It’s no secret babies love to be held. But as sweet as those cuddles are, it’s also nice to have your hands free while your baby snoozes on your chest or you stroll the aisles of the grocery store. With babywearing you can have both — the ability to keep your baby close to you with a baby carrier while your hands are free to do small tasks around the house or while running errands.
There are tons of babywearing options to choose from and it can be overwhelming to determine the best one for you. To help you sort through it all, here is a breakdown of the differences between a baby carrier vs. wrap, and Truly Mama’s top picks for each.
Baby Carrier vs. Wrap: What’s the Difference?
Both baby carriers and wraps serve the same purpose: allow you to wear your baby while keeping your arms and hands free. However, the two differ in design, structure, and placement of the baby against your body, as well as specific functionality.
Baby carriers typically offer a more structured design with straps, buckles, or loops to secure the baby in place. Baby wraps, on the other hand, are made from one long piece of fabric that affixes your baby to your body by “wrapping” it around you both—hence the name. Because baby carriers are more structured, they are also usually designed to hold children of larger weights more comfortably, but both carriers and wraps can be used well into the toddler years.
Should You Choose a Baby Carrier or a Baby Wrap?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to babywearing devices, and different styles will suit different people for different reasons. As you figure out which option is best for you, here are some considerations to keep in mind:
- Ease of use. Baby wraps can have more of a learning curve than carriers. But with some practice and often, instructional videos from the company or YouTube, you can become a pro in no time. Just keep in mind that with a wrap, it might take a few tries to find your groove (as with most things newborn-related).
- Cleaning. You may also want to consider how easy the wrap or carrier is to clean. Some can be thrown in the washer while others only allow spot treatment. There are also many different kinds of fabric available with baby wraps especially that may affect how well they hold up over long-term use with frequent cleanings.
- Lifestyle. Whether or not you should get a wrap, choosing a baby carrier vs. wrap depends in part on how often you think you’ll use it. If you love going on walks or hikes, you may want to invest in a good-quality, sturdy carrier that will last years. If you don’t see yourself leaving the house much during the fourth trimester, then maybe you’d rather spend less on a simple wrap that will allow you to baby-wear while you get tasks done around the house.
- Age of baby. For the most part, both carriers and wraps can be used for babies of any age, but the weight and size of your baby can make a difference in overall comfort. Wraps are great for squishy newborns. The closeness mimics the feeling of being in the womb and can offer comfort to a restless or colicky baby, but older babies may find wraps too restrictive. On the other hand, many carriers require infant inserts (at an additional cost) for newborns or babies under a certain weight but do not need to be adapted for older babies or toddlers.
- Budget. Wraps and carriers can range in price, and depending on the age of your baby and your lifestyle, you may be interested in one of each during different stages of your baby’s life. Determine how much you are willing to spend on a wrap or carrier, and then decide if you want to invest in one style that can grow with your child or in two different options at different stages.
- Comfort. If you have some other mom friends with carriers or wraps, ask if you can try them on. Some baby stores may also let you try out some carriers before buying. Different styles and brands will fit differently on various body types. Look for a carrier that provides strong back and shoulder support, and if your partner intends to also baby wear, look for one that can be easily adjusted.
The Best Baby Carriers
The Baby Bjorn is a pricey option, but it is also sturdy and sure to hold up through multiple uses and multiple children. This carrier offers the soft coziness of a wrap with the structure of a carrier, providing comfort for both baby and the wearer. Instead of having to choose between a baby carrier vs. a wrap, this option lets you have the best of both worlds.
- Mesh fabric
- Four different carrying positions
- Weighs 2.8 pounds
- Dimensions: 11.42” x 22.83” x 0.39”
“I love Baby Bjorn products and this carrier does not disappoint. It’s soft, easy to use and the design is superb. I have a traditional sling and I’ve used other carriers like the Ergobaby. The latter did not work for me because it felt too big and I never felt like my baby was secure (he’s 12 weeks old). The Baby Bjorn carrier feels snug without being too snug. It takes a couple seconds to get baby in and out of it. My baby boy loves it because he can look around easily and still see mommy right there.” — Amazon review
One potential drawback is because it is so adjustable, the Baby Bjorn comes with many snaps, buckles and straps, so it can be a bit of a pain to put on, store and travel with.
