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the Baby Transport post

This one has been a long time coming. Several people have asked me for advice on baby carriers, strollers, and general transportation gear for the youngin’s. So here it is. This is the arsenal of stuff we own and how we have used it. I am amazed at as we have gone along in child-rearing, there has been an continued realization of our needs amidst constant change, and hence we have adapted and refined the equipment we have. Stuff is just stuff, for us it is more about how the efficiency and use of this stuff impacts our day-to-day life. We also have realized it has taken a lot of intrinsic evaluation of how we live, how we want to live, and which select products allow and enhance those goals. Transportation has been a very key category with many many constraints that have affected our decisions. It is very important to us to be able to easily get kids out and about. We almost never use the car, so I am always on foot or riding the bus. That in itself has added huge parameters to what we buy, it must meet a decent list of requirements before we decide to buy it. We are also minimalists, so the less ‘stuff’ we have, the less we have to carry, the better. It must make life easier as well as be highly functional and look good (I know, I am such a design snob). So here is a list of the stuff we have owned and used:

#1) Moby Wrap
This was the first carrier I was introduced to. A friend in college’s sister (she’s below, with her daughter Scarlett, who is about 4 now) knows the people behind Moby Wrap and she sold me on it when I was pregnant with Araiya. This has been the best purchase we made when Araiya was an infant. I still think it is the most comfortable and secure carrier for little bitty babies and has remained versatile enough as Araiya has grown into a toddler. There are so many different way to tie it and carry the baby, it just keeps adapting. We now own two so each of us can carry a kid when we go out. The one downside I have found as the kids get older that I like the back carry (a lot), but have a hard time getting the kid on and tied securely feeling enough when I try to put it on by myself. It is way better when I have Matt to help. I always tell people this is a must buy.

Oddly, me and several professors and professor’s wives were pregnant at the same time, and one really tried to sell me on the Baby Bjorn, which she absolutely swore by. I tried it with her Newborn when I was just under 30 weeks pregnant, didn’t like the fit and blamed it on my rapidly expanding waistline. I got a chance to try another one when Araiya was about 3 months old and found that I would never even consider one. All the buckles and contraptions to get the thing on and baby in were far more of a pain than figuring out how to tie the Moby, and I had to fidget with it each time. Also all the weight of baby hangs off the shoulders, which was quite painful even on a 20 minute walk. With the Moby, the fabric really distributes the baby weight nicely around your shoulders, back and hips. The Moby is just so snuggly with your little one. So I am really not a huge fan of the Bjorn at all.

#2) Sidecar Sling / New Native
We found a New Native at a consignment shop for $10 before Araiya was born, so bought it to have as an addition to the Moby. Later we left it somewhere and with Tallis a friend lent us their Sidecar for a while. These simple slings are really nice to stuff in a diaper bag and have just in case. They are minimal and easy to use. I really like the Sidecar because I think they have the best color choices and it has a built-in pocket for keys, wallet, etc. for quick trips into the store. I found before the girls were sitting up I didn’t like how they always seemed so slouchy in the sling-style carriers. Tallis liked it more than Araiya, but that was simply because Araiya really liked to be looking around. I can still hold Araiya on my hip if we are out somewhere and she wants to be carried. The weight is on one shoulder, so I found my back would get kinked and sore from being pulled to one side and I always felt I needed to have one hand under the sling for support. Still, really nice to have as a backup.

#3) Backpack-style Carriers
These I have used two kinds, an Ergo and a bECO. I have to talk about them both separately, as they have pretty distinct differences. In general, the backpack-style we have used just in the last 2 months. I wanted one to solve the problem of not being able to tie the Moby on in the back carry. Mostly when we go out for a long distance or ride the bus, I have Araiya in the Stroller and Tallis on me. I really wanted this style because they are easier to get on and off, as my kids are at an age where they just don’t chill in any one spot for long. As well, I didn’t want to loose the ability to still carry either of the kids and be able to get them in and out quickly (in case of freak-outs, melt-downs and the like).

