Hiking & Baby: Safe & Proper Use Of Baby Carriers & Slings

Can you hike with a baby?

Of course, you can hike with your baby!  This is a massive time in your child’s development and what better thing for them to experience than the great outdoors in a baby carrier.  There is a range of baby carriers and slings to choose from.  An array of different shapes, weights, sizes, designs, and colors.  This is great and all but it’s not necessarily the case that you can just grab your baby and hit the trails.

We need to know how we can use these products safely and which is best for our baby.  With this in mind, the aim of this article is to get you using slings and carriers properly, and safely, and ultimately to get the family hiking together.  We are going to look at the safety of baby carriers and slings and how to use them properly.  Tips for hiking with a baby, from how to wrap a baby sling to the maximum weight a baby carrier can handle.  Firstly, however, let us discuss at what age newborn babies can start hiking.

When can you take a newborn baby hiking?

We would advise that you don’t take a newborn baby hiking right away.  Notice we said hiking, this doesn’t mean you can’t go for a nice walk through your local park with your baby in a stroller.  By hiking, we mean situations where your baby could be exposed to the elements.  Newborn babies are precious.  Their skin, eyes, lungs and immune system, for example, are not yet fully developed.

Being caught in a downpour of rain, too much sun, a bad wind or any type of excessive cold or hot weather, away from the norm, can be damaging to your baby.  Not only this but Mom is still recovering from giving birth and a hike may be a bit much for her too.  With this in mind, considering that your baby has normal health, we would say to wait at least 4 to 6 months before considering whether your baby is ready for the great outdoors.  But if you are in any doubt what so ever then consult a professional.

Are baby carriers safe?

As mentioned earlier, baby carriers are specifically designed to support your baby at different stages of their development.  With this in mind, provided you have the right carrier to suit the needs of your baby then they are predominantly safe.  However, this doesn’t mean that they are always 100% safe in all situations.  You must judge whether you think a situation is right for a baby to be in a carrier.  A general rule of thumb is, if you don’t think it would be a safe situation to be holding your baby in your arms then they definitely shouldn’t be in a baby carrier.

A situation, for example, when your baby would usually be using another safety device, such as a car seat.  Baby should be fastened securely, in this instance, and being in a carrier would put your baby’s health at severe risk during any sort of accident.  Boats are another common place where people make the mistake of wearing their baby in a carrier.  This is extremely dangerous.  Although you may feel safe, and able to hold on tightly, anything can happen and your baby needs their own floatation device.  You must adhere to all safety rules attached to the vessel as your child’s life could depend on it.

Always be aware of what is underfoot when taking your baby on a hike in a carrier.  If you’re going to be at an increased chance of slipping and falling, when on a hike, then a baby carrier may not be the best idea.  In fact, it may be a better idea to skip that hike altogether or make other arrangements for your baby.  Carrying your baby in this way is always going to mean an increased chance of you falling on your baby.  Use your initiative and don’t go anywhere that this chance will be increased further.  Avoid icy situations, shale, and wet and muddy pathways.

Don’t let falling on your baby worry you too much, however.  As a general rule of thumb, we usually ask people when the last time was that they fell down whilst walking.  Most people can’t remember.  It should be no different when carrying your baby.  But just be aware that the surface you are walking on when hiking can have a great effect on whether or not you stay upright.

At first, you may prefer not to use a baby carrier alone.  At least for your first few outings.  Having a spotter will increase safety. It will also allow you to get used to carrying baby in this way with the comfort of knowing someone has got their eye on you should anything go wrong.  They can also help with getting baby on or off until you get used to it and confident that you can do it alone.  With this in mind, it is also a good idea to practice at home.

This is not only for you but for your baby, also.  It will give them a chance to get used to being carried in this way in the comfort of their own home.  The last thing you want to do is hit the hiking trails with your brand new baby carrier.  Arriving to find out that your baby doesn’t want to sit in the carrier and is not going to become comfortable.

Remember, your baby is experiencing a lot of new things when they accompany you on your hike.  Don’t let the experience of being in a baby carrier be one of them.  Some Mom’s use carrier’s to keep their baby with them whilst doing chores around the house.  This is a great idea to get your baby used to their baby carrier and it also creates the perfect chance to make any necessary adjustments.

What age can you put a baby in a backpack carrier?

