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First and foremost, you want your baby to be safe and comfortable in her stroller. But think about yourself, too, since you're the one who'll be pushing it. Here are some things to consider:
For the first six months to a year or so, if you'll be taking your infant in and out of a car a lot, a lightweight car seat carrier frame might be just the ticket. These bare-bones, universal frames let you attach an infant car seat. (See Stroller types.) Simply remove the infant seat from its base in the car, baby and all, and snap it right into the frame. It's great for letting your snoozing baby continue his nap. When you're done strolling, you simply snap the car seat back into its base inside the car. Stroller frames are inexpensive, and because of their light weight they're handy for quick trips between parking lot and supermarket, or for hauling on a bus or train.
An alternative is 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 and control his head and neck movements, you'll have the flexibility to use the travel system's stroller without the infant seat snapped in. 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, which is useful only for as long as your baby uses her infant car seat--anywhere from 9 months to a year or more, depending on your child's height and weight.
A variation on the theme is a combo stroller. Some of these resemble a "bassinet on wheels" (sort of like an old-fashioned baby carriage) to a regular stroller as your child grows. Some combos can accept an infant car seat but you will likely have to buy the car seat separately (infant car seats come with a base to hold it in place inside your car). In some cases, you'll also need an adapter to secure the car seat to the stroller, which may cost extra.
Combos tend to be costly, and though they are essentially a stroller chassis with wheels, may weigh more than car seat carrier frames. But they are also usable for a much longer time period than car seat carrier frames. All things considered, you might decide you don't need the bassinet feature that may be sold separately from your combo stroller. Some combo models, now offer a removable seat that reclines nearly flat to give your baby the same resting area provided by a bassinet without the need for that extra piece of equipment.
If you're a city dweller who relies on subways, buses, and cabs, you'll need a lightweight but sturdy stroller that folds quickly and is compact. A car seat carrier frame would work well, or a light, basic travel system. A sturdier stroller, perhaps one with larger tires, may be easier to push if you'll be going for long walks. But a bigger, heavier stroller might be harder to lift and fit into your car trunk, or to use on public transportation.
Some traditional and all-terrain strollers may have better shock-absorption, a three wheel configuration, and a seat that gives your baby more support than a simple umbrella stroller. This is also true of jogging strollers, but there's no reason to buy a jogger unless you're going to run with it. If you'll be tromping through snow or on unpaved roads or grass, a model with large wheels is a great option. Under those same conditions, a stroller with small plastic wheels, such as those found on some car-seat carrier frames, some umbrella strollers, and some traditional strollers, might be difficult to push. If you want to run, use a jogging stroller only, with a fixed front wheel, or locked swivel wheel.
If you do have a car, make sure whatever stroller you choose fits inside easily. And give some thought to where you will put a folded, standing stroller in your house. Do you have the closet space for it? Or will it block a hallway if you have to store it there? A folded stroller in the hall, or standing inside a closet, might also be a tip-over hazard for a curious baby or toddler.
Some parents may start with a travel system and later add a lightweight umbrella stroller for easier quick trips when baby is a bit older. If a second child comes along, you can consider a tandem double stroller, in which, with some models, an older child can sit in the front, and the infant can ride in the back, snug in her car seat. If one parent will be on his or her own with the kids, consider getting something that's not too heavy, if possible, since you may also be carrying a diaper bag and a baby. A stroller you can open and close with one hand also helps, but many strollers don't have this feature. A deep storage basket can also make a big difference when you're out running errands. 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 also simplify your life.
For two children, you can buy a tandem or a side-by-side stroller. Depending on the model and configuration, some of these can be used with children of different ages. You might see strollers with a little platform in the back so an older child can stand up and ride along while a younger sibling is in the stroller seat in front, but we don't recommend these, since the standing child could slip or fall. We have not tested these ride-along seats.
Even if you buy a nice modern lightweight stroller, you still may find yourself needing (or wanting) accessories such as a parasol, rain cover, netting to keep out bugs, drink holder, and more. The world of accessories is huge -and, of course, they can drive up the final price of a stroller. Instead, you might be very happy to pay a little extra up front for a stroller with built-in cup holders for your baby bottles, adjustable handle bars, and a special clip for your cell phone.
If you're baffled by the choices, you can always start with a basic universal seat-carrier frame for your infant car seat, then decide what might work best after you get used to going out with your baby.
Make sure you have enough room in your trunk for the stroller you're considering if you'll put it there. Here are some other factors to consider:
Strollers are popular baby gifts and shower presents. But make sure you put the one you want on your registry, and shop for it yourself by pushing a few different models around at the store. If you end up using your stroller heavily, and your baby will spend a lot of time in it, you should love the one you end up with and baby should be as comfortable as possible.
As you can see in our Ratings, there's a wide price range among stroller types and brands. What makes one stroller worth $100 and another $1,000 or more? Several things drive up the price, but remember: You don't have to spend a fortune to get a good stroller. There are good models in a wide range of prices.
More expensive strollers may be made of high-grade, lighter-weight aluminum, making them easier to lift in and out of a car or bus. These strollers may also offer more design-centric color schemes and fancier seating options. Many models now let you change the direction your baby faces--out toward the world or looking at you. But you can find less-expensive strollers that are lightweight and packed with features, including features that were previously found only at the high end.
So remember, a higher price doesn't always mean higher quality. Consumer Reports' tests have found that some economical strollers perform as well or better than models costing hundreds of dollars more. Models of any price range can perform well or have flaws: frames that bend out of shape, locking hinge mechanisms that fail, safety belts that come loose, or buckles that break.
