Becoming a mom doesn’t mean you have to give up your walking program. In fact, regular walks will boost your energy and make you feel good about doing something for yourself. If you’d rather not leave your baby or tot at home, today’s child carriers and strollers make it easy and enjoyable to take your little one with you. And there’s a bonus: as you build the strength and stamina that every new mother needs, your child will be experiencing the exciting sights and sounds of the outside world.
Walking with your baby in a front carrier allows your infant to cuddle with you while enjoying the rhythmic motions of your breathing and body motions. The best carriers fit a variety of body sizes and are comfortable and simple to slip in to. Young infants face inward with a neck support, while older babies who can hold their heads up face outward with the neck support folded down. With the carrier properly adjusted, you should be able to walk at a somewhat brisk pace while your baby is held securely in place. Don’t venture too far in case you suddenly tire or the weather changes. Loops around the neighbourhood are best.
After about age one, many children are sturdy enough to move into a baby backpack. Inspired by adult hiking backpacks, baby backpacks feature padded shoulder straps, a stiff waist/hip belt and adjustable straps. The child sits comfortably harnessed into a built-in seat. The backpack’s design transfers the child’s weight to the wearer’s hips making it possible to carry a child as heavy as 25 kilograms (55 pounds). Katarina Simons, a Toronto-based fitness instructor, enjoys the extra challenge of backpack walks with her 18-month-old son Noah; as his weight increases so does the intensity of her workouts. Monitoring a child who is perched behind you can be tricky, says Simons. She relies on reflective store windows to observe her son and sometimes pulls out a makeup compact to do a runny-nose check. “Use string to attach hats and mittens to the backpack so you don’t lose them, and wear sturdy footwear to help manage the extra weight,” she advises.
If you plan to walk vigorously with your baby in a stroller, on your own or in an exercise class, consider a sporty three-wheel version with inflatable tires. “Standard four-wheel strollers often don’t move fast enough, and the ride is too bumpy for babies,” says Simons who teaches stroller fitness classes. “Jogging-style strollers have shock absorbers, can travel on grass and paths in parks, and they’re easier to push.” Other options to consider include an adjustable handle (it should come to about waist-height) so you can stand tall as you walk, a lockable swivel front wheel (the swivel feature makes it easy to maneuver around corners and obstacles, and when locked it lets you move faster) and a safety strap that connects you to the stroller in case you slip and release the handle. Perhaps most importantly, before you buy take your top pick for a test drive in the store to be sure there is room to stride without kicking the back of it.