How to buy a stroller

 

Strollers Buying Guide

Features, types of strollers, and more things you need to know before buying your baby’s first (or second or third) stroller.
By Elizabeth Shaw

Britax B-Ready stroller

“Babies spend a relatively short time in strollers, which is what makes this stage so special,” says Janet McLaughlin, a mom of three in Santa Monica, CA, who also happens to be The Stroller Queen, a bonafide expert in baby buggies. “You want to be sure to enjoy it while it lasts!” But if you’re constantly cursing under your breath about your stroller’s rickety wheels or the fact that you have to wrestle it into a fold, you’re going to miss out on some of that joy. We refuse to let that happen! Follow these tips as you shop, and you’re guaranteed to find one sweet ride.
Take the stroller for a test drive—fully loaded.
A lot of new parents really don’t think about how well the stroller will actually maneuver, says McLaughlin, and this is The. Most. Important. Factor. to consider, no matter what type you want to buy. “There are some strollers that are just miserable once they’re filled with 25 pounds of kid and gear,” she says. Because most will push just fine while empty, try to load up the floor models (if you have some weights, go ahead and bring them!) and then push it with one hand. That’s when you’ll start to notice the differences.
See how easily the stroller folds—one-handed.
This is the second most important issue to consider, especially if you’ll be taking it in and out of the car all the time. Does it collapse and open up easily? Can you do it one-handed? There’s a lot of emphasis on stroller weight, but if you find a heavier model that folds like a breeze, it’s probably the better option.
Consider which type of stroller best fits your lifestyle.
Look, if you’re not a runner or a fan of off-roading, there’s probably no reason to buy a jogging stroller, even if you do think they’re cool and tough. And if your ride isn’t much bigger than a vintage pram, you’ll want to think twice about investing in a modern one for your babe. That said, you’ll still be left with plenty of options to choose from. What you’ll find—and what’s actually worth your time:
  • Travel systems: These strollers are usually sold along with infant seats, which can snap into the frame. Problem is, says McLaughlin, they’re often not very high quality. “Twenty years from now, I think we’ll look at travels systems as akin to feeding our babies Cheetos and Coke!” she says. What’s more, travel systems make it very tempting to keep your child in her infant seat for prolonged periods of time—a move that is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Doing so can increase the risk of plagiocephaly (misshapen skull) and may also compromise a young infant’s breathing.
  • Stroller frames: For the exact same reasons as above, it’s probably best to pass on these inexpensive frames for infant seats unless you know you’ll be diligent about using them for short trips only.
  • Standard and lightweight strollers: Obviously, the biggest group of the bunch. In addition to testing out the push and the fold (most important!), look for ones with reversible seats that can also lie flat (perfect for napping). You can have such a stronger connection with your baby when she’s facing you, and not for nothing, you’ll be a lot more likely to talk to her, which can help with language development. “Plus, it can be little scary for younger babies to be rolling along at good clip facing the world all alone,” says McLaughlin. A reversible stroller will give you the option of delaying that transition—one she’ll want soon enough—just a bit longer.  And don’t forget to check out the wheels. If they’re plastic, move on.
  • Joggers: You’ll find two main types—those with a swivel front wheel and those with a stationary one. Opt for the latter if you can, says McLaughlin. “Fixed-wheeled joggers are a little less maneuverable, but they’re less likely to catch every bump and dip when you’re going fast. That means they’re also less likely to flip,” she adds. Another must: a hand-brake. If you need to stop suddenly, yanking it back with a strap or even just your hand can cause a flip as well. One more safety note: These are generally not safe for babies under 6 months (or those unable to sit up).
  • Umbrella strollers: Eventually, this will become the only stroller you use, but because these generally have much less structure and seat support, they should only be used with older babies who are strong enough to sit unassisted.
  • Remember the bigger picture; the details can be customized.
    There are certain things that just make a mom’s life easier: a cup holder, say, and nice-size basket. Perhaps a snack tray. And some that make the baby’s ride more comfy: a cushy seat and a large canopy. The good thing about almost all of these is that you can add them on yourself a la carte if the stroller you love (the one with the great push and easy fold) is lacking in one area. There are sheepskin and terrycloth seat liners; snap-on cup holders and sunshades. If you need it, it’s out there.
    Stick to your budget.
    Of course, if you have the cash and just love, love, love everything Hollywood by all means, splurge away on the latest celeb obsession! Otherwise, it can help to know that you don’t have to spend half a mortgage payment to get your baby a great stroller. In fact, you can often find great deals on gently used strollers on sites like Craigslist or at local children’s consignment shops, says McLaughlin. Plus, there are always tons of deals available online, so once you do your in-store road-test and know which model you want, do a search to find the best price. If you find it cheaper, show it to the store manager who just might be willing to match it. There’s one more important step to take regardless of whether you buy used or new: Check out the manufacturer’s safety record and ensure the model you want doesn’t have a recall. You can do it quickly and easily at SaferProducts.gov.
     

