Best Baby Carrier 2018
Last Updated: The Best Baby Carrier 2018. . ERGObaby’s Ergo Omni 360° is our top pick for best front carrier 2018. Compared to its many rivals, the Ergo Omni 360° has best-in-class quality, construction and safety. As the name implies, the Omni 360° is a front carrier that allows you to face baby out as well as in, plus piggy back or on the hip.
New to carrier shopping? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying a Baby Carrier for advice and tips.
ERGObaby debuted their first front carrier in 2002. Designer Karin Frost wasn’t satisfied with carrier options when she had her first child, so she created a soft-structured carrier with multiple positions. First sewn in Hawaii, the original ERGO design worked in three positions: front carry facing inward, back carry and hip carry. ERGO refined the concept over the years, culminating with the Omni 360°, which adds that fourth position of forward facing out.
ERGObaby Omni 360°: More details. The Omni 360° is made with a structured bucket seat that keeps babies legs and hips in a correct position (no dangling legs). It comes with a wide waist belt, which can be worn high when baby is little and adjusted down to carry the weight of older babies and toddlers. A plus: the Omni 360° can be used with infants as small as 7 lbs. without a special infant insert. Older versions of the 360° required a separate insert ($25 extra).
New in 2018, ERGObaby is releasing an Omni 360° in mesh. They’re also changing out the buttons that narrow the seat with sliders for an easier, one-handed adjustment. The mesh version will come in four colors and runs $180.
The ERGObaby Omni 360°‘s weight range is 7 to 45 lbs. As mentioned before, the Omni 360° can be used in four positions included forward facing out. The forward facing out carry is recommended for babies six months old and older. The straps on the Omni 360° can be used in the traditional H position or crossed in the back for a more custom fit.
Here are the four positions of the Omni 360°:
Feedback on the Omni 360° from parents has been mostly positive. Ease of use is excellent say readers. Critics of this carrier say the hood is too small and doesn’t store away. A few complain that the back latch is uncomfortable and hard to buckle (when used in the H-strap configuration). Despite these minor concerns, the ERGObaby Omni 360° is an excellent carrier that wins our overall pick for Best Carrier.
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing baby carriers since 1994. In addition to hands on inspections (we tried on a lot of carriers!) of front carrier, we have also visited with manufacturers and retailers—and when we travel, we pay our all of our own expenses. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on sites like Amazon, as well as our own message boards. Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!
How we picked a winner
We evaluate carriers with in-depth inspections, checking models for overall quality and ease of use—for example, checking the ease of adjustment between smaller moms and taller dads, as well as detailed analysis fabric, fasteners and construction.
We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking carriers on quality and durability. Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with retailers of retailers to see which brands are most trustworthy and other key quality metrics.
The reliability of carrier manufacturers is another key factor—we meet with key company executives at least once a year. Since we’ve been doing this since 1994, we have developed detailed profiles of major carrier brands that help guide our recommendations. See below for links.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying A Baby Carrier!
1. Wait! There are THAT many different types of carriers?
Do you want a soft structured carrier? For infants or extended use? What about slings? What the heck is a Mei Tai? A rum-based drink from Hawaii?
Ok, let’s take a deep breath. Carriers come in a variety of types. Let’s review:
• Front carriers (AKA Soft Structured Carriers or SSC) are the most well-known and popular of all the carrier types. The 800-pound gorilla in this category is the Baby Bjorn, which is Sweden’s most successful export since ABBA.
Front carriers basically are designed like a fabric pouch worn on your chest with straps connecting at the shoulders and waist with buckles or snaps. These type of carriers are made for infants up to around 30 pounds although some hybrids like the Boba 4G can carry older kids up to 45 lbs. Nowadays, soft structured carriers are more flexible, allowing baby to be carried on your back and hip as well as in front.
• A sub category of front carriers is the mei tai (meh dai), or Asian carrier. Inspired by carriers used in Asia (particularly China), mei tais have an unstructured body and are tied on rather than buckled. This allows for infinite adjustment.
• Slings and pouches (which are unstructured carriers) have been around for centuries. These carriers are basically pockets of fabric that can be adjusted with a ring or velcro. Babies can recline in slings or sit upright once they’re old enough. Most slings and pouches are only rated up to 35 lbs., so they are more appropriate for infants.
• Wrap around carriers are one long piece of cloth that is twisted and folded to create a pouch for baby. Typically the fabric has some stretch to it. This type of carrier has the steepest learning curve for parents. Most designs are intended for smaller, younger babies up to 35 lbs.
