How to Choose a Baby Stroller

This article is reprinted from Amazon.com’s “Stroller Buying Guide”. It is a very well-written, comprehensive review of the many factors to be considered in choosing a stroller. Overviews of each stroller category are followed by potential features and appropriate age ranges. It is a must-read for anyone considering the purchase of a stroller.

A stroller is one of the most frequently used and indispensable items you’ll need for baby. These wheeled wonders come in all shapes, sizes, and fabrics, with every feature imaginable. From prams to joggers, travel systems, lightweights, and more, it’s no wonder that shopping for a stroller can be overwhelming, especially for the first-time parent.

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Before You Buy

Because your stroller will likely be used on a daily basis well through the toddler years, it is important to find one that best suits your needs, keeping in mind that these may shift as baby grows. Naturally, safety and comfort should be high on your priority list, but here are a few more things you should consider:

Your lifestyle

If you rely on public transportation, size, weight, and portability are essential factors–test how easy it is to quickly fold the stroller for catching a bus, or negotiating a flight of stairs. If you walk more often than drive, look for a sturdy stroller with good suspension and easy maneuverability. If you’re a frequent driver, try a lightweight stroller that stores compactly in your trunk. For athletic and outdoorsy types, a jogger might be perfect.

Space limitations

How big is it, folded and unfolded? Will it fit in the trunk or back seat of your car? Will it fit through a standard-size door? Can you take it on a subway or bus?

Stroller weight

If a lot of lifting and climbing of stairs is expected, choose a lightweight stroller. Trying to coerce a heavier model up or down stairs isn’t safe for you or baby.

Your child’s age

Only strollers that fully recline are appropriate for babies under 3 months, while a convertible stroller will take you through the toddler years. If you have more than one child, a double stroller is an obvious choice (buy one that fully reclines if you have one or more young infants). For toddlers, a lightweight or umbrella stroller is usually just right.

Your height

While your baby’s comfort and safety are most important, remember to also consider your height and stride. The stroller should be comfortable for you and any additional caregivers, so look for a model with adjustable handle height if you plan to share pushing responsibilities.

Wheel type

Unless you need the additional stability offered by the fixed-position, oversize wheels found on joggers and larger prams, fully independent wheels are recommended. Their caster-like movement allows for better maneuverability in stores, and many models feature a locking device to point the front wheels straight forward for added stability if needed.

Portability

Many parents have two strollers for various needs. A full-size stroller is great for longer, bumpier rides, while the ultra compact umbrella fits everywhere from trunks to overhead bins on planes. If you buy only one stroller, keep portability at the top of your list.

Sanity-saving features

As with cars, there are many innovative and time-saving stroller features available. Some models offer the beloved one-hand-fold feature; others have all-terrain wheels; others include parent trays. Plan ahead and think about what you can and cannot live without.

Your budget

It is possible to find a great stroller without spending a fortune. (It is also possible to find subpar strollers at sky-high prices.) However, more often than not, you get what you pay for. Think carefully about the features you need and then narrow by budget. Your purchase could potentially last from your child’s infancy well through the toddler years, so investing in a quality stroller may be more economical in the long run.

Types and Features

Here is a look at basic stroller types and some of the features that may be included with each:

Standard

The most popular among stroller styles, these offer numerous convenience and comfort options. Most standard models are designed with aluminum frames for better maneuverability, rust resistance, durability, and easy maintenance. Even with the aluminum frame, these strollers can weigh between 12 and 24 pounds–keep weight in mind as you test drive.

Ranging from English-style buggies to more rugged models, standard-size strollers are a great all-purpose pick. Many fold easily and compactly, making them great for families on the go. Most are typically convertible–that is, they can be used as a carriage and a stroller, so they grow with baby. Standard-size strollers are appropriate for newborns because they offer a full-recline feature, shock-absorbing suspension system, and oversize wheels for a smooth ride on varying terrain.

Features may include: Multiple-position seat recline and back support; removable weather boot; extra seat padding; removable front tray; storage basket; canopy; reversible handle for conversion to carriage; dual wheel brakes; adjustable footrest; easy-to-use folding mechanism; extendable handle; larger, all-terrain wheels.

Age range: If the stroller reclines fully, it is safe for a newborn. If not, it’s appropriate for 4 months to up to 4 years of age.
View Standard Strollers at the Baby Travel Store

Lightweight and Umbrella

Light as a feather and easy to fold, lightweight strollers offer the most basic features and are made to store easily in a plane’s overhead bin, trunk, or closet. While these models are unbeatable for quick jaunts to the store, many parents find they aren’t as comfortable for baby as their midsize or full-size counterparts on longer outings. Still, a lightweight stroller is great to have when a buggy, pram, or travel system is too unwieldy (while traveling, for example).

Ultra-lightweight models–dubbed “umbrella” because of their hooked handles–are best as a second stroller. These are perfect as lightweight, affordable strollers to keep in the trunk of the car or take traveling. (Keep in mind that umbrella strollers are not recommended for use with newborns or infants who require a fully reclining seat and head and neck support.) Featuring aluminum frames and weighing as little as 5 pounds, most umbrella models offer a safety device that prevents accidental closing. Umbrella strollers are available in a wide range of prices according to the features offered and will last you well into the early preschool years (3 to 4).

