The Best Baby Carriers of 2021
Spoiler alert, the best baby carrier of the year is the amazing LILLEbaby Complete All-Seasons carrier!
The best baby carriers help you form an intimate bond with your little one, holding them close to your chest where they can sense your warmth and security. The soft-structured baby carrier provides you with all the intimacy and versatility of a baby wrap, with added convenience and ease of use.
Each year we update this list with the best soft-structured baby carriers we've found. Here are the top five infant carriers we found, followed by reviews of about a dozen different options.
|Model and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. LILLEbaby Complete All-Seasons|
|#2. ErgoBaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier|
|#3. Boba Baby 4GS Baby Carrier|
|#4. Beco 8 Baby Carrier|
|#5. Tula Explore Baby Carrier|
Baby-wearing is more popular than ever, providing an easy way for parents to keep their little ones nearby and protected while out of the house. Finding the perfect baby carrier is a challenging task, with a simple Amazon search revealing hundreds of soft-structured baby carriers to choose from.
The good news is that we did the work for you! To find you the best baby carrier of 2021, we tested out 13 new models and 6 updated models.
We carried infants from 4 weeks to 11 months old, and toddlers from 12 to 30 months. Our testers included petite, average-size, and plus-size parents, to ensure appropriate adjustability for all shapes and sizes.
Looking for a less expensive option? Check out our list of the best budget baby carriers!
- Top 5 Baby Carriers Table
- 1. Best Overall: LILLEbaby Complete All-Seasons
- 2. ErgoBaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier
- 3. Boba Baby 4GS Baby Carrier
- 4. Beco 8 Organic Baby Carrier
- 5. Baby Tula Explore Baby Carrier
- 6. BabyBjorn Mini Original Baby Carrier
- 7. Baby Tula Free-to-Grow Carrier
- 8. Boppy ComfyChic Baby Carrier
- 9. Contours Journey Carrier
- 10. Onya Pure Baby Carrier
- 11. Baby Tula Standard Carrier
- 12. Onya Outback Baby Carrier
- Factors to Consider
- Safety & Reliability
- Ease of Use
- Comfort & Breathability
We've been testing baby carriers for over 10 years, including options from trusted brands like BabyBjorn, ErgoBaby, and Boba, and popular emerging brands like Beco, Baby Tula, and Onya. Our testing evaluates ease of use, safety, comfort (for baby and parent!), versatility, breathability, and long-term reliability.
Here are the Best Baby Carriers of 2021!
The LÍLLÉbaby is the best baby carrier of the year with tons of features, good looks, and high versatility. The LILLEbaby series uses beautiful and highly functional Scandinavian styling, and includes very extensive features. LILLEbaby make three categories of carriers: the LILLEbaby COMPLETE series, the CARRY-ON series, and the ESSENTIALS series. As the name would suggest, the COMPLETE series is the most versatile, with six carry positions, a wide weight range that includes infants down to 7 pounds, and big kids up to 45 pounds. If the range of models wasn't confusing enough, even within the COMPLETE series they have the All Seasons, Airflow, Embossed Luxe, and Original versions. We have personally tested the Complete All Seasons, SeatMe All Seasons, and the popular LILLElight. Unless you live in a very warm climate, we highly recommend the Complete All Seasons model, which uses a cotton exterior fabric, a highly breathable 3D cool air mesh lining, and has an awesome zip-down front panel. As weather changes and your journeys progress, that panel allows you to adjust the airflow to your baby's back, sides, and torso, effectively cooling things down or warming things up on the fly.
There were several other features we loved about this carrier. First, there is no awkward infant insert to deal with: the carrier can be configured to support little ones as small as 7 pounds without any insert. Second, the carrier transitions into 6 different carry positions: a fetal tuck, fetal tuck with legs out, front carry front- and rear-facing, hip carry, and a backpack baby carrier up to 45 pounds! We found all 6 positions to be highly supportive, easy to configure, and very comfortable for not only your little one but also for mom and dad. Third, we appreciated that your comfort was taken into consideration: the nice wide waist belt, a large lumbar support pad, and thick and comfortable shoulder straps. Fourth, it has some additional little features that are worth mentioning: it has a little hood to protect your baby from the elements (sun, rain), it comes in a ton of styles and colors, and it has a zippered storage pocket on the front panel that's big enough to fit a wallet and keys. In our testing, we also found that it was rather easy to put on and take off, to adjust to various parent and child shapes and sizes, and to put your baby in and pull them out. We did need to read the manual and watch a few instructional videos before mastering it, mostly because there are so many adjustments and features to take advantage of. Downfalls? Not many, but if we are being picky: the storage pocket is hard to access when the panel is unzipped, and it's somewhat large for newborn babies (we suggest 10+ pounds). Overall, the LILLEbaby Complete All Seasons is a truly great baby carrier highly deserving of this spot on our list. You can usually get it for about $100-150, which is a surprisingly good price given the quality and versatility. Who else thinks the LILLEbaby is worthy of being called the best baby carrier? Our friends at Babylist, Babygearlab, WhatToExpect, and The Wirecutter all consider it a top pick! Not to mention the 4.6/5.0 rating on Amazon, from over 4000 parent reviews! Interested? You can check out the LILLEbaby Carriers here!
