Looking for just the right baby carrier for wearing your little one? We researched over 30 products and purchased more than 15 of the top contenders for side-by-side testing over several months. With so many kinds of carriers, it can get confusing fast. Luckily, we have all the details you need to find the right carrier for your family. We test carriers for baby's comfort, parent's comfort, ease of use, and ease of cleaning using multiple parents and babies of varying sizes. Continue reading for all of the details necessary to choose the right carrier for your family and budget.
The Best Baby Carriers and Slings
Best Overall Baby Carrier
Nalakai Ring Sling
The Nalakai Ring Sling is a comfy sling that is easy to use and cozy for passengers. The fabric on the Nalakai is a soft bamboo and linen blend that offers some stretch for comfort and quick-drying properties to speed up cleaning. We liked the ability to make adjustments on the go to increase comfort for little ones and wearers. Being able to pull the fabric up for head support or tighten the sling to bring baby's face closer to yours can make a huge difference in comforting your baby and providing physical comfort. There isn't much to dislike about this budget-friendly straightforward sling.
The Nalakai is line dry only, which is the only real downside to this sling. This detail means it takes longer for it to dry than options that go in the dryer, so you'll be sans sling at some point. However, the fabric is reasonably quick to dry, and drying times are significantly lower than padded or structural carriers. Overall, the Nalakai has a reasonable price, is easy to use, comfortable for parents and babies making it tough to beat and our favorite carrier in the lineup.
Read review: Nalakai Ring Sling
Best Comfort Sling
Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling
The Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling is a ring sling with a similar design to other slings, but the Maya has slightly rougher fabric and a zippered pocket on the tail end. The Maya is easy to use with only one adjustment point. It is comfortable to wear and cozy to sit in. We like that this carrier is intuitive, has a few hold positions, and works for babies from 8-35 lbs. The shoulder portion of the sling is lightly padded and includes more material for a more comfortable fit, so you can keep the adventure going for as long as you like without discomfort. This design makes the Maya more comfortable than some competitors.
If your little one has sensitive skin, the Maya is probably not the best choice given the rougher fabric. In contrast, the Nalakai Ring Sling fabric is softer and gentler on sensitive skin. However, the Maya pocket is zippered and lightly padded, providing something not found on other slings. Overall, the thicker sling fabric is comfy and for winter use or with children without sensitive skin, the comfort makes up for the missing softness.
Read review: Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling
Best Traditional Carrier
The BabyBjorn Carrier One is a soft structured carrier with three positions for little ones between 8-33 lbs. This carrier is a quality option with multiple adjustment points to give different sized parents and babies a custom fit for comfort and security. This BabyBjorn has safety buckles that work well and forward pull adjustment straps for quick on-the-go changes, and the seat width is adjustable depending on baby's age or size. The One is easy to put on, and you can attach it before you pick up your baby, making it significantly more straightforward (and potentially safer) than the wrap carriers we tested that can necessitate a helper.
This carrier is more expensive than some of the competitors, which puts it lower on the list for those with a tighter budget. However, for a soft structured carrier, it is closer to the average price. It is also hang-to-dry, which causes downtime sans carrier depending on your climate (humidity is not your friend). Despite the unfortunate washing instructions (haven't they experienced a baby blowout?!), we think most families will find the One can be the potential "one" for them.
Read review: BabyBjorn One
Easy to Use Wrap
Baby K'tan Original
The Baby K'tan Original is a wrap "like" carrier without the traditional wrap design that is often challenging to master without help. This "special" wrap is two loops of fabric joined together, which makes it easy to put on without holding your baby and easy to put the baby in once the carrier is securely in place. We love this unique design, the soft, somewhat stretchy, fabric, and the use of 100% cotton for little ones from 8-35 lbs. The price is reasonable and great for families on a budget, and the easy to use design makes it worth the small price bump over traditional wraps, which are nothing more than large swaths of fabric with complicated wrapping designs.
The K'tan's only potential downside is the design is not as versatile as a regular wrap, and it could be harder to make this wrap fit parents who are vastly different in size (think petite and linebacker); it can be challenging to make small adjustments for fit or comfort as there are no adjustment points. However, if you are average size and you and your mate aren't the odd pair, then the K'tan is an easy to use carrier solution we think you'll love.
Read review: Baby K'tan Original
Great Wrap on a Budget
The Boba Wrap is a wrap style product that looks like a broad swath of material that you wrap around your body in various configurations depending on the position or age of your baby. Wraps can be challenging to use because they require a higher learning curve and often holding your baby while you put it on. However, the Boba wrap is super duper soft and made of stretchy fabric that helps tuck your little one securely to your body with more freedom of movement with a snuggly feel. We love that this carrier is budget-friendly, versatile, and works for babies from 7-35 lbs. The Boba is machine washable and goes in the dryer, which keeps your cleaning downtime down to a minimum (potentially during nap time), so you can go on more adventures without waiting for your carrier to line dry. It is also useful for parents of different sizes and growing little ones because you can make adjustments on-the-go for a personalized fit for comfort or size and the fabric is long enough to work with almost any size adult.