 Meet our friend Janet, the expert on stroller buying

 December 7, 2010 by


At Valco Baby, we understand that buying a stroller is one of the hardest decisions parents have to make. It’s a big investment and the choices seem endless.  So we asked our friend Janet McLaughlin, aka “Strollerqueen,” to share her advice and here’s what she had to say.

Without question, the hardest piece of baby gear to buy is the stroller. People agonize over it. They say they spend more time researching which stroller to get, than they do on buying a car! There are a few reasons.
First of all, a stroller is an emotionally charged piece of equipment. Nothing symbolizes babyhood more than the carriage (especially since a lot of children, like mine, won’t sleep in cribs!) That’s why people get so sentimental when they are selling/giving away/donating their baby’s first stroller. It represents the end of an era, and a very happy one.
The second reason is that while finding the right stroller is very important, many parents don’t have access to all the great models out there. They generally have to buy online, sight unseen. It is a scary proposition to plop down hundreds of dollars, on what might be the wrong choice.  They quickly learn that while something may look good on your computer screen, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will perform well on your city streets.
And third, the choices, oh my! When I was first looking at strollers for my oldest daughter, a dozen years ago or so, you bought what was in your local baby boutique. In ours, the selection was limited to three brands–well, four, if you count the big wheel jogger. Now, of course, the internet has brought the world of strollers to your fingertips. There are hundreds to pick from. Some are great, some are mediocre, and some are best left unspoken about.
So, how DO you find the stroller that’s “Made to Fit your Life”? Start by asking yourself a few questions:
1.) What is the age (s) of my child? There are a lot of strollers that are suitable for toddlers, but not for newborns, and vice-versa. For a brand new baby, you need a flat recline, and a bassinette or reversible feature. For an older child, your main concern will be seat size, and how a stroller pushes with heavier weights.
2.) Will I primarily be using my stroller indoors or outdoors? Many parents ask me to recommend strollers under 10 pounds, that are great in snow, at the beach, running errands, and for the mall. Not possible. If you plan on strolling around outdoors for any length of time, you’ll want air tires. And air tires generally make a stroller heavier. If, however, you drive around a lot, and do a lot of indoor stuff, then smaller, less sturdy wheels are OK.
3.) What’s your style? Stroller fabrics and colors tend to follow the trends of the fashion world. For example, purple is the big color we’re seeing for 2011. But if you don’t care for that color, you have loads of choices. Most models come in a variety of solid colors. Here are a couple of Strollerqueen tips: Yes, lighter colors will look dirty way faster than darker colors. No, black is not hotter in the summer than other colors.
4.) What accessories do I need? Now, this is tricky if you’ve never had a baby before. So here are some more Strollerqueen tips: If you live in a rainy climate, get a raincover. If you live in a cold climate, get a footmuff. If you live where there are pesky flying insects, get a bug net. And as I mentioned above, get a carrycot or bassinette for a newborn.
5.) Can you rely on the company to be there for you, if you have any problems? There is nothing worse than having a wheel fall off your stroller when you’re away from home. Well, OK, there actually are a lot of worse things. But having to walk a mile carrying two babies when you’ve just had a C-section is pretty bad (yeah, it happened to me.) A reputable manufacturer like Valco will be responsive, when you need them.
If you need help finding the stroller that is “Made to fit your Life”, you can contact Janet at Strollerqueen@hotmail.com and take a look at all the upcoming stroller models for 2011 at Strollerqueen.net. Follow her and the adorable StrollerPrince 2.0′s “Adventures in Strollerland”  on www.strollerqueen.com or www.strollerqueenreviews.blogspot.net
Janet McLaughlin has been called “The world’s premier authority on strollers.” She personally tests strollers on her “Strollerqueen Obstacle Course” to determine what works and doesn’t. Over the past dozen years, she has owned and tested nearly 300 strollers. Strollerqueen has been featured in several media outlets, including the BBC London, New Yorker magazine, CBS News “Early Show”, NBC “Today” Show, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, KNBC “Your LA”, and more.


