Best baby carrier 2020: from newborn to toddlers, all budgets considered
Carry your baby without the back ache, thanks to these best baby carriers.
Whether you’re keen to get out of the house or simply need somewhere safe to put your baby while you make yourself a cuppa, a baby carrier can be liberating. We’ve spent the past month putting the best baby carriers on the market to the test.
UPDATE: If you've bought yourself a discount baby carrier on Amazon, it might be worth checking to make sure it hasn't been recalled as a number of carriers sold on the retail site have faced some problems. Luckily, according to Fatherly, it sounds like none of the carriers caused accidents. However, their safety has been brought into question. So check yours isn't on the list and take a look at the best baby carriers we'd recommend for 2020 instead.
The Ergobaby Omni 360 came out on top. It scored almost full marks for comfort and style while also being suitable for one of the widest age ranges in our selection, from birth until your child is around four years old.
The Baby K’Tan is our best value choice. For just £50, this ready-to-wear wrap delivers high levels of comfort and closeness with the support and safety of a structured carrier.
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The shortlist: best baby carriers
1. BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One
Sitting at the pricier end of BabyBjörn’s award-winning range, the Baby Carrier One is suitable from birth until your baby becomes a toddler, weighing in at 15kg. The main difference between the Carrier One and Carrier One Air (other than a £20 price gap) is the latter offers a breathable mesh. The Carrier One comes in denim, black and grey.
2. Ergobaby Omni 360
Ergobaby’s Omni 360 offers four carrying positions – parent-facing, front-facing, hip and back – making it suitable from birth up to when your child weighs 20kg. Other features include crossable shoulder straps for greater back support and a detachable pouch to store your keys, phone, a dummy and more. Available in 26 colours.
3. Tula Coast Explore
Tula’s 6-in-1 Coast Explore promises six carrying positions, although technically it’s four with a number of tweaks – front-facing and parent-facing (with different settings for babies, infants and toddlers), back (with different positions for babies and toddlers) and hip. The Coast Explore has a breathable mesh, to differentiate it from the standard Tula Explore carrier, and is suitable from birth up to 20.4kg. Available in eight designs.
4. Nuby 3-in-1 Convertible Newborn Baby Carrier
The Nuby 3-in-1 Convertible can be worn with your baby facing inwards, outwards and on your back. It’s suitable birth until your baby is 14kg and comes with a detachable hood to support the necks of small babies who can’t hold their head upright yet. There is also a detachable dribble bib for when they’re old enough to face outwards. Available in grey/white.
5. BabyBjörn Baby Carrier Mini
A smaller, softer version of the BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One, the Mini has been designed with newborns in mind. It has a smaller seat, fewer buckles and offers two carrying positions - parent-facing and front-facing. Available in light and dark grey, and blue in a jersey material. The mesh version is available in pink, navy blue, grey and “greige” – a brown/grey colour. There is also a cotton version, sold in pink, blue and black.
6. Cybex Yema Tie
Winner of a Red Dot Design Award in 2018, the Cybex Yema Tie is designed to look like a wrap but work like a structured baby carrier. The head support and adjustable waist panel are tucked inside the carrier and the Yema Tie is suitable from birth until your child weighs 15kg. Available in either a leather look, denim or in one of five fashion designs, your baby can be worn facing in, on your back or on your hip.
7. Infantino Cuddle Up
Suitable for babies and infants weighing 5.4kg (around three months) up to 18.1kg, the Infantino Cuddle Up comes can be worn on your front or back, with your little one facing inwards in both position. It has a removable canopy hood and hoodie-style pockets for your hands to keep them warm while walking. Available in grey only.
8. Mamas & Papas Classic Baby Carrier
The only baby carrier in our list to come with a separate dummy pouch, the Mamas & Papas Classic carrier is suitable from birth until your child weighs 12kg. You can wear your baby facing inwards, or outwards and clips on each shoulder make it easy to remove the baby one-handed. Available in black.
