Surviving public transit with a baby on board

Activities & Play   |   Age: 3 months 3 weeks

Surviving public transit with a baby on board

It can be hard to predict how your baby is going to react to new situations, and public transportation can seem like a whole new environment every different time you get on it. Keeping a few things in mind, though, can help keep your bus (or train, or ferry) ride with your baby one of the fun, exciting kinds of new experiences, not the kind you avoid repeating at all costs.

Know your your baby

Trips on public transportation with your baby, like most outings she is involved with, have a much better chance of going well if she is in a good mood. Unless you know your baby is going to be able to nap in the carrier or stroller you’re bringing with you, naptime might not be the best travel time. If your baby tends to get fussy if she can’t snack, try feeding her before you head out, or packing a bottle or other snack-source. If your baby can’t stand to be worn in a carrier, ignore all of the advice about how it’s the best way to go - it’s only an easy way to carry your baby around if she doesn't protest it every time you try using it, after all. Unless you know your baby is great with crowds, it can be a good idea to try to time these early voyages so they don’t coincide with the commuter rush, too.

Know your game plan

One thing about public transportation that makes a lot of new parents nervous is the lack of a car seat, or any kind of seat belt. While buses and trains are statistically much safer than cars, seat belt or not, it can be hard to relax and have a smooth ride if you spend the whole time worrying for your baby’s safety. Some parents feel more secure knowing their babies are at least somewhat enclosed, and feel safest traveling with their babies in strollers. Collapsible strollers, where the wheels fold down and a car seat-like structure is left, are good for this if you have one, but a regular stroller with parking brakes on can be good for this sense of security too, as long as the bus system in your area doesn’t require that strollers on the bus be folded up and stowed, as some do.

On the other hand, though, strollers can be bulky, hard to maneuver, hard to get up the steps and onto a bus, and hard to fit comfortably around the other passengers. If you’re not walking far before, after or between bus trips, it may be easiest to skip the stroller in favor of a sling or other baby-wearing device, which will be easier to carry onto the bus, or to get through turnstiles onto the train. If you are taking a train, knowing whether there’s elevator access or just stairs or escalators down to the platform may play into this decision.

Timing is another factor that can help make or break your trip. your baby is more likely to stay happy if you can minimize the number of long waits breaking up your trip, and a little googling to find out the basic timelines of the routes you’re taking, and to see if your city has a good tracking app if you haven’t got one already, can go a long way.

Be prepared

Having a baby can get you to a level of ready-for-anything you might not have had before, but part of being prepared to bring your baby on public transit hinges on knowing how much not to bring, too. Having to wrangle an overload of stuff along with your baby on a crowded bus or train is no fun for anybody, so while it’s a good idea to have a snack with you, and maybe a jacket or blanket if it looks like your baby might get chilly, traveling light is probably a better bet than preparing for any eventuality.

Have fun!

Sound unlikely? Depending on your baby’s personality, it can be, but with a little luck, the bus trip could also become one of her favorite things. After all, city buses have some of your baby’s most long-standing interests - a constant rocking motion, new sights, and new sounds. And a whole bunch of gum under the seats.

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