Okay, now we are getting into older baby territory… soft structured carriers can be used until 35 lbs, or well into the 2nd year (or longer). You can also buy toddler-specific carriers for your much older/heavier kiddos. See Tula and Lillebaby for those.
Some very smart person decided to design a baby carrier that distributes the weight of your baby to your hips instead of your back. Hallelujah! The generic name for this is a “soft structured carrier,” and there are MANY great ones on the market — just because yours isn’t on the list doesn’t mean it’s not good. I had to whittle it down somehow.
For any decent SSC, you should expect to pay northwards of $100, generally about $120-$150. It should last you for multiple years and kids. In terms of the general design and ergonomics, they are very similar. The differences lie in the nuances of fit and function. They can all be worn on your front or back and generally look like this:
Let’s compare them, shall we? (Listed in order of price, from lowest to highest.)
1. Infantino Sash Carrier ~ $34
For a fraction of the price of the others (below), the Infantino Sash ($33, $25 on sale) offers terrific value.
Like any good soft structured carrier, the Sash places the weight of the baby on your hips where it belongs! But instead of using clasps, the Sash relies on being tied into place, both at the waist and shoulders. While it may take a bit more practice to get a sash-type carrier on, the benefit is that you can tie it to fit yourself perfectly.
Another benefit is that the Sash folds quite compactly. So, unlike some of the bulkier carriers, this one will fit easily into your diaper bag. It’s especially great for plus-sized moms or moms whose bodies aren’t otherwise well served by the proportions of other carriers.
On the downside, it’s not as well made as the other carriers listed here and may not weather as well, but I still feel it’s a terrific value for the money.
2. Lillebaby 6-in-1 Complete ~ $119+ Best Value
The lesser-known Lillebaby Complete carrier is another one of our all-time favorites.
Like the Ergobaby Omni 360, this carrier also allows baby to face out OR face in. The Lillebaby has a wider seat and a higher weight limit (45 pounds to Omni’s 33) – though its seat lacks the Ergo Omni’s deep structured bucket seat. This carrier offers two width positions for the seat – a narrow seat and a wide seat – which allows it to fit very well for all ages of infancy through toddlerhood.
Like the Omni, the Lillebaby doesn’t require a separate infant adapter, and it is very comfortable for both mom and dad.
Of the five carriers listed here that allow outward facing (this, the ErgoBaby Omni 360, the Tula Explore, the Beco 8 and the BabyBjorn Carrier One), this one is definitely a bargain (@ $119+).
A couple of other nuances to mention…
- Lillebaby offers a more expressive set of patterns (whereas the others tend to come in plain colors — or just black). In fact, Lillebaby’s embossed version is quite beautiful.
- It’s incredibly comfortable
- You can cross the straps in the back, which makes for easier on/off and added stability
- The biggest downside of this carrier is the extra steps needed to switch from forward facing to inward facing (and vice versa). For more detail, read our in-depth Lillebaby Complete Review.
Check out my video review of the older version here:
The popular All Seasons carrier (cue the video above to 5:15) has a panel that zips down to allow for airflow in warmer weather, and the Airflow carrier features mesh paneling throughout. Anyone who’s ever carried a baby knows how hot it can get in there, so any attempt to mitigate the heat is appreciated.
Lillebaby’s latest carrier, the Pursuit Pro, launched in 2019 and is designed for babywearing comfort during long walks and hikes. It comes with some nice extras that are great for being out on the trail, like a water bottle holder, seven different storage pockets (’cause you need a place to store that spare diaper!), reflectors for evening walks, and the adjustable straps, comfy padding, and superior lumbar support we’ve come to expect from Lillebaby.
They also make an All Seasons Pursuit version with a zip-down mesh panel- ’cause hiking in the summer is sweaty business! (Note that the Lillebaby Pursuit does not come with a hood, so be sure to pack the hats and sunglasses in one of its many pockets.)
Lillebaby also makes one toddler-only carrier: the CarryOn Air ($150).
