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

Tula Lite Review

Designed as an ultra-light compact travel carrier, the Tula Lite isn’t really designed to compete with Tula’s other carrier offerings but instead complement them. Offering Tula lovers a light-weight option perfect for hot days and travelling specifically. It’s ultra slimmed down design doesn’t offer the same level of support, flexibility of use and fit of the Tula Explore and Tula Free-to-Grow… but what it does do is fit into a tiny self contained bag, weighs almost nothing and has a frankly enormous pocket. All of which makes it perfect for travel and summer days out.

You can see how it works and hear my full thoughts here in my video review or read on below for my key facts and considerations on this carrier:

What is the Tula Lite made from? How does it feel?

Made from a 100% Nylon outer patterned fabric combined with a 100% polyester mesh lining fabric, the Tula lite does indeed feel very very light. It is not the world’s softest carrier and it does feel a bit snythetic but none of it feels overly harsh. Against bare shoulders it didn’t chaffe and nor did it make me overly sweaty. Making it a great option for really hot days.

What ages and stages is it suitable for?

It is weight tested from 5.4kg (12lb) to 13.6kg (30lb) and I would say realistically it would work from roughly 3-4 months through to around 18 months. Maybe a little more or a little less depending on whether your baby is tracking the lower or higher percentiles respectively. Neither the width nor the height of this carrier adjust, which is why compared to other more adjustable carriers (such as the Tula Explore or the Tula Free-to-Grow) it doesn’t fit as early or last as long! I believe this was a conscious choice by Tula to keep this carrier really compact, lightweight and simple – as obviously adjustment systems would add bulk and weight. So this is a carrier that will work from when baby can sit in the panel without being over-extended. As the panel is very soft and squishy this can be as early as 3 months for babies with longer legs, and more like 4 or 5 months for smaller little ones. It will then continue fitting until the point where babies legs are much longer and the panel can no longer support to at least mid thigh – typically around 18 months. Because it is designed for babies who are 4 months plus, this carrier doesn’t feature any head or neck support as at this point most babies can support their own head. There is a removable hood, however, that can be helpful as a headrest if baby falls asleep in the carrier.

What carrying positions does it offer?

The Tula Lite offers 2 carrying positions – front facing inwards, and a back carry. Both work very well and with just 2 buckles total to do up and 1 point of tightening for each side this is definitely a very simple and intuitive carrier to use. When carrying on the front the straps pull forwards, which is a very easy motion to do. When wearing on the back they pull backwards, which I did find a bit of a challenge but again not too hard once I got used to the angle and direction of pull.

What it doesn’t offer is a hip carry or the front facing outward position.

How does it fit for the adult?

To keep this carrier compact, it features almost no padding. The waistband is wide, curved and only very lightly padded. It is, however, surprisingly supportive because it is really flexible and moulds around your body to get a really good fit. The padded section isn’t overly long which means it will tighten to fit a petite waist. The webbing, however, is very very long which means the waistband can comfortably and easily accommodate plus-sized parents too. A convenient elastic loop at the end of the webbing allows you to tidy the excess away and avoid having long dangly bits.

Where fit becomes more complicated however, is when we look at the shoulder straps. The straps are completely unpadded and relatively narrow. They feature a long section of mesh and nylon strap before moving into adjustable webbing. This section is so long that many very petite parents will find that they simply can’t get the straps tight enough. You can see in the video and pictures above that I have the straps almost at their tightest, and I am not by any means petite. At 170cm (5ft 7) and a UK size 12 or 14 there are many parents both male and female who are smaller than me and would need to get the straps significantly tighter. There is, however, absolutely oodles of webbing… so if you are a plus sized parent you can rest assured there is plenty of space.

Being unpadded, this carrier does mould nicely to fit over different shaped backs. And the narrow shoulder straps work well with narrow shoulders, and sloping shoulders. But the lack of padding can mean it can get a bit diggy on some parents depending on individual fit. As such this wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for a full time carrier, but for travel and summer I would happily sacrifice a litle bit of comfort for being cooler and less encumbered.

It is worth noting that the straps only do up in the rucksack or H configuration. It is not possible to cross the straps across the wearer’s back.  If you are someone who finds cross straps more comfortable, or someone who finds doing the strap up at the back hard with rucksack style straps then likely you’ll struggle with this carrier.  And would be better off with another lightweight carrier instead.   

What is special about this carrier?

The real unique selling point of this carrier is the frankly enormous pocket at the front.  The carrier features two zipped compartments.  One hidden inside the waistband which allows you to store the whole carrier neatly inside, allowing you to easily wear the carrier as a hip bag or over the shoulder bag when not in use.  And a second separate compartment accessed via a zip on the outside, at the front.  While the carrier is stored it does take up most of the space inside this pocket but there is still easily space for phone and keys and maybe a small purse or certainly a bank card and a bit of cash. 

