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Most parents find a baby carrier to be invaluable during the first year of their baby’s life.


There are many types and styles to choose from. The different types of baby carriers fall into three main categories: slings, front packs and backpacks.

Slings

These are made of fabric and are available in a wide variety of styles. They “sling” sash-style over your shoulder to hold baby in front of you.

Slings offer many benefits to both baby and parent. Here are some of the most commonly cited by experienced sling users:

  • A sling is perfect for the newborn months, when baby needs to be held often in your arms, as opposed to being pushed at arm’s length in a stroller.
  • A sling is an excellent way to carry your baby around the house because it keeps your baby happy while leaving your two arms free to go about your daily tasks.
  • Sling carriers are multi-purpose. You can use them to carry your baby, to create privacy for breastfeeding, and to cover your sleeping baby. Some feature a tail that can double as a blanket or cover-up.
  • Putting your baby into (and getting him back out of) a sling is a breeze. You can even get a sleeping baby in and out of one of these soft carriers without waking her.
  • You can carry your baby in a variety of positions.
  • Slings are small, lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Slings are wonderful to use when a stroller would be inconvenient, such as up stairs, through large crowds or narrow aisle ways, or over rough terrain or when you’ll be going in and out of the car frequently.
  • Slings put your baby at the height of people’s faces instead of at their knees.
  • You can use a sling right up through toddlerhood, when little legs get tired of walking.

An important note about baby slings: They can be confusing to use at first, and your baby can slide out of the bottom if not positioned correctly. Try to find an experienced sling-user, a how-to video or a knowledgeable sales clerk to help you master the art of baby slinging.

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Your local La Leche League leader may be able to offer pointers, too.

Front packs

Front pack carriers are similar to slings in use but are more complex in their structure. They have a seat that attaches to the front of you with straps that criss-cross behind you; these straps secure the carrier to your body.

Here’s what you need to know about front packs:

  • The benefits of front packs are similar to many of those of slings, such as being lightweight and portable, and the fact that you can carry your baby while keeping your arms and hands free.
  • Some allow you to choose between carrying your baby facing inward toward you or outward, facing the world—which is often fun for older babies.
  • Settling the baby into and out of the carrier require more steps than a sling does.
  • Moving a sleeping baby into or out of the carrier is difficult, unless the seat unbuckles separately from the harness.
  • Front packs are better suited to a baby who is strong enough to hold his head upright.

Backpacks

A back carrier is similar to a camping backpack. It has a seat for your baby that attaches to your back with a frame and straps that cross over your shoulders.

A few things to know about backpacks:

  • They’re perfect for an older baby who loves to look around and be carried high on your shoulders.
  • Many backpacks have pouches for holding supplies.
  • Some models have a canopy for inclement weather or sun protection.
  • Getting a backpack on and off are typically two-person tasks.
  • Backpacks are best for an older baby who can sit up well.
  • They’re great for an all-day trip, such as hiking, shopping or visiting an amusement park.

How do you decide which carrier to use?

No single baby carrier is perfect for all parents. Every parent has different needs, preferences and proportions. Many people actually begin with one type of carrier and move on to another when their babies get older.

First, think about how you plan to use a carrier—will you use it primarily at home, instead of a stroller while away from home, or both? Do you already have a stroller, or must your carrier fill all your baby-carrying needs? Defining its purpose will help you choose which carrier is best for you.

Read the package information (or talk to other parents who own a similar carrier) to learn which purposes it serves best and to determine if it matches your needs.

The very best way to decide?

Try carriers on either at the store or with a friend who owns one. Actually putting your baby in the carrier will give you the best idea as to fit, but if you are shopping without your baby (or don’t have your baby yet!) try using a stuffed animal from the toy department.

Points to consider when purchasing a carrier:

  • Comfort. Does the carrier feel good to you? • Fit for your baby. Does it seem to suit your baby well?
  • Fit for you. Does it fit your size and body type? Can you carry the baby without strain?
  • Safety. Will the baby be secure and well supported?
  • Features. Does it meet your needs?
  • Usability. Can you easily get your baby in and out of the carrier? How about putting it on and taking it off? Keep in mind that some models require practice.
  • Construction. Does the fabric suit your wardrobe, climate and needs (i.e., lightweight for summer, weatherproof for outdoor use)?
  • Care. Is it machine-washable or easy to wipe clean?
  • Flexibility. Can you carry your baby in various positions?
  • Adjustability. Can it be tightened or adjusted to fit you when you are at home in indoor clothing or outside wearing a coat? Can you adjust it easily for use by others?
  • Adaptability. Will it work for your baby now as well as six months from now?
  • Appearance. Do you like the style? Will you enjoy wearing it?

This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003).

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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought my biggest accomplishment was, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins. Or even something about my worldly travels. I was full of money-driven, "success" driven goals. I had it all mapped out.

I was ticking off items on my list thinking the more I did the happier I would become.

