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Cheap Baby Carriers Buying Guide

Obviously, personal preferences are critical when deciding which type of cheap baby carrier to buy. But several other factors demand consideration.

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One is your child's size. Some discount baby carriers are best suited for infants while others work well for babies at least six months old. You'll also want a carrier that can be tweaked for fit and comfort. Most cheap baby carriers can be adjusted for the baby and the wearer to some degree, although some can't be adjusted but do come in different sizes for different-sized adults. Then there's the position in which the baby is carried. Some discount baby carriers are fixed in one position for both wearer and baby, while others allow some choice. Fabric type is also important to check out, as are convenient extras like pockets, or the ability to use the baby carrier as a pillow or blanket.

Prices at the high end of the baby carriers spectrum range upwards from $150, but cheap baby carriers cost between $25 and $65. Baby carrier slings are cheapest because there's less to them. They're one big piece of cloth with few frills, and the design somewhat limits your range of activities; for example, experts recommend against going on long hikes or bouncing around while holding a baby in a sling. Front baby carriers and backpack baby carriers cost more than slings but they're generally more comfortable and easier to use. Cheap front baby carriers have a soft structure comprised of pads, straps, and a seating area for the baby. Backpack baby carriers have a frame structure that supports the seating area, shoulder and waist straps for the adult, storage compartments, and often a harness and a protective canopy for the child; most backpack baby carriers are beyond the Cheapism niche. In general, pricey baby carriers offer more in the way of comfort padding, support for the adult's lumbar region, a design/structure that can hold more weight, and convenience features like a zip-off diaper pad or fanny pack.

The best cheap baby carrier slings that we found are the Moby Wrap Original (starting at $40) and the Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Sling (starting at $48), which stand out for their ease of use and versatility. Our research indicates that the best cheap front baby carrier is the BabyBjorn Original (starting at $54) for its efficient, convenient, and adjustable design. The Infantino Front 2 Back Rider Baby Carrier (starting at $28) is an unusually cheap baby carrier that looks good on paper -- it can be worn as a cheap front baby carrier or cheap backpack baby carrier, it's made of breathable fabric, and it has memory foam straps -- but consumers pan the build quality and say it's not user-friendly. True backpack baby carriers with a frame support are not cheap, although the Chicco Smart Support Backpack (starting at $85) comes close, and its features and performance are good enough that it's worth mentioning here.

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Safety is obviously critical when carrying a baby in a carrier of any price or style. Experts at BabyWearing International and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend the following: make sure the baby's chin isn't tucked into his/her chest when in a sling to prevent suffocation; don't let anything block the baby's face; situate the baby so his/her back is straight and supported; keep your movements steady and even when wearing a baby carrier; and monitor the child at all times.

There are three basic types of baby carriers, each letting you carry the child in one or more ways. Your choice of baby carrier will depend on your comfort and preferences and those of the child. Other features to note as you search for a best cheap baby carrier include specifications for the child's size and weight, how adjustable the baby carrier is, the fabric it's made of, and the extras it offers.

Slings vs. Wraps.

Slung over one shoulder and around the opposite side of your waist, slings are the simplest and cheapest baby carriers. They let you carry a baby in several ways, be it the cradle position, facing forward, or on your hip. Cheap slings, like the Hotslings Baby Carrier (starting at $42), may be one piece of fabric sewn together or have a ring at the shoulder through which extra fabric is looped and secured, as in the Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Sling. Some baby carrier slings feature padding in the shoulder area and some don't. Others have extra fabric to provide a cover for nursing, and some have pockets to hold small items like keys or a pacifier.

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A baby carrier wrap, like the Moby Wrap Original, is one long piece of fabric that can be tied in various ways, either over one or both shoulders. One advantage of a discount baby carrier wrap is that it can double as a blanket or pillow when not worn as a carrier. The disadvantage of a wrap is the lack of padding or pockets.

Front Baby Carriers.

Moving up a step in price and construction gets us to cheap front baby carriers, like the BabyBjorn Original or its upscale sibling, the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier Synergy (starting at $126). Cheap front baby carriers have a soft structure and are worn on the front of your body; they have two straps, one for each arm to evenly distribute the child's weight, and they tie or clip in the back or sides. Newborns can face in towards your chest, and when they develop more neck support, they can be carried facing out.

Backpack Baby Carriers.

