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Baby Gear Obsessions: Transportation

This is the first post in a series about baby gear I’m lusting after. I haven’t purchased/used all of these products so these posts are not reviews but rather an overview of research I’ve done. I’m planning on three posts that I’ll publish over the next month or so. Transportation is first (obviously, because that’s what you’re reading right now), then Eating, then Home. Eating will cover stuff like breast pumps, bottles, support pillows and high chairs (which I know we won’t need for awhile but hey, might as well cover it while I’m thinking about it). Home will include our top crib choices, changing table, diaper stuff, bouncy seats, and play accessories like mats.  See, there’s a whole bunch of stuff! And I think I’m pretty minimalist!

Transportation includes a car seat, wraps/carriers, diaper bags and bike accessories (but no strollers as I’m quickly moving toward the anti movement).

Car Seats

Here’s what I think is important in a car seat:

  • Safety, of course. A good side-impact rating is a must, since we drive a minivan.
  • Snap-in style so we can leave a base in the car and take the seat out (although I don’t see us using it as a carrier very often).
  • Doesn’t need to be convertible because we’ll probably want another seat in a year or two anyway.
  • Preferably an ergonomic handle if we have to carry it around.
  • Of course, aesthetics do play a role. In other words, it must be a least a little bit cute!

This is what I’ve chosen for pick #1:

The Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seat in Cowmooflage

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  • First, this car seat is top-rated for side impacts. It also has this anti-rebound bar which apparently “stabilizes [the] seat by minimizing rotational forces associated with front and rear collisions.” (Description from Amazon.)
  • It snaps in to a base (the anti-rebound bar stays with the base) so we can take it out and into the house at night.
  • So far the reviews have claimed that it is easy to carry from a ergonomic standpoint. They also say it is a bit heavy, though. I’m okay with this since I don’t see us using it as a carrier too much, not with all the great options below!
  • Um, how adorable is the cowmooflage print?!
  • Aside from the weight, the only other con I’ve read is that the whole thing takes up a lot of room. This also doesn’t both me because we have a large minivan. I imagine that the seat which holds the carrier will need to be on a side of the van that is used for baby only – no crawling into the back seat from that side.

Car seat pick #2 is… okay, not chosen. Mostly because I’m really in love with the Britax! Moving on…

Baby Carriers/Wraps

Wow, there are SO many carriers out there now – way more than nine years ago. All we really had back then was the Baby Bjorn and DIY options. Now there’s so much more – carrier style, wrap style, sling style, soft structure, framed structure, mei tai, ring sling, the list goes on and on!

The important traits of each carrier varies a bit by style, but mainly they have to be:

  • Safe
  • Comfortable (duh)
  • Easy
  • Versatile (newborn to toddler, multiple wearing options, fits both me and Mr. Handsome – and maybe even Kiddo1!)
  • Stylish
  • Extras (like pockets) are always nice!

Here are my top choices, one carrier style soft structure, one (or two) wrap style and one ring sling.

Ergo Baby Organic Baby Carrier

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  • It’s safe! Baby is right there in front of you. No worries! Plus the straps are secure, sewing quality is great, etc.
  • All the reviews are unwavering on the comfort factor, with reviewers testifying about multi-hour excursions with their Ergos without a back or shoulder problem to complain of (at least not related to the carrier!). This is a step up from the Bjorn. Plus I just want to snuggle the soft organic cotton!
  • It is comfortable for baby, too, as baby is supported in a natural seated position as recommended by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
  • It’s very easy – nothing to wrap just strap it on.
  • It will fit newborns down to 7 pounds (babies 7-12 pounds should use the Heart2Heart Infant Insert, sold separately) and toddlers up to 45 pounds! Plus you can wear it on your front, back or hip. The adjustable straps help it to fit all sizes.
  • It is definitely the more masculine-looking carrier of the three so it’s the one I see Mr. Handsome using most frequently. It comes in a range of colors but I’m partial to the black because it will go with my mostly black-based wardrobe and it’s more manly than the star or flower prints.
  • It has the nicely-sized pocket in the front which could probably carry a diaper, a couple wipes, and ID. All you need for a quick walk to the store or for an emergency when you’re separated from your diaper bag for some reason.

