skip to main content
Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Carriers
Updated on
March 29, 2024

Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Carriers

Babylist editors love baby gear and independently curate their favorite products to share with you. If you buy something through links on our site, Babylist may earn a commission.
Pinterest logo.
Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Carriers.
Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Carriers

No-rethread harness. Anti-colic vent system. Stability Leg. Flip-flop friendly break.

Ever feel like baby gear lingo is written in a completely different language—one you never learned?

The Babylist Gear Glossary is your one-stop resource to help you unlock the techie terms and insider jargon you’ll run into as you build your baby registry and shop for gear. The series breaks down what you need to know about all things baby gear in short, easy-to-digest definitions and explanations. Each glossary covers a different category like car seats, strollers, baby carriers and more.

Baby carriers rank high among the most-registered-for items with Babylist parents, and many say it’s one of their favorite go-tos after baby arrives. And like finding the best stroller, the best car seat and the best bottle, there are a few things to know before deciding.

Before choosing the best baby carrier, it’s helpful to understand some of the lingo behind this popular piece of gear.

All-in-one carrier: All-in-one carrier refers to any carrier that can be used from birth through toddlerhood and sometimes even beyond. These are most often structured carriers. Some all-in-ones require a separate insert to be used specifically with newborns, but most do not, and many can be used in multiple carry positions.

Apron style: Apron style is a way to describe how some types of carriers are put on. When you’re putting on a carrier apron style, you’ll first secure the waist belt and then let the seat and straps portion of the carrier hang down, inside out, away from your body from your waist. (Just like an apron!) You’ll then place your baby against your chest, legs straddled, and bring the carrier up to fasten the straps and buckles.

Babywearing: Babywearing is a way to carry your baby against your body with a wrap, sling, or other carrying device so your hands and arms are free. Babywearing is a great way to soothe and comfort your little one, especially during the newborn months. It also frees up your hands and boasts benefits like boosting cognitive and social development and increased bonding.

Babywearing shirt: A babywearing shirt is a shirt designed with a womb-like pouch built right in and is a unique way to keep your baby close during the newborn months. Unlike with wraps and other carriers, there’s no learning curve with babywearing shirts as they’re very straightforward to use. They come in sizes just like regular shirts and require your baby to be in an upright position while in use.

Back carry: A back carry is a babywearing position where baby is positioned in a baby carrier on your back. Two main benefits of the back carry position are that it completely frees up your hands (as your front is completely unobstructed) and allows you to carry baby for longer since it distributes weight across the center of your hips. The back carry position isn’t recommended until your baby is at least six months of age and can sit up independently.

Front carry: Front carry is another common babywearing position. In a front carry, baby is worn in the front of the body and can face two ways: either inward, facing the wearer, or outward, facing the world. Babies can be worn in a front carry inward-facing position from birth, while it’s recommended to wait until around five months old to wear baby in a front carry outward-facing position.

Hip carry: A hip carry is a babywearing position where baby is seated on the wearer’s hip. Since carrying a baby on the hip is a natural position for many parents and caregivers, using a baby carrier in this position can help make carrying more comfortable for longer periods of time. Babies can be carried in this position starting anywhere between three and six months depending on what type of carrier you’re using.

Hip healthy: Hip healthy is a term often associated with babywearing and ensuring your child is in the proper position for optimal hip health. To be sure you’re wearing your baby in a hip-healthy position, you’ll want to learn about hip dysplasia and the M-position (see below) for babywearing. You’ll also want to look for baby carriers that support hip-healthy positioning and are endorsed by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. You can find a full list of these carriers here.

Hip dysplasia: 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. 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.

Hiking baby carrier: A hiking baby carrier, sometimes also called a baby hiking backpack, is designed to let you comfortably carry a large amount of weight (baby + gear) on your back for a long time. Hiking carriers provide much more support than traditional baby carriers and give your baby a much better view of the scenery around them when out on an adventure. You’ll be able to use a baby hiking carrier when your little one has strong head and neck control, usually around six months old. Most carriers can be used until about 40 pounds, well into the toddler years.

