Baby carriers for the first 2 years

As I dust off Little Bear’s baby items and get ready for cub #2, it reminded me how many carriers I’ve gone through of various types for all the stages of baby and toddlerhood.  In the beginning, I was pretty clueless as to what I’d need and when I’d need it.  As with my winter gear summary for babies, I thought I’d go through the carriers that worked for us and when we used them.

A well used (and travelled) Deuter Kid Comfort II

A well used (and travelled) Deuter Kid Comfort II

Baby Buddha (stretchy wrap-style carrier)

This was a hand-me-down from a friend which I only received when Little Bear was 2 months old. I wish I had been able to use this sooner as it seemed like it would be super handy with a newborn.

What I liked

  • I was able to get the best “fit” with this carrier, likely because it was so stretchy and it was fairly easy to use once you watch a few videos and get the hang of it.
  • It’s really compact and easy to throw in a diaper bag.  This also meant it was very easy to fit under a roomy winter jacket.
  • Little Bear loved this carrier!

What I didn’t like

  • Because it’s so stretchy, once LB got close to 15 lbs (which was around 3ish months) I felt like after 15-20 min it was too loose as it had stretched out.
  • It’s pricey to buy new.

When did I use it? up until ~3months

Bottom line? I definitely plan on using this again although if I had to buy it, I would likely choose a cheaper stretchy carrier like the Boba wrap.

Trying to keep cool with the Baby Buddha in Las Vegas

Trying to keep cool with the Baby Buddha in Las Vegas

Boba 3G

I bought this carrier before Little Bear was born and only recently retired it at 21 months as she was too big.  Hands down one of the best investments I made!

What I liked

  • This might be the best endorsement: as soon as LB could talk she would ask for it “Boba! Boba mama!”
  • It can be used from birth (sort of – see below) to toddlerhood
  • It’s very simple to get on/off and adjust
  • A good fit for shorter parents (not sure how it fits taller parents but it worked great for us!)
  • Very comfortable to use.  Because of the padded waist belt and the fact baby’s weight is close to you, it’s surprising how heavy a kiddo you can carry without feeling it.
  • No need to buy an infant insert – its adjustable for newborns.
  • It adds some warmth and a wind block for baby.  There is also a hood you can clip on.
  • The purse snap! I loved this feature to clip your purse strap onto the carrier so it wouldn’t slide off your shoulder.

What I didn’t like

  • Although it adjusts for newborns, I found I got a better fit with a stretchy carrier though this be due my inexperience with carriers at the time (I’ve also heard the 4G is much easier to use with a newborn)
  • We reached a point around 3-4 months when LB was too big to be comfortable in the infant position but too small to sit in it with her legs out.  A carrier with a smaller “seat” for baby might have helped or perhaps I just needed some tips on how position LB.
  • Soft-structured carriers with hipbelts and clips are rather bulky.  I liked bringing mine everywhere but it was a tight squeeze getting it into my backpack diaper bag (~20L) along with everything else.
  • It can be hot in the summer for both wearer and baby since it’s canvas and you’re both touching.

When did I use it? From newborn to 21 months although it got the most use from 4-5 months onwards and much less before that.

Bottom line? If you’re a hiking/outdoor parent I’d highly recommend a soft-structured carrier like the Boba.  Other similar brands are the Beco, Ergo, Onya and Tula.  While I am definitely a Boba fan, I think fit is a large part of this so I’d recommend trying them out with your baby or going to a baby carrier specialty store to have them help you choose based on your body type (If you’re in Calgary, Babes in Arms is great!)

One of my favourites, the Boba!

One of my favourites, the Boba!

Deuter Kid Comfort II

We were super lucky to have a friend sell us her Deuter pack secondhand.  I’m not sure what we wound have chosen if we had to pick one ourselves but were very happy with the Deuter.  One thing I didn’t realize before having a baby was that backpack carriers are only good once baby can sit up on their own.

