Brilliant Babywearing Businesses Guide to the Best Baby Carriers and Slings for 2022

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

  1. Two-Way Stretchy Wrap
  2. Mamaruga Zen Sling
  3. Ring Sling
  4. Close Parent Caboo
  5. Ergobaby Embrace

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;

  1. Izmi Baby
  2. Lifft
  3. Boba
  4. Joy and Joe
  5. Hana Baby

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

  1. Tula Explore
  2. Ergobaby Omni (360, Breeze and Dream)
  3. Beco Gemini
  4. Beco 8
  5. Kahu Baby

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

  1. Kahu Baby Carrier (Sunshine)
  2. Integra Baby Carrier (Solarweave)
  3. Ring Sling – in particular the Melliapis Simple Ring Sling
  4. Mini Monkey Mini Sling
  5. 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

  1. Woven Wrap
  2. Boba X
  3. Manduca XT
  4. Isara the One
  5. Tula FTG

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

  1. Woven Wrap
  2. Integra
  3. Boba X
  4. Ring Sling
  5. Kahu Baby

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

  1. Tula Toddler Carrier
  2. Integra Size 2
  3. Beco Toddler Carrier
  4. Isara Trendsetter Toddler Carrier
  5. 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

  1. Lenny Lamb LennyPreschool Carrier
  2. Tula Preschool Carrier
  3. Integra Size 3
  4. Easy Feel Extend Plus
  5. 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

  1. Firespiral
  2. Oscha
  3. Kahu Baby
  4. Mamaruga

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

  1. MooMo Baby Leg Warmers
  2. Suck Pads
  3. Bundlebean Babywearing Cover
  4. Wrap a Hug Baby Wearing Socks
  5. 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.

-Madeleine

Summer Baby Carriers – My Top Picks for Warm Weather Babywearing

While carrying in warm weather is more about common sense than anything else, there definitely are some carriers that are cooler to wear and fare better as temperatures rise. If you are prone to overheating, live in a warm climate or want a summer friendly baby carrier (or want to hire one from Sheen Slings for an upcoming holiday or just for the summer) – here are my top picks:

1. Kahu Baby Sunshine Carrier

There are two reasons this carrier tops the list. The first is its genius lightweight design. The Kahu Baby is ultralight, packs down small and does not compromise on comfort or fit. Part of the genius of this carrier is how simple it is.  Designed to be really intuitive to use, without any added bells or whistles or fiddly extra bits.  Just really clever minimal design that ensures it fits a huge range of sizes and shapes of parents, men and women and is supportive enough for long walks while remaining light and soft enough to happily wear all day around the house too. Likewise it fits a huge range of babies ages and stages, from just a few weeks old through to 4 years. Offering 4 carrying positions and loads of versatility without adding loads of bulk and thus without adding any extra warmth.

The second reason is the Sunshine fabric. Kahu Baby carriers come in a few different fabric options, and while the are all lightweight and perform well in warmer weather, the Sunshine fabric absolutely excels as temperatures rise. Made from a woven polyester that is rated UPF50+, this fabric blocks 99% of the sun’s harmful UVA & UVB rays.  The fabric feels soft, breathable, silky and actually cool to the touch!  It’s also a wicking fabric, meaning you won’t feel sweaty in this carrier and that it dries extremely quickly (either after getting wet or washing).  Making the Sunshine the ultimate warm weather sling. 

The Kahu is available to purchase here, and you can see my full indepth review here.

2. Izmi Baby Carrier

Izmi Grey Mesh
Izmi Grey

The Izmi Baby is another absolutely genius incrediably lightweight carrier. It offers 4 carrying position and is one of those very rare buckle carriers that really really works brilliantly for newborns. In fact, it is a carrier I have had success over and over again with babies who are born prematurely because with its optional booster and ability to adjust the width – it is possible to make this carrier really very small to ensure a great fit even on tiny babies. The adjustable width and flexible neck support panel means this carrier can also grow with baby, continuing to fit all the way from teeny tiny to at least 12 months and often further. The flexibility doesn’t end here – this carrier also offers 4 carrying positions (front inwards, Front outwards, hip and back) and fits a absolutely huge range of different parent shapes and sizes. Particularly fitting petite parents well. Many carriers will fit a huge range but won’t go small enough for the very petite – but the Izmi will go so small my 3 year old can use it to carry the demo doll!!