The Ergobaby Omni 360 is a very close runner-up to the best baby carrier of the year, with its beautiful design, amazing versatility, superior comfort, and reasonable price. The Omni 360 supports infants from newborn and up, with a minimum weight of 7 pounds and maximum of 45 pounds (48 months), using four carrying positions. As ErgoBaby says, the Omni 360 is for all babies, in all positions, without the need for additions. Starting with newborns, the soft-structured carrier can be used in a front carry position with the baby facing the parent (0+ months), then in a front carry position with the baby facing out (5+ months), then in a hip carry position with baby facing the parent (6+ months), and finally in a back carry position with baby facing mom (6+ months). The ErgoBaby Omni 360 accomplishes all of this without any additional infant inserts, through a series of adjustments made at the hips, neck, and head. All positions place your child's hips and legs in the ergonomic M-position, provide excellent support, and can be used with the adorable and sun-protective (UPF 50) privacy hood.
This Ergobaby 4-position carrier is definitely the most comfortable carrier on our list, and we found it to be lightweight, comfortable, soft, and easily adjusted to nicely fit nearly any body shape. It is an excellent baby carrier for plus-sized parents, with long and widely adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. We wore it for several hours around town and along some trails, and our backs and shoulders felt completely fine. The lumbar support is great, and we love that the straps can be crossed for additional support and comfort. It was easy to put on, take off, and adjust, even when carrying the baby. The detachable zippered pouch was great for a pacifier, keys, and phone, and attaches in an easily accessible position. We absolutely love the Omni 360 and are happy we got to try it out! No major cons to speak of, though it can get expensive with certain patterns or organic fabrics. Who else thinks the ErgoBaby Omni 360 is one of the best baby carriers your money can buy? Our friends at Babylist, Babygearlab, WhatToExpect, and The Wirecutter! The best deals are usually found directly through ErgoBaby, but it's also available at Amazon.
The BOBA carrier has been near the top of our best baby carrier list for a few years now, and for some great reasons. It is comfortable, stylish, durable, and very well-made and reliable. The thick waistband tends to support a lot of the baby's weight so your shoulders don't get too sore, with a nice even distribution around the body. We also liked that the waistband has two adjustment points, which helps to even out the cinching around the waist. It also has the adjustments for the shoulder straps right under the armpits, helping you customize the fit even when wearing your baby. The BOBA includes an infant insert, supports from birth (7 pounds) all the way up to 45 pounds, and it has a small zippered pocket along the waist. Working with an infant insert is a bit awkward relative to having it integrated into the system, but it does provide excellent support and places the hips and legs at a beautiful M-position. We found the range of strap adjustment to be very flexible, fitting a wider range of body shapes and sizes, including petite and plus-size parents.
In our testing, the BOBA was amazingly comfortable and high quality, making it a difficult decision between the ErgoBaby and the 4GS. We do think the ErgoBaby Omni 360 edges out the BOBA for comfort, but it's very likely different for each parent and baby. The BOBA is a bit lighter, simpler, and more intuitive than the ErgoBaby, and also about $50 less expensive. But you're not getting the same versatility with carry positions with the 4GS, which does not support a front carry with baby facing outward, or a hip carry. In terms of overall quality, the Boba 4GS carrier is on par with the top-rated baby carriers, they both have high-quality seams and stitching, reliable straps and buckles, and good shoulder padding. We haven't had any issues with rips or tears from any of our top carriers. Who else thinks the BOBA is one of the best baby carriers available? Our friends at Babylist, Babygearlab, and The Bump! Impressed? You can check out the 4GS at the BOBA website or at Amazon.
