Non-toxic Car Seats

orbit nontoxic car seat
Jack in our orbit baby car seat

This article was updated on February 20, 2016

I’ve spent hours and hours looking into this, and I was surprised to find that there are NO organic car seats for sale! In fact, most car seats are sprayed with carcinogenic flame-retardants!

The best option I was able to find was the only Oeko-Tex certified car seat- the Orbit line. I emailed Britax and they said they are “reducing or eliminating all chemicals containing bromine or chlorine” from their products. It’s better than nothing, but Orbit has none of those chemicals, and who knows what they mean by “reducing.”

orbit nontoxic car seat baby
orbit baby car seat

The orbit car seats are Oeko-Tex certified which guarantees they don’t have many toxic chemicals. They do testing to make sure there is no lead, arsenic, or mercury on their seats (see here). The upholstery of the seat is made of polyester which is not great, but sadly there are no better options right now. They also use no flame retardants on their fabric, but sadly as of 2014 they started using foam with flame retardants like all the other companies. They are still the most non-toxic option however.

People also like the Clerk Foonf convertible seat. It fits 14 pounds to 45 pounds rear facing so it’s great that you can keep your child facing the rear which is safer for longer than most car seats. It’s also recycleable. However, the fabric is only Greenguard Select Certified which tests only for gasses coming from the fabric (VOCs) and NOT heavy metals or PVC or pesticides. Another thing I was not a fan of about the Clerk seats is that you can’t remove the fabric, and you can only spot clean it. With kids, throwing up at some point is inevitable in the car, or having a potty accident, so I’ve been thankful to remove the Orbit fabric a few times to clean it.

foonf recyclable carseat
Foonf convertible car seat

If you can’t afford the expensive Orbit line, you can try to look up HealthyStuff.org since they tested many car seats several years ago. However, they tested store models, which is why some like the Orbit tested positive for things that did not come up in new products. Also, many models they tested are from years ago and no longer available. If you are trying to save money, one option is to borrow or buy a cheap infant car seat (Orbit’s infant one is from 4-30 pounds) and in a few months buy the Orbit toddler seat (15-65 pounds).

Another option is to buy an organic car seat cover. This blog has a nice review of some of those options. We didn’t do that because it might interfere with the car seat safety and can also be expensive. Also, keep in mind that there are likely flame retardants in the foam of most car seats, so that can get through a cotton cover.

It’s hard to make a good choice if you have limited funds though! Especially since you aren’t supposed to buy car seats used since you don’t know if it was in an accident.

Overall, here are some pros and cons about our Orbit which we have used for 6 months now:

Pros:

  • Oreko-Tex certified
  • No flame retardants
  • Good-quality foam makes it very safe
  • Egg-like shape protects baby well from sides
  • Soft handle is slightly easier to carry
  • Has a nice sun shade
  • Has a circle-shaped dock that snaps in easily and pivots
  • You can remove the fabric to clean

Cons:

  • Expensive!
  • Too heavy for me to carry
  • I have a Toyota Corolla, and it just fits in the back seat, so it’s hard to unwedge and remove. (Not  a big problem for me though since I always babywear)
  • Not organic fabric (polyester)
  • Separate base is expensive! (for husband’s car etc)
  • You have to lift baby up over the side to get him in, so it’s hard for me not to wake him up while doing that

 

Attempting minimalism with a toddler

the majority of our toys and books

the majority of our toys and books

My husband and I try to be minimalistic with our possessions, but it’s been a challenge to keep that up once we had a baby! Now that Jack is 16 months old and a toddler, I wanted to update how we’re doing. You can see a post about minimalism with a baby here or about our minimalist baby registry here.

Diapers: we are still cloth diapering which saves tons of money and decreases our daily trash by a huge amount! We love it, and while we had ammonia issues now that Jack is peeing more, the poop is also SUPER easy to clean now that it’s solid- you just plop it into the toilet (or since we do EC Jack poops in the potty most of the time which is even easier).

Food: we do baby led weaning which minimizes the need to buy special baby purees or machines to make purees (although we already had an immersion blender). Jack eats what we eat, or we buy snacks from the dried foods or cereal section of Whole foods (like unsweetened organic corn puffs). We did buy a few stainless steel espresso spoons for Jack and these thick glass shot glasses he can drink from that are hard to break. We’re skipping sippy cups since dentists don’t recommend them, and just use a water bottle on the road.

