Showing posts with label Carriers. Show all posts

Listen to us on a Podcast! (TransitMatters episode 30: Kids on Transit)

I had the pleasure a few weeks back to discuss kids, transit, living carfree, and other urban issues with the folks on the excellent podcast TransitMatters.

If you're not familiar with TansitMatters, check them out - especially if you're in the Boston area. They are an advocacy organization "dedicated to improving transit in and around Boston by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates, educating riders and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media."

The family-centered episode I appeared on went live this week and you can listen to it here: PODCAST 30 - KIDS ON TRANSIT WITH LEE BIERNBAUM

Subscribe to their podcast on iTunes, your favorite podcatcher (yeah, I'm holding on to that term), or at their RSS Feed.

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, donate, or volunteer.

If you liked the episode, be sure to let them know too.




P.S. If you are familiar with TransitMatters, know that I spend days considering what Parks and Recreation reference I was going to make following the intro and I came up with nothing. I hope I can go back on someday just so that I can reveal my inner Perd Hapley.

How to start bringing your baby/toddler/kid on transit!

"Next Stop, Please"
While we were quite certain we didn't want to get a car the moment that first baby came, the idea of figuring out how to get a stroller onto the bus or train and keep a kid calm was daunting. Ideally I also wanted to allow others to board/alight without causing all the sidelong glances I'd so smugly sent at flustered new parents for many years.

Similarly, when the never ending snows of 2015 came, our slow easing-back of the stroller became an all-out desertion of anything with wheels. The thought of getting a 20-month old to and from daycare on transit unrestrained was intimidating, even for us urbanophiles.

So how did we do it?
Note: If you're here with just a toddler, you can skip the next two sections and head down to "Lower the Stakes."

Educate Yourself about the Transit System

Still pregnant? Watch other families board and see what works (and what doesn't) for them. Check out where they sit, how they get there, and especially watch how they flip up seats or any other adjustments to the bus or train. Be brave, ask questions or offer to help, it's a great time to practice.
Note: If you've enjoyed the anonymity of urban life so far, you may feel weird talking to random people, but your life of being ignored will soon end. People of all types are going to approach you with all sorts of comments and questions when you travel with the adorable littles, even in the city. So you may as well start getting used to conversation with strangers. At least this time you're getting some much needed information out of the deal.
Too late to practice? That's fine. If you're using a stroller, the general rule of thumb you're going to use on transit for the next few years is to treat the system like someone in a wheelchair. You are looking for low-floor trains/buses, elevators, step-free passages, and space to get a stroller out of the way of people trying to fill up a vehicle. The Americans with Disabilities Act (for those in the U.S.) does not cover you, but the things transit agencies are doing to comply will be your friend. (SEE BELOW FOR A MAJOR POINT ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY.)

Most transit agency websites have a section devoted to these things. You will generally find them under "Accessibility" or other information for the "Mobility Impaired." Your results will vary, as some agencies have more information than others, and some will (understandably) focus more on other issues of accessibility, but it's a good place to start. 

On a day you're riding solo during a non-peak time, see if you ask a couple questions to the driver. Are there seats that flip up? Where is the handle? Is it the same on all buses/trains? Is it easier to enter through a back door? How/when do you pay your fare? Answers for Boston MBTA will be forthcoming in another post.

The Right Gear for Children on Transit

We've all seen people try to board the bus with giant heavy strollers, slowing down everyone else while they get increasingly flustered. How not to be them? 

First, get the right stroller and accessories. Light, tight turning radius, and narrow are your friends here... especially light. Stores may tell you that 20 pounds is light for a stroller (it may even have "city" in its name), but that's not light enough. You can find them under 18 pounds (15 pounds and under is even better).

Stroller toys are also super since on a particularly bad commute, anything that buys you another 5-10 minutes may just be the thing that gets you home (or the kid to sleep). Until the babies were old enough to ditch the pacifier, we kept one on a clip attached to the stroller at all times (clips are also a great way to keep a toy attached to the stroller without it going missing). That was, in fact, the last pacifier we ditched with our first, even after the one that lived in the crib. Remember to also keep appropriate things in your diaper bag in case of unexpected delays or accidents. This is not a place to go nuts for all contingencies (staying light being a priority as well), but a snack with a long shelf life and some all purpose wipes will go a long way for peace of mind.