9. Hippychick Hipseat
The Hipseat consists of a sturdy padded seat insert attached to an adjustable waist strap. It comes in seven colours and is suitable from when your baby weighs 6kg and can sit unaided (around six months) up to when they tip the scales at 20kg. The waist band will fit up to a UK size 20 or an extension belt is available (sold separately).
10. Baby K’Tan
This ready-to-wear wrap offers five carrying positions – parent-facing (described as the “hug” position), front-facing (the “adventure” position), on your hip, plus “kangaroo” and “explore” positions which are both parent-facing albeit at different angles to the “hug”. Available from birth until your child weighs 16kg, the Baby K’Tan is sold in black, grey, purple and denim.
The expert's view
Best baby carriers: how we selected
To create a shortlist of the best baby carriers on the market, we began by looking at the list of best-sellers on Amazon, Argos and Mothercare and recorded the customer star ratings for the top 30. Any product labelled as a baby carrier was included and this covered the best carriers specifically for newborns, carriers that are suitable from birth until your little one is toddling around, and hipseats.
We also read hundreds of forum posts on Mumsnet, Emma’s Diary and The Bump to discover which brands are rated most highly by parents.
Brands such as BabyBjörn and Ergobaby sell multiple models, for example, so by using both star ratings and real-world experiences, it helped us select which particular model of carrier, or carriers, from which manufacturer to test. This reduced the shortlist to 15. Our top 10 was then compiled based on features and price.
In terms of features, we were looking for baby carriers that offered at least two carrying positions and were suitable for a minimum of six months. This was to make sure that any investment you made in a carrier wouldn’t be short lived.
We also prioritised brands approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI). If a brand scored particularly highly but wasn’t on IHDI’s list of “Hip-Healthy” products, the carrier needed to at least adhere to the institute’s guidelines.
These guidelines state a hip-healthy carrier should offer a wide panel, should keep the baby’s legs in the M, or frog-leg, position and shouldn’t force their legs together. This ruled out the BabaSling, for instance, because it promotes cradling your baby as one of its five positions, which is not recommended by the IHDI. We also removed standard baby wraps for the same reason.
Hip Dysplasia, or developmental dysplasia of the hip (DHH), is when the ball and socket joint doesn’t form properly. In the womb, a baby’s hips and knees are bent in the fetal position but after birth it can take months for these joints to stretch out naturally. If these joints are forced into a stretched-out position too early, the ball can become deformed or weak, leading to dislocation or limps later in life.
This is why a baby carrier must not force a baby’s legs to stretch or straighten under any sort of pressure for at least six months, but ideally for the full length of use. You can see which carriers have been approved as hip-healthy here.
This selection criteria left us with models from Nuby, Baby K’Tan, Ergobaby, Tula (a subsidiary of Ergobaby), Mamas & Papas, Infantino, Cybex, Hippychick and two BabyBjörn models – the Carrier Mini, designed for smaller babies at a lower price, and the Carrier One. It costs more but spans a wider weight range.
Best baby carriers: how we tested
We operated a scoring system for our list of the best baby carriers, ranking each model out of 10 for a variety of features and performance with 1 being the worst, and 10 the best.
When ranking the best baby carriers for features we scored each based on their price, the number of carrying positions and colour/design options, their age and weight range and whether or not they were approved by the IHDI. The most versatile baby carriers, those that offer multiple carrying positions for a wide range of ages, such as the Baby K’Tan and Ergobaby Omni 360, achieved the highest scores. Ergobaby, Cybex and Tula scored highly for their range of designs, yet dropped points for being so expensive.
Our shortlist of baby carriers were then individually tested using three different-sized babies – a two-week-old newborn weighing 3.5kg, a petite, 11-month-old baby weighing 9.5kg, (the average weight for a baby of this age), and a heavy, tall one-year-old weighing 13kg – the average weight of an 18-24-month-old. All but two of the carriers were suitable from birth.
