How To Choose a Baby Carrier: Buying Guide 101

Baby carriers are a must-have for parents who want to keep their babies close while doing chores, running errands, or working.

It’s also a much more convenient gear for traveling, rather than using a stroller.

A baby carrier also allows you to quickly comfort your baby and bond with them better.

But how exactly do you choose a baby carrier? What do you look for when buying a baby carrier? What features should you focus on, in a baby carrier?

This article will answer those questions and more.

Let’s start with a quick buying guide on baby carriers.

(Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own. For more information see Affiliate Policy.)

How To Choose a Baby Carrier: Quick Feature Guide

This is best viewed on a desktop. Here’s a quick feature guide on what should you look for when buying a baby carrier:

Features to ConsiderQuick Details
Types• Soft structured carrier
• Baby wraps
• Slings
• Mei Dai or Mei Tai
PriceExpensive but reputable and quality brand OR
Less expensive, lesser known but still quality brand OR
Cheap – second hand
Safety• Ergonomic M-Shape position for baby
• Tested and compliant to safety standards 
• Ideally should be “hip-healthy” certified
Length of UseCan choose from newborns to 18 months OR
From newborns to toddlers
Comfortable• Snug and pleasant material
• Doesn’t cause backaches or shoulder pains
• Doesn’t cause marks, rashes or digs on skin
Ease of Use• Easy to put on and take off on your own
• Easy to adjust without anyone’s help
Adjustability• Suitable for your body type (petite, plus-size, broad shouldered, etc.)
• Ideally can be shared with a different-sized adult
Carrying PositionsOffers 2 basic positions (front facing-in and back) OR
Offers 4 or more carrying positions
MaintenanceIdeally should be machine washable
Extra Features• Ideally should have pockets or detachable pouch
• Nice to have: infant insert, nursing covers
Return Policy• Ideally should be 30 days or more from date of purchase
• Ideally shipping fees should be covered
WarrantyIdeally, should have 1 year or more warranty

How To Choose a Baby Carrier: Detailed Buying Guide

Types

There are a few types of baby carriers and they have their advantages and drawbacks. 

One popular type is a buckler carrier or soft structured carrier or in short, an SSC. This usually has padded shoulder straps, thick waistbands, adjustable straps, and buckles to support your baby. 

Examples are below.

Another type is a baby wrap. This is a simple, traditional type of baby carrier that involves a long fabric that you need to wrap around you and your baby.

Below are examples of baby wraps. Click or tap on the image to learn more info.

A sling is another type of baby carrier that’s also made up of a long piece of fabric that goes over one’s shoulder, creating a pouch to put in your baby. It usually comes with a ring for adjustment.

Check out examples of slings below:

A Meh Dai or Mei Tai is a type of hybrid carrier – a cross between a baby wrap and a soft structured carrier. It looks like an SSC but instead of using buckles, you use its long fabric to tie it properly around your body, making it into a baby wrap.

See examples below:

Price

A lot of top, reputable brands of baby carriers are expensive. Then there are mid-tier or lesser-known but equally quality brands that also offer the same features and advantages.

But ultimately, you still need to spend more or less, a hundred dollars, depending on the brand or type of baby carrier.

Soft-structured baby carriers are more expensive as they have a lot of features, followed by hybrids/ meh dai (or mei Tai) and ring slings.

Soft structured carrier

Ring slings

Ring slings

The cheapest ones are usually baby wraps but the learning curve to use them can be quite steep.

If the budget is really tight, you can also consider getting a second-hand baby carrier. 

Safety

Another top-important criterion to consider in baby carriers is its safety standards.

You should feel that your baby would be safe in it. Your baby shouldn’t be slipping down, the material shouldn’t be ripping apart, you shouldn’t feel scared that it’s too loose or it’s not secure enough.

The baby carrier should bear compliance with all current US government, ASTM, and CPSIA safety standards.

It should also offer proper spine and hip support for your baby’s development. 

Ideally, a baby carrier should also be “hip-healthy”, as certified by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

Length of Use

There are baby carriers that are cheaper but can only be used for a certain period. Say only during the 1st year or until 18 months old, depending on your child’s weight and frame.

Examples of these are:

Until 12 to 18 months

Until 21 months

Then some can be used until your little one is a toddler, even a preschooler.

Up to 5 years old

That latter would give you more mileage for your money.

Comfort

Baby carriers have different materials to accommodate the weight of your baby plus both the baby’s and wearer’s comfort.

Whatever type or brand you’re getting, both you and your baby should feel perfectly comfortable in it.

It shouldn’t give your baby any marks or rashes. The material shouldn’t be digging on their skin.

You would need to be vigilant about this as some kids won’t even notice something hurting them until you see the marks yourself.

While others would be more expressive on how they hate the baby carrier and would be crying and whining the entire time they’re in it.

If you live in a warmer climate, a baby carrier with a breathable material is better to have. So you and your baby won’t be sweating too much on it.

