Travelling with children Baby carriers
A baby carrier can give you more freedom to undertake tasks like shopping, negotiating public transport and loading up the car.
It may also help you bond with your baby and babies are usually happiest when they are close to you.
We've tested the leading baby carriers and slings on the market. Each carrier or sling was tested by 12 mothers (fathers were able to give their input too) and worn at least five times over the period of a week. You can read what they thought in our baby carriers and slings review.
We've summarised some of the features of the different types of carrier below.
Soft baby carriers
These are the simplest and most widely available carriers. Most are two-way carriers that will let you carry your baby both facing you or facing outwards to view the world.
For babies who can't support their heads, the carrier should have a padded headrest that can normally be folded down for an older baby. These carriers are generally suitable for babies from birth up to 15 monhths. Soft carriers should be marked with BS EN 13209 Part 2:2005 to show they comply with safety standards.
- Pros Two positions are sufficient for most parents and younger babies
- Cons Not as versatile as other carriers
Multi-way baby carriers
Many models offer three positions – to carry your baby on your front, back or in a 'nursing' position. Four-way carriers let your baby go on your front or back, or in the nursing or hip position.
Most multi-way carriers are of a similar design to the soft carrier and have a harness-style appearance. Others are more like traditional slings. Multi-way carriers tend to be designed for babies from birth to either 12 months, 18 months or to a 14kg (31lb) toddler.
- Pros More versatile than two-way carriers, longer lifespan, those offering a nursing position can be handy for breast-feeding
- Cons Tend to be more expensive than soft carriers, can take a bit of practice to use correctly
Framed back carriers
These are generally aimed at babies from six-months old because they need to be able to support themselves sitting up. The carriers have a rucksack-style appearance: your baby sits in a harness, supported either by a lightweight metal frame or rigid rucksack-style padding, and the carrier is put on using padded shoulder straps and a waist belt.
Those models at the top end of the market are made by outdoor clothing and equipment specialists. Some have a fair amount of storage space, for clothing and food, for example, and with some models you can buy extras such as sun and rain covers.
As long as your child is willing, and your back can take it, you can use most models until the age of three.
- Pros Babies and toddlers are high enough to get a grown-up view of the world, some come with special features, carriers with a metal frame are usually designed so you can stand the carrier upright on its own – making it easier to get your child in and out
- Cons You may need another person to help you put it on and take it off, the most expensive type of carrier available, need to allow extra head space when going through doorways etc, some babies will never tire of pulling your hair and ears
Find out more about each of these types of baby carrier, see our top buying tips and features to look out for, plus read important baby carrier safety advice in our full guide to choosing a sling or baby carrier.