This is our first year with a BECO product on our list, and we're thrilled to have tried out their BECO 8 baby carrier! The BECO 8 is the most versatile baby carrier we've ever tried, and also the coolest. Not just cool-looking, but also super cool for your baby, with a 3D mesh to provide excellent airflow during the warmer months, and a zip-up panel to maximize warmth in the cooler months. For versatility, the BECO 8 supports... you guessed it... 8 different carry positions! These include front carry facing in with or without newborn suport, front carry facing out, hip carry, and back carry. If you're counting, that's only 5. To be fair, BECO exaggerated a bit by adding a few positions that simply involve unzipping the front airflow panel. Marketing - we get it. Even so, as a 5-position baby carrier the BECO really excels. It includes an infant insert to support newborns from 7-15 pounds, and then supports toddlers and big kids up to 45 pounds. Other features include a detachable privacy hood, removable lumbar support, a waist belt pocket, and the ability to cross the shoulder straps for comfort and support. In our testing, we absolutely loved two things about the BECO. First, the shoulder straps are super wide, padded, and comfortable. Honestly, that alone is worth the money! Second, we loved the firm waist belt that did a great job staying in place and transferring the child's weight away from the shoulders and onto the hips.
The BECO 8 was great for both petite (down to a 25" waist) and plus-size parents (up to 54" waist), and we tested it on parents ranging from about 5'4" to 6'2" - anything taller than that and it might not be an ideal fit. As an all-seasons baby carrier, we love the warmth during the winter and cool flow during the summer, though we do believe the mesh could provide even more airflow than it currently does. Overall, this is an excellent baby carrier that while expensive, will prove itself useful for many years, contexts, and babies to come! We're excited to have tested it out and to feature it on our list of the best baby carriers! Interested? You can check out the BECO 8 directly at the BECO website or at Amazon.
The Baby Tula Explore is a completely new design by Baby Tula, with superior versatility and comfort. We first got our hands on the Explore for testing last year and we were super impressed with it. Out of the box, it is stylish, has super soft and durable fabric, and feels very well-constructed yet lightweight and flexible enough to stuff into a big diaper bag. We tried it out in all of its 5 positions: front carry facing the parent (with adjustments for infant, baby, and toddler), front carry facing out (for toddler), and back carry for baby and toddler. Adjusting between the three front-carry options was easy, simply reconfiguring the upper and lower parts of the "Explore panel". The lower panel is in the seating area and adjusts using snaps, and the upper panel adjusts between short and tall positions depending on your baby's height and head and neck control. All of this adjustment is necessary to make it possible to support babies as small as 7 pounds and up to 45 pounds, or from 0 to 48 months of age. We found that putting on the carrier was pretty simple, basically the same as most others on this list. It was a bit less bulky than other options, with a slightly smaller torso pad on the bottom front, and no lumbar pad. Comfort was really great, and in our testing, we thought it was most comfortable on moms and dads taller than about 5'3" and heavier than about 120 pounds; it was a bit large and the shoulder straps were a bit too long for relatively petite parents (especially skinny ones).
Some specifics that we really liked about the Tula Explore: it has a nice waistband pocket for storage, a removable hood for naps and shade, a really nice ergonomic lower panel design that supports hip development, and it's also a good baby carrier for plus-size parents given its extended waist and shoulder adjustment range. We were really impressed with this baby carrier's versatility, comfort, ease of use, and style. The price is pretty high coming in at about $180, but we think it's worth every penny. Some little cons to consider: it cannot be used as a hip seat, and it tends to get a bit hot during the summer (but see the Tula Coast Explore which adds mesh front). Other than that, we're really happy to have tested this newer model and think it's an awesome addition to our list! Who else thinks the Tula Explore is one of the best baby carriers of the year? It's a top pick by our friends at Babygearlab, The Bump, and WhatToExpect. Impressed? You can check out the Tula Explore carrier here.
News flash! The classic and revolutionary BabyBjorn Original carrier is being phased out in favor of the new BabyBjorn One. However, due to the sheer demand for the Original carrier, BabyBjorn decided to reinvent and rename it the new BabyBjorn Mini Carrier. The Original BabyBjorn carrier is a classic and really started the style revolution for soft-structured baby carriers. By moving beyond the previously large, bulky, and utilitarian baby carriers of the 80's, BabyBjorn made it stylish to wear a baby carrier! The BabyBjorn carrier still remains a staple in the soft baby carrier market, and the price of the Original version has fallen considerably since its introduction. The BabyBjorn Original model is very basic and simple - it has shoulder straps but no waist strap, limited adjustments, and no other bonus features like a newborn insert, waist strap, pocket, or hood. The new BabyBjorn Mini Carrier follows that same theme. But where it lacks in versatility, it compensates with soft fabrics, great infant support, comfortable and intimate newborn baby carrying, and a great price, all wrapped up in a super lightweight and compact package.
