Biking with baby: Trailer vs. front seat vs. rear seat

This is probably the last “Biking with baby” post that I’ll write.  Sir is certainly no longer a baby — he’s well into toddler-hood, and, in a few short months, he’ll be a [young] preschooler — but I started writing this post over a year ago, when he was about 19-months-old.

With the addition of our longtail with a rear child seat, we’ve now tried three out of the four main methods I can think of for transporting a baby or toddler by bicycle: trailer, front-mounted seat, and rear-mounted seat.  That just leaves some type box bike on our “yet to try” list (maybe that will happen in Portland this summer!).  So, let’s start at the very beginning, shall we?

Oh, the trailer.  Going into this whole biking with a baby thing, the trailer was really the only option I knew of for riding with a little one, short of buying a box bike.  (A trailer or a box bike really are the only options, short of carrying the infant on one’s body, for safely biking with a baby who is too young to support his/her own head, which usually happens around the 12-month mark.)

So, we did our research, decided that the Chariot Cougar trailers, with their built-in suspension systems, were the best-of-the-best, and finally found a good deal on a very good condition, 2-child model.  We added the baby supporter accessory and were good to go.  Kind-0f.

Ready to roll
Ready to roll

In reality, biking with a small infant in a trailer is tricky.  The baby supporter seemed necessary to keep him from just tipping over (even strapped in), and the optional neck/head support is not optional with a 6-month-old.  However, it didn’t really work to use the head support piece AND a helmet (and at 6-months old, even with a big head, the smallest helmets were too big anyway).  Even though I don’t [usually] preach about it, I’m a helmet girl myself, and riding around with a helmet on my head, but NOT on my baby’s head, always felt wrong.

Also, even with the baby supporter, Sir always slumped to one side or the other in the trailer, and, understandably, he was not happy about it.  This continued to be an issue with the Chariot trailer even after he outgrew the baby supporter.

In hindsight, we would have been better served by a 1-child bicycle trailer.  I’ve heard about people securing a standard infant car seat directly in a 1-child trailer.  Using a car seat would have allowed us to start biking with Sir at an even earlier age, and it would have been easier to prop him up and eliminate the slumping/tipping problem we encountered.

In June 2012, just shy of Sir’s first birthday, my biking with babies world changed dramatically when I acquired an IBert front-seat.  We kept the trailer for back-up, rain, cold, etc., but the Chariot rarely saw the light of day after that.*

Front seat
Best. Thing. Ever.  Our IBert front-seat was a total game changer in terms of biking with an infant/toddler!  I cannot recommend a front seat enough, for all of the reasons that S covers so succinctly over at Simply Bike.**

Riding with a front seat was easy from the get-go, and, now that I can compare, I can report that overall bike handling and balance was better with a front seat than with a rear seat.

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But the real selling point of the front seat is the constant parent-child interaction and priceless bike-bonding time.  You just don’t get that with a rear child seat (more on that in the next section).

My only complaint with the IBert is the strap system.  The shoulder straps are widely spaced, and it was difficult to keep them from slipping off of Sir’s shoulders.  Once he got bigger, the straps were also not long enough to really fit.  Fortunately, there is a lap bar that also clicks into place, so even with the wonky shoulder straps, I always felt he was fairly secure.

At least on our older model, the strap also had to go over the head, which meant the helmet had to go on after clipping him in and come off before removing him from the seat — this was annoying in instances where we were making a very short stop, say, running into a store to grab one thing, and it would have been convenient to just leave the helmet on his head.

While there are a variety of options, I would say either the IBert or the Yepp Mini are the way to go here.  While I really liked the IBert overall, given the issues with the straps, I would certainly look into the Yepp Mini, were I to do it all over again.  But I also would not hesitate to buy the IBert.

The IBert is rated for children up to 38 pounds.  Sir is just shy of that number, but, although the seat doesn’t officially have a height limit, at 39 inches tall, his legs have been pretty cramped in the IBert since last fall, and I’m now bumping my chin on his helmet.  Time for something new.

