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Choosing the Right Baby Carrier

How You Carry Your Child Depends on Where You Live

Before we moved to Buffalo, NY, there was a time when we began telling people we were moving there. It led to all sorts of interesting/unwanted remarks, the most typical being "Why?" said with horror and a sad face. But one that has stuck with me was advice given to my husband, in which a father told him how one has to carry kids there. It included seasonal expertise: he said we absolutely needed a backpack carrier for snow days. For snow in general. We had a carrier, check, but the advice didn't mean much to me then. And yet, four years in, I think that guy was absolutely spot-on correct.

Carrying kids constitutes a very large part of mothering, and I have developed strong feelings about how one accomplishes this, as I imagine many parents have. There used to be a time when the Baby Björn was kind of it for carriers, as that word is used to mean any carrier, and there was maybe also a time when people didn't consult product reviews to buy a stroller. I do remember being pregnant and extremely overwhelmed by the stroller choices. Probably there's a word now for the stress-induced panic of creating a baby registry. Now there are books, blogs, and whole sites on Amazon devoted to baby product review.

I used my sister's original Baby Björn to carry my first in 2010 — the carrier was about 11 years old and made of navy padded cotton and ring-loop snaps. It was lovingly stained and saliva-covered, and it was the only thing that worked to easily soothe my baby. I just had to put it on and walk. Now Björns look much more like workout gear or tech objects and are designed in colors to make men more serious about wearing them. I also remember being mesmerized by women in Germany, long before I had kids, who slung their babies with a wide piece of fabric and a clip. It looked easy, light, and strange, because you barely saw the baby, just this bright swath of fabric across their stomach or back.

My sister and I were just talking about how carrying kids has even changed our body structure. We both have persistent hip ailments from running, but mostly from the strength imbalance created by carrying a kid on one side of your body. She and I both chose our left, but she used her left so that her right hand/arm was free to do things like open doors and cook and pick up bags, etc. I chose my left because I'm apparently so left-dominant I wasn't able to carry on my right, which means that I am constantly digging in my left pocket with my right hand to find my car keys while a kid sits on my left hip. I don't get any cooking or writing or phoning done while holding my kid. Luckily, I have learned to open doors with my right hand. I don't think my hip injury is going away anytime soon, though. As I've gotten older as a parent, I've also gotten lazier. I tend to simply lug the little one around rather than strap on a carrier or backpack. Or maybe my body has simply gotten used to carrying children.

Now that we have a garage, we have amassed a stroller collection of a jogger, two fold-ups, and one that the infant seat snapped into with a replaceable seat as the child grows. Two have three wheels, and two have four. That's four transports. We also have a Kelty frame backpack and a bike trailer, and I recently passed down the soft carriers such as the Ergo. In fact, I've started to feel like an old parent because I no longer recognize brands of carriers. I suspect we're not alone in our kid-transport collection, because this is America, but for about seven months of the year (OK, five), our strollers sit unused in the garage. Because snow. There is too much snow to easily push a stroller in Winter here. (I could write a cranky op-ed on the city's inability to clear sidewalks, but I'll spare you). If you want to walk with your tot in Winter, you basically have to carry them above ground. Hence, the backpack. Let me also add that many slings and carriers are not Winter-coat adaptable. Hence the backpack. I'm hoping my 2-year-old will be strong enough to boot it through snow next Winter, or at least help me shovel. But I'm prepared — this past Winter, I also bought a pull-sled for those fresh snow mornings when no one has gotten out to clear and the bus is coming.

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