Moby Wrap or Boba Wrap

Okay I have two in the wrap style category. I’m having a really hard time deciding between the two. Let’s compare, shall we? They’re both great in the important traits I’ve chosen so not a lot to compare there, but I’ve added a few tangible differences that I noticed in my research:

PhotobucketMoby Wrap PhotobucketBoba Wrap
Safety No complaints Same as Moby
Comfort Even weight distribution (entire back and shoulders) Same as Moby
Ease Takes practice at first, then easy (but wrap before you leave the house) Same as Moby
Versatility 5-35 lbs, endless carrying options, can wrap to fit almost anyone Same as Moby
Style Endless print options Not quite as many prints/colors as the Moby (that I’ve seen)
Length 18 feet long 16.5 feet long
Width 23 inches wide 19 inches wide
Material 100% cotton, same look/feel on both sides 95% cotton 5% spandex, “right” and “wrong” side to the fabric
Weight lighter fabric, not as hot heavier fabric

Speaking of comparisons, the Eco-Friendly Family blog also has a fantastic list of nearly all the brand carriers and their characteristics.

Ring Sling

I haven’t made up my mind on this one at all, the field is as wide open as for the wrap-style carriers, but I’ve registered for…

Maya Wrap

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  • Good safety ratings
  • The one-shoulder design doesn’t look as comfortable as the two-shoulder options, but…
  • The ease of not having to wrap it may make up for that?
  • Fits babies up to 35 pounds, doesn’t seem like there are too many wearing options but the reviews state otherwise, the medium size fits people 5’2″ to 5’9″ so it probably wouldn’t fit Mr. Handsome.
  • Nice colors!
  • It has a pocket! Reviews state that the extra bit of fabric is also great for a nursing cover.

You might be able to tell, from my lack of enthusiasm with this one, that I’m not completely sold on the ring sling yet. I’m sure it has it’s place, though. I’ll keep thinking…

Diaper Bags

We don’t do fancy diaper bags. First off, Mr. Handsome does day duty while I work (he works in the evenings) so we don’t want some girly, fancy bag. I don’t want a bag covered in butterflies or ABCs or something, either, because I’m an adult, not a child. Therefore, we use one of the many backpacks we’ve accumulated in our lives.

PhotobucketMy preferred backpack is similar to the one pictured here: it is by Eddie Bauer (except ours is hunter green and doesn’t have the suede bottom) and I’ve had it for 13 years. It still looks brand new even though I’ve traveled internationally with it, used it all through college (it’s even pictured in the bike seat section below!), used it as a diaper bag for Kiddo1 and not treated it nearly as well as I should have.

It has all the things a diaper bag has and more:

  • Outside pockets to keep things like bottles, wipes, toys, pacifiers and other placidifiers at hand.
  • A big main pocket for lots of diapers, a blanket, change of clothes, snacks, etc.
  • TWO straps so you don’t have to wear it cross-body (which can conflict with the baby-wearing), you can stay hands-free and all that goodness.
  • Not “mommy” looking.
  • A use beyond the diaper phase.

I like to get a diaper changing pad to put in my bag, too, because changing diapers on those public fold-out things grosses me out a bit. I have two options in mind here:

Skip*Hop Pronto Changing Wallet

PhotobucketThere are lots of different kinds of these that basically do/are the same thing: they fold up to the size of a travel-size wipes container and unfold to a mat on which baby can be placed for a changing. We registered for this one because a) I think the print is cute and b) it’s the one Target had. Not a lot to it, really. The baby pictured here looks happy, right?

Another bit of awesomeness is that you don’t have to wipe down the public changing facility if baby, say, poops a little extra or gives you a “bonus pee” mid-change. Sure you still have to worry about the wallet surface but, if you’re in a hurry, just get going if needed (except for maybe mopping up the excess pee, because no one wants to carry around pee).

A tad more all-inclusive option is the Ergo Baby Changing Pad

PhotobucketThis one is cool because it’s like a mini-diaper bag. It has pockets for stuff like a wallet, keys, small toys, a spare diaper or two, etc. It probably won’t fit too many diapers or a blanket or change of clothes but it will work if you’re just running a quick errand or something. PLUS it hooks on to the Ergo carrier!

It still folds out to a changing surface but it is a bit bigger than the wallet.

I’d love both of these but if I had to pick one I’d probably go for the wallet simply because it’s smaller and will fit in the backpack. Once we don’t need as much stuff to be carried around (change of clothes, etc.) then I’d most likely go for the Ergo.

