Baby Carriers vs Wraps: How to Pick the One for You

Want to understand the difference between baby carriers vs wraps?

Then our guide to baby carrier vs baby wrap is going to help you decide which is the right choice for you!

Babywearing makes life easier with a baby; it lets you complete tasks hands-free while keeping your baby close, right where they want to be with you. However, a quick look at all the different types of carriers will have you wondering – what’s the difference between a baby wrap vs baby carrier?

Wraps and baby carriers, typically called a soft structured carrier, are the two more common types selected by parents. As soon as you look at a picture of these, you’ll see how different they are!

So, let’s take a look at a baby wrap vs carrier to help you decide.

And if you love this guide on which to choose; baby wrap or carrier? Then check out these guides on best baby carriers for petite moms, best baby barrier for plus size moms, and when can your baby face forward in carrier?

baby wrap vs carrier

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Baby Carriers vs Wraps: What’s Different?

We refer to baby carriers as a soft structured carrier – an SSC. These carriers have a structured fabric seat for the baby with a waistband and two shoulder straps that support the baby. In addition, soft-structured carriers have buckles that keep the shoulder straps and belt in place.

Wraps are long strips of woven or stretchy material that you wrap around you and your baby. You can find many different ways to wrap and secure the wrap around you, and they’re pretty comfortable!

So, what’s the difference between a baby carrier and a wrap?

Truthfully, there are only a few things they share in common! They might both hold babies on you, allowing you to be hands-free, and they might both be made of cotton.

The commonalities stop there.

A soft structured carrier is all created for you, so they have a little learning curve. First, parents buckle the waistband around them, adjusting the width to fit their bodies. Then, they place the baby in the carrier’s seat and pull up the straps, buckling them in the back.

Wraps are pretty literally long strips of fabric – usually about five yards long. First, you have to learn how to create a seat for your baby and wrap it around your body. It comes with a serious learning curve, and some parents find it a bit intimidating.

All About Soft Structured Carriers

Soft-structured carriers are made with strong fabric, so they feel firmer than other carriers. You might prefer the security that comes with using an SSC. These carriers are safe for infants from birth (depending on the weight limit and if they offer a newborn insert) until your child is two to three years old.

An SSC comes with a seat or a pouch that you place your baby in. Some of these carriers come with head and neck support for small infants, and most include padded shoulder straps and waist straps. If the carrier doesn’t offer any neck support, you’ll have to wait until your baby is around four months old or when they have neck control.

The Benefits of Using an SSC

Here are a few reasons why using a soft structured carrier might be a good match for you!

1. They’re Easy to Use

Everything is new when you’re a new parent, so learning how to use a baby carrier isn’t topping your list of things you want to do. Luckily, a soft structured carrier is one of the easiest baby carriers to use on the market.

All you have to do is adjust the waistband to fit your body, place your baby in the seat, but the shoulder straps over your body, adjust, and buckle.

The process is easy; it doesn’t have any learning curve with it at all. Someone who has never tried babywearing can figure these out in an instant.

2. It Distributes the Weight Well

Most SSCs have well-padded shoulder straps, thick waistbands, and some have lumbar support. The purpose of these elements is to distribute your baby’s weight across the parent’s entire torso.

The waistband takes some of the weight rather than centering it all on your shoulders, and that’s a big deal, especially if you plan to babywear for a long time. For example, zoo trips or long hikes quickly become uncomfortable if your baby’s entire weight is hanging off your shoulders quite literally.

You can wear a well-made, soft structured carrier comfortably for long periods!

3. Can Be Used by Multiple People

Does dad want to babywear too? Soft-structured carriers adjust for multiple people. All you have to do is widen or shorten the waistbands and shoulder straps to fit each person.

Easy peasy!

4. Works for Wide Age Range

Another reason that baby carriers might work well for you is that they work for a wide age range, so if you have multiple kids, SSCs are a great choice.

Many structured carriers are safe for newborns if they have neck support or come with an infant insert. It’s possible to use a single carrier from 7 to 45lbs; that’s several years. You’d be able to save it for future children or use it with different kids at the same time.

5. Easy for Breastfeeding

If you’re looking for baby carriers for breastfeeding, most of the best options are soft structured carriers. All you have to do is loosen the straps, and nursing discreetly becomes a breeze.

6. High Weight Limit

Another one of the benefits of a baby carrier vs. wraps is that the weight limit is often higher. Some woven wraps have high weight limits, around 40lbs, but stretchy wraps typically are best for babies no more than 25 to 30lbs.

Even that might be too strenuous on your neck and back.

So, unless you want to pay for a high-quality woven wrap, soft structured carriers have the highest weight limit, ideal for toddlers and larger babies.

Our Top Pick
Ergobaby Omni 360 All-Position Baby Carrier
$179.00 $154.92

The Ergo 360 is an all in one carrier that grows with your baby from newborn to toddler (0-48 months; 7-45lbs). From forward facing in to forward facing out, hip and back carry it's hard to go past the versatility of this baby carrier!

We love it for forward facing baby wearing as it is easy to adjust and provides head & neck support for your baby. This is in additional to the padded lumbar back support and extra padded shoulder straps that provide maximum comfort.