As well as its all round brilliance, the Izmi Baby is one of my top summer picks because it’s lightweight design paired with thin breathable cotton means that it is genuinely one of the coolest baby carriers on the market. And if you are particularly prone to overheating or live in a very warm climate, they sell a mesh version too, where the centre portion of the main panel is replaced entirely with an airy breathable mesh.

The Izmi Baby is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here.

3. Beco Gemini Cool

Gemini Cool
Gemini Cool Black
Gemini Cool Navy
Gemini Cool Navy

If your looking for a bit more padding than offered by the Kahu or the Izmi, then the Beco Gemini Cool is definitely worth considering.

You will note that there are no heavily padded carriers on this list at all – and the reason for this is padding can be a bit of a double edge sword when it comes to summer babywearing as that extra bulk can really suddenly feel very warm as the temperature rises. So while you might find heavily padded carriers comfortable the rest of the year round, you may well find your sweltering come summer. Even with a supposedly cooler mesh version.

The Gemini Cool is a great option if you do prefer a bit of padding because it has a really sturdy supportive waist band, but the wide shoulder straps are very thin and very softly padded. It is often the bulk at the shoulders and across the back that causes a lot of this hot and sweaty feeling and so by having very softly padded shoulders the Gemini feels a lot cooler. The Cool mesh version also feels a lot cooler than the standard cotton counterpart because of the materials it is made from. The panel features a center portion made entirely out of breathable soft, supple yet really strong and supportive mesh. The rest of the carrier is made from this same mesh combined with a really soft, thin, cool to the touch fabric. The result is a supportive carrier that performs really well in the warmer months and year round! It fits an absolutely huge range of parents shapes and sizes, and fits babies from just 2-3 weeks old through to at least 18 months, offering 4 carrying positions (front inward, front outward, hip and back).

The Beco Cool is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here or see the standard cotton and the cool variants compared here.

4. Melliapis Ring Sling

Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling
Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling

Ring Slings are fantastic options for summer. Made from just a loop of fabric these are as a general rule cooler to wear than any buckle style carrier (even the super light ones outlined above). And of all the ring slings I have ever tried, the Melliapis basic ring sling is my absolute top pick for warm weather. Made from two layers of muslin woven together to create a material that is surprisingly strong, the Melliapis Ring Sling is one of the most lightweight slings on the market. Super soft on newborn skin but easily strong enough to carry an up down toddler too. It folds up absolutely tiny to easily fit inside a bag, or even to be worn as a light scarf while your not using it! It feels light and airy to wear – making it an excellent option for summer.

The Melliapis Ring Sling is available to purchase here and you can read my full indepth review here.

5. Mini Monkey Mini Sling

At just 187g the Mini Sling is the lightest and smallest carrier on our list. Made from a silky soft smooth mesh and covering only 1 shoulder, it is definitely the sling that will keep you and baby the coolest too. Similar in style to a ring sling, the Mini sling is a loop of fabric with strap to tighten at the back and a fine adjustment strap for supporting the neck and upper back at the front. It is one of the absolutely simplest carriers to use, but not nesicarly the most comfortable to use. Rather this carrier has been designed for speed and lightness in mind, so excels best as a “just in case” sling that slips into your bag (or even a large pocket) or a “just while I quickly do x” sling. Great for holidays too as the thin mesh drys quickly and so is a great beach or poolside choice.

The Mini Monkey Mini Sling is available to purchase here and you can read my full review of this sling here.

6. JPMBB Physio Carrier

The JPMBB Physio carrier zips open to reveal the best mesh panel I have ever seen. The top layer rolls up to expose a huge section of light and airy yet strong mesh. Making this carrier one of the absolutely coolest of the padded buckle style carriers. Even the padding is cooler than on most carriers due to clever combination of mesh and breathable cool fabrics. The Physio fits babies best from about 7 or 8 months through to 3 or even 4 years of age. You can use it with a younger baby too – you’ll just need the infant booster pack that includes a booster pillow and a neck pillow. And as such this carrier is always popular for summer holiday hires.

What’s not on this list….

