It wasn't until my son was a few weeks old that I started to look into the extremely clever baby carriers that provide all the benefits of baby-wearing. I had diligently researched the best baby carriers when I was building my registry, and I knew there were options out there designed to address sore backs and shoulders, breastfeeding, traveling, older babies and toddlers, and ergonomics to prevent infant hip dysplasia. Before that, as a brand-new mom, I wanted nothing more than to snuggle with my baby boy day in and day out.
At first, we did lots of cuddling on the couch, in my bed, and on the glider in the nursery. But soon, I realized that while all this closeness felt so natural and good, I was going to need my hands back at some point. As a baby-wearing newbie, I was a little intimidated by all different options, not to mention all the straps, buckles, and fabric involved. But after trying some out in person, I figured out which baby carrier is right for me. A few clasps, clicks, and ties later, I had my hands back.
Check out this list of recommended baby carriers that runs the gamut from wraps to soft-structured carriers to more intense backpacks, so no matter where you want to go or what you want to do, this list has you (and your baby) covered.
1The Carrier With 360-Degree Comfort
Moms everywhere rejoiced when ERGObaby announced its multi-position, 360 baby carrier a few years ago. This breakthrough of a carrier gave moms the one thing they'd been asking for — an option to wear babies facing front-outward while keeping their developing bodies in an ergonomic position. The 360 carrier nailed it, and it's comfortable, adjustable, and includes a swaddler to keep tiny babies sleeping comfortably longer. Got a tiny tiny baby? Purchase a newborn insert to use this carrier from birth.
2The Ultra-Affordable, Customizable Carrier
Based on a traditional Chinese style of baby-wearing called Mei Tai, the wrap-and-tie carrier from Infantino allows each user to tighten and tie the sash to ensure a perfect, custom fit every time. There are no buckles or clasps, so it's easy to adjust, whether you choose to carry your baby facing in, on the hip, or on your back. It lacks some of the features of more expensive carriers, but for under $40, it's hard to beat.
3The Fully Adjustable Wrap
To the uninitiated, the Moby looks like the longest, most intimidating piece of fabric ever. But many moms (including this one) swear by it for keeping their little ones, particularly those in the tiny stage, snuggly and close. This soft, cotton Moby wrap can be worn multiple ways and adjusted for each user's body, making sure you'll get the secure, cozy fit every time. Pro tip: Watch an online instructional video or two to help you get the wrapping technique down quickly.
4The Versatile Carrier
If you're looking for a carrier that will, er, carry you (or your baby, technically) from birth to toddlerhood, the versatile LILLEbaby Complete may be the answer for you. One point of distinction: The LILLEbaby's "infant position" solves a problematic gap in baby-wearing (that is, the period when babies have outgrown the newborn position but still aren't quite big enough to sit facing out). The fully adjustable carrier is comfortable for moms and ergonomic for babies, and the zip-down flap keeps you both cool on hot days.
5The Packable Carrier
Sure, there are carriers with more features and accessories, but this ultra-compact carrier gets the job done while weighing just eight ounces. It's not the carrier you'll want for long baby-wearing sessions, but because it packs down into the size of a water bottle, it's perfect for throwing in your diaper bag, stroller, or travel carry-on, so you can be ready for anything, anytime, anywhere. Also, a fleece liner and hood can be added for additional comfort for your little one.
6A Carrier For City Adventures
In situations where strollers can be cumbersome (think day trips to the museum, outdoor festivals, or, as the name suggests, parades), this lightweight backpack carrier has you covered. At just 4.4 pounds, it's designed for on-the-go families and includes thoughtful details like a pocket, drink bottle storage, and even a small detachable backpack for kids. The internal frame even folds flat to meet the carry-on requirements for most airlines. Adventure on.
7The Traditionalist Carrier
If carriers with multiple positions seem unnecessary to you, the 100 percent cotton soft-structured Boba 4G carrier offers just two — facing in and on the back — for a more traditionalist approach to baby-wearing. In exchange for the lost positions, though, the Boba can support your child till they reach 45 pounds, which is more than the average soft-structured carrier. It even features a removable foot straps and hood for increased comfort. As a bonus, it comes in a slew of fun colors and patterns, if basic black isn't your style.
8The Carrier That's Cool (Literally)
One of the perks of baby-wearing (that it keeps your sweet, snuggly babe close to you) can turn into a downside when it feels like it's a 1,000 degrees outside. But fear not, baby-wearing mamas. You can still wear your baby without turning into a sweaty mess, thanks to this cooling mesh carrier by Beco. The moisture-wicking shell keeps babies (and their moms!) comfortable, and the SPF 50 material protects delicate skin from the sun.
9The Easy-To-Use Wrap
Like the idea of a soft, stretchy wrap, but hate all the fabric you have to twist, turn, and tie to get it on? Look no further than the Baby K'tan, which features a patented double-looped design that eliminates much of the criss-crossing required of other similar carriers. Simply slide your arms into the loop holes, then choose from multiple carrying positions to secure your baby. Note that this carrier is individually sized and designed to stretch with use, so don't worry if it feels a bit snug at first.
10The Iconic Carrier
BABYBJORN is a name that's been synonymous with baby-wearing for decades, and for good reason. The affordable BABYBJORN baby carrier is easy to put on, easy to adjust for each user, and easy to clean, because accidents do — and will — happen. It does, however, lack a supportive waistband, so it's ideal for moms who don't plan to wear their babies often. For about twice as much money, BABYBJORN does make a carrier with all the bells and whistles, but for basic baby-wearing needs, the original has got your back.
11The Water-Safe, Warm-Weather Wrap
Are you a mom who lives in warm, sunny climates where water activities are a way of life? If this describes you (or your vacationing self) and the thought of a sticky, sweaty baby attached to your sticky, sweaty body has you cranking the AC, reach for this ultra-breathable wrap made of quick-drying performance mesh. Insider tip: You can wear this wrap in the shower, which is ideal, if you've got a babe who wants to snuggle with you all the time.
12The Backpack For Adventurers
Wraps and soft-structured carriers are great for jaunts around town, but when you want to get out of town – really out of town, like wilderness-level out of town – a true backpack-style carrier is the best option. The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 comes loaded with features, including a detachable daypack, an automatic, no-pinch kickstand, a sun canopy, and storage galore, so you'll be able to explore your world comfortably.
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