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A Guide to Buying a Baby Stroller

 

When shopping for strollers, you'll come across myriad styles, designs and features. It's hard to know what the best baby stroller is for you and your growing family; Do you need a baby stroller with a car seat? How important is a canopy? Does frame material really matter?

If you're like most parents shopping for their first baby stroller or looking to add the perfect one to your baby registry, you've probably asked yourself these questions and many others. Before you make your decision, consider these aspects first:

Coverage and safety

Your baby's safety should be your No. 1 concern when choosing a stroller. While these devices are in large part designed for your convenience, they must also be up to the task of keeping your baby safe.

The safest baby strollers have a five-point harness, Consumer Reports explained. This is comprised of five straps, all connecting in front of your little one's waist. The straps are placed over each shoulder, between the legs and on either side of each thigh.

Safety from the sun is also important. Your baby's skin is sensitive, and it hasn't built up the natural protections against the sun's harmful rays that adults have, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. A canopy is excellent for sun protection; check how much coverage the stroller's canopy provides. Some are made with UV protective materials or are designed to be oversized yet ventilated to provide a comforting breeze.

Comfort

To choose a stroller that your baby feels comfortable in, look at the size, frame, materials and design. Some features you might look for include:

Adjustable foot or calf rests to provide ample leg room as your baby grows.

Padded bumper bars.

Comfortable seats.

A suspension system - a particularly important feature for jogging strollers.

Frame material and design

A heavy, clunky stroller will become frustrating and cumbersome to use, especially when it's filled with all your baby gear. Look for lightweight models, paying close attention to the frame. Aluminum and aluminum alloy frames tend to be some of the most lightweight options. Some steel-framed strollers can also be lightweight, although steel is generally heavier than aluminum. Some recent models of higher-end baby strollers are made with carbon fiber, a very sturdy yet lightweight option.

Beyond material, frame design can make a big difference in usability. Look for models that offer one-hand folding. Complicated folding mechanisms can be endlessly frustrating, especially when you need to fold the stroller quickly.

Storage space

What you need when you use your stroller dictates what you require in terms of storage space. If the stroller will be used for short periods of time, you may just need a few pockets for snacks. For strollers used for longer periods of time, you might need enough space for a diaper bag, toys, food, clothes and more.

Wheels

Wheel malfunctions, like getting stuck, not rolling smoothly, locking when they aren't supposed to or not locking when you want them to, can all make using your stroller awkward and difficult. Plus, on bumpy terrain, the wheels will be the determining factor in how smooth the ride is for your little one.

Small, flimsy wheels are generally the toughest to use. Larger wheels are easier to maneuver on rocky roads, and air- or foam-filled tires provide a smooth ride for your child. Of course, when dealing with air-filled wheels, you'll also have to worry about maintaining adequate air pressure; semi-flat tires will be harder to steer and push.

Wheels that swivel 360 degrees add ease of use, as they're less prone to get stuck when turning corners or when pushing over gravel or bumpy terrain.

Three-wheeled strollers are generally best for parents who plan to take baby along on their jogs; four-wheeled strollers are cumbersome for this purpose but are generally fine for anything else.

Also check out each wheel's braking systems. Some strollers have brakes on just the back wheels, while others include locks on the front wheel or wheels. Make sure the brakes are easy to use; some simply require a tap of the foot, while others are a little bit trickier to get the hang of. Some strollers have hand-activated locking mechanisms that use a level and only require one hand to lock. Linked brakes include a bar that extends between the two back wheels, and both brakes are activated when you tap the bar with your foot.

 

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