviest babies are comfortable to carry for longer periods, and you can pick from a range of carrying positions. The inbuilt insert keeps newborn babies at the right height, and as your baby grows you can pick between forward-, inward-facing, or back-carrying positions. Babybjörn advises not turning babies round to face outwards until they’re at least five months old because they need to be able to hold their head. To carry them on your back, you simply place them into the carrier facing you and swivel it around on your hips, so you don’t need an extra pair of hands. It couldn’t be simpler. Like all the baby carriers here, it does take a little practice to singlehandedly get babies (and particularly heavier ones) into the Carrier One Outdoors, but the solid click of the latches and the general build quality are hugely reassuring, as you definitely know when everything is securely locked in place. It also has the added benefit of distributing the weight effectively across your back, a problem we found with the Babybjörn Mini. Key features: For babies weighing 3.5–15kg (5–32lbs); can be used in four positions: front (facing in and facing out), back; no newborn insert requiredClose Caboo Plus: The best overall baby carrier for newborns and younger babiesPrice: from £54.99 | Buy now from Amazon The Close Caboo is a structured baby carrier that offers all the comfort and intimacy of a fabric sling. It’s a breeze to slip on: the wide shoulder straps go on easily and spread the weight evenly. They’re thin enough to fit neatly under a coat or jacket, and the soft, stretchy material holds your baby close and snuggly, in the perfect position to support a newborn’s C-shaped spine and “frog-legged” lower quarters (see our guide below). You can also adjust the tension and slide the baby downwards to breastfeed in the carrier, without even having to take your loved one out. In all, it’s a fuss-free baby carrier that’s as supportive and intimate as a stretchy wrap, but much easier to put on and adjust. Click here to read our Close Caboo Plus reviewKey features: For babies weighing 2.3–14kg (5–32lbs); can be used in three positions: front carry, breastfeeding and hip; no newborn insert required.Buy now from AmazonErgobaby 360: The best soft-structured baby carrier for all agesPrice: £129; infant insert £29.90 | Buy now from Amazon Ergobaby’s carriers have won numerous industry awards, and this lightweight model, the Ergobaby Four Position 360, is made of breathable synthetic mesh, with a stiff structure that will stand up to sporty hikes. As the name implies, you can choose from four carrying positions: your child can ride on your front facing inwards or outwards, or can be carried on your hip or back, depending on their age. Click here to read our Ergobaby 360 reviewThe Four Position 360 is rated for children weighing up to 15kg, or as light as 3.2kg. Be aware though that babies under 5.5kg require an insert that’s sold separately. This is very warm, so it might not be ideal for summer babies. But for babies older than four months, the 360 is an excellent carrier – strong, durable, and very comfortable for the wearer – whatever the season.Buy now from AmazonKey features:For babies weighing 5.5–15kg (12-33lb) and 3.5–5.5kg (7–12lb) with infant insert; can be used in four positions: facing in, facing out, back carry and hipConnecta: The best baby carrier for on-the-go stylePrice: from £68 | Buy now from Connecta The Connecta baby carrier is a tremendously simple design: essentially, it’s one piece of material and a few straps. But that simplicity has helped it sweep up parenting awards – and it was 2015’s most-borrowed carrier from UK sling libraries in 2015.Part of the appeal is the Connecta’s compactness: when you’re not using it, it folds up small enough to tuck into a handbag. It’s also very easy to use, with front and back carrying options. And you can use it from birth, with no need for a fiddly insert. It’s offered in a huge range of designs, from multicoloured stars to unicorns and reindeer, to suit your style. Whichever you choose, it’s made 100% from organic cotton, even the straps and the lining. Overall, it’s a stylish and very practical carrier that’s as individual as your baby.Click here to read our Connecta Baby Carrier reviewKey features: For babies weighing 3.5–24kg (7.5–52lb). Can be used in two positions: front (facing in) and back carryBaby K’tan Cotton Baby Carrier: The best stretchy wrap carrierPrice when reviewed: £49.99 | Buy now from AmazonThe AmaWrap, our previous favourite stretchy wrap carrier (see below), now has some competition in the form of the Baby K’Tan. The two look remarkably similar but we found the K’Tan easier to use and its fit more comfortable. It comes with three pieces of cotton material – no belts, buckles or straps. You place the Baby K’Tan over your head and pull one of the shoulder pieces down, place the baby in the remaining piece of material and pull the other piece back up, covering your baby. It’s that easy.This baby carrier has all the benefits of a full wrap with the convenience of a structured baby carrier. The Baby K’Tan is perfect for tiny newborns, too, because the position and fit moulds to your, and their, body size and shape. This offers a snug yet natural fit, even as the baby grows. For additional support, the Baby K’Tan’s bag doubles up as a belt that ties around your waist. The Baby K’Tan comes in small, medium and large in black, white, grey, purple and denim. It offers five carrying positions and supports babies from 8lbs up to 35lbs. Our only complaint about the Baby K’Tan baby carrier is that, because of the natural, elasticated support, you’ll struggle to bend down or lean forward with the baby in the wrap without feeling like they may fall. That’s one of the real benefits of the structured baby carriers.The Baby K’Tan is slightly more expensive than the AmaWrap so if you’re interested in the latter, read on.Key features: For babies weighing 3.6–16kg (7.5–35lb). Can be used in six positions: “kangaroo” position for newborns to support their neck, “hug” position with the baby facing upright and inwards, “explore” position so the baby can look around with one arm out, “adventure” position facing outwards and hip position Buy now from AmazonAmaWrap: The second best stretchy wrap baby carrierPrice: £39.99 (all colours) | Buy now from Amazon The AmaWrap baby carrier is a relative newcomer – the brainchild of mum Shabs Kwofie, who couldn’t find a carrying option that offered the right combination of intimacy and convenience. The basic idea is similar to the Baby K’Tan and regular slings, and it’s worn in the same position. The secret is that the AmaWrap is made from 100% cotton, woven to provide exactly the right degree of stretchiness for maximum comfort and support. Because the design is so simple, it’s affordable, and offers a classic look that’s easy to get on with and ideal for new parents.Key features: For babies weighing 3.5–15kg (7.5–33lb). Can be used in two positions: upright facing inwards and breastfeeding carryNot sure which baby carrier to get? Try before you buySling meets or sling libraries are where a ‘babywearing’ enthusiast opens up his or her collection of carriers, voluntarily, for parents to try out the different types before buying. Look at the Sling Map to find your nearest, or try your local NCT group for workshops near you.How do I know a baby carrier is on right?It will take at least three gos before you start to feel confident with a baby carrier. Choose a moment when your baby is calm/asleep, and practice in front of a mirror. When you’re ready to add the baby, check the positioning in the mirror and against the national TICKS guidelines (see below). Your baby should be positioned in the standard ‘frog-legged’ position, with his knees higher than his bottom. The natural c-curvature of the spine should also be supported: never use a baby carrier that forces it into a straight position.