Baby Carriers 101 - A New Mom's Complete Guide

A baby carrier is a staple piece of gear that parents use throughout the newborn stage and beyond. Baby carriers offer many benefits for parents and little ones alike— emotionally and physically. They offer a hands-free way for caregivers to get things done around the house, an easier way to transport a baby on the go, can soothe infants to reduce crying and support the bond between baby and their caregivers. But, with all the options, choosing a baby carrier can feel overwhelming. 

You’ve come to the right place  - we get it. When preparing for a new baby, or entering a new developmental stage, it feels like there are a million questions and decisions to make! Shopping for a baby carrier can be particularly challenging because of all the different options. Every baby is unique, and different carriers are best suited for different developmental stages and weights. 

In this guide, we'll explore the most popular types of baby carriers, understand their uses, and share how to choose the perfect fit for your baby’s developmental stage. 

Before we begin, it’s important to note that babywearing (carrying a baby in a sling, wrap, or carrier) dates back thousands of years. From indigenous communities throughout the world to ancient civilizations like Egypt, caregivers have secured their babies to their bodies with a variety of materials. All throughout history, it has been important to keep babies close while caregivers can tend to their responsibilities.  

Ok, let’s get into it. 


Stretchy Wraps 

Weight recommendations: 8lbs to 25lbs
Age recommendations: newborn to up to 1 year; many families stop using at 4-6 months

Stretchy wraps are popular because their soft and cozy fabrics make fourth-trimester bonding extra comfortable. They are a hit with many parents, especially for newborns, because it mimics the snug, secure environment of the womb.  Plus, twins can be carried in tandem for the first few months. Like other wraps, they are compact and packable, easily thrown into a diaper bag or taken on the go. Once you get the hang of tying a stretchy wrap, many parents opt to leave it on for the whole day instead of retieing it, because it is so comfortable. They offer easy care and cleaning as they are typically machine washable. 

Stretchy wraps only offer the front inward carry position, which means you’ll want to transition to a more supportive carrier as baby grows. These wraps are designed to be used for the first year, but many families find themselves aging out after about 4 to 6 months. Notably, these carriers have a limited lifespan. You won’t want to pass them down because the stretchy fabric can grow saggy as baby grows because the fabrics can degrade. 


ErgoBaby Stretchy Wrap


Ring Slings

Weight recommendations: 8lbs to 35lbs
Age recommendations: newborn to toddlerhood 

A ring sling is a piece of fabric cut to a specific length based on size and sewn at the shoulder with rings to create a sling or hammock-like pouch for carrying your baby. Easily packable, ring slings can fit nicely in a diaper bag and are convenient for on the go. These types of carriers have been in use for thousands of years throughout the world, offering a practical way to carry babies throughout history. Ring Slings are very versatile and can be used for front, hip, and back carry positions to support baby as they grow. Plus, parents can express themselves with the many different colors, patterns, and fabric types that are available. 

Ring slings are a popular choice for newborns but can also be used for shorter babywearing sessions as your little one grows. Because ring slings don’t offer as much back support or weight distribution for the caregiver, older babies and toddlers may start to feel heavy, leading to a reduction in the length of babywearing sessions over time. Like any woven wrap, there is a learning curve, however, ring slings are generally considered to be one of the easiest wrap carriers to learn to use.


SakuraBloom Ring Sling

Woven Wraps

Weight recommendations: 8lbs to 45lbs+
Age recommendations: newborn to toddlerhood 

A woven wrap is simply a woven piece of fabric that is hemmed and comes in various lengths to wrap around baby and caregiver. Woven wraps secure baby to the chest, hip, or back and can be tied and configured to support multiple carry positions including front inward facing, front outward facing, hip carry, and back carry. Woven wraps have been used throughout history for babywearing and are one of the oldest ways of carrying children. Thanks to the different fabrics, designs, and weaves, woven wraps can be a form of self-expression for parents who may own multiple designs. These wraps can vary greatly in price depending if the fabric is hand-woven or machine-woven. 

When choosing a woven wrap, there are many considerations to take into account - more than we can go over in this post so please seek out additional resources in your local community.  To get started, you’ll want to choose your material from options like cotton, linen, hemp, silk, etc. (each will have different wrap qualities, different cleaning instructions, and break-in periods), identify your size, and begin to master the different carries. There is a larger learning curve for this type of carrier, but those who love it praise the versatility, durability, and practicality of woven wraps which can last indefinitely through multiple children and families. As with ring slings, parents may opt for more structured carriers as their children grow and become heavier.


baby in a woven wrap

Meh Dai Carriers

Weight recommendations: 8lb to 35-45lb
Age recommendations: newborn to toddlerhood 

A meh dai (also known as bei dai, and previously referred to as mei tai) is a traditional Asian baby carrier with roots in China. It features a rectangular fabric panel with long straps that wrap around the wearer's body, allowing for a secure tie-off. This carrier style is popular because it combines the adjustability of a woven wrap with the convenience and simplicity of a soft-structured carrier. They offer more structure than a wrap but are more adjustable than a soft-structured carrier, while distributing the weight over the caregiver's entire body to help with any back issues. 

