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Lugging Littlies: Front pack, baby backpack, stroller or sling?
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All About Slings
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Lugging Littlies: Front pack, baby backpack, stroller or sling?

Child in a stroller, Rio de Janeiro


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

When my youngest sister, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, looked at herself in the mirror, front pack on, she did more than say 'This is not for me.' She took it off, immediately. My middle sister, on the other hand, never pushed a pram. She donned a front pack and, once her son was able to hold his head upright, a baby backpack until he was too heavy to carry. I never left the house without both. Alternating the stroller with the child carrier significantly extended the length of time my daughter was content touring.

Front pack, baby backpack, stroller or sling, which is best for travel with young kids? While your parenting style will largely influence your choice there are three things to consider when selecting this important piece of family travel gear: convenience, comfort and look.

The benefits of infant and kid carriers go beyond hands free. It is easier to interact with and engage a child in a sling, front or backpack than an infant or toddler riding low in a stroller. They offer an improved view: a smiling face is much more interesting to a young child than feet and legs. Front packs and slings facilitate breastfeeding yet ensure the doings are discrete. And while infant and child carriers shouldn't be used when practicing high-speed sports or activities that require balance they make it possible to explore places that are difficult to navigate with four wheels such as a rocky beach, car-studded sidewalk and STAIRS.

Strollers provide a child with greater freedom of movement. They can sit up and hold on or lay back with their feet up. Children tend to nap longer in a stroller than a baby backpack. And in the event they should fall asleep, you don't need to keep moving. Removing a sleeping child from a kid carrier, more often than not, means the end of a nap. What's more, strollers can be used as a child seat at restaurants without and convertible strollers can double as a car seat.

Baby carriers can be worn in the front, back or on the side and your child's weight can be equally balanced over both shoulders or on a single side. Carefully consider your usage and level of activity before you make a purchase; not all models are made for long hours of wear. Make sure the child carrier fits both parents. Whatever solution you choose make sure it is appropriate for the age and weight of your child and it is comfortable for them. No how matter how enthusiastic you may be about your new piece of travel gear, if it is uncomfortable you won't be using it long.

Pushing a stroller is unlikely to leave you feeling disheveled the way a child carrier can, especially a baby backpack. With a stroller you are less likely to be wearing whatever it is that your child is eating or worse has just spit up. Pushing a stroller is unlikely to leave you with wrinkled cloths. And from the stroller your child can't reach the back of your head and twirl what little hair you have left into a tight ball.

If you plan on using your child carrier for more than one day be sure it is wash and wear. Wearing a dirty or spotted sling, front or backpack for days on end will ensure you feel anything but dressed smart. And before you head to the checkout with your best friend's favorite child carrier in hand, take a look at yourself in the store mirror and ask yourself honestly, 'Can I wear this?'

Whatever solution you choose, try it out before you depart on your first trip with the kids. Borrow a front pack, backpack or sling from a family member or friend and wear it out around town for the weekend. Carry the stroller (empty) up and down the stairs in your own home before you attempt to navigate the set of steps of the underground. What is good for the goose may not be ideal for the gander.

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