• Backpack or frame carriers are designed for hiking with lightweight aluminum frames, high quality waterproof fabrics and ergonomically designed straps. Many include sunshades, lots of storage and adjustable seating as baby grows.
2. Think about how long you envision using a carrier.
The most common baby carriers (Baby Bjorn Original, for example) are designed for use up 25 lbs. The average boy would reach this weight around 18 months (girls a few months after that). Other carriers aim for extended use, up to 30 or even 45 pounds (that’s a three or four old). Our advice: there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Perhaps you only envision using a carrier in baby's first year. If extended baby wearing is something you’d like to try, you’ll need to focus on brands with higher weight limits, like ERGObaby, Boba, Beco and so on.
3. Just because you love a carrier doesn’t mean you baby will.
That's right—some babies can be darn right fussy about carriers. Your baby may love carrier A but hate style B, so hang on to your receipt (or buy from a source with a good return policy). Every baby is different, so a carrier that works for your sister-in-law may induce screaming fits from your baby. Some moms actually buy a couple types of carriers to see what works, then return the ones that don’t.
4. Baby wearing looks simple, but be aware of these key safety precautions.
Back in 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued these baby wearing tips:
- Premature infants and those with low birth weight (under 7 lbs., including twins or infants with breathing issues such as a cold) should not be placed in a sling.
- Make sure the infant’s face is not covered and can be seat at all times regardless of the type of carrier you’re using.
- Frequently check on your baby to make sure he is breathing.
Check the graphic to see how to correctly and incorrectly wear your baby:
5. Some carriers have a steep learning curve.
An example: wraps. These long pieces of fabric need to be wrapped surprisingly tight to keep baby in the proper position and support a parent’s back. This can take some practice.
Yes, slings are the easiest carrier to use, but still may require a little practice. Make sure you read the directions, watch instructional videos online and practice before you try your carrier with an actual baby. The first few times, you may want to have a second person handy to help you get all the adjustments correct.
6. Cheap carriers come with a hidden cost.
Yes, there are $15 baby carriers at discount stores. What’s the difference between this and our recommended carriers, which run about $150-$200?
A truth about carriers: a cheap carrier is no bargain if it hurts your back or is uncomfortably hot. And sadly, those $15 carriers score low on parent happiness, according to the many interviews we've done over the years with parents.
When purchasing a carrier, investing more money buys comfort and ease of use. For example, the fabric is softer when you spend more and the padding is thicker. Often hook and loop closures are industrial strength (Velcro vs. Aplix, for example) with more pricey carriers.
Deluxe slings may come with padded side rails and more expensive back pack carriers may have toddler stirrups to help older kids sit up comfortably.
7. Optional accessories are often worth the price.
Drool bibs that attach to carrier, sunshades for backpack carriers, extra long straps to fit a spouse—all worthy extras! One of our faves: teething pads for the ERGObaby carriers. Love ‘em.
Organic fabric certifications: it’s more than just a label
There are three international organizations that test and certify textiles. These are OEKO-TEX, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and IVN Naturextil. All three of these certifications are optional—there is no legal standard for organic, non-allergenic, chemical free textiles in the US. Many of the companies that are certified are European, with only a few US brands certified. Here’s a bit about each of the three organizations.
1. OEKO-TEX is a German organization that offers a Standard 100 certification program for textiles at all steps in the manufacturing process:
“Products marked with the label ‘Confidence in textiles (Standard 100)’ provide effective protection against allergenic substances, formaldehyde, heavy metals such as nickel or for example forbidden plasticizers (phthalates) in baby textiles.”
OEKO-TEX offers a second certification called Green by OEKO-TEX, which means the “materials (were) tested for harmful substances,” the product was “made in environmentally friendly facilities” and it was “made in safe and socially responsible workplaces.”
2. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certifies textiles as organic. To meet their qualifications, “Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become GOTS certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with minimum social criteria.” Basically, beyond using organic materials, companies must also be socially responsible to their workers and the community.
3. Textile Exchange. Previously referred to as the Organic Exchange (OE) Standard, the international Textile Exchange certifies textiles according to their Organic Content Standard (OCS). They verify the steps in the supply chain to make certain the materials used in end products like diapers are sustainably sourced/grown, processed and manufactured.
There are only a few carrier manufacturers we can find with one of these international certifications. These companies typically sell both conventionally grown textiles as well as organic, so you’ll need to refer to specific organic models to get certified textiles:
Reviews of 25+ carrier brands
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