THE BLOG

What to Look for in a Baby Carrier: Adventure!

02/04/2015 04:43 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015

The images are beautiful, but they’re also mildly disconcerting. A photographer mounted a GoPro camera in the stroller behind his son’s head so he could capture “A toddler’s view of New York City.” Such a cool idea! But the poor kid is often looking through the plastic cover of the stroller. He gets this blurry, diffuse view of the world.

The photographs got me thinking about a child’s experience from a stroller compared with a carrier, where baby is riding up high on your chest or your back. Baby carriers abound in Seattle, where I live, but I know this is an unusual place. My mom thought I was weird for using them (“I really liked my little umbrella stroller for you girls,” she made a point of informing me), and surely others do, too. But I’m incredibly grateful to have discovered them.

Baby has had so many little adventures because of the carriers.

So I wanted to share some photographs of my own. I’d like to call them “A baby’s view from a carrier,” but since I wasn’t thinking of that when the photos were taken, most of them are “A view of a baby in a carrier.” You’ll get the idea.

Checking out balcony views (Seattle)

Checking out balcony views (Seattle)

Seeing the painter, the painting and the subject (Kerry Park, Seattle)

Seeing the painter, the painting and the subject (Kerry Park, Seattle)

Cheering daddy before the start of his race; we couldn’t have gotten across the grassy hill with the stroller (Vancouver, BC)

Cheering daddy before the start of his race; we couldn’t have gotten across the grassy hill with the stroller (Vancouver, BC)

Getting up close to a big fountain (International Fountain in Seattle)

Getting up close to a big fountain (International Fountain in Seattle)

Going for a hike (Wallace Falls)

Going for a hike (Wallace Falls)

Wow, mama! Looking down at a river without worrying about falling over the rail (Wallace Falls)

Wow, mama! Looking down at a river without worrying about falling over the rail (Wallace Falls)

Hiking to mountain views (Mount Rainier National Park)

Hiking to mountain views (Mount Rainier National Park)

Sights and smells (and no cries for attention) while cooking at home

Sights and smells (and no cries for attention) while cooking at home

Looking up and seeing something more interesting than the stroller canopy

Looking up and seeing something more interesting than the stroller canopy

Napping with daddy in tight spaces (on a plane)

Napping with daddy in tight spaces (on a plane)

A good view of the Seahawks parade (Seattle)

A good view of the Seahawks parade (Seattle)

Going snowshoeing (Snoqualmie Pass)

Going snowshoeing (Snoqualmie Pass)

Snoozing on the train (Seattle to Portland)

Snoozing on the train (Seattle to Portland)

Picking blackberries after a walk (Discovery Park, Seattle)

Picking blackberries after a walk (Discovery Park, Seattle)

Lots of fond memories. In the process, here are a few things I discovered about the carrier compared with the stroller for both me and baby:

Getting around

Our family easily got to go places that a stroller could not: up stairs, along trails, through crowds. Our hands were free. Our outings felt just a little closer to outings we would have had prior to baby. I'm not sure we would have discovered this if we'd bought a stroller right away. As it happened, we owned only a carrier for baby's first six months, so we really integrated it into our daily lives.

Meeting new people

Out for a walk, people would stop to coo over our baby because she was up at eye level. This made it easier for me to meet new people, too. That didn’t happen when baby was in the stroller: people might smile, but they wouldn’t stop to talk with her.

Chatting

Because baby was right next to me, I was able to easily point out things I saw and talk with her about them. If she was interested in, say, a passing garbage truck, I could tell instantly. We could check it out together. This made our time together more interesting, more connected. When we went for a walk with the stroller, I was more likely to daydream or check my phone. I couldn’t always hear her when she said something. She had fewer opportunities to engage with the environment. If I caught an interesting sight, for example, I wasn’t likely to stop and unbuckle her and lift her out of the stroller to take a look. At least not multiple times on a walk. With the carrier, she was already right there.

Spontaneous, contextual conversations like these, it turns out, help baby to learn language. Numbers two and three in “The 3 Best Ways to Boost Baby’s Language Development“? No problem!

Nursing

If we were out with the stroller and baby was hungry, it meant an anxious search to find a comfortable, semi-private place for nursing. (Yes, I was anxious at first.) With the carrier, I could just scoot baby down a bit, lift the shirt layered over my nursing tank, make sure I was covered from the side, and carry on. Kind of amazing.

Monitoring needs

Is baby doing OK? I could tell instantly when she was in the carrier. Is baby too warm or too cold? I just felt her tiny palm or the back of her neck. Is baby alert, sleepy, overstimulated? I just looked down. Do those sweet little cheeks need kissing? Kiss!

In the stroller, facing away from me, baby had to cry out for attention if I didn’t check at the right time.

Being aware that baby has a need, and having a timely response to that need, is a major element of creating a secure relationship with baby. But, of course, our attention is often divided between baby and getting stuff done. The carrier seemed to ease open the line of communication between me and baby during those times. (For more on the importance of this communication, sometimes called “serve and response,” to baby’s brain development, see the tip “Get in sync” in Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science)

Having options

Now, my jogging stroller has a special place in my heart. It means my husband can take our daughter running every morning when they both wake up way too early, while I get one more hour of sleep. That stroller can haul so many groceries, taking out all of the items is like watching clowns tumble from a Volkswagen Beetle. We use the jogging stroller nearly every day, for exercising or hauling heavier stuff. Sometimes it even induces an elusive nap. It’s been one of our best purchases.

And so has the carrier.

How about for you?