Love the Lillebaby!!
Boba bought Beco a few years back and we wondered if they would continue to make this carrier (they are).
Unlike with the Lillebaby, Omni 360, and Tula Free to Grow, the Boba 4G needs an extra infant insert for babies under 15 pounds (which comes with the carrier). See it in action here. The Boba 4G has a very wide seat that lets it support toddlers up to 48 months (or 45 pounds). It is functionally the most similar to the Tula carrier (another facing-in carrier–see below), though the Boba 4G is not quite as wide, and the leg openings are slightly less padded than the Tula’s.
There are many little things Boba has perfected. These include an adjustable sleeping hood, multiple storage pockets, and (on the 4G model) removable foot straps to provide a more comfortable ride for toddlers and taller kids and a purse holder loop/snap.
The Boba carriers comfortably fits people from 5’0″ – 6’3″ and come in some beautiful colors and patterns, which are especially great for sharing with your favorite baby daddy (BD). For a facing-in carrier, Boba is top notch.
Boba also makes the Boba Air ($69) for babies over 15 pounds. The Air is made of lightweight nylon that keeps babies cool and is easy to stuff into a bag. It has padded leg openings, an ergonomic seat, a built-in hood, and can carry toddlers up to 45 pounds.
The newest version of this carrier, the Boba X, is even more similar in style (and in its wide variety of gorgeous prints) to the Tula. The ‘X’ supports babies and toddlers up to 45 lbs and does NOT require an infant insert (yay!). It has an adjustable panel height and width, so this carrier can carry toddlers up to 30 months.
4. The Beco 8 ~ $90
The Beco 8 is another four position carrier that “does it all” (like the Omni 360 and the Lillebaby Complete); this version of the carrier fixes some of the more annoying issues with the older Beco Gemini.
The Beco 8 allows forward-facing carrying and includes an infant insert (required for babies under 15 pounds), a sun hood, a mesh airflow panel you can unzip on warm days, lumbar support, and a roomy storage pocket for your keys/phone. It also has snaps for a quick and easy seat conversion,so baby can change from inward to outward facing in seconds, and vice versa (this is much more difficult with the Lillebaby).
Additionally, Beco got rid of the annoying safety lock you’ll find on the waist belt of the Gemini, so you can now take this carrier off one-handed while still holding onto your baby with your other hand.
5. TULA Baby Carrier ~ $80+
Tula is the new it carrier in the U.S. It first gained cult-like popularity through hardcore babywearing clubs, but is now becoming more popular in the mainstream.
There is one feature that sets Tula apart from its competitors: HUGE coverage. Meaning, the seat is waaaaay wider and taller than other carriers. This wideness keeps baby’s legs in a natural “M” position to prevent leg dangle, while the height of the seat helps better support baby’s head.
Tula has a few different models, depending on your needs. Its Free to Grow carrier ($113+) can hold babies from 7 to 45 pounds and does not require an infant insert. The Free to Grow has a narrow, middle, and wide seat setting, as well as two different height settings, to properly support babies of many sizes. Note: the Free to Grow is a facing-in baby carrier only.
Tula is now making a carrier with a facing-out option (woo-hoo!) for babies who like to look out at the world: the Explore ($179). The Explore can carry tots up to 45 pounds, has three width options, and has plenty of padding in all the right places to provide optimal comfort for baby and parent.
Tula carriers cost a bit more than most, but are very well made and come in super cute patterns. The exclusivity of their different prints makes Tulas quite sought after, even when used — which means their resale value tends to be quite high, as compared to that of, say, the Boba 4G.
They also make a toddler carrier that carries kids from 25 to 60 pounds (oof!).
