Strollers can be a parent’s best friend, but choosing the wrong baby stroller could spell trouble and inconvenience. How can you choose the right baby stroller from the many available in stores and via the Internet? Strollers are available to match just about any lifestyle, so think about how you want to use the stroller first and then look at strollers that best fit your life and your baby.
Safety Features Are Important For Strollers
As always, baby’s safety is the biggest concern. Check strollers for stability before buying, and don’t forget to see if the stroller will remain upright with a diaper bag hanging over the handles! Also check the stroller harness. A five-point harness is best, especially for infants or babies who are in the stroller a lot. For occasional mall trips, a three-point harness might be OK. Look for pinch points and sharp corners, too.
Stroller Wheels and Handles
Walk your favorite strollers through the store before making a purchase.
Check the height of the handles to be sure they are comfortable for you. Taller parents should look for strollers with adjustable handle heights so they don’t have to stoop. Choose a stroller that makes corners smoothly, especially if you’ll use it in crowded places. Also try walking with the strollers at a faster pace to be sure your feet don’t hit the wheels. Foam-covered handles are a nice choice for comfort.
Check Out Strollers Convenience Features
Do you need a stroller with a basket underneath, or will you carry the diaper bag elsewhere? Some strollers come with parent organization trays, toy bars, snack and drink holders, rain hoods and more. Many of these accessories are available separately, so don’t let the lack of a drink holder sway you away from strollers you otherwise love. How the stroller folds and how much trunk space it may take are important considerations. Be sure you can fold, unfold and store the stroller easily!
Lightweight strollers have come a long way from the old umbrella stroller. This new generation of strollers under 20 pounds have many of the same features as larger strollers, such as reclining seats, storage baskets and sun shades. These strollers are great for travelers and perfect for trips to the mall or zoo. Inexpensive umbrella strollers are still a great, economical choice to be stashed in the trunk as a spare, but those without a reclining seat can’t be used with infants who can’t sit up on their own.
Larger and heavier than lightweight strollers, standard strollers often feature roomier seats, larger wheels, more storage space and extras like built-in music systems and ergonomic handles. Standard strollers perform well in most conditions, and many parents love these versatile wonders. For travelers, these strollers do fold, often with nice one-hand mechanisms, but they take up more trunk space and are heavier to lift in and out. Larger strollers may be hard to handle in crowded places.
Outdoorsy parents may want to consider a jogging stroller, as a backup for a standard stroller or even as an everyday stroller. Featuring large, sturdy tires, sleek frames, hand-grip brakes and all-terrain suspension systems, jogging strollers perform well on almost any surface. Jogging strollers may not fold as easily or as flat as other strollers, meaning there may be better everyday choices for parents who travel a lot. Jogging strollers are not recommended for infants under 6 months old.
Travel systems offer convenience for busy new parents. A travel system begins with a standard stroller, but includes an infant car seat that snaps onto the stroller, allowing parents to move the infant from car to stroller easily. Most travel systems come with a car seat base that stays in the car so that parents just snap the infant seat into the base rather than buckling/unbuckling the seat into the car. Once the infant seat is outgrown, travel systems perform the same as standard strollers.
Strollers for More Than One Child
If you have more than one child, strollers with extra capacity can make outings easier. Consider the children’s ages when choosing a stroller for multiples. Some double strollers have space for a child to stand and ride, but this doesn’t allow for in-stroller naps. Other models have seats for all riders. Choose seats that recline for younger riders. Also consider this versatile option – clip two lightweight strollers together with stroller clips, which also lets you use the strollers separately.
From Newborn to Six Months: Selecting a Stroller
Traveling with a newborn requires special stroller consideration: Until the age of 6 months, or until your baby develops neck and head control, you will need a carrier or travel system that reclines fully to safely support your infant. Owning a stroller that comes with a car seat (such as a travel system) or is compatible with an infant car seat you own, can simplify your life.
All-In-One Travel System
Some first-time parents start with an all-in-one travel system, which consists of an infant car seat, a car-seat base, and a stroller. They can be heavy and take up more room than just a stroller frame, but once your baby reaches 6 months and can sit up, you’ll have the flexibility to use the travel system stroller without the infant seat snapped in. Some travel system strollers can accommodate an infant less than 6 months old without the car seat, if the seat reclines to nearly flat. A travel system is costlier but a good value because the stroller can be used after your child outgrows the infant car seat, unlike a car seat carrier frame.
Infant Car Seat Carriers
For the first 6 months to a year, if you’ll be taking your infant in and out of a car frequently, a lightweight car seat carrier frame is a good choice. These bare bones, universal frames let you attach an infant car seat. Simply remove the infant seat from its base in the car, baby and all, and snap it right into the frame. Great for letting your snoozing baby continue his nap. When you’re done strolling, snap the car seat back into its base inside the car and go. Stroller frames are inexpensive and lightweight, making them handy for quick trips to the market, or for taking on a bus or train.
Baby Buggy Basics: Six Months to 3+ Years
Once your baby is sitting up, you’re likely to take longer strolls, taking him with you on errands, trips to the parks, aquariums, and playdates. Will you stroll straight out of your house, or will you need to drive or take mass transit to get around? These could be deciding factors in the stroller you choose.
Mass Transit or Suburban Crawl?
If you live in a city and rely on subways, buses, and cabs, you’ll need a lightweight, compact stroller that’s sturdy and folds easily and quickly. A car seat carrier frame would work well, as would a lightweight travel system. For an infant older than 6 months, or toddler, consider a lightweight umbrella stroller. A sturdier stroller may be easier to push on long walks. But bigger often means heavier and will be more challenging to carry up stairs, or use on public transportation. If you have a car, make sure the stroller fits easily into the back seat or trunk.
Test Drive: Real and Virtual
Often even more helpful than a user’s manual, many stroller company websites feature virtual test-drives. You can watch videos of parents putting a stroller through its paces: walking, running, navigating city sidewalks, and boarding airplanes. But if you plan to buy online, be sure to check out a stroller at a retailer first.
• Are you comfortable with the handle height and grip? Make sure your legs and feet don’t hit the wheels as you walk. If you’re going to share the stroller with a partner, both of you should try it out.
• Check maneuverability by adding weight, such as a heavy handbag, to the stroller seat while you push.
• Are the brakes or swivel lock mechanisms easy to use?
• Is it easy to adjust the backrest, and fasten and unfasten the harness?
• Is the stroller easy to lift and carry, both when open and when folded?
• How easily can you open and close the stroller, with one hand and two? Some that need two hands are actually easier to operate.
• How about storage? If you carry lots of gear, make sure there’s room for it.
If possible, take the floor model out to your car to make sure it fits in your trunk when folded. Bring along a measuring tape, just in case. Also, the frame should feel solid, not flimsy.
Evaluate Warranty and Return Policies
Most stroller manufacturers and retailers offer warranties that cover poor workmanship and flaws, but not necessarily malfunctions. You may have to return the stroller to the store for a replacement, or ship it to the manufacturer for repair—at your expense—leaving you stranded without baby wheels. Select a retailer with a flexible or long-term return policy, and keep the stroller’s packaging until you’re sure you’re happy with your baby’s ride.