Whether you are a first time mama or a seasoned veteran, one piece of gear that should be on every new baby wish list is a quality baby carrier (or two!).
Our babywearing guide has lots of information on the types of carriers and places to purchase them as well as safe wearing tips, but we wanted to provide some more specific information on our favorite newborn carriers. Just as some carriers are better suited for toddlers, there are some carriers that provide a better fit and support for a newborn. There’s no single answer to the “what’s the best newborn carrier?” question, so instead, here’s a list of some easy to find options that we really love!
Note: To make our list the carrier had to be readily available at online retailers. There are of course a number of other lovely options out there but we wanted to recommend ones that aren’t difficult to track down.
Update: Check out our post and video on newborn baby carrier safety basics before using any baby carrier.
Favorite Stretchy Wrap: Gypsy Mama/Wrapsody BaliBaby Stretch
Stretchy wraps are very popular carriers, particularly for newborns; essentially a long piece of jersey knit fabric, stretchy wraps securely hug your baby in snuggly softness. The BaliBaby Stretch is hands down the nicest, most supportive, and most attractive stretchy wrap we’ve tried. It’s widely available at online retailers or direct from Wrapsody. It’s true that the BaliBaby stretch will run you more than other stretchy wrap options but since it’s more supportive, you’ll find it comfortable to use for a longer period of time (in fact, I can comfortably wear my 28 pound toddler in one). The BaliBaby Stretch is also thinner than other stretchy wraps and less stretchy – meaning it’s not as hot as other options can be and unlike other stretchy wraps, it can be safely used for back carries. I’d also add that these wraps are truly beautiful works of art – beautiful and comfortable; what could be better?!
Other Stretchy Options
The Moby Wrap and Sleepy Wrap are other popular easy-to-find options; they are even showing up at big box retailers these days. You can also find stretchy wraps for sale on Etsy or even DIY fairly easily. For more information on wrapping, see our wrap guide.
The Baby K’tan and My Baby Nest are stretchy-like options that might work for you if you like the idea of a wrap but not the idea of wrapping. They offer the same level of support as a Moby or Sleepy Wrap (and therefore should not be used for back carries). Both consist of two cotton knit loops worn like an X with a third band tied around you. They are sized carriers so it may not be possible to share between wearers who are different sizes.
Stretchy Wrap Pros:
- Stretchy wraps are relatively inexpensive brand new (starting at $40) and can readily be found for even cheaper used (try eBay and CraigsList). Stretchy wraps are also very easy to find in both online and brick and mortar stores making them an easy addition to registries and wish lists.
- Many find the soft cotton knit of a stretchy wrap to be the perfect thing to cuddle a newborn in. These are soft right away (like a blanket or favorite t-shirt) and require no “breaking in.”
- Wraps are very secure and “hands free” – even a floppy newborn can be safely secured leaving you both hands to complete other tasks. Wraps are probably the “cuddliest” carriers for newborns as well since they do snug right around them like a favorite blanket.
- Wraps are great for all sizes and shapes; because they are tied on, you get a custom fit every time. This makes them easy to share between wearers. Stretchy wraps generally come in one size and should fit both petite and plus size mamas. If you are smaller and find the wrap too long, simply hem it down to a shorter length; alternatively, you can tie the excess back around your waist.
- Wraps can be used for two shoulder carries and distribute the weight across your torso evenly – this is a big plus for anyone with back issues and will allow anyone to comfortably wear long term.
- Wraps are easy to care for. Baby spit up, pee and poop are easily dealt with – just toss in the wash and you are good to go!
Stretchy Wrap Cons:
- The biggest con of a stretchy wrap is the fact that most are really only usable for small babies and newborns. Although they are rated to 35 pounds, most users find that after 15 pounds or so, the wrap begins to sag – which can become uncomfortable. This makes them not a great choice for older, heavier babies. The BaliBaby Stretch, which does have less stretch, can comfortably be used with heavier babies.
- Stretchy wraps should never be used for back carries – the stretch factor makes it too difficult to pull the wrap tight enough to ensure a safe back carry. The BaliBaby Stretch is again an exception; it is far less stretchy (and only stretches one way) so it can safely be used for all carries.
- For some, the idea of figuring out how to tie 5 yards of fabric around you may not be appealing. While wrapping does look complicated, it’s pretty straightforward with a bit of practice. A related concern is how to handle wrapping when out and about. Wraps can be pre-tied, but that may not be the most appealing option to all wearers.
- Stretchy wraps can be rather warm – not the best choice for a summer newborn in a hot climate (although wonderful for a winter baby in a cold climate!). The Moby is the warmest; the BaliBaby Stretch the coolest/thinnest.