6. Ergobaby Omni 360 ~ $179
[See our full review of the Ergobaby Omni 360]
The Ergobaby Omni 360 ($179, $165 on sale) is Ergobaby’s newest four-position carrier that “does it all” (including OUTWARD FACING!). Featuring a padded seat that keeps baby’s hips into a safe “M position,” it is for babies from 7 to 33 pounds — no infant insert needed. It’s got everything you need — a detachable storage pouch, a sun hood and lumbar support on the waistband… oh, and shoulder straps you can cross (yay!). If you can swing the price (or maybe add this one to your baby registry), it won’t disappoint.
7. The BabyBjorn Carrier One ~ $219
The Carrier One is a nice carrier from BabyBjorn (see my quick video here).
BabyBjorn took three long years to design this carrier from scratch, with input from pediatricians and (get this…) the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (is someone overcompensating??). Finally, the anti-crotch danglers have been silenced, mwaaaaa.
What’s different about the Carrier One? Lots!
Like the Ergo Omni 360, Beco 8 and LILLEbaby, the BabyBjorn Carrier One is an ergonomically-friendly carrier that allows babies to face out in the front carry position.
It was also designed to be easy peasy to transfer from a front-carry to a more comfortable back-carry (though this design makes the overall babywearing experience slightly less snuggly than the other carriers, since there is an extra panel of fabric between you and your baby). The Carrier One has a nice built-in mechanism for carrying newborns without requiring extra pieces. Finally, it has Bjorn’s signature clasps, which allow for an easy/quiet exit should baby fall asleep in the carrier. That said, some people find these clasps rather finicky and difficult to attach.
This carrier will serve you well from infancy through toddlerhood. Oh, and dads love it because it’s all black. No flowers and sh!t. If you’re looking for a carrier to share with your partner, this is a goody.
BabyBjorn is now making another version of the Carrier One called the Carrier One Outdoors ($129+) designed for active parents who like to hike with their babies. This version features mesh material for better air flow and a pocket for your phone and keys.
Downsides: It is rather bulky compared to the others and doesn’t have a sun hood (or a pocket on the Carrier One) – whose decision was that?
8. Ergobaby Embrace Baby Wrap Carrier ~ $79
Ergobaby’s newest carrier, the Embrace, merges the coziness of a baby wrap with the simplicity and comfort of a structured carrier. Designed for babies 7 to 25 pounds, this carrier is made with ultra-soft, lightweight Oeko-Tex Standard 100% certified fabrics, which is super gentle against baby’s skin and provides a snug fit that is sure to keep baby supported. Plus, there’s a padded neckline for newborn’s head, although some parents say they still feel the need to keep a hand on their little one’s head when they bend forward.
Embrace features an easy-to-buckle waistband and spreadable cross shoulder straps, mimicking the design and fit of a wrap. Though we haven’t tried this carrier ourselves, many reviewers report loving how thin and stretchy the shoulder straps are. Generally, people love that it’s lightweight and not bulky, unlike other structured carriers.
Parents also say that it is very easy to put on — no awkward buckles in the back that require go go gadget arms to secure.
Though it doesn’t support babies heavier than 25 pounds, you can easily switch from facing in to facing out modes.
When not in use, this carrier actually rolls up small enough to be tucked in a diaper bag… Say what?!
Overall, this carrier seems like a great option for those who want a wrap for their newborn, but don’t want to deal with all the fabric twisting and tying. That being said, if you plan on carrying your baby passed 6 or 7 months (or if your baby is on the bigger side), you want to stick with a more substantial carrier, like the Omni 360.
9. Nuna Cudl Carrier ~ $169
[See our full review of the Nuna Cudl]
The Nuna Cudl is chic, well-made and super durable that fits babies from birth to 35 pounds. You can use this carrier in the front or the back, and it even has an integrated booster seat for newborns. We particularly love the comfy Velcro waistband, the super easy magnetic clips, the over-the-head back clasp and the integrated infant insert. Yes, it’s $60 more than the competition, but those who love Nuna understand why it’s worth the extra dollars.
Ok folks, that’s the scoop on babywearing. Are you still awake? Coffee. Go get some more coffee, we are 2 down, 8 more categories to go! Next up is everything you need to know about…