First I got to borrow and Ergo for about a month and a half. I used it mostly with Tallis, though there were several trips where Araiya ended up on my back. This is very versatile and easy to use, quick to get on and off, and worked well with both kids. Having them on my back was secure and the weight stays on the hips, which was really comfortable even with Araiya, who is over 30 lbs now. It was easier to carry Araiya longer than having her on my shoulders or in the Moby- simply because she is squirmy- this kept her really secure. Tallis loves it too, she just lounges on my back and enjoys the ride. The downsides to the Ergo were some of the smaller functionality details. I didn’t like the hood hanging off and never took much time to adjust it or put it away. When Tallis did fall asleep, I found it really hard to put the hood on and the snap system was kind of silly, Matt had a hard time figuring it out because I couldn’t do it on my own with a sleeping kid on my back. Moreso, the kids are big enough now that their heads are higher than the back support of the carrier, so the hood was really needed unless I would hold their little bobble head still against my chest (impossible when they were on my back). My kids are also really slender in the hips and petite. I thought that when sitting in the carrier often it seemed their legs were splayed out pretty far. It is nice that all their weight is resting on their hips in the carrier rather than their crotch, but it still looked like Tallis was doing the splits. I wish the seat was slightly narrower. Also the chest strap wrapped all the way around the shoulder pads and was hard to slide up and down. I wish it was more like a backpack, where the chest strap slides on a center nylon webbing. It would pinch the straps and rub oddly against my collar bone, kind of annoying. Plus, I really didn’t dig the color combos of the Ergo (there comes the design snob in me).

So based on the design differences I found between the Ergo and the bECO baby carriers (shown above), we purchased a bECO Butterfly this month. I have to say the small details make a huge difference. First, the bECO is a narrower carrier. It also has a built-in seat for infants, so they don’t slip around inside the carrier. The whole kid seat is completely different, they actually sit in a pocket and you can take the whole carrier off to hand it to another person or flip it around to your back and baby stays in. I think there is a lot more thought taken to adjustments and security than the Ergo. The top of the carrier arches upwards, supporting the head far better than the Ergo did, I really like that. I ordered mine from Tender Cargo and she has a blog with many many good resources and images of exactly how the Butterfly works, much better than I can explain here. This carrier was voluntarily recalled in February, but all the stock they are currently selling has been updated with super-secure shoulder buckles that I think really show how well thought out and enhanced the superior design of the bECO’s are. Plus, they hands down are the best looking carriers out there and are still a small production in SoCal. They release a handful of fabric patterns about once a month, so I had to wait for a while to get my all Black one (yup, all black, even when they have such cool fabric choices).

#4) Deuter KangaKid Day Pack
We bought this one right around when we had Tallis. We have an older style of the one below (the outside back pockets are different) that we picked up at the REI outlet for under $50. Total steal, this is a great pack. We got it so we could hike with 2 kids, but I find I use it a lot when we take the bus to a park or something and I don’t want to carry a diaper bag. The coolest thing is when the kid gets out, the bag zips up and looks just like a normal backpack. Several times I have unzipped it and people are like, ‘whoa! that’s a kid carrier?!’ This is the one that the most people ask me about. It is really comfortable for me when I carry Tallis (it even still fits for Araiya) for a long time (like hiking or showshoeing). The one drawback is that when they fall asleep, their cheek rests right on the open zipper, leaving zipper marks on their face. We have put a rolled up blankie or shirt to cushion their heads as a solution, but I know you can buy backpack head supports, which is probably a good idea with this pack.

#5 MacPac Possum
Before we had Araiya, we knew we wanted a big child carrier backpack. We love to hike and backpack and don’t want to give that up and want to instill a passion for outdoor sports in our kids from a young age. We bought a Sherpani Rumba carrier first, it was the one on the market at the time that had the most storage and was a reasonable weight. We used it a lot in Araiya’s first year, it is a really great pack. But I always had a hard time carrying it due to it’s bulk and I found it to be almost too heavy if we carried anything other than the kid. When we backpacked, I would carry Araiya and all the really light stuff and Matt would get stuffed with the tent, cooking stuff and water in his 4500 cubic inch pack and I swear he had maybe 8 lbs more than me. So then we found MacPac, a company out of New Zealand and instantly sold the Sherpani on Craigslist to buy one. Easily the lightest and most comfortable and largest capacity child carrier out there. This thing really rocks. So much that I really don’t even have a downside to it. The kid area is so much more comfortable and easy to adjust and the pack is amazingly comfortable to wear. I even can now carry Araiya in this pack for 3-ish mile day hikes without much of a problem. We have used it a ton snowshoeing and skiing this winter, Tallis will just hang out in her little pink puffy suit for hours watching her sister and mom or dad ski. I really recommend this pack, just about as much as I recommend the Moby Wrap.

