How to Choose a Stroller

Buying a stroller is a big deal - any parent can tell you that. As you explore your options, you'll find carriages, bassinet add-ons, jogging and multi-seat strollers, and things can get overwhelming pretty quickly. So where do you start? This guide on how to choose a stroller will get you rolling in the right direction.

Stroller Terms and Important Features for Moms and Dads

Knowing the terms manufacturers use to describe strollers helps a lot. Be on the lookout for these words:

  • Carriage. A carriage is a stroller in which your favorite passenger faces you, rather than facing forward.
  • Pram. A pram is like a bassinet on wheels, and they're generally only intended for newborns.
  • Bassinet Add-On. A bassinet add-on is a bassinet that attaches to an existing stroller, often where the car seat snaps in, to use while your baby is very small.
  • Travel System. A travel system is a stroller that comes with a removable car seat.
  • Jogging Stroller. A jogging stroller typically features three wheels that are larger than standard stroller wheels so you can run while pushing it.

What to Look for When You're Buying a Stroller

If you're like most parents, you want a stroller that keeps your baby comfortable, and that's built to last as your child grows.

Most strollers feature adjustable seat backs so you can cart your baby from Point A to Point B as comfortably as possible. Because adjustable seat backs are pretty standard, you can focus on other features when choosing your stroller, like safety standards, storage capabilities, handle heights and ease-of-cleaning.

Safety Standards

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued minimum safety standards for infant and toddler strollers, but many carriages, buggies, and other systems exceed those standards. At a bare minimum, look for a stroller that says it meets CPSC standards, which prohibit the use of lead and phthalates, help prevent dangerous tip-overs, and include measures to prevent pinched fingers and other, more severe injuries. These standards also deal with brakes and locking mechanisms, structural integrity, and broken and detached wheels.

All strollers must have harness systems or seat belts to hold in squirmy kids, but not all of them are created equal. Some have two, four and five-point harnesses, which allows you to choose what will work best based on your child's age and activity level. Height- and weight-adjustable harness systems are a must so you can continue to use the stroller as your child grows.

Storage Compartments, Pockets and Trays

Going out with your child means you're toting a lot of extra gear, so your stroller has to be up to the tasks of carrying a diaper bag, a sippy cup and snacks, a change of clothes, and toys.

Many strollers feature trays that flip over kids' legs, bottom or back storage pouches, and cup holders (near the handles for mom or dad and on kids' trays, as well). Usually, the storage pouches and racks are built to fold up with the stroller and don't take up additional room. It's a good idea to pick a stroller with more room and features than you think you need because you may wish you had it if you don't. Make sure that reclining the stroller's seat back doesn't interfere with storage space, too, because when your child falls asleep, the last thing you want is for the diaper bag or toys to stop the seat short of its fully reclined position.

Handle Heights, Brakes and Other Features

Pushing a stroller all day is tiring - but it's less tiring if the handles are the right height. It's also easier to maintain good posture, which is particularly important if you're running with a jogging stroller. Some strollers feature adjustable handle height that's invaluable when someone offers to lend a hand, but most stroller handles measure about 40 inches tall.

You also need a stroller with a quality brake to prevent accidental roll-offs. There are three major types of braking systems on strollers:

  • Foot brakes attached to the rear wheels
  • Handle brakes affixed to either side of the handle or the center of the handle
  • Hand brakes similar to what you see on bicycles, which are mostly installed on jogging strollers

A canopy to protect your child from harmful UV rays and to provide a comfortable break from the sun is essential. Look for those with flip-out eyeshades and integrated mesh panels (sometimes called "peekaboo windows") that promote airflow and let you keep an eye on what's happening beneath the canopy.

Compact and easy-to-store strollers are always convenient. Those that you can close and fold with one hand are ideal when you have a baby in your arms and a stroller that needs to go in the trunk, but at the very least, make sure you have a one-piece stroller that folds up neatly. A carrying handle that's exposed after folding is a bonus, as is a lightweight frame that makes stashing away the stroller easy when you're done using it.

Babies and toddlers aren't exactly known for being neat, so finding a stroller with easy-to-clean fabric is essential. Heavy-duty nylon is renowned for easy clean-up, particularly when it comes to liquids, but as long as your stroller has a washable fabric shell, you're in good shape.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to picking the perfect stroller, but as long as you look for one that fits your child, can keep up with your activities, and is easy to clean, you (and your child) will be happy with the model you choose.

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