Firstly, we assessed how easy each one was to put on and take off, one-handed, both with and without a baby inside. Each baby was placed facing inwards and we looked for carriers that didn’t have overly complicated straps and buckles, and those that offered comfortable support for each baby, regardless of weight and height.
For the two older babies, we repeated this process for each additional carrying position available. Between each test, the panels on the relevant carriers were adjusted to cater for the various sizes and hip positions. This adjustment process was marked out of 10 for how straightforward, or not, it was.
To test the comfort levels of each carrier, we took the heaviest of the three babies on an hour-long walk, placed in the inward position. This position was chosen because it was the most common carrying position of the group. Only one carrier, the Hippychick, didn’t offer this position and for this model we carried the baby on our hip. We recorded how many minutes it took for each carrier to pinch or feel uncomfortable.
For carriers that offer a back-carrying position (seven out of the 10), we again placed the heaviest of the babies in this position and hoovered our front room. This is something we have regularly done with our baby when trying to get housework done. We ranked each model based on how easy it was to convert the carrier to the back-carrying position and how long we could hoover for before the weight of the baby got too much.
Best baby carrier reviews: The test results
Leading the pack by quite some margin, the Ergobaby Omni 360 scored top marks for offering a staggering range of 28 different designs and four carrying positions, making it suitable from birth until your child is 20kg, or around four years old. It lost a couple of points for its price and it’s not as easy to use as some of its rivals. Plus, while it was comfortable when used with lighter babies, it pinched a little with the heavier, taller child.
Second in our list was the Hippychick Hipseat. It’s the least versatile of the lot but scored extremely highly for ease of use, comfort and its decent weight range, spanning from 6kg, or around six months, up to 20kg. It’s one of the most simple baby products we’ve ever used.
In third place was Tula’s Coast Explore. Unsurprisingly, considering Tula is a subsidiary of Ergobaby, the Coast Explore and Omni 360 carriers look and feel very similar. The Tula doesn’t come in quite as many colours but it matches the Ergobaby for price, weight range and was marginally more comfortable when carrying the heaviest baby.
The most fashionable baby carrier of the lot, and the most expensive, is the Cybex Yema Tie. It proves you don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort. Coming in just two points behind Tula’s model, the fourth-place Yema Tie is technically a structured carrier but forsakes straps and buckles for a clever panel design and simple, incredibly comfortable tie system.
In the middle of the pack is the second baby carrier to combine the comfort of a wrap with the security of a structured carrier – the Baby K’Tan. Where the Ergobaby was better for lighter babies, the K’Tan is the opposite, providing a comfortable way to cart around our two-stone child in style. It looks complicated but really isn’t.
In sixth place is the first of the BabyBjörn models, the BabyBjörn Carrier One. It was, by far, the most comfortable to use when walking with a heavy baby and offers great support for newborns. The downside is that it resembles a climbing harness meaning it can’t be stored easily and it’s a pricey piece of kit with few design choices.
Infantino’s Cuddle Up took seventh place, winning points for its low price and that its design includes a cute hood to keep your child’s head warm and protected from the elements, however it lost marks for not being suitable from birth and not feeling as comfortable as others in the list.
Another baby carrier marked down for having a narrow weight range despite its relatively high price was the BabyBjörn Carrier Mini. As the name suggests, it’s much more compact than its One sibling. We found it to be near-on perfect for carrying a newborn but we struggled to get the 11-month-old into it comfortably even though she is within the weight range.
Holding up the rear were the Nuby 3-in-1 Newborn Baby Carrier and the Mamas & Papas Classic carrier. Neither are IHDI-approved, although both are safe and do conform to its guidelines. Nuby just pipped the Mamas & Papas carrier into ninth place for being a tad more padded and comfortable, and having a wider weight range.
