A child carrier can be an invaluable way of toting your infant or toddler around while you're doing other things. Child carriers come in an array of styles, prices and colors, so it's important to do your research before you purchase one. Your goal is to find a carrier that both you and your child will enjoy.
- The first step in choosing a child carrier is to decide what style best suits your needs. Make a list of how you plan to use the carrier. Many people use their child carriers to run errands around town by foot. Child carriers can be much more convenient than using a vehicle with a car seat because you never need to worry around transferring a sleeping baby from car seat to stroller, or finding a parking space for your car. The best type of carrier for this activity is either a light-duty backpack or a front carrier. Another popular use for child carriers is to pacify a fussy baby. Some parents have found that even colicky babies are soothed by being carried against mom or dad's chest, where they're warm and can feel a familiar heartbeat. The best carrier for soothing is either a front carrier or a sling. Still other parents use their carriers for outdoor activities, such as hiking. If you intend to use your child carrier mostly for this type of strenuous exercise, you'll want a backpack specifically designed to be extra comfortable for you and your child, since you'll be wearing it for several hours at a time. These types of child carriers have an external frame, similar to the type of backpacks you would use for camping. You may also want a child carrier that has additional storage underneath the child's seat, for storing necessary supplies, such as diapers, bottles and snacks.
The next consideration in choosing a child carrier is the size of your child. Most front carriers are designed to be used in either a backward-facing position, for newborns, or a front-facing position, once your child can hold his head up on his own. Both front carriers and slings can generally be used for infants up to twenty-five pounds, although you may want to switch to a backpack-style carrier before that. Backpack carriers are suitable for infants and toddlers as soon as they can sit up unassisted. Many backpacks can be used until your child weighs forty-five pounds.
Once you've decided on a style of child carrier, you'll need to consider what price range is appropriate for you. If you'll be using the child carrier on a daily basis or for long periods of time, it's best to spend as much as you can reasonably afford. After all, it's better to have a comfortable, well-made, more-expensive backpack that gets used all the time than an uncomfortable, cheaply-made, less-expensive one that sits in the closet most of the time.
If you have decided on a front carrier, the ultimate in comfort is the Baby Bjorn Active. It comes in a variety of patterns and has lumbar support with extra shoulder padding. The carrier completely detaches from the straps, which is especially useful if your baby falls asleep. You can simply undo the buckles and lay your child down, without trying to lift him out of the carrier. If you're looking for a less-expensive option for a front carrier, try the one that's made by Snugli. It has several options usually found only on higher-end carriers, such as side vents to keep baby cool and a pocket in which to store baby gear. In addition, it's entirely machine-washable.
The design of most baby slings is fairly similar, so if you settle on this type of carrier, your decision will depend mostly upon your personal preferences. The Maya Wrap company offers a huge selection of fabrics from which to choose. One thing to note is that many slings can be used as hip hammocks to carry older infants and toddlers.
If a backpack carrier is more your style, you'll probably want to choose either a Kelty, Deuter or Sherpani carrier. All three of these companies make backpacks in a range of prices and are well-established respected businesses. Backpack carriers start at about $80, for light-use, all the way up to $200 for those that will get a lot of use. Some backpacks also have canopies and rainshields which can be purchased separately. All backpack carriers have a waist belt, which helps shift the weight of the pack to your hips, instead of your back. The child seat is usually fully adjustable, so that you can get a custom fit for your child. In addition, many have stirrups for your child's feet. These can make your child more comfortable when sitting in the carrier for long periods of time. Your child can also use them to shift his balance if he slips to one side.
A relatively new option is the hip hammock carrier. These are used in much the same way that you would use your arms to cradle your child on your hip. Although they can make it easier to carry your child, you probably won't want to use them for an extended period of time. Hip hammocks seem to cause more back strain than other types of carriers due to the fact that your child's weight is all on one side of your body.
Now you have just a final bit of homework before using your new child carrier--read the directions thoroughly so that you and your child will be safe, and then have fun!