Note: There is no one universal “best,” especially when it comes to parenting. These are “The Best Soft Structured Baby Carriers” based on Also Mom's strict criteria, detailed here.
Parents love soft structured carriers because they go on fast, are easy to adjust, and are more comfortable for longer wears with heavier babies. Dads also tend to prefer soft structured carriers over wraps and slings because they feel a bit manlier– more like wearing technical gear than like wearing your wife’s favorite accessory. (Though, as an aside, we happen to think that wrap and sling-wearing dads are (blush) so hot. Case. Point.)
These are our favorite baby carriers in loose order of preference:
- Ergobaby Omni 360 ($180) – This carrier does it all– inward-facing, outward-facing, back carry, and side/hip carry– ergonomically. It is safe for babies 7-33 pounds, is extremely comfortable and supportive for both parties, and comes in some nice neutral colors. The only downside is that this carrier does not fold up particularly small, and will not fit easily in most diaper bags/totes. [full review]
- Happy Baby Carrier ($148) – This is a fantastic-looking baby carrier (rivaled by only the Sakura Bloom Scout) that allows for two carry styles– inward-facing and back carry. The Happy Baby Carrier folds compact enough to fit in a diaper bag, is rated for kiddos up to 45 pounds, and is surprisingly comfortable given its minimal bells and whistles. [full review]
- Sakura Bloom Scout ($180+) – Simple, gorgeous, compact. This carrier is absolutely beautiful and functional to boot. We have a bone to pick with the ring sling-style hardware, however. While extremely nice-on-the-eye, this system makes it difficult for those with limited shoulder mobility to fasten the strap behind their neck, a necessity for a safe front carry. (If you can comfortably reach your shirt tag with both arms, you shouldn't have a problem.) [full review]
- Lillebaby Complete Original ($120+) – A lot of people love Lillebaby, and functionally, we understand why. Their carriers have all the bells and whistles, including lumbar support, well padded shoulder straps, and even neck support for tiny ones, all for a great price. But all those add-ons give the carrier a heavy duty “baby gear” look our vanity has a tough time accepting. If you're cool with the intense-looking neck support situation on the Lillebaby (it folds down once your baby doesn't need it anymore anyway), this might be the right carrier for you, especially at the ~$120 price point. [full review]
- Ergobaby All-Position 360 ($160) – The predecessor to the Ergobaby Omni 360, the All Position 360 differs from the Omni in two important ways. One: It has a wide velcro waist strap with no specific lumbar support instead of a heavy-duty buckle with lumbar support. Two: It requires an infant insert for babies 7-12 pounds, which is sold separately for $25. If you're planning to use a sling or wrap for the first few months anyway, the All Position 360 saves you $20. It can also be found on sale or lightly used readily, making it far less expensive than the Omni 360 despite the list price. [full review]
- Beco 8 ($180) – A simple carrier that does it all– inward-facing, outward-facing, back carry, and side/hip carry, the Beco 8 is rated for babies 7-45 pounds and is both comfortable and nice-looking for parents of all shapes and sizes. This carrier has a built-in zippered mesh panel which can be opened for extra airflow in hot climates or closed for cozy warmth in colder climates. [full review]
- Beco Gemini ($140+) – Similar to the Beco 8, but without the built-in mesh panel (though there is a cool mesh option). [full review]
- Boba ($140) – This carrier is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done and is both comfortable and looks nice enough doing it. It can be used for infants– though an (included) infant insert is required, which is sort of a hassle– and toddlers 7-45 pounds. It can be used for inward-facing forward and back carry positions only. [full review]
- Tula Free-to-Grow ($159) – Tula is one of those brands that is oddly coveted by carrier collectors (a thing, apparently), and moms go especially crazy for their “special” patterns. We find the patterns to be a bit homely for our taste, but the Tula itself is a great two-position carrier and looks nice in most of the solid and neutral colors in which its sold. While this carrier isn't as special as some might lead you to believe, it's a solid option if you don't need outward-facing forward carry anyway. [full review]
- BabyBjorn Carrier One ($190) – This carrier makes the list because it meets our minimum criteria for inclusion, but it's not our favorite. In the forward-facing position, the carrier is a bit of a crotch dangler, it has a very European, technical look (which seems to be preferred by dads, but is overall not as feminine for moms), and is not breastfeeding friendly. That said, it is very comfortable for both parties in inward-facing and back carry positions and the fact that dads seem especially willing to wear BabyBjorn carriers has to count for something. [full review]
- Sakura Bloom Onbuhimo ($160) – The usability of the Sakura Bloom Onbuhimo is limited at best. Although the carrier can technically be used in the inward-facing position, it is designed for back carry for older babies and toddlers (15-35 pounds) only. While this carrier is difficult to use and lacks the padding necessary to make it super comfortable, the reason this carrier makes our list is because it is abso-fricken-lutely gorgeous, oh so Instagram-worthy, and super compact for easy packing. It is not going to be your all-around carrier, but it's a fun add on if it makes sense for your lifestyle. [full review]
Comparing Baby Carriers
Which is the Best Baby Carrier for You and Your Baby?