In the end, a less-expensive stroller might serve you well. A lot depends on where and how much you'll use it. For infrequent travel or trips to the mall, a lower-end umbrella stroller (less than $100) might be all you need once your baby is old enough to sit up. But if you're going to be out more often and in all kinds of weather and conditions, or you'd like the stroller to last for more than one child, consider spending more. Your child will be more comfortable, too. Good-quality traditional strollers start in the low $100s.
Many stroller companies have extensive photo galleries, video demos, and virtual test drives posted on their websites. You can watch videos of parents pushing their children while walking (or running, while using a jogger). Some websites will show you strollers being closed, opened, and reconfigured like a Transformer toy made for modern parents. Our engineers have found that some manufacturer websites' how-to-use videos can be much more helpful than their user manuals.
Even if you plan to buy online, it's best to check out strollers in person, at a store that puts them on display. Are you comfortable with the handle height and the grip? Are the brakes or locking mechanisms easy to use? Compare maneuverability between models, and practice opening and closing the strollers--with one hand as well as two. See if it's easy to adjust the backrest, lift and carry the stroller, and apply the brakes. Make sure you can stand erect when you push the stroller and that 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. If possible, take the floor model out to your car to be sure it will fit in your trunk when it's folded, and bring along a measuring tape. Also, jiggle the stroller; the frame should feel solid, not loose.
Since newborns can't sit up on their own, they need a stroller that lets them lie on their back for the first few months, or one that can accept an infant car seat. Don't put a newborn or young infant into a traditional stroller that doesn't fully recline, including umbrella-style models. Wait until he or she can sit up, usually at about 6 months. This is important because a young infant who can't hold his head up is at risk of positional asphyxia if not properly reclined, meaning that his head could fall forward, restricting his breathing.
If the stroller you buy doesn't have a bassinet feature but fully reclines, make sure it has enclosed sides or some means of containment. Some strollers have features to prevent your baby from slipping through the leg openings. No matter which type of seat you use, make sure you fasten the baby's harness each and every time. It's the easiest way to keep your baby safe and prevent injuries.
Some strollers accept a car seat. If you buy a stroller that allows you to adjust the seat angle for babies of different ages, be sure you recline the seat properly for a newborn. Ideally, a newborn would lie flat, or very nearly flat. Also make sure you read the manual; some combination strollers that come with a bassinet, for example, also come with a stroller seat, but you aren't supposed to use the stroller seat until your child is able to sit up on his own--around 6 months old. With any stroller, it's important to use the harness at all times.
Search the stroller's carton or frame for a sticker showing that the manufacturer takes part in the certification program administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Until the stroller standard becomes mandatory--slated to happen in late 2013 or early 2014--that symbol means that the product meets the minimum requirements of ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials). Some of the key tests are for the stroller's restraint system, brakes, leg openings, stability, locking mechanisms that prevent accidental folding, and the absence of sharp edges and points that can pinch, shear, or scissor the user or the child. The certification program is voluntary, and so models from uncertified companies might be as safe as those from certified ones. Plus, our testing has found that JPMA-certified strollers don't always meet ASTM standards. Still, to be on the safe side, choose a certified model. Check the JPMA's website to find stroller brands that are JPMA certified.
Most stroller manufacturers and retailers offer warranties that cover poor workmanship and inherent flaws, but they won't necessarily take back a stroller if it malfunctions. You might have to return to the store for a replacement or ship the stroller back to the manufacturer for repair--at your expense--leaving you stranded without baby wheels. A puncture to the wheel of your high-end stroller may not be considered a manufacturing defect, and you'll have to pay to repair the tire or possibly get a new inner tube for it. If your stroller has air-filled tires, make sure that it comes with a repair kit (pump and patch kit or replacement tire tube) that you can keep in or on the stroller at all times. Your best bet is to purchase the stroller from a store, catalog, or website that will let you return it if you're not satisfied. Some manufacturers have 30-day money-back guarantees.
Shop at a retailer with a flexible or long-term return policy since you might buy or register for your stroller many months ahead of your due date. And keep the stroller's packaging until you're sure you're happy with it.
This category runs the gamut from lightweight travel systems where the stroller weighs less than 20 pounds (with the infant car seat attached, the weight goes up to 26 pounds) to heavy-duty models that weigh 35 pounds or more. If you get a traditional stroller made for twins (either a tandem or side-by-side double stroller), the weight can climb closer to 40 pounds. Heavy-duty strollers are somewhat bulky but stable, deep, and roomy. Some models might have shock absorbers on all wheels and many other features, while others are bare-bones. Many strollers have a two-step, one-handed release for folding.
Many are lightweight and convenient. They may have more features than umbrella strollers, such as a snack tray and a roomy storage basket. Some accommodate an infant car seat, while others fully recline and have some means of closing off the leg openings to prevent your infant from slipping through. Some models have both a capacity for a car seat and an infant enclosure/full recline, so you can use this type of stroller from baby's first day.
Heavier models are difficult to lift and carry. And you will still need a car seat so your baby can ride in a car or taxi safely. The small wheels on some models may not work well on uneven sidewalks or rough terrain. The compact size of some lighter-weight models might cramp some toddlers, especially when they're dressed in heavy winter clothes.
