Getting a baby home from the hospital without a car may seem daunting, but there are some great options, especially if you think outside of the box!
Some of the best ways for getting a baby home from the hospital without a car are walking, using a taxi or rideshare service, or even public transportation. For your baby’s safety, plan on purchasing a car seat if they will ever ride in a vehicle, even if you don’t own a car or drive.
As it turns out, there are a lot of variables at play when it comes to taking your baby home when you don’t own a car, but we’re going to dive in to see what all you will need to think about BEFORE you get to the hospital without a plan.
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What to consider for getting a baby home from the hospital without a car
Most guides, tips, and advice about bringing your newborn home from the hospital revolve around making sure that you have the right car seat installed and that you have all of the other necessary baby accessories ready and waiting for you at home.
But what if you don’t have a car to put a car seat in?
Because car crashes are the number one cause of death for children, worrying about a car seat is one of the best things you can do as a parent.
Statistics show that car seats reduce fatal injury for infants by 71 percent which is way higher than any other age group.
On a related note, the evidence shows that children should stay in a car seat or booster up to the age of 12 for maximum safety depending on their height and weight.
If you don’t own a car, you are going to have to have a plan to get your newborn home safely. Depending on your circumstances, that might mean walking, using public transportation, or even hiring a rideshare service or taxi.
Hospital staff can make things difficult for people without cars because they assume that you will have your vehicle and car seat ready to go.
State laws require car seats in personal vehicles
Every state in this country has a car seat law that requires children riding in a car to use an appropriate car seat, although the specifics vary between states. Most require babies and children below a certain height and weight to be in a rear-facing car seat.
Others simply require some type of child restraint and offer far fewer details.
According to the most updated guidelines from the AAP, it is recommended that babies and children should ride in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible for maximum safety and they should always be installed in the rear seats.
Personally, our girls rode in a rear-facing seat until past the age of two and even at 9-years-old, they are still in boosters!
Exceptions to car seat requirements
This might feel counterintuitive, but despite the safety of car seats, states also make exemptions for when you have to use them under that state’s law. But, keep in mind, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Car seats are not required on public transportation, like city buses, because there are no anchors or seat belts to secure a car seat. Additionally, city buses typically drive slowly and are huge, making them unlikely to be in more than a fender bender.
Taxi cabs, shuttles, and commercial buses are also typically exempt.
What is the policy when leaving the hospital?
Hospitals prioritize the safety of babies, so they put policies in place to encourage safe and correct car seat usage. Many offer car seat inspections as a complimentary service.
Many hospitals have policies where babies are not carried in the hospital. Instead, when outside of your room, you transport your little one in a rolling bassinet.
Depending on their rules, you might need to:
- Bring the car seat up into the room to strap in your baby. You or another adult can carry the baby down in the car seat.
- Hold the baby in your arms while you are brought to your car in a wheelchair.
Just to avoid any unwelcome hassle when you’re ready to go, ask about discharge when you do your hospital tour before your delivery. Ask if you’re going to experience any problems when you leave with your chosen method.
Let’s look at the options available to you for taking your baby home from the hospital if you don’t own a car.
Getting a baby home from the hospital without a car by walking
If you don’t own a car then you are probably thinking that buying a car seat is a giant waste of money. For people in major urban areas, like New York City, it’s very common for people to walk most places. A trip from the hospital isn’t that much different than any other walk around town, depending on the distance involved.
Although some hospitals will try to prevent this, there is no legal reason that you can’t walk home with your baby assuming that you are medically healthy and capable of doing so. If you are just a few blocks away and up for the trip, go for it!
Of course, there are a few potential obstacles that could make walking home more trouble than it is worth at best or dangerous at worst. Consider the following:
- Mothers may not be physically ready to make the trip by foot, even if it’s not a long distance. Delivery puts a lot of stress on the body even under ideal circumstances and complications or c-sections could make things even more difficult and you might be overestimating your abilities.
- Depending on the time of year, it could be blazing hot or bitterly cold on your walk home. While it might just be uncomfortable for you as parents, it could be downright dangerous for your newborn baby!