The BabyBjorn Mini (we dislike that name because it's actually a bit larger than the Original) can support babies as small as 7 pounds and up to 24 pounds (or 21-30" tall). This corresponds to approximately birth up to 12 months. In our experience, the Mini is perfect for birth to about 6-8 months, offering an awesome front-carry facing-in solution for baby-wearing in the home and on short trips. After about 5 months, the BabyBjorn Mini also supports front carry while facing outward, but we think you'd be better off with a more full-featured baby carrier for a child over about 17 pounds. The lack of a waist band to help transfer the weight of the child off your shoulders is our primary concern with a heavier baby. Overall, this is an awesome newborn carrier with a long history for safety and quality, and the price is about half what you would pay for other top-rated baby carriers. For families looking for something to get them through the first several months with comfort, style, and intimate contact with their infant, this is an excellent option. Who else loves the BabyBjorn carrier for these purposes? It's a top pick by our friends at Babylist, Babygearlab, WhatToExpect, and The Bump. Impressed? You can check out the BabyBjorn Carrier Original version here!
This Baby Tula FreeToGrow Carrier is most similar to the BOBA 4G. It's a really fantastic baby carrier that has recently taken the baby carrier market by storm. And for some great reasons! First, let's talk about specifications. It supports babies as small as 7 pounds without the need for an infant insert, and up to 45 pounds, which will bring you well into toddler-hood; so this carrier is great at accommodating different sizes as your baby grows. And it has a lot of adjustments to help make sure that different shapes and abilities (e.g., different head and neck support) are well supported. In addition to your baby's shape, this is also a great baby carrier for plus-sized parents, with a waist band that adjusts up to 57". The final specification worth mentioning is that it allows for carrying your baby in a front carry position (facing parent), or on your back (facing parent); so there is no forward-facing capability here (check out the Explore for that). Second, let's talk about convenience features and comfort. The front pocket is perfect for keys or a couple pacifiers, and were able to fit an iPhone in there without any issues. The fabric is like a canvas material (it's 100% cotton) and we found that it's not highly padded or thick, making it breathable and suitable for use in warmer weather. There is also a great hood that actually matches the pattern of the carrier, which is a nice touch relative to most other carriers that use a solid hood color.
In terms of comfort, this was about the same as the Tula Explore - super comfortable with nice thick straps and buckles. The waist strap is super comfy, and we never ran into issues with a sore back or shoulders. It has a nice ergonomic design that fits quite nicely. It's also comfortable and ergonomic for a little baby, with some thick leg padding that helps keep the legs (and hips) at a good position for longer walks (and reducing the risk of hip dysplasia). The front panel can be adjusted from about 11" tall to about 17" tall, which gives you good versatility for a growing baby. Third, let's talk about some of our impressions. It's comfortable, high quality, and super adorable. The available patterns are really cute and range from a simple solid color to some really nice patterns that aren't too gaudy or bright. Putting it on was easy enough, though the rear buckle height adjustment wasn't as easy to do while wearing as some other carriers on this list. Other cons? Well, with smaller babies between 7-12 pounds or so, we thought that a little better and more adjustable head and neck support would be appropriate (especially for skinnier babies). The Tula Explore has a bit more padding and support, so consider that if you think this might be an issue with your little one. It also would be nice to have forward-facing capability with a carrier that costs around $100. Overall, it's a fantastic addition to our best baby carrier list, with only a few minor drawbacks. Who else thinks the Tula Free to Grow is one of the best baby carriers available? Our friends at Babygearlab call it a top pick! Interested? You can check out the Tula Baby Carriers here!