A baby backpack carrier is great for taking your baby hiking.  They’re fun, secure and comfortable.  But babies can’t be placed in them at any age.  As babies develop at different speeds, it’s hard to be able to say an exact age that baby is safe to go into a baby backpack carrier but around 6 months is a good marker.  You need to look for signs that your baby is becoming stronger.  It goes without saying that baby should be able to support its own head, we’ve already dismissed hiking for newborn babies.  But they should also be ready to support their own weight for prolonged periods of time.

Your baby needs to be comfortable, and strong enough to be able to sit up whilst supporting its own weight.  Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean being leaned against an object or cradled in a special chair.  Check out these carriers on Amazon which will support your child when ready.  You know your baby best, so with these tips in mind keep an eye out and you’ll know when it’s time to try your new backpack carrier.

When can I put my baby in a front carrier?

Front carriers are a little different to backpack carriers as they offer more support to your baby’s body.  This means that your baby doesn’t have to be able to hold their own weight quite so much.  Front carriers can be used earlier than backpack carriers.  However, when your baby is safe to use a front carrier depends.

It depends on how you plan to use the carrier.  A front carrier is safe to use with a newborn baby.  However, the baby must be facing towards Mom.  This is because newborn babies cannot support their own head well enough to be forward facing.  Front carriers are specifically designed to support baby’s neck and make sure they are comfortable and safe.

A baby is ready to be in a front pack facing out once they can fully support their own head.  Again, let’s not forget that all babies develop at different speeds so it is not possible to give an exact number.  However, 3 to 5 months would be in the ballpark age we would suggest.  Check out these packs on Amazon if you’re ready to get started!

What age do baby carriers go up to?

Most front carriers will last from birth and their recommended maximum age/weight will differ depending on the manufacturer.  However, most people will look to use a front carrier until their baby is around 6 months or can fully support themselves for prolonged periods of time.  At this point, a lot of parents choose to begin the transition to a backpack baby carrier.

A backpack carrier will usually cater to a child who is around 45lbs or 3 to 4 years of age depending on the manufacturer.  There are other considerations when your child is getting to this age and size, also.  Such as their weight on your back.  Short journeys won’t be so bad.  As your child has grown you will undoubtedly have grown in strength.  However, it will now be getting to the point where your child has become a significant extra weight to carry whilst hiking.

Another consideration is that your child may not want to be in their backpack as much as they did before.  If you’re into hiking so much that you’ve had your child on your back whilst doing so, for the last 3 to 4 years, then there’s a good chance that you’ll have raised a little adventurer.   Your child will, most likely, now want to go off and explore for themselves’.

How do you wash a baby carrier?

First and foremost we would advise following the manufacturer’s instructions, where possible.  However, we’re almost certain you wouldn’t need this part of the article if you had the manufacturer’s instructions and not only that, some of them can be a nightmare.  So without further ado, here are a few tips on washing a baby carrier.

Firstly, if you’re only dealing with spillage or something along those lines, then it would be much easier and quicker to just spot clean using a damp sponge or cloth.  Most baby carriers will have stain resistant materials.  But as Mom’s we know that they are never 100% reliable.  Far from it in most cases.

If this just won’t cut it then you’re going to have to get a little more vigorous in your method.  Loosen all the straps and clips so you can reach as much of the baby carrier as possible and scrub using a brush before wiping down with a damp cloth and hopefully you have now shifted the stains.

If this still won’t do then the next stage would be to introduce the baby carrier to the washing machine.  Remember, we are assuming that we have no washing instructions, for the baby carrier, so we are only going to use the rinse option on the machine.  Before putting the carrier into the washing machine we would advise putting it inside a pillowcase or something similar.  This is to ensure the straps and clips don’t get damaged and that they do not damage your machine.

Before putting your baby carrier into the machine to rinse, scrub with the brush as described earlier.  Some stains and grime can be more stubborn than others so repeat these two steps as many times as necessary.  Hang out to dry if possible, if not a chair or clothes horse in front of a radiator will do fine.

What is a baby sling?

A baby sling is just as it sounds.  A sling, which is a piece of cloth created in a certain shape or tied in a certain way that allows you to use it to carry your baby.  There are two main types of baby slings.

Ring slings are pieces of non-stretchy fabric with two rings sewn in one end.  The free end loops through the rings and pulls securely around your baby, creating a cradle in which for them to be carried.  Ring slings are light-weight, easily adjustable and great for use whilst breastfeeding.

However, the spare material can often become dirty, when left to trail behind, and they are not great for your back after prolonged use.  So, although they may be good around the house, they are not the best choice for taking your baby hiking.

