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Backpack-Ready Baby

Mark Harris of Northbrook, IL, has been toting his daughter, Ellexandre, to work with him at his custom framing business for months  -- she's content in a backpack, and he's free to do his job. While you may not have the chance (or the back strength!) to strap on your little one all day long, baby backpacks do give you a hands-free way to stay close when you're out and about together. Most babies are up for the ride by the time they're about 9 months old. Signs that yours is ready to give it a try:

* He enjoys new faces and experiences.
* He can sit up well unaided and can glance from side to side without tipping sideways or forward.
* He extends his legs as if to stand when you hold him upright over a solid surface.
* He can sit and reach for toys that are just outside his immediate grasp.

Other things to keep in mind: When you're using the backpack for the first time, try a test run around the block, and talk to your baby while you stroll. That'll reassure him he's safe.

Keep your first public trip brief  -- for his sake and yours. Even if he's having the time of his life up there, you may need a little break!

If your baby seems fussy or unhappy, just try the pack again in a few weeks. Enjoy the closeness while you can; by the time your baby becomes an active toddler, he'll probably much rather be on the ground, close to the action.

Two Pack Standouts
Double duty: Not all baby backpacks have to come with a frame. The Deuter KangaKid looks and functions like a regular backpack but also has a comfy child carrier inside. Holds up to 30 pounds. ($129; www.deuterusa.comSuper Lightweight: Under five pounds and easy to use, the Kelty K.I.D.S. Tour has comfortable shoulder straps and a padded seat for your baby, and can stand on its own. Holds up to 50 pounds. ($100; www.kelty.com

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