This type of stroller is a hybrid whose base is a stroller chassis with wheels. With some models, everything is included; for others, you may need to purchase various other parts a la carte and customize the stroller to your needs. For a newborn, you may be able to attach the car seat directly to the chassis, perhaps with an adapter that may not be included. The bassinet or carrycot is another option for infants and can be purchased for many models. Meant for only the youngest babies, it lies flat and usually lacks a harness. The stroller seat, which can be used from birth if it has a lie-flat position, is the last part of a combo stroller system. Some models may have seats that are reversible, so the baby can sit facing forward or facing back toward the person pushing. If you have a stroller with air-filled tires, make sure you check the pressure regularly and have a repair kit with pump and spare tube on hand.
Just like a traditional stroller or travel system, you can use this stroller from day 1 of baby's life if you choose a model that accommodates an infant car seat, or has a carrycot option or stroller seat that reclines flat. Since many combos can carry a toddler of up to 40 pounds or so, you might not have to buy another stroller. Some combos are sold as a complete package, with a chassis, a bassinet, and a reversible seat, but sometimes it's one or the other--the seat or bassinet--and you have to buy the other if you want it.
Combo strollers tend to be costly and you will likely still need to buy a car seat with base for your car and a car-seat adapter for the stroller. Sometimes they do not come with important accessories such as a rain cover, tire pump/pressure gauge (if the stroller has air tires), under-seat storage space, and a maintenance kit, but sometimes they do. Maintenance kits may include such items as silicone spray to keep wheels from squeaking or an air pump.
These lightweight strollers may have curved handles (like an umbrella) and are easy to fold. They're perfect for travel, or for quick trips around town with babies who can sit up. Some now offer car-seat compatibility; an adapter may be needed and possibly included.
They're lightweight and convenient. They're usually quite easy to fold. You might see some newer models on the market with seats that recline completely flat, and others that can accept a car seat.
The compact size of some umbrella strollers may cramp older babies and toddlers, especially when they're dressed in heavy winter clothes. Because they sometimes lack suspension and seat support, they don't provide the cushiest ride, and most aren't appropriate for babies younger than 6 months. The seat rarely reclines fully, and a few don't recline at all.
A travel system consists of an infant car seat, a car seat base, and a stroller.
Like an infant seat with a carrier frame, a travel system allows you to move a sleeping baby in the seat, undisturbed, from car to stroller. Some also allow you to fully recline the stroller's seat and have a means of closing off the leg holes, so you can use it as a carriage--making it a sort of less-expensive combination stroller. Still others have a stroller seat that reclines flat, with the same result (a less-expensive combination stroller). When your baby is ready to sit up on her own, she can sit in the stroller seat, with the backrest adjusted to a comfortable position for her. Many travel systems are good values.
Like many other types of strollers, travel systems can be bulky.
A lightweight frame may accept more than one brand and model of infant seat (though some only accommodate their own infant seats), and allows your baby to go strolling while still in his car seat. At least one model is made for twins and can hold two infant car seats.
They're compact, lightweight, and inexpensive. When you move a baby in an infant car seat from the car to the frame, you're less likely to wake her.
The frame can no longer be used as a stroller once your child outgrows the infant car seat (at about 1 year or younger, depending on the child).
The side-by-side has two seats attached to a single frame or a unit resembling two strollers bolted together. The features on side-by-side strollers are similar to those on single-passenger models. This type of stroller is easiest to maneuver with children of about the same weight, such as twins. For those models with reclining seatbacks, each seat can be adjusted separately. You can create your own side-by-side by joining two umbrella strollers with a set of screw-on brackets, available at baby discount chains and specialty stores. But you should not use them unless they are recommended by the manufacturer. If you do use them, only join two strollers of the same model, or the strollers might not maneuver properly. Attach them securely and check the brackets regularly.
When transporting two children, a side-by-side model typically goes up curbs more easily than a tandem. Some side-by-side models accept an infant car seat, though some brands limit it to only one of the two seats. That might be fine if you've got a newborn and an older child. Some models allow you to attach infant car seats side by side as well. If you're shopping for infant twins and you want a side-by-side, look for one in which both seats recline, and use the infant foot enclosure or boot that comes with the stroller for both seats.
If children of different weights ride in the stroller, it can veer to one side. A folded side-by-side stroller may require twice as much space as the equivalent single-occupant version. Although manufacturers might claim that a stroller is slender enough to go through a standard doorway, it can still be a tight squeeze. Some strollers might not fit through some doorways or elevator openings.
These strollers have one seat directly behind the other. They're the same width as single-passenger strollers and fit through doorways and store aisles. But while the rear seat can recline on some models, the front one usually can't without limiting the space of the rear passenger. On some tandems, you can set the seats so the passengers face each other. Others have a "stadium seat" that allows the child in back to see over the one in front. There are also models that let one child sit in the front and another in a lower rear seat. You can even find tandem strollers that will hold triplets.
Tandems fit through standard doorways and elevator doors more easily than side-by-side doubles. A folded tandem takes up just a little more space than a folded standard midsized stroller. Some tandem models accept an infant car seat in one or both stroller seats (but check which brands of car seats are compatible before you buy).
Steering can be quite difficult, and it can be tricky getting over curbs. Some models have limited leg support and very little legroom for the rear passenger. They're often quite heavy, which can make them difficult to manage if you're small.
