Child Carriers: Review of Front and Back Soft Structured Carriers for Travel

by: LiLing Pang



There are a wide variety of front and back carriers.  Some only allow you to carry baby in front while others only on the back, while others are more versatile.  All of these carriers are made of soft flexible material and come in different colors.  If you're interested in frame child carriers, check out our Review of Frame Child Carriers for Travel.


Front Only structured baby carriers

Pros:


Most front carriers are easy to use and come in designs that make dads feel comfortable wearing a baby. 

Front carriers are generally very easy to use. 

They also allow you to keep a keen eye on your child and allow you to wear baby facing out so they too can see the world.

 

Cons


They are very comfortable for use when baby is small, but as baby puts on weight and gets more active, carrying baby in a front carrier gets more and more of a strain on your back. 

Some offer more support with lumbar support and additional hip belts, but the weight distribution still puts a fair strain on your back.  If you must get a front only carrier, note that the construction of the front carriers on the market today tend to be a little too bulky for them to fold up and fit neatly in mom’s purse or diaper bag. 

Front only carriers aren’t very versatile – it’s hard to breastfeed discretely using a front carrier, you can’t put baby on your hip or in a cradle position.

 

Comparison:

  • Baby Bjorn ($80-130): Select from a different styles – The Active style offers additional lumbar support and the Air style is made of a lighter mesh material.  No hip belt.
  • Phil&Ted's Pepe ($68): Shoulder straps criss-cross behind the back combined with a hip belt to help distribute weight.  Marino wool lining from New Zealand keeps baby cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  Removable infant head rest.  Only one color.
  • Evenflow Snugli ($45):  a less expensive version of the Baby Bjorn original without the lumbar support.

 

Recommended Use:
These front baby carriers are probably my least favorite baby carrier because of their lack of versatility and pour ergonomics.  However, they could be good if you’re spending a few hours with a young infant during awake time because it’s offers a great view of the world for a child who can’t quit sit up well in a frame backpack.


Multi-position carriers soft structured carriers

Ergo Baby CarrierMei Tai Baby Carrier


There are two basic types of multi-position carriers – those that use snaps and straps and the mei tais that have 4 long straps that you tie around you.  The mei tai’s are a little more cumbersome but are very light weight and allow for the additional hip position.


Pros:

This is my favorite carrier for traveling with a child 6 months and up.  Multi-position carriers like the Ergo, Boba, Bebo and others offer a traveling parent options and fold up fairly compact.  All of these multi-position carriers allow you carry your child in front or at the back, while the mei tai carriers allow the added versatility of a hip carry, and the Catbird Pikkolo offer the option of a front facing out position that is rather unusual. The versatility allows a traveling parent to adapt to various situations.  If you’re going on a long walk, put your child on the back.  If you’re going into a cave, you can put your child in front. 


Best of all, all multi-position carriers have a hip strap that help to distribute the weight of even a fairly heavy child to your hips unlike the font only carriers which carry most of the weight on your shoulders. In a pinch, you can even use an Ergo with a 4 or small 5 year old sibling who is getting tired.


All of these carriers are compact enough to fit in your airplane carry on or a diaper bag.  The Ergo is probably the most bulky of these light weight carriers, while the mei tai carriers can actually fold into a neat little bundle.

 

Cons:


Although you can put baby on your back, it’s quite difficult to get a child on your back safely without any help.  It is a skill that after hours with an Ergo and two kids, I still haven’t mastered.  Fortunately the Beco addresses this problem sufficiently by including an additional flap that holds the child in place even when you are swiveling her from the front to the back.

When on your back, baby’s head is pretty low on your back, so his view of the world is blocked by your back .  This can make for an awkward sightseeing experience for your little one.  It’s better with a taller child.


The straps can sometimes feel like they care cutting into you especially when carrying a heavy child in the mei tai carriers.


Comparison:

 

  • Ergo ($115) – Probably the most popular multi-position carrier because it is easily available in a variety of colors. Head support is easy to access even when your child is on your back.  Infant insert not included.  Made of durable and easy to wash fabric.
  • Boba ($120) - A newer arrival that makes several small but significant improvements over the Ergo to provide better back support, foot-straps for toddlers for better spinal position and more.  Read our full review of the Boba.
  • Beco Butterfly II ($140) – the only carrier of this type to have an additional layer of fabric that creates a pocket that keeps your child more secure when trying to place him on your back without any assistance. Some nice fabric selections.  Head support is detachable and more cumbersome to attach than on the Ergo.  Baby insert included.
  • Beco Gemini  ($129) - similar to the Ergo and Boba
  • Baby Hawk Oh Snap! ($149) – very similar to the Ergo, but is missing a baby insert and head support.  However, you can design your own Baby Hawk and pick your own fabric.
  • Baby Hawk Mei Tai  ($90): Instead of snaps, Mei Tai carriers are tied to your body and criss-crosses around your back for good back support. Fabulous selection of beautiful fabrics for this traditional mei tai carrier.
  • CatBird Pikkolo  ($130)– when carrying baby in the front, the Pikkolo offers the option to carry baby facing out and allows you to crisscross the shoulder straps across your back to provide better distribution of weight across the back.
  • Catbird Mei Tai ($96): Bright and beautiful but less extensive fabric selection.

 

Best Baby/Child Carrier for:
Providing versatility during travel

 

Looking or Back-only internal frame baby carrier backpacks? Child Carriers: Review of Frame Child Carriers for Travel

 

Hop on and Hop Off Carriers

There is another unusual category of carriers usually used with older toddlers and preschoolers who just need an occaasional lift when the walk gets a little too long or too strenous.  They look quite different from each other.  They aren't meant for carrying your child for long periods of time.

Pros:

  • Usually very lightweight and compact
  • Easy to get the child on and off
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons:

  • Can't really accommodate a sleeping child

Comparison

Related:

 

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LiLing Pang is a contributing author on Trekaroo – a reviews site dedicated to exploring and traveling with kids.

Travel with kids to: CA | CO | DC | FL | HI | IL | MA | NC | NY | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA

updated: May 01 2012 by LiLing Pang

Comments
at 05/12/2010 11:17AM fani*fam wrote:
We love our Ergo! Both my husband and I use it and we both equally love it! We find it super comfy. Our son loves it too! It is a lifesaver when the kid needs a safe, chill out spot :)
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