Shopping for your baby's first stroller often conjures up daydreams of brisk walks on sunny days, but pressure to make the "perfect" choice can make you feel defeated from the get-go. With buggies that range from several hundred dollars to pricey celebrity favorites, it can be difficult to know when the price is right. Additionally, with more snazzy add-ons (Collapsible! All-terrain! Eco-friendly!) than a luxury car, how can you know which features you'll really need? Use the guide below to make your stroller shopping experience a breeze.
- Lifestyle is key. Find a stroller that suits your day-to-day lifestyle. "Lifestyle is the main factor in stroller-buying," reveals Grayson. "In an urban environment, your stroller is your car. You need one with great wheels, a sturdy, well-made frame, that can hold up. If you live in a more suburban area and you don't walk a whole lot, you might not need to invest in such a tank of a stroller." For metropolitan mamas, he recommends Bugaboo, Uppababy, Baby Jogger, Mountain Buggy, Britax, and Maclaren, and in suburban areas, his top picks are BOB, Chicco, Mountain Buggy, Maclaren, and Britax.
- Consider your options. It can be tempting to choose the dealer with the biggest name, but doing research before purchasing a buggy can save you time and money. Hunt down coupons to local stroller retailers in your area, and talk to other new parents about where they registered for baby gear. The more informed you are, the better able you'll be to meet your baby's stroller needs without breaking the bank.
- Try before you buy. Regardless of where you shop, test out the stroller in person before purchasing. Stroll around the store and put weight similar to the size of a newborn in the seat to see what it feels like with an actual baby inside. Also, practice folding and lifting the stroller; if you're a driver, you'll need a lightweight model that you can fold and store easily. "I think it's crucial to test strollers out before you buy them—and to test them out with some sort of weight in them," suggests Grayson. "Strollers feel much different with a few pounds in the seat." If you find a swoon-worthy stroller online, look for the same model at a local store so you can test it out before it ships.
- Time it right. Buying a stroller too early can mean missing out on features you didn't know you needed, but purchasing too late can mean settling for the wrong carriage. Instead, ask your doctor what features your tot may need. Grayson warns against "cramming infants into strollers they're not suited for with a bunch of blankets, thinking that will make up for seat angle." He continues, "If your child shouldn't be in a stroller until they're 6 months old, don't put them in it. Also, some older kids really like to sit more upright, and some stroller seats always have a bit of a recline to them."
- Think twice about price. Though putting more money towards your stroller purchase yields a more durable product, you shouldn't feel forced to invest in unnecessary bells and whistles. "Look at the best that you can afford but don't overdo. You can find a perfect jogging stroller at [an] honest price (e.g. Schwinn/Instep Arrow for jogging) or simple, smoothly going city models like Graco, Contours Options, Joovy Scooter," advises stroller jogging blogger Elena Filatova of walkingmama.net. "Don't pay for the expensive extras...pay for the basic things that make a good product: a sturdy construction, better wheels, spacious reclining seat, good sun canopy, generous storage space." To really cut costs, Grayson suggests looking on Craigslist or Ebay for your desired model.
- Jog smart. Using your stroller to work off some of the baby weight? Look for features that jibe well with a morning run. "Jogging strollers are typically recommended for use with baby beginning at anywhere from 6-9 months, but always consult with your pediatrician first before you begin running with your baby—you have to make sure their head/neck support is adequate," says Grayson. Filatova loves jogging models by BOB, Baby Jogger, Jeep, Joovy, and Schwinn/Instep.
- Safety first. A study published in a 2002 issue of Pediatrics revealed that there were over 64,000 stroller-related injuries to children aged 3 and under between 1994 and 1998. Finding a safe stroller is key. As a general rule of thumb, Filatova suggests checking that the stroller has quick and firm parking brakes, padded 5-point harnesses and reflectors. Additionally, keep an eye out for any stroller recalls, and make note of brands that frequently run into trouble.
Though stroller shopping can be overwhelming, using the tips above to help can make it an enjoyable process. By taking the time to shop smart, you can focus on what really matters: enjoying the journey with your baby in tow!