A Guide to Baby Carrier Types

There are hundreds of different baby sling and baby carrier brands out there, but they all fall into a few general categories. This guide will help you understand these categories and choose the best options for you and your baby. View the chart below for a quick summary, or click down through the individual categories for photos and more detailed information.

Type Ages Weight Limit Positions Options Brands Best For
Pouches Newborn-3 35 lbs Front (upright, cradle), Hip Adjustable or Fitted Hotslings, Mamma’s Milk, Peanut Shell Newborns, quick trips, hip carry with older babies
Wraps Newborn-4 varies (up to 50 lbs) Front, Back, Hip
(many options)
Stretchy, Gauze, Woven Gypsy Mama, Moby Wrap, CuddlyWrap, Ellaroo Wrap Great all around option – most versatile
Ring Slings Newborn-3 35 lbs Front (upright, cradle), Hip Pockets available ChicKen ScRatch, Maya, EllaRoo Ring Sling Newborns, nursing, hip carry with older babies
Mei Tais Newborn-3 45 lbs Front, Back, Hip Folding headrests, pockets Babyhawk, Kozy Carrier, Ellaroo Mei Hip, Beco Great all around option
Hip Carriers Newborn-3 35 lbs Hip   Ellaroo Mei Hip, Ergo Older babies
Front Carriers Newborn-2 25 lbs Front Accessories available Baby Bjorn, Snugli, Ergo Infants, can face outward for older babies
Baby Backpacks and Structured Carriers 1-4 55 lbs Front, Back, Hip Accessories available Ergo, Kelty, Deuter, Sherpani Front carry for newborns (Ergo), hip and back for older babies

Types of Baby Carriers

Pouches | Wraps | Ring Slings | Mei Tais | Hip Carriers | Front Carriers | Structured Carriers


Pouches

Baby Pouches, or slings, are the simplest and most straightforward type of baby carrier. They are popular for their compact design and ease of use. Baby pouches are available in Fitted and Adjustable versions.

  • Ages: Newborn through 3 years old
  • Weight limit: Up to 35 lbs
  • Positions: Cradle and tummy-to-tummy carries in the front. Hip carry with older infants
  • Options: Available in fitted (Hotslings) and adjustable (Mamma’s Milk) versions
  • Brands: Hotslings, Mamma’s Milk, Peanut Shell

Advantages:

  • Available in a wide range of colors and patterns
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easy to learn to use
  • Quick to put on – great for errands and short outings
  • Pretty good for nursing
  • Compact size fits in most diaper bags

Limitations:

  • Weight is carried on one shoulder, so it can be tiring for long periods of wearing
  • Fitted pouches cannot be shared between different sized users
  • Not good for back carrying

Best for: Newborns and small babies, and quick trips with older babies

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Wraps

Wraparound Baby Carriers (wraps) are the least structured carriers available. They are simply long pieces of fabric that the wearer wraps around herself and her baby to create a secure and supportive carrier. Because of the special wrapping and tying techniques involved, they have the longest learning curve of any baby carrier. However, they also provide exceptional versatility and comfort – even with the heaviest of babies.

Many people find that wraps look very intimidating, but there are several easy “beginner” techniques that anyone can learn to do.

  • Ages: Newborn through 4 years old
  • Weight limit: Up to 55 lbs (woven, gauze); Up to 25 lbs (stretchy)
  • Positions: Excellent for a variety of different front, back, and hip carries
  • Options: Woven, gauze, stretchy
  • Brands: Gypsy Mama, Moby Wrap, CuddlyWrap, Ellaroo Wrap

There are several different types of wraparound carriers:

  • Stretchy: Soft and cuddly, and can be pre-tied, allowing
    you to “pop” baby
    in and out of the carrier without retying. Wonderful for newborns, providing
    ample support and a snuggly swaddled effect. Stretchy wraps can be more
    difficult to use for back carries. (Examples: Moby Wrap, Gypsy Mama Bali
    Baby Stretch)
  • Gauze: Strong and very lightweight. A great summer wrap for front, back or hip. Little to no stretch means that this is a very supportive wrap with even the heaviest of babies. (Example: Gypsy Mama Bali Baby Stretch)
  • Woven: These are woven fabrics, usually made with a special weave to provide “just-right” stretch. These are by no means as stretchy as a stretchy wrap, but are just enough to be snuggly. (Example: Ellaroo wraps)
  • Water Wraps: Specialty wraps that can be used in the pool or shower. (Example: Gypsy Mama Water Wrap)

Advantages:

  • Come in a wide range of fabrics and colors
  • Two-shouldered design distributes the weight of heavier babies
  • Excellent for nursing hands-free
  • Very versatile – many, many carrying options

Limitations:

  • Wraps can take some time to learn to use
  • You are dealing with a long piece of fabric – this may be cumbersome for quick trips

Best for: Newborns (especially stretchy wraps), and extended wearing with older babies.  Great all around carrier (especially woven and gauze versions), thanks to the wide range of carrying positions available, with even heavy children. 

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Ring Slings

Similiar in structure to a wrap, you thread the long fabric through a pair of rings. This creates a secure, yet adjustable, pouch for your baby. The best ring slings are fully adjustable, ensuring a perfect fit no matter who is wearing the baby. An open tail (the loose fabric threaded through the rings) is not only beautiful, but functional. It can serve many purposes: nursing cover-up, sun shade, and more.

Ring slings are one of the best carriers for nursing, particularly with newborns. The adjustability of the carrier allows you to get the baby latched on in the position you like, before tightening the sling around the baby to support them in that position.

  • Ages: Newborn through 3 years old
  • Weight limit: Up to 45 lbs
  • Positions: Excellent for front and hip carry positions
  • Options: Some ring slings have pockets in the tails, which are handy for keeping a few important things on hand
  • Brands: ChicKen ScRatch, Maya, EllaRoo Ring Sling

Advantages:

  • Best carrier for nursing, even with the newest babies.
  • Adjustable design allows it to be shared by different wearers
  • Many fabrics to choose from
  • Tail can be used for nursing privacy (and as sun shade, emergency changing pad, burp cloth, etc.)
  • Compact design for easy portability

Limitations:

  • Weight is carried on one shoulder, so can be tiring for long periods of wearing
  • Some parents don’t like the look of the tails on these slings (though they can be tucked out of sight for a more streamlined look)

Best for: Nursing, newborns and small babies, quick trips with older babies, hip carries with older babies.

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Mei Tais (Asian-style baby carrier)

The modern Mei Tai is based on traditional Asian baby carriers. In a Mei Tai baby carrier, the baby can be worn on the wearer’s back or front.  Hip carries are also possible. The design is simple: a panel of fabric with supporting straps to go around the waist and over the shoulders. Mei Tai baby carriers are easy to use and their two-shouldered design makes them comfortable with even the heaviest babies.

Some parents find that the long straps look intimidating, but this is actually the easiest carrier for parents to learn to use and master.

  • Ages: Newborn through 4 years old
  • Weight limit: Up to 45 lbs
  • Positions: Excellent for front and back carries; can also be used for hip carries.
  • Options: Options like folding headrests and pockets are available
  • Brands: Babyhawk, Kozy Carrier, Ellaroo Mei Hip, Beco

Advantages:

  • Come in a wide range of fabrics; fashionable, fun, and funky
  • Two-shouldered design distributes the weight of heavier babies very well
  • Can be worn on the front or as a baby backpack carrier
  • Fairly compact design
  • Easy to learn to use

Limitations:

  • Not as compact as pouches or ring slings, may not fit in all diaper bags
  • Cannot be used in a cradle position with newborns, only upright
  • Long straps may drag on the ground during the tying process, so not great for putting on in wet parking lots

Best for: Great all around carrier. Newborns (in upright position) through toddler.

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Hip Carriers

mei hip, hip baby carrier, ellaroo mei hip carrier, kozy mei tai, babyhawk mei taiDesigned to be worn exclusively on the hip, hip carriers are popular with parents starting to babywear with an older baby. These carriers are designed to cup the shoulder, so that the strap doesn’t ride up on the wearer’s neck when the baby is being held on the hip.

