What is a baby carrier?
A baby carrier is a brilliant way to keep your baby securely held against you, whilst allowing you to be hands-free. Not to be confused with slings and wraps (which are made of fabric that wraps and ties around the body) baby carriers are more structured and usually fasten with buckles and clips. There are huge variety of different styles that allow you to carry your baby on your front, side or back. Some carriers can be used from day one, others have a minimum weight limit. While most parents get the most use out of them in the first 18 months or so, many can actually be used to carry children age 3 years or more; in fact one carrier on our list could be suitable up to the age of 10.
To compile this list, we tested a range of carriers with our parent testers and their babies, as well as consulting babywearing experts and midwives for their advice. The MadeForMums team also compared the carriers, looking at their fabrication, features, padding and support to come up with a list that caters for all requirements.
Sling and carriers expert Hannah Wallace is the owner of Wear My Baby, one of the UK’s leading baby carrier shops and advice services. Here, she’s outlined everything you need to know before choosing your carrier. Below our list, she shares her advice on how to use one safely.
Why use a baby carrier?
They’re incredibly practical – You’ll have your hands free drink a cup of tea, look after other children…the list is endless. Baby carriers take up far less room than prams and strollers, making travelling by car or public transport a whole lot easier.
A well fitted carrier can help postnatal recovery – Wearing a carrier can increase your strength and fitness as you carry your growing baby – without any hardcore exercise regimes! Babywearing supports parent-child bonding as it gets lots of Oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’) flowing and may also ease symptoms of postnatal depression.
You can keep your baby close – Newborns in particular feel comforted by being close to you and from the movement of your walking and the sound of your heartbeat. It’s good for their physical, cognitive, and emotional development, too, as they’re able to engage with the world around them – and with you at the same time. Being held upright is great for their digestion and has many of the same benefits as tummy time.
You can wear one for an extended period – There’s no upper limit to how many hours a day you can carry your baby, so long as they’re safely fitted to the carrier and their airways are protected (see the TICKS guide below our product list). While you may find yourself carrying a newborn for long periods each day, for the first few months, your growing baby will start to let you know – loudly! – when they’d prefer to get out and have some playtime on the floor.
Best baby carriers at a glance
- Best baby carrier for a range of carrying options: Ergobaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier All-In One Cool Air Mesh, £154.90
- Best compact baby carrier: Integra Baby Carrier, from £70
- Best baby carrier for all weather: Infantino In Season 5 Layer Ergonomic Carrier, £74.99
- Best baby carrier for adjustability: BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One, £160
- Best baby carrier for portability: Tula Lite Baby Carrier, £79.90
- Best baby carrier for sturdy support: Neko Switch Baby Size Carrier, £130
- Best baby carrier for intuitive features: Nuna Cudl, £150
- Best baby carrier for big kids: Tula pre-School Carrier, £129.90
- Best baby carrier for long journeys: LittleLife Cross Country S4, £179.99
- Best baby carrier for comfort: Beco 8 Baby carrier, £125
What to look for when choosing a baby carrier:
Get the right size – Choosing a baby carrier is a lot like choosing jeans, shoes or a bra – how it fits depends both on your body shape, and your preferences of what feels good on your body. For example, mums who are very petite and/or have large breasts should generally avoid very bulky carriers that have internal harnesses. I spend a lot of time looking parents up and down and assessing which carriers will be perfect for their size and shape! I can almost always find carriers that will fit both mum and dad, so you don’t necessarily need 2 carriers – but if you get the opportunity to try on a wide range of carriers, you may find that you have different favourites.
Get the right fit – Remember that how a carrier is fitted is just as important as which one you choose. If not well fitted, even the fanciest, high-end carrier may not offer optimal safety for your baby and can put a strain on your back and shoulders. It’s worth getting advice from baby carrier experts or your local sling library, where they can advise what carrier or sling will suit you best based on your body type and help you get the most comfortable fit.
Carrying positions – Carriers come with a range of positions that will help you and your baby to get a comfortable fit as they grow. From 4 months (to around 10 months) your baby can be carried facing outwards. Babies never need to be carried facing out – letting them ride with their arms out of the carrier is a great alternative – but many babies enjoy facing forward and discovering the world with the warm feeling of the parent. Your baby will feel heavier as their weight will be pulling away from you, so only do so for short periods of time (30-45 minutes is ideal). Many carriers can also be used for hip carrying (from 5-6 months) and back carrying (from 6-9 months).
