Ranker puts Graco at number 6 on their best baby brands list. Suffice it to say, they make good baby gear.
The Cradle Me Baby Carrier is their first foray into the world of baby carriers. With thoughtful features like magnetic buckles, lumbar support, and 4 ways to use it, it doesn’t disappoint.
Here’s our full Graco Cradle Me review, complete with pros and cons and our final recommendation.
What You Need to Know About the Cradle Me Carrier
Let’s get right to the most unique feature: the SecureConnect buckles. Most of the top baby carriers have those click-in style buckles that secure the actual carrier to the carrier frame. But the Cradle Me has magnetic buckles. They look the same as the others from the outside, but they actually have a button portion on the bottom and a hitch that sits on top. There’s a magnet in the middle that keeps it together and some release buttons on the side to get it apart.
But do they work? Yes! And they work well! There is zero doubt about the security of these buckles. It’s a comforting combination of magnetics and mechanics.
My favorite part about the buckles is their quietness. Instead of having to do a loud and violent “click!” when you want to detach a sleeping baby, it’s more of a gentle and quiet “snap” to get it buckled or unbuckled.
One thing to note: just the top buckles at the shoulder are magnetic. The rest are the usual buckles. But they are really good versions of usual buckles. The shoulder buckle even has its own track on the straps so that you can slide it up or down to get the correct fit.
4 Ways to Carry
The Cradle Me features 4 different modes of use. Your baby can face inward in the newborn seat, face out in the regular seat, or even be back carried.
The great news about the newborn stage is that there’s a newborn mode with a seat that helps you with babies from 8 pounds and up. But there’s no actual insert for these babies, the infant seat is integrated into the regular seat so you don’t have to switch or worry about padding or parts to mess with.
Breathable and Washable
As far as fabric is concerned, this baby carrier features a breathable mesh panel for those hot summer months. If you’ve ever carried around a baby at a temperature over 80°, you know how hot these things can get! This one helps you out by making the entire front (where the baby’s back is located) breathable, so you won’t be extracting a sweaty and wet baby from this carrier.
It also features a hideaway shield that can help make it warmer during the cooler months, so you don’t have to be switching out carriers with seasons. The best part of this shield isn’t even that it helps keep baby protected, it’s that the instructions for how to wear and carry in all 4 modes are printed on it! Yes! Finally! Some mom in the design department was like “I will never remember how to use this unless I attach instructions to it.” So they did.
This carrier features a hood that does double duty as both a privacy shield and a sun-shield. You can use it to keep baby protected while they sleep, or even cover up while you nurse in your carrier, if that’s a skill that you’ve mastered. It’s also a fabulous idea for protecting smaller babies from the sun, but just be warned that you’re older baby will definitely try and pull this hood off of them because it will annoy them.
Other bonuses include organic and washable bibs and harness covers to help cover up the parts of this carrier that you want to be protected. Teething and drooling babies are actually capable of some pretty gnarly damage when it comes to baby gear, so these washable pieces help make it easier to clean the carrier and keep it looking and smelling its best. And the fact that you can machine wash it all is just icing on the cake.
Hip Healthy and Supportive
There is pretty good support for both baby and mom or dad with the Cradle Me. Mom Parents can rest easy knowing that this carrier is marked as “hip healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. It has received this commendation in all four modes, so no matter how you’re carrying, you’ll know that baby’s hips will still be resting in a healthy position. And as far as support for parents, you can look forward to the adjustable padded waist and the shoulder straps with decent padding. There’s also a wide lumbar support band that’s adjustable for parents of many sizes.
Parents will rejoice at the way you put this carrier on. Very first, you click the shoulder buckle together. Then, you place your head through the hole, put your arms in, and pull it over your head. That’s so much better than smashing baby against you as you try to reach behind your back and buckle a carrier together at the shoulder blades! I don’t know how many wasted hours of my life have been spent haggling with a carrier, and this method of use totally solves that.
Problems with the Cradle Me Carrier
Not Ideal for Nursing
One of the huge perks of babywearing is being able to nurse hands-free. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been doing something else while nursing my youngest in his carrier. A huge downside of the Cradle Me carrier is that it is very difficult to do that. It’s not impossible, but difficult. There are straps in between mom’s body and baby’s body and they go right over the chest area, so gaining proper access in order to nurse is pretty difficult. You have to twist and move the entire carrier to one side or the other.
This is only a dealbreaker if you are a babywearing and nursing mama.
Needs More Back Support
While it does have some lumbar support, there isn’t a ton. Most of us moms want and expect a thick and supportive buckle on the lower back and all the way around. With the Cradle Me, it’s like they attempted to get that, but they didn’t quite perfect the design. The lumbar support pad that they’ve included isn’t enough; it needed to go around the whole waist/hip area.
Even when done up tightly, the lower buckle might still leave your lower back aching.
Buckles Still Noisy and Sticky
The magnetic buckles definitely work. In fact, they work a little too well. They like to get stuck. This is a very good problem to have until you are trying to get a sleeping baby transferred out of the carrier. Then it’s a battle of determination between you and some buckles.
And while we are talking about buckles, I wish that they were more silent. I mean, I guess a gentle “snap” is better than a loud “click” in the world of buckles, but it’s still loud enough to wake my light sleeper.
More Storage, Please!
At this price point, some pockets would have been nice. There is one pocket at the bottom where you hide the shield, but it’s not much to brag about. There’s not really any room in there for much besides the shield. I would love to see a big pocket on the front and maybe another one on the side. What’s the point of being hands-free if you still have to carry your phone and keys around?
Complicated Newborn Carry
The newborn mode is not that great. I like that it’s included and you don’t have to have extra inserts or things like that, but getting it ready for newborn mode is quite the task. Like anything else baby carrier related, it probably just takes some getting used to in order to fasten all the right buttons and loops to make the carrier smaller.
The other thing I don’t like? It puts baby in a weird spot where they still aren’t quite tall enough to see out of the top of the carrier seat. Still, they are secure and they aren’t lost down in a heap at the bottom. Truthfully, most baby carriers have this same problem; they just aren’t built for brand new babies.
The mesh panel might keep baby cool, but mama is still going to get sweaty. The mesh panel is great for letting baby air out their sweet little sweat, but your back and chest and stomach are still going to get swampy. Baby still traps heat in between themselves and you, so there’s that. At least if baby can lessen the trapped heat, they’ll probably sleep or relax for a longer period of time.
Finally, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention the price. We review a lot of baby carriers here at Experienced Mommy. We’ve seen and used the most expensive carriers and the cheapest carriers. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is mostly true for baby carriers, but I feel that the Cradle Me is overpriced.
At a similar price point, you can get a Lillebaby, which I feel is a better carrier. It has more thoughtful features and I feel that justifies the price tag, whereas the Cradle Me leaves me wanting just a little more.
Watch The Cradle Me in Action
The Cradle Me is a fabulous first foray into the carrier world for Graco. It has some really solid and likeable features, like magnetic buckles, an infant insert, breathable mesh, and 4 different ways to carry baby. But at this price, I really want more support, more storage, and the ability to nurse more easily.
If you are a die-hard Graco fan, then you’ll probably love this because it has the same quality, fabrics, style, and reliability as their other stuff. But if you are just a mom, standing in front of a baby carrier, asking it to hold your baby, then there are definitely better options on the market at this time.