When my second son was born in February, I was in need of a baby carrier so I could care for a newborn and also chase after my 18-month-old toddler. I was looking for a carrier that would allow me to use it the second we got home from the hospital for comfortable hands-free wearing, and grow with our family so I could continue using it as my son got older. I had to weigh out the different options: Is a wrap the best option for us, or should I get a 6-in-1 carrier that covers every position possible?
In order to find the best baby carrier out there, I (along with my son Teddy) tested 13 of the most popular options on the market, and found the Contours Journey Go(available at Amazon) to be the best of the bunch.
I was not familiar with Contours Baby Carriers before product testing but was very excited to try them out. I received four of their carriers: Journey, Journey GO, Cocoon, and Love, and, while I loved them all, the Journey GO won best overall. They all came in small, compact boxes with a picture of a model wearing a baby on them. Right from the box you can see all the features and different ways to wear the carrier.
The Journey Go features breathable 3D mesh and moisture-wicking fabric with five different carrying options, making it perfect for your journeys on the go. The 5-in-1 design allows you to wear it for newborns, facing in, facing out, on your hip, and on your back. It was easy to set up and I noticed right away that even with so many configurations it is still lightweight. Some of the things I liked right away with this carrier is that you can use it for newborns starting at 8 pounds (no infant insert needed) all the way up to 45 pounds, so it will truly grow with your family and take you up to the toddler years. The carrier is also breastfeeding friendly with no straps between parent and baby which earns big points for those looking for this option. Another positive is that it includes a UPF 25+ sunshade that can be tucked it into its own zippered pocket when not needed.
The biggest con for this carrier is that your newborn must be at least 8 pounds in order to safely use it, so if you have a tiny baby or a preemie you’d have to wait a few weeks to start using it safely. However, once your baby is big enough, you can realistically use it for years to come. It’s one of the pricer carriers on the market, but with so many options it’s well worth the price tag.
Before my second son, Teddy, was born, I saw the Ergobaby Embrace at a birthday party and, based on how comfortable the baby—as well as the parent wearing it—looked, I knew I had to order it. Plus, at $79, it's a great price point for a newborn carrier.
I had been doing research to see if there was a cozy and soft structured carrier that is simpler to use than a wrap, and this is it. When it arrived, I immediately was impressed by how soft the fabric is and how it provides a snug fit for the baby that keeps their head supported. Made with ultra-soft, lightweight Oeko-Tex Standard 100% certified fabrics, this baby carrier for newborns is gentle and safe against baby’s sensitive skin and shouldn’t cause any skin irritations. I also love the slate blue color which I found was different than other carriers on the market. Something I love about the carrier is how simple it is. As a new mom you are already overwhelmed with trying to figure everything out that learning how to use your baby carrier should not cause any added stress to the list. I was able to figure out how to use it with no directions. The carrier features an easy to buckle waist belt and padded shoulder straps that criss-cross. My favorite part about this carrier is that I could use it the second we brought my son home when he was nearly 7 lbs. I felt like we were truly cuddling and it helped us bond as I still was trying to chase after my other son who was 18 months at the time. When I was done using it, I found I could just roll it up to store it and it did not take up any room.
Another plus about the Ergo Embrace is how supportive it is. The shoulder straps are spreadable so the fabric around the baby’s neck is always supported. It’s as comfortable as a baby wrap, yet provides that extra support of a structured carrier. Every time I put Teddy in, he immediately fell asleep.
There are two drawbacks to the Ergo Embrace, however. The product claims that you can easily switch to front-facing mode but there are no pictures on the box or the website with this option, though I did manage to find an instructional video on their Youtube channel which shows how to use this position. Also, the Ergo Embrace can only be used for babies up to 25 pounds, whereas most carriers can support a weight up to at least 35 pounds. With that being said, this carrier could still be used for the baby’s first full year, depending on their weight.
The Ergobaby Embrace is a perfect alternative to a baby wrap but provides the security of a structured carrier. It can grow with you, and while it does not allow for every option in the book, it’s a wonderful carrier to use for a baby's first year.