These three-wheeled strollers for runners let you push your child while you run or jog. They have a hand brake for slowing down, in addition to a foot-operated "parking" brake, and larger, air-filled tires. The front wheel can either be fixed (non-swiveling) or lockable, which gives you the option of setting it to swivel (for better maneuverability on smoother surfaces), or not swivel (for running and/or walking on rougher surfaces). The long, high handlebar is designed to give running feet and legs more space to avoid bumping into the stroller's frame. There's a tether strap (to be attached to your wrist and the stroller at all times when running with a child) that keeps the stroller from rolling away in case you fall or trip. On some brands, the large front wheel doesn't swivel at all.
Some manufacturers suggest that a child as young as 8 weeks old can ride in a jogging stroller while his parent runs, but our medical consultants say that a baby should be at least 1 year old. While being used for running, we recommend that a jogging stroller's front wheel be locked into the non-swivel position for safety.
Jogging strollers can be used for off-road walks and running. Large, air-cushioned tires offer a comfortable ride and make them easy to push. Many jogging strollers may have a longer useful life than traditional strollers because they can accommodate heavier children. (Several companies offer double or triple jogging strollers with total weight limits of 100 or 150 pounds.)
Consider carefully before buying a jogging stroller as your only stroller. A fixed (non-swiveling) front wheel is good for running but can make maneuvering in everyday situations difficult. Because they have three wheels, some might be less stable when going up or down a curb, especially if the wheel is in swivel mode, or if a child tries to climb into the stroller from the side. Jogging strollers are often large and some are heavy; you might need to remove the wheel(s) to fit the stroller into your car trunk. Bicycle-type air-filled tires can go flat and require inflating with a bicycle pump or gas-station hose. If you are not familiar with how to install bicycle-type tires, with the locking lever, it's a good idea to have someone at the store, or at a bicycle shop, make sure the wheel is installed correctly, and show you how to do it properly.
These strollers (some with three-wheel designs, others with more traditional designs that have been "beefed up") let you push your child in comfort on a variety of surfaces. All-terrains have a rugged, outdoorsy look. While the three-wheel design mimics jogging strollers, all-terrains shouldn't be used for running unless the user's manual specifically says you can. (Our shoppers have seen strollers in stores displayed in the "jogging/running" section that are not meant for running, so be sure to check the box and instructions carefully for recommended usage.) All have a front wheel that swivels for easier maneuvering on smoother surfaces but can be locked to stabilize the stroller for use on rougher surfaces. With few exceptions, most all-terrains are not suited for babies under 6 months old, though some may have an infant-suitable seat, or be able to accommodate an infant car seat.
They're good for "off-road" use and provide a relatively smooth ride over bumpy trails, potholes, or uneven sidewalks. Although not every all-terrain is equipped with air-filled tires, that type does offer a more comfortable ride. Some all-terrain strollers can accommodate heavier children better than other models can, either by offering more room or a more robust design--possibly because somewhat older kids, who wouldn't normally ride in a stroller, may not be up to a hike or long walk in the woods. Some companies offer double or triple all-terrain strollers with a total weight limit of up to 100 or 150 pounds.
Three-wheel designs might be less stable when the stroller is being pushed up on or down off a curb if the swivel wheel is not locked. Many all-terrains are not suitable for infants younger than 6 months. They are often large and heavy; some may require you to remove the front and/or rear wheels to fit in a car trunk. Note that if an all-terrain you choose has air-filled tires, they can go flat and require inflating with a bicycle pump or gas-station hose.
These models are reminiscent of old-fashioned English-style prams and provide ample, flat sleeping space for infants. They may have large, spoked wheels that can be removed. If you want your baby to lie flat when strolling, also consider the generally less-expensive option of a combo stroller, which comes with a bassinet as well as other attachments for larger babies that will grow with your baby.
They can be used for newborns and they're convenient for sleeping. They have huge wheels with spokes and a classic look. A few manufacturers now offer stroller seats that can be purchased separately and used with the same chassis once the baby has outgrown the bassinet feature.
They're not very portable. With those large wheels, it's nearly impossible to get this type of pram into your vehicle or on and off public transportation. And you'll still need a separate car seat for any trips by automobile. Traditional prams usually don't convert to a regular stroller and usually cost $1,000 or more. They aren't very popular and few manufacturers produce them.
A stroller seems like a pretty basic thing--put your baby in, and off you go! But the number of choices and features increases all the time. You can get seats that face forward or back, handlebars that reverse and adjust in height, consoles that hold cups, car keys, cell phones, and more, and even a built-in speaker that connects to an iPod so your baby can listen to music. Some stroller features will make your baby's ride safer and more comfortable, while others--such as shopping baskets--are more useful for busy parents.
A five-point harness is the safest option. It secures your baby at or above the shoulders, at the waist, and between the legs, and keeps her from sliding or falling out if the stroller tips, or climbing out when you're not looking. We feel strongly that it's better than a three-point harness, which only secures the lower body at the waist and crotch. A durable five-point harness with a crotch strap will keep a baby or toddler from sliding down or climbing up and out of the stroller. According to ASTM International, formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials, the crotch strap and waist straps must be interconnected so that the waist strap(s) can't be used without the crotch strap.
Look for stroller harness buckles that are easy for adults to operate, but difficult for small hands to unfasten. If you're shopping with your baby, check the harness to make sure it's strong and durable but can be adjusted so that it fits snugly (and comfortably) around your child. The straps should be adjustable for proper fit, and securely anchored.