I’m not even going to get into the plethora of wet bags that are out there for the retreat of soiled cloth diapers back to the washing location. There are so many. Shoot, I’d probably use a ziplock baggie most of the time though – just wash it out and reuse it right? We’ll see how that works…

Bike Seat, Trailer

Mr. Handsome does a lot of biking during the day while I have the car at work (I have a long commute, public transit takes 90 minutes one way, there are lots of reasons why I drive the car). We like to bike in the evenings and on weekends as well, especially in the summer. We’re going to need some bike accessories to keep this up after Baby2 arrives.

It’s important to note that most bike accessories can not be used until baby is at least one year old and can sit completely on their own.

Here’s what is important in bike accessories:

  • Safety
  • Ease of use: it can’t be too hard to get Baby2 in and out of it
  • Convenience: taking it on or off the bike should be easy (in the case of a trailer; we probably won’t take the bike seat off very often)
  • Versatility: again, more of a trait for the trailer – can we put groceries in it if one of us runs to the store sans kids?

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppWe had a Wee Ride Kangaroo bike seat for Kiddo1 before he could ride, which I completely plan on getting again. They still make these (yay!) and you can get them from WeeRide.com or Amazon, of course.

Here’s Kiddo1 and I with the seat when he was a couple years old. We used it every day to get to preschool for him and college classes for me. People would actually come up to me in their cars and ask me about the seat – I think it was pretty new back then. Kiddo1 loved the seat because he had an unobstructed view to the world. We would sing together on our rides. That was good times!

Some great things about the seat:

  • It feels way safer than the seats that go behind you. For one, you can see your child while you’re riding so if something needs adjustments (say they wiggle an arm out of the safety straps or something) you can quickly stop and make them as opposed to turning around all the time to check on your child.
  • It’s super, super easy to get your child in and out of plus it’s easy to attach to the bike. There’s a single flat bar that attaches to the posts that hold your handlebars and seat. The bar is fully adjustable so it can fit any size bike. The baby seat attaches to the bar with a simple thumb screw so you could take the seat part on and off whenever, if you wanted to.
  • I never found the seat to be much use for anything other than carrying my child. (I tried to carry my backpack in it once and the straps got all tangled in my handlebars and I feel over. On campus. During the height of the mid-morning class rush. On one of the main malls. Em-bar-ass-ing.) I wouldn’t even call this a con, though (the fall was a con, for sure).
  • I actually can’t think of any cons about this seat. People on Amazon complained about the safety straps being difficult but I don’t recall having any issues with this. They also complain about not having a lot of room for their legs but, again, I found this not to be the case. To each his own I guess!
  • Children must be one year old and the weight limit is 40 pounds.

InStep Trailer

InStep makes a good line of bike trailers that are very cost effective. Trailers can get expensive quickly, but these are all priced under $200, some even under $100. We had one of these with Kiddo1 and it came in very handy for all sorts of things. We got rid of it (gave it to my parents) after he started riding his own bike decent distances, but we totally should have kept it for the grocery shopping/errands on a bike potential. This time we won’t make that mistake again!

Notable things about trailers:

  • Safe: baby/toddler is all strapped in back there and covered, just in case the straps wiggle loose. They can’t climb out either because of the aforementioned cover. They’re close enough to you that you can hear cries if they need help.
  • Pretty ease to load up the kiddo if I remember correctly. Ours also had a spring mechanism so you could take it off your bike quickly. The only con is that the main anchor stays on your bike and there’s usually only one so you can’t really transfer from bike to bike. I suppose you could look for another anchor piece if you needed though.
  • Trailers are super useful for carrying other stuff. Like I said, we used ours for the grocery store and my parents still use the one we gave them for that purpose even several years later. I’ve also seen dogs carried around in these things which I’m not sure is advisable. Basically any cargo can go in here, up to the weight limit (probably 100 pounds or so but don’t quote me on that).
  • Children must be one year old and the weight limit is probably 40 pounds like with the bike seat, but I’m not completely sure so again, don’t take my word for it.

Whew! There is a LOT of gear for transporting a baby! And that’s only one category – there’s still SO much gear to talk about!

Next post in this series: home gear!

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The Anti-Stroller Movement

Disclaimer: In this post, I bash stroller use. However, I do not mean to offend or discriminate against parents or caregivers who use strollers either out of choice or necessity. I completely understand that there are circumstances in which a stroller is needed. So, again, I mean no offense.

We used a stroller with Baby1, I’ll admit it. I’ve spoken of my youthful naiveté a few times, but back then I didn’t think/know there was any other way. However, this time around I’ve been questioning if we’ll purchase a stroller at all – it all started back in early February when I posted a pros/cons list comparing strollers to wraps/carriers. Since then, the weather has warmed here in the Pacific NW and the fam and I have been out and about a lot more. In our adventures, I have been noticing strollers more than normal – first to scope out brands people are using in case we did decide to get one but then I couldn’t help but notice peoples’ behaviors while using a stroller.

