A Guy's Guide to Strollers
Guys who don't go stroller shopping are missing out on a golden opportunity to throw around phrases like "turning radius," "spring-action collapsibility," and "off-road performance." And if you leave the task to your partner's sole discretion, then you can't gripe when you find yourself trudging through the mall pushing an antique pram with a teddy bear-printed canopy.
Three things you should do before buying any stroller:Test Drive
Assess maneuverability and performance in tight corners. Can you steer it effectively with one hand? Are the handles high enough so that you aren't hunched over? Turn an aisle of the store into a slalom course where you can test its limits.
Inspect Moving Parts
Collapse and expand the unit. Can you do it with one hand (assuming the baby will be in the other)? Test the locking mechanism, reclining mechanism, and brakes. Are they well made? User-friendly? Is there a five-point safety harness? Shake the stroller to determine sturdiness.
Lift and Carry
Would you be able to carry it up a flight of stairs? Would your partner be able to hoist it into the trunk? Remember that you're also going to be hauling diapers, wipes, toys, bottles, and up to 25 pounds of baby. Some misguided parents think it's a good idea to "let the baby choose," by putting her in various strollers to see how she reacts. This is a very bad idea, mostly because babies cry for many different reasons, and what you think is a stroller rejection may be a hunger pang.
The Six Basic Stroller TypesCarriage Combos are traditional baby carriages that morph into strollers when the baby outgrows the carriage. Since babies under three months should be lying flat (for head support), carriages provide an ideal setting for the newborn. And the carriage configuration enables the parent and baby to face one another. But when you unclamp the carriage top and snap on the stroller seat, they don't function nearly as well. The carriage chassis is heavy, and the wheels don't swivel, so maneuverability is limited.
Stroller Combos are similar in concept to the carriage combos. The difference is all in the chassis. They weigh considerably less (usually between 20 and 25 pounds), fold up compactly, and feature wheels that swivel 360 degrees, making them better in tight spaces.
Travel Systems and Car Seat Carriers provide two ways to take your baby from the car into the stroller without removing her from the car seat. Travel Systems are basic strollers with special adapters that let you snap an infant car seat on top of the stroller seat, making it safe for newborns. Some travel systems are sold with their own car seats, and others support a variety of brands. In general, they tend to be bulky. Car Seat Carriers consist of a simple stroller frame and wheels, and you just snap your car seat into and out of the frame at will. They fold up to the size of a metal folding chair, weigh about 10 pounds, and are relatively cheap.
weigh anywhere from 9 to 18 pounds and are great for urban dwellers. The best ones are surprisingly sturdy (and surprisingly expensive), and offer spring-into-action open-and-fold technology. Some newer models come with seats that fold all the way back so that newborns can use them, and others feature attachment bars for car seat hook-ups. The small wheels are a drawback on rough terrain, and the undersized storage basket forces many parents to hang bags from the handles, which can unbalance the unit. (Adding counterweights to the front wheels solves this problem.)
Umbrella Strollers are the Chevy Vegas of the stroller world. They are cheap, ultra-light, flimsy, and ultimately disposable. Features include a piece of fabric over a frame. If you are traveling and need something really light to use in airports, these are recommended. Otherwise, steer clear (when closing they tend to collapse on your fingers).
Joggers are the SUVs of the stroller world. These three-wheeled beasts have a very high wheel base, which is optimal in the event of a stroller-on-stroller collision. They are perfect for extreme and wilderness strolling, but their size and weight make them impractical for everyday use. They shouldn't be used until babies can support their heads. And no matter how gung ho you are about running, never buy a jogger until well after the baby is born. Then see how much you want to run. More often than not, joggers become hampers as soon as the baby arrives.
Stealth Strollers are pieces of equipment that have strollers hidden inside them. So far they've come up with backpack strollers, where the backpack frame becomes the stroller body, and car seat strollers, where the entire stroller is hidden inside the base of the car seat. Look for the diaper stroller in the fall of 2008.
From BE PREPARED by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Haydn. Copyright © 2004 by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Haydn. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.