What I liked

  • Very comfortable for the wearer and adjusts easily to different sized parents just like a regular backcountry Deuter pack.
  • The sun shade provides good protection from sun and branches while not impeding baby’s view.
  • Lots of space in the storage compartment
  • Lots of side pockets for snacks
  • For a framed carrier, it’s relatively compact and light.
  • Lots of air flow so good for using on hot days

What I didn’t like

  • While it’s light for a framed baby carrier, the weight adds up.  By the time Little Bear was 22 lbs, I found that her weight, plus the backpack (~7 lbs), plus miscellaneous food/water/gear (~3-5 lbs) was too much for me to comfortably carry.  My husband was ok with the weight but we also were on very easy trails that were <5km with <150m elevation gain.  Unfortunately this would be the case for any framed backpack carrier.
  • I would have liked to see a bigger water bottle pocket on the side as the pockets there were too shallow for bottles.
  • There’s no pocket on the hipbelt (where am I supposed to put chapstick?)
  • A little mirror to check on your passenger would have been nice
  • There are no foot straps – though I believe all later models come with them now.  Not a huge deal since by the time Little Bear could have used them, she was never in the backpack for long.

When did I use it? From 6 months onwards (still using it at 22 months).  I used it a lot in the summer (6-8 months) when it was too hot to use our Boba.  Also, until Little Bear could hike at least 60% of trails, we used it a lot.  Now that she is mostly hiking on her own (21 months) and only needing a ride to take a rest, I find that we use it a lot less as she’s heavy to carry and it’s quite bulky.

Bottom line? Definitely worth purchasing! Though I don’t think we’ll use it for as long as we intended, it was a key piece for us to get out hiking with.

Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Tula Toddler Carrier

Now that Little Bear is more excited to hike than be carried and winter is fast approaching, we picked up a toddler carrier to help get us through this stage.  So far it’s great as it can be stuffed in a backpack, yet is comfy and warm enough for Little Bear to hitch a ride on cold fall days when she needs a rest.  Once I’m able to test this out a bit more I’ll update the page.

Is there a carrier you couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear what you found worked best for you and at what stage!

Staying active outside: 3-6 month old spring babies

If you haven’t already read the last two parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies (Update – check out the next part of this series, 6-9 month olds)

As 3 months came and went, I started to notice that things were getting easier.  Definitely not easy but easier. It’s like when you’ve gone hiking often enough that it becomes second nature to get your bag packed in a minute or two without much thought. Our days and nights were also starting to fall into a rhythm and physically, I was feeling much better. Here are some of the activities we did along with how I made them work.  Some aren’t “technically” outdoor activities but they involve being active and getting out of the house which can be a win some days, whether you have a baby or not :)

Activities

Walking

Walks still made up the majority of my outings during this time period.  There is nothing better to improve the spirits than being outside and moving.  Spring made things a little tricky as it’s still very snowy/icy/wet/muddy in the mountains and on non-paved pathways in the city.  Thankfully there are many parks with paved paths that I frequented.  Walks in the city are pretty straightforward so the only (small) decision I had to make was whether to use a carrier or stroller.  Generally if the weather looked cool or windy I would use a carrier under my jacket as I found it easiest to regulate baby temperature.  If I had any concerns about the path being slippery or icy, I’d bring the Chariot.  Other than those situations, I’d try my best to play baby psychic and guess which would go over best.  This often meant bringing the Chariot with a carrier stuffed in the storage space “just in case”.

Hiking

As spring rolled into summer, trails in the mountains dried up and we went for our first family hikes! The first few outings were a bit of trial and error but here are a few tips that we found helpful:

  • Decide how long you’ll be hiking for. Before you head out, make sure you’ve used your carrier or Chariot and know how long your baby will happily hike in them.  For us it was about 2 hrs in either.
  • Choose a hike close to home.  This isn’t a must but I found it a lot less stressful when our first hikes weren’t all day events.  Save hikes that are further for when you have your system dialled and want to add another variable into the equation (ie. driving time).
  • Don’t worry about packing the kitchen sink.  Or at least don’t worry about it as long as you have a partner to haul said sink around!  You can always extra items/layers in the car at the trailhead.  It does take some trial and error to figure out what your baby (and you!) will be most comfortable in.  The more I hiked the better I got at packing less and bringing the right items.
  • Have the right mindset.  We called these hikes “exploratory missions”.  The goal was to make it out there, test our packing system/departure time/hike suitability and note any adjustments we’d need to make for next time. I think this is also called “setting the bar low” ;)
  • Bring hiking poles.  I can’t stress enough how awesome hiking poles are when you’re carrying a baby.  Not only do they help with stability, but they’re a godsend when you can’t see your feet.