We are always thrilled to get our hands on new baby carriers, especially when they are making awesome changes to the style and functionality of the typical baby carrier. Enter the Boppy ComfyChic, with its awesome hybrid design that includes elements of a soft-structured baby carrier and the stretchy and versatile fabric of a baby wrap. And it's not just for style, the wrap actually needs to be configured and tied, and adds a super comfortable element for your baby, allowing you to customize the support in various areas (mostly the bum!). Out of the box, we were immediately overwhelmed by the carrier and how exactly we were supposed to use it. If you watch the Boppy how-to videos at YouTube, you'll learn a couple tricks to make things more convenient. Once we watched the videos, we tried it on me (size 2), my husband (size 36 waist), and my neighbor (size 12). In all cases, it was able to adjust to the body type, and the long straps make it a great baby carrier for plus-sized moms and dads. The ComfyChic has four carrying styles: front carry facing-in, front carry facing-out, and hip carry. The fourth carry position is simply the newborn front carry facing-in with the upper head support folded upward (no infant insert is needed). For reference, minimum weight is 8 pounds, with a maximum of 35 pounds. We tested it with a 10-pound 2-month old, a 22-pound 11-month old, and a 28-pound two-year old. For the baby and toddler, everything worked really well, and we liked how easy the waist belt, shoulder straps, and seat width adjustments were. In our experience, the 28-pound toddler was definitely up against the maximum practical weight limit of the carrier. The straps are really quite long and can be a little overwhelming the first few times you put the carrier on, so you might want to recruit some help for your first try. By the way, if you're looking for an awesome hip-carry baby carrier, this is a great option - the hip carry configuration was comfortable and supportive, and didn't leave us with a sore neck and shoulder (which is rare!).
All of the fabric is comfortable and soft, there are no uncomfortable seams or straps on the inside that will contact the baby, and the fabric wrap portion helps you get things nice and cozy. Speaking of the wrap, it was really our biggest challenge with this carrier. With the 10-pound baby, we didn't have any issues with stretching or sagging with the fabric during wearing, but we did notice that happening quite a bit with the 22-pound baby, and of course the 28-pound toddler. That sort of stretching is important, and one of criteria we use when testing the best baby wraps. If you're planning on using this until your child is about 1 year old, it won't be an issue, and it also won't be an issue if you don't anticipate wearing it for longer than about 45-minutes at a time. Some little things we liked were the zippered storage pocket on the waistband, which isn't large enough to fit any modern smart phones, but definitely big enough for other little things like keys, pacifiers, or some cash. It also comes with a little storage pouch that we appreciated, otherwise all the straps and fabric make it a little more complicated to pack and travel with. Another little note is that it's a bit heavy and thick for hot climates. It does have a breathable back, but the combination of the carrier and wrap make it a little hotter for both mom and baby. Overall, we love the concept here, and think it's an awesome carrier with only a few small limitations; in the future, we hope that Boppy decreases the stretch of the wrap fabric a bit, which will help with our primary gripe. Interested? You can check out the Boppy ComfyChic Carriers here!
The new Contours series of baby carriers is winning over hearts and minds, ranging from the simple Cocoon carrier, to the Love 3-in-1 carrier, and then the flagship Journey 5-in-1 carrier. The Journey comes in two varieties, the regular Journey, and then the Journey GO which adds 3D mesh breathable fabric to keep things cool during the summer months. We've reviewed all four of these carriers, and were most impressed by the Journey models. We're going to focus on the regular Journey, but keep in mind that everything we say can apply to the Journey GO, which is more suitable for babies who tend to run hot or parents who like to go on longer treks during the hot summer months; in those cases, the Journey GO is likely the better (and slightly more expensive) option. We first got our hands on the Journey series for testing in early 2020, and were able to put it through testing while at the grocery store, hiking in the woods, and strolling around town. Out of the box, the carrier looks and feels high quality and lightweight. The fabrics are durable and wipeable while maintaining softness. The buckles, snaps, and adjustments are high quality, and overall things seem stitched and attached very well. Putting it on, the adjustments were suitable for both me, a relatively petite mom, and my husband at over 6 feet tall and 250 pounds.
The overall fit is most similar to the LILLEbaby carrier in terms of adjustments and comfort level. The carrier supports 5 different positions: newborn fetal tuck (starting at 8 pounds), front carry parent-facing with legs out, front carry outward-facing, parent-facing hip sling-style carry, and a backpack-style parent-facing configuration. The maximum weight is 45 pounds overall, and at the lower end (8 pounds) there is no infant insert required. The seat of the carrier has a wide range of adjustment, promoting a nice hip-friendly positioning for newborns, up to a narrower and more toddler-appropriate seat. It also has adjustable head support via two small zippers that help expand the width as necessary, shoulder straps that allow for either criss-cross or backpack-style carrying, and a huge detachable hood (sunshade) that is highly adjustable. We were also really impressed with the three huge zippered pockets, big enough to fit a modern smart phone. There is also a huge main zippered pocket that is basically the entire center front of the carrier; this is also where the sunshade is stored, but there is plenty of room for additional items. Just be careful what you put in the giant pocket, such as keys or anything else with sharp edges, since they will be up against your baby's back with only a thin fabric in between. We found the shoulder straps to be very comfortable, the waistband to be supportive, and our test babies (one 5 months, one 2 years) both really enjoyed their time in the carrier. Overall, we really liked it and thought it's a great new addition to our best baby carrier list! Cons? We wish the waistband was a bit taller, and the Journey did get a little hot in the summer, with the 5-month old getting a very sweaty back during our walk. Just FYI the Journey GO model, with its cool mesh fabric, never had that issue. The shoulder straps did loosen a bit during carrying (with the heavier 2 year old child), but they were easy to adjust on the fly. Finally, this carrier isn't as thickly padded as some other options, but that can be better for weight and heat. Interested? You can check out the Contours Journey Carriers here!