However, when the carrier is in use/ or at least not folded away – this pocket is really capacious.  Loads of space for snacks or for a nappy and change of clothes for baby.  You probably won’t get a change mat in there but you will get a good few things in there, certainly anything you need on hand immediately while travelling.  

How does the Tula Lite compare with other options on the market?

The two closest competitors to the Tula Lite are the Boba Air and the KahuBaby Sunshine carrier.  

The Boba Air is really very very similar to the Tula, made from a very similar nylon material, it too offers rucksack straps only and the same 2 carrying positions.  The shoulder straps are more adjustable and tend to fit petite parents better than the Tula Lite.  The Boba Air also folds up even smaller and easily fits into a bag but doesn’t have the big front pocket space nor is designed to be worn empty as a hip bag.  

The KahuBaby Sunshine offers a lot more flexibility than either the Tula Lite or the Boba Air.  It offers 4 carrying positions, including both a hip carry and a forwards facing position.  It offers the parent the choice of either rucksack or crossed straps and the width of the panel is adjustable meaning this carrier works for both younger and older babies too.  Generally working well from around 8 weeks through to 2 years of age.  Additionally, the sunshine material is just as thin and breathable as the material used for the Tula Lite and the Boba X but feels a lot softer and a lot less “syntheticky” to the touch.  Plus it is UPF50+ rated which means it blocks 99% of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, making it truly an exceptional summer and lightweight travel carrier.  My full review of the KahuBaby can be found here.

Another carrier to consider is the Mini Monkey Mini Sling.  This is actually quite a different style carrier to the Tula Lite, Boba Air and KahuBaby Sunshine, but as a pure lightweight travel carrier it is hard to beat.  It is honestly one of the smallest, lightest, most compact carriers going.  And at just £37.50 it has one of the tiniest price tags too.  You can read my full review of this carrier here.

Price tag and is it worth it?

At £79.90 the Tula Lite is significantly cheaper than other Tula carriers, but considering that this isn’t really designed as a full time, year round birth to toddler carrier like their other offerings it’s not necessarily as good a deal as it might seem.  It is significantly more expensive than the Boba Air which costs just £54.50 and only a little cheaper than the KahuBaby Sunshine which costs £95 and offers a whole lot more flexibility, comfort and longevity and actually is designed to be a year round birth to toddler carrier.

So is it worth it?  Well that depends entirely on how much you are going to use it and how much you need a lightweight travel carrier.  If you live somewhere very warm, or travel A LOT (several times a year) then it may well be worth it.  Although honestly, my vote would still be with either the Kahu Baby Sunshine for the additional flexibility or the Boba Air for the fact it is really very very similar but £25 cheaper.  If, however, you live in the UK and only go away once or twice a year it really might make better sense not to buy any of these but to hire one instead.  For £10 for 2 weeks or £20 for 1 month you can hire one of these, or better still a Kahu Sunshine for the whole time you’d be away and save the environment and your bank balance the stress of actually buying something you only need for a short period of time. 

-Madeleine

Tula Explore Review

The Tula Explore is the first carrier from Tula that offers the option to forward face your baby!

See it explained in detail and in action here;

 

Key Features of the Tula Explore;

  • It’s width and height can be adjusted through poppers which means this carrier doesn’t need infant inserts.
  • Manufacturer recommends it for use for babies from just 3.2kg (7lb) all the way upto a fantastic 20kg (45lb).  More realistically, however, I’d say this carrier works well from around 4 weeks through to 2 years old.
  • For the baby it has very soft leg padding and a softly padded neck support pillow that can be placed in different positions for different ages and stages.
  • Offers 3 carrying positions – front inward, front facing outward and back carry position.  This carrier does not easily offer a hip carry position.
  • For the parent it has a fairly wide and firmly padded sturdy waistband, and it’s shoulder straps are bulky but soft and moldable.  The long webbing but short padded part means this carrier is one that can fit both women and men very well and both the petite and the plus sized.  Straps are designed to be worn “rucksack” or H style, and do not cross across the back.
  •  It also has a detachable hood and a pocket on the waistband for small things like phone and keys.

All in all this is a fab option for someone looking for a sling that will last into toddler hood, want to forward face and are most comfortable with straps in ruck sack style.  It is very similar to the Ergo Omni 360, in terms of shape and size.  The main differences being that this carrier is a little simpler to use with the absence of buckles to do up at the shoulder straps but offers a bit less flexibility than the Omni as it doesn’t offer a hip position or the ability to cross straps across the back.  The Tula Explore retails at £154.90

-Madeleine