5 Different Types of Baby carriers (Wraps, Slings, Structured & More)

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If there‘s any one product that can help you live life with your new exploring partner in tow, it’s a baby carrier.

Babywearing is a practice of carrying a baby on one’s body in a sling or any other type of carrier. It’s also extremely convenient for both the parent as well as the baby.

With the baby safe in a wrap, sling, or a classic carrier, your hands will be free — and you could do household chores, cook, shop, or even have a mini dancing session!

But there are so many types of baby carriers to choose from, how do you know which one will work best for you?

Woman carrying child in structured carrier

The main types of baby carriers are:

  1. Wraps
  2. Slings
  3. Mei Tais
  4. Soft structured (SSC) or buckle carriers
  5. Frame packs or backpacks

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the best baby carrier for you and your baby. In addition to your body type and the child‘s age and weight, other factors like your physical limitations, and the kind of activities you plan on doing are equally important.

Let’s dive deep into all the different baby carrier options and the pros and cons of each.

Wrap Carriers

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Imagine a long piece of cotton knit or cotton jersey fabric that you, well, wrap around your body and your baby – that is exactly what a wrap is.

And yes, these are just as complicated as they look, especially if you‘re new to babywearing.

You have to tie the loose ends to create a snug and cozy place for your baby.

Since there are different ways of typing the fabric, it can be a bit difficult at first. However, it will become very easy once you get the hang of it — not to mention extremely versatile.

While the cotton knit wraps are excellent for hot weather to keep the baby cool and comfortable, the stretchy wraps made with cotton jersey or knit jersey are easier to handle.

Not only do you have the many options to choose the most comfortable fabric, but you can also wear your baby in a variety of positions: in front, on the hip or the back.

You can adjust the wrap according to your needs and preferences – and look incredibly stylish while at it!

You do need to practice making a secure tie a couple of times, though. Also, it adds a layer of clothing, which might make your baby too hot if you buy a stretchy wrap.

Here’s the quick skinny on baby wrap-style carriers:

  • Best for newborns and small babies that need to be held close
  • Can be tricky to master and use in a rush
  • Extremely versatile and can be worn tons of different ways

Sling Carriers

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A sling carrier consists of a wide strip of fabric that you wear across your torso and over the shoulder.

While some have a basic and plain appearance, others have rings or padding for adjustments.

Ring slings, in particular, are one-shouldered carriers that are made of a length of fabric with two rings on one end. You can thread the fabric through the rings to create a pouch for the baby, letting you wear the baby on your hip or in front of you.

Slings are the best option for breastfeeding mommies as it lets them nurse discreetly while positioning their baby however they want.

Contrary to a wrap, slings are perfect for a new mother too! The fact that it’s easy to adjust makes it suitable for parents and kids of different sizes.

Ring slings do place a good bit of weight on your shoulder, so if you have shoulder or back problems you should avoid extended use of this one.

Here’s the deal with ring sling-style carriers:

  • Similar to, but more beginner-friendly than, wraps
  • Versatile, adjustable, and great for babies of different ages
  • Perfectly suited for breastfeeding moms
  • Can cause shoulder pain from unevenly distributed load

Mei Tai Carriers

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Mei Tai, also known as Meh Dai, is a hybrid carrier that combines the best parts of a wrap and buckle carrier.

Here’s what you need to do:

You will find long pieces of fabric that you have to tie around your waist and position the two shoulder straps around – you guessed it – your shoulders. Basically, the buckles are swapped with ties here.

The biggest benefits of a Mei Tai is that it’s highly adjustable and easy to use, provided you learn how to make a secure tie.

This carrier is more suitable for infants above the age of six months and allows you to carry your baby on your front, back, or hip.

Some models come with padding to reduce the strain on your shoulders as well.

Here’s the rundown on Mei Tai-style carriers:

  • Offer more structured and padding than wraps and slings
  • Best for older babies (not newborns)
  • Extremely adjustable
  • Takes some practice to master

Soft Structured Carriers (SSC) or Buckle Carriers

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An SSC or a buckle carrier is what parents generally have in mind when they envision a baby carrier.

After all, it looks the most practical and least complicated out of all the options.

It’s best for children who are four to five months old or those who have better neck and head control.

The carrier features padded shoulder straps with a thick, padded waistband that you can fasten around your waist. You can place your baby in the created pouch that is conveniently wide enough to support the baby’s hips and legs.

In fact, the broad fabric panel allows your baby to rest in the most comfortable and healthy position, which is the frog position or the spread-squat position.

In this position, the hips are bent and spread apart to the side, the bent knees are higher than the bum, and the thighs are well supported.

Since it’s easy to use and adjustable, you can share the carrier with other caregivers, while the healthy carrying position can aid the proper growth of the baby. Moreover, SSCs are best for long-term use since they are suitable for newborns as well as toddlers.

The main downside here would be the price. SSCs have a steep price tag, especially when compared to wraps or slings. So make sure it fits within your budget before you order them.

Here’s the deal with structured or buckle carriers:

  • Best for older babies who have strong neck control
  • Extremely ergonomic with great padding and support
  • Can be pricey compared to other options

Frame Pack or Backpack Carriers

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Frame packs, or backpack carriers, are the answer to the prayers of all adventurous parents.

These baby carriers are specially designed for carrying children on the back, giving little ones their own personal chair to experience the world.

They have padded shoulder straps, along with additional straps that can be secured around the waist and chest.

But the carrier is only suitable for children who can sit unassisted and have good neck control.

You can wear the baby for extended periods without breaking a sweat as the carrier helps distribute their weight properly.

So if you plan on taking your preschooler along on your outdoor adventures (like hiking, long walks, etc.), getting a backpack carrier would be a wise choice.

Another advantage is the extra storage pouches that can be great for keeping sippy cups, small toys, or snacks.

(It’s like a backpack and diaper bag rolled into one!)

A few backpack carriers come equipped with a stand that can easily fold out, making it more convenient to place the baby in and out of the carrier.

All this extra padding and design make the carrier bulkier and heavier, which can end up straining your back. Try the carrier on after securing your kid to determine whether it’s a good fit for you.

The downside to backpack or frame carriers is that they’re quite bulky and not useful for normal, everyday activity. Good ones can also be quite expensive — be ready to invest in something durable.

Here’s the rundown on backpack-style baby carriers:

  • Best for older babies or toddlers with full neck control
  • Well-suited for hiking and outdoor adventuring
  • Bulky and pricey

Wrapping Up

There you go – these are the five types of baby carriers that have taken on a cult following among parents, and understandably so.

While carrying your baby in your arms is hands down the best feeling in the world, your arms need a break eventually!

For newborns and younger babies, you’ll do well with a wrap or sling. They’re both great options, but most beginners find ring slings a little easier to use — just watch out for any shoulder or back pain from extended use.

For everyday use once your baby gets a little older, try a Mei Tai or a soft-structure carrier.

Backpack carriers are more of a specialty carrier used for hiking or long, outdoor outings.

Before you go, check out more of my baby stuff explained guides like:

Hope this helps!