Hi! My name is Michaela Crimmins and I live in Wakefield, Rhode Island with my husband, Matt, and two boys, Ryder (22 months) and Teddy (4 months). I work full time as a program manager for the University of Rhode Island Alumni Engagement team and am currently trying to balance work from home life with both kids at home due to the pandemic. My true passion lies in connecting with other moms and sharing my favorite products, which is what brought me to start my blog, Ocean State Mama. I love to share a real, inside look at what it’s like as a busy mom with two kids under two, and share my favorite products, tips, and anything mom-related with others who can relate.
Timing could not have been more perfect when I began the testing for baby carriers. My son was born on February 16th and I began testing them a couple weeks later. I have been able to test most of the carriers from the time my son was just a few weeks old weighing under 10 pounds to today, as he is now 6 months old and 17 pounds.
The testing process started the second the box arrived at my door. Is it easy to open and figure out right out of the box? Are the instructions clear and easy? One may think it’s easy to figure out how to wear a baby carrier, but when you add in a screaming newborn, the time is ticking and it can often be a stressful process. Not only that, once you have the baby in the carrier you have to make sure they are in it properly and securely. I wore my son in each of the carriers in a variety of circumstances—walking around the house, going for a walk—and also tested them for different amounts of time. I tested out all the different options the carriers would allow for and made note of how easy it was to figure out the configurations and how comfortable my son was as well as myself. I looked at the materials of the carriers, how easy they were to store when not in use, and how easy it was to get a baby in and out without disturbing them.
What You Should Consider When Buying a Baby Carrier
The Age and Weight of your Child
Many carriers have specific age and weight recommendations so it’s something to keep in mind as you look for a carrier. If you are purchasing a carrier for a newborn and wish to use it as your child grows older, a carrier that has many configurations is a practical option. If you are purchasing for a baby 6 months and older, you may want to get more of a secure carrier with lumbar support that can be worn outward facing or on your back to make it comfortable for the parent.
Baby Carrier or Wrap?
This is the question so many parents face when picking a carrier. Baby wraps are wonderful for a newborn as they provide a womb-like environment and help reduce crying. Wraps are comfortable for the parents as well and it really encourages bonding. However, baby wraps limit you to wearing inward facing and are not great to wear for long amounts of time or on a long walk or hike. Baby Carriers offer more versatile options as they can be used from newborn age until well after baby’s first year.
Whether you choose a wrap or carrier, you’ll want to consider its size. Do you need something that’s easy to store? If so, a 6-in-1 carrier may not be the best option as it takes up more room and is harder to fold up and store.
Versatility is huge when it comes to carriers. You’ll need to think of when you’ll most need to use the carrier. Are you looking for a carrier to wear as needed just around the house? Or do you need a carrier that will allow you to use it from newborn to the toddler years and on long walks/hikes?
You May Want to Purchase More Than One
Baby carriers are so wonderful as they allow you to bond with your baby and still get things done whether you are folding laundry or walking around your neighborhood. In my research I found that no baby carrier does it all. With that said, you may want to purchase two—a wrap for the newborn days and a more structured carrier to take you through the toddler years.
Types of Baby Carriers
Baby Wrap - Wraps are usually long pieces of fabric you tie around yourself to create a pouch-like environment for your baby. They tend to be more intimidating to figure out than carriers—be prepared for a bit of a wrap-tying learning curve—and not as structured. However they do provide more of a womb-like environment for your baby, and they are usually machine washable. Wraps do not provide as many versatile options as your typical carriers.
Baby Carrier - Carriers offer a variety of ways to carry your child, usually inward facing, outward facing, and some can be worn on your back. Many carriers can grow with your family.
Ring Sling - Ring slings consists of a soft piece of material that is secured on the shoulder through a set of rings. Quick to use, they are perfect for carrying your child on short trips.
Other Baby Carriers We Tested
Contours Journey is another wonderful carrier option for both infants and toddlers. The Journey is very similar to the Journey GO with the fabric type being the only difference. The carrier fits newborns starting at 8 pounds, and adjusts to fit children up to 45 pounds which is the highest limit of the carriers I tested.
