Riding on Public Transportation with a Baby in Tow

I will risk my green cred by admitting that I never got the hang of riding the bus with my daughter.  Before I had a baby of my own, I’d see parents wearing their babies in slings or pouches, hopping on and off the bus with ease.  During the ride, the babies would sleep or calmly stare out at the view.  Maybe it wasn’t as easy for these parents as it looked–I know it wasn’t that easy for me!  I tend to choose walking over bus-riding most days, so I hardly qualify as a baby-bus-riding expert, but here are some pros and cons involved in the different ways of traveling with your tot.

Wearing Your Baby.  The most common baby-toting method for bus-riding in my town is a sling or baby carrier.

  • Pros: You can get on and off the bus with ease and have your hands free for taking out money, tickets, and transfers. Joy swears by the sling that she used for Roscoe during his first six months and found that when she wore it he would quickly slip into a temporary coma. Very convenient for public transport!
  • Cons: Some babies (like mine) do not cooperate with slings. My daughter would cry and squirm until I took her out. Then I’d have no place to put her if I needed to get my money out. Also, if I was wearing my baby, I couldn’t carry much else, like groceries or library books. This was a problem if I was taking the bus to run errands.

Taking the Stroller.  In Portland, we have to fold up strollers before getting on buses, but we can wheel strollers directly on trains or streetcars.  If you are planning on buying a stroller to use on public transportation, figure out how it works in your city.  If you have to fold the stroller up and carry it on, you’ll want something that folds compactly.  Look for a model that’s light-weight and has a carrying strap.  I chose the Maclaren Triumph because it weighs just eleven pounds–about the lightest I could find at the time.

  • Pros: Strollers are nice if you plan to walk long distances to or from your bus stop. My baby preferred sitting in a stroller to being worn for long walks.
  • Cons: It can be unwieldy to take your baby out of the stroller, fold the stroller up with the baby tucked under your arm, then get everything and everyone onto the bus.

Using the Stroller + Sling Combo.  I’ve tried wearing my baby in the sling and taking the stroller along as a backup.

  • Pros: It’s easier to deal with folding up the stroller and getting it on the bus if the baby is secure in a sling or pouch.
  • Cons: You’re still dealing with the unwieldiness of the stroller. If your baby doesn’t feel like riding in the stroller that day, you’ve brought it along for nothing!

Simply Carrying the Baby.  Last term I needed to take my toddler to work with me on Fridays.  This involved two one-hour bus trips, complete with stints of walking and transferring lines.  Because she was old enough to set down every once in a while, I decided to just carry her to the bus stop (or let her walk alongside me in her nonlinear fashion).

  • Pros: No dealing with slings or strollers!
  • Cons: It gets hard on the arms and back after awhile. If your child isn’t old enough to set down, you’ll have a hard time getting out your money and tickets.

Walking everywhere with my baby or taking her on public transportation works for me.  For more helpful Works for Me Wednesday links, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.  How are you managing taking your little ones on public transportation?  Please leave a comment with your traveling tales, stroller or sling recommendations, or questions for other bus-riding parents.


  1. Rebecca, I ride the bus all the time now, but never before my kids could walk. And when Ian was still taking naps, there were many times when I had to carry sleeping baby in arms the 5 blocks back to our house – not fun! For my kids when we did it, it was always a treat – my version of a cheap day out was to ride the bus downtown, ride max and streetcar around downtown and then go to Finnegan’s toy store and Central Library. This could all be done for the cost of a single bus ticket (and late fees at the library! lol). If I were doing it to run errands, I imagine I would feel differently about it. I really applaud the women who do this with young kids on a daily basis.

  2. What kind of sling did Joy use? I have a Moby wrap and my baby boy (1 month) can’t stand it…and neither can i. Its got too much fabric and here in Florida where the weather reaches in the upper 90’s with over 50% humidity most of the year, we can’t handle being wrapped up with 2o”+ feet of thick fabric. I need something easier and lighter to use. Maybe you could write a post on some different wraps/slings?!?!

  3. Great discussion. I often took the bus and various forms of public transportation when my son was a baby.

    I used a small but sturdy stroller too, but skipped the purse preferring a fanny pack. That gave me one less thing to worry about carrying.

    The bus is wonderful fun for a toddler too – just riding around is great at nap time!

  4. Eileen and Not Quite Crunchy Parent–Good point about the bus providing entertainment for a toddler! My daughter really loves riding the bus, though I can’t say it’s quite as fun for me when she’s squealing and scrambling all over a moving vehicle. No way would she ever NAP on a bus; the excitement is too great!

    Jillian, we actually have written a post on slings here: http://greenbabyguide.com/2008/01/03/baby-wearing-101/. A Moby is made of jersey knit, which can get hot. My sister-in-law made her own Moby-style wrap using gauze material, and she liked it a lot better, both because it was thinner and stronger than the stretchy Moby. A pouch-style sling would also be less warm because it involves much less fabric.

  5. Sounds like you don’t have the right type of baby carrier! Please check out thebabywearer.com. I wear my son who just turned one and weighs 25 lbs all the time and have my hands free to carry bags, chase a toddler, get money/keys out of pockets and everything else I can normally do without a baby on my back. I usually use and Ergo or Beco or other soft structured carrier but I also really like mei tais like my BabyHawk which you can use for infants as well. Oh and by the way I can still carry my almost three year old in either carrier too. Wraps are also great! Definitely check out thebabywearer.com. I use it daily!

  6. Oops in my last posting could you please remove my last name. Thanks!

    And I forgot to add…

    Be sure to check out the forums on TBW (thebabywearer.com) as there are always many knowledgeable women (and some dads too) online to help answer questions and point you in the right direction. Good luck!

  7. Thanks for the comment, Jessica! I never had any issues with my baby carriers. . . . My daughter did. I wore her for about eight hours a day until she turned about ten weeks old, and then she never wanted anything to do with the sling again. I tried different kinds, but she just preferred riding the stroller.

    Oh, I guess I did have the issue of not wanting to carry too much at a time. It’s just much easier to push twenty pounds of baby and fifteen pounds of groceries in a stroller than to carry it all.

  8. It’s still not clear to me what the SAFEST way to transport baby is? Is it safer to hold in a carrier to keep strapped into a stroller?

    (And by the way, i just got a beco butterfly and LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! you can see my post on baby carriers here — please add your 2 cents! http://www.babythingsiwant.com/2009/01/baby-carriers.html )

Speak Your Mind