Clothes: I try to buy as much gender neutral organic clothing as I can so we can hopefully use it for another child down the line. We do laundry about every 5 days, so we try to buy only the amount of clothes we need to last us that long. Jack has a few gender neutral shoes as well.

Toys: I have a secret: Jack prefers to play with things that aren’t even children’s toys 😉 We have a few nice wooden toys for him, and my dad has a bunch at his house which they bought. Jack spends a lot of time playing with our pots and pans, kitchen paraphernalia,  putting things inside bowls or ceramic vases, pushing our ottoman around, or playing with our dog’s (nontoxic) balls. I think we have never bought him a toy ourselves, but it’s harder to get relatives not to buy him toys and instead give him clothes or donate to his college fund. We go to the park or library playroom at least once a day, so Jack gets to play with different things there too.

Books: We have a handful of board books, most that were from my childhood and are in different languages so they can’t be found at the library. Once he gets a little older we plan to get most books from the library instead of buying them. (For my husband and I, we almost always buy ebooks now).

Sleeping: We still have our crib sidecared, and in the future may buy some kind of natural full size mattress for a floor bed. We use my old cell phone as a while noise player.

Transportation: We have a convertible car seat in each of our cars, and my dad has one also. I’m storing our Orbit nontoxic infant seat to hopefully use with another baby. We still use the City Mini stroller sometimes, but only maybe once a week.  I use baby carriers multiple times a day though! I love my Toddler Tula and Bamberoo, and also use my ring sling for quick trips to the library (love the pocket which works as a purse). I put Jack high on my back in a woven wrap while I vacuum so he can see what’s going on.

Bath: Jack has showered with me since day one, or sometimes if he just has food on him I’ll do a rinse in the sink. We rarely use soap on him, and put coconut oil to prevent diaper rash and dry skin. He uses our organic towels, we don’t have any special baby bath things. For bath toys we have some bowls and a ball or two that rotate as bath toys.

Babyproofing: we bought some cheap light switch covers and a few string things to keep drawers closed, but other than that we don’t babyprrof most things and instead watch Jack and teach him to “be gentle” with the low-hanging art, or “let’s not touch the toilet water, it’s wet” etc. It’s been working well so far, but we’ll see if we need to change the plan as he ages.

Things we skipped buying: baby gates, baby monitors (we cosleep), a play yard, baby bath tub and bath products, and baby swing.

Comparison of the Orbit infant and toddler car seats

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my Toyota Corolla with a toddler seat on a base in the middle seat, and the infant seat next to it for comparison

 

We recently bought the Orbit toddler car seat for Jack now that he is almost a year old and seemed to want to look outside and be more upright. We used the infant Orbit seat up until now, so I wanted to compare the two seats.

Like I’ve said before, we got the Orbit brand because they are the only brand with NO brominated flame retardants (Britax is working on reducing them which is a good step too). Orbit is also the only Oeko-Tex certified nontoxic car seat.

Thoughts on the infant seat:

  • I liked the cloth-like handle which was more comfortable to carry
  • It seemed pretty heavy
  • In my Toyota Corolla, it took up a lot of room, so I never really pivoted it and removed it because it was wedged in there
  • After about 6 months it got annoying to lift the baby up and over the side into the seat, but that probably also makes it safer
  • It was easy to take off the cloth part and machine wash it

Thoughts on the toddler seat:

  • If you put it on the base, it’s SO easy to install- we had it up and running in 2 minutes
  • The way to adjust the harness length is the same as the infant seat so it’s easy to figure out
  • On the base, it decreases the visibility in my Toyota Corolla by almost 50% vertically in the rear window
  • That also means the baby gets to sit up really high and have a good view out the window
  • It’s HEAVY!
  • it’s a lot easier to put my (now 22 pound) baby in and get him out since you don’t lift him over the side
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view out the rear mirror of my Toyota Corolla with the toddler seat on a base in the middle seat

 

Overall I was really glad that the toddler and infant seats can both fit in my little Corolla, so that if we end up with 2 or 3 kids they could technically all fit. It would be hard with 3 to get the middle kid in their seat I guess, but not as bad if you put the infant seat in the middle and didn’t have to reach over it.

