It can seem like babies need so many things! But the truth is that you won’t need every single baby product from day one. One product that definitely tops my list of essentials is a newborn baby carrier. A baby carrier will make daily life so much easier for both you and your baby. Here’s my list of the best baby carriers for newborns, and a little on why you’ll want to invest in a good one to have on hand from birth through toddlerhood.
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Why Use Baby Carriers for Newborns?
After carrying your baby for nine months in the womb, she will crave closeness with you. Babies have an innate need to be held – especially by their mom – and being close to your baby promotes bonding and encourages physiological development. Cuddle, snuggle, and do skin-to-skin with your baby as much as you can! But, the reality is that you won’t always be able to lay in bed with your newborn. There will be times when you need to be hands-free, and that’s where babywearing can be especially useful. Whether you’re preparing a meal, doing laundry, running errands, at the mall, or out taking a walk, using a newborn baby carrier can make these activities much easier and more comfortable for you and your baby. You can also breastfeed on-the-go in most carriers.
Even when a mother is focusing on other people or other tasks, a baby who is held in her arms or tucked into a sling is reassured by the physical contact. Wearing your baby provides closeness even when you can not give your baby one hundred percent of your attention. – La Leche League
What to Look for in a Newborn Baby Carrier:
There are several newborn baby carriers on the market, and each one has its pros and cons. Choosing a baby carrier ultimately comes down to your own needs and preferences. Here are a few important things to look for when choosing a baby carrier:
- Ergonomic Positioning. According to the Hip Dysplasia Institute, you should only use carriers that allow your baby to be carried in the spread-squat position to allow for natural hip development and prevent hip dysplasia. This means that your baby’s thighs must spread around your torso with their hips bent so their knees are higher than their butt, like the picture below. You’ll definitely want to choose an ergonomic baby carrier, for this reason. (All of the baby carriers listed below are ergonomic.)
- Head Support. Look for a carrier that provides good head support, especially for newborns.
- Safety, Fit, and Comfort. Both you and your baby should be comfortable using the wrap. It should fit you well and hold your baby safely and securely. Your baby should feel secure and snug.
- Adjustable. Do you prefer to have a carrier that can be used by multiple caregivers, or will you be the main babywearer in your household? Some carriers are sized to the wearer (like the Baby K’tan), while others can be shared with a few adjustments to the straps.
- Fabric. Preferably, you should choose a wrap that is organic or easily washable, and one that doesn’t contain foam sprayed with flame retardants. A baby carrier that has breathable fabric is good for use in warmer climates or during summertime.
- Available Positions. Consider whether the wrap allows your baby to face forward and to face you, and whether you can use the wrap to wear your baby on your back (if that’s important to you).
- Newborn-Friendly. Some carriers require that you purchase a special newborn insert to allow you to use their carrier with a newborn. I’m not crazy about this because it requires you to spend extra money to use the wrap for the first few months. This is something to consider when shopping for baby carriers for newborns — do you mind spending the extra money on an insert that you’ll only use for a few months? Or would you prefer to skip the insert and instead buy a carrier that is more suitable in size to your newborn, and upgrade to a larger carrier later?
- Longevity. Will you be able to use your newborn baby carrier long after your baby is a newborn? Do you plan to babywear until around age 1-1.5 – or do you plan to continue well into toddlerhood?
Choosing a Newborn Baby Carrier:
Ring Slings: Ring slings are worn over one shoulder and are tightened with a belt loop. Lightweight and portable, and are easy to use and slip into your diaper bag. They’re also great for use around the house. Note that safe and proper use of a ring sling is essential in preventing hip dysplasia and infant suffocation. Please read your sling’s instruction manual carefully.
Beco Ring Sling: All of my girlfriends who have the Beco Ring Sling sing its praises. It’s an easy-to-use, adjustable ring sling that makes babywearing easy and comfortable. It can fold up easily and fits into your diaper bag without taking up a lot of space. The Beco Sling allows for multiple holding positions and can be used from birth to 35 lbs. The fabric is a little on the thicker side (it’s kind of like a canvas material), so if that doesn’t sound ideal to you, consider the Tula Ring Sling or a linen sling like the Sakura Bloom Classic Baby Sling. Both are going to be more expensive than the Beco, but it comes down to your preference and budget. (Note that none of these slings are organic, but all are washable.)
Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Ring Sling: Another popular choice is the Maya sling, which has some padding on the shoulder and includes a zippered pocket. The Maya also can be used from 8-35 lbs., facing in, facing out, on your back, or on your hip. The padded shoulder makes a big difference in your own comfort, especially during longer wearing periods. The Maya isn’t organic, either.
Baby Wraps: Wraps use a long fabric that ties around your body to create a carrier. It only takes a few attempts to get the hang of using a wrap, and they work wonderfully, especially in the newborn and infant stages. As your child gets older, though, you may find that you’d prefer a soft-structured carrier (see below) to a wrap – but not necessarily.
- Organic Moby Wrap and Bamboo Moby Wrap: The Moby distributes the weight of your baby evenly across your shoulders and hips, making it more comfortable to carry your baby, especially for longer periods of time. Babies seem to feel comfortable in the Moby, and often fall asleep while being worn. This organic baby wrap also works well for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. It gives you several options for how to hold your baby, including a newborn tuck, on your hip, or in a hug hold. It’s not supposed to be worn forward-facing but I’ve seen people use it this way. I personally found the length of the fabric to be overwhelming, but manageable, and I did like that it is one size fits all and my husband could also use it. The Bamboo Moby is more breathable than the classic and organic versions, making this a better option for warmer climates.
- Organic Baby K’tan Baby Carrier: The Baby K’tan is a ready-to-wear version of the Moby. It’s a wrap that doesn’t require wrapping: using only three pieces of fabric looped together, the K’tan is much easier to use and a lot more foolproof than the Moby. Two pieces of fabric go over each shoulder to evenly distribute your baby’s weight across your shoulders, and the third piece comes up over your baby’s back to secure them in the carrier. Otherwise, no tying or wrapping is involved. The K’tan holds babies from 8-35 lbs. and can be worn in a variety of positions, including forward-facing. The major downside to the K’tan is that it is sized to the wearer, meaning that you’d likely need to get a second wrap for your significant other. Otherwise, it’s a great choice, especially for the early stages.
Soft-Structured Carriers: Soft-structured carriers are probably what most people think of when they picture a newborn baby carrier. They will take up more room in your diaper bag than a ring sling, for example, but they can usually be used from birth (though many brands require an additional purchase of an infant insert) and last a longer period of time.
- LILLEbaby Complete Organic Baby Carrier: Possibly the best soft-structured carrier around, the LILLEbaby Complete has it all! It can accommodate babies from birth to 45 lbs. and doesn’t require an extra newborn insert. You can use the carrier in six ergonomic carrying positions: front-fetal, front-infant, front facing out, front-toddler, hip, and back. The straps are adjustable, and can be worn backpack style, or across your back. The LILLEbaby Organic is made with soft, organic cotton that is tested for formaldehyde, heavy metals, coloring, phthalates, and colorfastness. The padding is made from polyethylene, and the waist is made from “non-toxic PEVA”, which is a better alternative to PVC and known as a “greener” foam. (I think the jury is still out on PEVA, so I would prefer they use a different material, personally, but I wouldn’t let that hold me back from buying this amazing carrier.) If you decide to get one soft-structured carrier for use from birth to toddlerhood, the LILLEbaby is it.
- Tula Baby Carrier: The Tula Baby Carrier is an ergonomically designed soft-structured carrier that allows both front- and back-carrying. Known for being comfortable and easy to use, the Tula line has rapidly grown in popularity. Seriously – the company has a huge and loyal following! The Tula can be used with babies from 15-45 lbs, or from birth with the optional newborn insert (for babies 7-15 lbs.). Handmade with 100% Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified cotton, the Tula is soft, comfortable, well-padded (using foam made with no flame retardants), and can easily be washed in the machine. Each Tula has a front pocket, and there are many different design options to choose from. Overall, the Tula is popular because it’s so comfortable (have I said that enough times?), though some complain the head support is semi-lacking. There’s also a toddler carrier, which can be used to carry toddlers 25-60 lbs.