What Airline Travel Can Do To Your Stroller by Christina Chan

Taking a stroller with you on plane travel can mean risky business for parents. Though we'd like to tell you that the airport baggage handlers treat all of your luggage with kid gloves – including your stroller – we hear it isn't so. We caught up with Strollerqueen Janet McLaughlin, the guru of strollers, to find out the inside story.
According to Strollerqueen, there is an ongoing problem with airlines trashing strollers in the last few years. This is due in part to the fact that in recent years, airlines have experienced a significant drop in profits. In order to cut costs, one of the things they've done is contract out baggage handlers who aren't necessarily as careful when they handle luggage. People who have complained haven't necessarily found the airlines to be helpful in responding to a damaged stroller, either. If you read a typical airline baggage policy, fragile items are not covered. Many airlines consider a stroller a fragile item.
The lesson here? Parents beware if you're planning to check your strollers at the gate. Think twice about packing your most expensive brand new stroller on the trip. Or at least take steps to protect it.

 How To Protect Your Stroller During Plane Travel
Just because there's the possibility that your stroller could get damaged doesn't mean you have to shy away completely from bringing it with you on a flight. If you're going to fly with a stroller and check it at the gate, there are steps you can do to help ensure its safety. And if you are going to bring a stroller, your best bet is to bring one that folds flat without much effort. The last thing you want to do is to be stuck struggling to collapse your stroller during the last call for boarding. With that in mind, here are a few words of wisdom we garnered from the Strollerqueen, Janet McLaughlin.
  • Take a stroller with you to the airport that latches to stay shut. One way to ensure that your stroller stays folded is to use a luggage strap and wrap it around your stroller before you check it in at the gate.
  • Although a stroller bag is one way to protect your stroller, parents should keep this in mind: some airlines don't like the use of a bag because they don't know what's in it. Also, stroller bags that are made of canvas will protect from scratches, but not a drop from the cargo hold onto the tarmac.
  • Some people have gotten around the problem of the stroller bag by wrapping their strollers in bubble wrap and adding “fragile” stickers throughout. You've got an instant affordable means of protection and airport personnel will feel more assured knowing what's underneath the packaging. Plus, baggage handlers who know it's indeed a stroller underneath the wrap may handle the item with more care.
Helpful Hint: One way around the stroller dilemma is to use a car seat attachment like the one by GoGo Babyz or the car seat stroller by Sit N Stroll by Triple Play Products.

Stroller Wheel Maintenance

If you're taking your stroller on a trip, likely you'll encounter a lot of terrain with it from airport floor tiles to urban sidewalks. In most instances, you'll find that your stroller won't need any special care or maintenance. However, there are a few things you can do to keep your stroller in top shape, compliments of Strollerqueen, Janet McLaughlin.
  • Every 6-8 weeks, lubricate the wheels of your stroller. Different manufacturers have different suggestions. Peg Perego recommends you use Pledge furniture polish.
  • For general cleaning, if you have a stroller with quick release wheels, you can simply pop them off, scrub them with a brush, and rinse them in the sink.
  • Every time your stroller goes in the sand, you should clean them off. All you have to do is hose the wheels and dry them off.
  • One Size Doesn't Fit All When Choosing A Travel Stroller

    Contrary to the notion that you should pack light, Strollerqueen Janet McLaughlin, who runs a service recommending the best stroller for parents of babies and toddlers, recommends you throw out that idea and instead look at what you'll be doing on the trip instead. According to Strollerqueen, it's not always a good idea to pack light when you're picking out the best stroller for travel. For instance, if you're taking a road trip to San Francisco, you want stroller that can handle walks up and down the hills and streets of the city. On the flip side, if you're taking a stroller to a foreign city, where the streets are unpaved or made of cobblestone, petite wheels and an umbrella stroller will not survive your trip. A stroll on the beach requires a stroller that can handle the gritty beach and not all strollers can do that. In a nutshell, there really is no one size fits all stroller for travel.