Favorite Woven Wraps: Vatanai, Dolcino and Girasol
There are lots of great woven wrap brands – it’s hard to pick a favorite! Vatanai wraps make our list because their smooth softness and moldability make them an excellent choice for newborns; unlike some woven wraps, they don’t require “breaking in” and will be soft right away. Vatanai wraps are also some of the thinnest woven wraps on the market (although be aware there are a few thicker ones that have been released recently), so they are a great choice for a warm weather baby or a hot-natured mama!
Dolcino wraps are quickly becoming one of the easiest to find woven wraps (and I remember when I got mine through a co-op because no-one in the US was carrying them!). These are soft right out of the box and are definitely workhorse wraps. Dolcinos are medium-thin and come in a nice array of colors.
Girasol wraps are another nice option. Like Vatanai wraps, they are soft brand new. Girasols are blankety soft and a bit thicker than Vatanais. They are available in a wide range of colorways. Many vendors carry both in stock and exclusive designs. For more information on woven wrap brands and where to buy, check out our wrap guide.
Although not true wovens, gauze wraps share many of the same characteristics as woven wraps. They are very thin and lightweight – making them great for hot weather. They aren’t as soft as true wovens or stretchy wraps but the coolness may outweigh that for you if you need something for outdoors in the summer. Our favorite is the Gypsy Mama BaliBaby Breeze – their gauze is the most comfortable I’ve tired and the colors are gorgeous. You can also DIY a gauze wrap or check Etsy for more options.
Woven Wrap Pros:
- Like their stretchy cousins, woven wraps provide a very supportive and hands free carry. Wovens are most commonly used for two shoulder carries that distribute baby’s weight evenly across your torso.
- Woven wraps have a longer life span than their stretchy cousins as they are generally more supportive. Toddlers can still be easily worn in a woven wrap.
- Wovens can be used in a wide array of carries, including back carries. A woven wrap is one of the few carriers suitable for a newborn/young baby back carry as they allow you to get baby very high on your back.
- Woven wraps come in different sizes although wearers of different sizes can still use the same wrap; like stretchy wraps, they always give a custom fit. Info on sizing can be found in our wrap guide.
- Woven wraps are available in a wide array of colors and styles – there’s something for every taste. Wovens also come in a variety of thicknesses; they may be a better choice for someone concerned about heat.
- Most wovens (wool and possibly silk excluded) are easy to care for; aside from a few specialty blends, most are machine washable and many can be tumble dried.
Woven Wrap Cons:
- Woven wraps are among the more expensive options and can be hard to find in brick and mortar stores (most are sold through specialty retailers online). There is a large market for used woven wraps, however; try TheBabyWearer’s For Sale or Trade forum for good deals on gently used wraps.
- Like stretchy wraps, there is a bit of a learning curve with woven wraps. Although woven wraps can be pre-tied, they are somewhat less forgiving of a “poppable” carry than their stretchy cousins. Some do find the idea of wrapping in public a bit unappealing – it does tend to attract attention!
Favorite Mei Tai: Babyhawk
Mei tais are essentially a square of fabric with waist straps and shoulder straps. The Babyhawk is our top pick because its smaller body and soft twill fabric make it newborn friendly. It’s also available from many vendors as well as direct from Babyhawk. Babyhawk offers the ability to completely customize your carrier with strap colors and reversible prints – and they’ve got some great prints! Another easy to find option is the Kozy mei tai. It has a wider body than the babyhawk so it may not work as well for mamas with narrow shoulders wearing small babies. It does, however, make a better toddler carrier as a result. For more information on mei tai brands and wearing tips, check out our mei tai page.
Mei Tai Pros:
- Mei tais are a nice option for someone who wants the custom fit of a wrap but without all the wrapping. You do have to tie the straps (which allows for the custom fit), but it’s a bit easier to get a mei tai on quickly than a wrap.
- Mei tais can be easily shared between users since they are tied on each time. Longer straps are available if needed so they will fit all size wearers.
- Mei tais provide a comfortable, two shoulder carry – good for providing long term support and a “hands free” carry.
- Mei tais can be used for front or back carries. Like woven wraps, they can be used in a high back carry making it possible to wear even a very young baby on your back if you wish (by 2 or 3 months, some babies prefer the view of a back carry).
- Mei tais are great for newborns (worn legs in) and older babies (worn legs out). You can cinch in the bottom of a mei tai with a string or ribbon to allow a younger baby to be legs out (as some babies don’t care to be legs in).
Mei Tai Cons:
- The tying aspect of mei tais may not appeal to some who would rather have quick buckles with nothing to drag.
- Mei tais aren’t quite as easy care as wraps as handwashing and line drying is recommended.