A stroller with typical wheels--rather than air-filled tires--is perfectly fine for most people. But some parents like the look of all-terrain or jogging strollers, which may come with larger, often air-filled, tires and a more rugged, "off-road" appearance. Larger wheels do make it easier to negotiate curbs or other rough or uneven surfaces. They can be a bit easier to push, but unless the wheels can also be set to swivel, the stroller may be harder to maneuver. A lockable front-swivel wheel (or wheels) is a good choice, because it can be adjusted to swivel or not swivel.
While the person pushing the stroller may like the feel of air-filled tires, remember that they that wheel type adds a maintenance chore, since the air pressure needs to be maintained; a flat tire when you are out with baby could wreck your whole day.
Most strollers have one or two front wheels that swivel to make steering easier, featuring two positions: full swivel (useful for smooth surfaces) or locked in one forward-facing position (better for rougher terrain). If you choose a jogging stroller, remember that the safest option, when jogging, is a jogger model with a fixed front wheel.
Some strollers have a one-piece seat that can be adjusted to nearly a flat horizontal recline to accommodate a newborn. Other models designed for newborns or young infants, with a seatback that reclines fully, are required to have a means of closing off the leg opening area so that an infant can't slip through and beneath a grab bar or tray.
That's because infant deaths have occurred when unharnessed babies' bodies slipped underneath the tray or grab bar in their strollers, while their heads were caught up on the tray or bar, causing the babies to strangle. To eliminate this hazard, manufacturers use various means--some mesh or fabric shields or even the footrest--that can be fastened securely to close off the leg openings and can resist 25 pounds of force.
In any case, even with the leg holes closed, we recommend that the stroller's harness still be used to secure your baby every time you use it.
Some combo stroller systems offer bassinet or carry-cot attachments. Because babies may wriggle, and the carrycot options often lack a harness, we have some safety concerns about them. If you use one of these to stroll with your baby, check the baby often to make sure he hasn't wriggled and managed to press his face up against the side of the carrycot. To learn more about our safety concerns, see the Safety tips section of this guide.
All strollers have parking brakes designed to keep the stroller from rolling when you are stopped. Most jogging strollers also have an additional, bicycle-type hand-operated brake for slowing your speed, for example, when jogging down an incline.
Good brakes are essential to your child's safety. Many models have parking brakes that are activated by pushing a foot pedal, using cogs to engage the sprockets of the rear wheels. Some strollers have "linked" brakes that are activated in a single stroke by pushing with your foot on a bar at the rear of the stroller frame, while other models have a foot-operated pedal above each rear wheel. Some new models have a single hand-operated lever that activates both rear-wheel brakes.
Avoid models that might hurt your feet when you engage or disengage the brakes with light shoes or bare feet.
A canopy is a must-have for protecting your baby, especially in glaring sunlight or inclement weather. Canopies include everything from a simple fabric square strung between a metal frame and deep pull-down versions that shield almost the entire front of the stroller. Reversible (or 180-degree travel) canopies protect babies from sun or wind from ahead or behind. Some canopies have a clear plastic window on top so you can keep an eye on your baby while you stroll. The window (or viewing port) is a nice feature; you'll use it more than you think. You can also buy a separate rain/wind shield for most strollers and some brands offer additional parasols that clip onto the carriage. Depending on the type, these can range in price.
Stroller handles can be padded, and even thickly cushioned. Adjustable handlebars can be extended or angled to accommodate people of different heights. A few models have flipping or reversible handles that can swing over the top of the stroller and lock into position, changing the direction your baby is facing. (Other strollers accomplish the same thing with a reversible seat rather than the handlebar.)
This is essential for when you need to open or fold the stroller with one hand while holding the baby with the other. The best strollers fold into compact positions in a matter of seconds. Those that stay upright when folded are convenient when putting the stroller in a closet or hallway, but make sure your child can't reach it and knock it over. Always make sure your child is away from the stroller when you open or close it. As eager as he or she might be, do not let an older baby or toddler climb in to the seat as you're setting the stroller up. Many serious injuries to children have occurred during the opening and closing of strollers. (See stroller safety tips.)
Strollers often have a tray where babies can rest their arms or keep snacks or toys. Some models have a grab bar instead of a tray. A stroller tray or bar should be removable or swing open, rather than be permanently attached to both sides, to make it easier to get your baby or toddler seated and harnessed, to clean it in the sink, or to make the folded stroller more compact. If the tray comes with attached toys, make sure they are securely fastened and check their size.
A footrest can help your child sit more comfortably without their legs dangling, but many are too low to help any but the tallest toddlers. Some models have adjustable-height footrests. Likewise, you should check that the front rim of the seat is soft and won't press uncomfortably into the back of your child's knees or legs.
Many strollers have a cup holder for you and one for your child. They're a welcome feature for both--but keep hot drinks away from your baby. If you have a cup of hot liquid in the parent's cup holder and you hit a bump, hot liquid can slosh out and could burn your baby or you.
The parent tray, if present, is often molded with a cup holder and/or a compartment for keys, cell phone, and other small items. Some models let you buy a separate clip-on holder for a cell phone or other small electronic device. If you get a stroller without a parent tray, you can purchase various small bags or pouches made to strap onto the handlebars, but they should be accessories approved by your stroller manufacturer. Do not hang any bags or purses on stroller handles; this could cause your stroller to tip.
Several strollers have protective leg coverings, "boots" or "foot muffs" made of a matching fabric that can snap over baby's legs for warmth. Some boots may double as a means of completing the infant enclosure when a seat is reclined (as another means of closing off "leg holes"). Some look like miniature sleeping bags. Most are sold separately, but it's also a stroller feature to look for, especially if you live in a cold climate. If your stroller-of-choice doesn't offer one, you can buy a separate stroller cover or bunting starting at around $15. If you buy one that isn't made specifically for your stroller, make sure it doesn't interfere with harness use.