The Omni 360 is so incredible for warm weather because it's made with soft, durable mesh fabric that keeps both you and your baby cool. It also has a detachable storage pouch and a UPF 50+ baby hood for sun protection and privacy.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
10/02/2022 02:35 pm GMT

Why They May Not Work for You

For some parents, an SSC isn’t the right answer. So, if you’re wondering why these might not be the best choice, here are some considerations.

1. Not as Soft

Compared to wraps, SSCs aren’t nearly as soft and cozy. For newborn babies, that might be an essential consideration for you!

2. Some Aren’t Ideal for Newborns

As mentioned before, some baby carriers aren’t ideal for newborn babies. You’ll be able to tell that by the lowest weight limit and if they require an infant insert.

For example, some Ergobaby carriers offer a newborn insert for the proper support for new babies.

These inserts usually aren’t expensive, so if you want to use a structured carrier, don’t let this stop you!

3. Some Are Expensive

If you’re on a budget, some of these brands are expensive – well over $120! Other brands are cheaper, but you’ll want to make sure they offer ergonomic seats and padded straps for comfort.

What to Know Before Buying a Soft Structured Carrier

If you decide a soft structured carrier is the one for you, there are some things you should know before buying. These will help you select the brand and style that works best for you.

Support

The first thing you need to consider is the support offered to you and your baby.

Any carrier you buy needs to have an ergonomic seat that keeps your baby’s legs spread wide; they shouldn’t have dangling legs. This leads to hip problems.

Then, make sure the carrier offers padded straps and a thick, padded waistband for you. These elements are essential for adequate support and comfort.

Weight Limit

Take a look at the weight limit; how long will your baby be able to use this carrier? If you have a new baby, chances are they’ll be able to use the carrier for a long time, but older infants or toddlers have limited time to use it unless you buy one with a higher weight limit.

Most parents prefer a carrier with a 45lb weight limit, but some are up to 30lbs. Decide what will work best for your child.

Materials

Look at the materials used to create the SSC. This helps you determine how comfortable the carrier will be and how breathable it is. For example, cotton is the most breathable fabric for a carrier.

Washing Instructions

Spitting up, puking, and diaper explosions are parts of being a parent, so take a look at the washing instructions for the structured carriers you like. If it’s going to be too challenging to keep the carrier clean, stay away from it.

You’ll end up being more frustrated!

Our Top Pick
Ergobaby Omni 360 All-Position Baby Carrier
$179.00 $154.92

The Ergo 360 is an all in one carrier that grows with your baby from newborn to toddler (0-48 months; 7-45lbs). From forward facing in to forward facing out, hip and back carry it's hard to go past the versatility of this baby carrier!

We love it for forward facing baby wearing as it is easy to adjust and provides head & neck support for your baby. This is in additional to the padded lumbar back support and extra padded shoulder straps that provide maximum comfort.

The Omni 360 is so incredible for warm weather because it's made with soft, durable mesh fabric that keeps both you and your baby cool. It also has a detachable storage pouch and a UPF 50+ baby hood for sun protection and privacy.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
10/02/2022 02:35 pm GMT

All About Baby Wraps

Baby wraps are quite literally a wrap. You get to wrap yourself and your baby like a burrito but with support for your baby.

Wraps are long; some measure around 18 feet of fabric. That feels intimidating for some, but most parents say they are easy to use once you get them figured out.

However, the reality is you will spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos and practicing them. Once you get the hang of it, these carriers are great choices. They keep your baby close to you, and they’re cozy.

Some of the best wraps for newborns are stretchy wraps, like the Moby Wrap or Solly Baby Wrap. These are made with stretchy material, perfect for little babies. Other wraps are made with woven cotton, and they offer more support for older infants.

Wraps have a long history; we know that many cultures have used baby wraps for centuries. They work, but you have to take the time to get used to using them and creating a secure seat for your baby.

The Benefits of Using Baby Wraps

A wrap might be the best choice for your family; here are some pros of using baby wraps.

1. Used From Birth to Toddlerhood

Depending on the wrap material, you might be able to use wraps from birth to toddlerhood. Not all have high weight limits, but some do!

Stretchy wraps are ideal for right after birth; they’re comfortable for newborns and work well for postpartum bodies. However, they tend to have a lower weight limit simply because the material stretches more with your baby’s weight.

Woven wraps are more likely to be used from birth to toddlerhood since the material doesn’t have as much stretch. As a result, it won’t pull on your back and neck as much.

2. Cozy and Comfortable

Wraps are the perfect cozy in the babywearing world. Unfortunately, SSCs aren’t as comfortable for you or your baby. The straps might dig a bit, and the buckles could bother you.

Wraps have nothing that would get in the way of your comfort. They’re simply material; the softer the material, the more comfortable it will be for you.

3. Many Ways to Wrap it

Once you learn how to wrap it one way around you and your baby, you’ll find yourself wanting to try different wrapping methods. For example, you can wrap your baby on your front, your back, or your side.

It’s quite versatile!