In general, I really like the Orbit seats and it makes me so happy that my baby isn’t breathing toxic fumes in there! He also seems a lot happier now in the toddler seat since he can see more, and sit upright more.

Comparison of organic baby clothes brands

 

We have tried a bunch of different brands of organic baby clothes, and here are my thoughts (for our medium/large-sized baby who is now 10 months and 21 pounds). We particularly liked brands on Amazon because it’s easy to return them if they don’t fit. With so many cheap ($5 per item!) options available, there is no reason to dress your baby in conventional clothes that have pesticides, phthalates, formaldehyde, and chemical flame retardants on PJs!

Babysoy is on amazon and their shirts have been one of my favorites for fit. They have generous neck holes and also wider arm holes so Jack’s fingers don’t get stuck. We got a few of these T-shirts and wore them a lot, and you can even wear them past the recommended size since they are kind of wide-cut. I also like the Janey hats which run about 1 size small.

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Jack wearing babysoy shirt and hat, and toys r us organic pants

Under the nile is another of our favorites. We had a lot of the kimono shirts which were nice to not have to put over his head, but I think having to snaps all the snaps is actually harder than getting a shirt over their heads honestly. They also don’t seem to have sizes as large as the babysoy.

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wearing an under the nile shirt

I also recently discovered H&M makes organic baby and maternity clothes, and we got some cute shirts and pants for $5 each! It seems like their inventory changes often so I won’t link to anything specific, but they seem to have great deals. I found their sizes run one size large (we got 9 month shirts for our 10 month old).

Burt’s Bees also has organic baby clothes up to toddler age. I like that their clothes are all organic, and the prices are reasonable but you have to pay shipping and to pay shipping to return them. I found they also run AT LEAST one size small, and shrink a little too. Their head holes and arm holes sometimes can be on the small side for us too.

wearing a burt's bees romper

wearing a burt’s bees romper

We also ordered some shirts and pants from this random store I stumbled upon with great prices ($5 for an organic shirt and cheap shipping!) The sizes run quite large, and the section where the arm connects to the body is really big which I don’t like, but we used them as comfy relaxing at home outfits. The pants were fine and not as huge.

wearing this random shirt from horselover's hobbies and gifts

wearing this random shirt from horselover’s hobbies and gifts

I loved the fit of this long-sleeved shirt from Maple clothing. It was on the slightly cheaper side and was very well-made with thicker fabric and good sizing.

2.5smile

maple organic shirt

We also got two shirts from Sage Creek organics which were very cute and colorful but ran small. One had buttons in front so it was fine, but the other one was tight to get his head in the hole.

Sage creek shirt with Gap bib

Sage creek shirt with Gap bib

The gap also has some gender-neutral organic clothes but they ran a little small and were expensive I thought. The quality was nice though.

I also saw that American Apparel has some organic things that are reasonably priced, but we never tried them.

In terms of accessories:

  • Our favorite legwarmers were from Barnyard Babies on etsy but I think they closed! The Babylegs brand dug into Jack’s thighs.
  • Our favorite socks are from Babysoy (size 12-18m fits out 10m old) after trying Jeffries and babylegs which both dug into his ankles.
  • Our favorite receiving blanket was the cheap hudson baby ones because they were the biggest. They worked well for swaddling, and I still use it as a blanket in the stroller now

Loveybums diaper cover review

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Jack weighing 20 pounds in a size Medium cover

Loveybums are one of our favorite wool diaper sources! I found them initially when I was pregnant and registered for some of their newborn diaper covers on amazon, and then realized that there was a bigger selection of colors and diapers on their web page. Luckily I was able to register for some diapers there through the amazon registry where you can link to items on outside web pages. They were one of the only places I found colorful organic wool diaper covers. Etsy and disana and other brands have organic options too, but mostly in pull-up styles.

In the picture above, Jack is wearing the green organic wool cover in a Medium with velcro, and he is wearing a large with snaps below.

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Jack weighing 20 pounds in a size Large cover

 

I like that you can choose between snaps or velcro for any color/size. I’ve found that the sizing is really accurate, and the snaps especially can last a lot longer than even the maximum size limit. However, the velcro starts to scratch Jack’s stomach when he gets to the end of the size range.