With four different positions, including front outward or inward facing, hip and back, this carrier can comfortably allow you to wear your newborn or toddler. You can also easily adjust your baby in the carrier for discreet breastfeeding on the go, just be sure to correctly reposition baby immediately after nursing.
- Made with 100% cotton
- Comes with a tuckaway hood for sun protection
- Easy to clean
- Dimensions: 6.18” x 9.13” x 10.43”
“Love it. Comes exactly how it’s described and pictured. It’s easy to adjust straps to fit to my body type. Would definitely recommend.” — Buy Buy Baby review
One thing to note: the Ergo Omni 360 is a bit bulkier than other soft structured carriers and with so many buckles and straps, it could also be tricky to put on by yourself.
“I bought this for my 10-month-old son (currently 25 pounds at 12 months) when we went to Washington D.C. and would highly recommend for anyone traveling with a little one. He would get tired of the stroller and would want to be held, there were also times where I wanted him up close with me and not in the stroller. He was very happy and comfortable in this. I have only used the frontal position, facing me so far, I have yet to try any of the other 3 – but its a great product and he loves it. Its also very comfortable with the wide straps and the strap that goes across the lumbar. My husband who is 6’3″ 250 pounds and I who am 5’3″ 140 pounds, can both wear this – so it also has a wide range as far as who can use.” — Amazon review
Keep in mind that the Infantino can be used with infants as small as eight pounds, but some parents say the carrier works better for newborns if you add a rolled-up blanket at the bottom of the seat for additional height and support. Also, if you want to back carry with the Infantino, you will also need help putting on the carrier and positioning your baby.
The Tula Explore is made with breathable, lightweight material and comes with a large mesh panel for additional ventilation and support. These details definitely make the Tula lighter and less warm than some other options, so if you live in a warmer climate, the Tula Explore may be the perfect carrier for you.
- Made with 100% cotton
- Offers three different width settings as baby grows
- Weighs 2.64 pounds
- Dimensions: 11.02” x 11.02” x 5.51”
“After 2 months of researching these online and going to a bunch of stores to try different brands on, feeling like they were too stiff or bulky, too hot, or not supportive enough, I finally bought this. I wanted to give it enough time to give a real review, and definitely 5 stars! I have had this for 4 months now and used with baby 2 months old until now and will continue to use. It is soft and comfy for me and definitely keeps me cooler than the other carriers and slings we have (which is important in South Texas). It takes about 15 seconds to get baby in it and adjusted. He’s happy whether he is awake or sleepy, but does typically fall asleep in it after a couple minutes. It has everything I was hoping for! If you are on the fence or spending countless hours researching, look no further. This is it! — Amazon reviewer
One caveat: As with other carriers, the Tula can be tricky to put on and adjust by yourself, especially with the back carry option.
“I just purchased this carrier today. I’ve always used the wrap. I couldn’t deal with the long time it takes to do the wrap anymore so I did a little research on youtube and came across this carrier. I love the fact that it has the zip down temperature panel my baby is a warm body so he gets hot fast and this is perfect for him. this carrier is soo comfortable for mom and baby. great for plus size moms like myself. this an amazing carrier !!!” — Buy Buy Baby review
One thing to keep in mind is this carrier fits best on people with long torsos so the Lillebaby may not be the best fit if you’re more petite.
Soft and stretchy, yet also supportive, the Moby wrap cradles your infant against your body, giving you prime baby snuggles while leaving your hands free. This wrap is a great option for newborns and offers a hip-wearing position for older babies. Plus, at a price point of $45, the Moby is one of the more budget-friendly wrap options out there.
- One size fits all
- No buckles, snaps, or fasteners
- Easy to clean
- Recommended for babies 8 to 33 pounds
“This product has been a life saver! My baby loves it and it allows me to still stay productive through the day while still holding her! This is a wonderful product and I am in LOVE with the color.” — Buy Buy Baby review
Keep in mind that it might take some practice to get comfortable with the Moby’s wrapping technique. Some parents also claim the extra fabric left over after the wrap is on your body can be bulky and difficult to move around.
