Before I went into labour, I had ideas about taking the bus to the hospital to give birth. To cut a very long and painful story short, those ideas didn’t become a reality. I also didn’t take the baby home by bus. However, days later I found myself returning to hospital (as you do), and I took the bus!
Before taking the bus I had looked all over the internet for rules or advice about taking a new born baby on the bus. I had even contacted the local transport authority. There was nothing to say you couldn’t take the baby on the bus, but there was nothing telling you how to do it. Meanwhile, people pay good money to get car seats fitted by experts so it seemed like there was a bit of a mismatch of advice on care in our community depending on how you travelled. I don’t have all the answers but I can at least tell you about my experiences.
The first time I took the bus with my little one, I took a car capsule. Short of bringing the whole car attachment, I found a way to wedge the capsule between me and the seat in front with the baby’s head towards the front. It felt quite safe and while I was in the bus it was comfortable enough. However, carrying a capsule around is hardwork and unless you have the pram for it, I would be reluctant to do that again. In spain, we actually came across a a baby seat integrated into the bus, although it wasn’t such a hit with my baby.
Instead, the next time I took him in a carrier, huddled again my chest. It was a baby bjorn so had a bit of structure to it but I was still very wary of what way we might be flung if the bus stopped suddenly. If you choose to take a baby carrier, just be aware of what’s in front of you and possibly hold onto a bar or handle. This will help cushion the impact, if something was to go horribly wrong. You could also put the nappy bag between you and the seat in front to give an extra layer of softness. I often sit in the priority seating at the front where you are sideways and take the seat closest the back. In general though, it feels really fine having your baby close to your chest and once they get a little older you can start to look out the window together, or just spend the time entranced by your babies smile. A bus has only once slammed on the brakes with such force that it scared my baby. I was holding on and the baby didn’t get hurt at all.
Then comes the pram… The first time I caught a bus with a pram I was worried I wouldn’t be able to even get the pram on the bus without tipping my baby off. Luckily, these days most buses lower the platform for you and it’s only a small step up. Once you’re one the bus you need to look for the seats facing sideways that you can flip up to make room for your pram. Always park your pram backwards and as close to the front of this section as you can. Once you’ve shimmied your pram into place, put on the brake and use the belt to secure your pram (usually put it around the handle bar). Then sit near your pram and I usually thank the driver for not leaving until everything is secure. Where we live you have to tap on and off and these days I leave that to my toddler to do, but if it feels like a juggle to get your card out while you have the pram, just wait until it’s secured to deal with payment. Most bus drivers are pretty nice.
You can either leave your baby/toddler in the pram or for the older more curious ones, they might want to get out and look around. My toddler has established a love of the front seat near the door, so he jumps out of the pram (usually while it’s still moving) and claims his prized spot if it’s free. Every baby is different, and there may be some tears but there will definitely be lots of laughing and smiles with both my children taking on the challenge of trying to get as many people on the bus to smile. I have also found myself doing squats (well, I stand up and sit down like a yoyo) while the bus is stopped to calm my baby. We may have also sung various versions of “the wheels on the bus” on every trip for a few months as my toddler went through a singing phase. One time there was even a chance to jump in the drivers seat while we waited to go through a tunnel.
The great thing about a bus, that you don’t realise until you need to use a car, is that you don’t have to transfer your baby. If he is asleep in the pram or carrier, you can keep them asleep and enjoy a peaceful journey. As my babies grow, it has been fun to get them involved in the rituals of the bus, from hailing the bus, to ‘tapping on’ and pressing the stop button. My toddler has even reminded me that our stop is coming up when I have been in a bit of a daze (which can be common amongst young sleep deprived parents).
When it’s time to get off the bus, if you have a pram, reverse it out through the front doors and don’t forget to tap off (if you need to) before you get off. There could always be possible problems, like no space in the pram/wheelchair area or a non-accessible bus. Sometimes there are ways around these problems, like folding up prams or jamming a pram between seats (my pram was just the right size to do this) but once or twice I have decided to walk instead. But walking with kids is fun too and I will write about that another day.