4. Tons of Fabric Choices

You’ll find that many of the different wraps on the market are made with different fabric choices. Some use cotton, others use bamboo, and some use a rayon blend. Make sure to read the descriptions!

This means you have plenty of choices to find a wrap with fabric you know you love.

Our Top Pick
Baby K'tan Original Baby Wrap Carrier
$59.95

The Baby K'tan baby wrap is quick and easy to wear - no rings, belts, buckles or excess fabric. This infant carrier is the no-wrap wrap! Just slip the sling over your head like a t-shirt. This is great as it means you don't have to spend too much time learning how to use it! 

Made from 100% cotton, this baby carrier allows even weight distribution and the breathable fabric is soft against baby skin.

It comes in multiple sizes from xx-small to x-large making it a great baby carrier for petite moms & plus size moms!

10/02/2022 07:15 am GMT

Why Baby Wraps May Not Work for You

As always, there are a few reasons that wraps might not work for you. A lot of parents try wraps and find that they aren’t ideal for them.

Here are a few of those reasons.

1. Tricky to Learn to Use

The biggest con to baby wraps is that it takes time to learn how to use them properly. You need to know how to create a seat for your baby, wrap it around your body, and create the right shoulder straps.

This takes time, and for some people, that is a big negative. They want to clip on the carrier, and away they go. That’s not a wrap carrier!

2. Harder for Breastfeeding

If you want to breastfeed while using a wrap, you’ll have to practice breastfeeding-friendly ways of wrapping or take your baby out of the carrier. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as using an SSC for breastfeeding.

3. Doesn’t Evenly Distribute Baby’s Weight

When using a wrap, you only have a single layer (maybe two) supporting your baby’s weight across your torso. As a result, their weight isn’t as evenly distributed across your body as an SSC.

4. Lower Weight Limit for Some

Depending on the material, some wraps have a lower weight limit than a structured carrier. Make sure to take a look at the recommendation before buying and ensure it works well for your baby’s current age and weight.

What to Know Before Buying a Baby Wrap

A nice baby wrap will last for years, so consider this an investment in parenthood. But, of course, as with any investment, you want to make the right choice.

Here are some considerations to remember when buying a baby wrap.

Materials Used

Look at the materials used for the baby wrap. The stretchy fabrics tend to be the most comfortable for new babies but won’t last as long. Woven wraps are great for older infants and toddlers, but they also work for newborns with little practice. 

Weight Limit

Always look at the weight limit of the baby wrap you like and make sure it works for your plans and your baby!

Style

Think about the style of the baby wrap. Do you like the colors? This should be something you like the look of because you’ll wear it all the time!

Our Top Pick
Baby K'tan Original Baby Wrap Carrier
$59.95

The Baby K'tan baby wrap is quick and easy to wear - no rings, belts, buckles or excess fabric. This infant carrier is the no-wrap wrap! Just slip the sling over your head like a t-shirt. This is great as it means you don't have to spend too much time learning how to use it! 

Made from 100% cotton, this baby carrier allows even weight distribution and the breathable fabric is soft against baby skin.

It comes in multiple sizes from xx-small to x-large making it a great baby carrier for petite moms & plus size moms!

10/02/2022 07:15 am GMT

Final Thoughts on Baby Carrier Vs Baby Wraps

Ultimately, the only way to decide if a baby carrier vs. wraps works best for you is to try one out. Ask your friends if you can try theirs or see if you have a babywearing library nearby – it’s really a thing! But, no matter what you pick, both carriers are excellent ways to keep your baby close and let you be hands-free for your baby.

And if you’re looking for more great baby guides, then check out these guides on best baby carriers for hot weather, how long can you carry a baby in a carrier, best baby carriers for breastfeeding, and best baby wrap for summer.

Our Top Pick
Ergobaby Omni 360 All-Position Baby Carrier
$179.00 $154.92

The Ergo 360 is an all in one carrier that grows with your baby from newborn to toddler (0-48 months; 7-45lbs). From forward facing in to forward facing out, hip and back carry it's hard to go past the versatility of this baby carrier!

We love it for forward facing baby wearing as it is easy to adjust and provides head & neck support for your baby. This is in additional to the padded lumbar back support and extra padded shoulder straps that provide maximum comfort.

The Omni 360 is so incredible for warm weather because it's made with soft, durable mesh fabric that keeps both you and your baby cool. It also has a detachable storage pouch and a UPF 50+ baby hood for sun protection and privacy.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
10/02/2022 02:35 pm GMT
Our Top Pick
Baby K'tan Original Baby Wrap Carrier
$59.95

The Baby K'tan baby wrap is quick and easy to wear - no rings, belts, buckles or excess fabric. This infant carrier is the no-wrap wrap! Just slip the sling over your head like a t-shirt. This is great as it means you don't have to spend too much time learning how to use it! 

Made from 100% cotton, this baby carrier allows even weight distribution and the breathable fabric is soft against baby skin.

It comes in multiple sizes from xx-small to x-large making it a great baby carrier for petite moms & plus size moms!

10/02/2022 07:15 am GMT
baby carrier vs baby wrap