These baby carriers have a frame support system and a built-in seat for the child, which positions him/her facing forward and high on your back. They're sturdy and rarely cheap. Backpack baby carriers like the Kelty FC 3.0 Child Carrier (starting at $200) are chock full of comfort and safety features that range from a five-point harness to secure the child and lumbar support and well-padded and adjustable straps for the adult to a kickstand for easy loading and unloading, a sun/rain hood for the passenger, and storage pockets. The Chicco Smart Support Backpack (starting at $85) is the cheapest good baby carrier backpack that we found. Like the pricey backpack baby carriers, it comes with a kickstand, a hood, and pockets, but is lacking in some comfort features.

If you want the flexibility of a baby carrier that serves as a front or a backpack baby carrier, you can opt for a combination. The Infantino Front 2 Back Rider Baby Carrier has a soft structure that lets you carry the child on your back facing front, or on your chest facing in or out; it features memory foam straps, lumbar support, and mesh panels. The Beco Butterfly II Baby Carrier (starting at $139) is a high-end front/backpack model that boasts more in the way of comfort and convenience for wearer and passenger.

Baby Size.

Some baby carriers are better for newborns and others are better for older and stronger children; as your child grows, you may need a different type of carrier. The experts at BabyCenter say slings are suitable for newborns and until the child is a year old; front carriers are designed for newborns and children weighing up to about 30 pounds; and backpacks are appropriate for children who can sit by themselves (generally at about six months) and until the child is three years old or weighs 40 pounds. (Note that some pricey and heavy-duty backpack carriers can hold children up to about 50 pounds.)

These are just guidelines, however, and each baby carrier has its own specifications for weight and height. The BabyBjorn Original, a cheap front baby carrier, is meant for infants weighing between eight and 25 pounds and measuring at least 21 inches long. The Moby Wrap Original and the Maya Wrap Sling work for infants and children up to 35 pounds; the Moby Wrap Original can also hold preemie-sized babies. The Infantino Front 2 Back carries babies weighing between eight pounds and 32 pounds, and 40 pounds is the cutoff for the Chicco Smart Support Backpack.

Adjustability.

The best cheap baby carriers can be adjusted to meet the parent's and child's comfort needs. Experts note that even weight distribution is important to prevent injuries to the wearer, regardless what kind of carrier you're using. As for the child, Parenting.com says leg openings in front carriers and backpack carriers should be large enough for little legs to kick freely but not so large that the baby slumps down.

Front baby carriers and backpack baby carriers have adjustable components, but the design of slings and wraps determines what you can fiddle with. The BabyBjorn Original, our best cheap baby carrier, features adjustable straps for the wearer and an adjustable seat and buckle for the baby. Straps, lumbar support, and the buckle system on the Infantino Front 2 Back can be adjusted. With the Chicco Smart Support backpack, the child's seat moves up or down and the straps and lumbar support can be made looser or tighter. The Maya Wrap, one of our good discount baby carriers, is adjustable on one shoulder and comes in four sizes, while the Moby Wrap, another good cheap baby carrier on our list, can be wrapped in different ways to accommodate both parent and child. On the other hand, the Hotslings Baby Carrier is a sling that can't be adjusted, although it comes in various sizes to accommodate different-sized wearers.

Baby Carrier Fabric.

Young children's skin is sensitive, so opt for a baby carrier made with a soft fabric that doesn't chafe. Experts are partial to cotton, calling it an ideal fabric for baby carriers because it's warm, soft, and breathable. Among the budget baby carriers we researched, the BabyBjorn Original, Moby Wrap Original, Chicco Smart Support, and Hotslings Baby Carrier are made of cotton, although the latter contains some spandex. If you live in a warmer climate or expect to use a baby carrier during the summer, mesh fabric is a good choice because it lets air circulate, which helps keep you and the child cool; the Infantino Front 2 Back is made of a ventilated mesh fabric as is the pricier BabyBjorn Synergy. Nylon is good for cold or wet climates because it holds in the heat; the Kelty Kangaroo Infant Carrier (starting at $40) uses nylon fabric. The Maya Wrap is made of an unspecified but hand-loomed "breathable" fabric.

Extra Features.

Some cheap baby carriers actually feature a variety of extras. Conveniences like pockets and versatile functionality enhance a baby carrier's appeal without much impact on price. Both the Maya Wrap and Infantino Front 2 Back feature pockets for keys and cell phones; the Moby Wrap Original doubles as a pillow or blanket and the Maya Wrap can be used as a cover while nursing. Other frills include design elements that accommodate the needs of children. The Infantino Front 2 Back Rider Baby Carrier has a bib that folds and snaps and the BabyBjorn Original has a headrest that folds down when head support is no longer needed and it unbuttons in the front so you can remove the baby without disturbing him or her.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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