Prams and pushchairs can be wonderful things, but they’re rather like Daleks: there are some places wheels just can’t go. Baby carriers, slings and wraps offer a more practical alternative for travelling, walking or shopping, keeping baby close and content while you get on with stuff. They can be brilliant back home too: say goodbye to trying to make dinner with one hand!
There are two main types of baby carrier: backpack-style carriers that usually offer a range of carrying positions, and wraps, which keep baby snug at your tummy or hip. The former are the most flexible, but they’re also expensive and involve quite a lot of faff. If you think sorting out car seats is annoying, these carriers may drive you doo-lally.
Wraps and slings are much simpler - and in our experience they have the added bonus of calming even the most colicky baby, which means they’re worth their weight in gold - but it takes a bit of time to get the hang of them. Don’t be entirely surprised if your first few attempts leave limbs protruding and baby wondering what on earth you’re trying to do.
Whatever type you go for, make sure baby’s legs aren’t being forced together: that can cause hip problems in young babies whose bodies haven’t finished stretching out. For more details and how-to diagrams check out Hypdysplasia.org.
1. Je Porte Mon Bébé PhysioCarrier
Not convinced by carriers? This might just convert you
Suitable from: 4 months (without extension pack) | Max weight: 20kg | Product weight: 739g | Positions: 3 | Mirror: yes | Sleep hood: Yes
The nice people at madeformums.com aren’t the type to get carried away, so when they call something a “revelation”, give it five stars and then adorn it with the golden gong for best baby carrier then you know you should take a closer look. This French design (the instructions are in French too) isn’t the easiest to track down and the price has gone up since M4M reviewed it at £80, but it’s worth finding: fantastically comfortable, suitable for all weathers and capable from birth (if you buy the extension pack) to 20kgs. You can have baby in front, on your hip or on your back, and there’s a little mirror for the latter so you can see what baby’s up to.
2. Dinky Dragon i-Angel Hipseat Carrier
Incredibly versatile and not as expensive as you might think
Suitable from: 3 months | Max weight: 20kg | Weight: not stated | Positions: 4 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: no
The i-Angel is another French design: Dinky Dragon was founded by mums who spotted it and wanted to bring it to the UK. The unique selling point here is the “hipseat”, a moulded foam seat that’s designed to keep baby more comfortable and which has the added benefit of distributing weight more evenly. It’s easy to get baby strapped in, it includes washable teething pads and it’s suitable for front, side and rear carrying (as with all carriers, the latter when baby’s neck is strong enough). It looks pretty big and the seat makes it a bit less portable than other designs, but it’s a very safe and comfortable place for younger children.
3. Close Caboo Plus
A firm favourite with parents and good value for money too
Suitable from: birth | Max weight: 15kg | Weight: 1kg | Positions: 3 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: no
We know, £69.99 is hardly Poundland territory. But this is our budget pick, and when you look at the price of some baby carriers £69 really isn’t a lot of money. This particular model is suitable from birth without having to buy an extra newborn insert, and its three positions include one for breastfeeding - it’s just a matter of adjusting the strap to slide baby down a bit. Reviewers say it offers the best of both worlds: the support and even weight distribution of a carrier and the snuggly warmth of a wrap or sling. Its maximum recommended weight is lower than many - where rivals are good for 20kg, this one tops out at 14kg - but we suspect most parents will have stopped using any carrier by then. 14kg is a lot of baby.
4. BABYBJÖRN Carrier One
You know the name, but there’s substance to match the style
Suitable from: birth | Max weight: 15kg | Weight: 989g | Positions: 4 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: no
If you can name one baby carrier brand it’s probably BABYBJÖRN, the choice of urban explorers everywhere. But unlike many well known brands this isn’t about style over substance or charging a fortune for a brand identity: the company’s reputation is built on many years of making comfortable, supportive and long-lasting carriers. It’s larger than some so if you’re very little you might not find it fits very well, but if it fits you’ll find it exceptionally comfortable even for long periods. The waist belt and padded shoulders help relieve pressure, and you can put baby in four positions, front or back. The quoted price includes the BABYBJÖRN bib to help keep the carrier clean for longer.
5. ERGOBaby Adapt
The best baby carrier for long walks
Suitable from: birth | Max weight: 20kg | Weight: 998g | Positions: 3 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: yes
ERGOBaby’s carriers have won plenty of fans thanks to their combination of comfort, ease of use and value for money. The Adapt is particularly good for smaller mums and dads, or partners of differing sizes: the shoulder straps are very adjustable and provide a snug fit and perfect positioning whether you’re petite or really tall. The cushioning is excellent and the included sleep hood keeps the world outside when baby’s having a nap - great if you’re out and about in town or on a hike. The even weight distribution and hip-friendly bucket seat keep baby comfortable wherever you may roam, although not everybody likes the built-in lumbar support for mum or dad.