There are a great many other carriers that feature mesh panels and advertise being great for summer. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360, the Tula, the Lillebaby Complete, the Baby Bjorn Air Mesh, the Beco 8 and many many more besides. When it comes to these carriers, ultimately how warm you and baby will feel is more about the padding and the bulk and much less about the presence and absence of mesh. Yes it can be nice to get the mesh version of one of these carriers for a bit more breathability but these are all a good step warmer compared to anything on this list. Great all year round carriers but just don’t make the grade if you live in a warm climate, looking to borrow something for holiday or particularly prone to overheating in the summer months.

Another type of carrier missing from this list are the stretchy wraps and Caboo type carriers. Again there are options amoung these that are cooler, but with three layers over baby – none of them would be my first choice on a truly boiling day! Plus there are really quite a few options when it comes to stretchy wraps so I will save summer stretchy recommendations for a future blog post.

-Madeleine

FAQ – Help my carrier is too big for my baby: Fit tips for fitting a newborn baby into a Buckle carrier (shown with the Ergo Omni 360)

Many carriers are sold as fitting from newborn all the way through to toddlerhood.  However, some of the adjustments required to truly get this amount of flexibility out of a carrier aren’t always obvious or well explained in manuals.

In this video I demonstrate how to “shorten” the back panel on a carrier by simply sitting baby deeper into the carrier.  This is one of the easiest adjustments to make and one that often makes a huge difference to how well a carrier fits a smaller baby.

 

I demonstrate using the Ergo Omni 360 because a) this is a very popular carrier, but also because b) it has a very long back panel so does often need shortening using this method!!  But the same method will work with essentially any buckle carrier.

-Madeleine

 

 

What’s the difference between a One-way and a Two-way Stretchy Wrap?

While all stretchy wrap are long pieces of stretchy material, individual brands can be quite different to one another.  And one of the most striking differences can be in HOW these wraps stretch.  In particular there are two main flavours – One-way and Two-way stretchy wrap.  But what does this mean?  What is the difference?

Simply put, a one-way stretchy wrap is one that stretches in ONE direction only (or stretches much much more in one direction than the other).  Generally these wraps stretch only in the vertical direction (along the width of the wrap).  While a two-way stretchy wrap stretches in two directions – both along the width and the length of the wrap.

You can see this for yourself here;

So what are the pros and cons of each type?   

Two-way stretchy wraps are easier to pre-tie and then pop your baby in because they are stretchier and because they stretch evenly, which means they stretch in a way that feels more intuitive – easier for your brain to understand and predict.  So it’s very easy to put the sling on and get it tight enough that it will support baby once they are in but still have enough space to stretch it out to put baby in easily.  Conversely, One-way stretchy wraps are much harder to pre-tie because they don’t stretch evenly. That uneven stretch means it is often quite hard to tie them tight enough that they will support baby once in and still have space to get them in easily.  The window between too tight and too loose is just much smaller.  Consequently, I often think of pre-tying a one way stretchy wrap as being a bit like finding the right setting on a tempermental old toaster where there is just about 2mm between still bread and completely burnt. The window on a two way stretchy wrap is simply much wider and so it is much easier for a new sleep deprived parent to learn.  

It is worth noting that you can tie using methods other than the pre-tie method, and this can work a lot better for one-ways.  But often the manuals only show the pre-tied method so parents don’t realise this is possible and often the whole reason they bought a stretchy wrap in the first place was because they wanted the convenience and ease of being able to pre-tie first and then pop baby in and out as needed.

On the flip side in general one way stretchy wraps are more supportive of bigger babies.  The reason for this simply being because they are less stretchy they don’t get stretched out as much as baby grows, while a more stretchy two way will definitely start to feel more “bouncy” and less supportive as baby gets heavier between 4-6 months.  But often parents are moving on around this point anyway as babies tend to grow out of either type stretchy wrap developmentally rather than physically as they go through the huge developmental leap that happens somewhere between 3 and 4 months.  So being less supportive isn’t a huge con, but it is worth noting if you have reason to believe your more likely to be using a stretchy wrap for longer (i.e. developmental delay or other special consideration).

Which brands are one-ways or two-ways?

Well known one-way stretchy brands include; Moby, Ama, Liberty, Funki Flamingo, Free-Rider, Manduca, ByKay and most the cheap stretchy wrap brands found on Amazon

Well known two way stretchy brands include; Izmi Baby, Hana Baby, Calin Bleu, Boba, JPMBB Original and Basic, Lifft, and Joy and Joe

For more ways in which stretchy wraps differ and a huge table comparing 16 different brands please do check out this article.  

-Madeleine