There may be variations in weight and age for baby-sized carriers vs. toddler carriers so be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidance before purchasing. While these carriers are much easier to use than woven wraps, there will be some learning involved. Also, check the length of the straps, some families complain that certain versions can drag on the ground, making them hard to keep clean. Finally, they are less portable than a stretchy or woven wrap but more so than a soft-structured wrap. 


Hope & Plum Meh Dai Carrier

Soft Structured Carriers 

Weight recommendations: 8lb to 40lbs
Age recommendations: Newborn to toddlerhood 

Soft Structured Carriers, or SSCs, feature a buckled, padded waistband, shoulder straps with padding, and a back panel. SSCs are probably what you first imagine when you think of a baby carrier. These are easy to slip on and offer adjustable straps and buckles to ensure a comfortable and supportive fit for baby and caregiver. While some varieties are intended for the newborn stage, many grow with baby into toddlerhood and offer front inward, front outward, and back carry positions. SSCs are ergonomically designed to distribute weight evenly for the wearer. Many premium brands are designed with performance fabrics or mesh that are ultra-breathable and come in fashion-forward patterns or colors. Unlike woven wraps, SSCs don't require any special skills or techniques to use. They're a favorite for parents seeking a hassle-free carrier that's simple to put on, remove, and adjust.

SSCs are bulkier than wrap options and may be more challenging to fit into an everyday diaper bag or purse. Unless you choose a model that is designed for infants, you may need an infant insert or to wait until baby gets a little bigger. Expect a higher price for more premium models.


Backpack Carriers 

Weight recommendations: 16lbs to 40lbs
Age recommendations: 6 months to 3 years

Backpack carriers are very straightforward - a super supportive carrier that is worn on your back. Designed with a rigid frame, they support a child’s weight for long periods of time when hiking, exploring the outdoors, or on vacation. Weight is distributed throughout the body, making carrying bigger babies and toddlers easier on the back, shoulders, and hips. These carriers are designed with padded shoulder straps and buckles to secure the carrier at the waist and chest so it doesn’t move around. Expect to see thoughtfully placed pockets for snacks, diapers, keys, and small toys on the premium models. Many also offer canopies to keep the baby cool and kickstands to make taking a child in and out easier. 

These are bulky—by design. They won’t be your everyday carrier for errands or around the house because they are too big. However, if you are hiking, traveling, or love the outdoors, a hiking backpack is a great choice. Investing in a hiking backpack may be cost-prohibitive unless you plan to use it often. For this reason, renting these types of carriers is ideal.

Thule Sapling

Hip Seats 

Weight recommendations: 14lbs 2oz to 33lbs
Age recommendations: 4 months to 3 years old

A hip seat carrier, as the name implies, is designed to comfortably support carrying your baby or toddler on the hip, allowing for a supported natural carry position on either side of your body. These are designed to take some of the weight off of your hip and arms, reducing back strain that comes from jutting out a hip to support the child in this position. While these were not necessarily designed to strap a child to you like other carrier options, over time many models have evolved to include a detachable panel that can support babies in the front inward and front outwardly carry positions. Many premium versions offer pockets for storage, cross-body carrying straps, and more. Expect to see fashion-forward designs and fabrics. 

While not recommended for newborns, hip seat carriers are suitable for babies and toddlers from roughly 4-6 months up to 3 years old, depending on the carrier's specific weight capacity. A hip seat can start to be used once baby has full control over the neck and head, around 4 to six months old. It’s important to note that these are not hands-free. In the hip carry position, one arm still needs to be in use. This carrier usually comes into play for many families at the young toddler stage as a supplemental carrier. 


Carrier Type

Age & Weight



Stretchy Wraps 

Suitable for newborns (8lbs) and babies (up to 25lbs)

Compact and packable 


Can be left on all day, no need to retie multiple times 

Can be used with twins 

Machine washable and easy to care for 

One size fits all caregivers 

Only offers front inward carry position 

Learning curve if you’re new to wraps

Single lifespan, often cannot be passed down because the fabric degrades  

Ring Slings 

Suitable for newborns (8lbs+) and toddlers (35 lbs)

Compact and packable

Easily adjustable 

Can double as a makeshift nursing cover 

Beautiful fabrics and designs

Easy to swap between caregivers 

Offers front, hip, and back-carry positions  

Different fabrics and fibers are offered 

Lack of back support 

Small learning curve 

Older babies and toddlers can start to feel heavy in these carriers, reducing the length of your babywearing sessions 

Woven Wraps 

Suitable for newborns (8lbs) up 

Compact and packable

Easily adjustable 

Can double as a makeshift nursing cover 

Beautiful fabrics and designs

Offers front, hip, and back-carry positions  

Different fabrics and fibers are offered 


One size fits multiple caregivers 

May take time to break in depending on fabric choice 

Larger learning curve to master ties 

Price can vary greatly, expect hand-woven wraps to be pricier  

Meh Dai

Suitable for newborns (8lbs) and toddlers (35-45 lbs)