Something I noticed immediately is that despite offering five carrying options: Newborn, Seated Position, Face Forward, Hip, and Back, it did not feel too heavy or cumbersome. Another plus is that no infant insert is required for your newborn. There is also an extra large adjustable UPF 25 sunshade that can be moved up or down to give baby maximum coverage.
The Contours Love 3 Position Baby Carrier is soft, supportive, and super easy-to-use. It provides beneficial skin-to-skin contact with no fabric or straps between you and your baby which earns big points in my book, as it has all the benefits of a wrap but in a carrier. The 3-in-1 design requires no separate inserts or accessories to accommodate newborns. The Contours Love can be used safely beginning at 8 pounds, and it has a maximum weight limit of 30 pounds. It can also be used with infants facing inwards in fetal position, facing in, and facing out.
My favorite Contours carrier is the Cocoon Buckle-Tie carrier, which provides all the comfort of a wrap with the security of a buckled waistband. The carrier features soft knit fabrics with embossed detailing, and air vents for all-day comfort. The carrier has five carrying positions to fit babies from newborn to 33 pounds, and it can be worn as newborn facing in, seated facing in, facing forward, on the hip, or on the back.
I’ve always been a fan of Baby Bjorn and was so happy when they came out with the Mini. It’s called the mini for a reason—the carrier is small, soft, and simple to use for newborns up to 24 pounds. Right on their website, it shows you the three ways to use the carrier: newborn fetal inward, front facing, and facing out. It also comes in a variety of colors and fabrics, 3D Mesh, 3D Jersey, and satin-woven cotton, so there are plenty of options for parents to choose from.
Out of all the carriers, this one was the most intuitive to use. I opened the box and did not have to look at the directions. I was wearing my son in it within minutes and he was as comfy as can be. As a mom of two kids under age two with limited time, this was a huge benefit. It also does not take up any room—you can roll it up and easily store it in your closet or diaper bag for on-the-go travel. No additional accessories are needed which is a plus.
Another positive about the carrier is that you can start using it the day your baby is born. The mini is meant for newborns and has additional features like built-in head support and leg straps that reduce the size of the leg opening for when babies are 9 pounds and under. The design allows you to unfasten the entire front section to gently lift out your sleeping baby and not disturb them, which earns big points for me, since it’s easy to get babies to fall asleep in the carrier but not always easy to keep them asleep when you are done using it. I liked that the carrier is meant for newborns yet I still can use it as my son grows as he now likes facing forward. He always seems comfortable and the mesh material doesn’t get too hot.
As for the only negative for this carrier, I did notice that my back would start feeling pressure sometimes if I wore it for longer than 45 minutes. Even with the straps tight and secure, I could start to really feel the weight of my son after awhile. It’s not a carrier you’d want to go hiking in, but perfectly fine for wearing around the house or going for short walks.
I had heard a lot of wonderful things about the Solly Baby Wrap so I was very excited to try it out. I will admit that I ordered a baby wrap for my first son and did not end up using it because I couldn’t figure it out and felt he was not secure. The long piece of fabric and intricate directions was overwhelming so I gave up trying after a few times. However, I was determined to make it work with my second son and especially with a wrap so highly praised as Solly Baby.
The Solly Baby wrap prides itself on reducing infant crying, increasing a bonding connection, and allowing for hands-free wearing for hours on end. I will concur that this is all true. There are so many wraps on the market but their fabric is what makes it so unique and a step above the rest. Made from 100% certified Lenzing modal (sourced from the pulp of Austrian Beechwood trees) it feels like your favorite t-shirt and is lightweight, buttery soft and breathable, all the qualities you would ask for in a baby wearing wrap.
One positive I immediately noticed is its packaging. It comes in a simple white box and the wrap is a very light, long piece of fabric that is easy to store. Directions are included but I knew the best resource for me would be to go on their Youtube page and watch how-to videos. While I struggled the first few times, they have great instructional videos that take you step-by-step, which I appreciated.
Once my son was securely in the wrap, I could see what all the hype was about. The wrap truly does provide a womb-like environment and I could tell my son was comfortable. Unlike other wraps, the weight is distributed evenly so I did not feel tugging on my shoulders or back. My son fell asleep within minutes and I felt comfortable as well. One negative is the wrap can tend to get a bit warm. Even using it in the winter, I would start to sweat after about 30 minutes.