The Boba is just a wrap that could cause trouble as your baby grows and becomes more interested in the world around them. While it has positions that let little ones look out and explore, it can be limiting because the fabric gives and some babies won't want to be so snuggly pressed against their parents. However, if budget is a concern, or you want a comfy, easy to care for option that may not last until 35 lbs, then the Boba Wrap is a great choice your wallet will love.
Read review: Boba Wrap
Lifetime Carrier for Infants to Toddlers
The Tula Free-to-Grow is a soft structured carrier with a variety of possible adjustments, so it grows with your baby and works for the life of your babywearing years, potentially translating to a "one and done" buying decision. This carrier is super comfortable for parents to wear even on prolonged adventures, and the strap style means you can make small adjustments on-the-go for comfort or fit. The more structured design gives little ones a little more space to wiggle than wrap style carriers.
This carrier may not be a good choice for families on a budget or parents who want a larger variety of positions for baby to ride in. This Tula is one of the most expensive in the review and only has two position options. However, this carrier is a quality choice that works well, feels good, and will work for several years without worry. Depending on your wearing goals, it could be the right fit for you and your family.
Read review: Tula Free-to-Grow
Why You Should Trust Us
BabyGearLab has been testing baby carriers for over 5 years with a variety of styles and types under our belt. Founder and board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Juliet Spurrier uses her background as a mother of two and a pediatric doctor to help her during product selection and test development to choose products that are safe for developing hips and convenient for parents.
Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz began her carrier love after having her first child 10 years ago. With a closet containing over 10 carriers, she's tried every style and brand with her own two children, as well as almost every carrier tested at BabyGearLab. The team also includes Senior Analyst Bob Wofford, father of 7, for the male perspective on child wearing. Bob has been professionally testing baby gear since 2014 and has a vast knowledge of baby carriers and their recent rise in popularity. Senior Review Editor, Abriah Wofford a BabyGearLab contributor since 2015, rounds out the team.
Related: How We Tested Baby Carriers
Analysis and Test Results
Babywearing has been around for centuries, and today's technology and advances in design present safer wearing choices than ever before. Carriers continue to evolve in their designs to meet the needs of modern parents and busy families looking for safe, hands-free alternatives for carrying little ones. We tested each carrier for parent and child comfort, ease of use, and ease of cleaning so you can find the option that best suits your needs.
Related: Buying Advice for Baby Carriers
Avoid the frustration and hassle of a stroller by using a baby carrier! Not only is it quick and easy, but it doesn't take up any more space than you do, and most babies find the experience soothing, which decreases crying and meltdowns in public.
Potentially one of the best things about buying a carrier is the variety of price ranges you'll find, which means most families can find a good product that meets their budget and needs. Also, should your carrier of choice be outside your budget, you might consider putting it on your registry or skipping a stroller until your baby is older to postpone the investment to a time when you aren't buying as much gear. The Boba Wrap is a straightforward wrap with a lower price and a variety of wrapping methods that works with little ones up to 35 lbs. The Baby K'tan Original is in the same price range but is easier to use with almost 10 more points for its overall score. The Nalakai Ring Sling is also fairly inexpensive and offers a lot for the price. Want a structured carrier? High-quality soft structured carriers (SSC) can last for years through multiple children which can justify a larger initial investment. Some parents skip buying a stroller and choose something like the Tula Free-to-Grow with a higher list price for a carrier but small compared to a quality stroller. While structured options typically come with higher price tags, you can usually use them for longer, and if it translates into forgoing a stroller, it can save you even more money.
Wearing your baby not only adds ease and convenience to your daily routine, but the practice also contributes positively to the baby's social, emotional, and physical development.
Wearing your baby isn't pleasant if your baby isn't comfortable. We paid attention to which positions baby favored, and if they fell asleep, were they able to stay asleep comfortably?
The material also has a significant impact on comfort, so we considered which materials were hot or caused chafing, or which didn't offer enough support or the right kind of support. We looked for proper head and neck support, a nice deep and wide seat, soft fabric, stretchy materials, and an overall sense of security.
We urge those interested in babywearing to read our safety guidelines article entitled Best Practice Tips for Baby Wearing.