Baby wraps are large pieces of stretchy material that, when tied in certain ways, create a sling for your baby.  Depending on your size, and the size of your baby, you will need to use shorter or longer lengths of material.  Wraps are a better option if you suffer from back pain as they evenly distribute the weight of baby across your body.

They also allow you to adjust and move them as you see fit.  Creating new carrying positions so you can get the comfort of you and baby just right.  It can take a while to find the right length of wrap and this will take some getting used to.  This is also changing as the baby grows, which is enough to put people off wraps.

However, if you know how to wrap a baby sling properly and take the time to get used to them then they can be a comfortable option when choosing a baby sling.

Are baby slings safe to use?

Always bear in mind, when using a sling, that babies’ weak necks must be fully supported when wrapping your sling.  This comes with problems of its own.  You must also make sure that the baby’s nose and mouth are free and not being smothered.

Making sure the baby can breathe properly when in a sling is paramount and their airways and breathing should be monitored constantly.  Be careful if your baby has a cold or breathing problems, was born prematurely or has any other development issues. If this is the case, or you are at all unsure, then it is recommended that you do not use a sling with your baby without consulting a doctor.

If you plan to use your sling whilst breastfeeding then you need to make sure to change the baby’s position once they have finished.  This is to make sure that they are breathing freely and run no risk of being smothered by the breast area.  Also, it is to make sure that their mouth and airways are free of obstruction should they need to be sick.  This reduces the risk of choking.

Remember that when you have your baby in a sling, on your front, that you are now carrying extra weight.  Be careful when bending and be sure to use your knees.  This will not only save your back from injury but it will also help to maintain your balance and make sure that you don’t put your baby in any danger by toppling over.

Always remember to keep an eye on wear and tear whilst using your baby sling.  If you are in any doubt whatsoever then do not use it.  Always remember to check the safety instructions that come with your sling before use.

Are baby slings safe for infants?

We would say that ring slings are not great for older infants and are better for babies.  The average age you should stop using a ring sling is between 9 and 18 months.  This depends on the size and weight of your baby and the material you are using.

Again the type of material you are using, or more specifically the strength of the material, is what determines at what age you should stop using a wrap baby sling.  However, it is thought that a good wrap could cater for a child to around 4 years old.  Again, this depends on the quality of the wrap and the development of the child.

Also, as with the backpack carrier, your child may get to an age where they simply want to explore by themselves.  This is where the baby backpack carrier may be a better option as it allows the child easy exit and access as they begin to fly the nest or baby carrier, as it were.

How do you wrap a baby sling?

The beauty of the baby sling is that there is an abundance of ways you can wrap it to suit you and baby.  There are no hard and fast positions that you must adhere to when it comes to positioning for comfort but there is the TICKS rule for safe babywearing.

Tight – make sure there is no looseness when carrying your baby.  This can affect your baby’s breathing and cause discomfort in your back.  The sling should be tight enough to cradle your baby, pulling them close to you but not too tight as to affect circulation or cause any other discomforts.

In view at all times – Your baby should be facing upwards and not in towards you’re your body.  You should be able to look down and see their face with a simple glance and the material should not be covering their airways.

Close enough to kiss – Baby’s head should be as close to your chin as you can get it whilst maintaining the comfort of, both, you and your baby.  You should be able to lean slightly forward and kiss your baby’s head.

Keep chin off chest – Always allow for at least a finger width between baby’s chin and chest.  If the baby’s chin is touching their chest then this can restrict their breathing and cause suffocation.

Supported back – Make sure your baby is in an upright position with a straight back.  Being slumped or curled up in a sling, again, can disrupt the baby’s breathing and lead to suffocation.

How do you wash a baby sling?

The beauty of baby slings is they’re really simple to wash.  They are no different to washing any other cloth or material.  Where possible, follow manufacturer’s washing instructions or if not, wash as you see fit for the particular material.  Remember that it is important to keep your sling clean as your baby may be putting it in their mouth.

So, what is the best baby carrier for hiking?

We would recommend going for the proper front baby carrier for newborn to 6-month babies, then move on to a baby backpack as they progress.  This is due to them creating the most comfort and support for, both, baby and parent.  We also feel that they are the safest option.

If we were to go for a baby sling then the wrap would be our first option, rather than the ring slings.  This is because they provide the strongest and most reliable support.  This style will also cater to your baby’s needs longer once mastered.