As for other negatives, the wrap can be only worn with your baby facing inward so it’s not a wrap that will grow with you like other structured carriers that allow for many positions. The wrap can hold a weight of up to 25 pounds, so you could use it for the first year of baby’s life, but once your baby is more alert they're less likely to want to face inward. It’s also not a carrier you want to wear on a long walk or hike but is perfect for wearing around the house and when you want to bond with baby but still get things done.
LilleBaby’s Complete 6-in-1 Baby Carrier was our previous winner for Best Overall Baby Carrier, and it’s easy to see why. While this is the most expensive carrier I tested, it does allow for six different carrying positions and can be worn from the newborn stage with no added accessories all the way until 45 pounds. The carrier can be worn newborn fetal inward, newborn inward, infant outward, infant forward, hip, and back. It features an ultra-soft, lightweight microcloth and is lined with a soothing, breathable suedecloth. My baby looked so comfortable in it when I would wear it around the house and it’s very comfortable for the parent, too, which is so important to consider when purchasing a carrier.
As for the cons, I felt the waistband was a little stiff and hard to adjust. Because the carrier can do so much, it’s understandable that it’s more on the bulkier side, but that made it and harder to store or to throw in the diaper bag for day trips. When I used it with my baby in the front forward position, I felt like it was too tight on his legs and had to keep adjusting to make it secure.
Graco has been a leader in so many baby product categories so I was very excited to test the new Cradle Me 4-in-1 Carrier. The carrier solves many of the frustrations parents have with other carriers out there and provides both comfort and ease of use. The carrier can be used four ways and with babies 8 to 35 pounds. One thing I loved right away is that you do not need to purchase any additional accessories to use it with a newborn. However, they suggest starting it at 8 pounds and many babies come home from the hospital under the weight limit, which means the Graco Cradle Me can't be used for a few weeks. I found that it is worth the wait (literally and figuratively!)
The Graco Cradle Me 4-in-1 features SecureConnect magnetic buckles that make it easy to get baby in and out. This is a feature I have not seen on any other carrier in the market and it made it so much easier to get my son in the carrier. I love that it can be used four different ways as your baby grows: facing-in newborn seat, facing-in baby seat, facing-out baby seat, and back-carry baby seat. It has a breathable mesh front panel with a hideaway which provides an all-season shield for year-round comfort. I love that they provide photos on their website of all the ways you can wear the carrier and the appropriate weight and months to use them as a guide. Again, in those stressful moments caring for a newborn (and in my case, a toddler as well) having easy directions makes all the difference. There is also an instructional graphic sewn right into the carrier that is really helpful.
As for the negatives for this carrier, I felt it was more on the bulky side compared to other carriers. It’s a little clunky and is not the easiest to store compared to the wrap carriers. Due to how many features it has already included, I did have more trouble figuring each one out.
LilleBaby recently launched their newest carrier called LilleLight, a fashionable yet functional baby carrier made of natural hemp and organic cotton fibers. The new LilleLight is modern, yet stylish, and can be worn in three different positions: front inward fetal carry, front inward carry, and back carry. The carrier comes in five classic colors and has a detachable hood, as well as easy-to-use adjustable straps. One of the features that immediately impressed me is the tie waist feature. On many of the carriers, the buckle wasn’t very comfortable around the waist. I love the tie feature as it felt like more of a baby wrap but with the solid structure of a carrier. It also adds a more fashionable twist that all parents will love. The carrier can be used for babies 7 to 36 pounds so you’re covered from infant to toddler age.
As for the cons of LilleLight, you need to use an infant pillow insert in order to use it for the inward fetal position, which is an additional item that has to be purchased. I find it easier to use a carrier that has all the features already included so it’s one less thing you have to think about in those hectic newborn days. The carrier also only allows you to wear baby on your back instead of forward facing which lost points in my book. I look forward to using the forward out carrying position as it allows a baby around 5 months to look out at the world when they get tired of facing inward. However, some parents may prefer to use the back carry feature and babies do love it as they get older. I did have some trouble learning how to use the back carry feature but Lillebaby provides awesome instructional videos on their website. The Lillelight is a great option for those looking for a light yet comfortable baby carrier that’s also stylish and allows for inward facing and back wearing.
