Choosing The Best Baby Stroller
Q: Your past article on infant car seats helped me a lot. Thank you! Do you have info on strollers, as well?
A: Yes, I do. Having the child’s body in a proper position is again the main consideration.
For the first three to four years when your child is likely to take naps in their stroller it is important to have one that reclines as close to fully horizontal as possible. This allows them to nap in a comfortable, non-slouched position. Many strollers fulfill this requirement fairly well.
The only ones that don’t are the “umbrella” strollers. This type should only be used rarely. They have very poor spinal support and don’t provide any head support, allowing the head to fall to the side or forward during nap times. The only thing this type of stroller is good for is short awake trips for an older child when a very light stroller is needed, such as during airport travel.
I am sure you have seen a child at the mall or similar location in one of these poorly designed vehicles. Their spine is curved forward into a compressed “C” and their head is lolling onto their chest. My reaction when I see such an atrocity is to want to snatch them out immediately. If your child ever does fall asleep in one of these contraptions, it lessens the problem by tipping the stroller onto its two rear wheels, therefore having the child in a more horizontal position.
What are the options?
As far as other stroller features, many are personal choices. The features you choose, like the size of the storage basket; whether the handle reverses, allowing the baby to face forward or back; the availability of a suspension system; the size and maneuverability of the wheels, etc. all depend on how you plan on using the stroller. If you live in a city and your stroller will be used extensively for daily life with sidewalk cracks and high curbs you may need a very different vehicle than someone who will use the stroller for suburban errands with their child.
It is important that all the adults who will be pushing the stroller try it out before purchasing. The height difference between many moms and dads can come into play during stroller shopping. Be sure that it is comfortable for all, without forward hunching for the taller parent.
Also, be sure to try out the folding mechanism before you buy. On our last stroller shopping foray there were some that took three savvy adults to fold, and that was with the instruction booklet! A one-handed mechanism is good, as you may have your baby in your other arm at times. Also be sure that when folded up, the stroller will fit into the designated area in your car, truck or SUV.
The ability to fold and lift the stroller into your car can be tricky to evaluate. Most moms don’t start stroller shopping until they are pregnant, sometimes hugely so. In that condition they can’t practice lifting and stowing maneuvers. Keep the least strong partner’s lifting ability in mind and get the lightest stroller that has the comfort and features you want.
Strollers maneuver very differently empty than they do with a child’s weight in them. If at all possible, borrow a fellow shopper’s child for a few minutes and check out your choices in a more realistic use.
Many strollers are now available combined with an infant car seat. Be sure to apply the information from both articles and see if one unit will suit both purposes. Even if you do decide to get a combo unit, I still strongly recommend that you use an infant car bed the first few months, and then switch to the infant seat when the baby’s neck and spine muscles are more developed.
Ask the “experts”
I found it extremely helpful to go to the mall and ask parents about the strollers they were using. Most were totally willing to tell me what they liked most or wished they had in the stroller they chose. After all their feedback and our own many trips to the stroller department we discovered that a $50 Graco stroller was our favorite, and better for us than many others in much higher price ranges. After more than two years, I’m still happy with it.
A final note: many parents have found that stroller and car seat shopping is tough. Be sure you are rested and well fed before you go out and don’t plan on making a final decision your first time or two out.