Is your train or bus extra crowded? Do you live in a city that requires you to fold up strollers? Is it snowing? Then a carrier is a great way to use transit and more-or-less avoid all of the issues afforded by strollers. Just hope that this isn't the day you need to get diapers, wipes, and sheets into daycare.

Lower the Stakes when Starting out on Transit with Your Kid

The people on the bus go up & down...
Ok, now we're to the part where the strategies are the same for getting out there with a stroller AND for getting your kid out of the stroller. In other words, use the obvious strategies that you employ when trying something new with your kid.


Start small

Pick a non-essential trip, during the middle of the day or the weekend, on a day when your child seems to be in a good mood.  Don't go too far - pick a destination that you can walk home from with the stroller or carry the kid if you've ditched it.

Be ready for the first time (or 3) to be slow and to feel like the tourists you scoff at all the time. It's going to be awkward, you won't know where to put your hands, or the kid's hands, or you'll discover the cup holder hits the stop request button, or your newly unrestrained kid's snowpants cause them to slide right off the seat.  It will feel like you spent 15 minutes getting settled while everyone else stares daggers at you. You can rest assured, however, it was probably only 30 seconds and no one even looked up from Facebook.

Get off two stops later, enjoy a cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat at a cafe, and walk back home. You did it!

Build Slow

For the stroller crowd, once you get a couple of these under your belt, try a rush hour commute. If you're feeling nervous, recruit another adult to help (partner/parent/friend/etc.). Then try a rush hour commute where the second adult hangs out at the other end of the vehicle and only helps if something goes wrong. Slowly ease off the training wheels and you've got the confidence to hop on anytime, get around, and enjoy your city, baby and all!
Our first longer walk parallel to the bus route

For those trying to ditch the stroller, the same principles apply but you're also adding in the need to help your kid learn to walk further and further. So instead of wheeling the stroller directly into the daycare, we parked the stroller first and walked to the door. Then, we started walking to the park (holding onto a stroller handle) but letting the kid ride in the stroller on the return trip.

To bring it back to transit, we started taking the bus unrestrained to music class where the walk on either side of the bus was short. We kept practicing with various trips until we were ready to try a run to daycare. At first we only did the commute without a stroller one way, leaving the stroller at the daycare overnight for an unrestrained ride home and then back to school the next morning. We went from one day a week, to two, to... the worst winter in Boston history where we ditched the stroller entirely and were so happy she was ready and able to do it!

Use Cute and Precocious as Long as you Can

Moving to unrestrained transit riding also meant teaching the kid a lot more about proper behavior than we had to cover when she was confined to the stroller. We do lots of reminders about the fact that everyone gets personal space, the need to stay in your seat, using your inside voice, and really all the things that toddlers do. All of which is to say, you'll no longer be checking your phone or enjoying a cup of coffee while enroute.

When we've had issues with her pushing the limits of appropriate behavior, I apologize, and generally people are pretty nice/forgiving (yes, even here in grumpy Boston). Her size, comparative independence and charizma let her get away with it. This should buy you enough time (and trips) to teach better habits.

Ask for help and know when to decline it

We all have bad, weird, or frustrating days. And here's the thing, you can always ask for help. You can ask people to vacate the accessible seating, you can ask people to flip up a seat, or to even help you with a stroller on the stairs if you so need. In my experience, people have always been pretty great about it, especially people who have grown children.

While plenty of people offer useless (or worse) help, most of them are just trying to be good citizens and everything is going to be OK, I promise!

I see our subway station!

You Did It!

Eventually they'll want to look out the window, which will be lots of fun (and distracting) for them. They'll learn the names of the stops, learn their left and right from the door announcements, and tell strangers how to get around. At home you can make up new verses to "The Wheels on the Bus" based on your actual experiences (we've added verses about bike racks and card readers).