This Onya Pure carrier is the newest addition to Onya's lineup of excellent and versatile baby carriers that are great for longer treks through the great outdoors. Just as the Onya Outback is being phased out, Onya released this awesome Pure model that has similar versatility but with higher breathability and a simpler overall setup. The Onya pure supports newborns as small as 7 pounds and toddlers and bigger kiddos all the way up to 45 pounds. While we don't suggest trying to lug around a 45-pound kid in a carrier during lengthy hikes, it can make a good back-up when their little legs get tired and they need a little boost. The Pure offers three carry positions: front inward-facing, rear inward-facing, and also hip carrying. In our testing, we found all of the positions pretty comfortable. The carrier offers versatility for strap configuration - you can configure it as an H, or as an X that crosses the straps across the back or chest. We definitely suggest the X cross-strap configuration for higher comfort over longer carries, and it's a better option for parents who get uncomfortable with the straps rubbing under the arms. The Pure is designed to have high breathability so it makes for a great spring and summer carrier, offering a front panel that can be unzipped and rolled up to reveal a highly breathable mesh that helps keep your baby's back nice and cool.
In our testing, it also helped keep us cool in the 100+ degree weather (with 75% humidity) we had this summer! The panel tucks away really nicely without any issues with it being bulky or accidentally falling down. The straps and waist are super thick and comfortable, and we loved the adjustable webbing on the waist and the new buckle. The buckle requires a two-step process to open, but we thought it was super easy to open with one hand and prevented the possibility that a curious older sibling could reach up and unbuckle the strap, or that it could accidentally unbuckle (partially or fully) when bending down. We were worried about the two-step buckle but were pleasantly surprised with its ease of use. This is a simple carrier that is lightweight and highly breathable, it's a great option for summer hikes and journeys, and for easily packing/stuffing away into a suitacase or backpack. Downfalls? Nothing too serious. Because it's a relatively basic carrier, there is no pocket for storing keys, a pacifier, or anything else. There is also no hood for blocking the sun or promoting naps. We also think it would be great to have a front carry outward-facing position like some of the more expensive carriers, especially with bigger kiddos who get easily bored with inward-facing. Overall, we think this is a great lightweight and highly breathable option that is worth checking out, especially given its reasonable price point, high reliability and durability, and Onya's great reputation for quality and service. Usually can be found for under $140, and it comes in several simple color options. Interested? You can check out the Onya Pure Baby Carriers here!
This is one of several Baby Tula baby carriers on our list, and for some great reasons: they make some of the most adorable, stylish, and trendy baby carriers on the market. While the Tula Explore is the relatively premium version with the most versatility, this option offers some excellent bang for the buck! It is not only more reasonably priced, it is also quite comfortable, has a simple design, and is lightweight. We liked the front Velcro pocket, though it was a bit difficult to access for moms with shorter arms or larger babies. It can be used from 15 to 45 pounds, giving it a decent upper range but a very restrictive lower range. Basically, you're not going to be able to use this carrier until your infant is a few months old, unless you purchase the separate infant insert. But once you use it, you and your baby will definitely love it! The shoulder straps are highly padded and comfortable, the baby thigh/leg supports are softly padded, the hood is well-sized and removable, and its simplicity makes it quite easy to get on and off. However, while the baby thigh/leg padding is a nice touch, note that that area is not adjustable like it is in our better options, so there will be a sweet spot when your infant fits perfectly, but before then it will be too wide and maybe a bit uncomfortable for baby.
