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: 6-9 month olds

If you haven’t already read the last three parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies, 3-6 month old spring babies

While each stage comes with it’s own challenges and perks, I’ve found myself really enjoying this one.  Seems that over time, as some things get so much easier, others get harder. Camping, or more accurately any form of overnight travel, was a major fail.  Turns out my daughter is a big fan of routine … at night.  Her little personality started to shine and she has proven very adjustable to changes in her daytime routine.  Nights? Not so much.  And the more her daytime routine changes, the more her night time routine needs to stay the same.  The story behind that is probably another post in and of itself!  One of our big successes at this stage was coming up with a fantastic hiking procedure for the summer/fall.  Through a bit of trial and error we came up with a system that worked well for us.  Here is a bit more detail on what we did and how it worked out:

Activities

Hiking

I’m going to start with what was our biggest “win”, getting out hiking! After a long winter and spring, I was more than ready to be outside and see some mountains.  It took several trips to work out a system so here’s ours:

  • Choose your trail the night before. We found that E was happy about sitting in her carrier for 2-2.5 hours during a hike so for us, that translated into a hike that was 4-8km long with up to 300 m of elevation gain.
  • Schedule in “wiggle” time.  E started to get very wiggly after sitting for too long and needed time to stand or sit on her own and play with toys.  When picking a hike, we found it helpful to choose hikes near Bragg Creek, Canmore or Banff so we could end our hike with a trip to a kid friendly restaurant for food and play time before the drive home.
  • Pack the night before.  Morning is a rush of breakfast and getting dressed making it easy to forget something essential (been there done that!)  Get everything ready the night before and put as much as possible into the car to make things go smoothly.
  • Pack all the baby items in your baby backpack and items you are less likely to need in a second pack.  One parent carries the baby, the other carries the second pack and is able to grab baby items out of the backpack carrier for baby as needed.
  • If possible, try to time your drives with morning and afternoon naps. It’s not essential but it sure makes the day less stressful when baby snoozes peacefully and you can enjoy chatting and a coffee during the drive :)  On days where we missed the nap window, snacks and fun toys along with mom in the backseat helped keep everyone happy.

In addition to a regular diaper bag (see below), here are some extra items we add in for baby when going hiking:

  • Picnic blanket for baby to play on.  We’d choose a small fleece one that could be used to keep baby warm if necessary.
  • Tylenol.  Teething baby + middle of the woods is enough to make you pack this every time.
  • Baby lunch & accessories: sippy cup, fruit pooch, snacks, bib (keep all in a ziplock bag)
  • Car entertainment: snacks/fruit pooch (in addition to what you brought for lunch), variety of toys

Here are some hikes we enjoyed at this stage:

  • Ptarmigan Cirque (Highwood Pass)
  • Elbow Lake (Highwood Pass)
  • Sundance Canyon (Banff)
  • Sunshine Meadows (Banff)
  • Fullerton Loop (Kananaskis – Hwy 66)
  • Riverview Trail (Kananaskis – Paddy’s Flat)
  • Ford Knoll (Kananaskis – Hwy 66)
  • Agnes Tea House (Lake Louise)
Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Running

Over the summer I continued running sporadically and once September hit, I decided to schedule a weekly run with a friend.  Having a set running date helped me find some motivation and added to the difficulty of our (short) runs as we were not only running and pushing babies, but also chatting!  I found choosing a route with an option to cut things short was helpful in case of a meltdown mid-run.  Also, I noticed that I needed a different layering strategy for E when she was in the Chariot (see below!).  By the time E reached 9 months I saw a big improvement in my fitness level.

Climbing

After a summer hiatus from climbing indoors (because who wants to do that when it’s nice out?!), I returned in the fall to my weekly indoor climbing date.  Despite taking the summer off, I felt like I was climbing much stronger than before and even felt up to leading a few easy 5.7 & 5.8’s.

Walks

The biggest change to my weekday walks were that I was stopped using strollers and started almost exclusively using my Deuter kid carrier backpack.  I found it was less hassle to get in and out of the car, E loved it, and it made me feel like I was getting a workout in the process.

The biggest problem with walks was beating the heat in the summer.  I’d try to do any walks around 9 or 10am (and in treed locations) and if it was too hot by then, we’d usually skip it for the day.