And now we have a commute where we can have fun, learn skills, and see each other face-to-face all without having to circle for parking.

Hey, we got back to being smug, victory!

A note (actually 2) about Accessibility

When you are in the wheelchair section of your bus or train, keep your eyes open for folks using other mobility aids who need access to that section of the vehicle. It's annoying to stand in an aisle with a stroller, but easier/safer for you to do than a wheelchair, which generally must be secured using special attachments only in that area. Similarly, someone with a walker may not be able to make it as far into the vehicle as you can. Part of asking others to vacate these spaces for you is realizing that you may still need to vacate for someone in more need than you.

Also, when you're winding through dark passageways from platform to platform and stuck in slow-moving foul-smelling elevators while those without wheels walk up 10 stairs to accomplish the same task, remind yourself: When my child(ren) is out of the stroller, we'll be done with this. And then double-remind yourself, for many of the people using these services, they are stuck with this substandard transit experience every day.

So, when your transit agency says they don't have money for accessibility, or there's no need to add a second elevator to serve platforms in both directions, or that they can't upgrade a station because then they'd finally need to make it accessible, PUSH BACK. Do it for your selfish reasons of needing to get a stroller around town for the next few years, but especially do it for the non-selfish reasons.

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Attach baby, see the world! (review of Ergo vs. Lillebaby structured carriers)

Baby in carrier, stroller in hand, ready to board the train!
Carriers are super useful in the first year of life, especially if you live in an urban area and like to go places without a car.  They can also be a great way to calm down an upset baby or give the baby a place to nap while out and about (while still maintaining use of both your hands).  There are even studies which show that periodic babywearing (as it's known in the biz) allows children to reach gross motor milestones earlier. (Note: I'm almost hesitant to mention this last fact because when I was Googling for the references on this, I came across all kinds of crazy websites advocating that you never put your child down in order to become a "natural" parent.  I don't even know where to begin deconstructing this.  Let's just say that I rolled my eyes so hard they almost got stuck in my skull.  Naturally (ha!) you have my full permission to put your baby down any time you damn well please! I assure you there is nothing "unnatural" about wanting space from your kids sometimes and no one will be damaged as a result.)

In any case, in the first 2 months of life I really recommend an unstructured carrier (doubly for Mom).  In the beginning they tend to be easier to put on and adjust to the adult, especially when the adult in question is still funny shaped from the pregnancy (though keep in mind, Mom won't be able to use the carrier for the first 2 weeks, but Grandparents and partners can). Also the structured carriers are all built to carry 3 year olds and so sometimes are hard to adjust to itty bitty babies. (You can see our review of the Moby and Infantino Mai Tai.)

Once your baby is big enough though, you may want to get a structured carrier for your and their comfort.  But which carrier should you get?  There are many of them on the market and we personally have tried 2 different ones: Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier and the LILLEbaby Complete Baby Carrier.

Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier

Getting squirmy toddler through airport security.
When our first child was born there was only one company that made "ergonomic" carriers, i.e. ones that were comfortable for the parents.  They called themselves "Ergobaby" (get it? get it?).  We got one and it was great.  It was an easy way to transport the baby, say onto an Amtrak train, and still have hands free for all your stuff. It had a "sun hood", which was great not just to protect the baby from the sun but also to help her sleep when we needed her to nap on the go.  It also had a pocket in the front which was a convenient place to store your cell phone/keys etc. if you were just taking a walk around the neighborhood and didn't need that much stuff with you.  Our baby also just enjoyed hanging out in it while we did other stuff and often it was a way to get her to nap when she just plain didn't want to.  We used it with some frequency until the kid was about a year old. In fact we have so many pictures of us carrying her around in it (in the carrier at a wedding! at a train station! with dad working at a computer!), it was hard to just pick 2.

Overall, it was great but from my perspective it had 2 downsides:
  1. 1. There was no front facing option with the "original" carrier, which was the only one available at the time. Facing forward would have been much more fun for the kid once she got to be about 4 months old.  Both Ergobaby and other brands have since come out with structured carriers that have this feature.