For the most reasonably priced baby carrier around—and our previous Best Value winner—look no further than the Infantino Cuddle Up. The fabric is soft and warm, it has a hoodie-style pocket for your hands, and there's a cute detachable hood to keep baby's head warm in chilly weather. I especially liked this feature to protect my baby from the strong sun when on walks outside. It rolls up well, but the waistband isn't very firm, and therefore not incredibly supportive.
The Cuddle Up holds baby's legs in a good ergonomic position, but it can't be used to face baby outward or with babies under 12 pounds. It’s not the most versatile, but it is one of the top-sellers on Amazon. If you're looking for something snuggly to carry your older baby in, and you're on a budget, we think you might be happy with the Cuddle Up. This is a great carrier for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money and are looking for something that works with an older baby.
The LilleBaby Serenity Airflow is one of the more structured baby carriers. Designed for babies 7 to 45 pounds, this carrier is all about breathability, extreme comfort, and a variety of options. With front strap and waist belt adjusters, there are two carrying position options for infants starting at seven pounds: wide seat setting, which requires an infant pillow, and narrow seat setting. The carrier prides itself on an all-over breathable mesh that keeps the temperature just right. This would be a great carrier for someone who is looking for a variety of options and one they can go on substantial walks or even hikes with.
Something I noticed right out of the box is that it is bigger and more structured than all of the other carriers, so it’s a little harder to store. I also had a hard time figuring out all the directions and it seemed a bit daunting to me. I was confused at how to adjust the newborn seat options and needed to look online for video instructions.
It’s one of the most expensive carriers on the market, however the many offered configurations allow the carrier to grow with your family. It’s a carrier that can be used when you get home from the hospital all the way until they are well into their toddler years so there’s no need to purchase multiple carriers.
Many configurations to grow with your family
Structured design allows for comfort as baby gets bigger
One of my favorite bloggers raved about the Sakura Bloom Ring Sling so I couldn’t wait to try it out. For those who are looking for this kind of carrier, I highly recommend Sakura Bloom. It’s a versatile carrier designed to be a custom fit each time in a variety of carry styles. The ring sling supports your baby in different positions with a simple adjustment of the fabric and the ring. Like The Sollybaby, one thing I immediately liked is the simplicity of the carrier. It comes in a small box and is very compact. The Sakura Bloom Ring Sling is great for parents looking for a ring sling that can accommodate newborns to toddlers and also allow for breastfeeding while wearing. Another similarity to the Sollybaby is that Sakura Bloom has awesome tutorials on their Youtube page that I found helpful.
One negative is that it did take me a while to figure out. I was struggling with adjusting the rings and making sure my newborn was comfortable. Once he was secure in the ring sling, I was happy for that skin-to-skin contact and I did not feel any pressure on my back. He immediately fell asleep and I felt like I could relax, too. I also love the look of the ring sling. I purchased the beautiful Marlin color which is a dark teal and I felt stylish every time I wore it.
While I like the feel of the fabric, a negative is that it seems it could be uncomfortable to wear in the hot weather as the fabric is pretty thick. The sling style can be impractical for those who are looking for a carrier that grows with them. Babies and toddlers will always have to face forward which is another disadvantage. If you are looking for a sling carrier, I was impressed with the Sakura Bloom option. It supports your baby from newborn to toddler stage, promotes skin-to-skin contact and allows for breastfeeding.
Michaela Crimmins is a native Rhode Islander and graduate of Keene State College in New Hampshire. Working in Marketing her whole career, she was a Digital Marketing Specialist at Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski for five years before becoming a Program Manager for the University of Rhode Island Foundation & Alumni Engagement. Michaela currently resides in Wakefield, Rhode Island with her husband and two boys under age two, along with their golden retriever, Swagger. She has a true passion for connecting with other moms and sharing her favorite products. Follow her Instagram page and blog, Ocean State Mama for an inside look of her family's daily adventures and parenting resources.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.