Mom hacks: Commuting by public transportation with baby

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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SADLY, cars are not popular baby shower gifts. For many moms (and dads too), they have to commute via buses and taxis with their little ones, and it's not easy dealing with a fussy baby or rude stares from other passengers especially if you have to travel long distances or sit through traffic with them.

But there's hope — here are a few hacks we've compiled that may work for you too:

Avoid it as much as possible

It is no secret that the Jamaican public transport system can be a nightmare, even for lone travellers. It gets much worse if you are travelling with a baby or toddler who doesn't yet fully understand the perils around him/her. The few seats at the bus stops and terminals are dirty, and rarely in good enough condition for you to sit with your child (and some of them are people's homes, so be careful). Bus and taxi drivers can be reckless, and let's not talk about the 'five pon di row' rule in the coaster buses. It is best to avoid taking your baby into that when you can. If you have a friend with a car you can arrange with them to take you around when you have to travel with baby. When you can, chump up some 'gas money' to encourage the relationship.

Travel light

This is a hard pill to swallow, but many of us over-pack when travelling with our little bundles of spit-up. When going by public transport, however, you have to plan to be on your feet a lot with a child who seems to get heavier by the minute in your hands. Pack only the essentials. You can assess what is essential by taking a look at what you actually used on the road after your first few trips. Maybe you don't really need those three extra receivers? It's also smart to carry one large bag with several compartments instead of separate bags for baby and yourself. This makes it easier to get in and out of vehicles, and balances the weight on your body (baby on one shoulder, bag on the next).

Know where to sit

Though coaster buses are not known for road safety, their conductors must be commended for always finding seats for “babymothers”. The best place in a coaster bus to be is the row right behind the driver, and this is where they normally put you. If one of these seats isn't available, though, be sure to avoid cross seats, and the seats closer to the back of the bus as you will feel the full effect of the potholes there. In JUTC buses, you can't sit in the row right behind the driver, but the others are good. Try to get a window seat to avoid people leaning on your baby, and to be able to show your baby things through the window. In a taxi, sit right behind the driver. This way you don't need to climb out of the vehicle every time someone needs to get off.

Have food handy

A hungry baby is a crying baby. While you can curb your hunger until you get home, your baby cannot. Ensure that you have enough formula, snacks, juice, water or solid foods to last the duration of the journey. Choose foods that don't spoil easily when locked away, and that are easy to clean up afterwards. You can measure out the powdered formula in the bottle and keep the water in a separate container until your baby is hungry. Fruit juice and a light snack can be used as an emergency filler for a toddler, but ensure you don't use them to replace meals.

Keep baby entertained

As depressing as it may be for you, your baby is probably delighted to be out and about. So much to look at! You can play traffic games with your baby where you name the trucks, bikes, bicycles and occasional emergency vehicles that pass by. It will distract you both from any discomfort or impatience you may be feeling. If you will be in traffic for a while, it's wise to pack a favourite small toy or book to keep baby calm, or better yet, help him/her to fall asleep.

Accept help

While you may cringe at the thought of all the germs being passed around on the road, it doesn't hurt to let that friendly lady hold the bag so you can have more space on your lap for baby. There are some people, too, who catch baby fever the moment a little cherub coos in their direction. In their own way, they are helping you by entertaining your baby, and they mean well. But if you are not comfortable with these people touching your baby, you can politely ask them to stop, or move your baby away.

And while some people on full buses might be reluctant to give up their seats, there are still some who will offer to hold the baby for you instead. There is nothing wrong with letting them, especially if you are in a rush or are having a hard time getting a bus. Whatever you do, be grateful. Remember who is watching.

— Candiece Knight

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