Gear: "Is my baby ready to..."
...face front in a car seat?
When it comes time to turn your baby around in the car, which is more important: her weight or her age?
What you need to know Both are equally important: The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat, which can be found on the back of the seat. "If we all could travel facing backward, we'd be safer. As soon as you face the front, the chance of whiplash goes way up," Dr. Shu says.
But what about kids who pitch a fit because they can't see you? Dr. Brown, mom of a 10- and a 7-year-old, says she's been there. "We flipped my daughter around when she was nearly twelve months old, but she was over twenty pounds at that point. I thought it was actually safer that way -- otherwise, I worried I was going to get in a crash, what with all of the turning around I was doing to quiet her down. But I still tell all my patients to wait!"
...fit in various baby carriers?
The worry: fitting a too-small baby into one of these items.
What you need to know First, check the manufacturer's specifications. After that, here's what experts recommend:
Front carrier. As long as your baby is above the carrier's height and weight specs (depending on the model, usually eight pounds and 21 inches), you can carry him around facing in from the get-go. He'll be ready to face out once his neck is strong enough to hold his head steady, usually when he's about 3 months old. And don't be overly concerned if his head slumps forward when he starts to snooze. It may look uncomfortable, but he'll be able to breathe just fine.
Backpack. No earlier than 3 months, and even as old as 6 months, depending on the type of backpack, say experts. A baby needs adequate head and neck control to keep his head stable and supported.
Umbrella stroller. Six months at the earliest. A baby needs good trunk control -- meaning the ability to sit up independently -- because of the lack of support usually found in these strollers.
Jogging stroller. While some manufacturers say that joggers are appropriate for babies as young as 6 months, Dr. Brown says she wouldn't advise it for babies under 1. "The ride can be quite bumpy for immature spine and neck muscles, especially going over curbs or rocky paths," she says.
Bike trailer or bike seat. A baby should be at least 1 year old before being put in a trailer, say the AAP and other experts. Besides the bumpiness potential, there's the risk of a spill, so your baby will need to wear a lightweight bike helmet while on the ride, and his neck won't be strong enough to support one until his first birthday.