  2. 2. When the baby is under 3 months, you have to use this really bulky and hot insert with them.  This one was the real bummer, especially since our first baby was born in June and our second in July.  Even in the most recent version of this (the Ergo Baby 4 Position 360 Carrier ) they haven't entirely fixed it (the 360 infant insert at least does appear to be thinner).  Given that other options are available, if you think you'll want to use the carrier before the kid is 3 months, I would say it's definitely worth considering a different brand.

LILLEbaby Complete

Tiny baby, napping in the airport
When we found out we were expecting a second child, we knew we wouldn't have to get too many new things for him.  He was born a mere 2 years after the first and most things survived our daughters' use of them.  There were a couple of products, however, we wanted an updated version of and the structured carrier was one of them.  For this reason we set out to find a carrier that improved on the 2 things mentioned above that we didn't entirely love about the Ergobaby.  The LILLEbaby Complete Baby Carrier met all our needs in spec and has certainly lived up to expectations since then in use.

Baby, ready to see the world while Mom takes a walk
It's appropriate for use in the newborn stage without any inserts.  Like the Ergobaby, it has a pocket for transporting small things like a cell phone or a burp cloth.  It also boasts not only a sun hood, but a back that can be pinned down to give the baby a better view of the world even when the baby is worn parent-facing.  Not only that, but it can be converted to be forward facing relatively easily.  Most importantly, it is phenomenally comfortable for the parent (even more so than the Ergobaby).   It's a bit tricky to learn to put on but, the other amazing features of this are well worth it in my opinion.

Finally, what I love about this carrier is that it comes both in a "all season" and "airflow" version.  We got the "airflow" version because wearing a baby usually feels warm and one can always add a cover to it.  This carrier has been everything it promised to be and I am super excited to be using it until the kiddo outgrows it.


    

The truly versatile winter baby blanket

Whenever I see something advertised as having 20 uses, I assume that at least 19 of them are a terrible idea or a serious stretch.  It's pretty hard to design something that really and truly works well in multiple circumstances.  So when I saw the Kurumi Ket Carrier Cover with Hoodieadvertised as having "5 in 1 uses," I was extremely skeptical.  I was originally looking for a cover to use with a carrier while preparing for the arrival of our son.  This is because when my daughter was a baby, we just tried to carry her inside our coat (see picture on the right).  This really didn't work well and resulted in neither my daughter nor the parent carrying her being particularly warm.  So, I saw that the Kurumi Ket Carrier Cover with Hoodie had good reviews and figured that worst case, we would only use it as a carrier cover and nothing else.


Color me wrong.  So far we have tried this extremely versatile blanket in a number of circumstances with great success.

Nursing on the playground

Nursing Cover

I don't always use a nursing cover for modesty reasons, especially when there is literally no one else around.  I have, however, started to have the experience of needing to nurse outside in less than pleasant weather.  When I only had one child, I would, of course, go somewhere more comfortable in these circumstances.  However, my older kiddo really does need to be able to run around and the younger kiddo isn't exactly patient when it comes to food.  Thus, I have been finding myself nursing on a park bench in all kinds of weather recently.  The Kurumi Ket really does work great as a cold weather nursing cover.  The fleece hood keeps it on the baby without much need to even close the snaps (though I could if I needed to) and I can still see what I'm doing.  Viola - baby and mom are warm.

Stroller Blanket

We never ended up getting one of those foot muffs for the stroller when my daughter was a baby (the Skip Hop Stroll and Go Three-Season Footmuff is a well regarded example).  We pretty much just put her in a warm coat and headed out.  If it was particularly cold we'd throw a blanket on her and if it was windy we'd use our rain cover.  However, for those days when the weather was changing and we ended up relying on the blanket more than planned, it was always a pain to keep it on her and in the stroller.  More often than not, the blanket would fall out at some point during the outing only to be rolled and then stepped on by yours truly.  This is why I totally love the idea of using the Kurumi Ket as a stroller blanket.  The little arms with snaps can attach to the stroller frame so there is no way of losing it.  They recommend attaching it "upside down" with the hood covering the baby's feet - genius!  It's certainly not as warm as a real footmuff but so far it's been working great.


