A child carrier (also called a baby carrier) is a device used to carry an infant or small child. This can be on the body of an adult, or separately. On-the-body carriers are designed in various forms such as slings, backpack carriers, and soft front or hip carriers, with varying materials and degrees of rigidity, decoration, support and confinement of the child. Slings, soft front carriers, and "carrycots" are typically used for infants who lack the ability to sit or to hold their head up. Frame backpack carriers (a modification of the frame backpack), hip carriers, slings, mei tais and a variety of other soft carriers are used for older children.
Although the carrying of children on the body using devices is a relatively recent phenomenon in the West, the practice has been established in many cultures for centuries. Images of children being carried in slings can be seen in Egyptian artwork dating back to the time of the Pharaohs, and have been used in many indigenous cultures usually in West Africa. Devices for carrying children, not on the body, take the form of "carrycots", although many cultures have produced portable cradles, cradleboards, baskets, travois and other devices for making young infants easier to pick up and set down quickly. The modern car seat infant carrier is a relative latecomer.
On-the-body baby carrying in the west started being known in the 60's with the advent of the structured soft pack in the mid 1960's. Around the same time, the frame backpack quickly became a popular way to carry older babies and toddlers. In the early 70's, in Germany, the wrap was reintroduced. In 1986, the ring sling was invented and popularized. While the Chinese mei tai has been around in one form or another for centuries, it did not become popular in the west until it was modernized with padding and other adjustments. It first became popular and well known in the West in mid-2003.