Behaviors during stroller use are interesting to watch. First, it doesn’t seem like people pay very much attention to their baby when he or she is in a stroller. There’s not a lot of interaction when the baby is facing away from the pusher and is a good couple feet away from the pusher, if not more. Baby can’t see you, you can’t see baby. You can’t see baby drop something, grab something, start to get uncomfortable, etc.

Second, people use their strollers to make a path for themselves, sometimes quite aggressively. I have been hit on the heels a few times and have witnessed what happens to other people who get in the way, too. People without strollers don’t really look for them because they are lower than eye level, so they usually get pushed if they don’t move out of the way fast enough. Pushers of strollers sometimes do it on purpose (the parents at the zoo are really bad at this) but most of the time they are too distracted to notice what they’re doing – distracted by other kids, getting stuff out of one of the many stroller compartments, simply looking around, etc.

Third, people seem to use their strollers as a child-carrying mechanism only about fifty percent of the time. The other times the stroller is loaded up with shopping bags, coats, you name it. Would all that stuff really need to be pushed around if you didn’t have something to push it around with? We usually stuff our coats in a locker when we go to the science center (even malls have lockers). We use a backpack as a diaper bag so we can be hands-free.

Apparently there’s this whole anti-stroller movement out there. The movement, I think, can be broken into two parts: businesses that have banned strollers and parents that refuse to use them.

PhotobucketSome business, usually in urban areas, have banned the use of strollers in their stores. This makes some parents quite upset. They equate the ban of strollers to the ban of children in general. Most of the time, I don’t feel like that is the case. I feel like the businesses are protecting their other customers from the inconveniences of others’ stroller use, such as being hit by a stroller and not being able to move freely throughout the store or restaurant because paths are blocked by strollers (this can be a fire hazard sometimes). You can’t fit as many people in a store because a stroller can easily take up the space of one or two (or more!) standing people. While banning strollers is certainly not a great PR move in the eyes of parents, to the childless (or the below group of anti-stroller parents) it is a welcome restriction.

An aquarium in Cleveland is considering a stroller ban – they’re taking a vote and, as of the article posted in January 2012, sixty-nine percent of votes are in favor of a ban. What bothers me about some of the comments following the article is that people compare strollers to wheelchairs; the two are no where near the same, and it is insulting to those in a wheelchair for that comparison to be made. The difference is clear: people in wheelchairs have no choice. Tangent over.

There is a whole movement amongst parents that is pretty anti-stroller. There was an article in the NY Times about how a new generation of parents are shunning the stroller in favor of baby-wearing. Granted, some of the time these parents are picking up on a trend and buying fancy carriers to fit in with their social groups. However, a lot of the time, I think parents recognize the convenience of not using a stroller.

I’m repeating a bit from my last post about strollers, but the benefits of baby-wearing over stroller use are fantastic:

  • You save space in your home, car and general environment when you’re out. For me, I felt very self-conscious when I pushed around a huge stroller that took up a lot of space, especially in a crowded area like a packed farmers’ market.
  • It’s a lot easier to care for your baby when he or she is strapped to your chest or hip. You don’t have to lean over the stroller to check on your child or constantly pick up toys that have been dropped or take away items that have been grabbed (and try to figure out where they came from). You can easily shade baby’s eyes from the sun or protect them from the rain or cold.
  • It’s a lot less expensive to get a couple good carriers or wraps rather than a big ol’ stroller. For example, the wraps I’m lusting after cost about $50 (except for the structured carrier that I want, which is just over $100 but it is useful for carrying up to 45 pounds). The stroller that I wanted up until I had this revelation was $500. The more budget-friendly option is one of those car seat carriers which start at about $60, but that’s like the gateway drug of strollers, right? Before you know if you’ve got a jogger (I don’t run), a travel system, an umbrella, etc, etc. I’d much rather be addicted to baby carriers – they take up a lot less space.
  • It’s easier to travel with a carrier or wrap. The airport people won’t take it from you at the gate, you can stuff it into your carry-on and you can navigate the airport with ease. I enjoy hassle-free traveling.