Despite its name, the Nuby 3-in-1 isn’t just suited to newborns and will, on paper at least, last until your baby is 14kg. Our 13kg baby didn’t fit but he is much larger than average for his age. The Mamas & Papas Classic is a decent baby carrier and does the job simply, without any bells and whistles, but for its price we expected more.
The best baby carrier reviewed
Ergobaby Omni360, £154.99
The Ergobaby Omni 360 consistently achieved positive reviews and four- or five-star ratings across all the sites and forums we researched, and our tests confirmed its superiority. It manages to combine style – it has enough designs for even the fussiest of parents – with comfort for wearer and baby in a way none of the others in our list could.
Although its various straps, clips and buttons can seem a little intimidating when you first get the Ergobaby Omni 360 out of the box, they make much more sense once you’re wearing the carrier and soon become second nature. This is helped by the use of colour-coded lines and buttons that guide you.
Adjusting the width of the carrier’s panel to suit your baby’s size, using simple velcro strips, is the only tweak that needs to be made before putting the carrier on. The rest can be made when your baby is in place.
The level of padding across the entire baby carrier is another huge plus point. Only the Tula Coast Explore could match the Ergobaby for the softness and cushioning of its shoulder straps and waistband, which fit snugly and move with your body. Even the bucket seat has more padding than many of its rivals.
The BabyBjörn Carrier One, for example, offers similar padding in the same areas, but this padding feels harder and is less flexible.
In its default position, with the straps connected by the buckle between our shoulder blades, the Ergobaby Omni 360 was a comfortable, snug way to carry the newborn and easily took the strain off the 11-month-old, yet was less so with our heavier baby.
The lumbar support built into the waistband did little to help the pressure on our upper back and our baby looked uncomfortable. Thankfully, it’s possible to put the shoulder straps into a criss-cross position, effectively spreading the load more evenly across your back and once we’d done this, the comfort level increased. Not fully, but it was noticeably improved.
During our tests, we walked for 35 minutes wearing the Ergobaby Omni 360 before the two-stone weight on our front started to feel uncomfortable. This timeframe was third only to the BabyBjörn Carrier One, which lasted the full hour, and the 40-minute trip with the Cybex Yema Tie. By comparison, we lasted just 10 minutes with the Nuby and didn’t even make five minutes with the BabyBjörn Mini.
The downside to Ergobaby’s cushioned design is that it tends to get incredibly warm, especially when out walking. The seat and panel is covered in a mesh fabric, which negates this somewhat for your little one, but be prepared for sweaty shoulders, back and midriff if you wear this carrier for any length of time.
If we were being picky, the position of the side buckles and straps also didn’t leave a lot of room for our baby’s arms and this was unnecessarily fiddly and awkward to manoeuvre.
The best baby carrier for value reviewed
Baby K’Tan, £49.99
This highly versatile and stylish baby carrier puts many of its rivals to shame offering the best of both worlds for comfort and ease-of-use at an extremely affordable price.
Made of cotton, the Baby K’Tan consists of two large loops connected together by a smaller loop of material in the centre. You place the loops over your shoulders and, using a small amount of manoeuvering, can alter how the carrier, and your baby, is worn.
You can get away with not reading the instructions with many of the other baby carriers in this list because they each work in a similar way – although we don’t advocate doing so. This is not an option with the Baby K’Tan.
It comes with step-by-step picture guides and while these are useful to a point, we highly recommend watching the official YouTube videos if you want to use it correctly. This is where the Baby K’Tan lost the majority of its points, as well as the fact it doesn’t let you wear your baby in a backpack position.
This makes it sound like the Baby K’Tan is difficult to use, but while it may take a bit more effort than its rivals to get used to, once you’re happy with the fit it’s actually an incredibly simple process. Plus, the benefits of using it, and using it correctly, far outweigh any time spent.
One such benefit being just how comfortable it is. Because the material bends and stretches with your movements, it hardly feels like you’re carrying your baby at all. There are no buckles or straps to rub or pinch you or your baby’s skin and your little one’s weight is evenly distributed.
