Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Walking with Baby

Everyone knows life changes when you have a baby. New parents will have to sacrifice some of the things they enjoy (like sleep).  J and I weren't exactly the type to be partying every weekend: we're quite quiet people. One of the things we enjoyed before Baby M arrived was walking. 

We often went walking at the weekend and we plan our holidays to places where we could enjoy long scenic 'rambles'. Highlights included the view from the top of the Old Man of Coniston in the Lake District where I felt on top of the world and the sense of achievement after completing the Meningitis Trust's 5 valleys walk: a 21 mile long walk that left my legs in agony.  The day I went into labour we even went on a 3 mile waddle.

The Peak of the Old Man of Coniston

Since Baby M's arrival walking has become more functional than for enjoyment. When we do go out for walks as a family with our pushchair it's usually on pavements, not hills, forests or countryside. The Bugaboo Bee is designed for the city and pushing it through muddy grass leaves the wheels clogged and difficult to push. I appreciate you can get rough terrain buggies but you still need to choose your paths carefully. Not so with a baby carrier.

Falling in love with babywearing has meant that the world is my oyster: stairs, puddles, mud and mountains all suddenly seem possible again.  The biggest problem is my fitness level. Carrying myself up a hill can be a challenge without the added weight of a baby. So the obvious solution is for my fitter and stronger husband to carry Baby M.  This leaves one more challenge: finding a baby carrier that he will wear. All baby carriers can be worn by men, but they are more commonly worn by women and the designs often reflect this.  My other half was uncomfortable wearing the Close Caboo Carrier as he was unsure how to put it on and was worried about Baby M falling out when she wriggled.

I was excited to get the opportunity to try out the Chicco Caddy carrier.  Backpack style carriers with a frame seem to have been designed with men in mind. They are the only carriers I have seen worn more often by men than women. Suitable from 6 months (7.5kg) I was keen to head out to nearby Epping Forest and put it through it's paces.

The Highs
  • In bright red, blue and black it is attractive and gender neutral
  • There is a small amount of assembly to set it up, but it is easy to put together
  • A mobile phone holder and small bag (perfect for storing the rain cover in and a few others)
  • The baby/ child sits in a seat and there is a 5 point safety harness to keep them securely in place
  • The metal frame opens out and can support itself so when the carrier is taken off the baby can continue to sit in the carrier eg for lunch.
  • It comes with a detachable sun canopy and rain cover
  • The straps of the chest, shoulders and waist are all adjustable and can fit a large man easily without extensions
  • Around the seat is well padded and Baby M quickly fell asleep so must have been comfortable
  • The child is separated from the wearers back by some padding which should keep both child and wearer cooler in hot weather
  • The child sits quite high up so they can see over the parents shoulder and enjoy the view (if they stay awake)
  • Available from £60.00 (eg Argos, John Lewis) it is cheaper than similar framed carriers eg Littlelife
The Lows
  • Compared to other types of baby carriers (eg slings) it takes up a lot more space, but it folds flat and all metal framed carriers take up space (closed dimensions are 19x41x83cm)
  • The seat is height adjustable, but at the higher position Baby M found the straps uncomfortable (this could be my fault not the carriers).
  • There is a metal bar which protects the baby, but for Baby M it was at eye level.  She chose to slouch down underneath it to see out which meant she wasn't in the healthiest sitting position.  This would be unlikely to be a problem for larger/ taller children.
  • The chest strap is not height adjustable and was in the wrong place for my boobs
  • No carrier is comfortable unless the straps are adjusted correctly and I struggled to make this carrier comfortable for me: the weight seemed to be on my shoulders rather than distributed lower down which meant I could only wear it for a short period.  Having looked at other reviews people have commented that they found it very comfortable so I blame my body shape or failure to adjust it properly.
  • It is great that it comes with a rain cover and it is well designed to keep the head and shoulders of the toddler dry, but I think the lower legs would get rained on (I haven't found a cover for any type of carrier yet that keep legs dry if they are in the correct sitting position).

Our Verdict

Although Baby M was 9 months when I took her out and 8kg she is still a little small for the carrier. The carrier is designed to carry children up to 15kg so we'll be trying it out again when she is a bit bigger.
I love that the seat allows you to take the carrier off without putting the baby down on the floor and I love they can look around and see everything even if rainy or sunny.  I couldn't make it comfortable enough to wear for long periods, but the price makes it a good option if you are looking for a rucksack carrier with a frame.

Small print: we were given the Chicco Caddy Backpack to review, but all words and thoughts are my own (or those of my husbands)

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