Ease of cleaning – It’s common for parents to use their baby carriers for several hours a day, several days per week, for a couple of years so it’ll no doubt get dribbled, chewed and vomited on. It’s worth checking if you can pop it in the washing machine or if it’s suitable for wipe cleaning only.
What are the alternatives to a baby carrier?
If you’re after a soft, stretchy wrap to wear with your baby, rather than a structured carrier, we’ve also tried out 10 excellent wraps and slings with our parent testers. Ideal for smaller newborns, slings differ from baby carriers in that they don’t usually have clips, buckles or buttons, and have to be tied to fit securely, which will take practice.
Backpack carriers are also great for parents who like to head places a buggy would struggle to go, whether this is an epic mountain trek or just the local market! Back carriers are suitable for babies who can sit up and support themselves – generally you’ll see them labelled as being okay for use from 6 months and last until your child’s 3 or 4 – if your back can withstand it!
How much does a baby carrier cost?
Most carriers tend to sit around the £130 to £150 price point, with the most expensive on our list going up to £180 and the cheapest starting from £70. Price isn’t necessarily an indication of quality when it comes to carriers, as some of the lesser-known and more affordable brands performed as well as as higher-priced brands in our tests.
The most important thing is to find a carrier that fits you well and you can use easily – this may well be a more affordable design.
Here is our pick of the best baby carriers to buy in 2021
1. Ergobaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier All-In-One Cool Air Mesh, £154.90
– Best for a range of carrying options
Suitable from: birth to 4 years (3.2kg to 20kg) | Carrying positions: 4 – front-facing parent, front-facing out, hip and back | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Gold – Baby carrier over £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
In the words of sling expert and babywearing consultant, Hannah Wallace, the Ergobaby Omni 360 is “well loved by mums and dads of all shapes and sizes.” This is thanks to to its brilliant support when outward facing, breathability, excellent lumbar support and easy adjustability around the head and neck area.
MFM reviewer Georgina, mum of 2, shares use of the Ergobaby carrier with her husband and found it adapts well to different body shapes. She explained, “I love that we only had to buy one carrier for the both of us. It is easy to adjust the waistband and straps, so we can swap the carrier between us with ease – and the Ergobaby is comfortable for both of our body types.”
The Omni 360 has 4 different carrying positions, including on the hip. Hannah notes “it’s a bit tricky to work out how to get an ideal fit right away”, but colour-coded velcro and and simple clips help to make this easier. Home tester Amanda, mum of 1, called this carrier a “game-changer” and even found it a suitable for her premature baby. “My own baby was premature so on the smaller size for age but I instantly felt very comfortable carrying her in this,” she said. “But it also feels like there is plenty of room for baby to grow and still be comfy and secure!”
Pros: adjustable head support, suitable for all body types, 4 carrying positions, breathable
Cons: high price point
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2. Integra Baby Carrier, from £70
– Best compact baby carrier
Suitable from: birth to 5 years (3.2kg to 24kg) | Carrying positions: 2 – back and front | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Gold – Baby carrier under £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
Created by mum of 3, Sarah Sadler, the Integra Baby Carrier is designed to be compact but supportive for your baby. Sling expert, babywearing consultant and MadeForMums Awards 2021 judge, Hannah Wallace, commented that the Integra has “all the feel of a wrap, but much easier to use” and praised the lack of bulkiness and thick padding. However, she recommends trying the Integra first to check how well it fits your body shape.
Made to last your baby up to their toddler years, it comes in 3 sizes, with Size 1 suitable from birth until around 2 years, Size 2 from 18 months to around 3 years and Size 3 from 3 years up to 5 (admittedly, for “shorter carrying moments”, as the brand points out).
Home tester Paul, dad of 2, said, “The Integra is a great carrier; it’s compact but also felt comfortable for our little one and supportive for my back. It is high quality – the material looks and feels great. We loved the design, which is cheerful for kids but modern for parents too.”