After about an hour of wearing, several of our test moms did complain of some back pain and said it would benefit from cross-straps and lumbar support. They also noted that it doesn't have very good circulation, and thought it could benefit from some 3D cool air mesh for better airflow. Finally, it does not support a front carry outward-facing position for your baby, only parent-facing. Overall, the TULA ergonomic carriers are great but have some basic limitations. For the price, we were expecting it to be a real winner, and walked away thinking it's great, but not quite as great as some others at the same price. It is available in a ton of truly beautiful colors and patterns, putting many of the other carriers to shame! Tends to sell for under $100 online, making it one of the best deals on a premium baby carrier. Interested? You can check out the TULA Baby Carrier here.
This is a relatively new addition to our list, and we are happy to have tried it out. It's a relatively new baby carrier to the market, and we were really impressed by its quality, comfort, convenience, and versatility. We tried it out with the separate newborn baby booster insert, which is sold separately for about $30. With the insert, it supports babies as little as 7 pounds and up to 15 pounds; when you remove the booster, it can go from 15 pounds all the way up to 45 pounds, which is awesome for backpack-style carrying. Speaking of a backpack, this baby carrier can be used as an inward-facing front carrier, an inward-facing rear "backpack" carrier, or outward-facing "backpack" carrier. There are a few things that make this baby carrier unique relative to its competition. First, it has a good-sized pocket on the front that can fit a small wallet, keys, or even a diaper and a couple of the best baby wipes. It also has a key loop on the bottom, and some toy loops up on the shoulders - these loops were awesome for attaching a pacifier tether or hanging a fun little toy. Second, the belt and straps are very durable, high quality, and comfortable. They reminded us of the LILLE Baby straps in our testing, they were just that good. All those wide straps make for comfortable carrying that is adjustable and supportive, including the option to wear the shoulder straps in an X-cross design on your back, which helps a ton for heavier babies and longer journeys; crossable straps can really be a life-saver on long treks! Third, this baby carrier can transition to a portable seat for any chair with a back (like at a restaurant or Starbucks), you place baby in, buckle the shoulder straps to the back of the chair, and there is an awesome built-in lower harness. This feature is amazing for toddlers who can sit-up independently and is unique to the Onya carrier.
When we tested it out, we also found the seating position to be very comfortable for not just the parents, but also the baby - the thighs were nicely supported and the angle of the legs was comfy. It also has an SPF-protective hood that tucks away out of view when not in use, which is great when it's too sunny or it starts sprinkling outside. Downfalls? Nothing major here. We wish it had an outward-facing front seating position like the Ergo and LILLE Baby, but it only does inward-facing. Outward facing can be done, but only in backpack mode. Also, for shorter babies they tend to sit pretty deep in the seat until they are about a year old, making it hard for them to look around while being carried since the side of the carrier comes up really high. Once they are taller, like 12-15 months, they can start to look around from side to side and see over the carrier fabric. So overall, just some minor issues, overall we think this is an excellent carrier, and worth a shot. It's only down here on our list because we think it's being phased out by Onya, in favor of the new Onya Pure (which we review above and is an outstanding carrier). The Onya Outback can usually be found for under $150, and there are a ton of cute color options! Interested? You can check out the Onya Outback Baby Carriers here!
Why Baby Carriers are Important, and Our Review Process
For full details about how to choose a baby carrier, check out our new baby carrier buying guide!
Babies love being held close to mom or dad, feeling the warm comfort of their chest and the gentle rhythm of their breathing and heartbeat. But unless you're Ronda Rousey or Mark Wahlberg, your arms and shoulders are going to get very tired from lugging around a growing baby all day. That's where baby wraps and slings and soft-structured baby carriers come in!
Each year, there are dozens of new entrants into the baby carrier market, making it challenging to make an informed decision about which ones are best for you and your baby.
Soft structured carriers are the most popular and versatile baby carrier option and come in many different shapes, sizes, prices, and quality levels. Most can be strapped on your front or back to carry the baby parent-facing or outward-facing, and are well tested for safety and durability.
Rather than a wrap, soft structured carriers have an intrinsic padded structure that gives the baby reliable support, minimizing the risk of your baby wiggling into odd positions like you sometimes see with a wrap or sling. Not quite as customizable as the wrap carriers, and not quite as convenient to pack away for travel, but definitely a more user-friendly option without the major learning curve associated with learning how to wrap a baby.
What to Look for in a Baby Carrier
Baby Carrier Ergonomics
To ensure proper hip and back development, the ergonomics of a baby carrier are very important. There are a few things to look for here. First, for the first few months you want your newborn infant to adopt the C spinal alignment, which means there is a nice curvature to your baby's back, with legs tucked up. This is called the "fetal tuck" position, and it reduces pressure on the spine and hips, promoting calmness and easier digestion.
