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Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Baby Carriers
Updated on
October 31, 2023

Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Baby Carriers

By Babylist Team
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Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Baby Carriers.
Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Baby Carriers

Ever wish you had a baby gear expert by your side to answer all of your questions and help you build your baby registry every step of the way?

Welcome to Ask the Expert, a new series where I answer real questions from real Babylist users and parents just like you. Who am I? I’m Jen LaBracio, Babylist’s Gear Editor, a role that perfectly combines my love of (obsessive) research with my love of all things baby gear.

A baby carrier is one of the most-registered-for items on Babylist parents’ registries. Wearing your little one is a great way to soothe your baby and frees up your hands (and not to mention saves your back) when you need to get other things done.

But. Babywearing can be…complicated. There are tons of different carrier styles on the market. Not all styles work for all ages. And mastering getting them on without breaking a sweat? That’s a whole topic right there.

That’s why I’m here to answer all of your babywearing questions. I even enlisted the help of a real babywearing expert: Rebekah Kimminau, one of our Babylist Registry Consultants who’s also a Babywearing Educator (among other things!).

It’s also important to note that though babywearing is a more modern practice here in America, caregivers in many cultures and traditions have been carrying their babies for thousands of years. In fact, many of the carriers on the market today have direct nods to traditional carriers, from design, to patterns, to fabric. With some few exceptions, almost all of the baby carriers sold in North America today owe a debt to the skill and expertise of indigenous peoples of various cultures.

What’s the best newborn carrier?

Kicking things off with one of the most common questions I hear when talking about carriers: finding the best baby carrier for newborns.

Babywearing is beneficial both for you and your baby through the first few years of your little one’s life, but especially during the newborn months. That’s because newborns crave the sensation of being in the womb more than at any other age. They love to be held close and tight and find comfort in constant motion. Wearing your newborn can help soothe them and calm fussiness and give you the (much welcome) opportunity to have your hands free for other things.

We love soft, stretchy baby wraps for the newborn days. These types of wraps do a great job of mimicking the womb and can be adjusted to keep the baby high if the birthing person has had a C-section. Since these wraps are made from one long piece of fabric, they do require a bit of practice—but after a few tries most people are able to get the hang of them pretty quickly. Most brands have video tutorials that demonstrate how to get the wrap on and off (and how to get your baby in and out) step-by-step so be sure to check those out for whichever brand of carrier you own.

A few of our favorite soft, stretchy carriers include:

Check out our Best Baby Wraps guide for more recommendations.

Another type of carrier to check out is what many brands refer to as a “mini” carrier. Although technically a soft structured carrier (a carrier that features over-the-shoulder straps and a padded carrying pack, called an SSC for short), mini carriers were created with newborns in mind. They’re a lot easier to get on and off than most carriers and are designed to carry your baby high on your chest so they can feel your heartbeat. A few of our favorite minis are:

What’s the easiest newborn carrier to put on by yourself?

I distinctly remember the first time I tried to wrangle my newborn son into our baby carrier to head out into the world. The directions seemed so easy yet there we were, 20 minutes later, both of us sweaty, crying and covered in milk. And he still wasn’t in the baby carrier.

There’s no denying that there’s a learning curve to babywearing. Which is why unless you’re a seasoned pro, you’ll want to start with a carrier that’s easy(ish) to get on, especially if you’re going to be using the carrier solo most of the time.

We recommend a soft structured carrier or a ring sling for your first foray into solo babywearing. Soft structured carriers, as discussed above, are great because they’re relatively easy to get on and adjust and can be worn in several different positions. Many work from the newborn days right through to the toddler years, making them a great investment.

(Pro tip: most parents struggle to fasten the back clip on a SSC by themselves. But! Most carriers will allow you to fasten the clip before you put the carrier on, lift the clip over your head and then slip the baby in from the top, eliminating the need to buckle the back clip at all.)

Ring slings, a type of carrier made from one long piece of fabric and two rings that’s worn across the torso and supported by one shoulder, are another super quick and easy option to get on and off by yourself. Ring slings come in a variety of fabric choices and are easy to adjust since there are no buckles or clips to fuss with. Just be warned that they do come with more of a learning curve that SSCs, so you’ll want to watch some tutorials and practice a few times with some help before you try using one on your own.

A few of our favorite easy-to-use SSCs and ring slings include:

Head over to our Best Ring Slings and Best Baby Carriers guides for more helpful recommendations.

Are there any baby carriers safe for babies who are six pounds?

This is a great question because you do need to pay careful attention to size and weight guidelines when you’re choosing a baby carrier. It’s also a good opportunity to go over some of the essential rules of safe babywearing.

When babies are first born they’re pretty…floppy, for lack of a better word. They’re tiny, lack head and neck control and are not able to reposition themselves on their own if they end up in an unsafe position that may compromise their airway. That’s why it’s especially important to ensure you’re using your carrier properly, especially during those first few months of your baby’s life.

The T.I.C.K.S. acronym is a helpful place to start when you’re using a baby carrier.

  • T. Tight
  • I. In view at all times
  • C. Close enough to kiss
  • K. Keep chin off the chest
  • S. Supported back

You’ll also want to make sure you’re using your carrier as directed. (For example, make sure your baby is facing the correct direction for their age). Double check that all buckles and knots are securely fastened. And, we can’t say this enough—be sure you’re monitoring their breathing at all times. As outlined above, keep your little one’s face in view at all times and make sure their chin is never touching their chest.

