Baby carriers

Baby Carrier Buying Guide
Baby Carrier Buying Guide

Consumer Reports no longer updates this product category and maintains it for archival purposes only. 


Getting Started

Babies love being held, but even the most dedicated parent will find their arms need a break at some point. A baby carrier offers an easy way to keep your child close, monitored, and comforted while freeing your hands to do other things. Whether you're busy around the house or out running errands, a carrier can come in handy although it's recommended that your make sure you know how to use your carrier properly, safely, and comfortably.

Get the Fit
A well-fitting carrier closely mimics the way you carry your baby in your arms. You should not feel like you have to pick up your baby in the carrier; the carrier should support the baby like a snug embrace.

There are a number of different kinds of carriers, but most fall into one of three types: front carriers, slings and wraps, or framed backpack-style carriers. Front packs, soft structured carriers and mei tais hold your baby in an upright position and fasten with buckles or long tied straps. The second type, slings, pouches, and wraps, keep your baby in an upright or semi-reclined position. Read about the third type, framed backpack-style carriers, which are not for infants, in another guide.

Rate the Weight
All baby carriers should specify a minimum and maximum weight limit. The industry standard is 8 to 35 pounds, though carriers for older toddlers may range higher, while specialty products for preterm babies may have a lower weight range. If your baby is preterm, or under average birth weight, you should consult your pediatrician and consider professional advice to ensure proper and safe positioning of your preemie in a carrier.

With older babies or kids, you may find that your baby will be too heavy to carry comfortably before reaching the upper limit. Once your baby has full control of her head and neck and can sit up unassisted, you may want to switch to a backpack carrier since it will provide more structural support and put less stress on your body.



Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers typically have two buckled, padded shoulder straps and a supportive waist belt. The configuration transfers the weight load down towards the hips. Some have mechanisms (snaps or zippers) to adjust the size of the carrier, while others require an infant insert to fit a small baby properly. All allow a baby to face in on a caregiver’s chest (and some on the caregiver’s back), and some will allow a baby with established head and neck control to face outwards when carried on your front. Many models have a feature that allows you to cross the straps while wearing, which can be especially useful for petite wearers. There are a few one-shouldered hip carriers for larger babies, which also fall into this category.  

Mei Tais
Today’s mei tais are a modern iteration of a traditional Chinese design. Mei tais are rectangular shaped carriers, with long straps at each corner. Straps may be padded or made from wider fabric meant to spread out for the wearer’s comfort. Two straps tie around the wearer’s waist, and two come over the shoulders, cross under baby and tie behind the wearer’s back. Mei tais are re-tied every time, which makes them a good choice for multiple caregivers sharing the same carrier. Most can be cinched down, rolled or made to fit a smaller baby with a few minor tweaks.
Front Packs
This type of carrier consists of a padded fabric body with bound leg openings, attached to shoulder straps and typically a waist belt as well. Babies can be worn facing in or out (once they have head/neck control).
Ring slings and pouches are two types of slings. Ring slings consist of a length of fabric with two rings on one end. The fabric is threaded through the rings at the shoulder and tightened to form a hammock-type seat around the baby, holding baby snugly against the caregiver’s body in an upright seated position right from birth. A newborn’s neck is supported by the fabric of the sling once it’s wrapped securely.

A pouch may be either a simple tube of fabric that must be purchased in the correct size, or may be an adjustable pouch with snaps or buckle attachments. Like ring slings, they carry the baby in an upright seated position. Pouches can fold up very compactly, making them an option for quick errands, but they can be tricky to use with newborns because they must be sized correctly in order to adequately support a small baby. Since incorrect sizing can be a safety concern, Consumer Reports advises against using a pouch-type sling with a newborn.
Wraps are simply a long length of fabric that is wrapped and tied around the caregiver and the baby. One of the oldest traditional types of carrier, cloths of various lengths are used in many cultures around the world. Modern wraps on the U.S. market tend to be either stretch wraps, or woven wraps. Stretch wraps may come in jersey fabrics and can work well for snuggling a newborn. Again, the key is learning how to use one safely and securely. You can use a stretch wrap in a variety of positions including upright or chest-to-chest.

Woven wraps can be used in the same carry positions as stretch wraps but, unlike stretch wraps, offer the additional option of a back carry position for an older baby. Wraps are infinitely adjustable, but because they rely entirely on the body of the wearer and baby for their structure, the learning curve for using them safely and correctly can be quite steep. In addition to carefully reading the manufacturer’s instructions, we suggest finding an experienced and trained consultant in your area, either through a local specialty retailer or through the website. There’s no substitute for hands-on, experienced help to show you how to use a wrap, sling, or other soft carrier safely.
Hybrid carriers are a combination of a wrap and a pouch sling. Like pouch slings, they are ready-to-wear, and must be purchased in the right size. Often compared to a fitted T-shirt, they can be a good option for caregivers new to carrying a baby, as they can be easier to learn to use safely. But they must be sized correctly in order to provide adequate support for a small baby, and can’t be shared between differently-sized caregivers.



