I've been coming across more pieces on biking with babies these days. Usually these articles come with pictures of sweetly sleeping or calmly happy infants, so cute, riding placidly along. I think that choosing when to ride with your whenever-old baby is your own special decision and that's not my topic. I have ridden with three babies of varied ages now and I think it's good to consider that anything with an idyllic picture of an adorable quiet baby / sexy new mom blissed out in a bike periodical can be viewed with a healthy skepticism or just a good laugh. Real life can be a little messier sometimes.
Riding with small people is really fun and no big deal, but also different from being on your own. Traveling on a bike the first few times is a new experience for any parent and sometimes it can be a little like Mr. Bean with a baby. Here are a few suggestions about taking those first few rides no matter how old the baby, as if you haven't gotten enough already.
Eat, eat, eat....
Don't forget to eat before a ride and to carry a little something with you. Riding and being a nursing mom works well but it's better if you have enough to eat so that when you get that crazy 'I just have to eat now' moment out on your bike you can stop and have a little something or make a break for a nice spot to stop. If you're with someone else don't feel shy about stopping to take a break. You don't have to be Rambo mom. Everything goes better when you feel good.
Leaky boobs, hungry babies
Babies get hungry on rides too. Poop, Barf and Cry. Not a big problem out on your bike but it helps to have packed enough bottom covering material, clean up stuff and extra clothes/food for your baby and maybe even some extra for you. Nursing and riding and leaking means that an extra shirt for you, just in case you spring a big leak or your baby poops or throws up on you, can be good to take, too, if you're going to feel better with a clean shirt. Big ziplocks aren't chic but if you pack two or three (especially if you cotton diaper) you'll have a bag for yucky stuff that won't get all over your clean things. Plus you can reuse them. Panniers are great. You can put a stocked baby bag and carrier in and probably get away with just one pannier.
Choose welcoming destinations and routes
You might find that the first few times you head out it's ok to be forgiving with yourself and your baby and go somewhere easy. Quieter less trafficy routes to familiar places let you think less about cars and more about enjoying your rides. I used to love to ride to the museums or coffee shops that I went to before my son was born so that if we had a baby melt down I was in a place I already felt comfortable.
Taking the baby to the grocery store to stock up on your first ride is less forgiving for a newish mom and baby than say a cruise to a bookstore with a good couch.
Turning back in Rain, Sleet, Snow or Just Melting Down
Being ready for the weather or a total meltdown happens some of the time. Obviously, packing for rain, snow or whatever if you think of it helps. We have posts on dressing for the cold under the 'dressing for weather' topic. Babies and moms dressed for the day are happier but days change and sometimes you aren't ready. If you packed, all the better, but if you get caught out and things just don't go the way you planned, locking up and getting on public transportation home is no embarrassment. Or call for back-up if your partner is able to help out. Think of it as being on a bike parenting balance bike - it's ok to take it in stages.
Try to Ignore the Greek Chorus
Riding with small children brings out the beast in many everyday American citizens. Just like the crazy lady at the grocery store will tell you about her scary c-section or 68 hour labor, people on the street feel they can tell you how to ride with your kid. Try to shrug it off if the comments are not sweet smiles and glowing cheers. They come too but the other kind of advice can cut a little.
Likewise with the chic hip bike parent press. Ride with your small one when you feel good. Don't feel rushed. Remember that lovely pictures sell bikes and no one else is having a picture perfect start with being a new parent. Even if it seems like everyone else is.
Buying New Bikes
A new baby doesn't have to mean a new bike. If you're not ready for a new purchase it's easy to use your usual bike with a baby seat first.
Try out equipment and or bikes you might invest in to ride with your new person and remember that they will grow faster than it seems. Project if you totally know you want more children or maybe you'll be carting a little friend or stuff with your baby too. Don't invest in a kid carrying bike you haven't ridden if you can help it. They are all a little different and I think it helps to test ride as many different types as are easy to find in your area. Other parents that bike with cargo or other baby friendly bikes are often glad to share their thoughts and or a ride on their bike too.There is plenty of time to buy new stuff so don't feel hurried!
I hope your first rides are special memories for your family and lots of fun ahead. Happy riding to all those new little people out there!