Carrier Cover

Last, but not least, we are also using it as a carrier cover - the item of desire that started this whole thing in the first place.  Here I am, pictured about to embark on a walk with my little bear snuggled comfortably in his carrier, covered by the blanket.  

All around I would give this blanket an enthusiastic thumbs up!  Not only is it truly versatile but for the price it is honestly great value.  I think it's about to join the Mai Tai as a permanent resident of my stroller basket. 

Moby Wrap

General theory- Carriers are super useful in the first year of life, especially if you live in an urban area and like to go places not in a car.

In the first 2 months of life I really recommend an unstructured carrier (doubly for Mom). The benefits of an unstructured carrier in the beginning is that they tend to be easier to put on and adjust to the adult, especially when your'e still funny shaped from the pregnancy (though keep in mind, you won't be able to use the carrier for the first 2 weeks, but Grandparents and partners can). Also the structured carriers are all built to carry 3 year olds and so sometimes are hard to adjust to the little babies. 

With our first, we used a Moby Wrap. It's basically a very very long piece of fabric with instructions of how to wrap it around you and your baby. It was hard to learn how to put on (Lee never figured it out) but once I did figure it out, it was very comfortable, until she was about 3 months and then it suddenly got very uncomfortable (though I know people who use them with toddlers - god bless them).

The Moby comes in a ton of colors and fabric variants, plus many sports teams are available too, if that's your thing.

Photo Credit: Moby Dick under a Creative Commons license. 

Ergobaby Structured Carriers

General theory- Carriers are super useful in the first year of life, especially if you live in an urban area and like to go places not in a car.

In the first 2 months of life I really recommend an unstructured carrier (doubly for Mom).  You can see our review of the Moby and Infantino Mai Tai.

Once your baby is big enough though, you may want to get a structured carrier for your and their comfort.  When our first was born there was only one company that made "ergonomic" carriers, i.e. ones that were comfortable for the parents.  They called themselves "ergo" (get it?).  We got one and it was great.  It was an easy way to transport the baby, say onto an Amtrak train, and still have hands free for all your stuff. It also had a "sun hood", which was great not just to protect the baby from the sun but also to help her sleep when we needed her to nap on the go.  It also had a pocket in the front which was a convenient place to store your cell phone/keys etc. if you were just taking a walk around the neighborhood and didn't need that much stuff with you.  Our baby also just enjoyed hanging out in it while we did other stuff and often it was a way to get her to nap when she just plain didn't want to.  We used it with some frequency until the kid was about a year old. In fact we have so many pictures of us carrying her around in it (in the carrier at a wedding! at a train station! with dad working at a computer!), it was hard to just pick 2.


Overall, it was great but from my perspective it had 2 downsides:
1. There was no front facing option with the "original" carrier, which was the only one available at the time. Facing forward would have been much more fun for the kid once she got to be about 4 months old.  Both Ergo and other brands have since come out with structured carriers that have this feature.

2. When the baby is under 3 months, you have to use this really bulky and hot insert with them.  This one was the real bummer, especially since our first baby was born in June and our second in July.  Even in the most recent version of this ("the 360") they haven't fixed it.  Given that other options are available, if you think you'll want to use the carrier before the kid is 3 months, I would say it's definitely worth considering a different brand.

Infantino Mai Tai

General theory- Carriers are super useful in the first year of life, especially if you live in an urban area and like to go places not in a car.


In the first 2 months of life I really recommend an unstructured carrier (doubly for Mom). The benefits of an unstructured carrier in the beginning is that they tend to be easier to put on and adjust to the adult, especially when your'e still funny shaped from the pregnancy (though keep in mind, you won't be able to use the carrier for the first 2 weeks, but Grandparents and partners can). Also the structured carriers are all built to carry 3 year olds and so sometimes are hard to adjust to the little babies. 

This time around we went with the Infantino Mai Tai. It is waaaay easier to put on than the Moby (Lee has used it all by himself)