As for specific weight requirements, there are two carriers that have been tested and certified for babies six pounds and under: the Weego and the Boppy Comfyhug Hybrid. All other carriers have a minimum weight requirement of seven to eight pounds. And while it may be possible to safely use a stretchy wrap-style carrier for a smaller baby, you’ll want to consult your pediatrician before doing so.

Can you explain the importance of hip alignment?

We sure can—and this is the perfect follow-up question to the one above since making sure your baby is in a hip-healthy position is another really important component of safe babywearing.

Hip dysplasia is a general term for infant hip instability, dislocation or shallowness of the hip socket. It’s a condition where the ball and socket joint of the hip does not form properly, allowing the hip joint to become partially or completely dislocated. As many as one in ten infants are born with hip instability at birth, and about one in 100 are treated for hip dysplasia.

So how does babywearing factor into all of this? When done properly, babywearing can actually encourage healthy hip development and help prevent hip dysplasia. But when done incorrectly, wearing your baby can have the opposite outcome—which is why it’s important to always have your baby in a hip-healthy position while in a baby carrier.

The M-position is recommended for hip-healthy babywearing. You want to make sure your baby’s thighs are spread around your torso and baby’s hips are bent so that their thighs are supported and their knees are slightly higher than their bottom. Thighs should be:

  • Flexed
  • Supported
  • Spread apart

Less spread with more flex is healthy, and slightly more spread with less flex is fine as your little one grows.

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute has compiled a list of all hip-healthy baby carriers; be sure to check if yours is on the list before using it with your baby.

Do you need a different carrier for your newborn than for an older baby?

Nope, not necessarily. (Yay for less baby stuff cluttering up your house!)

While there are some carriers designed specifically for newborns and others made just for the toddler set, there are lots that work right from day one up until your little one is heavy enough that you probably won’t want to carry them any longer. These “all in one” carriers often boast several carry positions (inward-facing, outward-facing, side/hip carry and back carry) and are a great investment if you’re looking to limit the amount of baby gear you’re bringing into your home.

While it’s definitely possible to make wraps and ring slings work for older babies and toddlers, our favorite newborn-to-toddler carriers fall into the soft structured carrier category. There are lots of choices, and many times what you’ll end up loving best simply comes down to a matter of personal preference. These are some popular choices among Babylist parents:

Any baby carrier recommendations for twins?

Firstly, hats off to you. And secondly, yes! There are lots of baby carriers that work for twins and our favorites include everything from stretchy wraps to more structured carriers. Here are the ones we love the most:

  • The Boba Classic Baby Carrier wrap is a great twin option for infants and younger babies. The fabric is stretchy and works really well for tandem wrapping. Check out this video tutorial on how to make this stretchy wrap work for twins.
  • Babywearing shirts—which are essentially shirts with built-in pockets for babywearing—are another popular twin option. The NuRoo Pocket and the Nesting Days Newborn Baby Carrier are two good options in this category. Just be sure to check each brand’s specific wear instructions as some of these babywearing shirts are only approved for twin use while sitting.
  • For more structured options designed specifically for twins, check out the Minimonkey Twin and the Weego Twin Baby Carrier. Both are great options that are easier to wrangle than a wrap.
  • Looking for a twin carrier that will go the distance? The TwinGo Carrier can be configured in a few different ways and each carrier can hold a baby up to 40 pounds.

What is the best baby carrier for a large baby and a petite parent?

The key to finding a comfortable carrier if you’re on the smaller side is to look for a baby carrier that distributes weight well. Look for features like wide, padded shoulder straps, an ample waist/hip support belt and plenty of adjustable straps and buckles. Brands like Tula and Ergobaby have several carriers that fit the bill and seem to continuously rise to the top as favorites for smaller parents or those with a shorter torso.

Another idea is an onbuhimo. A baby carrier without a waistband, an onbuhimo originated in Japan and means “back carrying strap” in Japanese. Onbuhimos are essentially SSCs without the waistband and can reduce the bulk on a smaller parent. Happy Baby makes a beautiful one as does Sakura Bloom.

Which baby carrier is best if you have a bad back?

And while we’re on the topic of carriers that distribute weight well—these same types of carriers are also recommended if you have a bad back. Specifically, you’ll want to look for a carrier that distributes your baby’s weight over both shoulders and around your waist, and you’ll want to avoid any carrier that doesn’t have a waistband or that only goes over one shoulder (such as ring slings, onbuhimos or any hip carrier).

Stretchy wraps fit the bill for the newborn days because you can spread out the fabric wide across your shoulders and back, which will help with weight distribution. However, once baby reaches about 15-20 pounds, stretchy wraps aren’t as supportive and it’s best to move to a well-fitting SSC. Many parents choose the Lillebaby Complete because it comes with extra lumbar support.

Do any carriers work for clubfoot babies undergoing treatment?

There are several baby carriers that work if your baby is undergoing treatment for clubfoot. A meh dai carrier—a type of carrier that originated in Asia and is made up of a fabric panel with long straps that wind around the wearer’s body—is one good option. The Infantino Sash is a popular choice. For a more structured choice, try the Happy Baby Original Carrier. Both of these carriers work even if your little one needs to wear a brace 24/7.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.