Ideally, that baby carrier should also be useful for both warm and cold weather.

It should also have an ergonomic M-shape, for your baby’s proper hip and spine development.

Some baby carriers have neck support which can be ideal to have as a cushion and support.

If your baby’s weight is evenly distributed, then you shouldn’t feel any back pains or neck or shoulder pressures, for a short time of use.

But if you’ve been using the baby carrier for hours, feeling those backaches, shoulder pains, and whatnot are completely normal. 

If you have chronic shoulder issues, then a ring sling is not recommended for you.

A baby carrier with lumbar support and padded shoulders should be more comfortable for wearing for hours. But it might not be ideal for petite framed moms or dads.

Depending on how well you adjust the baby carrier, it shouldn’t be digging on your skin. Most especially the shoulder straps and waist belt or buckles.

Ease of Use

Another thing to consider is how easy it is to use your preferred baby carrier.

All types of baby carriers have a learning curve to them so ultimately, it depends on how determined you are to bridge that gap.

It’s perfectly natural to feel a little bit frustrated at first when trying out your chosen baby carrier. 

It takes time to learn how to use it properly.

Once you’ve gotten over that learning curve, you should be able to quickly put on and off the baby carrier by yourself.

That means it should be fairly easy for you to wear the baby carrier, put your baby on it and take it off, without the help of another adult.

It should also be easy for you to adjust the baby carrier, without anyone’s help.

If it’s taking forever for you to use the baby carrier, even if you’ve already read and watched a lot of tutorials, then maybe it’s not the right carrier for you.

Adjustability

Your chosen baby carrier should be adjustable for your body type.

Some are well suited for petite framed people.

While some are better for plus, sized, large-chested moms or dads with a tall, broad-shouldered physique.

Some baby carriers can be adjusted to fit any body type, allowing you to share with your spouse or another adult. 

While others are meant for a specific size.

You also shouldn’t always be adjusting the baby carrier all the time.

Your baby shouldn’t always feel like they’re slipping down or your shoulders and back are always hurting, hence the constant adjustment.

Your baby’s face shouldn’t be smashed uncomfortably on your chest nor should any materials dig on their skin as well when you adjust the baby carrier.

Carrying Positions

Most parents wouldn’t mind a baby carrier with only 1 carrying position but some would prefer more.

So think about how you’d be using the baby carrier.

Would you be using it for daily chores such as cleaning and cooking and for running errands like grocery shopping

Then a baby carrier with a front-facing in and back carrying position would be better to have.

Would you like your baby to face front and see the world?

Would you prefer something where you can carry them by your hip?

Would something that can accommodate a newborn up to toddlers or even preschoolers be better?

If yes, then look for a baby carrier that can accommodate heavier kids and that offers a lot of carrying positions. 

Examples are below:

6 carrying positions

4 carrying positions

Maintenance

Most baby carriers are easy to clean. You can either wipe them or toss them into the washing machine.

While some have a more sensitive material that needs to be washed manually.

Extra

Some baby carriers offer extra features which are not a necessity but are nice to have.

These include pockets or detachable pouches for carrying your valuables.

Some have nursing covers, others require or offer an infant insert for a more comfortable carrying position for your newborn.

Return Policy

Remember to take note of the return policy.

Check out how many days you can return it, starting from the date of purchase?

Do they cover local or international shipping fees for returns and/or exchanges?

Warranty

Some offer a one-year warranty. While others offer a more extensive yet specific one, like a lifetime warranty guarantee but only for those products manufactured on a certain date.

Tips and Hacks on How to Choose the Right Baby Carrier

• Try it with your baby

It would be best if you can try on the baby carrier with your baby in it.

That way, you’d really know how comfortable the baby carrier is and how easy it is to put on or hard it is to adjust it.

• Test it extensively

If you bought the baby carrier online, test it out by doing what you normally do – do chores, go for long walks, etc. with your baby.

• Don’t wash it yet

Remember not to wash the baby carrier yet, so you can still return it after testing it.

• Join babywearing communities

If you’re still overwhelmed with so many types and brands of baby carriers, you can turn to a babywearing community and ask for help and their recommendations.

You can also find out if there are any ongoing promotions in that community. You can even set up baby carrier exchanges, sales, and more.

Takeaway on How To Choose a Baby Carrier

Think about what’s important for you in a baby carrier.

When I bought my 2nd baby carrier, I wasn’t thinking about the Price, as I was already expecting that most would cost more or less $200.

I wasn’t also keen on having too many Carrying positions nor the ease of Adjusting it as I was the only one using it most of the time.

I wasn’t very particular about the Extra Features or the other baby carrier traits as well.

I was mostly prioritizing its Safety, Length of use, and Ease of Use.

And that worked out well for me.

So you don’t need to think about every feature and aspect of a baby carrier. 

You can get very overwhelmed if you do that, causing analysis paralysis, making it hard for you to choose the right baby carrier.

Just consider what to prioritize, what feature matters most to you, and start from there.