Second, you want your infant (3+ months) baby's buttocks and hamstrings to be supported, putting the baby into a "frog leg" or W-position. In other words, you never want the legs to be dangling down below the carrier (just from the calves down), and this is true for at least the first couple years of life. In contrast, you also don't want just the feet sticking out of the sides.
When testing out the carriers, we looked for the fetal tuck for newborns, and a maintained frog leg position for infants, toddlers, and bigger kids. Of course, we also need to think about ergonomics for mom and dad, not just for baby. As your baby gets heavier, you will realize that ergonomics will become increasingly important to maintain back, shoulder, neck, and hip comfort.
The best baby carriers have criss-crossing shoulder straps that serve to more evenly distribute weight on your body and prevent the straps from falling off your shoulders. They also have a tall waist belt that effectively transfers weight from your shoulders to your hips. Most premium carriers are great examples of this. This is essential for wearing the baby on your front, or on the rear as a baby backpack.
Note that one common issue is compatibility between diaper bags and baby carriers: when you're baby-wearing, it's cumbersome to also carry a diaper bag. Some of the best carriers have storage pockets that can fit some baby essentials, like a diaper and wipes, a pacifier, and maybe some other small baby gear items. In those cases, you can leave your diaper bag at home or in your vehicle.
Baby Carrier Versatility
Gone are the days when a baby carrier can only support a single carrying position. You no longer need separate infant, toddler, big kid, and hiking (backpack) carriers. Nowadays, if you invest in a carrier for newborns, it will be versatile enough to support multiple carrying positions as the baby grows into a toddler and beyond.
At the low end, some carriers have 2 positions, usually front carry parent-facing and outward-facing. At the high end, carriers have six positions, including front carry parent-facing newborn (fetal tuck), front carry parent-facing infant (legs out), front carry outward-facing toddler, hip sling, and back carrier (like a hiking carrier). The best ones tend to be more versatile and last from newborn (about 7+ pounds) until about 4 years old (about 45 pounds), but they also tend to be the most expensive ones.
Baby Carrier Safety & Reliability
Safety is of critical importance when evaluating a baby carrier, and there are a lot of factors to consider here. How is the stitching along the important seams, and where the buckles and zippers attach? What is the quality of the zippers? What is the quality of the clips, fasteners, adjustment slides and loops, and Velcro? How do these components stand the test of time, with repeated wearing and adjustment?
Some carriers use lower quality fasteners, zippers, fabrics, and stitching, and don't do well with repeated wearing. The last thing you want is a malfunction of a weight-bearing component. Safety also considers the baby position, the breathability of the fabric, and the appropriate head and neck support. Our reviews consider short-term hands-on use, and reviews from long-term use, pulling together a wide range of data regarding these safety considerations.
Note that we do not include any ring sling style carriers on our list, given the safety concerns with these carriers. Specifically, while ring slings can be very comfortable and safe when used correctly (and with the appropriate baby ages and sizes), there have been some cases of misuse and negligence. That doesn't mean that you can't use a ring sling, just that you need to be more careful. Here's a good article from Mayo Clinic summarizing that point.
Baby Carrier Ease of Use
Some carriers look great, feel great, are super comfortable and reliable, but are a total pain in the butt to put on, take off, or adjust. Carriers have come a long way in terms of convenience and ease of use, but some are still quite poor in this regard. Our best baby carriers list carefully considers ease of donning, doffing, and adjusting the carrier.
Baby Carrier Comfort & Breathability
After ergonomics are considered and you are certain the baby is in a proper position for safe carrying, comfort is a determining factor as to whether the baby will stay content during an extended journey. The padding needs to be in all the right places: along the back contour, where arms and legs meet open air, on the bum, and wherever a body part might come in contact with a fastening or adjustment component. Less padding around the head and face to ensure breathability and high airflow where it matters. Many premium baby carriers have a zip-open front panel that reveals high airflow mesh fabric that can help keep your baby cool during the warmer months. We love these!
Baby Carrier Cost
Carriers vary widely in pricing, from as low as about $25, to upwards of $250 for the higher quality and more versatile ones with all the bells and whistles. Because our list values versatility, reliability, comfort, safety, etc, it also tends to include some of the more expensive carriers, with a lower price range around $100, up to around $200. We do provide some limited reviews of lower cost (and limited feature) options in our reviews of inexpensive baby carriers article. Some of these less expensive options have some great features and can make a really great baby registry gift!