How Soon Can I Bike With My Baby?

Mar 15, 2018
|

As a cartographer who helps improve the Adventure Cycling Route Network every working day, I’m constantly inspired by new places to bicycle tour. Also, my husband and I met through cycling, and it remains a core component of our lives. When we found out our family would be growing from two to three, we knew introducing our child to the joy of bike travel would rank pretty high on our priority list. So we wondered, “How soon can we introduce our newborn baby to cycling?”

While we wanted to share our love of bike travel with our daughter early and often, we also wanted to keep her safe. Could we do this when she was a baby? We explored our options by looking at standard recommendations, then digging deeper into the reasons for them. In addition to talking with our pediatrician, we read many articles to assess the risks. I’ve listed some of the most helpful pieces at the end of the post.

We found it's much more common to bike with small babies in other countries around the world, particularly the Netherlands. But in the U.S., not many people bike with infants, and makers of bike trailers and child bike seats recommend you don’t bike with a baby younger than nine to 12 months old.

Why? Here are their major concerns:

  1. A baby’s inability to steadily hold its head up and safely wear a helmet
  2. Potentially strong vibrations affecting the child’s head and neck
  3. Crashes, either solo or involving other vehicles and/or pedestrians
  4. Sitting somewhat upright, even in a car seat, for long periods

For us, introducing our daughter to our favorite form of exercise, transportation, and learning more about the world, provided benefits that outweighed what we saw as the risks. With excitement, we decided we would try a small bike trip just before I would return to work, three months after our baby was born, and take precautions to mitigate potential issues.

In the end, we felt much more comfortable, happier, and healthier with our baby in a car seat inside a bike trailer riding leisurely on a paved bike path than we did having her strapped inside a car going 55+ mph down a busy road.

To tackle the concerns listed above, we did the following:

  1. Used a car seat strapped inside a bike trailer so the baby could be in a reclining position with her head and neck supported
  2. Rode well-maintained trails with a paved surface to prevent excessive vibrations. Several sources said that vibrations, even on a paved bike path, may be too much for an infant under nine to 12 months. To us, this did not make much sense, because if we used the trailer as a stroller, using a stroller conversion kit, then according to the Mayo Clinic’s stroller safety tips for parents, our setup would be fine on the same trail in the same trailer, provided the baby could recline and her head was supported.
  3. Rode bike trails separated from roads to reduce the interaction with cars and potential crashes. While I understand the concern about potential mishaps, I am personally more likely to trip while carrying my baby than crash while cycling at a relaxed pace on a quiet separated bike trail.
  4. Took frequent breaks to feed the baby, get her out of the car seat, and enjoy the surroundings.

Baby-trailer-car-seat-setup
Strapping the car seat inside the bicycle trailer was relatively easy.
Tracy Brown

In the end, we felt much more comfortable, happier, and healthier with our baby in a car seat inside a bike trailer riding leisurely on a paved bike path than we did having her strapped inside a car going 55+ mph down a busy road. And riding along the beautiful trail in fall foliage with birds and squirrels chirping all around us, helped to reinvigorate our sleep-deprived lives. In the enjoyment of the journey, we found a strong sense of family bonding, as we returned to one of the things we love most and got to share it with our new daughter.

“How soon can you introduce your baby to bike travel?” is a question that each parent should evaluate for themselves. Do your own research, talk with your pediatrician, and check local and state helmet laws in areas you’d like to ride. Then, like every decision that you make, weigh the benefits and the risks.

Whenever you decide to introduce your child to bike travel, you can find ideas for starter trips at BikeOvernights.org, with entries tagged as Family

Other links about biking with babies:

Bicycle-trail-with-baby-trailer
With some research and preparation, cycling with your baby can be an enjoyable and relaxing experience.
Melissa Moser
divider
 

Related Reading

Comments

Melissa August 31, 2018, 12:56 PM

Hi Mande, Congratulations on your baby! And kudos for finding ways to bring him into the world of cycling! For this trip, we used an old double Schwinn that we borrowed from a friend, which worked great on smooth bike trails. I think most single trailers would work too, though. Measure the width of your car seat and compare that to the width on the trailers you're investigating. For trailer/strollers I would recommend either a Thule (https://www.thule.com/en-us/us/bike-trailers/multisport-trailers )or a Burley (https://burley.com/product-category/kids-bike-trailers/). We now have a double Burley D'Lite (with suspension for rougher trails) and love it for the extra storage space (for bike and ski trips). The one thing I don't like about it is that the seats don't recline. They lay flat, so that we could install the car seat. But once our daughter got out of the car seat, we found that the Burley seats sit so upright that it is difficult for her to sleep in the trailer. She still loves it though. We just don't get as many naps as we would like in the trailer. The Thule seats do recline, but they have very limited storage for bike trips. Those are a couple pros/cons to consider. Best of luck on this new journey!

Reply
Mande Douglas August 30, 2018, 4:05 PM

What type of trailer did you use? I couldn't tell by the photos of it's a single or double. We'd like to get a trailer that is versatile, can switch between biking and jogging. Seeing what you did gives us some great advantages. We have a preemie, though he is growing great, it will be a while before we can introduce him to a helmet. This is a great alternative for us. Thank you for this piece!

Reply
Ginny Sullivan April 2, 2018, 11:34 AM

Hi Cynthia - Thanks for catching this! You are a dedicated bicycle advocate and know your stuff. We appreciate the reminder and will incorporate this into our future editing practices. Thanks for reading and all the work you do to make bicycling safer & more accessible.

Reply
Cynthia Rose April 2, 2018, 12:13 AM

PLEASE -- Crash not "Accident"

Advocates and municipalities across the world are removing this from their vernacular as it promotes the notion that these crashes are somehow unavoidable - we cannot allow these crashes to be brush aside as "unavoidable accidents" when we all know they ARE avoidable.

Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let's stop using the word "accident" today. https://www.crashnotaccident.com

Reply
Post a Comment