Granted, if you’re used to using a structured carrier, the Baby K’Tan doesn’t feel as secure and rigid. We often panicked thinking our baby was falling when we leaned forward, for example. Not once was he ever in danger, though, and the close fit of the material meant he wasn’t squashed or pushed out of position in doing so.
This cosy fit was also fantastic for making us feel close to our baby thanks to the direct skin-on-skin contact made possible by its design. We didn’t breastfeed but Baby K’Tan claims it is possible to nurse discreetly using this carrier and we can see how that would be doable.
Comparing the rest on test
While other baby carriers resemble harnesses, Hippychick’s Hip Seat offers a more simple premise. Your child sits on a padded seat worn on your hip, connected via a waist strap.
It doesn’t offer the hands-free nature of its rivals – you need to support your child with at least one arm – but it stops you bearing all their weight on your forearm, or twisting your back to rest them on your hip. This makes it super comfortable.
We didn’t realise just how much we needed this seat until we found ourselves wearing it all day, almost everyday. This convenience compensated for the fact it’s less suited, but not impossible, to use for long walks.
Dropping just two points behind Hippychick into third place, Baby Tula’s Coast Explore carrier looks almost identical to the Ergobaby, and costs the same, yet was surprisingly less comfortable. We felt our baby’s weight pulling on our shoulders within 20 minutes. It matched Ergobaby’s model for design and ease-of-use but comes in fewer design options and didn’t offer the straight-up simpleness of the Hippychick.
Standing out, by far, as the most fashionable baby carrier we tested, the Cybex Yema Tie looks more like an item of clothing than a structured carrier.
Thanks to its material design and padded straps, the Yema Tie offers the comfort of a wrap akin to the Baby K’Tan, with significantly more style. Plus it’s even easier to use. It lost points because it’s so expensive and doesn’t offer the weight range of the majority of its higher-scoring rivals, peaking at 15kg instead of 20kg.
Despite sitting in sixth place, the BabyBjörn Carrier One is a better baby carrier than our rankings suggest. It’s nowhere near as stylish as the Ergobaby or Cybex models, nor is it as compact and convenient as the Baby K’Tan or Hippychick, but it is the most comfortable baby carrier to use as your child grows.
It offers fantastic, easy-to-adjust upper and lower back support without having to cross straps and its combination of clips and buckles, despite looking ugly, made our child feel secure without feeling heavy. It lost points for its poor aesthetics and lack of relative colour options.
The Infantino Cuddle Up Hood is an adequate baby carrier, especially for its low price, but other than having a built-in soft hood, very little stood out when testing this carrier. It wasn’t difficult to use, but wasn’t easy. It lasted 12 minutes during our hour-long walk and its design neither impressed nor disappointed.
It lost points because it’s suitable from 5.4kg, rather than from birth, and can’t be used past 18kg. This puts its total weight range almost on par with the Baby K’Tan’s (suitable from birth until 16kg), without the comfort and closeness offered by the latter.
In eighth place is the BabyBjörn Carrier Mini. It’s simple to use and has an understated design but was one of the most uncomfortable carriers lasting a measly five minutes of our hour-long walk before it started pinching.
On the flip side, it is fantastic for carrying a newborn, offering the kind of closeness and softness reserved for wraps.
At the bottom of the pack were the Nuby 3-in-1 Newborn carrier and the Mamas & Papas Classic. Despite its name, the Nuby model will last until your little one weighs 14kg but we found it fiddly to use in all our tests with different sized babies. On the tightest setting, we weren’t happy with how secure the newborn felt in it and at the opposite end, the 11-month-old felt too big for it.
We weren’t keen on the cream design of the Nuby, either, which is difficult to keep clean. The Mamas & Papas carrier looks better but can only be used until your baby is a year old and is much more expensive. Each of the bottom three carriers also lost points for not being “hip approved”.