When it comes to baby gear, we're all about the less is more philosophy—but we absolutely cannot imagine #momlife without our baby carrier.
Why? Because baby carriers are incredibly useful in the newborn days and well beyond. Have a colicky baby who just won't settle? Pop her in the carrier and hold her super close. Overtired little one needs a nap but refuses to sleep, and all you can do is think about the 22 things that need doing around the house? Strap him to you and get it done, mama. Don't feel like pushing a bulky stroller but still want to take baby along on your latest family adventure? Babywearing FTW yet again 🙌
From wraps and slings to more structured carriers, there are a lot of baby carriers options on the market, and we know it can feel a little overwhelming to figure out which one is right for you.
For the purpose of this story, we did a deep into the soft, structured carriers, which offer a great comfort and convenience. Probably the most popular babywearing option among parents today, SSCs can be used in lots of different carry positions, have adjustable, padded straps, and can often be used from infancy well into toddlerhood.
Lots of brands have how-to videos that show you exactly how to properly fit the carrier, how to take baby in and out, and more; they're a lifesaver and we can't stress enough just how helpful they can be. And speaking of fit, be sure you're practicing healthy hip positioning whenever you're wearing your baby; the International Hip Dysplasia Institute can show you how.
Now that you know the basics, it's time to figure out which carrier is right for you. We've tested them all so you don't have to, and below are our six favorites. Happy traveling, mamas!
Why it's our fave: They don't call this carrier the Complete for nothing! Featuring unmatched lumbar support, six carry positions, and pretty much any other feature you could ever want, we can't say enough amazing things about LÍLLÉbaby Complete All Seasons. Whether you're looking to inward face your newborn, outward face your older baby, or back carry your toddler (or do all three on the same day, like one of our mamas recently did!) the Complete delivers on all fronts and keeps you comfortable along the way. We love the unique bucket seat on this carrier, as well as the adjustable side panels that make finding a healthy hip position for your little one easy. We also love the extendable back panel—it easily folds down and buckles upwards to provide extra head + neck support, so you'll never feel like your babe is unsupported or hanging out of the carrier. The shoulder straps even adjust two ways (either in an "X" shape across your back, or backpack-style) and have extra padding; it's almost impossible not to be comfy in this carrier!
More to know: This carrier is a fan favorite with over 5,000 positive reviews on Amazon. (Oh, and it's got a slim zippered pocket for storage, too!)
Weight accommodation: 7 to 45 pounds, no infant insert needed
Why it's our fave: Why mess with perfection? Launched nearly 50 years ago by a family-owned company in Sweden, Baby Bjorn's Baby Carrier Original is the OG of soft, structured carriers, and it still holds up today! We love that there's no trickery with the "Bjorn" (as most parents call it!)—no confusing wraps, cords, buckles or tethers—and you can easily take it on and off by yourself. Ideal for ages newborn through 12 months old, babies can face inwards or outwards (starting at about five months old) in this carrier, which you wear on the front of your body. The carrier, which is, FYI, super sturdy, also features an adjustable support panel to keep rolling heads and necks safe. We also love how compact this one is—roll it up and shove it in your diaper bag, under your stroller or in your suitcase and voila, you're ready to hit the road.
More to know: The cult-favorite is also the cheapest on our list.
Weight accommodation: 8-24 pounds, no infant insert needed
Why it's our fave: If you're heating up at the mere thought of having your baby pressed up against your chest all day, we have the carrier for you! The Ergobaby Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh is a lightweight carrier is made from breathable mesh that easily lets air flow in and out, keeping you—and your little one—cool all year round. Like many of the other soft, structured carriers we love, this one offers four carry positions and is really easy to get the hang of once you've practiced a few times. It's also easily adjustable and does a great job distributing baby's weight so you'll never have to worry about back or shoulder pain.
More to know: The carrier is breastfeeding-friendly thanks to the sun-shielding hood that it comes with.
Weight accommodations: 7 to 45 pounds, no infant insert needed
Why it's our fave: A Swiss company founded by two moms, MiaMily's Hipster Plus 3D Baby Carriers features up to nine different carry positions—meaning you'll get plenty of life out of it from birth well into older toddlerhood. Like all things Swiss, the 3D seat is ergonomically designed to both properly position your little one's hips and distribute her weight evenly for a comfortable carry. The Hipster also features a zippered seat pouch, which we found to be just the right size to fit everything you need for a diaper change on the go.
More to know: The carrier comes with two teething pads (for those extra drooly days!) and a foldable tote.
Weight accommodations: Newborn to 44 pounds, infant insert sold separately here
Why it's our fave: One of the most comfortable structured carriers we've ever used, the Baby Tula Explore is a versatile, fully adjustable, and easy-to-use carrier that comes in more beautiful designs than we know what to do with. This carrier truly shines when it comes to creating a custom fit—there's an adaptable panel that adjusts in both width and height to fit your baby at any stage, as well as fully adjustable shoulder straps and waistband to create just the right fit for whoever's doing the carrying. And it's incredibly versatile to boot, allowing for baby to face inwards and outwards when being carried on the front, but back carrying is an option, too.
More to know: A pocket on the front is great for pacifiers or your phone, and Baby Tula also offers a more breathable version for warmer seasons and climates that our editors swear by.
Weight accommodation: 7 to 45 pounds, no infant insert needed
Why it made our list: Invented by a mother and engineer after a tiring trip wearing her 18-month-old baby around Disneyland, the Mamapod Baby Carrier stands out because it offers mama an extra 'leg' when she needs it. It features a fold-out seat, shoulder straps, a padded waist belt, and—here's where things get interesting—a detachable support pole that is intended for intermittent use on longer-carry days, like an amusement park day that includes a lot of standing in lines. (Get it? Mamapod, like 'tripod!') Our editor who tested it admittedly felt a bit hesitant about the support pole at first, but she changed her mind when it helped her prep dinner for her fam, holding her nine-month-old and avoiding the typical accompanying back strain. And the good news is that the pole weighs less than a pound and can be stowed at the seat pocket or parked around the waistband.
More to know: To simplify your carry, you can detach the shoulder straps and turn the Mamapod into a zippered fanny pack that has a fold out seat perfect for placing toddlers that you're carrying on your hip!
Weight accommodations: 12 to 45 pounds
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This article was originally published in July 2019. It has been updated.