By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns
In part 1 of “Choose the best stroller” we covered the different types of strollers and how to make your shopping trip productive. Now let’s examine the typical features and discuss how to choose the perfect stroller for your family.
Common stroller features
Strollers are available with a wide range of features, some will be important to you, and others will be inconsequential. It can help to make a list of the features that are important to you and take this list with you when you shop. The following descriptions will give you a guideline.
- Carriage mode:
Look for a stroller that converts to a fully-reclining carriage configuration specifically for newborns, since at first your baby won’t be safe in a seated position. You can purchase a newborn carriage, but keep in mind that it won’t last longer than four to six months, as your baby will begin to sit up and want to view the passing world. Many strollers convert to a carriage style with a special pad insert or place to click an infant car seat. Many have handles that reverse so that you can push with your new baby facing towards you and change it when he gets older.
- Reclining seat:
Even as your baby grows older, there will be times when your little one will sleep on the go. Make sure the seat reclines adequately and easily. Some strollers only offer a semi-reclining option, which can’t be used safely for newborns, so be sure the seat fully reclines to a bed-like position if you plan to use it from the start.
- Comfortable handle height and style:
You’ll be doing a lot of pushing, so make sure the handle is at a good height for you and that it is wide enough for a good steering grip. If two of you will be using the stroller, look for a model with an adjustable handle height, or one that feels comfortable to both of you.
- Swiveling wheels:
There’s nothing more frustrating than a stroller that wants to go right when you want to go left! (Think inoperative shopping cart.) Make sure that the wheels swivel smoothly in all directions.
- Parking brake:
Check the break function to be sure you can apply the brakes easily with a baby in your arms. Most strollers have a conveniently placed foot pedal for braking.
The last thing you want to do is push and stroller while you carry an armload of stuff, so make sure you buy a stroller with plenty of storage. Most have large under-seat baskets and some offer behind seat pouches, cup holders and other storage options as well. Look for removable options (such as cup trays) when possible.
- Removable seat liner:
A good stroller will last a few years, but in between you’ll definitely need to clean the seat cushion. A removable pad is the best choice.
- Weather canopy:
As you anticipate the various seasons that you’ll use your stroller, you’ll certainly want a canopy to keep off the rain and protect baby from the sun. If you anticipate lots of foul weather use, look for a stroller with a plastic rain shield option that totally covers Baby.
Test-drive your stroller
Before you make a purchase decision, test-drive a few strollers. If you plan to buy one over the Internet you can still try out the various models in a local store. If your baby has already arrived take him with you for a test drive, if not, use a stuffed animal or doll as you test the various features. Compare products by wheeling them around the aisles of the store. Consider these points as you examine your choices:
- Is it easy to get your baby into and out of the stroller?
- Are the harnesses and straps easy to use? Do they fit your baby? Are they adjustable?
- Is the handle a comfortable height, or can it adjust to be your height?
- Is the handle wide enough for a comfortable grip?
- Do your feet kick into the wheels or frame when walking quickly?
- Does it steer easily? Can you steer it with one hand (since the other may be holding baby-gear or the baby who won’t sit in your wonderful new stroller)?
- Do the wheels rotate easily as you turn?
- When you roll backwards a few feet and then go forward again do the wheels adapt easily, or do you have to struggle to straighten them out?
- Does the seatback fold down quietly, smoothly and easily to accommodate a sleeping baby without waking him?
- Can you fold and unfold the stroller easily? Can you do this with your baby in your arms?
- Can you pick it up, as you will when you pack it in your car or onto the bus?
- Is the color and style something you’ll enjoy looking at for the next few years?
- Does it have all the features on your wish list?
A stroller is a major purchase that you’ll likely use for a year or more. Taking the extra time to choose the best stroller for you one can make your many future strolling trips easier and more enjoyable.
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series, which helps Moms and Dads through all key stages of parenting.