Rear seat
After a lot of research and pondering, we settled on a longtail bicycle with a rear child seat (Yepp Maxi) as the best option for biking with an older toddler.  You can put a rear seat on almost any bicycle, but most set-ups come at the expense of cargo room, which we weren’t willing to give up, hence the longtail.


The longtail also provides a very stable base for the seat (especially with the heavy duty center kickstand), and, once he outgrows the Yepp seat (48 pound weight limit), we can add either the Hooptie accessory or just a standard handlebar, mounted to our seat post, along with a cushion, and continue to carry our growing passenger for many years.

Our longtail is great, but I do miss having my little guy right up front with me, between my arms.  With him in back of me, I can usually hear what he’s saying perfectly well, but I don’t think he catches much of what I say unless I turn around, which is unsafe and unpractical to do all that much.

There are a few options that might get Gabriel in front of me again, and, ideally, we would have a second kid-hauling bike set-up anyway (say, if Matthew used the Roadrunner to drop Sir off at school in the morning on his way to work, but I needed to pick Sir up in the afternoon), but that’s for another post!

*We ultimately decided to part with the trailer this spring.  It was tempting to keep it as a back-up and for bad weather, but it really didn’t make sense — the money and garage space went to the Roadrunner.  I almost felt guilty selling it because having the child on the bike is just SO superior to pulling a trailer!
**More from Simply Bike on trailer vs. front seat here

Diaper doldrums

It’s been 7 months since I wrote about Sir’s potty learning progress.  At that time, it seemed like we were very close to being completely, truly diaper-free!  In addition to a few months of daytime dryness under his belt, Sir had started staying dry at nap time and overnight, some nights.

That was in late August and early September.  After a few weeks, he reverted to wet diapers every morning and almost every nap time, and my diaper-free dreams went down the toilet.  ([Awake] daytime is still fine — he’s been daytime dry for almost a year now!)

As of a month ago, Sir is back to being dry at some nap times, i.e., the short naps (about an hour) that he takes at child care.  He is SO consistently dry at child care that Mrs. L puts him down for his nap without a diaper.  Brave lady, but zero accidents, so far.

On the other hand he almost always wakes up wet when napping at home, but he naps longer (about 90 minutes), so I don’t mind.  Nap time diapering is easy: a thick prefold and a Thirsties diaper cover.

Night time diapering is trickier.  Sometime after Sir’s first birthday, we discovered that fancy pocket diapers, with their feel-dry material, helped Sir sleep better and longer.  Good for him and good for us.  We bought four pocket diapers (3 bumGenius, 1 Fuzzy Bunz) which we use exclusively at night.

Except!  After awhile, I noticed that regular washing was not getting the stink out of those pocket diapers.  And the trick that so nicely and simply de-stinks my prefolds (a vinegar rinse) doesn’t work on the pocket diapers (vinegar would ruin their absorbancy or waterproofness or something).

Instead, you have to “strip” them.  Unfortunately, these instructions from Cotton Babies (an StL-based company and the makers of bumGenius diapers) are just a leeeeeetle bit off.

First, it does not take just two hot water rinses to get the stink out.  It takes many.  Like ten.  And all that time you’re using HOT water.  Suddenly the “environmentally friendly” cloth diapers are seeming much less so.

Second, the directions claim that, AT MOST (i.e., worst case scenario), you should have to strip your diapers “once every 3 or 4 months.”  In my experience, that is complete and utter B.S.  After following their instructions to. the. letter (plus eight more rinses), the stink went away for about two uses.  With four pocket diapers, two uses = eight nights, so barely over a week after stripping, I’m stuck with stinky covers again.

Unfortunately, whatever causes the stink also irritates Sir’s skin, and he’s had some nasty diaper rashes, despite the fact that he barely wears a diaper, except for overnight.

The diaper rashes necessitate using disposable diapers, since diaper creams and lotions are generally a no go with pocket diapers.  So we just cycle back and forth.  Disposables and cream to get the rash under control, then back to the pocket diapers until his skin gets irritated and forces us back to disposables.

