Choosing a baby carrier or a sling can feel like a complete minefield. There are so many different types, with so many different features. Consequently, it can be really easy get completely overwhelmed.
Ultimately the best one for your family will be the one that fits you best - both physically and fitting your needs and how you want to use it. Which is why I highly encourage trying a few on before you invest. Finding your local sling library or babywearing consultant and trying a few with their help will really help take all the effort and guesswork out of finding that perfect fit for your family.
But sometimes it is helpful to have a starting point. It can be helpful to have an idea of what to try and what might suit you. Which is where this list comes in!
I asked 36 Babywearing Consultants from all over the UK (and a couple from Europe too) to tell me their top 5 picks across 8 different categories - best for newborns, best multi position carrier, best lightweight carrier, best for longevity, best value for money, best toddler and preschool carriers, top Eco-conscious brands and best babywearing accessories. And then I compiled all this data to produce the lists for each category below.
What makes this guide different to others is the sample number and experience behind it. Each of these 36 consultants runs a busy sling library and consultancy, has experience of 100s of different slings and carrier brands and models, and between us we see literally thousands and thousands of families a year. These picks are based on that combined knowledge and the experience that comes with working with families directly and seeing what works in particular circumstances and not in others. None of us received free carriers or any donations in exchange for our opinions, and entry into this list doesn't rely on the brand providing free samples - something that often excludes smaller and often more affordable brands from being considered in other lists and awards, simply because it costs too much to enter. So all in all making the Brilliant Babywearing Business Guide to the Best Slings and Carriers for 2022 a list that you can really trust as a starting point for your research and what carriers and slings to try.
So without any further delay here are the Top Picks for each category:
Best For Newborns
Many carriers are marketed as “from newborn”, or “newborn to toddler”. But the simple truth is few actually do the newborn period really very well. Or at least few genuinely do both newborns and toddlers. This makes sense as newborns have different needs to older babies. During the 4th trimester period they sleep more, they crave the closeness and sound of their caregiver’s heartbeat - just as they had in the womb. So the slings and carriers that work the best are the ones that are soft, flexible and can really fit down for a smaller form to give a lovely cocooning, snuggly, safe carry.
So it is no surprise that all the 5 top picks on this list are ultra soft. Only two buckle carriers make it into the top 5 and both of these - the Mamaruga Zen Sling and the Ergobaby Embrace are made of soft jersey and so emulate the soft feel of a wrap or a ring sling.
The Stretchy wrap was far and away the winner, topping almost every consultant's list. But there are so many stretchy brands! One common theme was that parents find two-way stretchies so much easier than one way (you can read more about the differences between the two here).
The Top 5 Two-way Stretchy Brands were;
Notable mention also goes to Calin Bleu which came in 6th - but retails at just £25 (which is a good £10-20 cheaper than the brands above) so is a great budget friendly choice.
Best Multi Position Carrier
These are the "does it all" carriers, offering multiple carrying positions including outward facing, inward facing and back carries. These are all great choices if you'd like to have the option to carry your baby forward facing when developmentally ready and have the piece of mind that they can be also used on your back once the baby gets heavier too. All bar the Tula also offer the option to hip carry too.
I think it might be a surprise to many that Ergobaby didn't win this category, however, they did come in a very close second behind Tula. It is worth knowing that Ergobaby do own Tula, and the Tula Explore is quite similar to the Omni but with some key differences including being a little cheaper and having very beautiful patterns so this maybe why they just pipped Ergobaby to the top spot.
And maybe even more of a surprise the Baby Bjorn didn’t make the top 5 at all. While Baby Bjorn do make a number of Multi-position carriers they did not feature in any of our 36 consultants top 5 list in this category. Likely because these carriers have a narrower fit range than others, fitting some parents well while not fitting others. As a result, while many parents do come to our libraries asking to try a Baby Bjorn most discover they don’t fit them as well as one of the 5 choices above and so don't go onto buy a Bjorn afterall.
Best Lightweight Carrier
- Kahu Baby Carrier (Sunshine)
- Integra Baby Carrier (Solarweave)
- Ring Sling - in particular the Melliapis Simple Ring Sling
- Mini Monkey Mini Sling
- Izmi Baby Carrier (Breeze)
These are the carriers that really pack down small, that are made of ultra-light breathable material making them perfect for summer, travel and anyone who wants an option that can fold down small to fit under the buggy or in the change bag.
Absolutely all of these are not only fantastic lightweight options but also great carriers. You’ll notice that some of these appear in other categories too, such as the Kahu Baby Carrier which not only far and away won this category but also came in at #5 in Best Multi Position and Best Value for Money too. Likewise you’ll find ring slings mentioned in Best for Newborns and Best Value for Money as well.