Pros: modern prints, great value, supportive, compact
Cons: doesn’t suit every body shape
Read our full MadeForMums Integra Baby Carrier review
3. Infantino In Season 5 Layer Ergonomic Carrier, £74.99
– Best all-weather carrier
Suitable from: birth up to 3 years (3.6kg to 18.1kg) | Carrying positions: 4 – in-facing (infant), in-facing wide, outfacing and backpack | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Silver – Baby carrier under £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
Ideal for the unpredictable British climate, the all-weather Infantino In Season 5 Layer Ergonomic Carrier has a wide range of options – including a soft jersey knit layer, a quilted panel layer and a full coverage cover – meaning your baby stays comfortable whatever the season.
The ergonomic seat is adjustable and supports your child’s back and hips in the ideal “M” position with knee-to-knee support, while the carrier is suitable for all body types, which home tester Donna praised. Home tester Zeynep, mum of 3, loved that the poppered layering options didn’t weigh the carrier down. She explained, “I found it very lightweight even with the all other padded parts on.” While Donna added that “using layers may seem complicated, but you simply take them out of their pocket, pull them over the body and snap them in place.”
Similar to the Ergobaby Omni 360 and Tula Lite, the Infantino has a handy zipped pocket on the waistband to hold your mobile phone, car keys and purse. Plus, we love the addition of the soft, muslin hood to keep your baby’s head protected.
Pros: all-weather, lightweight, supportive
Cons: limited colours and patterns
4. BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One, £160
– Best for adjustability
Suitable from: birth to 3 years (3.5kg to 15kg) | Carrying positions: 4 – newborn, in-facing, outfacing and back | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Silver – Baby carrier over £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
As with the Ergobaby Omni 360, if you and your partner will be regularly sharing a carrier, the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One is a great option due to how easy it is to adjust, according to our home testers. Its structured back support and sturdy waistbelt is great for heavier children or parents who need extra support, compared with the less padded Integra.
The Carrier One offers 4 different carrying positions and the longer torso of the carrier can work well with taller parents. MFM reviewer Eva, mum of 1, commented, “An ingenious touch is the zip system that lets you adjust the leg settings. Not many carriers offer such a range of adjustments. And that’s the real beauty of the product. It offers versatility and gives you different options as your baby grows.”
Home tester Rebecca, mum of 1, echoed this praise and added, “This is the most comfortable carrier I have used. The padded straps are great and the ease of adjusting each element means it’s easy to make tweaks if needed, even while my baby is in the carrier.”
Pros: good support, offers longevity, adjustable zip system
Cons: high price point, not the best for back carrying
Read our full MadeForMums BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One review
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5. Tula Lite Baby Carrier, £79.90
– Best for portability
Suitable from: 4 months to 18 months (5.4kg to 13.6kg) | Carrying positions: 2 – in-facing front and back | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Silver – Baby carrier under £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
For parents on the go, the Tula Lite is a great portable option and a brilliant carrier to take on holiday. Sling expert and babywearing consultant, Hannah Wallace explained, “It’s absolute genius design to have a carrier that folds into its own integrated bum bag.” While it doesn’t “do everything”, for example it doesn’t have a ‘seat’ like many other carriers and the waistband isn’t padded, Hannah praised the Tula Lite for its softness, good value and clear instructions.
The carrier scored highly with our testers due to its breathable design, minimal padding and the nature-inspired gender-neutral designs and the choice of colours. The use of woven Ripstop fabric also means it’s quick-drying and durable.
Home tester Amy, mum of 2, noted that one of its downsides is that it can only be worn in 2 positions and there’s no neck support for sleeping babies, but it is great for short walks or as a second carrier. “The Tula Lite is an excellent carrier for holidays and travelling – compact enough to slip inside a changing bag, lightweight and breathable,” she said. “There is also a separate zipped pocket for essentials, meaning you don’t need to take out a separate bag.”
Pros: compact, lightweight, portable, quick-drying
Cons: no head support, no out-facing option
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6. Neko Switch Baby Size Carrier, £130
– Best for sturdy support
Suitable from: birth to 2-3 years (3.5kg to 15kg) | Carrying positions: 2 – front and back | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Silver – Baby carrier over £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
Thoughtfully designed by a babywearing consultant, the Neko Switch offers great support for parents of all shapes and sizes, thanks to the high density foam in the shoulder straps and strong waistbelt. “Even on two hour walks carrying a sturdy 6-month-old, my back feels supported,” said MFM reviewer Rohese, mum of 1.