But, my sweet child, in the short three and a half years I've been a mama, 1,352 days to be exact, I have realized something. Something you need to know.

No matter what, nothing I do in life will ever be as great as being your mom.

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My accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, they are measured in hugs and kisses. And every time we say "I love you."

My accomplishments aren't measured by other people's praise, they are defined by the fact that I love you and will never stop.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I am with you no matter what. By the truth that I will be your biggest fan. Your protector. Your teacher. Your friend. Your confidant.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I will always be proud of you. That I will love you unconditionally, always and forever.

Yes, there are times when I achieve some pretty awesome things in life outside of being your mother. Moments I celebrate. Some are money-driven, some are career-driven, others are just things I've wanted to achieve and set out to do so. Am I proud of those things? Sure I am. I want to be an example to you that you can achieve anything you want to in this life. The world really is your oyster. Those moments though, never even come close to how proud I am to be your mom.

You see my child, no amount of money in the world can buy me the feeling of your little arms wrapped tight around me. The feeling of utter happiness I feel when I see you happy. No amount of money can buy the special bond we have.

My greatest accomplishment will always be you.

I won't lie, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, there are moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some 'me' time. But I will always choose you.

I know some people will not see motherhood as an accomplishment. That it is just something you do as part of life. But they don't see you like I do. Some people might wonder why I gave up a successful career to be home with you. But they don't know you like I do. They don't know that I was chosen to be your mama. That we were destined to be together. They don't know what an honor it is to be your mama.

So, my sweet child here is the truth.

You are my life's work.

You are my legacy in this world.

You, my child, are my greatest accomplishment and always will be.

[This article was previously published here.]

Life

Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

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This year's flu season has been making headlines, and there's a lot of (perfectly understandable) concern among parents about flu prevention and treatment.

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent your child from catching the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu from taking hold in your family include washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and staying in good overall health—getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

But what if, despite your best efforts, your child comes down with the flu? It can be hard to watch children suffer with flu symptoms such as chills, fever, aches, cough and congestion. That's why parents need a helpful, complete, scannable-at-2-am-in-panic-mode rundown of what to do for the flu, when to call the doctor and how to help little ones feel better.

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Here's what to do when you think your child has the flu:

1. How do I know if my child has the flu?

Symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly, and include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Cough
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

So how do you know whether it's a cold or the flu? Symptoms of the common cold may be similar to the flu, but generally are milder and include cough, congestion, runny nose and sore throat. RSV, or respiratory cold virus, is a separate condition that can cause cold-like symptoms in older children, but may cause a more severe lung disease in infants called bronchiolitis. Your best bet is to call your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

2. What should I do if my child has the flu?

The best treatment for most flu infections is what doctors call "supportive care:" encouraging fluid intake, giving fever-reducing medication such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and getting plenty of rest.

Children who are at higher risk of complications from the flu or whose symptoms started within the past 48 hours may also receive treatment with an antiviral medication. Talk with your primary care provider about your options.

3. What medicines are safe for my child to take for the flu?

Fever-reducing medications, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can generally be given to children with the flu with your pediatrician's okay. Children should not receive aspirin. Be sure to follow dosing directions for your child's age and weight.

4. What are home remedies for flu symptoms in kids?

Flu treatment is all about comfort care for symptoms—rest, fluids, fever-reducer, repeat. Keep children with the flu home from school, preschool or daycare, keep them comfortable in bed (or snuggled up on the couch), and offer fluids—and plenty of sympathy.

5. Should I try to make my child with the flu eat, or drink?

Keeping kids hydrated while they're sick with the flu is important. Encourage small, frequent sips of liquids and soup to keep up with hydration. But don't worry about forcing your child to eat a hearty meal: As your child's infection resolves, their appetite will return.

6. When should I call the doctor for my child's flu?

Parents should always call their pediatrician if they're worried, of course, and if your child has a chronic medical condition that may be worsened by the flu, call your doctor right away. Here are symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your care provider:

  • Fast breathing
  • Signs of dehydration including decreased urine output
  • Fever and cough which improved at first but have worsened
  • Fever above 103 degrees, or any fever in a child under 3 months of age

Serious signs that warrant a trip to the emergency room or a 911 call, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Labored breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the lips or face
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizure activity

7. How long will my child's flu last?

Most kids with the flu run a fever for 3 or 4 days with aches and chills. But the worst symptoms tend to be over within 4 days or so, with gradual improvement in respiratory symptoms after the fever resolves.

8. When is it safe for my child to go back to school or daycare after having the flu?

Most daycares and schools have specific guidelines, such as 24 hours without a fever. Children with the flu are usually contagious for 5 to 7 days after the first onset of symptoms, and are at their most contagious when their fever peaks during the first 3 days. In general, children should stay home until they're fever-free for 24 hours and respiratory symptoms have improved.

Watching your child suffer with the flu can be hard, but knowing steps you can take to help your little one feel better fast can help. Hang in there—even flu season can't last forever.

Learn + Play

If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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