Best For Longevity
This category focused on the carriers that last the absolute longest, that grow with your child from tiny baby all the way through to toddlerhood and beyond. The far and away winner was the Woven Wrap. Of all the different types of carriers and slings this is the one that will truly go from newborn or even preemie all the way through to preschooler or as old as you need it to. I have a friend who once carried her husband in a woven wrap for a dare. So it is not a surprise that wovens won this category as they are absolutely unbeatable on longevity. But for those that prefer a buckle carrier the 4 listed here are the ones that go the absolute longest, all working well from just a few weeks old into toddlerhood and beyond.
Best Value for Money
The idea behind this category was two fold. To represent the carriers that offer great value in terms of how not only how much they cost to buy but also how long they actually last. So it's unsurprising that alot of the same carriers that featured in the Longevity category, reappear here - with Woven Wraps winning again. Because anything that lasts a long time will have a lower “pence per day” cost than anything that doesn’t last long. And while woven wraps can vary hugely in price, there are many really great cost effective brands and a really thriving second hand market too.
It is worth noting that many of the budget options such as Infantino, Red Kite and many others don’t make the shortlist. The reason for this is that while these are cheap to buy, they generally don’t last very long (months rather than years), meaning that they often end up as a false economy and you will end up needing to replace them before too long and paying more per use versus a carrier that is designed to last longer.
It’s also worth noticing that Ergobaby and Baby Bjorn are completely absent from this category. While they are very well known (because they have relatively big advertising budgets!), they are quite a bit more expensive than other brands, both in terms of actual cost (likely to pay for that big advertising budget) and the cost per use when you factor in that they often don’t last quite as long as some others. So if you are looking at Ergobaby or Bjorn and feeling a bit priced out - please don’t despair. This is definitely something that your local Sling Library or Babywearing Consultant can help you with - finding a carrier that fits your budget, your needs and physically fits you and baby well.
Best Toddler carrier
- Tula Toddler Carrier
- Integra Size 2
- Beco Toddler Carrier
- Isara Trendsetter Toddler Carrier
- Lenny Lamb LennyPreschool Carrier
Most toddler carriers work well from around 18 months through to 3.5 years of age and can be a great option for anyone who is finding their existing carrier is becoming heavy and their little one is no longer fitting as well. While many baby carriers do last well until around 2 years of age, if you are still carrying regularly at this point it can be well worth sizing upto a Toddler sized carrier for more support. You can find many of these carriers compared and contrasted here.
Many sling libraries also offer the options to hire these carriers for holidays and trips away, so even if you don’t carry regularly but are thinking a carrier might come in handy for an upcoming trip it can be well worth contacting your local sling library to hire (and/or I offer postal hires too!).
Best Preschool carriers
- Lenny Lamb LennyPreschool Carrier
- Tula Preschool Carrier
- Integra Size 3
- Easy Feel Extend Plus
- Woven Wrap
While Toddler carriers generally last upto 3.5 years of age, Preschool carriers generally work from around 2.5 years of age until at least 5. They are a great option for any family where extended carrying is helpful, maybe due to additional needs or so many other reasons. Just as for toddler carriers, many sling libraries do loan out preschool carriers for trips or a specific purpose. I personally used the Easy Feel Extend quite a bit over the first few weeks of my daughter starting school, simply because she was so exhausted mentally and physically in those first weeks carrying her really helped ease her through that transition. I often have parents hiring for a month or two for similar reasons.
Top Eco-conscious brands
- Kahu Baby
This category focuses on the brands that are really committed to sustainability and making the smallest environmental impact possible. Each of these companies are really careful about sourcing, packaging and every single step in their production line to ensure the smallest environmental footprint. You’ll notice there are only 4, and I hope this is something that will continue to grow as we all start to focus more on making sustainable choices.
Best Babywearing Accessories
- MooMo Baby Leg Warmers
- Suck Pads
- Bundlebean Babywearing Cover
- Wrap a Hug Baby Wearing Socks
- Mamalila Softshell Coat
In our final category, we move away from carriers and slings and look instead at accessories. There are so many amazing small businesses making beautiful accessories to enhance your baby carrying experience - that it almost sems cruel to limit it to just 5 but here are our top 5!
The Best Carrier for you personally...
Ultimately the best baby carrier or sling for you personally will be the one that fits your family the best and this will depend on your needs, baby’s age and stage, your body, the body of your partner or anyone else who might be sharing the carrier with you and what each of you personally find comfortable.
This can be so hard to tell from reviews! But hopefully these lists have given you a starting point for your research and a starting point for working out what you’d like to try on. If you're reading this and feeling more overwhelmed than ever. Please do reach out - either to me or to your local sling library or consultant as we will be able to help you find the best fit for you.
Manduca XT£150.00 – £155.00
Ergobaby Omni Breeze£184.90
Mini Monkey Mini Sling£37.50
Bundlebean Babywearing Cover£33.95 – £43.95
MooMo Baby Leg Warmers£10.00 – £11.50
Hana Baby Organic Wrap£44.00 – £45.00
Kahu Baby Carrier£115.00
Izmi Baby Wrap£50.00
Melliapis Ring Sling£42.00 – £45.00