On a side note, Sir almost always poops in the potty, but two weeks ago, we were a little off schedule, and he woke up in the morning with a poopy diaper.  Of course it was NOT a night when he was wearing a disposable diaper, but I swear I almost threw that $17 pocket diaper away anyway.  It was horrible, and I was literally in tears by the time I finished dealing with it.  If I never have to do that again, it will be too soon!

Anyway, I really prefer cloth diapers to disposable, in general, but not when they require this much work (and hot water) to keep decent.  I guess we could go back to the basic prefolds for nighttime, but I don’t want to sacrifice sleep.

It’s tempting to just stick with the disposables at night, and be done with the stinky pocket dipes, but for someone who’s used disposables very minimally, the idea of going through more than a handful of diapers a month is hard to swallow, both environmentally and financially.

I’m not sure where this leaves us.  There is really no end to night time diapering in sight.  It could be any day, I suppose, but it could also be a year or more from now, realistically.  I keep hoping that maybe this will be the last pack of disposable diapers I ever buy, but that dream has yet to be realized.

Potty learned

As I mentioned in my “Deceived by EC” post, we’ve made lots of progress with the potty since the 16-month update.  I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some of the details, but better late than never!

Months 17-21
Sir’s ability to climb onto the potty by himself, which developed right around the 16-month mark, did indeed prove to be a big step in his potty-learning journey.

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • No diapers (i.e., bare bottom) around the house when awake
  • Thin cloth diaper under his bottom in the booster chair for eating
  • Diapers when out and about, with potty along also
  • Diapers for nap time (pinned prefolds with Thirsties covers)
  • Diapers for overnight (pocket diaper, once we discovered that their “feel-dry” material helped him sleep longer)

Despite our consistent use of the ASL sign for toilet, he never picked communicated potty needs in that way.  That, along with his continued [slight] speech delay meant he did not have a great way to let us know when he needed to use the toilet.

He rather quickly reached a point where almost all of his at-home, pants- and diaper-free-time pees happened in the potty.  Having the time to be home with him and offer all of the bare-bottom time definitely helped.

There were a few challenges.  He had a hard time staying dry while eating, perhaps because he didn’t have free access to the potty.

Bowel movement timing was often such that he would use his diaper right before waking up in the morning and/or right before waking up from his nap in the afternoon.  In addition to the frustration of this happening in the diaper rather than in the toilet, the timing often led to shortened sleep.

Month 22
By this point, Sir was staying dry at most meals, in addition to his regular success when around the house.  So I started getting brave . . . .

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • Same as above, but halfway through the month, we started to go out wearing underwear (not training pants) instead of diapers

I figured that at some point in all potty-training processes, you call it good enough and just start venturing out in underwear and pants, bringing along a spare in case of an accident.  This went well overall, with very few wet “unders.”

Also around this time, bowel movement timing shifted just enough to give Sir time to wake up and get to the potty, which meant almost zero poopy diapers — awesome, though we still had to clean his little potty.

Month 23
I decided it was time for Sir to verbalize his need to use the potty.  Since his vocabulary was still limited to one-syllable sounds, mostly a few consanants followed by a short “a” (e.g., Mama, Dada, Papa, Baba), we didn’t have much to work with.

Though a “p” sound for “pee” and “poop” would have been intuitive, it was already taken (Papa).  Instead I picked “t” (for “toilet” and “tinkle”), and emphasized that he was going “ttt, ttt” every time he climbed on the potty.

In less than a week, Sir added “ttt, ttt” to his repertoire, and he finally had a way to let us know that he needed to go.

He learned this just in time to take advantage of it on the road trip to Florida, quickly realizing that uttering “ttt, ttt” was a way to make the car stop.  Eventually, in the interest of ever getting to Florida, Matthew had to hold his hand and encourage him to “use his diaper” when in the car seat.

