When it comes to baby gear, strollers are high on the list of must-haves. With dozens of available brands, models and styles, the options can be dizzying. Whether you’re expecting your first baby, sizing up to a bigger stroller for your second child, or simply looking for an updated ride for your kids, consider the following options and features when making your selection.
Choosing the Right Fit
Do your homework on the front end so that your stroller will last until your children are able to walk on their own for significant distances (usually by age 3 or 4). While there may be hundreds of strollers on the market, they all can be categorized as one of the following basic types.
Standard-size strollers generally have a comfortable, padded seat that can recline into different positions and straps that can be adjusted as your child grows. Most standard strollers offer a sun canopy and below-seat storage. Prices vary greatly, from basic models to high-end versions packed with added features.
Travel systems offer the ability to click in your infant’s car seat, which is a handy feature to have for the first several months so you can avoid waking a peacefully sleeping baby when moving from the car to the stroller. Most brands offer systems that include a standard stroller and coordinating infant car seat, an option that will last from birth through toddlerhood.
A lighter-weight and less expensive option, car seat stroller frames are metal frames designed to carry specific brands of infant car seats (check manufacturer or store websites for compatibility information). While the frames are easy to fold up and store in your car, once your baby outgrows the infant car seat, you’ll need to find another stroller option.
Lightweight strollers — also called umbrella strollers — generally weigh less than 12 pounds and fold up more compactly than their counterparts. Because they often don’t have much padding and do not offer a wide range of adjustments, umbrella strollers are more suited to older babies and toddlers. However, their convenience and lower price tag make them a great option for families that plan to travel.
Versatility & Convenience
Today’s strollers are more than just basic transportation vessels. In addition to pushing your little one from Point A to Point B, some are able to convert into highchairs and bassinets. Consider how you’ll be using your stroller — for quick trips to the mall and walks around the block, or for all-day excursions?
Does your child need to face forward or backward depending on age and stage? For infants, rear-facing means parents can check on the baby more easily. Some models offer reversible seats, so you can change direction as your child grows.
Think about how easy it is to fold and maneuver a particular model. Several options offer one-handed folding with the push of a button or pull of a lever. Before you make a purchase, take the stroller for a spin at the store to make sure it handles as you’d like. If there is a large height difference between Mom and Dad, make sure you both are comfortable pushing the stroller, or look for a model that offers adjustable handles.
Babies and toddlers require a lot of items. Parents often have to carry several diapers, clothes, food, blankets and toys. Compare the cargo areas of strollers. How large is the basket or shelf, and is it easy to reach? Are there multiple compartments?
Add-on accessories offer convenience, too; consider feeding trays and cup holders — both for baby bottles and Mom and Dad’s drinks — rain covers or shade screens.
While the array of types and features can turn your stroller hunt into a research project, the upside is there are solutions for each family’s specific needs and budget.
If you’re adding a second child or expecting twins, a double stroller often is a requirement.
Decide whether you want side-by-side or front-to-back positioning. While the length of front-to-back double strollers may make cornering a challenge, a side-by-side may be more difficult to get through narrow doorways or crowded grocery store aisles. For children of different ages, some traditional strollers have the option of adding a platform behind the baby’s seat where an older sibling can stand.
When Joshua and Michelle Dickstein, of Copley, recently added twins to their existing family of three, the couple chose a double stroller frame to use while Miriam and Ilana, now 10 months old, are still in their infant carriers.
“My concern was fitting through doors, the weight of a double stroller, and overall bulkiness,” Michelle says. “I needed to think about having enough room in my car trunk to fit their stroller and groceries.”
Once the twins outgrow their car seat carriers, they will move to a relatively slim-size double stroller that offers side-by-side seating.
“The key elements for me here were wheel size, weight and ease of use,” she says. “Pushing two babies at once takes a little more muscle, especially as they grow bigger. This is why I really wanted to find lightweight double strollers that could become pretty compact and store nicely, because space is at a premium in my car.”
Because the couple’s oldest daughter, Esther, was age 2 at the time of the twins’ birth, Michelle tried to find a triple stroller but was not pleased with the existing options and their customer reviews.
“I thought about a sit-and-stand, but they don’t have a sit-and-stand double stroller,” she explains. “So I thought about getting a sit-and-stand and putting one car seat in, my oldest would sit/stand and I could wear the other baby, but the logistics of getting a baby in and out of an infant car seat, into a baby carrier, and setting up the stroller were just too overwhelming.”
Taking the advice of a fellow mom of three – two of whom are twins – the couple taught Esther, now 3, to hold onto the double stroller and/or stay close by.
“I quickly learned there is nothing small and cute when you have multiples — except for the babies themselves — so I just want my baby gear to be reliable,” she adds.
Full Speed Ahead
For runners who wish to continue the hobby with a baby on board, a jogging stroller is as important as a reliable pair of running shoes. Jogging strollers also are good options for regular walks on bumpy, twisty terrain.
Featuring larger, air-filled wheels on a lightweight frame, these strollers are designed to deliver a smooth ride for both pusher and passenger. Because they are bulkier, they often are not as easy to maneuver and don’t fold up as compact as standard strollers — but their wheel stability, tougher suspension systems and other safety features are better for higher speeds.
Greg and Ellen Cicero, of Aurora, chose to buy a jogging stroller when their daughter, Ella, was a baby. “Until she was almost 2, we’d take turns running so one of us could be out while the other stayed home with Ella,” Ellen says about their daughter, who is now 6. “We wanted to go together and take her with us.”
Since adding two more daughters to their family —
Makayla, 3, and Olivia, 1 — the couple has invested in a double jogging stroller. In addition to extra seating, their second stroller was a higher price point than their first, but was well worth the investment because of its features, according to Ellen.
“The wheels are the most important feature; rotating front wheels are much easier to use and make for a smoother run,” she explains. “If the front wheel is stationary, you have to pick it up in order to turn.”
Ellen’s other favorite features include a convenient place to keep water bottles, keys, phones, etc., plus a wider hand grip that allows for a more natural hand position and running stride.
Also worth the extra cost is an easy-fold mechanism, says Ellen, who adds, “The (double jogging stroller) is large, but it’s very easy to fold. You just pull up on a middle strap and it folds in half. The first was quite cumbersome to fold and was very bulky. That was fine when we only had one child, but now we have more things to put in our car, so saving space is important.”