Many strollers of all types and price ranges (even umbrella strollers) have some type of suspension or shock absorber (covered springs or rubber pads above the wheel assemblies) near the wheel mechanism. Air-filled tires can help to give baby an even smoother ride. Softer suspension offers a smooth ride, but a too-soft ride can come at the expense of steering control. Make sure you like the feel of the stroller and how it handles.
Today, the range of stroller fabrics and prints is far greater than ever before so you should have no problem finding something that suits your style. Keep in mind that you may eventually want a fabric that will make it easy to wipe up spit-ups and crushed snacks. It's great if you can throw the entire seat cover into the wash without needing to worry too much about shrinking, fading, or puckering. Look for a removable seat cover, and check laundry instructions before you buy. (You may need to check the manufacturer's website, since, although there are usually attached tags or printed instructions inside the packaging, you can't necessarily see this before buying. It's also a good idea to make sure that there are instructions for reattaching the cover after you've laundered it.)
Many strollers have this important safety feature. If yours doesn't, wear light-colored or reflective clothing so you can be seen on gloomy days. Even with a stroller with reflective trim, we don't suggest strolling near traffic in twilight or in the dark. Jogging strollers especially should have reflectors on them.
A roomy, easily accessible storage basket underneath the stroller makes errands with a baby much easier. Sizes of baskets vary. Choose one that's at least big enough to accommodate a diaper bag. If you choose a model that reclines, make sure that you can reach the basket if the seat back is fully reclined, or if it's a travel system, when the infant car seat is in place. When shopping for a stroller, press on the storage basket's floor; it shouldn't drag on the ground when loaded. Some strollers have storage pouches with elastic top edges in back of or in place of a storage basket. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for all storage areas. Don't hang any bags, including a diaper bag or purse, on handlebars; the stroller can tip back if it's overloaded.
Started in 2005, this small, Pennsylvania-based company is named for four real moms (actually five moms, but they say “4Moms” makes a better name). They were the original focus group, and ever since that first meeting, they’ve been contributing their insights and expertise to the company’s products. The company makes infant bathtubs, a baby seat, a play yard, and the first self-folding stroller, known as Origami. Available in specialty juvenile products shops and online.
BOB (short for Beast of Burden) started out in 1994 making bike trailers for child passengers. Today, the company also makes accessories for bike trailers, strollers, and car seats, plus a variety of strollers for the active family.
The original creator of the three-wheeled jogging stroller still produces joggers and all-terrain strollers (singles and doubles) in the midpriced range. It has also recently introduced traditional strollers for everyday use. Available at specialty stores, baby superstores, and online.
This worldwide company has been manufacturing juvenile products for 22 years, from car seats to strollers to nursery centers to high chairs. Available online or wherever children’s products are sold.
This high-end European stroller manufacturer became a huge sensation after an appearance on a popular TV show in 2002. Its compact strollers are customizable, easy to use, and some are available with a bassinet. Accessories include adapters to convert the stroller seat to a car seat. Check the company’s website for retailers in your area.
Founded in 2004 by a husband and wife team, this company manufactures higher-end strollers (single and double) and stroller accessories. Its strollers are sold mostly at specialty shops and online.
Pronounced “kee-co,” this Italian brand was established in 1958. It is a multinational company that specializes in making clothing and equipment for babies and toddlers, including strollers, high chairs, car seats, and toys. Available online and at most retailers.
Combi USA was established in 1989, a subsidiary of the Japanese-based company that was established in 1957. It is recognized for its numerous baby products, from play yards to swings to strollers. It also manufactures infant frame carriers and most recently, car seats. Available at baby superstores and specialty retailers, and online.
Dorel Juvenile Group manufactures the Safety 1st, Cosco, Quinny, Maxi-Cosi, and InStep brands, plus licensed brands including Disney and Eddie Bauer. Available at most retailers and online.
For more than 85 years, Evenflo has been making products for children from birth to preschool age, including car seats, strollers, high chairs, and play yards, among other baby care products. Available at most retailers and online.
This family-oriented company says it “develops unique solutions for strollers and car seats,” such as the Travelmate. The company also claims to make some of its products from recycled materials. Available at Babies "R" Us and Buy Buy Baby, among others, and online.
From a metal-products company in the 1950s grew a baby products company with the creation of the popular baby swing, Swyngomatic. Graco now manufactures a full line of juvenile products, from nursery products and activity centers to strollers and car seats. Available everywhere and online.
This British company was founded in 1921. Manufacturers of infant bedding, cribs, high chairs, diaper bags, strollers, car seats, and travel beds, the company also markets its products under the Disney, Esprit, Traxx, and i’coo brand names. Available online.
Makers of fixed-wheel strollers, swivel-wheel strollers, bike trailers, and pedal cars, this Madison, Wis., company is a division of Dorel Juvenile Group. Available at Target, Toys "R" Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, and other juvenile product retailers, and on the company’s website.
An Italian company specializing in juvenile products such as strollers and high chairs. Its stroller line includes lightweight, traditional, and pram-type strollers in the medium-to-high price range. Inglesina is sold mostly at specialty stores and online.
JJ Cole is part of TOMY International, a producer of toys, infant care products and gear. JJ Cole is recognized for its Bundleme infant carriers and most recently strollers and a car seat. Sold mostly at specialty stores and online.