Features may include: Aluminum frames; semi-reclining seat; canopy; one-step fold; locking swivel wheels; super-light body weight.

Age range: If the lightweight stroller reclines fully, it is safe for a newborn. Most umbrella strollers do not fully recline or have suspension features, so it is best to wait until baby is at least 4 to 6 months old before using.
View Lightweight and Umbrella Strollers at the Baby Travel Store

Travel Systems

One of the most convenient innovations in recent years has been the travel system–a stroller and infant car seat in one. The infant car seat provides head, back, and neck support while keeping baby in a comfortable, reclined position, just like in a carriage. With the stay-in-car base feature, the infant car seat can also be used as a carrier. This allows you to take the car seat from the car to stroller and vice versa without ever disturbing baby.

Once baby outgrows the infant car seat, it can be removed, converting the system into a stroller. The stroller’s own seating and restraint system is used until your child is approximately 4 years old. These strollers are designed to fold quickly, easily, and compactly for storage and offer features that provide a comfortable ride for everyone.

Stroller features may include: Child play tray; parent cup holder; three-point or five-point harness system (not overhead); removable, washable pad; all-terrain, swivel wheels; brakes that set with a foot lever; seat recline; storage basket.

Infant car seat features may include: Canopy; level indicator; ergonomically designed handle; head cushion; stay-in-car base.

Age range: Newborn (for car seat) to toddler (stroller).
View Travel Systems at the Baby Travel Store

Joggers

Click here for Baby Jogger video link
For active parents who want to include baby in their outings, the jogger stroller’s unique design may be just the thing. Many are three-wheeled, complete with comfortable seating, a parking brake, a storage basket, and all-terrain wheels. Joggers are made to fold quickly, easily, and compactly, making them great for travel. Most joggers can hold up to 75 pounds, but it’s likely your child will outgrow the seat before then. Also keep in mind (with young babies in particular) that while most jogger models are designed for some bumps along the trail, if you are planning on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or are traveling over rough and rocky terrain, it’s probably best to leave baby at home or try a backpack instead.

Serious road runners should look for smooth tires–the bigger, the better. If you will be running on trails, strolling to a soccer game, etc., then knobby tires, with better traction, are suggested. If you live in a wet climate, invest in an aluminum frame and rims that prevent rusting and is more lightweight. While aluminum is typically more expensive, you’ll find that it pays in the long run.

Features may include: All-terrain wheels; wrist strap; hand brake; durable, weatherproof fabric; sturdy construction; adjustable handlebar height; better suspension; storage pouch.

Age range: Most pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is approximately 6 months of age. Depending on its size, you can use this type of stroller well into the toddler years.
View Joggers at the Baby Travel Store

Double and Triple

If you’re the parent of multiples or have an infant and toddler in your household, walking them by yourself may sound next to impossible… unless you have a stroller made especially for more than one child. Double and triple strollers offer the convenience of walking multiple children at the same time as comfortably as if you were walking just one. These remain convenient for carrying a child and groceries once one child has outgrown it. These models are available in a wide variety of fabrics and features.

There are two types of double strollers:
1. Tandem (Infants face forward, one in back of the other.) These strollers fold easily and compactly for storage or travel and are a good choice for maneuverability. Beware the “front seat” issue, though, and look for a model that gives the back seat a “boost” so both babies can enjoy the view. The front-to-back style is best if you have an older child and a newborn.

Features may include: a single canopy hood; separate canopies; individually reclining seats; rear wheel brakes; fully retractable rear seat for a sleeping infant; removable, washable pads; separate footrests; restraining straps with safety buckle.

2. Side-by-Side (Infants sit next to each other)
These strollers are lightweight and fold quickly and compactly. Most will fit through normal-size doorways, although due to their sheer width it can be difficult to maneuver through grocery stores, crowded events, or if your children vary greatly in size or weight. The side-by-side style is most commonly used by parents of twins (or two children of comparable weight).

Features may include: European styling; thick padding; removable, washable pads; individually reclining seats; single shared canopy; storage basket; footrest; restraining straps with safety buckle.

Age range: Double strollers are appropriate for newborns only when the full-reclining seat feature is available and can be used until your toddler is approximately 4 years old.
View Tandem Strollers at the Baby Travel Store

Stroller Frames

A great way to utilize your existing infant car seat is with a stroller frame. The metal frame of the stroller actually allows you to snap most major infant car seat brands into place. These frames are made to be extremely lightweight, to be easy to transport, and to fold compactly–making them great for travel. A storage basket is also usually included.

Stroller Accessories

Similar to a car, adding accessories to your stroller may make it more comfortable for baby. See our selection of stroller toys, weather shields and umbrellas, stroller covers, and infant headrests.
View Stroller Accessories at the Baby Travel Store

Safety Tips

To ensure baby is secure while strolling, read the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) safety guidelines for strollers.

Comments

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