Good option for caregivers who have back issues 

Easier to learn to use than a wrap 

More compact than soft-structured carriers 

Offers front and back carry positions, often hip carry  

One size fits most caregivers 

Small learning curve 

Less portable than wraps 

Long ties may drag outside  

Soft Structured Carriers 

Suitable for newborns (8lbs) and toddlers (40 lbs)

Ergonomic design distributes weight well 

Suitable for long-periods of use 

Simple to use and adjust 

Offers front and back carry positions  

Performance fabrics and on-trend designs 

Adjustable to fit multiple caregivers 

May require an infant insert unless you chose a mini model designed for infants 

Difficult to fold up into a diaper bag 

Backpack Carriers 

Suitable for babies (4 to 6 mos) and toddlers 

Great for outdoor adventures

Can be used for long stretches of time 

Offers padding and support to distribute weight evenly 

Adjustable to fit multiple caregivers 

Performance fabrics can keep baby and caregiver cool

Many offer practical features like pockets, kickstands, and canopies 

Too bulky for quick trips, errands, or around the house 

Many families only need these 1 or 2 times 

Frame itself can get heavy 

Only offers back carry position 

Hip Carriers 

Suitable for babies (4 to 6 mos) and toddlers 

Great for babies and toddlers who request to go up and down frequently

Offers front and side carry positions

Distributes weight more evenly taking pressure off of the tip  

Not completely hands-free, requires one arm to support 

How to Choose a Baby Carrier That is Right for You?

Consider JoyLet your trusted partner in parenting. Our team is made up of parents and baby gear experts, including a certified child passenger safety technician. We've rented and cared for tons of gear, so we have seen it all. We understand how real families like yours actually use various pieces of gear and how gear stands up to wear and tear over time. Count on us to provide unbiased guidance to help you make the right choice for your family.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a baby carrier. You’ll want to work through the following items from left to right. Start by considering your child’s age, weight and progress towards key developmental milestones. Next, consider the lifestyle factors that affect how your family will use it and how much time you want to invest in learning the ins and outs of the carrier. Finally, consider price, features, and fabrics. 

If you’d like to speak with a JoyLet Gear Concierge 1:1, schedule a free 20-minute consultation. The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington also provides babywearing classes and groups for the local community. 

Child Considerations 

Caregiver Considerations

Practical Considerations 

  • Child age 
  • Child weight 
  • Child progress towards developmental milestones like neck control 
  • Where and how you’ll use it 
  • Learning curve
  • Ease of use 
  • Comfort 
  • Adjustability 
  • Single vs. multiple caregiver use 
  • Price
  • Features
  • Fabrics 


How to get your baby carrier – should you buy a new baby carrier, get a secondhand baby carrier or rent your baby carrier?

Many families find that different carriers are best suited for different developmental stages and milestones. While a newborn SSC or stretchy wrap may be the ideal cozy spot for a newborn, parents will likely be looking for more structure and support by the time baby surpasses the six-month milestone. Then, throughout toddlerhood families may discover a need for an everyday hip seat or an adventure-ready backpack carrier. Investing in each of these pieces individually can cost parents time spent researching each new item, hundreds of dollars purchasing each one, and stress as old carriers accumulate throughout their homes. 

While buying carriers secondhand can seem like a good way to save money, parents can run into unforeseen issues when buying through an unmanaged platform like FB Marketplace. Issues with secondhand baby items include the prevalence of counterfeits, recalled items still in circulation, quality or safety problems, and cleanliness issues. We always recommend parents research the make and model to ensure it has not been recalled. Some manufacturers like ErgoBaby offer used carriers for sale through their Everlove program which is a safer bet in our opinion. Further, buying secondhand doesn’t eliminate the need for trial and error to find the right fit, storage issues, and resale hassles. 

A rental membership like JoyLet can offer busy families the freedom and flexibility to try and swap carriers (and other gear) to ensure they find the perfect fit for baby and parent’s unique preferences. Our membership ensures families always have the right gear at the right time to meet their child’s constantly changing developmental needs. Plus, there’s nothing better than getting unused gear out of your home, so it doesn’t clutter up your living space when you’re ready to move on to what is next. 

At JoyLet, we offer a variety of carriers for each family’s individual needs including the Baby Bjorn Carrier Mini, the Baby Bjorn Harmony, the ErgoBaby Omni Breeze, and the Thule Sapling. Many families try and swap until they find what works best for them. 


How do I safely use a baby carrier? 

Whether using a wrap or sling, SSC, or backpack, healthy hip positioning is the most important consideration for your baby. The carrier should allow baby’s hips to spread so their legs are straddling their caregiver's body in what is known as the “M” Position. A baby’s knees should be spread apart, with the thighs supported and the hips bent. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute cautions that harm can be caused by a tightly swaddled position with the legs straight out, whereas the M-position provides a healthy benefit for babies. 

how not to use a baby carrier
how to safel use a baby carrier

Illustrations provided by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute 


About the Author: 

Natalie Poston 

Natalie is the co-founder of JoyLet and stepmom to three funny, smart, and strong-willed girls. Originally a midwesterner, she is new to Southern California and spends her free time exploring all it has to offer. She nerds out on baby gear, design, and sustainability. Natalie’s quotes have been featured in Forbes, Scary Mommy, and Yahoo.


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