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • No diapers when awake, either at home, others’ homes, and in public
  • Diapers for nap time (pinned prefolds with Thirsties covers)
  • Diapers for overnight (pocket diaper, once we discovered that their “feel-dry” material helped him sleep longer)
  • Diaper in the car for road trips

Despite our using simple, not-to-tight, elastic-waist underwear and pants, Sir cannot pull his pants down on his own, so he still very much needs our assistance in the potty process.  For this reason (as well as habit), we continue to do mostly bare-bottom at home.


Month 24 — Present
More of the same, with the added twist of Sir starting part-time daycare.  I feared that he would regress in the using-the-toilet department when in a new setting, with a new caregiver, and other kids around.  Not so.

I informed Mrs. L about the meaning of “ttt, ttt,” and my little dude handled the transition like a champ.  In two-and-a-half months there, he’s wet his pants only twice, and neither time was in the first few weeks.

In July, we took another long road trip, employing the same method of encouraging him to use his diaper in the car, though of course we offered the potty when we did stop (and we were stopping at least every two hours due to Matthew’s blood clot).

Naps and Nighttime Sleep
I really didn’t/don’t have a plan for this.  For me, Gabriel sleeping well is MUCH more important than him staying dry during those times.  Plus, I really have no idea how you teach a child not to pee while sleeping.

However, several weeks ago, he started waking up from some naps with a dry diaper.  At this point, we’re close to 100% dry at nap time.

Two or three weeks ago, he woke up dry in the morning.  Since then, I’d say we’re over 50% for dry nights.  I find this particularly amazing since he sleeps for ten to eleven hours at night.

We’re still using diapers for both naps and overnights, and I’m not sure when I’ll feel comfortable giving it up, especially at night.  I really dislike the idea of a middle-of-the-night bed sheet change.

At both sleep times, offering the potty immediately before putting on the diaper seems to increase likelihood of waking dry.

We are exclusively a Baby Bjorn potty family.  We received the Little Potty (now with a slightly different design and called the Smart Potty) as a gift (one of the few items on our very, very small baby registry), and I purchased their potty chair and toilet trainer insert from Craigslist.

Due to the low profile, Gabriel could easily climb onto (think, walking over it from the back and sitting down) the Little Potty by himself, long before he was able to stand in front of either potty and sit down on it from that position.

He doesn’t seem particularly interested in the toilet insert, and, since he can’t climb onto the big toilet unassisted yet anyway, I am perfectly happy with him continuing to use the small potties (though I won’t miss emptying the poops).


Psst, psst: Deceived by EC

I last wrote about our “Elimination Communication journey” in November 2012.  We’ve made huge progress in the nine intervening months, which I want to share, but I also became thoroughly disillusioned by the promises made in the Elimination Communication (EC) literature, which feature anecdotes from the very rare (at least in the United States) families that achieve freedom from diapers before or very shortly after the one-year-of-age mark.

The EC literature creates unrealistic expectations, especially in the cultural context of the United States, where EC practice is very rare, and where many infants spend time in daycare facilities where pee and poop free-for-alls from undiapered bottoms would create serious sanitation and health problems, and where caregivers do not possibly have the time to put each and every baby on the potty every time the infant might be showing some need.

After thirteen months of largely wasted time and effort, followed by five months of one step forward, two steps back, I was coming to this realization for myself this past February, when I read the chapter on “natural parenting” in Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?

She raised good questions and provided this thought-provoking critique of EC:

. . . EC also represents the white middle-class phenomenon of fetishizing a largely imaginary “third world” motherhood that’s supposedly more pure and natural than Western parenting practices.  A common refrain from EC advocates, for example, is that mothers in India or Africa don’t use or need diapers.  Never mind that there isn’t a monolithic “Indian” or “African” parenting experience (or that Africa isn’t a country), or that the mothers they’re referring to could be very happy to have diapers, were they available.  It’s easy to appropriate a condescending fixation on “underdeveloped” motherhood when you have the financial means and leisure time to pick whatever kind of parenting works for you at the moment.  This clueless racism is captured perfectly on Krista Cornish Scott’s website, where she assures readers that “EC is not just for African bush-women” (p. 20-21).