Safety and comfort should be your top priority, but with so many options on the market, there’s no need to sacrifice convenience and style.

Carriers are typically made of 100% cotton (usually heavier weight), a cotton-spandex blend, nylon or moisture-resistant poly-blends. Many are available in fashionable colors, popular patterns or even blends suitable for hot weather. Many slings or wraps are also available in a wide range of fabrics including jersey knit, linen, organic cotton, hemp, wool blend and nylon-spandex blend. Typically, manufacturers recommend spot cleaning when possible, but for practicality, it’s best for a carrier to be machine washable.

Buckles and webbing at the shoulder, and waist straps, should be sturdy, with minimal to no slippage when in use. They should be firm enough that they can’t be undone by baby fingers. (Some manufacturers use buckles that require two hands or two actions to undo, a safety feature.) Rings on ring slings should be smooth, with no weld points, and must be robust enough to not bend or break.

Structure and Support
The best carrier is one that fits you and your baby comfortably and securely. Overly narrow straps can dig in, so look for supportive padding in shoulder and waist straps. In unstructured carriers, or slings or wraps, spreading wide fabric evenly can help maintain comfortable weight distribution. Carrier straps and sling fabric should be the right length to hold your baby close to your body. Your baby should never be swaying, or hanging from your body. And remember to always keep a baby’s face clear of fabric, and his airway clear, so his chin isn’t slumped down onto his chest.

Inserts and Size Adjusters
Soft structured carriers, in particular may be too large for a newborn. Some manufacturers offer an infant insert to boost baby up and ensure that they’re safely and properly supported. Inserts usually wrap around the baby securely and then rest in the base of the carrier. Other carriers may have elastic, cinching buckles, zippers or toggles to adjust the height and/or width of the carrier, ensuring that your baby always has the best-fitting seat. Remember, a too-big (or a not properly adjusted to fit snugly) carrier may allow your baby to slip or slide over to the side of the carrier, leaving him slumped down and possibly with his face covered or airway compromised. Always make sure that your baby is properly supported in the carrier, and that his face is visible to you at all times.
Storage Pockets, Covers, and Hoods
Some carriers come with attached or detachable hoods that can keep the sun off your baby’s face. Any such hood should be of an appropriate length so as not to present an entrapment or suffocation hazard. If you buy aftermarket accessories (i.e. not sold by or through the carrier’s manufacturer) such as hood straps, teething pads and the like, be mindful that such accessories are not covered by the same safety standards as soft carriers are. Use common sense. Avoid any accessories that could pose a choking or strangulation hazard.
Many carriers have a small pouch or pocket, usually big enough for keys, a cell phone or maybe an extra diaper. Some have optional attachable bags or small backpacks if you need to carry more gear for the day.
Carrying a baby in a carrier in cold weather can be tricky, but there are many options on the market. Carrier covers snap around the straps of a carrier to keep a baby warm. (Be certain that the baby’s face remains visible to you, and that his breathing is not obstructed with such a cover in place.)


Shopping Tips

Some parents feel that a carrier or sling can be an important parenting tool, especially in the first months when you’re feeling overwhelmed and the baby needs to be held constantly. Some also feel that the physical closeness of holding a baby close to your body in a carrier or sling can help the bonding process. If you want to use a carrier, but your baby doesn’t seem to like being held that way, try another type of carrier; you may find one that works for both of you.

Check weight limit.  Be mindful of weight and age limits for each carrier you consider. Later on, a backpack carrier (for babies who can sit up independently, usually around at least 6 months old) can be handy for day hikes and frequent outings.

Buy new. Don’t accept a used carrier from a friend, or buy one secondhand. Although many are well-made and well-designed, they are still made of fabric, which is subject to wear and tear. If you have a particular brand that you’re interested in, check their website to find authorized retailers in your area. You can buy online, too, of course, but then you won’t be able to try on (and get some hands-on help, if needed, from the store’s staff) before you buy.
Check recalls. Always check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at, where you can also sign up for email notifications of any future recalls, or visit for any past issues or complaints about a particular product before you buy. Once you do buy, be sure to return the registration card to the manufacturer so that you will be notified if there are any safety concerns or recalls.  
Try before you buy. Carriers fit differently on different builds and body types, so it’s worth trying on before you buy, if possible. From petite to plus size, there are carriers out there to fit everyone; it’s just a matter of finding the right style and fit for you and your baby.  You should never feel like anything on your body is being strained or pinched. The carrier should be comfortable, and safe, for you and your baby.
Check the return policy. Some babies need time to adjust to a baby carrier; others never come around. So keep your receipt and the packaging the carrier came in just in case you have to return it.


