Carriers 101

Advocates of baby wearing from pediatricians to your next door neighbor tout the benefits of closeness with your child. But even if you don’t subscribe to attachment parenting, you have to admit carriers are darn convenient. When you have a baby who just won’t take a nap and you’ve got to get dinner on the table, a carrier that gives you two hands free is a godsend.

Here’s an overview of carriers:

The 5 Types of Carriers

We categorize carriers in to five types: frame/backpack, front, mei tai/asian, slings and wrap around. While they all basically do the same job (carry baby, free up your hands), they accomplish that goal in different ways. Here’s an overview:

Front carriers are the most well-known of all the carrier types. The 800 pound gorilla in this category is the Baby Bjorn (below), which is Sweeden’s most successful export since ABBA. Front carriers basically are designed like a fabric pouch worn on your chest with straps connecting at the shoulders and waist with buckles or snaps. These type of carriers are made for infants up to around 30 pounds although some hybrids like the Boba 4G can carry older kids up to 45 lbs. All front carriers have baby facing in toward mom, but a few also allow baby to face out . . .  and a few even allow your to carry baby on your back (when they are older).

Baby Bjorn Original Carrier

Slings and pouches have been around for centuries, but the modern baby sling traces its roots to the early 80’s.  Slings are basically pockets of fabric that can be adjusted with a ring. Babies can recline in slings or sit upright once they’re old enough. Most slings and pouches are only rated up to 35 lbs. so they are more appropriate for infants.

Maya Wrap carrier

Mei Tais, also known as Asian carriers, are made with a square body and straps attached at each corner. Typically, mei tais are then tied at the waist and chest. Babies can be carried in front or on the back, piggyback style. Because of the style, mei tais can carry babies up to 40 lbs. in the piggyback position so they have a bit longer life than most slings and pouches or front carriers.

Babyhawk meh dai


Need to get some fresh air? Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you can never go hiking again. Designed for hiking, backpack carriers are made with lightweight aluminum frames, high quality fabrics and well-positioned straps. Accessories abound with some models including sunshades, diaper packs that Velcro on, and adjustable seating so Junior gets a good view.

Kelty Backpack Carrier

Wrap around carriers are one long piece of cloth that is twisted and folded to create a pouch for baby. Typically the fabric has some stretch to it. This type of carrier has the biggest learning curve for parents. Most designs are intended for smaller, younger babies up to 35 lbs.

Wrapsody Breeze baby carrier

Which one is right for you?

There is no one simple answer to that question—the best advice is to try out several different styles to see what’s best for you and your baby. Fitting a carrier to your body type can be tricky—checkout the discussion on our carrier message board to learn from other parents. Sometimes a carrier may fit you perfectly . . . but your baby hates it. So, making sure you buy a carrier from a store or site that has a good return policy is prudent.