These days it is more and more common to see people getting by without owning a car, especially in bigger cities where ridesharing and public transportation can truly replace a personal vehicle. In my experience, hospitals are VERY particular about how they let newborns leave so it got me wondering how to get a baby home from the hospital without a car.
After digging into the question, I found that it is possible to get a baby home from the hospital without owning a car by walking, using a taxi or rideshare service, or even public transportation. To abide by state laws and keep your baby safe, however, you will need to purchase a car seat to use anytime you plan on using a vehicle to transport your newborn even if you don’t own a car.
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 when bringing 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. Considering the fact that 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.
In fact, 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 is showing 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.
But, what if you don’t own a car yourself?
If you don’t own a car, you are going to have to have a plan to get your newborn home safely which, depending on your circumstances, might mean walking, using public transportation, or even hiring a rideshare service or taxi. Many hospital policies can make things awkwardly difficult for people without cars because they assume that you will have your vehicle and car seat ready to go.
All state laws in this country require you to use a car seat in a vehicle
Every state in this country has a car seat law that requires children riding in a car to use an appropriate car seat, although there is a pretty large amount of variation between the specifics. 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!
The bottom line is that if you plan on leaving the hospital in a car, even if it’s not yours, you need to have a car seat available to use. Not having one is irresponsible and probably illegal.
What is the policy of your hospital on car seats?
If you ask the average person who has had a baby what happened when they tried to leave the hospital with their newborn they will probably tell you all about how strict the staff was about their car seat policy. Basically, they want to make sure that you are able to safely transport your baby from your room to your home without any incidents that the hospital could be liable for legally. This means they will be very uncomfortable about new mothers walking to the car with their babies (in case they fall) or getting into a car without a car seat (because of state laws regarding car seats).
Depending on their rules, you might need to:
- Bring the car seat up into the room to strap in your baby. They will then bring the baby down to a vehicle with a cart or carrier.
- Hold the baby in your arms while you are brought to your car in a wheelchair. They will then check to make sure the baby is strapped into a car seat.
Again, they are looking to avoid liability here. Your best bet is to ask your hospital’s staff about their discharge policy for new babies way ahead of time so that you can make a plan to make the process as quick and easy as possible.
Let’s look at the options available to you for taking your baby home from the hospital if you don’t own a car.
Walking home could be a practical option without a car seat
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 and a trip from the hospital isn’t really 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 its 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 babywearing accessory to walk home from the hospital. Babywearing can be difficult to do when first starting out 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.
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. Most cheap standalone strollers won’t be able to accommodate a newborn without a special insert or add-on anyway.
Find a friend that 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 that 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 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.
What about 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. Unfortunately, taxi companies are exempt from car seat requirements in some cities (like New York City and Las Vegas) for whatever reason. Just because you don’t legally have to have one, however, doesn’t make it okay to bring your infant home in your lap. Doing so would be negligent in my opinion. 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. It’s probably best to actually call in a taxi if you plan on installing a car seat to ensure that yours will fit. Many people recommend asking for a handicap-accessible vehicle because they are more likely to have the easy-to-use anchors to attach for attaching your car seat and are likely cleaner to boot!
- Uber – To ride an Uber with your baby, you’ll be required to use an appropriate car seat and they actually 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. Unfortunately, these seats are only rated for children older than 1-year-old so you will need to bring your own car seat if you are traveling home from the hospital with a newborn.
- 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 own seat to make use of this option.
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.
Also like walking home, you’ll have to make the decision 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 babywearing accessories available!
Let’s look at the options:
- Buses – Unfortunately for parents and babies, there is no way to use a car seat on a bus because they do not have seatbelts or anchors on the seats to attach them. This means that you will be forced to hold your baby or strap them into a car seat/stroller and try to secure them the best way possible. While this approach might be more reasonable for older babies and children, I would not personally feel like my newborn would be safe taking this route. This is one of those cases where even though it’s legal, it might not be right.
- Subway/train – Similar to a bus, there won’t be any seatbelts or anchors on a subway car. Under most circumstances, these train cars are extremely safe and it’s probably reasonable to take short trips while you are either babywearing or using a car seat/stroller combination. Of course, use your best judgment in this scenario.
If you decide to use public transportation, don’t forget that babies have a weaker immune system when they are first born and putting them into contact with tons of people on a bus or subway might not be the safest thing to do. 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.
Hopefully, this has been a good breakdown on how to get your baby home from the hospital if you don’t have a car. Over time, I think the trend of not having a car is only going to grow so it makes sense for parents to start thinking about these options well in advance of the delivery day.
What has your experience been with taking a baby home without a car? Let us know in the comments below!