Running with a baby might be considered an art form and a circus act all in one. It requires pulling together 60 simultaneous thoughts and things at once to get you and baby out of the house with precision timing. So being able to toss aside the car seat is a welcome luxury when baby is ready to ride in the front seat. When do you take the plunge to safely start running with baby and then move baby to the front seat? There are three important things to take into consideration:
1- Are you ready and cleared for running and safely pushing weight ahead of you while putting two feet in front of another with good posture, balance and strength?
2-Is baby ready to ride in the stroller and also move to the front portion?
3- What type of running stroller and running technique you are using.
The first will have been covered if you have been cleared by your doctor, have been doing some walking and are engaging in an appropriate individualized return to running strengthening program. This is an important part as pushing a stroller changes your running form, which likely has been changed by pregnancy in addition, and needs revamping. This is one of the keys to preventing injury after pregnancy and getting back to PR form.
The second is determining if baby is ready to join you in your favorite past time. As always, check with your Pediatrician or professional for your specific baby’s needs. Initially, baby should be safe in an infant carrier (car seat) with an infant carrier attachment to your stroller to take short walks as long as he/she is comfortable. This is a great way to get baby accustomed to using the stroller, as many babies need to work up to this new task. One suggestion if you do try jogging at this stage, is to watch out for the “tippiness” of the stroller. Note also, that some baby joggers have upper limits on what the baby and car seat can weight. Baby’s head should not be jostling about at all at this age and should be steady and supported with head pillow. Body should be supported in car seat straps. Smooth flat surfaces are paramount until baby develops some head control.
And when can baby make the transfer to the front seat? Here is one reference you can use to bring up the question with your pediatrician. As a pediatric physical therapist, I recommend erroring on the side of caution until your baby is able to sit up independently. Baby’s neck muscles are not solidly developed until at least age 6 months in most typically developing infants. Baby should be able to perform a pull-to-sit at least keeping head and ears in line with the shoulders, should be tucking the chin slightly the entire way up. You should feel baby pull up with the trunk fairly quickly,as well (see video below). I would recommend repeating this movement several times to test the endurance of the infant as well, as a baby will have to maintain head control for the whole time you are running. In addition, baby should be able to correct head and upper trunk position using his/her righting reactions when tilted sideways. Here is a video that demonstrates this:
A three point harness with recline (or tilt in the seat) is the safest. The runner should run on flat surfaces with no surface changes (such as sidewalk ramps) starting out only. Ideally, the stroller should have a turning front wheel as the stroller should not be lifted to turn and should be made for running. Ideal running surfaces include a flat concrete running trail as there is less chance for another runner or something to jump out and cause sudden stops risking whiplash to your infant. It is also recommended to use the safest technique of running with the stroller which is one hand on the stroller at all times, vs push and run with safety band on, which some strollers allow for. Braking can be completed more gradually with hands already on stroller vs using a hand brake or tug rope. Wait to use the push and jog and lifting front wheel- turn techniques when your baby is sitting independently permanently.
If you have any questions or concerns feel free to email me and I will attempt to answer them. As always, check with your pediatrician or doctor about your baby. Happy stroller jogging!
How far do you run with baby in your stroller? Have any stories or advice? Leave a comment!
Running With Baby: Stroller Stories
Kristen’s story: 20 miles
Pictures Courtesy of : BOB Strollers and Baby Jogger