Clearly, I’ve started to join this anti-stroller movement. I find myself sneering at strollers sometimes which I know is not good and I need to check myself. I understand completely that stroller use is sometimes needed or even the only option that parents have. There are physical limitations that warrant the use of strollers: if I had a c-section I would probably use one for awhile, if I had back problems or a foot or leg injury I wouldn’t wear my baby as a safety precaution and out of general comfort. I’m sure there are other reasons for strollers so I will work on not judging others. But I wish stroller use was less common – I wish people would realize that it isn’t the only way to transport your child when you are a pedestrian!

Even my youthful self realized the benefits of not using a stroller back when Kiddo1 was about one year old. We had visited Chicago a few months before and brought our huge travel system with us. We only take public transit when we’re in the city and we always stay downtown. We took that giant stroller/car seat combo on the train with disastrous results. PhotobucketWe didn’t think to collapse the thing and the amount of space we took up was downright embarrassing. It was, by far, my worst personal experience with public transit. I could feel and see people glaring at us as they struggled to get by.

For our next trip to the city we bought a Baby Bjorn. It was amazing – such a difference in getting around the city, visiting tourist attractions, traveling through the airport, you name it. We didn’t take a stroller with us on that trip at all. We were gone for eight days and visited three cities and it was the best traveling we did with our baby. I’m glad I remember that trip now that I’ve thought more about our potential stroller use: I know that we can live that way in our day-to-day.

Luckily stroller use seems to be declining, to the good fortune of shoppers, travelers and zoo visitors everywhere. I hope that more able parents see the benefits of not using the stroller and come over to the “anti” movement as well!

Do We Really Need a Stroller?

The stroller is typically one of the most researched and important new-baby purchases that parents make. For good reason, it is expensive and gets used a lot. Or does it get used a lot? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that we might not need a stroller. At least for the first few months, I think we can get by with a baby sling or wrap to tote our bundle around (and a car seat when we have to drive, of course).

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Look at how much use these strollers are getting!

So what are strollers good for anyway? Will we use the stroller for these purposes?

  • Walks to the park – sure, but I’d rather use a sling/wrap, especially for the first few months.
  • Walks around the neighborhood – yes, but again, baby-wearing is cool with me.
  • Shopping at the grocery store – nope, with Baby1 we put the carseat in the cart (in the big basket part). Pushing around a stroller AND a cart doesn’t work. Using just the stroller doesn’t work either because the basket is too small and awkward to reach.

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    A stroller or a shopping cart?

  • Hanging at the mall – I don’t hang at the mall (and if I went to do some serious shopping, the stroller is too big for most of the stores I’d want to go in anyway).
  • Trips to the zoo – it bothers me when big strollers take up all the exhibit room. A wrap is better here.
  • Traveling via airplane/walking the airport – simply because lugging the carseat around sucks, this is the only place I could see the stroller winning out over the wrap. But we don’t plan on traveling with Baby2 for awhile so this one doesn’t carry much weight (haha, get it?).

See, I don’t think we’d really use it all that much. The most we’d use it for is walking to the park when we take Max (which is every day) but we’d have to push it in the grass, up hills and around dog poop; that could be more trouble than it’s worth. Just to be sure, though, I examined some pros and cons:

Pros of Stroller Cons of a Wrap Pros of a Wrap Cons of a Stroller
You can put your child and stuff in it and push it around Only room for baby You can wear a back pack too to even out the weight and carry your stuff The basket is only so big (but, then again, so is the back pack)
It isn’t as hard on your back when baby gets a bit too heavy for the wrap. Baby can get heavy There are good wraps that distribute the weight pretty well. Only light when you’re pushing it (not when loading in the car, getting on the bus, etc.)
?? ?? Completely hands-free It isn’t hands-free, you’ve got to use at least one hand at all times (even when stopped – you’ve got to be safe!)
?? ?? It doesn’t take up any room! It takes up a lot of room (in the aisles, on the bus, in the trunk, stored in the house, etc.)
It’s super cute! ?? Compared to a stroller, it’s cheap ($300-500 compared to $30-50). And you can get them in all sorts of colors! It’s expensive
?? ?? Baby is right there next to you! It’s easy to soothe baby if he/she gets fussy. Baby seems so far away from you and maybe a tad isolated too

I’m biased now, but I’m thinking the pros of a wrap and the cons of a stroller are really backing up my hypothesis here.

The good thing is, we still have several months to make this decision. I know we’ll end up getting a stroller at some point, but I’d much rather spend $20-30 on a little umbrella stroller when Baby2 is big enough rather than a having huge expensive stroller at birth that we’ll barely use.

Now on to research all the baby sling and wrap possibilities!