Baby is due in late June, and we hope to continue our normal habit of light day hikes (<4 miles, no major elevation changes) with her later in the summer and into early fall. Does it make sense to carry her in a front baby carrier, or should we look for a carseat carrier which will fit the offroad stroller we already purchased? The stroller warns it cannot be used without an infant carrier until baby is 6 months old. We'd like to just use the front baby carrier, and switch off between Mom & Dad if one of us gets tired, but need to know if this is practical or not... thank you!
I'd recommend checking out a baby wrap instead of a carrier. Especially in the infant stage.
You can either get one online (my wife got one here and loved it) or make one yourself. They are pretty easy. My wife made one out of lighter material for the hot summer months.
If you already have purchased the baby carrier, or were going to purchase it anyway - I'd try out the baby carrier first. If you deem that it does not work for you, then you can look into purchasing a car seat that fits in your off-road stroller.
With a baby carrier, you are not as restricted by the terrain or small spaces. However, you do have to be a lot more careful with the baby - a slip or a fall could be deadly for the baby. Baby carrier also allows you to easily feed the baby while in the sling. Be careful about not over-dressing the baby. Babies can get very warm from your body heat in a sling. Keep an eye on the baby's temperature.
With a baby in a car seat in the stroller, the baby is relatively safe - after all, car seats are designed to sustain the damage of car accidents. You'd have to stop and take out the baby for feeding it. Strollers are more of a nuisance, however, and restrict the spaces you can enter.
I would think that a baby carrier would be preferred until the baby is a little - but every family is different, and every baby is different. What works for one family, might not work for yours.
The front baby carrier is very hard for your back, but seem to be nicer for baby's neck... We had a carrier that could be switched from front to back position, that was very useful. I would buy a carrier in any case because even if you don't use during hiking, it will be useful when baby is crying: they love it and get asleep very fast in this position.
I would recommend a wrap or an Ergo backpack-they have newborn inserts for it. We had an ergo that I LOVED! It is a soft backpack, that can also be worn in front... it holds them as though they are sitting-which helps their hip joints develop correctly... as opposed to holding them from their crotch. It is comfortable when worn and holds kids up to 60+ lbs, at least, I think. If I still had ours (I lost it 6 months ago), I'd take it for in the airport for our preschooler... to keep her with us instead of running around. In lieu of the Ergo, I'd recommend a sling or other wrap, also-it's not as cumbersome and more versatile than a metal framed backpack carrier for carrying the baby in a position they will also be happy in.
If that is the only stroller you own, I'd recommend getting the infant seat that fits in it, anyway-as you will use it when you go to a mall or a store that doesn't have shopping carts.. or walk around a park or....
I'll buck the trend here and say if you have a jogging/offroad stroller (something with inflatable tires that will stand up to a gravel trail), get a carrier for that stroller and use that.
We have a Baby Trends system (Expedition ELX) that has a jogging stroller, carrier and car seat base. I love it; it rolls around effortlessly, maneuvers like a dream, and cushions the bumps and pits in the parking lot and sidewalk much better than a standard stroller. The one thing I wished it had that it doesn't (and I can't find it on any jogging stroller) is a trigger for the front wheel lock up on the handlebars; if you want to start jogging, you have to bend down to the front wheel and flip the latch; to round that sharp corner, you have to release the lock (or raise the front wheel off the ground; not an easy thing to do smoothly).
The advantage of putting the baby in a car carrier and stroller is protection. The car carrier is designed to protect your baby in a car crash. If you're hiking with the baby in a front carrier, and stumble and fall, you can seriously injure yourself and your baby. By contrast, even if the stroller tips over your baby will be relatively safe.
Have you walked the same paths with a stroller before? Will you be only use tracks that can be navigated by car or at least by bike? Our only offroad hike with a stroller ended with carrying the thing a lot, even though we did know the area somewhat. Somehow we had never really noticed how many stairs there were in this area.