BikePortland.org has a great post up about determining the right age to start biking with very young children - taking into account helmet laws as well as spinal cord and brainstem concerns:
If a parent is caught carrying a helmetless child by bike, he or she “can be fined twice; once for the failure to have protective headgear on their child, and another time for endangering their passenger, by not having them wear the protective headgear.”
It is legally required to put a helmet on your infant (no matter how small) but no helmets on the market are sized for infants. Not only that, but it may not be safe to put a helmet on them to begin with.
I posed this dilemma to Dr. Tord Alden of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He explained that having infants wear a bicycle helmet when they are reclined in an infant seat pushes the head forward, flexing the neck and tweaking the spine out of alignment, which puts the baby at risk for cervical trauma and even airway blockage in extreme cases.
“It’s not about crashes at all, it’s about the potential for repeated mild trauma to the brain because of bumps associated with everyday road conditions. What is undocumented is what is happening to the brain during the bumps. Think of the movement of a bobble head doll in slow motion — that’s what may be happening to the brain in the skull inside the infant’s head after some big bumps.”
“Neurodevelopment is critical during the younger years. An infant’s brain is a bunch of neurons, uninsulated wires, if you will. During the first year the infant is developing the myelin sheath, which insulates the neurons and sets the stage for all the development and learning that the brain does next. If you had to pick a time when it is most important to protect the brain from excess vibration or bumps and jostling about it would be during that first year after birth.”
But when exactly is it safe to ride with your infant? And what do parents do in countries where family biking is the norm?
Read more at BikePortland.org
For those of you with kids, how do you (or did you) decide when it's safe to bike with a baby? Both in keeping them safe (in case of a collision) and free from any neural damage.