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as I read that chapter.  If I had actually owned any EC books (I checked them out from the library, of course), I might have planned a book burning.

Unfortunately, my epiphany came too late, long after I’d been sucked into the myth of a diaper-free baby.

Looking back on my EC experience
Feeling frustrated (with yourself and your baby) and discouraged with every wet diaper, like you must be doing something wrong, is not a healthy or fulfilling introduction to motherhood.

Between the normal first-year-with-a-baby, sleep deprived, what-the-hell-am-I-doing haze, plus my postpartum depression haze, I failed to recognize this for many, many months.  Many months when I could, and should, have been enjoying a cute little [cloth] diapered baby butt.  Though I don’t dwell on it, I resent the extra strain and stress I put  on myself (and Matthew), as well as the normal, cuddling with a tiny baby time that I lost to potty efforts and naked-baby-on-the-floor time.

If I had a do-over . . .
I would not even attempt to take my baby anywhere near a potty until at least six months.  Even that is probably crazy early.

For Sir, things really clicked shortly after he began walking and was able to get on and off the [little] potty by himself.  This age will differ for every infant, of course, but in Sir’s case, the walking happened at about 12 1/2 months, with the independent on and off the potty about a month later (this is not to say that he was “diaper-free” at this point).

While there’s no way to know for sure, I have a strong suspicion that the “potty work” and any small progress we made during the first thirteen months of Sir’s life could have been condensed into a single month when he was thirteen- or fourteen-months-old.

One month of effort vs. thirteen months of effort — which would you choose?

I’ve concluded (though again, every child is unique) that there is probably middle ground between the very early potty learning espoused by EC advocates and the much-later, don’t even think about it until the child is at least two-years-old position held by most Western child-rearing “experts.”

I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post on our experience with potty learning from months fourteen through twenty-four, by which point we were diaper-free except for naps and overnights.

Baby, weaned

Thursday night marked the culmination of over twenty-two months of breastfeeding.  We started our weaning journey sixteen months ago, when we offered Sir his first tastes of solid food.

While Sir was enthusiastic about solid food from the get-go, the majority of his calories continued to come from breast milk until about the 10-month mark, and the balance has continued to shift to more food, less milk ever since.

When my job ended last summer, I continued with the regularly-timed nursing sessions that made it possible for me to breast feed instead of pumping at work (i.e., he wasn’t nursing on demand, and really hadn’t (other than overnight) since I went back to work when he was 14 weeks old).  The routine feedings worked well for us, and I didn’t see any need to switch things up at that point.

Our process of eliminating milk feedings felt pretty natural.  We went from five times a day to four times a day somewhere around the 12-month mark, then dropped another feeding around 15-months when he went from two naps a day to a single nap.

We stuck with the 3-a-day routine for quite awhile.  I wanted to continue nursing through the winter sickness/germ season, and winter weather certainly encouraged snuggling up.

In March, when the time change pushed his nap wake-up time very close to the time of his afternoon [solid food] snack, I dropped the post-nap feeding.

I wasn’t really sure where we would go from there, other than knowing that breast feeding would culminate sometime before our current nine day separation.

Six or seven weeks ago, I dropped the first-thing-in-the-morning feeding.  He seemed happy enough to get out of bed, have a big drink of water, and reunite with all of his toys while I made breakfast, so we went with it.

That left us with the before-bed feeding.  I didn’t plan to continue that feeding for more than a few weeks, partly because I didn’t expect my milk supply to last with such infrequent nursing sessions.  Somehow he kept finding a bit of milk every night, and I had no compelling reason to stop nursing him, so we continued right up to the eve of his departure for Florida.

I held him a little extra long that night, gazing at his sweet face and heavy eyelids, savoring the end of this stage of our relationship.


Related post: Breastmilkin’ it