We have the cornflower blue, the green, and the yellow colors and they are all adorable! I don’t think I would ever get a white one because they would look dirty so easily. They seem very comfortable and breathable, and Jack never gets any diaper rashes. We use these covers during the day now, and the disana pull-ups at night because they leak the least. We only rarely have problems with the loveybums leaking, and that is just when Jack’s penis ends up pointing to the side by accident- the wool itself never leaks.

IMG_1168

The diapers are cut wide between the legs for fewer leaks, but are bulky

Each diaper comes with some sample lanolin, so I haven’t had to buy any lanolin yet. They have instructions as well, and it’s really easy to lanolize them. I have even used them without lanolizing for a few days and didn’t have any problems with leaks. I use wool wash to spot clean them when poop gets on them, and they have never had a problem smelling bad. They do take a while to dry if they are completely soaked, so it’s good to have a few as backups.

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The tag sticks out on the back, but at least it doesn’t bother the baby’s skin

Jack has super sensitive skin but the wool has never bothered him. I love the fact that it is organic so it wouldn’t have any pesticides on it. We use the covers with a trifolded prefold, and have also used snappis in the past. Both methods work well, but we are just too lazy for the snappis :) The covers are made of two layers of wool, so they are really absorbent but not very trim. We can wear them under pants, but Jack does look like he’s got a lot of extra padding. There is also no drooping because there are 3 snaps on either side (except in newborn sizes). Overall, we love these covers and have just ordered some more in the large size now that Jack is getting bigger!

ALL our baby things!

My husband and I have been trying to be more minimalistic since we moved to California and have a small two bedroom apartment. With a baby, it’s been especially challenging! We try to not buy too many unnecessary things, and use things we already own, but it’s hard to know what we will need. My husband thought it would be interesting to see how much baby stuff we have and put it all in the crib, and here is what we ended up with:

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On the left is the Tripp Trapp chair, and on the right is the Babybjorn organic bouncer. The main things not pictured are our Orbit car seat and babyjogger stroller. I also have prefolds and a few toys and blankets in my car and at my dad’s house. Oh, and I forgot to include the Moby wrap because I was wearing it! It feels weird not to have it on nowadays!

Here are more specifics about our stuff (click for larger picture):

IMG_0886-001If we were more minimalistic, there are a bunch of things we could have done without:

  • The changing pad (I change him on the bed 90% of the time anyway)
  • The manual breast pump (I had no idea beforehand, but hand expressing is just as fast and more comfortable for me)
  • The bouncer
  • As many books (but they were all gifts…)
  • We could have used a couple fewer diaper covers since the sizes overlapped
  • Obviously we didn’t need the compostable diapers! But they were nice to have during some long car rides and events
  • We could have probably gotten a smaller umbrella stroller instead of the city mini

Some things I’m really glad we bought even though I was unsure at the time:

  • Two baby carriers (I wear the Moby most of the day, and the Beco sometimes so that I can wear the baby on my back while cooking. My stepmom wore the baby in it today, since everyone is scared of tying the Moby)
  • This wool wash works amazingly well at getting out newborn poop stains from wool covers as well as clothes and our bedsheets (yikes). I just used soap or shampoo at first, but that left stains on my wool covers that I can’t get out now.
  • I’m in love with our wood high chair which is so easy to clean, and conveniently adjustable
  • I also use the potty every day. I wish I had found a more eco-friendly version in recycled plastic though

Organic baby carriers

Jay in the organic moby wrap

I think that our baby carriers (the moby and beco) have definitely been our most-used baby items. I started wearing Jack in the organic moby the day we got back from the hospital, and he has been in it for hours every day since. I wasn’t sure if having two carriers was too much, but it’s great to have another one to wear when the moby is drying after being washed, and other family members prefer the more structured beco. I’ll give some info about the carriers we have as well as other organic options.

These are some soft wrap-style carriers:

1. Organic moby wrap

I got the white organic moby as a gift, but I would definitely recommend another color that hides stains better! I know some people are worried about how hard it is to tie on, but either go to a local store and they can show you or just watch a few youtube videos. After a few tries, it gets really easy and I can put it on faster than the beco now. I still wear Jack at 7 months and 19 pounds and find it really comfortable. It doesn’t hurt anywhere and the size is totally adjustable each time you put it on. I also love that you can wear it in so many different positions. Jack loves it and falls asleep in it all the time.

