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Best Soft Baby Carriers

January 2015

Here are our picks for best soft baby carriers by subcategory:

Note: Our editors developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.

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Best overall Soft Structured Carriers (mainstream)

Just want to buy one carrier for your baby? A buckle carrier is your best bet. Here are our top mainstream picks — top choices if you are looking for brands and models that are widely available and/or will be easy for someone to buy for your registry.

WINNER: Boba 4G

The redesigned Boba 4G (MSRP $125) is a top choice that elegantly accommodates newborns through toddlers. It includes an integrated, two-position infant insert that allows you to carry baby legs-in; you simply snap the insert into a ball shape for newborns (7-10lbs.), or unfold into an M-shape for smaller infants (10-15 lbs.). After 15 lbs., you remove the insert and wear baby legs out. Unlike many of its competitors, the 4G does not support a front-facing-out position, however. The main carrier body is not overly large (13.5" wide, 15.7" tall), however Boba nonetheless manages to accommodate toddlers quite well by including adjustable stirrups. Other unique, thoughtful features include dual adjustable straps, several storage pockets, and even a purse strap (!).

Runner up: Beco Soleil

The Beco Soleil (MSRP $140, Amazon $126), the newest addition to the Beco family, is a great new option for babies 6-18 months. It is sized wider and taller than the beloved Gemini, so an infant insert is required for newborn use. It features a detachable hood, padded headrest, integrated waistband pocket, and detachable storage bag that snaps onto main body of carrier. The Soleil can accommodate front (facing-in), back, and hip carries. It utilizes safety buckles that require two hands to open. 100% cotton exterior. Measures 16" wide, 17" tall.

Runner up: ERGObaby 360

The newest innovation from Ergo, one of the market leaders in the carrier category, is the Ergo 360 (MSRP $160) — the first Ergo that accommodates all four main carrying positions (front-facing-in, front-facing-out, hip, and back). It features an ergonomic, adjustable-width bucket seat and an extendible headrest (similar to the Bjorn). Use with infants younger than 4-6 months requires the purchase of a separate (and bulky) infant insert. One notable difference vs. the classic Ergo models is a newly designed waistband: it's thinner (no padding), but somewhat awkward and cumbersome (requires you to wrap velcro straps around your waist, then buckle). It offers fairly good support for toddlers, due to the adjustable seat width and fold-up headrest. If the 360 is too newfangled for you, Ergo also still sells its classic Original (made of a stiffer canvas material), Organic (made of softer, organic cotton), and Performance (made of moisture-wicking polyester, for hotter climates & sports) models.

Runner up: BABYBJORN Baby Carrier One

The Baby Bjorn One (MSRP $190, Amazon price $115) is the newest generation carrier from the Swedish baby product juggernaut. The One is the first Bjorn that can be used in four positions: front-facing-out, two front-facing-in positions (regular, and a higher position for newborns), and back. It can accommodate newborns without use of an infant insert. The age range is supposed to be 0-3 years, but the seat width is not optimal for toddlers, and the back support is fairly low. If you want something simpler for use with a newborn or younger infant, Baby Bjorn also still sells its Miracle (with waist belt and back support, suitable for 0-15 mo.) and Original (no waistbelt, suitable for under 15 lbs. only) models.

Best overall SSCs (niche)

You'll have to try a little harder to find these buckle carriers, but we promise you it will be worth the effort. These are the two carriers we recommend to our friends who ask us for advice on the single best carrier to buy for their babies.

WINNER: Tula

While not yet available through mainstream channels, Tulas are some of the most sought after carriers in babywearing circles. They are extremely comfortable for most caregivers and babies, and the craftsmanship, quality of materials, and attention to detail (e.g. leg padding) are undeniable. The Tula Standard (MSRP $149) accommodates babies from 15 lbs.; can be used from birth with infant insert ($40). Comes with a removable hood. The only downsides are non-dual-adjustable straps, limited storage (small waistband pocket only), and limitation to front-facing-in and back carries only. Available directly from the manufacturer, and via selected web retailers. Main panel measures 14.5" wide, 15.5" tall.

Runner up: Kinderpack

The Kinderpack (MSRP $189) is handmade, low-volume product, but is considered in some circles to be the "holy grail" of baby carriers. It has a deep, contoured seat for baby's comfort, and is very comfortable for most caregivers as well. It also has dual-adjustable buckles. Kinderpacks are available in an ever-changing array of colors and prints, and a number of custom sizes (from infant to preschool size, and from petite to standard to plus size straps). They are primarily sold through the manufacturer's site (though they often sell out within minutes after a stocking); you can also find them secondhand on various FSOT boards. The infant size fits newborns through 25 lbs. (measures 15" wide, 15" high), and the standard size fits babies from approx. 20lb. or 8mo. (measures 17" wide, 16" high).

Best SSCs for newborns

Newborns don't fit well in most infant carriers. These carriers accommodate newborns the most elegantly — they are smaller sized, include an integrated insert (or require no insert at all), and/or offer adjustable crotch widths.

