The birth of a new baby means there is going to be a lot of changes in your life. Sleepless nights, dirty diapers, toothless grins, trips to the doctor, not being able to go out when you want...wait a minute. Oh no! I'll never be able to hike or camp again!
Although you will be locked up in your house for the first few months of your young ones life, the birth of a new baby is not a death sentence for going into the great outdoors, it just makes things a little more complicated.
Most doctors would advise you not to take any infant under the age of six months on an extended camping trip, and we would have to agree. An infant's immune system is not fully developed and a small cold can quickly rage out of control. That doesn't mean you can't go out for a nice day hike if the weather is right.
Infants under six months and those who cannot sit up shouldn't be placed in a child carrier backpack. A baby who can't sit up yet and is forced into this position will get a very sore back (and can result in other medical problems) and they will be very quick to let you know that they are uncomfortable. A sling can be most comforting to a new baby, reminding them of the confines of the womb and offering plenty of shelter and warmth. A baby harness that carries your baby on your front is also good for infants under six months of age and provides more comfort to the parent.
Once your baby is sitting up on their own they are ready for a child carrier. These carriers come in dozens of styles from a wide variety of manufacturers. Prices range from as little as $50 to well over $250 if you get a serious pack. When selecting your pack you should try to get as much child carrier as you can afford. Generally speaking the more features the more comfortable both you and your baby will be. Research careful to make sure the pack you are considering hasn't been subject to a safety recall. If the pack you plan to purchase has been recalled make sure the one you're taking home is defect free.
Because most child carriers usually has a supportive frame that acts as a kick stand when you are putting on and taking off you're pack, most are external frame. Try to find a pack with an adjustable suspension. Cobra cut shoulder belts, a wide hip belt and sternum strap will all aid in improving your comfort. Size your child carrier's suspension as you would any other external frame pack.
When considering features for your child look for a pack that has a variety of adjustments that will allow you to get years of use from your child carrier. Carriers that allow you to adjust how high your child sits, how snug the shoulder harness is, and how snug they are held in place will help your baby be comfortable and happy. Try to find a pack where the adjustments can be made easily, but not so easily that a wiggling baby or curious toddler can loosen things up.
Some packs come with other features to aid in your baby's comfort. Screens to keep insects off, sun shields, and rain covers will help keep your infant comfortable. A removable diaper bag can store bottles, diapers, changing pad and other assorted baby survival gear. You can usually find plenty of places to hook on a few toys to keep your child's mind occupied as you move down the trail.
Make sure you fit your child to your pack before you hit the trail. You're better off spending some time in the backyard or walking up and down the street making sure you child is comfortable than dealing with a distressed infant in the woods. Have your spouse or a friend observe your child as you walk. Make sure their head isn't swinging back and forth where they could hit themselves on the top of the pack or on the back of your head. Never assume the suspension that fit your child last month will fit this month. Constant adjustments will have to be made as your child continues to grow.
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