Using a Baby Carrier Safely

Don’t be surprised if it takes a few practice runs to be comfortable using your carrier or sling. Talking to more experienced parents using carriers can be helpful. Specialty retailers frequently have expert training, and many offer in-store demos and classes. A professional educator is a valuable resource to access, especially if you want personalized one-on-one help. The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) is a non-profit international trade organization comprised of industry manufacturers, retailers, and educators. Their website has safety tips and a member directory if you need a place to begin your search for an educator or retailer.
Adjusting the Carrier or Sling
Make any adjustments you can before putting your baby in the carrier or sling. All carriers or slings need some minor tweaking once the baby is situated, but taking such steps as adjusting strap length or ensuring fabric is spread properly in a ring sling before bringing the carrier up and around your baby can make the process much easier. The carrier is a substitute for your arms, really, so think of the carrier as coming up and around your baby in the same way as you would hold or embrace him.
Your baby should be snugly and securely against your chest; you should never feel as if the baby is dangling or swaying. A too-loose carrier is a very common error, so don’t be hesitant to tighten that carrier, wrap or sling. You’ll be able to tell if it’s too snug, but a too-loose carrier/sling/wrap can be more dangerous,  leaving room for baby to slump, slide out, or curl into a chin-to-chest position that can compromise her breathing. A too-loose carrier will also put unnecessary strain on the wearer’s back.  
Moving With the Carrier
Moving about with your baby in a carrier or sling requires constant awareness. A benefit of your baby being so close is that it is the easiest place to monitor her. Carrying your baby lets you go where strollers sometimes can’t, but extra care is required when your little one has the best seat in the house. Here are the top things to keep in mind:

Bend or squat using your legs, as opposed to leaning over from the waist.
Be aware of the added weight of your baby, and how this might affect your own center of gravity.
Be mindful of your extra dimensions when going through doorways and around corners.
 Babies grow quickly. What a curious little hand or foot couldn’t reach yesterday might be just be in reach today.
 A growing baby will obstruct your own view of your feet, turning a missed step or sidewalk crack into a potential fall hazard. On the plus side, your hands are free to help regain your balance, which would not be the case if you stumbled with your baby in your arms. Either way, be especially cautious of potential fall or slipping hazards.
A heavy baby on your front becomes a much lighter-seeming load on your back. Many wrap or carrier styles allow for a back carry option, once your baby is older and has good trunk control, and is able to sit up unassisted. A framed backpack carrier is another option for back carries, especially if you are traveling with gear.
Safety Dos and Don’ts
 Do read instructions, watch any included videos, and check out the manufacturer’s website for further how-to instructions. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help you to use your carrier safely and comfortably.  Most manufacturers can help you with troubleshooting tips. Don’t try to wing it; make sure you are familiar with how to put on and adjust the carrier or sling before you entrust your precious cargo to it.
 Do practice wearing your baby when you are both fed and well-rested. Put your carrier on over a soft surface, like a chair or couch, especially if you’re just learning. Some carriers can be put on while sitting down.
 Do ensure that baby’s face is visible at all times, and that he has an open airway. He should never be slumped down so that his chin is touching his chest. Babies can be carried in an upright heart-to-heart position from birth, in a carrier or sling that is adjusted to offer proper head and neck support. This position tends to be easiest to achieve for those new to babycarriers, and it’s ideal for monitoring your baby’s breathing.
• Do consult with your pediatrician and with a professional  educator if your baby was preterm, of a low birthweight, or has any respiratory issue at all, even a simple cold. These babies require extra attention.
• Don’t carry your baby completely covered, hidden from view, or in a curled position that allows a baby’s chin to rest on his chest. Covering your baby’s face, whether in a sling, car seat or stroller, can lead to breathing in carbon dioxide, and a kinked airway can lead to positional asphyxia. Babies, especially under 4 months of age, require constant monitoring in any device from a sling or carrier to swings, car seats, bouncy seats, and strollers.
• Don’t be reckless. A carrier can make your life with a baby much more convenient, but if your activity requires protective gear (like biking, skiing, or horseback riding), you definitely should not be doing it with your baby in a carrier.
• Don’t wear your baby in a sling or carrier while in a moving vehicle. The baby should be in a properly installed car seat any time they are in a moving vehicle.
• Don’t carry your baby while cooking or near open flames. A baby could easily get burned by a splash or a splatter, or even by proximity to the heat source. She could hurt herself by reaching for something sharp or hot. And slings and carriers, although they must adhere to flammability standards, are not flame proof. Use common sense.
• Don’t overdress or bundle your baby while he’s in a carrier. You will be sharing body heat, and the carrier also serves as an extra layer to help keep him comfortably warm.