If you’re in Calgary, one area I highly recommend for hiking is the Elbow Falls region of Kananaskis.  It’s actually quite close to the city and there are a ton of short trails with good viewpoints.  It provides a nice alternative to driving out to Kananaskis Lakes or Canmore/Banff.

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Climbing

The appearance of some routine in our evenings made it easier for me to schedule a time to leave the house and go climb.  It wasn’t always easy to get out but I always enjoyed it in the end.  It was a nice mental break to socialize, and get in a little exercise at the same time.  I tried to go once a week and just climbed as hard as I felt like going each time.

Running

I had signed up to run the Rocky Mountain Soap Company 5k Stroller jog when baby was 5 months old so I knew I’d have to do some training if I wanted to run it.  I started with doing a run/walk for 20 min by myself every second or third day.  As I felt better with my runs, I added in pushing the Chariot.  Overall I was very relaxed about running and often missed days if my body felt off.  I also switched to walking anytime things started to hurt.

Right after running our first race!

Right after running our first race!

Mom & Baby classes

I took a Mom & Baby fitness class on a whim, not really expecting to like it.  It turned out to be one of my favourite activities and I’d highly recommend taking one.  I liked being able to bring E with me and the instructor was very knowledgeable about different exercises or stretches that were best for a recovering body.  Walking only provides so much exercise so it was nice to have some variety.

Gear

Carriers

This stage presented a few problems with using carriers.  My stretchy carrier that I loved up until now felt a little too stretchy to use with a heavier baby.  Yet E was still too small to sit in the Boba with her legs out the side (she was never a fan of being in it in the infant position).  It was an awkward month or so of not fitting either very well.  Still, we persevered and I used one or the other with varying degrees of success.  Amelia of Tales of a Mountain Mama has an excellent post about these “gap months” and reviewed some carriers that can help solve the problem.  Once E outgrew this phase, the Boba was my preferred carrier.

Strollers

On days when carriers just weren’t working, I made use of our Chariot which turned into a favourite! It handled spring slush and puddles very well and was an instant snooze machine.  We used it with the infant sling.  It was great to have the Chariot around as E disliked being in her carseat (attached to the BOB stroller) when we went on walks but was too small to sit up in the BOB on her own.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you're in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open.  This is past Elbow Falls but you can also do this at Highwood Pass.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you’re in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open. This is past Elbow Falls but you can also go to Highwood Pass.

Clothes for baby

For Chariot walks, I’d dress baby in a cotton or fleece sleeper and bring along blankets.  I tried using a fleece bunting but Chariots can heat up very quickly in the sun when the shades are closed making it was easier to add/remove blankets than deal with taking off a bunting.

When using a carrier, if it was warm out I’d keep baby in a fleece or cotton sleeper depending on the temperature.  If it was cooler, I’d use my Make My Belly Fit panel. If little feet are long enough to hang out the bottom of the jacket a pair of wool booties do the trick to keep them warm.

A warm hat and sun hat are also key to have around whether you’re using a stroller or carrier.

Clothes for you

I still used my  Make My Belly Fit panel quite a bit during this stage.

Diaper Bag/Extras

The more we got out the more I noticed myself gravitating to using a backpack as a diaper bag.  One less item in my hands when juggling a baby was always welcome.  And of course it was a good excuse to buy another backpack!

In addition to all my regular diaper bag items, I always kept a pair of booties, a warm hat and a fleece blanket in the bag in case it was colder than I expected when on walks.

Logistics

During the 3-6 month age range, E fell into a routine of 3 naps a day. After her first nap, we’d have a little play time and then head out for the day.  Usually she was good about taking a few cat naps wherever we were (car, walking, etc). I’d try to time things so that her third nap of the day happened at home.  For us, this provided a nice balance of having some down time at home as well as an outing.  It also meant I’d have some time in the morning to get ready and in the afternoon to unpack and relax.

This isn’t to say we always followed the above.  Sometimes it was only practical to have one nap at home (or none!).  If we wanted to go to the mountains, which is a full day trip, we’d time the drive out and the drive back with her first and last nap.

Here is a really good post on from Bring the Kids about how naptime isn’t sacred for their family.  The post (and comments!) are worth a read.  I’ve found that dealing with naps is always a challenge as once you find something that works, they enter a new phase and you’re back to square one.

If anyone has any tips on how they handled naps I’d love to hear!