Parents adopting older babies love these for adoption travel, thanks to the compact design, ease of use, and close connection with the baby.

  • Carrier Type: Mei Hip (Variation on traditional Asian Baby Carrier)
  • Ages: Head control through 3 years old
  • Weight limit: Up to 35 lbs
  • Positions: Excellent for hip carries
  • Brands: Ellaroo Mei Hip, Ergo

Advantages:

  • Makes carrying even a heavy baby on the hip comfortable
  • Buckles allow for quick and easy on-and-off
  • Easy to learn to use
  • Compact design

Limitations:

  • Excellent for hip carrying, but not great for other positions
  • Cannot be used with a newborn

Best for: Older babies through to toddlers who love being carried on the hip

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Front Carriers

A favorite with parents, front carriers are well known for their comfort and ease of use. All straps and buckles are located in the front, so the wearer simply places the shoulder straps on the shoulder, cuddles baby between chest and carrier, and securely buckles the upper fabric and adjustable waist belt. Young infants face inward with a neck support, while older babies can face outward, with the neck support folded down.

A front carrier is structured, with thick, stiff material for excellent support for baby’s neck and spine, but also soft and flexible for comfort and easy storage.

 

  • Ages: Newborn (with extra buckles) to 1-2 years
  • Weight limit: Up to 25 lbs
  • Positions: Front; facing in for newborns, facing out for infants who can easily hold their head
  • Options: Accessories are available
  • Brands: Baby Bjorn, Snugli, Ergo

Advantages:

  • Structured design distributes the weight evenly across both shoulders
  • Very easy to learn and use
  • Balance of structured material and soft padding allows for baby comfort as well as great support

Limitations:

  • Slighty bulky, may not fit in diaper bags
  • Can be used for nursing, but a sling is a better option

Best for: Daily walks with newborn or infant 

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Baby Backpacks and Structured Carriers

Structured baby carriers are the most supportive design of carrier. Inspired by hiking backpacks, they feature padded shoulder straps and stiff waist/hip belts, adjustable nylon straps, and lots of buckles. Dads love these!

Because of the structured design, and the ability to transfer a lot of the child’s weight to the hips, these are among the most comfortable carriers with even the heaviest of children.

Going one step further, a baby backpack carrier is an actual hiking backpack converted for older babies. Your toddler sits comfortably in a seat with a secure harness built into the backpack. These types are the bulkiest of any carrier, and are best for camping or long hikes. A great way to introduce your older baby or toddler to the great outdoors!

 

  • Ages: One year through preschooler – Ergo can be used from birth with optional infant insert for front carry
  • Weight limit: Up to 55 lbs
  • Positions: Excellent for front and back carries; Some can also be used for hip carries.
  • Options: Lots of useful accessories are available
  • Brands: Ergo, Kelty, Deuter, Sherpani

Advantages:

  • Structured design distributes the weight along shoulders and hips, taking the weight of the heaviest little ones very well
  • Can be worn on the front or as a baby backpack carrier.  Some can also be used as a hip carry
  • Easy to learn to use

Limitations:

  • Fairly bulky, won’t fit in most diaper bags
  • Can be used with newborns and for nursing, but not the best option out there

Best for: Long periods of babywearing, hiking, and wearing heavy babies and toddlers. 

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Favorite Shopping Resources

Amazon.com
Amazon.com offers a full range of baby carriers and accessories by the most trusted names in the business - from Baby Bjorn sling carriers to Ergo to rugged baby backpack carriers from Kelty, Deuter and Sherpani. With over 1,400 different baby carriers and slings, you'll find just your size!

 

Baby carriers at BabyEarth.com
Babyearth.com, an Austin-based store begun by James and Heather Bendle, a dedicated husband-wife team, is committed to eco-friendly baby products. They have a large selection of baby carriers, from BabyBjorn to Zolowear.

 

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