6. Boba 4G Carrier
Comfortable for everybody no matter how far you go
Suitable from: birth | Max weight: 20kg | Weight: 998g | Positions: 2 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: yes
The successor to the 3G Boulder Baby Carrier is designed specifically for outdoor types, and it’s built for parents from 5’0” to 6’3” - although some reviewers say it isn’t very comfortable if you’re busty. Bellies aren’t a problem, though: the waistband goes from 25” to 58”. There are detachable foot straps to keep older children in the correct position, a detachable cotton sleeping hood and military-grade buckles for extra peace of mind. There’s no front-facing option - Boba carriers are designed for the baby to face your chest or your back - and it looks a bit odd, but it’s comfortable for most and made from tough fabric that should handle anything. Some reviewers say it’s more manly than rivals, if that’s the sort of thing that matters to you.
7. Thule Sapling Elite
For goodness sake, don’t try strapping it to the roof of your car
Suitable from: 6 months | Max weight: 22kg | Weight: 3.6kg | Positions: 1 | Mirror: Yes | Sleep hood: no
You probably know Thule for its car roof boxes and trailers, but while that makes for an easy joke in our headline this is a really serious baby carrier for outdoors types. It’s very strong and very heavy as a result - 3.6kg compared to the usual 1kg of most carriers - and it’s essentially a big backpack with a bit to put your baby in. There’s a mirror to keep an eye on your cargo, lots of pockets, a sunshade and removable stirrups, and it’s been designed to swap between parents when the combination of its weight and your child brings your partner to the point of exhaustion. It’s too much for Morrison’s but magic for mountains. The Elite is the larger model: the smaller Sapling is around £15 cheaper and 300g lighter.
8. Connecta Baby Carrier
Simple, stylish and pretty cheap too. An excellent option
Suitable from: birth | Max weight: 16kg (tested to 24kg) | Weight: not stated | Positions: 2 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: Yes
The Connecta doesn’t do much, but it isn’t supposed to: it eschews the million-buckle approach of some other baby carriers in favour of a simple, straightforward and snuggly carrier that enables baby to sit wide-legged in the “froggy” position. Although only recommended for babies up to 16kg the Connecta has been safety tested to 24kg, and there’s an integrated sleeping hood to shut out the outside world when baby drifts off. There are two positions: front, facing your chest, or rear, facing your back. One of the appealing things about the Connecta is the sheer range of fabric choices it offers, ranging from solar-protective weaves to Harris Tweed, although many choices have limited availability and some increase the price considerably.
9. LittleLife Ranger Child Carrier
One of the lightest backpack carriers around is great outdoors
Suitable from: 6 months | Max weight: 20kg | Weight: 1.7kg | Positions: 1 | Mirror: no | Sleep hood: no
The LittleLife Ranger is one of the lightest tubular backpacks around, and it’s suitable for children from six months to 20kgs. It’s a similar idea to the Thule carrier, but it’s much lighter - and unlike the Thule, it doesn’t stand on its own if you take it off. It isn’t collapsible, which means it might take up a lot of room in a small car’s boot. Despite these niggles, Mother and Baby magazine’s testers described it as “near perfect”. It’s not really one for mountaineering but for a hike to the park or shops it’s ideal, and while a few parents said the positioning of the crossbar wasn’t ideal many more raved about its comfort and light weight. Maybe one to try before you buy just in case.
Sometimes it’s worth paying that little bit extra
Suitable from: birth | Max weight: 15kg | Weight: 299g | Positions: n/a | Mirror: n/a | Sleep hood: n/a
For hundreds of years, mums have carried their babies in simple fabric wraps or slings. There are lots of benefits, not least their magical ability to help soothe crying babies to sleep: they enable you to get on with things with both hands free, they can help reduce symptoms of reflux and colic; they distribute weight well if they’re put on properly and most important of all, they keep baby incredibly close. They’re really handy if you’re breastfeeding too, as there aren’t endless straps and buckles to deal with. The downside? It takes a while to learn the knack. But when you do you’ll be glad you made the effort. The AmaWrap costs a bit more than a typical fabric sling but it’s hard wearing, machine washable and its owners love it.