Prams and pushchairs can be wonderful things, but on trips about town it becomes painfully apparent how similar they are to Daleks – their inability to handle steps, that is, not the urge to destroy all life in the universe. But the best baby carriers, slings and wraps can see off this problem, and then some, offering a more practical alternative for travelling, walking or shopping, and we’ve got them all in one place for you to consider.
For keeping baby close and content while you get on with stuff, whether out and about or at home, they’re nothing short of marvellous – say goodbye to trying to make dinner with one hand! – but what type of baby carrier should you go for?
- Seeing as you’ve got an arm free, how about checking out our best changing bags for mums and dads on the go?
- ...oh, and the changing bag essentials to go in them, of course
There are two main types to choose from: backpack-style carriers that usually offer a range of carrying positions, although you should keep rear carrying for when baby’s neck is strong enough, 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 thought sorting out the car seat was annoying...
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. The trade-off is that it takes a bit of time to get the hang of them, so don’t be alarmed if your first few attempts leave baby with limbs protruding and a look of profound confusion.
Whatever type you go for, it’s very important to make sure baby’s legs aren’t being forced together, as this 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.
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 (opens in new tab), you know it’s something special.
This French design isn’t the easiest to track down, nor set up (the instructions are in French too), but it’s certainly worth the effort. It’s 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 they’re up to back there.
The i-Angel is another design we have our French friends to thank for. Its unique selling point 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, includes washable teething pads, and is suitable for front, side and rear carrying. 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.
We know, £69.99 is hardly Poundland territory. But this is still our best budget baby carrier for its comfort, versatility and comparative lack of expense. 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, with 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.
If you can name one baby carrier brand it’s probably BabyBjörn, (opens in new tab)the choice of urban explorers everywhere. But unlike many well-known brands this isn’t a case of style over substance, but one of a reputable brand with a proven track record of making comfortable, supportive and long-lasting carriers.
The Carrier One is larger than some of our other options, so if you’re very little you might not find it fits very well, but if it does 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 to the front or back.
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 parents, or partners of differing sizes, as 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 everyone was a fan of the built-in lumbar support for the grown-ups.
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, as 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.
You probably know Thule for its car roof boxes and trailers, but while that might bring numerous jokes to mind, this is a really serious baby carrier for outdoorsy types. As a result, it’s very strong and very heavy, 3.6kg compared to the usual 1kg of most carriers.
Essentially, it’s 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. As such, it might be a bit too much for Morrison’s, but it’s magic for mountains, and has been designed to swap between parents.
The Connecta doesn’t do much, but then 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, and although only recommended for babies up to 16kg the Connecta has been safety tested to 24kg.
There’s an integrated sleeping hood to shut out the outside world when baby drifts off, and 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, offering everything from solar-protective weaves to Harris Tweed.
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 lightweight. Maybe one to try before you buy just in case.
For hundreds of years, mums have carried their babies in simple fabric wraps or slings, and there are lots of benefits to the trad method: soothing crying babies to sleep, hands-free operation, reducing of symptoms of reflux and colic, and proper weight distribution.
They’re really handy if you’re breastfeeding too, as there aren’t endless straps and buckles to deal with, and in fact the only downside is that 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.