    Stroller Accessories In Any Kind Of Weather

    When traveling, it's always a good idea to find out about the climate and weather conditions of your destination ahead of time. That way, you can be prepared to dress both you and baby appropriately for the trip. If you're bringing a stroller, keep in mind that with a few accessories, you can protect your infant from many of the elements. Some strollers come with these accessories, but if yours doesn't, you can always find them at a stroller specialty shop or one of the major infant retailers, like Babies R Us.
    Foot Muff – Many of the better stroller lines come with these, but if yours doesn't, you can always purchase one separately. Ideal for cold weather days, the boot cover attaches to through the harness of your stroller and wraps around your baby or toddler for warmth. JJ Coles makes a version for infants as well as toddlers that fit most types of strollers.
    Rain Cover – If a rain cover comes with your stroller, you'll likely snap it on for a custom fit. It provides a clear vinyl shade to keep the rain out, but let baby enjoy the view. If you need to purchase it separately, you can get a one size fits most version, which rests on top of your stroller. Especially For Baby at Babies R Us makes stroller rain covers.
    Sun Shade – These might snap on to your stroller much like a rain cover does if your stroller comes with it. The best ones are UV filtered to keep the sun's harmful rays away from your child. They're typically made of a soft woven fabric that drapes over your stroller and allows your infant to see out.
    Sun Canopy – Just about every stroller has a sun canopy with the exception of some of the most basic umbrella strollers. However, if you've ever toyed with one of these, you know it takes some adjustment throughout your walk to keep the sun out. Short of using a blanket to cover baby up, if you want to go the canopy route, you can purchase a canopy attachment that'll block out much more sunlight than a standard stroller canopy will. Protect A Bub makes a canopy shade attachment maintains visibility for your child while providing sun protection.
    Mosquito Net – If you're going somewhere tropical where mosquitoes are abound, this is one handy stroller accessory to have. It's typically a mesh fabric with attaches snugly to your stroller via an elasticized bottom. They're much more common on European models of strollers, but you can purchase them separately. See if your stroller manufacturer carries them. If not, baby retailers or places selling outdoor gear do carry them.

    The Beach Stroller

    Headed out for the beach this summer and planning on bringing a stroller? If you are, it's important to remember that most strollers aren't made to withstand getting inundated with sand and salt water. If your wheels are made of steel, they'll rust due to salt water. Even if they're aluminum, the sand will tend to jam the wheels. If you're going to take your stroller out to the beach, the best thing to do is stay on a clean pathway.
    However, if you must go out to sandy terrain, there is one jogging stroller that will navigate the ground with ease. The Kool Stride Senior by has sealed bearings to keep the sand out. Get the alloy version and you'll find the 20” rear wheels and 16” front wheel will cover sandy ground without damage to the stroller. If you're taking this one for travel, pop off the wheels and fold up the canvas frame for maximum portability.

    Stroller Accessories To Keep You Organized

    When you're on the go with your stroller, it's always nice to have somewhere to stash your stuff in a convenient, organized place. This is especially true if you're sprinting through the airport with your toddler to get the gate; you'll want to have all your documents on hand when you get there. If you're looking for stroller accessories that'll keep you from juggling a drink in your hand and travel documents in the other, try one of these nifty organizational accessories for your stroller.
    Carry You Milan Deluxe Stroller Organizer ($40) – Carry You makes a line of practical organizational bags for the stroller, including cup holders, saddle bags, and organizers. The Deluxe Stroller Organizer accommodates two cups – a sippy for your tot and a drink for you. But it also provides a large mesh bag and smaller organizers for papers, keys, small toys, and any other loose item you need to store. It attaches to the back of your stroller and is constructed of a nylon mesh material. It works nicely for travel because it packs flat and will collapse with your stroller as well.
    Skip Hop Dash – Skip Hop makes organizational tools for the modern parent, from a sculptural bottler drying rack to diaper bags that do double-duty as stoller bags. We like the Dash because it looks deceptively like a messenger bag, yet it attaches to the rear of your stroller with its own stroller straps. Plus it's the ideal size for boarding on a plane, but has enough room for all your essentials. There's a total of 10 pockets to keep you organized as well as convenient outside pockets that'll fit baby's bottle.
     
    A little research goes a long way. If you're in the market for a new stroller for your travels, you can do some investigation to find out which one would hold up best under rugged terrain or work fine for city streets.  If you want personalized service, you can check out Strollerqueen's Website at www.strollerqueen.com. She offers a consultation service for a $40 fee giving you the best stroller for your needs, including the best deal you can get for it. 








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