The best carrier for newborns… Ergobaby Omni 360, Sakura Bloom Scout, Happy Baby Carrier, Lillebaby Complete, Beco Gemini, Tula Free-to-Grow, and BabyBjorn Carrier One carriers can all be used without an infant insert from ~7 pounds. All carriers mentioned above are great for newborns except the Tula Toddler and Sakura Bloom Onbuhimo carriers, which are designed for older infants and toddlers.
The best carrier for forward-facing… Ergobaby Omni 360, Ergobaby All Position 360, Lillebaby Complete. The Beco 8, Beco Gemini, and Babybjorn Carrier One all also forward-face, but we don’t love baby’s position in these carriers compared to the ergonomic positioning in Ergobaby and Lillebaby carriers.
What Makes a Great Baby Carrier
To us, a great soft-structured carrier…
- Looks great
- Cradles baby in a variety of ergonomic positions
- Folds small
- Is easy to put on and adjust
What Didn't Make the Cut
These are some popular baby carriers we do not prefer and why:
- BabyBjorn Carrier We: Similar to the BabyBjorn Carrier One, but without a front-carry option and slightly uglier.
- BabyBjorn Miracle: Slightly more supportive than the other BabyBjorn carriers (except the BabyBjorn One), but also significantly less attractive.
- BabyBjorn Original: The original crotch-dangler carrier that does not hold baby in a proper ergonomic position, this gets a no-go from us.
- Beco Woven Carrier: Very similar to the Boba, but the only colors available are limited editions, very expensive, and not very good looking.
- Ergobaby Original: Of the two position carriers out there, the Ergobaby Original is one of the uglier, more industrial looking ones due to its enormous front pocket. It also requires an infant insert for babies 7-12 pounds, which is sold separately for $25. This carrier can be found for super cheap online though, and if you’re on a budget, might be a great option regardless of the pocket situation.
- Ergobaby Organic: Same as the Ergobaby Original. The only difference is this one is made with organic fabric, which is basically just a marketing gimmick. These carriers have been discontinued. (Though if you're passionate about organic cotton, maybe this is important to you.)
- Infantino Flip Advanced: Many parents gravitate toward this good-looking, inexpensive, four-position carrier because it is… inexpensive. But at only about $25, you get what you pay for. It is uncomfortable for parents and unsupportive for baby. Lose lose.
- Lillebaby Essentials: Similar to the Ergobaby Original in look and function, and we don’t prefer it for similar reasons. It is marketed as being a “4-in-1 carrier,” but it doesn't accommodate a front outward facing carry.
- Tula Standard: Similar to the Tula Free-to-Grow, but requires an infant insert for babies 7-15 pounds.
Consistent babywearing of any variety reduces infant fussing and crying by a whopping 43%, and the soft structured baby carrier is by far the easiest, most foolproof way to wear a baby.
For baby wrap recommendations, click here.
For ring sling recommendations, click here.