Choosing a Baby Carrier
By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care and The No-Cry Sleep Solution
Front pack carriers are similar to slings in use but are more complex in their structure. They have a seat that attaches to the front of you with straps that crisscross behind you; these straps secure the carrier to your body. Here's what you need to know about front packs:
The benefits of front packs are similar to many of those of slings, such as their light weight and portability, and the fact that you can carry your baby while keeping your arms and hands free.
Some allow you to choose between carrying your baby facing inward toward you or outward, facing the world - which is often fun for older babies.
Settling the baby into and out of the carrier require more steps than a sling does.
Moving a sleeping baby into or out of the carrier is difficult, unless the seat unbuckles separately from the harness.
Front packs are better suited to a baby who is strong enough to hold his head upright.
A back carrier is similar to a camping backpack. It has a seat for your baby that attaches to your back with a frame and straps that cross over your shoulders. A few things to know about backpacks:
They're perfect for an older baby who loves to look around and be carried high on your shoulders.
Many backpacks have pouches for holding supplies.
Some models have a canopy for inclement weather or sun protection.
Getting a backpack off (and putting it on) are typically two-person tasks.
Backpacks are best for an older baby who can sit up well.
They're great for an all-day trip, such as hiking, shopping or visiting an amusement park.
How do you decide which carrier to use?
No single baby carrier is perfect for all parents. Every parent has different needs, preferences and proportions. Many people actually begin with one type of carrier and move on to another when their babies get older.
First, think about how you plan to use a carrier. Will you use it primarily at home, instead of a stroller while away from home, or both? Do you already have a stroller, or must your carrier fill all your baby-carrying needs? Defining its purpose will help you choose which carrier is best for you. Read the package information (or talk to other parents who own a similar carrier) to learn which purposes it serves best and to determine if it matches your needs.
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This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)