Out of town trips/Camping

We did two trips, one to Penticton and one to visit family.  The first trip to visit family was … challenging.  In retrospect, travel + teething + starting solids was a poor combination for us and led to little sleep all around.  Many baby milestones are hard to predict but in the future, for those I can anticipate, I’ll avoid travelling around them.  Our second trip was much more successful. We drove ~8hrs to Penticton and stayed in a rental house.  A few things that made this trip easier:

  • For the car ride: snacks & toys.  For both of these, there is no such thing as too many! We packed several old toys and bought a few new ones so we could switch toys frequently as E got bored.  Having someone sit in the backseat to feed snacks also helped.
  • Leave early.  We decided to leave around 4am and have baby finish sleeping in the car.
  • If the baby is happy, don’t stop driving.  We tried as best we could to make sure we had enough food & gas so that if E was sleeping or happily playing, the car kept moving.
  • Bring familiar items.  We packed crib sheets, toys, feeding items and blankets from home which (I hope!) helped the trip go smoothly.
  • Stick to your regular routine.  We tried as best we could to do things as we did at home.  There was also a time change and as it wasn’t too big, we found it easiest to let baby wake & sleep when she wanted to instead of going with the new time zone.

Just being outside

As E has gotten older, I’ve become more appreciative of days spent at home where I don’t have to load anyone up in the car.  On days where we stay at home, I try to plan a few activities to do before naps to pass the time and get outside (both of which are necessary!)  The great thing about babies this age is that they don’t need much to be entertained; a patch of dandelions, a pile of leaves, a container of rice with toys hidden inside, walking with mom around the yard or down the street to the park, playing in pea gravel, etc.  Even a quick walk to the park to go on the infant swings can take a good part of the afternoon.

Scoping out the route!

Scoping out the route!

Gear

Carrier

Once baby was over 6 months, I found it difficult to carry her in the Boba for prolonged periods of time as it hurt my back.  I mostly wound up using the Boba for in town trips and short walks.

Backpack

Once E was around 6.5 months, we discovered she could fit in our Deuter Kid Comfort II (she was just below the 50th percentile for height & weight).  Since then, this has been our transportation method of choice for longer (outdoor) walks.  I could go on about how much I love this backpack but suffice to say it’s relatively light, adjusts easily between carriers, and has a lot of storage room.

For keeping baby comfortable in the backpack, here’s what I used:

  • In warm weather, I’d try to dress her in the clothes that would keep her the coolest while also covering her up.  For any uncovered skin I’d use ThinkBaby sunscreen.
  • For cooler weather down to ~6-8C, I’d put her in a warm fleece sweater and her Stonz booties.  We bought the booties in M so they came up to her knees cinched up.  I’d also recommend knitted legwarmers as you can easily put them on and take them off without removing baby from the backpack.
  • For temperatures closer to freezing (~0-5C) I’d put her in a MEC Cocoon Bunting with her Stonz booties, mitt cuffs flipped over and a hat.
Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Chariot

I used the Chariot mostly for running and the occasional walk.  I tried using the BOB for running but found that I preferred the Chariot (we have a CX1).  One of the interesting things with the Chariot is that because you can completely enclose the baby, the interior is it’s own micro-climate which can differ quite a bit from the outside air temperature.  I did a fair bit of overdressing of baby before I got the hang of things.

  • In warm weather, I’d dress her in a onesie and fully lower the sunshade.  I’d also unzip the plastic side panels completely to allow a breeze.  One downside is that there is less sun protection on the sides with the plastic unzipped so I’d bring sunglasses for baby and a thin summer swaddling blanket to drape over the side to shade her face if necessary.
  • Down to 0C, I’d dress baby in a fleece jacket, her Stonz booties and I’d add a warm blanket (thick fleece or down).  I never found it necessary to dress baby up any more than that since the tinted side shades and sun cover create a bit of a greenhouse effect and warm up the inside.  In fact, on several occasions I had to remove the blanket, booties and sweater and/or unzip the side panels to cool things down inside.  It’s much easier to cool baby down this way than to have to take them out of the Chariot and remove a snowsuit.

Gear for baby

During this time period, some gear I found particularly helpful include:

    • Sunday Afternoons Playhat – the brim & neck cover are some of the best I’ve seen!  I ordered mine from Mountain Baby.
    • ThinkBaby sunscreen (available from MEC, Mountain Baby or Westcoast Kids)
    • Julbo baby sunglasses (available from some optometrists)
    • Baby leggings to wear over pants
    • Fleece sweaters – easy to clean and stay warm even when damp
Sunday Afternoons Playhat  being used while exploring the grass. You can see it cinches to make a tight fit.

Sunday Afternoons Playhat. You can see it cinches to make a tight fit.

Gear for you

A summer trick I used was to wear a light infinity scarf when carrying E in the Boba.  It gave me the option of  covering her legs and/or arms to keep off the sun or protect from a breeze while on the go!

Diaper Bag

To make sure I was prepared for any change in weather, I’d add a stuff sack with the following items to the regular contents of my bag.

  • Summer: sunglasses, cheap cotton sunhat, sunscreen, linen swaddling blanket, sweater
  • Fall: wool socks, leggings and a hat

 

If anyone has any other tips for this age (or time of year) I’d love to hear! Especially welcome are tips for being outside with baby when it’s scorching hot.  It doesn’t happen very often in Calgary so I often waved the white flag and retreated to my basement on hot days!