Some carriers are inherently more comfortable for babies than others, and some are better for newborns but can grow uncomfortable as little ones grow. In our tests, little testers were most content in products that were more adjustable for size and those with softer and somewhat stretchy materials that allow natural body postures with a supported feeling. These preferences means the slings have an advantage over the structured carriers with the Nalakai Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Ring Sling both earning an 8 of 10 for baby's comfort (the high in the group). The most uncomfortable products have rougher fabrics, less adjustability, or designs that limit movement or growth, several carriers earned a low score of 5, and all were soft-structured products, including the Infantino Flip Advanced.
As with baby, if the person wearing the carrier is uncomfortable, using it regularly isn't going to happen. The chief complaints are shoulder and back strain, so we test for how long we could wear the products before experiencing discomfort.
Things that make a difference for us are padding (especially in the shoulders), strap width, lumbar support, and waist strap adjustability. Being able to wear your baby in a variety of positions is also crucial to comfort, including quickly and easily switching from front to back, etc. when desired.
While most parents can wear any of the carriers in this review for a short time without significant discomfort, we feel they should be as comfy as possible so you can get the most from your babywearing and bonding time. The BabyBjorn One is the most comfortable carrier for parents with nicely padded shoulder straps and a supportive waistband that helps distribute your baby's weight evenly for a comfortable fit. This carrier earned a perfect 10 of 10, something unrivaled by any competitor in our tests. The Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above left), Nalakai Ring Sling, and the Tula Free-to-Grow all earned 9s making them almost as comfortable as the One. So whether you prefer a structured pack style carrier or a shoulder sling, there is a carrier that works for you. The most uncomfortable option is the Infantino Flip Advanced (above right) with a 3 of 10 and less padding in the shoulders with a supportless waistband. While you can wear this product for short durations, it won't work for long adventures or frequent use.
Ease of Use
Carrier ease of use on a day-to-day basis can make or break whether you choose to use it more than a couple of times. We started our ease of use testing by taking the products out of the packaging to ensure a complete experience.
We prefer user manuals with clear illustrations and directions. We consider how straightforward a carrier is to grab and go or to use without assistance. Does it fit inside a diaper bag? How quickly can you get it on? Once on, we compare how easy the carriers are to adjust, both for fit and if your baby needs to move or shift.
Simple carriers are easier to use, both out of the box and on-the-go. The slings have only one ring adjustment point and one end to pull or loosen, which makes them the easiest to put on, use, and fit. Both the Nalakai Ring Sling and the Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling (above left) earned 9 in this metric. The wraps are complicated with a giant swath of fabric that requires significant wrapping skills all while holding your baby as you put it on. The learning curve is high including remembering how to perform the wraps, and holding the baby while you do it. Both the Moby Wrap Classic and the Boba Wrap earned 4s and function the same way with the same challenges. The Storchenwiege Woven Wrap (above right) earns the lowest score with a 3 of 10 thanks to more positions and wrap options and material that doesn't "give" as much as the competition wraps. The soft structured carries vary for ease of use between 4 and 7 depending on the number of straps and adjustment points and how hard they were to use when wearing the carrier with a baby inside.
Ease of Cleaning
Cleaning is a crucial factor as you can predict significant wear and tear with a well-loved carrier. Carriers are often grabbed, stuffed, dragged, chewed, drooled on, covered in spit-up, or victims of accidental blow-outs.
To put it simply, your carrier will require regular cleaning, making it essential to know ahead of time how easy or difficult this process will be to complete. The options that score highest for ease of cleaning are machine washable and can go in the dryer. The second best include those that are okay in the washer but are hang dry only. Unfortunately, when dealing with babies, sometimes only a good machine wash will do.
Air-drying your carrier means more downtime between uses. If you reside in a humid climate, this time could equal more than a day for a padded soft structured carrier to completely dry. This extended drying time means you and your baby will have to wait to use your carrier longer than if it could be tumble dried. Several carriers earned 9 of 10 for ease of cleaning. The Baby K'tan Original (above left), Boba Wrap, Moby Wrap Classic, and Tula Free-to-Grow are all machine washable and dryable. These contenders are also easy to spot clean on-the-go. Several options, including the Nalakai Ring Sling, can go in the washer but need to hang dry. Slings dry quicker than structured carriers like the Tula Explore that have thicker padding that increases drying time. The hardest to keep clean are those with the longest possible downtime for hang drying earned 4s and include the Beco Gemini (above right) and the Infantino Flip Advanced.
Finding the right baby carrier for you and your baby can be a challenging task full of strange styles, types, and fabrics. Our review provides a detailed analysis of the competition, using our extensive testing process, so you can narrow the field to find the best carrier for your family and wallet. While there arguably isn't one carrier that is perfect for every person or every need, we do feel that there is a baby carrier right for you.
— Wendy Schmitz & Juliet Spurrier, MD