Which type of baby carrier is the best?
There are so many baby carrier and wrap types, styles, and brands that picking the best one for you can be very confusing. I intentionally said "best one for you" because there is no such thing that the best baby carrier in general. But there are definitely baby carrier types, which suit certain circumstances, preferences, the age of the child, or the build of the wearer better than others. Knowing more about the carrier types before purchasing one helps avoid regrets later. So let's look at the 7 (+1 extra) most common baby carrier types.
Stretchy wraps are made from very snug, soft and cozy fabrics. Their elasticity makes them very mouldable, perfect for newborns. Many parents find them easier to use than woven wraps. However, this type of baby wrap typically comes with lower weight limits than wovens and cannot be used with larger babies. They're also less versatile, and are typically used for front carries only. Besides, most stretchy wraps can feel quite warm, which makes them less than ideal in warm weather.
Woven wraps are incredibly versatile. This type of baby wrap can be used with newborns and preschoolers alike. These wraps are perfect for front, hip, and back carries. Because a variety of carries are possible with these wraps, caregivers of various body types can find a comfortable way to carry their little ones, even for long stretches. However, the learning curve is quite significant, which can be intimidating for beginners. Picking a woven wrap without expert advice can also be a challenge because these wraps come in various sizes and fabric options.
Ring slings are made from woven wrap fabric. They're fastened by threading the fabric through metal rings sewed into one tail. They can be used from birth until the end of the babywearing age. However, the weight of the child is borne by one shoulder only. Which can make this type of baby carrier uncomfortable to wear for longer periods. The learning curve is significantly lower compared to wraps. But there are a few tricks to make a ring sling truly comfortable. These slings are typically used for front and hip carries.
GET YOUR FREE baby carrier Comparison chart!
Subscribe to receive regular updates and tips about babywearing and get instant access to your FREE chart!
Meh Dais (Cantonese Chinese pronounciation) are soft-panel baby carriers originally from China. They're also referred to as Mei Tai (which is to be avoided because it's an incorrect transcript of pronounciation) or Bei Dai (Mandarin Chinese pronounciation). This type of carrier consists of a rectangular body panel and four straps attached to the corners of the panel. The shoulder and waist straps are traditionally secured with a double knot. However, some modern meh dais are half buckle carriers. Which means they come with buckle waist straps and shoulder straps to tie. The meh dai baby carriers can be used from birth until the end of the babywearing time. Front, back, and hip carries are also possible. They're both easy to use and versatile.
Wrap conversion is a subtype of meh dais but it's worth mentioning it separately since they offer additional ways to tie the shoulder straps. Most of the parts of a wrap conversion are made from a woven wrap - hence the name. This makes the wrap conversion carrier perfect for those who like the look and feel of a woven wrap, but want an easier to learn option. Compared to other meh dais, the shoulder straps are wider and allow for additional ways to tie them. E.g. you can use the shoulder straps to create a flipped shoulder or to add extra support for a larger child. Similarly to other meh dais, this type of baby carrier can be used from birth until the end of the babywearing age. All carries (front, hip, back) are possible.
full buckle carriers
Full buckle soft-structured carriers are quite popular among modern parents because the learning is lower. They come in various forms and fabrics but typically consist of a back panel with sleeping hood, and padded buckle shoulder and waist straps. There are soft structured carriers that can be used from birth, but others require an additional infant insert (or other modification) for small babies. Depending on the manufacturer and model, you might be able to use a full buckle carrier until the end of the babywearing age or have to switch to a larger size toddler carrier. This type of baby carrier had some backslash in the past due to the so-called narrow base carrier versions, which might hinder the optimal hip development. If possible, choose a wide base carrier (ideally with an adjustable base to suit a growing baby) or modify your existing narrow base carrier so that the babies legs and bum are in the M position. These carriers can be worn on the front and back. Some models allow for hip and forward-facing positions as well (although forward-facing should only be used with extra caution).
An onbuhimo is a toddler carrier without a waistband, originally from Japan. This type of carrier can only be used with larger children who can - at the minimum - sit independently. They're great for short distances or with an up again down again toddler. Besides, onbus come handy in situations when a waistband cannot be used, like during pregnancy.
There are so-called hybrid carriers, which combine the advantages of two of the types above and can be used as both of them. Popular hybrids are:
- Hybrid wraps, which combine the elasticity and mouldability of a stretchy wrap with the sturdiness of a woven wrap. These characteristics make the wrap more versatile than a standard stretchy wrap and allow for a higher weight limit (but usually still below the standard woven limit).
- Hybrid buckle carrier and onbuhimo, which have a removable waistband. These carriers can be used as a full buckle carrier with the waistband. And as an onbu, without it.