2. Organic boba wrap

Like the moby but more stretchy. My friends who have it find it really comfortable, but stopped using it sooner than the moby because it doesn’t support bigger babies enough (probably best up to 15 or maybe 20 pounds).

3. Organic baby K’tan

This is a wrap style like the moby, but you don’t have to actually wrap it, it comes already attached and slips on. It’s not as versatile though and has different sizes, so your husband probably needs another size. I would definitely rather have a moby, but if you are too nervous about the wrapping, this seems like a good alternative.

I never tried a ring sling because I was worried that having the baby’s weight on just one side of my body (off one shoulder) would end up hurting. I know a lot of people like them, but I wanted to get carriers I could use for hours and feel comfortable. I’m glad I did that since I ended up wearing Jack 90% of his waking hours for the first several months, and still several hours a day now at 7 months.

Structured backback-like carriers:

6.jackpack

1. Organic Beco

This is the one we have, and I like it a lot (although it gets used less than the moby since it’s a little less comfortable on me). I sewed my own drool cover straps for it because my baby chews on the straps (a good reason to get organic carriers!). This fits me and my husband well, and can be worn facing in, out, on your back, and sideways on your hip. It does have foam unlike the moby which is all organic cotton. I like that it’s pretty small compared to other structured carriers like the Ergo which has thicker straps and a larger sunshade cover part. I find it easier to wear than the Ergo because instead of snapping something behind your upper back, you criss-cross the straps, but I’m sure people have different opinions about that. At the time I bought it, all the Beco carriers were organic so I liked supporting a company that did that, but I think now they have non-organic ones too.

2. Organic Ergo

All my friends seem to have Ergos and really like them. The only reason I didn’t get one was I heard they are better for larger-framed people since they are a little wider, and I thought the sunshade part didn’t look very streamlined in it’s little front pocket. You also need to buy a separate infant insert while you don’t for the Beco. But overall it seems great and people say it’s really comfortable. You can’t wear the baby facing out, but that’s not supposed to be comfortable for the baby really anyway.

I know a few people who have the baby bjorn which comes in organic too, but I’ve heard that it hurts your back and the way it hold babies facing the front puts too much pressure on their crotch. I’ve never tried a mei tai which as far as I can tell is like a beco but it ties closed instead of having snaps and everything. They seem really comfortable and I would definitely try one if I needed another carrier.

My overall favorite: the Moby wrap because it’s SO versatile and comfortable. Runners up are the Beco and Ergo depending on what’s comfortable for you.

Organic baby bouncers

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A baby bouncer is definitely not a need to have item, but we ended up registering for one and have used it a lot. Of course if we didn’t have it we could have just put Jack down in his crib or on a blanket, but he didn’t like lying down much for the first few months and preferred to be upright (maybe he had some reflux) so we used the bouncer a lot.

Once we decided to ask for one (since people kept insisting it would be really useful) I looked up many natural options. I knew I didn’t want anything mechanical with vibrating or batteries or flashing lights etc, so that helped narrow down the options.

We ended up deciding on the BabyBjorn babysitter in organic cotton pictured above. I like that it is made of just organic cotton stretched over a metal frame (plus some foam around the edges which I’m not a big fan of). It’s easy to slide off the metal and wash and is also reversible. It also only bounces using the weight of your baby. I wish it was easier to open the button parts, but overall it’s been great, and can be used for naps as well. For a few months I would carry it from room to room (using one hand easily) because Jack was only happy sitting there, so it was the only way I could shower or cook things without wearing him.

We also eventually got the toy that clips on as a gift as well. It’s pretty expensive and I was disappointed to see that it’s mostly wood but some parts like the flower petals are plastic. Jack liked it a lot though, and there was a time around 3-4 months that he was totally fascinated but spinning the toy parts. Now he tries to sit up and put it in his mouth!

Other options I looked at:

  • Stokke has a bouncer that is Oeko-tex certified, but not organic
  • There are a bunch of organic baby hammock type things available, but they seem much less portable and some are really expensive

Finding a cheap non-toxic crib

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Since we spent a lot of money on some things already like the car seat, I wanted to find a non-toxic but not very expensive crib. I looked at Ikea, but I either didn’t like their designs (we wanted something kind of modern), and some of their cribs hard particleboard.

