Hip carriers: How to use them and cautions to take

Consumer Reports News: February 23, 2009 03:46 PM

Hitching a ride on mom’s hip can be a tough habit to break. But if you want relief from toting your toddler, consider something made for the job that’s easier on your arms because they don’t have to do all the work: a hip carrier such as the PortaMEe (www.portamee.com),  Scootababy (www.scootababy), Evenflo By My Side soft carrier (www.evenflo.com), or the Infantino Side Rider (www.infantino.com). (We haven’t tested these products.)

The latest generation of soft infant carriers, hip carriers are a cross between baby sling carriers and strap-on soft infant carriers because they’ve got adjustable straps and they’re designed to be worn on your hip. With a hip carrier, your baby faces toward you, just like you’d naturally carry a baby without a carrier on your hip, but the carrier provides support to free up your arms. Hip carriers retail from $35 to $135.

Hip carrier cautions:

--A hip carrier isn’t necessarily for newborns. Unless it has a head rest, a hip carrier is generally designed for babies who can hold their head up unassisted and weigh at least 15 pounds or are at least 4 to 5 months old. Its upper weight limit tends to be higher than front strap-on carriers—35 to 40 pounds—depending on the brand, but to avoid back and neck strain, you should probably stop using one before then--if your baby will let you.

--Before shopping, check for recalled models at the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site (www.cpsc.gov). Hip carriers have been subject to recalls because the shoulder strap could detach from the hammock, posing a fall hazard to a baby. You’ll want to avoid defective models that may still be on store shelves, so do your homework.

--Use the carrier according to manufacturer’s weight recommendations. Until your child can hold her head upright, she should ride with head support, facing toward you.
--Always make sure the strap supports are secure. Double-check straps before putting your baby in any soft infant carrier, even if you’ve used it countless times before without incident.

--Be careful when bending, leaning forward, or going through doorways when wearing a hip carrier. If you have to reach down, bend at your knees to make sure your baby stays upright. Don’t bend over at your waist.

--Use a hip carrier only for standing or walking. Don’t use it for sporting activities like running or bicycling or when cooking, cleaning, carrying a load, or driving.

--Stop using a hip carrier if any parts or components are damaged, missing, or broken.

If you’ve tried a hip carrier, we’d love to hear about your experiences with it. Did it make your life easier? Did it save your back—or not? Did you end up using it a lot or not as much as you thought you would?

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