Find the Right Baby Carrier

Filed under: Gear Guides: Babies


Hands-free parenting wouldn't be possible without one crucial bit of gear: baby carriers. In fact, a lot of things wouldn't be possible: Remember that, while negotiating passage of the continent and translating for Lewis and Clark, the teenaged Sacagewea was wearing her baby Pomp. Of course, carriers have come a long way since the early 1800s. Here, a look at some popular options.

Credit: Baby Bjorn


Baby Bjorn

The movie star of carriers -- it's been spotted in "Elf" and "Austin Powers in Goldmember" -- the Bjorn remains a reliable standard: It's fairly lightweight, intuitive to use, and the line has grown to include cooler, and, more importantly, much more ergonomic options than the old gingham-trimmed "Original Classic." (Indeed, that gingham trim now keeps company with a rainbow assortment of solids, as well as black and white.) For instance, the "Air" is made from a lighter weight mesh fabric that breathes, and is better for hot climates; the "Active" has thicker straps and a back panel that offers crucial lumbar support; the "Synergy" is made of the lightweight mesh and has the back support panel.

The Lowdown:


  • Good for babies from 8 to 26 pounds.
  • Washable and portable, though the carriers with back support are bulkier to cram into a carry-on or diaper bag. (The Synergy has its own built-in pouch that it zips into.)
  • Adjusts quickly and easily. Allows for speedy switching from mother to father.
  • Baby can face in, or, as they grow more interested in the world and develop neck strength, they can face out. (Bjorn also sells ever important drool bibs that attach to the carrier's straps.)
  • Men love the Bjorn -- it seems easier on their frames. Women, meanwhile, seem to feel the weight of the baby and aches and pains in the shoulders, neck, and "bjad bjack" after wearing the baby for a while.



ERGO

This newcomer caught on like wildfire, at least in urban areas. It was launched in 2003 by a Maui-based mother, and offers versatile ways to carry your kid as he grows: The baby can be worn in front, on either hip, or in back, piggyback style. It has been successfully weight-tested up to 90 pounds (!), but only recommended up to 40 pounds. The cushiony shoulder straps and the lower hip straps distribute the baby's weight: The stronger hips tend to bear the burden, as opposed to the back and shoulders.

The Lowdown:
  • Good for kids up to 40 pounds.
  • Has an easily accessible zip pocket for wallet, keys, and phone. (Also a good place to stash straps when you change the carrying configuration.)
  • Machine washable and soft, but those cushiony straps are bulky and don't easily fit into tote bags. (That said, there is a particular hip-parent fashion to wearing the carrier dangling from your waist, almost like a kilt.)
  • The piggy-back carry can require two people to position the kid.
  • There is no face-out option. The kid can only face in, toward your chest or back. Some parents don't like that the width of carrier's seat splays the kid's legs and hips. Also, the baby can tend to slouch into himself.


Lillébaby EveryWear

To the untrained eye, the Lillébaby looks a lot like the Ergo. It, too, can carry a baby in front, on the side, and on the back. Its point of distinction, though, is that the baby can ride face-out, and the way the carrier cradles the baby doesn't splay his legs. Another difference -- and this is important for a new parent's aching bones -- is that the straps aren't as cushioned.

The Lowdown:
  • Different carrying positions can require an additional insert or strap: Infants need the cushiony interior cradle pad; hip-carrying calls for a shoulder strap; some waists might require an extender for the hip strap.
  • Good for kids from 7 to 43 pounds. The piggyback position should require a second person to position the child.
  • The baby can ride face out. This seems to be the single most important distinction.
  • The carrier folds up small and compact and fits easily in a bag or under the stroller. The compactness comes at the expense of padding, though.

Credit: Moby Wrap


Moby Wrap

Kind of a mummy-wrap for mommies, the Moby is a simple length of knit cotton about 20 feet long by about 2 feet wide. You ravel it around your body in variously patterns for different baby holds, such as the hug hold, the face-out lotus hold, and the two-baby twin cradle hold. Folding and wrapping the carrier can be a bit like origami, and, as such, requires practice.

The Lowdown:

  • Comes in an array of colors.
  • Good for kids up to 45 pounds. Unlike most carriers, without any additional equipment can be used for preemies and twins.
  • Wearing it can require lots of practice and proficiency. Since it's so long, brace yourself for it grazing the floor, ground, and sidewalk as you're out and about and positioning the baby. (Still, of all these carriers, it's the easiest to just toss in the wash.)
  • Since the fabric wraps around your torso and waist several times, it can get toasty and schvitzy underneath there.

Credit: Playtex



Playtex Hip Hammock

You would not want to hike the Grand Canyon wearing it, but this carrier is capable of carrying your older baby and freeing up your hands for various around the neighborhood tasks. The baby can ride on either side, above the hip strap, with another strap going over the opposite shoulder.

The Lowdown:
  • Good for babies 15 to 35 pounds. The baby must be able to hold her head up on her own.
  • With one shoulder strap, you can feel the strain of carrying the baby in your shoulder and neck.
  • On the plus side, this carrier is very compact: It even has a button for holding it in place when it's rolled up. (It fits handily in a diaper bag.) On the down side, it's not very padded, which you can end up feeling in your waist and shoulder.
  • Best for the kind of errand running that has you getting in and out of the car a lot, when you don't want to haul the stroller out of the truck or tote the baby in the carseat.
Related: Strollers: Buying Guide

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