Infant insert: Some baby carriers require an infant insert if you’re planning on using them with a newborn baby or a baby under a certain weight. Infant inserts are soft, cushioned inserts that are placed inside a baby carrier to help support baby in the proper M-position and help them to maintain proper head and neck support.

Inward-facing carry: An inward-facing carry, sometimes also called a front-inward carry, is when baby is placed in a front-facing baby carrier facing inward toward the wearer. Most babies can be worn inward-facing from birth.

Lumbar support: Many baby carriers, especially structured carriers, boast lumbar support as a feature. This refers to extra cushioning and padding that supports the wearer’s lower back, usually in the form of a waist belt. Lumbar support is important when babywearing to ensure your little one’s weight is evenly distributed for a comfortable carry.

M-position: The M-position is the recommended position for hip-healthy babywearing. To position your baby in a carrier in the M-position, be sure their thighs are spread around your torso and their hips are bent so that their thighs are supported and their knees are slightly higher than their bottom. (Thighs should be flexed, supported and spread apart.) Less spread with more flex is healthy, and slightly more spread with less flex is fine as your little one grows.

Mei tai: A mei tai, also known as a meh dai or bei dai, is a type of baby carrier that originated in China and consists of a fabric panel and long straps that wrap around the wearer’s body.

Mini carrier: A mini carrier is a type of soft structured carrier created with newborns in mind. Mini carriers are much 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.

Onbuhimo: An onbuhimo is a traditional Japanese baby carrier. It’s a waistless, soft carrier worn high on the wearer’s back and gives baby a great view of their surroundings. Onbuhimos are designed for babies who are sitting up independently.

Outward-facing carry: The outward-facing carry position is a babywearing position that’s suitable for older babies, generally those around six months and up and who have strong head and neck control. A baby in an outward-facing carry will be positioned in front of the wearer facing outwards toward the world.

Privacy hood: Many baby carriers feature a privacy hood, a small piece of fabric located at the top section of the carrier that can be pulled up over baby’s head or rolled back down and stored inside a pocket in the carrier. Hoods provide privacy for your baby while napping or resting as well as sun protection.

Ring sling: A ring sling is a wide piece of continuous fabric that’s worn over one shoulder and across the wearer’s torso. The fabric loops through two rings on the shoulder, hence the carrier’s name, and creates a pouch for baby to sit in. Ring slings are generally fairly simple to use. However, they don’t distribute weight well (since they are only used on one shoulder) so can be uncomfortable to wear for long stretches of time. Ring slings generally can be used from birth through toddlerhood.

Structured carrier: Also sometimes called a soft structured carrier (SSC for short), this type of carrier is more like a backpack with straps over the shoulder and a padded carrying “pack” that can be placed on your chest or back. While most SSCs were designed with older babies in mind in the past, many now accommodate newborns or can be adapted to with the addition of an infant insert. SSCs offer the wearer lots of support (thanks to features like padded straps and a thick waistband) and offer multiple carry positions like forward-facing inward, forward-facing outward, back and more. Most structured carriers have a high weight limit and will take you well into the toddler years.

T.I.C.K.S.: TICKS is an acronym that makes it easy to remember helpful tips for safe babywearing. It stands for Tight, In view at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep chin off chest and Supported back.

Waist belt: A waist belt is the portion of a baby carrier that goes around the wearer’s waist. Waist belts adjust to fit the particular wearer; some feature Velcro closure while others have straps and buckles. Many waist belts have extra padding to provide more back support while babywearing.

Wrap: A wrap is a type of baby carrier made from one long, stretchy piece of fabric. Wraps tie around the wearer’s body, usually over the shoulders or around the midsection, to create a carrier. Most wraps come in one universal size and can be used from birth through about one year of age, but many parents find them especially useful during the newborn days since they mimic the feeling babies experience in the womb.

Babylist Staff


Babylist editors and writers are parents themselves and have years of experience writing and researching, coming from media outlets like Motherly, the SF Chronicle, the New York Times and the Daily Beast, and the fields of early childhood education and publishing. We research and test hundreds of products, survey real Babylist parents and consult reviews in order to recommend the best products and gear for your growing family.

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.