Would You Wear A ‘Baby On Board’ Button To Get A Seat On The Train? 

Would You Wear A ‘Baby On Board’ Button To Get A Seat On The Train? 

The standing pregnant train passenger poses a dilemma for politeness: Do you offer up your seat so she can sit down, or mind your own business in case she isn’t pregnant and would be mortified that you assumed she was?

Photo by Nicolas Michaud.

In New York City, the MTA is now offering “Baby on Board” buttons that you can wear if you’re pregnant and want others to know you’d appreciate a chance to get off your feet. There is also a neutral “Please offer me a seat” button for folks who are elderly, disabled or otherwise have a hard time standing on public transit and would like to be able to sit down. Americans can request a button here. No doctor’s note needed: This is on the honour system.

Some people are calling for a similar system to be implemented in Australia. So my question is: Would you wear one? If people notice and offer you a seat, great. But strangers already treat women’s pregnant bodies as public property sometimes, and I wonder if a “baby on board” button would lead to more unwanted interactions.

And then what if somebody thinks you’re faking? If you’re in your first trimester and not showing yet but you’re feeling super nauseous, you may well want to sit down on the train. If you’re plus sized, your bump may not be obvious. Will people ignore you while you stare daggers? Will they challenge you to prove you’re pregnant, like a man did in London a few years ago? Will people with invisible disabilities face similar issues with the “Please offer me a seat” button?

Seems like a minefield to me. And yet, I had a hard time standing and walking at the end of my pregnancies, and probably would have chosen to wear a button. I think. Maybe. How about you?


  • If you want a seat, ask for it. I’m not going to assume people’s personal medical problems based on their appearance on the train. If I can see they’re physically straining to walk or stand, sure, I’ll offer, but anything less than that needs people to take some responsibility for their own welfare.

  • Just ask. I’ve never seen anyone denied a seat. I’ve asked for a seat simply because I was feeling dizzy and got one. Typically if someone doesn’t offer a seat it’s because they’re not paying attention or they think someone else will offer. They also tend to be tired from work if they’re on a train that’s busy enough for all the seats to be taken. That’s no excuse for not giving your seat up, but it sure makes it hard to work up the energy to leap out your seat and offer.
    I’m sure there are times when some jerk will be a jerk, but I think way too many people assume everyone is being a jerk just because they’re not rushing to offer their seats. Just ask.

  • Too many people avoid you by looking away, looking at their screens, tapping their headphones angrily to remind you that they’re “busy listening”. I’ve been on Sydney buses with an “invisible” back injury, and it’s impossible to get a seat. Young girls simply stare through old ladies who can barely clutch a pole.

    • Same here. 20+ years with a back injury, you get used to carrying it around, but theres times you wouldnt mind just getting off your feet for a minute to reset. And its invisible, so people just think you’re being lazy.

      Reality is, standing up for 90 minutes can do long term injury if you have an existing issue, and (for me at least) generally means pinched nerves and similar problems that can last for weeks.

    • There’s a sociological theory to this, wherein nobody will help if everyone thinks somebody else will. The way to combat it is to single people out (politely). “Excuse me, girl in the red jacket, blonde hair? Would you mind moving, I have a back injury and need to sit down. Thank you.”

      Once you do that the onus is on them to provide a reason to not move, so usually people will.

  • If she’s obviously pregnant and no one else ponies up, sure I’ll give up my seat. If she’s not even showing or maybe looks like she has a bit of a fat belly, then nope!

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