Now we are out and about, we have been experimenting with our transportation options and whether to buggy or sling and the various merits and demerits of each combination when venturing further afield.
Our first adventures were to a retail park. There is something soothing about the mass consumerism of strip malls in a retail park. The easiest transportation option by far is the car – you are nicely self-contained with as much clobber as you desire and are free from the public distain for crying babies. And, not that I have done it, but you could quite easily park up and breastfeed. Plus there is often parent & child parking near the store. Bliss.
I pottered around the shops with Elphie asleep in her sling, but think this would have been equally easy with a buggy, and with my car at hand I could dispense with shopping as I went so didn’t have to cart too much around.
I don’t think it makes much difference on a bus. With a sling you can hop on and go and sit in any old seat, but it could get hot for her if the bus is stuck in traffic in hot weather. With a buggy you have to park up and if all spots are full then wait for the next bus and you might need to stand if the seats adjacent to the buggy park are taken. The key is what you are doing the other end and if you need the storage space the buggy has to offer. If it’s a big shopping trip or an all day excursion to a park then the buggy would win out. Otherwise I would sling it.
Then come the tube / trains.
Our first foray into this world was before we got the buggy so Elphie’s first trip into central London was in a sling. The advantage of a sling on the tube is its superior ability to cope with stairs. The tube was not built for those transported on wheels so if your were on your own with a buggy, you would have to make sure you used stations where you could avoid stairs (for which TfL provide a helpful guide although it rather bizarrely ignores the presence of the Overground line as if it didn’t exist). Where the sling falls down is in the hot weather the tube gets very hot and babies wrapped in layers of material in a sling even hotter – so she was quite a red and sweaty baby when we were able to extract her for a breather. Probably we should have just released her while on the tube and coped with the increased likelihood of a temper tantrum until we bundled her back up again at the penultimate stop on our journey (to avoid adding unnecessary panic to the tube exiting experience). So the sling was fine but not totally ideal.
How about the buggy? Sometimes it is convenient to have the buggy, either because you want to take a lot of stuff with you (presents, expressed milk, breastfeeding pillow etc) or because you are coming back by car and want the car seat with you (you can take a baby in a taxi without a car seat but it wouldn’t be massively safe – our neighbour who drives a black cab says he often has buggies in the back of his cab though!). But taking a buggy requires more forethought and skill.
Our first trip on the trains with buggy I had all thought out. I had thought through the access at our local station – one side would be fine but if we needed to go in the opposite direction then Jocelyn, who was accompanying me, would need to help me carry the buggy over the overpass. Then we just needed to interchange at one major station and exit at another – both of which had stair free access, simples. Just one problem – mind the gap!
So what I had not thought through was how to get off the train at the first station. MrCath would later point out that most women with buggies exit backwards, but with the car seat currently facing backwards in the buggy that would leave her dangling as if on a ride at Alton Towers. Either way, I hadn’t even considered that option at the time, so instead went forwards. Except I misjudged the gap and so didn’t hit the platform when I was expecting to, panicking I drew back to try again and in doing so must have clipped the front of the buggy on the train. I went to go again, this time with Jocelyn at the front to carry the buggy out. She went to lift the front…
“You’ve lost your wheels?”
“Your front wheels have come off”
“Where are they?!”
“Um… On the train tracks”
It was lucky Jocelyn was there, otherwise oblivious to my lack of front wheels I would have been trying to manoeuvre the buggy onto the platform sans wheels and who knows what disasters would have occurred! So how had this happened? Apparently the buggy has quick release buttons for the front wheels on the back of them. I must have clipped these as I withdrew back into the train, sending the wheels efficiently flying into the gap to the train tracks below.
Luckily, the train terminated at the station so I was able to leave the buggy being propped up by Jocelyn and go and find the train driver. He quick-mindedly suggested getting the information desk to locate someone with a rubbish picker and use that to pick the wheels up from the tracks. Luckily a man with a rubbish picker was chatting to someone next to the information desk and the train driver kindly rescued my wheels. But what a panic I was in – my lovely new buggy with no wheels stranded at an interchange station; and what would have happened if I had been alone?!
All’s well that ends well, and although I suspect I will have a preference for using a sling on a train, sometimes the need for buggy will be unavoidable. In future I think I will either lift the whole buggy off the train (the advantage of a light buggy), turn her around in advance so I can go backwards, or take the car seat off and carry baby and buggy off separately.
But if you combine this with the accidental choice of the “quiet coach” for the journey on the way back with a potentially screaming baby, I think train travel is too fraught with the probability of disaster.
I’ll stick with road transportation for now…