WINNER: Beco Gemini

The Beco Gemini (MSRP $130), sized smaller than most infant carriers, is a fantastic option for ages newborn through 10-12 months. It accommodates a newborn with no insert, has an adjustable crotch width (easy to snap in and out), and features a substantial, fold-down padded headrest that provides excellent head and neck support. The Gemini is also very versatile, accommodating four different positions: front-facing-in, back, hip, and front-facing-out. For front carries, the shoulder straps can be worn backpack-style or crossed (which some people find more comfortable; especially hepful for petite wearers). The only downsides of the Gemini, besides its relatively short useful life, include its safety buckles (a two-handed operation for most people) and lack of storage. 100% cotton exterior. Width measures 7" (narrow setting) / 11" (wide setting), height 15" (18.5" with headrest folded up)

Runner up: Boba 4G

The redesigned Boba 4G (MSRP $125) is a top choice that elegantly accommodates newborns through toddlers. It includes an integrated, two-position infant insert that allows you to carry baby legs-in; you simply snap the insert into a ball shape for newborns (7-10lbs.), or unfold into an M-shape for smaller infants (10-15 lbs.). After 15 lbs., you remove the insert and wear baby legs out. Unlike many of its competitors, the 4G does not support a front-facing-out position, however. The main carrier body is not overly large (13.5" wide, 15.7" tall), however Boba nonetheless manages to accommodate toddlers quite well by including adjustable stirrups. Other unique, thoughtful features include dual adjustable straps, several storage pockets, and even a purse strap (!).

Runner up: Lillebaby Complete

Though less widely available than our first two picks, the modern, Scandinavian-designed Lillebaby Complete (MSRP $115-149) is another excellent option for newborns, and also grows very well through the infant and toddler stages. Accommodates babies in a seated position from 7 lbs. with no insert (you need to provide your own insert for a "fetal hold" position). Allows front-facing-in, front-facing-out, hip, and back carries. Adjustable seat width (snap-in seat flaps, for use younger than 6 months) and a substantial fold-down headrest for excellent head & neck support (similar to Gemini). Straps can be worn crossed. Detachable sleeping hood and lumbar support piece. No pocket. Optional stirrups are available for taller toddlers. In addition to the Original (shown here), Organic (100% organic cotton), Airflow (cotton and mesh), and All Seasons (zip-down panel for warmer weather) models are also available. Seat width measures 5.5” (narrow setting) / 15.75” (wide setting), body length 13.4” (18” with headrest folded up).

Runner up: Catbird Baby Pikkolo

The Pikkolo (MSRP $129, Amazon $109), with its padded memory foam straps but unpadded waistband, touts itself as a cross between a SSC and a mei tai. It can be used with newborns and smaller babies without an insert (the body width is cinched down using a drawcord). It accommodates front-facing-in, front-facing-out, back, and hip carry positions. The unpadded waistband can be worn apron-style, or you can add the optional add-on memory foam Support Belt (highly recommended for babies older than about 5 months; $25). Straps can be tightened in either direction, and can be worn crossed. Slightly bulkier than other carriers, due to the thick padding. Also, wide shoulder straps may not be comfortable for petite wearers. 100% cotton. Seat width measures 8" (narrowest setting) / 13" (widest setting); panel height 15" (worn folded at bottom), 17" with babywearing belt.

Best SSCs for toddlers

These carriers are specially designed for toddlers, with a wider, taller panel for knee-to-knee and high-back support.

WINNER: Tula Toddler

The Tula Toddler (MSRP $169) is designed for use with children from about 18 months (or approx. 25 pounds) to 4+ years old. As with Tula's standard size, these are top quality, well designed, supremely comfortable carriers. They accommodate front and back carries, and come with a removable hood. The only downsides are non-dual-adjustable straps and limited storage (small waistband pocket only). Tulas are available directly from the manufacturer, and via selected web retailers. Main panel 19" wide, 18" tall.

Runner up: Kinderpack Toddler

Kindercarry, the maker of "holy grail" baby carriers (according to die-hard babywearing fans), also produces a toddler-size Kinderpack ($169). It is significantly wider and taller than most standard size carriers (19" wide, 18" tall), and is appropriate from 18mo.+ (25 lbs.+). Like the smaller size Kinderpacks, it features a deep, contoured seat and Perfect Fit Adjusters (PFAs), and you can customize strap length (petite, standard, plus). Kinderpacks are available for sale on the manufacturer's site (though often sell out almost immediately during stockings), at selected (mostly web) retailers, and on various FSOT boards.

Runner up: Bloo Kangaroo Kanga XT

The Kanga XT ($180), made by Bloo Kangaroo, is another great option for toddlers (from approximately 32" tall through 3 yrs.), especially those who like to ride arms-out or sleep in the carrier. Kangas have a unique high (7") head/backrest that provides excellent support, while dipping down on the sides to enable kids to comfortably ride with arms out. Both in-stock and custom carriers are available. Body dimensions measure approx. 17" wide, 16" tall (excluding headrest).

Best rugged SSCs

These buckle carriers are designed for use in the outdoors and for warmer weather.