Surprisingly, the cheapest place I found a modern  solid wood crib with non-toxic paint was walmart! We decided to get this crib in the BabyMod series which is made of sustainable pine from New Zealand and cost a reasonable $199. We also looked on craigslist a little, but there wasn’t anything we really liked. Also, you want to make sure not to buy an old crib that no longer meets safety regulations.

So far the crib is working well although we use it as a play area and co-sleep for now. Jack has tried to chew on it, so I’m glad we got one with non-toxic paint! It converts into a toddler bed too, so I’m sure we’ll use it eventually. It definitely doesn’t look cheap, and seems solid and modern. I know some people who prefer the Montessori idea of just having a mattress on the floor which I think is also a nice option. We have a dog, so it’s nice to have a space where the dog can’t get to him when I put him down. It’s also easier on my back to put him down in the crib for a minute while I go to the bathroom rather than bending down to the floor (Jack weighs 18 pounds now!).

I looked at a ton of mattresses and I think the naturepedic ones are probably the most eco-friendly. They were expensive though, so we settled on this Lullaby Earth one that has two different firmness levels so you can use it for a baby or toddler.  It doesn’t have harmful flame retardants and is also only 7 pounds which makes changing crib sheets a lot easier! It’s waterproof which is nice and is made of polyethylene instead of polyurethane or vinyl. It’s also greenguard certified and had no chemical smell when we opened it.

We bought the naturepedic organic cotton fitted sheet because it had good amazon reviews, and it’s been good so far. I usually keep an organic cotton receiving blanket on top of it so if Jack spits up while playing in the crib I can get away with not having to wash the whole sheet.

Non-toxic strollers

nontoxic stroller baby jogger city mini review

Jack in our city mini by baby jogger

I had a hard time deciding what stroller to register for since this is my first child, and I didn’t really know what features would be most important. I definitely wanted something as non-toxic as possible, but also not something too expensive since we already got an expensive car seat. We live in an apartment with a few stairs up to the door, so I was planning to keep the stroller in my car trunk and therefore didn’t want something huge and wanted something really easy to open up and close.

I got almost all my baby things online, but I actually went to a physical store to look at a few strollers so that I could try out how easy they were to open with one hand if I was holding the baby. From reading a ton of Amazon reviews, I decided to get the BabyJogger City Mini which is easy to open up, and closes easily with one hand by pulling on a strap. I emailed the company and found out that:

Baby Jogger strollers made in the US are free of:
-Flame retardants
-PVC/BPA
-Latex
-Teflon
-Phthalates
-ScotchGuard
The USA stroller seat padding are made of polyurethane foam.

I also considered getting the Orbit stroller frame since my car seat could snap into it, but it was almost $500 just for the frame! I also tried it at the store and it was not possible to open or close with one arm for me. I also preferred the look of the BabyJogger and thought having 3 wheels made it easier to maneuver.

orbit baby nontoxic stroller review

The BabyPlanet brand also has a non-toxic stroller, but I thought they were not attractive looking

baby planet nontoxic stroller review

There are also a lot of really expensive brands that don’t use fire retardants like UppaBaby and Bugaboo. For a nice list of chemicals in strollers, try this web site.  I would also encourage you to email the company to make sure once you narrow it down to a couple of strollers because things can always change.

So far Jack has only used our stroller a couple of times because for the first 6 months I always wore him in the Moby or Beco. I still wear him now (he weighs 18 pounds) but my step-mom uses the stroller and he likes it.

What I like about the City Mini so far:

  • It’s easy to steer with one hand
  • It can recline so he can nap in it
  • There are clear panels you can open so you can see him through the sun shade
  • It protects him from the sun unlike a carrier
  • I like the red color we got because it’s pretty bright and less likely to get hit by a car
  • There is nice storage underneath it
  • It really is easy to open and especially close

I definitely don’t regret skipping an infant car-seat adapter because I never wanted to carry him in a stroller while he was so tiny. The carriers feel a lot safer to me since the baby is on you, and when they are so small it doesn’t hurt your back. It did wake him up moving him from the car seat to the wrap, but he loved being all cozy in the wrap and would usually go back to sleep.