- You will find many mei tais for sale on Etsy and Ebay. We recommend caution in purchasing any mei tai that is not well reviewed on thebabywear.com. It’s easy to make something that looks like a mei tai. It’s harder to make a good quality product that is properly sewn to resist tearing and failure. If the price seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Favorite Ring Slings: Sleeping Baby Productions, Comfy Joey, and Sakura Bloom
Sleeping Baby Productions slings get our vote for two reasons – a shoulder that is easy to use and comfortable for most anyone and good quality slings starting at only $25. SBP slings are all sewn by a super fast and very helpful WAHM (the famous Jan!) – she’s great about answering your questions about fabric choices and wearing tips. SBP also now offers the Eesti shoulder option on her slings in addition to the SBP pleated shoulder.
I’m coming back to add Comfy Joey to my recommendations as it has become my go-to ring sling. The Comfy Joey shoulder is a hybrid shoulder of pleats and gathers. She also typically uses medium size rings on her slings which you may prefer if you have a small upper body (or just don’t like big rings).
Sakura Bloom slings are another great option if you aren’t as concerned about price. Sakura Bloom slings have a simple gathered shoulder (as opposed to SBP’s pleated shoulder) so they are also relatively easy to use and get comfortable. The fabrics on these slings are beautiful – both linen and silk options are available.
There are many other great sling brands out there; check out our ring sling page for more information and buying info.
Ring Sling Pros:
- Ring slings are a nice option if you need a quick in and out carrier.
- While you can learn to nurse in pretty much any carrier, a ring sling is easiest to learn to nurse in and quickest to “set up.”
- Ring slings are very compact making them a nice choice for a car carrier or diaper bag carrier – never know when you may need to babywear!
- Ring slings are very adjustable making them a better option than the commonly found pouch sling. They can be shared between wearers and adjusted to different positions easily.
- Ring slings are wonderful for newborns but equally useful for bigger babies and even toddlers. We recommend an upright tummy to tummy carry for newborns instead of a cradle carry which can be difficult to correctly position.
Ring Sling Cons:
- Because they are worn on only one shoulder, wearers with back problems may not find them as comfortable an option. They also may not be as comfortable for long term wearing, especially with a heavier baby.
- Ring slings may not feel quite as “hands free” as other options because they aren’t a two shouldered carry. That doesn’t mean they aren’t secure of course! Just that you may find your one arm a bit restricted by the sling.
- You will find many ring slings for sale on Etsy and Ebay. We recommend caution in purchasing any ring sling that is not well reviewed on thebabywear.com. It’s easy to make something that looks like a ring sling. It’s harder to make a good quality product that is properly sewn to resist tearing and failure (and that uses carrier quality rings). If the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. Also, be wary of slings that are heavily padded. It may seem like they would be more comfortable, but in fact they are harder to adjust. They are also potentially dangerous for baby because the padding may prevent proper positioning or create too deep of a pocket.
Favorite Buckle/Soft Structured Carriers: Action Baby Carrier, AngelPack, Beco, Pikkolo, and Ergo
The Ergo and Beco are the most widely available quality buckle carriers; the AngelPack, Catbird Baby Pikkolo and Action Baby Carrier are also pretty easy to come by. The Ergo and Beco are carried by many brick and mortar stores; they come in several different models and each offers slightly different features. Either is a far better option than many other popular buckle style carriers like the Bjorn or Snuggly (which we strongly advise against purchasing) – here’s more on why we think they aren’t the best options. The Action Baby Carrier has become my favorite to recommend for little babies; it’s light weight and priced lower than other options. For more information on quality buckle carriers, see our guide here.
Buckle Carrier Pros:
- Many parents find the ease of a buckle carrier to be the biggest selling point – snap it on and go! Nothing to tie and no tails to drag.
- Many daddies find buckle carriers more appealing because there’s nothing to tie – although some daddies like wrapping too 😉
- Buckle carriers are generally easy to adjust – just pull the straps tight as needed.
- Some find them less intimidating to use in back carries since they buckle on quickly.
- Quality buckle carriers provide good back support and a secure, two-shoulder carry.
Buckle Carrier Cons:
- Buckle carriers may be the hardest to get a cozy newborn fit. Some (like versions of the Beco) come with a built in newborn harness. Others (like the Ergo) have a separate insert.
- Baby will have to ride legs in longer in a buckle carrier than in other carriers. This may be an issue for babies that prefer to be legs out.
- Buckle carriers can not be used for back carries until more like 6 months. They also sit baby lower on the back meaning baby won’t get as good of a view – not an issue for some, but some babies are picky!
- Buckle carriers may be harder to get a comfortable fit in. Different brands fit differently so you may find it best to try before you buy, especially if you are petite or plus sized. Check the manufacturers’ websites for local stores that carry each brand (usually they have testers out).
Finally, with any carrier you choose, please read all the instructions carefully. Proper positioning and safe usage is key, especially for newborns. Our babywearing guide has further information on positioning and safe wearing. We are also happy to answer questions if we can; just leave us a comment or email us 🙂