Roundtable- Baby Gear- Out-and-About

You have one primary decision to make about car-seats, do you want to start with an infant seat and have your baby graduate to a convertible later, or just skip the infant seat and go straight to the convertible seat?
Infant Seat
An infant seat is the kind you’ve seen people lugging around—it’s a car-seat (kinda bucket like) with a handle. Generally you snap it into a base that you have mounted in your car, and then you just remove the car-seat, baby and all when you’re ready to get out of the car. The BIG plus to this arrangement is that you don’t have to wake the baby up once you get to your destination—you just pop the car-seat out of the base and you’re off and there’s no wrangling a cranky baby required. The other great thing about infant seats is that they are compatible with various strollers (discussed below) so you don’t have to lug the seat around—you just snap it into your stroller and go. There are all manner of infant seats and they’re all about the same, unless you get a really cheap one which probably has less comfortable padding. We used the Graco snugride and were very happy with it. Make sure to look for one that has a seat cover that comes off and can be washed and try to pick one that feels comfortable carrying it—although truly once your baby is in it—it’s just going to feel heavy.
Convertible Seat
A convertible car seat is one that can go rear-facing (your child has to be rear-facing up to 1 year or 20 lbs, whichever is later) or forward-facing. A lot of babies don’t stay in the infant seat more than 3 months, so it can be a money-saver to skip the infant seat and just get a convertible seat. The big downfall to this is that as opposed to the infant seat, when you are ready to get out you have to get the baby out as well- asleep or not. Also even though most convertibles are supposed to accommodate newborns it’s unclear that a smallish baby would really fit in a convertible and a preemie would definitely not. If you are thinking about a convertible just let us know because there’s all kinds of details to consider (that primarily have to do with size of the seat and the space in your car) that I won’t get into at this point.
I’m planning to focus on strollers for singletons. Just keep in mind that if you have two stroller-age children it’s a whole ‘nother ball game.
Universal Frames
These are nothing more than a stroller frame that most infant seats fit into. When we bought ours there was the Kolkraft Universal and the Snap-n-go and they were pretty much interchangeable. I noticed now there’s one by Combi called the flash. They all have a basket underneath and some have a little tray or cupholders on the handles. You just need to make sure that the infant seat you like (or have) is compatible with the frame you choose and you’re set with a very light-weight but infant appropriate stroller while your child is in the infant seat. This is a great choice if a) your trunk is really small, b) you take public transport a lot or c) simple seems better to you. However, keep in mind that when your baby outgrows the infant seat you’ll have to buy another stroller. If people are planning on registering or buying a non-travel system stroller for when the baby outgrows the infant seat, let me know and we can talk about what to look for and consider.
Travel Systems
This is where you buy an infant seat and a stroller together in one package. The infant seat snaps on to the stroller so you get the benefit of being able to tote-around the infant seat on wheels, but when the baby outgrows the infant seat, they graduate to the stroller that came with the system. There are all different brands of travel systems and I’m generalizing, but travel system strollers tend to be medium to large-sized strollers that come with more bells and whistles including more extensive padding and a full-recline feature. If you tend to go on long-outings, have a larger vehicle with some decent trunk space, or are really set on having the seat on your child’s stroller fully recline this could be something to check out. As with all strollers, make sure that you can open and shut the stroller with one hand and that you can actually lift it into the trunk.
If you live in the city or near the city you’ve probably seen people using all manners of baby carriers. And in fact, there are so many different types of carriers that I’m starting with what I know and people can feel free to jump in with info on others or questions about ones they’ve seen. If your baby likes to be held a lot, a carrier can be a life saver because you can keep them close, and generally soothe them when all else fails, but still have some amount of freedom—at least with your hands.
Probably the most popular front-carrier is the Baby Bjorn. It’s designed only to be worn in front of you and holds the baby upright. When they’re itty bitty they face towards you and you have the neck support up so that they’re pretty much cocooned against the front of your body. As they get older and can hold their head-up you can face them forward and fold the neck-support flap down so they can see out as you walk around. The Baby Bjorn is nice because it goes on with back-pack like straps and leaves your hands completely free. The first time you try to read the instructions and put it on it will be confusing but if you try it a few times or have someone show you it’s easy to get the idea. We had one and JT loved it. Henry needed to be held literally all the time and the Baby Bjorn was a lifesaver. It never really worked for me though. With a short torso (I’m 5’2”) the straps could never get small enough and instead of supporting the weight on my hips (like a good backpack is supposed to do) all the weight of Henry hung right off my shoulders. It was doable at first but the heavier the baby gets the worse it feels. I just mention this because it might not be the most comfortable thing for other small women.
Again, with slings the sky’s the limit. If you search around on the internet for them, you’ll find some popular sling makers as well as tons and tons of women making their own slings. They generally come either as a sling that can be adjusted (often by using a ring mechanism) or as a sling that you have to buy sized exactly to you that can’t be adjusted. I owned an adjustable and non-adjustable one--a Kangaroo Korner and a New Native. You order the Kangaroo Korner sized to you but there is a series of snaps that allow you some flexibility in making the sling tighter or looser. I had a fleece one that I absolutely loved for the early spring when Henry was born. It was completely soft and stretchy so it was pretty easy to get Henry in and out of and hefell asleep every time I put him in it without fail. Alas, eventually the fleece started cooking the little dumpling so I bought a New Native sling.

This sling is not adjustable and had to be ordered after you’ve taken some extensive measurements. All slings work about the same—the baby lies at an angle against your body—usually all of them in the fabric when they’re newborn, and then can gradually sit a little more upright with head or arms out of the fabric as they get older. It’s possible the New Native carrier I had didn’t fit right, but it always seemed to ride too low and really pulled on my arms. This time I’m buying another Kangaroo Korner sling in cotton so that I can continue to use the sling with Silas once the weather has gotten warmer.

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