This family-run, U.S.-based company manufactures strollers, high chairs, and play yards, with a full line of accessories for its products. It has sites in Dallas and Orange County, Calif. Available online and at Buy Buy Baby.
Founded in 1946, Kolcraft manufactures play yards, high chairs, walkers, strollers, bassinets, bouncers, swings, and other juvenile furniture. The company is partners with brand names such as Jeep, Sesame Street, Contours, and Sealy to produce a variety of children's products. Available online and wherever juvenile products are sold.
Begun in 1965, when Owen Maclaren designed and patented his prototype Baby Buggy, the B-01. Today’s Maclaren Buggys are descendants of the B-01, from the lightweight frame to the durable fabric and one-hand-fold feature. Available where junvenile products are sold and online.
Mamas & Papas is a popular British baby brand started in 1981 as a family owned business. It arrived in the U.S. in 2010. Its strollers are typically modern and stylish and are priced in the mid-to-high range. Sold at Babies "R" Us, specialty retailers, and online.
Mia Moda, a manufacturer of European-style strollers, car seats, high chairs, playards, and more, is part of the Dream On Me Inc. family. Its strollers all feature Italian names. Its products are sold mostly online.
It all begain 1992, when a dad wanted to enjoy the terrains of New Zealand with his baby. Mountain Buggy is recognized for its all-terrain strollers. It has since introduced strollers to use on city streets too. They are sold at baby super centers, specialty shops and online.
A California-based manufacturer of high-end strollers, bassinets, and toddler car seats. Infant car seats are part of the company’s travel system stroller. Check the company’s website to find a dealer, or buy direct from the website.
This Italian company has been making strollers, car seats, high chairs, and other products for more than 60 years. These higher-priced products are available at Target, Babies "R" Us, and online.
A division of Dorel Products, Schwinn is available at Amazon, Target, Toys "R" Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, and other juvenile-product retailers. Baby products available at instep.net.
A division of RC2, a designer, producer, and marketer of toys, collectibles, and infant and toddler products, The First Years offers products for every stage of a child's development, including feeding, playing, traveling, sleeping, health, and safety. Available wherever juvenile products are sold.
A Canada-based manufacturer of all-terrain and jogging strollers (single and double) and accessories for those strollers. Its products are sold where juvenile products are sold, in specialty stores and online.
An eco-friendly American company, UPPAbaby manufactures midpriced strollers and accessories. To reinforce its commitment to developing eco-friendly and safe baby gear, UPPAbaby has joined forces with Healthy Child Healthy World. Available at Buy Buy Baby and other specialty retailers, and online.
A family-owned Australian company that manufactures mostly single and double strollers (it has a high chair and play yard in its lineup too). Available at specialty stores and online.
This company, which is based in Spain, offers modern-style juvenile products such as high chairs, strollers, and accessories. Its products are sold at juvenile-product stores and online.
A New Zealand company, it manufactures strollers, bassinets, portable high chairs, baby carriers, and car seats for active families. Available at specialty stores (check company website for retailers near you) and on the company’s website.
Using a stroller might seem intuitive, but it's easy to make mistakes and even cause injury, especially while opening and closing one. The vast majority of stroller and carriage accidents result from falls. Here are some other common lapses, and how to avoid them, so you can stroll with confidence.
Umbrella strollers are generally not geared toward infants, and most don't let you attach an infant car seat. Some newer lightweight strollers, however, can be completely reclined for use with an infant, or can accept a car seat. At least one umbrella stroller reclines fully and has a "boot enclosure" so baby can't slip through. Another pricier stroller has four reclining positions, including flat, which is great for babies who can't sit up yet.
You might be eager to get outside and get back to your exercise routine. But unless they have adapters that let you mount an infant car seat, most all-terrain strollers and jogging strollers are not suitable for infants younger than 6 months. Even if you can find an all-terrain or jogging stroller that has adapters to mount an infant car seat, that doesn't mean you should start running sprints with your baby. We don't recommend running with a child until he's more than a year old, with far greater head and neck control than a newborn. All-terrains should not be used for jogging at all unless the manufacturer specifically says that running is okay with their product.
Although some manufacturers suggest that it's acceptable to run with babies as young as a few months, our medical consultants have expressed concerns not only because of the jostling an infant will experience but also because of the risk of a fall to both parent and child.
Where safety is concerned, err on the side of caution. If you have no one to tend to your baby while you go for a solo run, consider hiring a babysitter to watch him or her. Failing that, don't take a child younger than a year for a run in a jogging stroller, and make sure the child is secured with a 5-point harness.
Keep in mind that when you head to a store looking for an all-terrain model, they might be mislabeled. A store might display a model and call it a "jogging stroller" when it's just a regular stroller. If you want to be sure--especially if you want to run with your baby when she's older--make sure you take a look at the owner's manual before you buy.
(See Types for more specifics of each stroller type.)
Take your time, read the manual that comes with your model, and try out all the features before you take your child for a ride. For example, if the stroller has various positions, can you operate the backrest easily? Remember, when the baby is in the stroller, raising the backrest can be much harder than lowering it. Are the buckles on the restraint straps snapping into place properly? Do you know how to attach your infant car seat to the stroller or stroller frame and lock it in place? Take your new wheels for a dry run before you put your baby in.
