While our grandmothers might have supported the notion that infants and toddlers should remain indoors or in the confines of the playpen or back yard for safety, today's health conscious parents are finding that the sky is the limit when enjoying outdoor activities with their children.
From biking and hiking to walking and jogging, today's parents are keeping fit and bonding with their babies in the process. With an array of products unheard of a generation ago - like baby carriers, joggers and trailers - even the tiniest among us are enjoying the great outdoors. But while these items can make life easier and more enjoyable for both parent and child, they can be the cause of pain and injury if not used properly.
Only an experienced bike rider should attempt to bike with a child on board. Even an experienced rider should practice with a ride-along trailer for two weeks prior to riding with a child.
When you are ready to go for a ride with your child, be sure to protect your child's head with a proper helmet. The helmet should be adjustable so that it fits well. If the helmet rests too high, it will expose part of the head, leaving it susceptible to injury.
Trailers and Carriers
A trailer is a rolling ride-along that hitches to the back end of a bicycle and houses a child. When selecting a trailer, look for quality. The trailer must be equipped with a harness that can be placed over the child's body. A simple seatbelt across the waist is not adequate, as it does not protect the child's face from slamming forward during an abrupt stop. The harness should be complicated enough that the child cannot unhook it or wiggle out of it. It is also a good idea to select a trailer that comes with a screen that covers the front. This adds an extra line of protection against stray pebbles, insects and other flying objects. Finally, check the trailer's tires. Large tires with plenty of traction, like those of a bicycle, are best.
If you wish to go for a jog and bring your child along for the ride, the baby jogger is your best option. A baby jogger is a rolling pushcart that a parent can jog behind, using handlebars to maneuver. Many of the same safety guidelines discussed regarding bike trailers should be applied to joggers. Here are some rules of thumb to consider:
• Make sure the handlebars of the jogger fit comfortably into your hands. You want to have complete control.
• Handbrakes are a necessity.
• Some kind of locking mechanism is also essential. In case you need to stop, you do not want the jogger to roll away from you.
• Look for a jogger with a good shoulder harness to keep the child secure. A simple seatbelt is not good enough.
• Large, bicycle-style tires offer more control and stability.
• A screen over the front of the jogger adds to its safety by deflecting stray pebbles and other potentially Fredgerous flying objects.
• Jog only on smooth surfaces. Rough terrain can reduce control.
Hiking, Walking And Working
A backpack-style or front-side baby carrier can allow a parent to carry a child while walking or hiking. And by keeping a parent's arms free, it also enables him or her to do light work around the house while carrying a child. It is important to note, however, that carrying a child on a walk or a hike may cause fatigue by adding extra stress to your circulatory system, and may increase the likelihood of a fall.
Backpack-Style and Front-Side Baby Carriers
If using a backpack-style or front-side baby carrier, make sure to select one with wide straps for your shoulders and waist. This will help distribute the carrier's weight evenly. The shoulder straps should fit comfortably over the center of your collarbone. The carrier should include a harness to keep the child's head and spine stable. Once you place the child in the carrier, check to make sure there is no bunching of material against the child's body, particularly on the back, buttocks and spine. Isolated, uneven pressure like this can produce a painful condition known as palsy.
An adjustable carrier that allows you to carry your baby on either your back or chest is probably your best option.
Finally, never run or jog while carrying a baby in any backpack-style, front-side or adjustable carrier. A baby's body is not adjusted to the cyclic pattern that is a part of running and jogging. This motion can do damage to the baby's neck, spine and/or brain.