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 reasons for them. In addition to talking with our pediatrician, we read many articles to assist us in assessing the risks to our infant daughter. I’ve listed some of the most helpful pieces at the end of the post.
We found it is 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? It seems the major concerns when cycling with a child under 12 months are:
- A baby’s inability to steadily hold its head up and safely wear a helmet
- Potentially strong vibrations affecting the child’s head and neck
- Crashes, either solo or involving other vehicles and/or pedestrians
- 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.
To tackle the concerns listed above, we did the following:
- We used a car seat strapped inside a bike trailer so the baby could be in a reclining position with her head and neck supported;
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Took frequent breaks to feed the baby, get her out of the car seat, and enjoy the surroundings.
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 that riding and the enjoyment of the journey