Made from soft organic cotton, the Neko Switch is ideal for newborns and has a special buckle adjustment for babies under 6 months, which Neko says avoids putting a strain on their back and spine. The carrier is easily adjusted to fit a growing baby, as the unused buckle tucks away neatly into a pocket and can be used from 6 months onwards. The Neko Switch also comes with removable teething pads and a rain hood.
Home tester Michelle, mum of 1, was also impressed by how well the carrier evenly dispersed her son’s weight. She said, “The long padded straps feel as though they help take the strain off my lower back, while the foam pads make this very comfortable to wear for long periods.”
Our testers did find the instructions a little unclear, but recommend looking at video tutorials online for some visual guidance.
Pros: soft cotton, easy to adjust, supportive
Cons: unclear instructions, not front-facing
7. Nuna Cudl, £150
Best for intuitive features
Suitable from: birth to 3 years (3.5kg to 16kg) | Carrying positions: 4 – in-facing (up to 4 months), in-facing (4 months+), facing out, back | Machine washable: Yes
The first-ever carrier from Nuna – a brand known for its buggies, car seats and cots – is a chic, comfortable carrier for both parent and baby. What makes this carrier stand out from similarly priced competitors is its range of intuitive features, including a velcro waistband, magnetic buckles, a sunshade hood for the baby, and 2 washable dribble bibs.
“The ease in which you can put the carrier on – and your baby in it – is a great selling point”, said MFM reviewer and dad of 2 Joe. He also praised the magnetic clasps that were “really easy to fasten compared to standard release buckles”, as well as the fact “you can buckle the shoulder straps before you put the baby in and then just pull the sling over your head like a jumper.”
The Cudl has a modern, minimalist design and is available in neutral muted colours, but Joe did report it to be quite bulky due to the wide well-padded shoulder straps and thick velcro waistband.
He added, “This carrier is certainly built for comfort and not speed – it’s very comfortable in short bursts – but because it’s so heavily padded, I could imagine it’s quite difficult to wear it for longer than an hour or two.”
Pros: intuitive features, minimalist design, well-padded
Read our full MadeForMums Nuna Cudl carrier review
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8. Tula Pre-school Carrier, £129.90
– Best for big kids
Suitable from: 4 to 7 years (16kg to 31.8kg) | Carrying positions: 2 – back and front | Machine washable: Yes | Awards: Silver – Baby carrier over £100, MadeForMums Awards 2021
With reinforced construction and an extra-large carrier panel, the Tula Pre-school Carrier allows parents to comfortably carry older kids from preschooler and beyond. Babywearing expert, Hannah Wallace explained, “This is really good value for extended carrying and offers something new and important to the market. It is ideal if your child is in age 3-4 clothes and you’ve outgrown your baby/toddler carrier.”
MFM tester Rachel, mum of 1, found it to be a great fit for her child and said,”I haven’t used my stroller since I’ve had it on test… My preschooler loves it, says he’s super comfy and calls it the ‘carry cuddle’!”
While our home testers found the padded shoulder straps comfortable, they expressed that this carrier is not necessarily suitable for someone with back problems. “Initially comfortable and felt very supportive, but after about 5 minutes my back was very strained when used front-facing. I have a bad back (thanks kids!) and found that I wouldn’t be able to use the carrier for very long,” said home tester Lucy, mum of 2.
Pros: offers extended carrying, extra supportive carrier panel
Cons: not suitable for back problems
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9. LittleLife Cross Country S4, £179.99
– Best for long journeys
Suitable from: 6 months to 3 years | Carrying positions: 1 – back (from 6 months) | Machine washable: wipe clean only
While the range of LittleLife carriers look fairly similar, the Cross Country S4 is the updated version of the original Cross Country. It is based on the design of mountaineering backpacks, but with a slimmer profile. New features include lightweight airflow shoulder straps, updated fabrics and a newly designed face pad. The S4 also comes with a sun shade, foot stirrups and a viewing mirror.