Be sure to check out my post on what to dress your summer baby in on the way home from the hospital to avoid overheating!
Also, you will either need a stroller or some kind of baby-wearing accessory to walk home from the hospital. Babywearing can be difficult to do when first starting and the walk home from the hospital is probably not the best time to figure it out.
Most products also don’t allow for babies that are under 8 pounds so it could be difficult to find one that will work for smaller babies. I personally choose not to babywear in icy conditions because I’m afraid of falling with the baby.
If you are going to buy a stroller for the walk home, you’ll probably be better off getting a stroller/car seat combo to ensure that your baby is secure and sitting at the proper angle. Or, strollers with the bassinet carriage can also be great options for the newborn phase.
Find a friend who owns a car (and/or a car seat!)
If you are all set up with a proper car seat but just don’t have a vehicle of your own, look for friends or family ahead of time who could meet you at the hospital to give you a ride home. Most people love babies and it could be seen as a special honor to help bring your baby home for the first time!
If you don’t have a car seat yet and don’t see a reason to get one, you could look for friends and family that have kids of their own and don’t mind you using theirs for one trip. This route would knock out two birds with one stone and save you money as well!
The most important thing to watch out for if you are going this route is to think about timing complications ahead of time. In most cases, your baby will not be delivered on a set schedule!
This means that your ride will need to be flexible enough to be able to meet you whether it’s a weekend or a Tuesday morning. With this in mind, it’s probably a good idea to have a few options available so that you can go with the one that makes the most sense once you know when you’ll be leaving.
Taking the baby home from the hospital in a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare services
Just like a friend’s car, using a taxi or rideshare service can be a great option whether or not you have a car seat.
Taxis are exempt from state car seat law requirements in many states and cities (like New York City and Las Vegas). But, can and should are different things. Your baby would be totally unprotected in an accident if held in your arms.
Still, there are ways to travel safely with these services.
Let’s look at these options one by one to see the best way to handle them:
- Taxi – It isn’t common to find a traditional taxi service that will provide a car seat, so you’ll likely need to have your own. Many people recommend asking for a handicap-accessible vehicle because they are more likely to have anchors.
- Uber – To ride an Uber with your baby, you’ll be required to use an appropriate car seat, and they offer some family-friendly services called ‘Uber Car Seat’ or ‘Uber Family’ that will send you a car that is already equipped with a car seat for an extra $10. These seats are only rated for children older than 1 year.
- Lyft – Much like Uber, you’ll be required to use a car seat with a Lyft car, and they also have a service (at least in NYC) called ‘Lyft Car Seat’ that will send a car with one pre-installed. Unfortunately, their seat is also only rated for children over the age of one so you’ll have to bring your seat to use this option.
If you typically walk, a Doona would be a great investment for these scenarios because it is an infant car seat and stroller in one.
For those who don’t anticipate riding in cars often, there are car seat rental services like Baby’s Away.
Can you take a baby home from the hospital on public transportation?
Just like walking home from the hospital, many folks in urban areas might also want to use public transportation to get home from the hospital because that’s what they use for everything else.
Again, there is no legal reason why you couldn’t walk out of the hospital, into the subway station or bus stop, and get a ride back to your home. And, a city bus is typically safer than a taxi.
As with walking home, you’ll have to decide to either babywear or use a stroller/car seat combo to make the journey safer and more manageable.
Depending on your situation, it might be easier or more effective to stick to one or the other, but remember that your newborn might not be big enough to fit inside a lot of the baby-wearing accessories available!
Whether you use a bus or a subway, you won’t be able to use a car seat due to lack of seat belts or latches. Plan to baby wear or bring your little one in a stroller.
If you decide to use public transportation, don’t forget that babies have a weaker immune system when they are first born. Talk with your doctor about the risks of exposure and any special needs your baby might have.
If it’s your only option, be sure to keep your baby guarded and be prepared with something like hand sanitizer to help prevent the spread of dangerous germs to your baby.
Parents shouldn’t feel like a personal vehicle is their only option for leaving the hospital with a baby. There are so many ways for getting a baby home from the hospital without a car.