A stroller purchased years ago might have since been recalled. Your neighbor might be happy to hand you his old one, or you might have been storing one. Before you dust it off, however, check with the manufacturer or the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if it's been recalled. Also check the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that recalls child car seats (which may have come with your travel system), for their databases of child car seat recalls and defect investigations. Even if it hasn't been recalled, an older stroller might not meet the latest safety standards. Besides, many new strollers have features that make them easier to use.
When you lock the front door of your home or buckle your vehicle's safety belt, you're in the habit of listening for that all important "click." Get in the same habit when opening your child's stroller. It's easy to skip this step when you're in a rush, and some strollers require force and effort to fully lock. Another young sibling might wedge a little finger in a still-open hinge, or the stroller might fold up with your child trapped inside.
In the past few years there have been recalls issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for several strollers because the hinges lacerated and in some cases amputated children's fingers. Before you use a new or used umbrella stroller, or any kind of stroller, make sure that the hinges are either covered (with fabric) or have a closed design that doesn't allow finger access at all. When folding or unfolding a stroller, keep baby's--and siblings'--hands away from the areas that could pinch fingers. And never allow a child to climb into the stroller until you've fully opened it and heard that final "click" or "snap" as the frame is locked into the opened position.
Regularly check your stroller for wear and tear, and make sure sharp edges haven't become exposed and that fabric isn't frayed. You can check the manufacturer's manual for notes on maintaining the stroller.
Use the restraint system every single time you put your child in the stroller, just like you do when placing him in a car seat. Even when your child is older or asleep, make sure that the straps are in place and the restraint buckles are locked. (A really determined toddler can wiggle out of a three-point harness, so opt for a five-point, over-the-shoulder restraint system.) You'd be surprised how little it takes to bounce an unharnessed baby out of his seat. A bump in a sidewalk or tipping the stroller up a curb awkwardly could send your baby forward onto his face.
Don't ever take a stroller with a child in it onto an escalator; use a ramp or elevator instead. If you absolutely have no choice, get another adult to help you. One person should hold the stroller at the top and the other at the bottom.
You should also avoid taking your child up and down stairs when she is in a stroller. If there is no ramp or elevator available, take your baby out, collapse the stroller, and carry it. Many serious and even fatal stroller accidents have happened on staircases.
Misaligned and loose wheels can be a chronic problem with some strollers. One sign of good construction is wheels that sit on the floor uniformly when a baby is on board. Some models will let you remove a wheel if you need to buy a replacement, but this is not true for every stroller on the market. If a wheel seems loose, don't use the stroller until you've had a chance to check the problem and re-tighten the fasteners, if needed.
It only takes a slight incline or a jostle to send a stroller rolling away from you. Lock the brake when you take your hands off the stroller, even if you're stopping for just a moment. If you're on or near a bus or train with your child in the stroller, always put the brakes on. (Learn more about brakes and other features.)
If the stroller you buy comes with a bassinet for your infant, don't assume you can use it as a bassinet in your home. Check the manufacturer's guidelines. Note whether you have to purchase a separate mattress for the bassinet or whether the stroller system comes with it. Some manufacturers also offer separate stands to put the stroller bassinet on when you're home. We haven't tested those.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety standards for bassinets and for strollers, but until recently, bassinets that attach to strollers had fallen through the cracks of federal regulation. Now, stroller and carriage bassinets that are removable from the stroller are covered under the ASTM Bassinets and Cradles standard, as long as they meet the definition of a bassinet/cradle, which most carrycot/bassinet attachments for strollers do. To meet the criteria, the sleeping surface has to lay flat or have no more than a 10 degree angle from horizontal.
One reason we have had concerns about carrycot or bassinet attachments to strollers is that there is no requirement that they have a harness. Unlike a crib, a stroller bassinet is being pushed and perhaps jostled around while the baby's in it. We worry that the baby could wriggle or even slip so that his face is pressed against the fabric sides of the carrycot.
To address this concern, if you want a stroller that comes with a bassinet, look for one with a five-point harness. A few manufacturers now include them. Another option is simply to buy a stroller whose seat fully reclines, and close off the leg holes to keep your infant from slipping out, and always, always use the harness.
Additionally, the CSPC requires that mattresses in stand-alone bassinets be no more than 1 1/2 inches thick. This is to avoid very deep, plush surfaces where a child, unable to turn over or turn his head, could suffocate. Gaps between the sides of the bassinet and the mattress or pad should be no more than half an inch when it is placed in the center of the bassinet. But most stroller carrycots have very thin sleep surfaces that are far less than 1 ½" thick, if any. To avoid suffocation, never use any blankets, quilts, loose bedding or pillows in the bassinet or carrycot.
Stroller bassinets that are removable from the stroller frame are now required to comply with the same standards as stand-alone bassinets as long as their sleeping surface is at an angle of less than 10 degrees from horizontal. That enforcement should protect babies from faulty or dangerous products.
Resist the temptation to toss a shopping bag or diaper bag over the stroller's handles, because there's a risk that the stroller will tip backward with your baby inside. Use the basket under your stroller instead; if you know you'll want room for lots of stuff, look for a stroller that has ample storage. Adding long straps to your diaper bag or clips to your stroller's handlebars to hold things is not a good solution and can upset the balance. Unless the stroller manufacturer says something is an approved accessory for your specific stroller, don't use it.
If you expect to carry more cargo than your stroller's basket can handle, use a light backpack--worn on your back, not placed on the stroller handlebars--or bring along a foldable, reusable shopping bag with long straps. You can hang the shopping bag on your shoulder. Buying a large backpack-style diaper bag is also a hands-free way to stow purchases and baby gear throughout the day.