If you have a particularly heavy baby or want to carry toddlers on long walks, the Cross Country can take weight up to 20kg (around 3-4 years old). This multipurpose carrier has an adjustable back system to ensure a good fit and the sturdy anchor point evenly distributes your child’s weight make the carrier very comfortable.
MFM reviewer Georgina, mum of 2, loves the large base pocket and bottle pocket. She said, “The pocket can hold quite a few items, such as phone, keys, snacks, a spare nappy and wet wipes, much more than the ones that come with baby carriers. That along with the water bottle pocket means we can head out on a walk without having to take an extra bag.”
It is also really easy to put your child in the carrier; the anchor point at the base of the carrier has a handy hole for your foot so that when the carrier is on the ground you can keep it secure with your foot and have both hands free to strap your child in.
Pros: large storage pocket, easy to use, comfortable
Cons: not machine washable, bulky, high price point
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10. Beco 8 Baby Carrier, £125
– Best for comfort
Suitable from: birth to 4 years (3.5kg to 20kg) | Carrying positions: 4 – back, front in-facing and out-facing and hip | Machine washable: Yes
Structured and supportive, the Beco 8 has a removable newborn insert, padded headrest and adjustable back panel to make sure your baby is positioned correctly. For parent comfort, it has a wide adjustable waistband, easy-to-adjust chest-strap sliders and dual-adjustable straps.
MFM reviewer and mum of 1, Tara explained “This is the comfiest carrier I’ve tried and is absolutely perfect for our long family walks. It feels very secure, yet lightweight, and the 100 per cent cotton fabric is soft, which helps the carrier to contour to your body shape.”
While MFM reviewer Tara found the instructions “confusing” and the multiple carrying positions “a little daunting”, once you get the hang of it the Beco 8 is “extremely easy to put on and take off.”
A MFM user agreed and said, “I have tried a lot of carriers and this was instantly my favourite! This is a hard structured carrier so takes the weight of baby rather than putting the strain on your back and feels very secure for baby.”
Pros: comfortable for baby and parent, wide waistband, easy to adjust
Cons: confusing instructions
Read our full MadeForMums Beco 8 Baby Carrier review
Available from: Amazon
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How did we choose our 10 of the Best?
All the carriers in this list have been tried by parent testers. During the testing process we considered comfort, ease of fit, adaptability for different body types, number of carrying positions, fabrics used, design and appearance, and extra features. We also asked testers if they felt the product was worth the money.
Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.
How to wear a baby carrier safely
Babies should always be carried upright – This so that their airways are open and clear. Babies should never be carried in a laying down, ‘cradle’ position.
Make sure it’s well-tightened – Ensure your baby cannot slump inside the carrier. If it is too big or too loose, your baby’s chin can drop down onto their chest which could compromise their airways.
Make sure it’s adjusted correctly – If your carrier is adjustable, make sure the width and height of the carrier is set to the correct size for your baby’s age and stage. There’s usually a guide to this one inside of the carrier’s waistband; if not then refer to the instruction manual.
Make sure you can see your baby’s face – Babies should be positioned high up on your chest and be close enough for you to easily kiss the top of their head without craning your neck.
Make sure their legs are positioned correctly – The IHDI (International Hip Dysplasia Institute) recommends carrying with baby’s hips in a natural “M” position during their first 6 months, with the hips bent a little more than a right angle – 90°+ (see image below). The IHDI also has a list of approved “hip healthy” baby carriers if you want more reassurance.
Be sure not to overheat your baby – As a rough rule of thumb when carrying, your body counts as one layer of clothing, the baby carrier is at least one more, and if you’re in a warm place that’s a third – so make sure they’re not overdressed.
Remember the T.I.C.K.S guide to babywearing safety – This is a handy reminder of what to check for when using a baby carrier (Tight, In view at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep chin off the chest, Supported back).
About the author
Georgina Probert lives in the Kent countryside with her husband, two daughters and cat Molly. Georgina used both slings and wraps around the house when her children were newborn, and regularly take her kids on off-road walks using baby carriers.
She has been a journalist for more than 14 years, working on a wide range of magazines including Family First, Homes & Gardens, Good Homes and Cage & Aviary Birds.