Stroller Shopping 101
The stroller purchase is one of the biggest “gear” decisions expectant parents make – and often agonize over. There are so many choices out there that a casual saunter into a baby store for a little look-see at the options can cause any expectant parent to stroll themselves right out ―without a stroller, without any desire to return.
But rest easy. Keeping these simple tips in mind will help you make wise, cost-effective stroller decisions.
Before You Go Stroller Shopping
Consider your circumstances before you go stroller shopping, and write a list of the features that matter to you most. Include in your list answers to the following questions:
What is your budget?
This is one of your primary considerations and should be at the top of your list. Having a baby is expensive, and you don’t want to blow your budget on one purchase. Know what you want to spend before you go into the store, and don’t exceed your maximum allowance. If you’re shopping at a big box store, arm yourself with store coupons, which you will be able to apply to most stroller purchases (though certain brands are commonly excluded).
If a relative or close friend wishes to make a large purchase for your new arrival, a stroller makes a great gift. But if your mother-in-law, for example, chooses to bestow her generosity upon you, kindly but firmly request that she listen to what you want, rather than purchase the stroller she wants you (or, more specifically, her grandchild) to have.
For what purpose will you use the stroller?
Some strollers are made specifically for jogging, some for holding an infant car seat only, some for holding two children, some for smooth terrain and others for off-roading. Some don’t recline far enough to support an infant safely. Be clear in the purposes you want your stroller to serve, and don’t be swayed by a fancier stroller that doesn’t serve those purposes well.
How easy is the stroller to fold and open?
Some strollers can be folded or opened with one hand, some with two, and some seem to laugh in the face of a parent’s folding and unfolding attempts! As part of the folding/unfolding assessment, consider how necessary it will be for you to fold the stroller at all. If, for example, you are purchasing a jogging stroller that you will use only to go jogging from your garage to a nearby trail and back, folding may not be an important consideration. If you are storing the stroller in your car, on the other hand, ease of folding and unfolding is crucial.
How much does size matter?
For most stroller owners, quite a bit! Unfolded, some strollers practically require their own car-sized space in the garage, while others can be crammed into the remaining cubic inch of space in your storage unit. When folded, some strollers form an unruly heap and seem to pop open at the slightest nudge, while others fold into a neat, easy package that can be transported with one hand. Consider the space you have for your stroller, open and folded, and include your stroller size preference in your list.
What wheels is the stroller sporting?
From small plastic to SUV-sized pneumatic, stroller wheels come in many sizes and range in type of material used. Consider whether you need big, air-filled wheels that can handle bumpy city sidewalks or smaller plastic wheels that work perfectly on the smooth floor of a mall. Keep in mind that smoother isn’t always better. Many babies are lulled to sleep by light bumping and jostling.
Will you typically be carrying your stroller up and down stairs?
If you live in a third-story walk up, or your house is peacefully nestled on a quiet hillside but you have to climb a flight of stairs just to get to your front door, consider, again, how easy the stroller is to fold and its weight. Also think about whether the wheels are too big to fit on a stair, as some parents prefer to push the stroller up the stairs – front wheels up, back wheels up, repeat, repeat, repeat – rather than fold and carry it.
Who will be using the stroller?
Stroller handles are typically set for people who are 5’4” or shorter, so if you, your partner, or your child’s caregiver is taller than that, make sure that the handle is adjustable (or that the stroller will accept a handle extender, though users are not always thrilled with this after-market add-on and it’s additional expense). Otherwise, pushing the stroller can be extremely uncomfortable and cause back, neck, and posture problems.
Are you expecting multiplechildren now or in the future?
If you are expecting multiples, you will obviously factor that into your stroller decision. But even if you are expecting a singleton, the potential for future progeny can impact your stroller purchase. It seems impossible to think about —let alone plan for— a future child when you are pregnant with your first, but if you have some expectation of having more children down the road, consider whether the stroller you’re eying has some ability to adapt to accommodate two children. This shouldn’t be a game changer, but it could break a tie.
While You Are Stroller Shopping
This is where your list comes in! When you arrive at the store, ask the salesperson in the stroller section to show you the strollers that best meet your specific criteria, and don’t be talked into a stroller that doesn’t. (Note: Looking at your list, the salesperson might think you are: (a) type A, (b) hyper-organized, (c) amazingly efficient, or (d) a little crazy. Forget it! You’ve got business to get done!) Once the salesperson leads you in the direction of the strollers that meet your needs and budget (and there shouldn’t be too many, which will cut-down on information overload), it’s time to take them for a spin:
Push, pull, pile, and pretend. Pushing a stroller contender around the store is a must, but do more. Grab some large bottles of Dreft off the shelf and pile them on the stroller seat, then push it (yes, your baby will one day weigh this much!). Is it easy to manage or did you knock over three unsuspecting shoppers while trying to make a U-turn? If there is a low ledge in the store, or, even better, stairs, lift the stroller onto its back wheels and see how easy it would be to maneuver onto a curb or up and down your own stairs. Have your partner push it, too – are the handles adjustable so that you can both push it comfortably? Fold it. Unfold it. Grab a car seat that’s for sale and try snapping it into and out of the stroller, if that’s an option. Change the seat position, if that’s an option. Do everything you can imagine doing when you have an actual baby. Then do all of it again.
Ask questions! You’ve got the salesperson’s attention (after all, he’s never seen such a well-prepared expectant parent!), so ask him everything you’d ever want to know about the strollers you are thinking of buying. Stroller salespeople are usually highly trained and knowledgeable – they should be able to show you every lever and button on the strollers, as well as teach you how to open and close them, tell you how much they weigh, and recommend one stroller you are considering over another. Ask the salesperson to tell you whether the brand of stroller you are considering is known to have good customer service and how the company deals with defects or problems. In short, don’t leave the store until you know everything there is to know, and more, about the stroller you choose.
Check in with your list. It’s easy to walk into a baby store with one idea in mind, and then be lured away by a fancy, shiny, or popular stroller. Once you’ve decided on a stroller, crosscheck it with your list and make sure it accommodates most of, or at least your most important, needs. If the stroller you’ve selected doesn’t match up well, don’t buy the stroller that day (or make sure the store has a good return policy). Give yourself a little time to reflect, and return to the store once you feel confident in your decision.
After Your Stroller Purchase
One day, after your child is born and you can hardly remember life before baby, you will be strolling along blissfully with the stroller that you wisely purchased for the all the right reasons, and you’ll spot another mom with a younger baby pushing the latest, greatest stroller you suddenly, strangely, are overcome with an intense desire to have as your own. Try to stop your thoughts in their tracks. Remember that a stroller is just a stroller. It’s not going to burp your baby, swaddle it, or rock it to sleep. It won’t stop you from tearing up when your baby gets his first shots or help find that elusive babysitter who didn’t email you back about her availability on Saturday night. Maintain perspective and know that if your stroller has wheels and can safely get your baby where you need to go, you’ll be just fine no matter what you choose.