WINNER: Onya Baby Outback

The Onya Outback (MSRP $139) is designed like a standard buckle carrier, but features a unique fabric and features that make it well suited to hiking and outdoor pursuits. It features an outer layer constructed of rip-stop nylon for water and fade resistance, and an air mesh inner layer for airflow and moisture-wicking. It is suitable for front and back carries, and can be used from 6mo. (or younger with infant insert, sold separately).

Runner up: ERGObaby Performance

The Ergo Performance (MSRP $140, Amazon $139) features a more rugged fabric (cotton/poly blend or 100% poly) than Ergo's other models, as well as a moisture-wicking mesh lining for breathability. Like the Ergo Classic, the Performance can accommodate three different carry positions (front, back, and hip), can accommodate a newborn (with the usual bulky Ergo insert), and is machine washable. Note that the shoulder padding isn't quite as thick as that on Ergo's other models, so may not feel as cushy.

Best mei tais

WINNER: BabyHawk Mei Tai

The Babyhawk (MSRP $90) is a favorite amongst mei tai devotees — with a firm, adjustable headrest (can be folded down to accommodate babies of different sizes, or to support the head when sleeping), padded shoulder straps, an unpadded waist (can be worn apron or non-apron style), a front pocket, amd a reversible design (print panel reverses to solid). The Babyhawk has a shorter body and the straps are at a narrower angle, making it a great choice for parents with shorter torsos and narrow shoulders. It can be used on front, hip, or back, and is available in standard (newborn and up) and toddler size. You can choose from a selection of in-stock prints/colors, or design your own custom carrier! Body dimensions approx. 16.5" wide, 18.5" high (standard). Babyhawk also offers the Oh Snap! buckle carrier, and the Oh Mei! buckle carrier/mei tei combo.

Runner up: Catbird Baby Mei Tai

The Catbird Baby Mei Tai (MSRP $89) features padded shoulder straps, an unpadded waist, a short padded headrest (can be folded down), a sleeping hood, and a unique elastic cinch mechanism that allows you to adjust the body width easily for smaller babies. The Catbird can be tied apron style or non-apron style, and can be worn on front (face in or face out), back, or hip. Body dimensions approx. 16" wide, 23" tall (waist can be folded over for infants).

Runner up: Kozy Carrier

The Kozy (MSRP $89) is one of the largest mei tais, making it a great choice for toddlers. It features padded shoulder straps, an unpadded waist, and a short padded headrest. It can be used for front, back, and hip carries. Body measures 17" wide, 22" tall.

Runner up: FreeHand Mei Tai

Freehand mei tais (MSRP $72, Amazon $65) are no longer being produced, but they are still available through a number of retailers, and are an option worth considering for smaller babies. Freehands feature padded shoulder straps, and an unpadded waist, but is less padded throughout the body than the Babyhawk. Unlike the Babyhawk, it lacks a headrest (only has a padded neck area); as a result, it offers less support, but will allow your little one to look around more. A universal headrest is available as accessory. The Freehand features a reversible design (print reversing to solid) and can be used on front, back, or hip. Body dimensions measure approx. 15" x 15".

Best hip carriers

Many soft carriers claim to allow hip carries, but the hip carry position is typically an awkward afterthought. If you plan to do a lot of hip carrying (great for older babies who like looking around), your best bet is a dedicated hip carrier.

WINNER: Scootababy

The Scootababy (MSRP $119) is a one-trick pony, but if you're looking for a dedicated hip carrier, this is the one to get. Although many other soft carriers claim to be hip-friendly, hip carries are really an afterthought for them; the cross-body strap inevitably creeps up toward your neck and gets uncomfortable fast. The Scootababy is optimized for hip carries, with a structured waist (to distribute weight to your hips) and a stretchy fleece cup that comfortably hugs your shoulder. The Scootababy can also be used for front and back carries (but really shines on the hip). As with any one-shouldered carrier, the Scootababy is most comfortably worn with younger babies (must have good head control, ~4-6 months) and/or for shorter periods of time.

Runner up: Ellaroo Mei Hip

They are not widely distributed here in the US, but if you can find one (for example on a FSOT board), the Ellaroo Mei Hip is also an excellent hip carrier. Fans of all-natural materials may prefer it, as (unlike the Scootababy) it is 100% cotton. It's a similar design to the Scootababy, with a fabric piece that cups your shoulder much more comfortably than multi-position carriers.

Best soft carriers under $40

WINNER: Infantino Sash Mei Tai

The Infantino Sash (MSRP $35, Amazon $25) performs very well — and can't be beaten for value once you take the price into account. It features lightly padded straps and a snap-on hood, and (like all mei tais) has long tails that you tie off instead of buckles. It is worn apron-style, and allows front, back, and hip carries.

Runner up: Infantino Swift

The Infantino Swift (MSRP $18) is a solidly rated and very reasonably priced buckle carrier that can be used front-facing-in and front-facing-out. It has no waistbelt, so is best suited for infants under 15 pounds. It features padded straps, a fold-down padded headrest, washable/wipeable fabric, and an integrated drool bib, and folds up compactly. It has a narrow crotch, so does not provide the best leg support, but is a good option if you are looking for a more affordable Bjorn-style carrier.