#6) Strollers
This one needs a bit of a preface. When we were pregnant with Araiya, we were convinced we wanted a jogging stroller. We knew we would mostly carry her in the Moby (and we did) but also wanted a way to keep exercising and stay active (mostly for me). So we bought a Jogging Stroller, a BOB to be exact. Really a great stroller, true to it’s name – Beast of Burden. The guy who designed them is the ex-husband of one of our Architecture professors, kind of ironic. I really did love the BOB, but I really only used it for Jogging. Then when I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Tallis, it got just too darn hard to walk 5 blocks with Araiya in the Moby and 20+ lbs of groceries in a shoulder bag. We realized we needed to change and get something that was a bit easier to navigate in a small grocery store than our jogging stroller. So that got sold on Craigslist and we bought a used Bugaboo Frog off Craigslist (both strollers were black, catching on to a theme here?)

The Bugaboo’s are the Mercedes of strollers. Really, far superior to anything else we tried. The best part is the switch-rich design and componentry system of this ultimate urban stroller. I needed something lightweight, super easy to maneuver and wanted a quality product to last. I also liked the idea of using the wheeled board as Araiya got older as I didn’t want to have a huge double stroller. I always planned on carrying one kid, so see no reason to get a double. The Frog is really an awesome transportation tool.
But again we decided to adapt. We moved from the Loft, which was at the most 6 blocks to everything, to the g.415 house which is about 10 blocks south of the Loft- just a bit out of reasonable daily walking distance with two kids. There is plenty in our neighborhood- parks, coffee shops, friends. But we are just a little further from groceries, libraries and other places we visit regularly. We are still in the urban core of the city, a mere 15 blocks from the true Downtown. I find now I take the bus a lot more. We are right on a handful of main routes that make it really easy to get out a bit farther- Daddy’s other office, the Sculpture Park, the Pacific Science Center, Central Library. And with two kids, it is really nice to have a stroller, since Araiya, though she is a good walker, often times can go longer and further being pushed. The Frog is a suh-weet plush design, but it comes apart in two pieces and just wasn’t conducive to jumping on and off the bus. So when Bugaboo came out with the Bee, we started considering moving to that model (we got a black one and sold the Frog on you-know-where).

Where the Frog is Urban Plush, the Bee is Urban Efficient. Here is Bugaboo’s promotional choreographed dance video of the Bee, fun to watch. I really value the quick-fold, the light-weight, the smaller chassis. It is still a super-dooper stroller, but a little bit rougher ride (doesn’t have the inflated tires) and isn’t as easy to switch around from forward facing to rear facing (the seat has to come off). It is really easy to bring on the bus- one handed collapse, one hand carry, and one hand to hold Araiya’s. Plus it is small enough to shove out of the way under the bus seat. One great feature that has been designed in is when the bee is folded, I can drag it on it’s front wheels like a rolling suitcase, making the bus thing even easier. It is narrower as well, so navigating crowds and small spaces is easy. And I know you really aren’t supposed to do this, but often Araiya will ride on the foot rest in front of Tallis if we have a few blocks to go and she gets tired. I just wish Bugaboo would come out with a Wheeled Board to attach to the Bee.

On a side note: Some thing we have NEVER had (and likely never will):
A baby bucket. I mean, infant car seat that removes from the base. First, we just don’t use the car enough, the car seat should stay in there. Second, I never really understood why anyone would want to haul around a plastic bucket that is 4 times larger and twice as heavy than the cargo being carried. I know for many people, this is the baby’s first mode of transport, but we just found the idea to be rather ridiculous.

The plan with Three kid-o’s is that Araiya at Three will be walking all the more. Right now we walk once a week to a Bible Study and Playgroup that is about 8 blocks away and she walks all the way there in the morning then rides in the stroller on the way back. I think that is pretty good for 2 1/2. That distance will remain about the farthest we go on a daily outing, so new baby will be in the Moby or bECO, Tallis in the Bee, and Araiya walking. Three obviously makes things harder and adds new constraints, as did going from One to Two. I think we will continue to adapt as our needs change and I am always curious to see what else is coming out on the market. There is continuing to be such a wealth of new incredibly well designed products that really focus on meeting the needs and desires of (particularly) urban parents that are also good looking and very good quality. I have found I use every one of these items very regularly, regularly means an average of at least once a week. Some, like the Moby or bECO or Bee, nearly every single day. Granted, this is what has and continues to work for us, hopefully someone can glean from our experience in making their own decisions as they embark into life with offspring.

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