Parents love how comfortable, lightweight and breathable the Solly wrap fabric is, and the snug fit can instantly calm a fussy baby. The wrapping technique might feel a bit intimidating at first, but Solly offers tutorials on their website to help you get the hang of putting the wrap on.
- Recommended for babies newborn to 25 pounds
- Distributes weight evenly across your upper body
- One size fits all
- Dimensions: 5.5 yards long and 25” wide
“No AC in my house so I bought this wrap for my newborn for the summer because it is really lightweight. Works to keep us as cool as possible and is soft and cute.” — Nordstrom buyer review
The Solly is a bit pricier than some other types of wraps and the weight limit only goes up to 25 pounds, so it’s best for the first few months, but isn’t recommended for older or bigger babies.
This wrap comes with a built-in carrying pouch for easy storage on the go and because it is lightweight with no buckles or straps, it can also easily fit in a diaper bag. The Ergo Aura wrap takes a few minutes to put on, but once you get the hang of it, offers a cozy, snug fit for your little one to hang out in.
- Recommended for babies 8 top 25 pounds
- Breathable fabric
- Weighs 1 pound
- Dimensions: 21: W and 193” L
“The fabric is great, it’s stretchy enough but also firm enough and doesn’t loosen after awhile.” — Buy Buy Baby review
The Ergo Aura wrap is ideal for newborns, but not as supportive for older babies, so it might not be the best option if you’re looking for a wrap for long term use.
The K’tan wrap slips on over your head like a t-shirt with a supportive pouch-like structure for your baby to fit in. It also comes with a matching storage bag so it’s easy to bring on the go. Its unique double loop design makes it easier to take on and off than the classic wrap options, but it does not allow for adjusting, so as the fabric stretches out over time, it will become less supportive. Still, it’s a great option for all the benefits of using a wrap without the difficult wrap technique.
- Recommended for babies 8 to 35 pounds
- Buckle free
- Weighs 2 pounds
- Dimensions: 8.3” L x 8.5” W x 2.8” D
“We have only been using this a few days with our newborn, but she loves being in it. Dad and I love that we don’t have to mess with wrapping it, and for us one size fits both.” — Buy Buy Baby review
Because the K’tan fits more like an item of clothing, it may not transfer well between different people who may need different sizes. Some parents claim the fabric is also not as supportive as other types of wraps, so it may not fit bigger babies as well as newborns.
“I am not at all the type of mom who knows about specific wraps or is super into “baby wearing,” I was simply a first time mom who thought the baby Bjorn looked a little uncomfortable. So, I bought this, watched a Youtube tutorial about how to wrap it (VERY helpful!) and my baby girl loved it! Once in a while she would cry for no reason and once I put her in here she would fall right asleep. My daughter is 6.5 months old now and does not enjoy it even with her legs free (there is a different way to place older babies) and I really miss the days of her snuggled tight to me! Very easy and very useful. I machine washed and dried it several times with no issue! Also I am plus sized!” — Amazon buyer review
Because it is made with cotton and spandex, the Boba is a bit warmer and the fabric less breathable than other types of wraps. This could be great if you have a fall or winter baby, but could be uncomfortable in the spring and summer months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are wraps safe for newborns?
Yes, if worn properly. Make sure baby is tucked in tight and close enough for you to kiss. Baby’s back should also be in a naturally straight position and their legs should be in an “M” position with their knees higher than their bottom. Some wraps also have a minimum weight limit that some smaller babies may not meet, so check the weight limit before babywearing.
Which is better, baby wraps or carriers?
This comes down to personal preference, comfort, and the age and size of your baby. Wraps can be more difficult to put on, but offer a firm, close hold ideal for newborns. Carriers are often more bulky and harder to store, but offer structure for older and more active babies.
Is a baby carrier necessary?
No, but a baby carrier can make your life a little easier. Babywearing also has many benefits, including skin-to-skin contact and closeness that can soothe little ones.
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