It’s often been said that choosing the right carrier for your baby is like finding the perfect pair of blue jeans: it’s different for everyone, and there’s no telling which one you’re going to fall in love with until you’ve had the chance to try several. There are so many factors that go into choosing your carrier. How are you supposed to choose the right one? If you have access to a store where you can go in and try on a variety of carriers, that’s always your best bet. If you don’t have a store near you, however, understanding what features are available in a variety of carriers will make it easier to purchase one that will work well for you and your baby.
Question #1: How old is your baby?
All babies—and lots of bigger kids!—love being cuddled close. The age and size of your baby has a huge impact on which carrier you’ll want to choose. If you have a newborn that you want to be able to get up and down in a carrier in a hurry, you’ll want a carrier that’s designed for use with tiny ones.
- Lillebaby Complete carriers snap down to a smaller size that can be used by little ones—their weight range starts at around 7 lbs.
- Ergobaby and Tula offer infant inserts that will make your carrier usable for little ones: Ergobaby starting around 7 lbs, Tula starting around 7-8 lbs.
- The BabyHawk Mei Tai comfortably fits babies beginning around 8 lbs.
As your baby gets bigger, you’re going to want a larger carrier to help them sit more comfortably and distribute their weight more evenly on you. If your child is over eighteen months and wearing at least size 2T pants, a Tula toddler carrier will help you stretch your carrying days a lot longer. Note, however, that toddler carriers are intended for use only after your child has reached that important height—and for my fellow cloth diapering moms, that’s actual height, not just the size you need to go up to in order to stretch their pants over their fluff!
Before they wear 2T pants, their legs will be overspread in a toddler carrier. There are no inserts to help make toddler carriers smaller. Don’t try to move your little one up too early: at 30 lbs and 2T pants, my daughter still fits just fine in a standard Tula (though she also fits beautifully in a toddler).
Question #2: What’s your weather like?
In the middle of winter, when it’s freezing outside, you want a carrier that will help keep baby warm and cozy. In the middle of summer, on the other hand, you want a carrier that will allow for some air flow to keep both of you from overheating! Tula’s Coast line, Ergo’s Cool Air line, and the Lillebaby Complete Airflow are much cooler carriers for summer wear. These cooler options are relatively new inventions, and oh, how I wish they had been around the summer after my littlest was born!
Be sure to account for how long your baby will need an infant insert, too. Most babies require an infant insert until about four months. If “four months” for your baby is going to be in the middle of July, you might want to think about a carrier with a snap-down bottom instead of one that requires an insert!
Question #3: What’s your size?
When it comes to baby carriers, size matters! Tula tends, in general, to have a more generous waistband and shoulder size than many other carriers on the market. Ergo carriers also offer a wide belt that has plenty of room for you! If you’re looking hard at a Lillebaby carrier, they have a waist belt extender that is relatively inexpensive to purchase. Ergobaby waist extenders are harder to find and more expensive when you do find them, but they’re still available from some third-party sellers.
For plus size mamas or daddies with big, broad shoulders, the BabyHawk Mei Tai with XL straps may be a great option for you. It allows for much more flexibility in how you position the straps and has a longer waistband that can easily adapt to your needs as you pass your carrier back and forth.
The size of your torso also matters. If you have a short torso, you may struggle to fit a taller baby in a front carry in a Tula. The deep seat on the Ergo 360, on the other hand, will help you get baby a little lower and help you stretch out that cozy front carry longer.
Question #4: How do you want to carry your baby?
When you think “soft structured carrier,” you probably think of either carrying your baby on your stomach or on your back with baby facing in toward you. Some baby carriers, however, allow more freedom and versatility in the way baby is positioned. The Ergobaby 360 allows you to turn your baby to face outward or carry baby on your hip in a supported position. Lillebaby’s carriers also offer hip and front-facing positioning. If you know that your baby will be happier looking out, these are both great choices! Be sure to check out strap positioning, too: some carriers, like the Lillebaby and the Beco Gemini, will allow you to cross the straps to create an “X” in the back, while others only allow for the standard backpack-style carry.
Question # 5: What’s your budget?
A good baby carrier is an expensive investment—up there with your stroller or your crib, in many cases. Most moms agree that it’s well worth the investment. A quality carrier allows them to keep their baby close while still going hands-free—and most of the high-quality ones on the market are much more comfortable for both you and baby than the cheaper ones you can purchase in your local superstore. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t find a good carrier for a better deal!
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t buy into the hype and assume that you “have” to have a Tula in order to be comfortable. Some more budget-friendly options for baby carriers include:
Keep in mind that accessories add up, too—if you don’t have to purchase an infant insert, you can save a little money on your carrier.
One Last Note: Choosing Your Pattern
There are so many great colors and patterns in baby carriers—especially in the Tula line, which has a variety of special prints and colors—that it can be easy to get drawn into the hype. While you’ll certainly want to choose a color and pattern that speaks to your unique style, there are a few considerations that you’ll want to remember.
- Bright colors fade with time, especially with washing. If you have a baby who spits up frequently, a carrier with bright red canvas might not be the best choice for you.
- Dark colored canvas can bleed onto your clothes, especially if it gets wet.
- New jeans can bleed onto light colored canvas, so if you’re in that postpartum stage where you have to purchase new clothes, take that into consideration.
- Think about how often you’ll be willing (or able) to wash your carrier and how much the color or pattern will show dirt.
How Do You Choose?
Choosing a baby carrier is a personal journey. You can take a look at how they fit other mamas like you, think about the options that matter most to you, and research all of your choices, but in the end, the best way to learn which baby carrier you’ll love most is to try them on. If you’ve tried an inexpensive carrier in the past and it wasn’t love, realize that the right carrier can make all the difference. A high-quality carrier with ergonomic support is more comfortable for both mom and baby—and that’s an investment that’s well worth making!
Want to see a couple of the most popular baby carriers on the market in action? Check out this video to see how the Ergo 360 and Tula’s standard baby carrier fit on me (5’2”; size 8) and my 30-lb, size 2T three-year old.
There is a baby carrier that’s right for you. If you’ve struggled with finding the right carrier in the past, don’t despair! There’s a good chance that this carrier just wasn’t your “perfect pair of jeans.” Do your research, ask some questions, and, if possible, try on a few carriers with your baby to discover which one is the best fit for your body. You may be amazed by the difference in the brands available on the market and how they fit for you.