Health & Safety

Mowing the Lawn

Many babywearing parents love mowing the lawn while wearing their little ones. The rhythmic motion of walking, the fresh air, the steady noise of the mower can soothe even the crankiest baby. It feels great for a parent to soothe their baby while getting some exercise and yard work done.

But some will express concerns and admonish people for wearing their baby or child while mowing the lawn. They will tell you that you should never ever ever wear your baby while mowing the lawn.

“It isn’t safe! Flying debris! The noise!” 

We have a little more faith in your ability to use common sense and to make your own choices given the correct information.

In this post I will discuss the various types of lawn mowers and how to modify babywearing to suit, general concerns about babywearing while mowing the lawn, and steps you can take to be safer if you\choose to babywear while mowing the lawn.

Types of Mowers:

1. Ride-On: a four-wheeled, gas powered vehicle.  It includes an engine that drives the vehicle and another that spins the blades at a desired level above the ground to cut grass. A shoot on one side which spray grass clippings onto the lawn or into a bag. There are numerous warnings to never allow a child to ride on the a ride-on mower, especially when the blades are in use. This is due to the potential for sudden jerks and stops the mower might make, causing a child to be thrown, and should the blades be moving– tragedy.

Decibel Level: 90-95
Decibel Level: 90-95

However, should a child be strapped to an adult’s body securely and the adult seated securely on the mower– the danger of the child being thrown from the vehicle is removed. If for whatever reason you MUST have your child with you while mowing the lawn and you own a ride-on mower it is far safer to wear them than to leave them in the yard or to expect them to sit on the moving mower unsecured.

You may want to consider an infant helmet if you choose to wear your baby while operating a ride on mower or tractor. The type of carry you use will depend on the type of seat on the mower: a high back seat will not allow for a back carry, yet a very low back seat puts the adult at risk of flipping backward off of the mower if it starts quickly. Front carries come with their own hazard: a larger baby or child will be in the way of the adult’s line-of-sight and ability to steer the mower as well as any controls that are near the adults lap area. A tiny baby in the front carry may be at risk of injury if the adult is pitched forward into the steering wheel–if the mower uses a steering wheel.

2. Walking Mower:  these are electric or gas powered. A motor spins blades at a selected level above the ground while the user pushes the machine. Most models have an option for a grass clipping collection bag, and using the bag will prevent all flying debris by collecting it. It is important that when using any push-style mower that baby is on your back, not only for better posture but to prevent injury if you trip or lose your grip on the handle, falling forward toward the mower. Gas mowers emit more air and noise pollution than electric models.

Gas- Decibel Level: 90-106 Electric- Decibel Level: 85

3. Reel Mower: uses a complex system of ball-bearings and oiled blades which turn as the user pushes the mower to flick and cut grass. Some brands include a collection bag and blade shield. When properly maintained (oiled or sharpened) it is nearly silent when operating. Once again: it is important that when using a push-style mower that baby is on your back– not only for better posture but to prevent injury if you trip or lose your grip on the handle. No one wants a mower handle in their back, least of all a small child, and with an unguarded reel mower (i.e. without a shield over the blades) this becomes even more imperative. It is also important to wear well-fitting clothes and if you wear your baby to ensure that all straps, ties and tails are well secured and not hanging loose.

cleanairgardening_2061_61635022

4. Scythe: manual grass-cutting tool, customized to the specific person’s measurements and very good for tall grasses and brush. Did you do a double take? Believe it or not the scythe is back in fashion. (another link here). It is silent and if you choose to wear your baby while using it you can choose a front or back carry– hip carry is not recommended due to the body mechanics involved. If you want more information on how to use a scythe, you may download the Penn State instructional pdf here.

Scythe parts

Concerns
1. Flying Debris:  It is possible for a lawn mower (riding, walking, or manual reel) to pick up a non-grass object and fling it away from the blades at high-speed– with or without a collection bag! Most mowers do have safety guards which typically prevent thrown objects from leaving the blade encasement at random. But freak accidents can and do happen.

But flying debris should NEVER be an issue in the first place if proper yard preparation is done: a walk about to remove rocks, sticks, toys, and other non-grass objects from the area to be mowed. This will also prevent horrible noises and damage to the blades of the mower, and prevent harm to adults, children and animals in the area.

Adults should be wearing closed shoes, long pants and sleeves. Babies or children who are worn should be worn on the back only! The idea is to put the adult between the mower and the baby. A bit like a human shield. Babies should have the same protective clothing and shoes as adults and/or have arms and legs secured to the wearer’s body. This can be achieved using a wrap carry to cover and secure all the infants limbs (nothing hanging out). Or, if using a SSC type of carrier- by using a shawl or short wrap around the child and secured like a towel (ala torso carry style) around the adult.

“I would like to suggest ear protection! Them babes have sensitive ears (so much so that even white noise machines made for babies are much louder than audiologists recommend…much less lawnmowers)!” – Member Advice


2. Noise: gas powered walking mowers (the loudest) run at 91- 106 dB, which if sustained may result in some hearing loss in adults. Adults should be using hearing protection while mowing the lawn. If they are babywearing, the infant or child should be wearing hearing protection as well. Please note that the average vacuum cleaner runs between 80-95dB, so baby ought to be wearing hearing protection for that activity as well. Electric push mowers, manual “reel” mowers and scythes are of a negligible noise level and may be an option for those concerned about noise pollution and healthy hearing. 


baby ear protection
Click to Read “Baby Ear Protection – Top 5 Baby Ear Muffs”
3. Pollution: Gas mowers (ride-on or walk-behind) are notorious polluters. They emit hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. For this reason alone a parent should be wary of using a gas mower themselves, let alone subjecting their child to the fumes. Switching to electric or manual options is better for the environment and your health.

Make sure to duck when mowing around trees, clothesline, etc. 

Also, it is more of a workout so drink a lot of water for both of you.”- Member Advice



4. Heat and Sun: Be aware of the effect the heat and sun are having your yourself and your little ones. Use some form of sun protection and keep hydrated. If anything, babywearing while doing hard labor is a great way to remember to take care of yourself because you need to make considerations for your child. Learn the symptoms of
heat exhaustion. It is best, in terms of heat and UV exposure, to avoid mowing the lawn between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.– but if you have an extremely loud mower and nearby neighbors, take local ordinances into consideration. (Or invest in a quiet mower!)

_________________________________________

In closing, I will not tell you that you should or shouldn’t wear your baby while mowing the lawn. I don’t know your situation or your baby. I trust that parents, when educated, are very capable of making the right decisions for themselves and their families. 


Of Potential Interest:
Lawn Alternatives
Local Lawn Care Companies

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