How to Choose a Stroller and CarriageHaving a stroller makes long walks a lot easier. If you plan to pack the stroller in the car, you'll want to invest in a high-quality, lightweight model. These strollers are known as umbrella strollers because the handles look like umbrella handles. They have lightweight aluminum frames and weigh as little as five pounds.
You may want a sturdier, standard-size stroller if the area you plan to walk has cracked sidewalks and curbs. The larger models also can hold packages, and they often have trays that hold toys or snacks, sunshades, multiple-position reclining seat backs, and plastic windbreakers to cover the sides.
Strollers can make family
walks much easier.
Strollers are not without hazards. In one recent five-year span, there were more than 40,000 stroller-related emergency department visits in the United States. The major cause of injury is from babies falling out of strollers and hitting their heads.
Babies' fingers can become entrapped or crushed in the scissoring action of the joints as the stroller is folded. Babies have also been injured by falling into protruding sharp edges of bolts and other metal parts. Also, many strollers, particularly the umbrella styles, are unstable and can fall over backward when a baby stands or attempts to stand up in the seat.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has established a voluntary safety standard for strollers and carriages. Not all stroller manufacturers have adopted these voluntary standards. And don't be lulled into thinking that the standards are what they could be. There are no provisions for the quality of the restraining belt or latch. While the standards require brakes, no safety measures prevent another child from accidentally releasing them.
Also, there is no protection offered from the scissoring action of joints or from sharp holes in the metal tubing that could capture a child's finger, nor is there any specification for how securely caps or other protective devices must be attached to the stroller's tubing and hardware.
Strollers and carriages that do meet safety standards have the following:
- No exposed coil springs that could pinch or otherwise injure a child
- A locking device that prevents accidental collapse
- Safety belts securely attached to the frame or the upholstery
- Stability, even on an inclined surface with a child inside
- A permanently attached warning that reads: "Caution: Secure child in the restraint. Never leave child unattended."
- Steering ease: Try pushing the stroller around to see how well it turns corners and how easily it maneuvers when you use only one hand. The stroller should handle well without veering to either side. A stroller with a single crossbar is easier to handle than one with umbrella-type handles. Front swivel wheels allow easy steering and turning in tight places, such as store aisles. However, this mechanism can be frustrating during long walks on uneven surfaces. A crack in the sidewalk can cause the wheel to twist, bringing the stroller to an abrupt stop. Look for a locking mechanism in the front swivel wheels that allows you to safely maneuver the stroller over uneven surfaces while giving you the flexibility you want in tight spaces.
- Stability: The stroller should be stable and unlikely to tip over when in use. If the stroller has a reclining seat, it should not tip backward when the baby lies down.
- Collapsibility: Try opening and collapsing the stroller before you buy it. You should be able to fold the stroller and open it up again in one or two steps while you hold your baby. If a stroller is difficult and time-consuming to operate, you need to know that before you buy it. Make sure the stroller has a locking device so it can't collapse accidentally. And make sure it fits into your vehicle with ease.
- Seating: Compare the thickness of vinyl upholstery on several different models by pinching it. Look for thick vinyl with well-finished seams. The crotch belt, in particular, should be reinforced where it joins the seat. The seat should be shallow enough to provide back support for a 6- to 18-month-old baby.
- Reclining feature: Very young babies tend to hunch forward in a sling-type stroller seat. Tots, too, have a hard time napping in an upright position. It's useful to be able to move the stroller seat into a reclining position. If the stroller does recline, it should have sides to prevent the child from rolling out, even in the lowest position.
- Reversible crossbar: Some crossbar strollers offer this feature, which allows you to move the crossbar to the opposite side of the stroller. The stroller then becomes more like a carriage, allowing you to see and interact with your baby as you walk.
- Seat belt: The seat belt should actually make contact with even the smallest baby's waist. The belt material should be strong and the latches either heat-welted or sewn with multiple seams. The latch should be simple for you to operate, yet require enough pressure to open so a curious tot cannot release it accidentally.
- Front padding or tray: Some strollers have plastic trays. Those that feature small balls fastened by plastic or thin wire are not a good choice since the balls could splinter or a child could pull them loose and ingest them. If a bumper pillow replaces the tray, check underneath to see that it's securely fastened to the front bar. Pads often pull off, tearing out the screw bed at the same time so you can't refasten them.
- Storage space: Whether it's a shelf below the stroller or a bag attached to the crossbar or handles, this feature comes in handy for holding baby supplies, small packages, and other items you might want to keep with you.
- Sunshade: Some strollers come equipped with a sunroof, though often the roof is placed so high that it's useful only during the noon hour. If you plan to use the stroller in the sun, you may want to invest in a flexible-arm umbrella shade, which some manufacturers offer as an option.
- Wheels and suspension: Wheels with plastic spokes do not hold up well. Opt for steel or aluminum hubs. Suspension systems are seldom available on medium-weight strollers, but heavyweight models may offer springs or other types of shock absorbers, which give your baby a less jarring ride.
- Brakes: Brakes should offer a positive grip on the tires so they can't be dislodged. The child should not be able to release the brakes while seated in the stroller.
Baby carriages conjure up images of prams and nannies and walks in the park. A carriage allows you to take long, leisurely walks, even when the baby is very small. Its high sides and hood help protect the baby from side drafts and bright sunlight, and the soothing bounce from the carriage springs often helps babies sleep.
However, before you run out to buy a carriage, consider these facts: Carriages are quite expensive, and you'll use a carriage for only the first few months. They weigh quite a bit, making them awkward to use and awkward to store. If you're bringing one along on a trip, you'll have to collapse it to get it into the trunk of your car. And traffic and curbs present maneuverability challenges for carriages.
If you decide to purchase a carriage, look for the following features:
- Fabric: Choose a thick, moisture-resistant fabric, such as one coated in vinyl, you can easily wipe clean.
- Steering: Try rolling the carriage around to see how easily it maneuvers. When you press on the bar, you should be able to raise the front wheels high enough to get up and over curbs.
- Mattress: If the mattress cover is vinyl, test the thickness of the vinyl by pinching it between your fingers; it should be difficult to crease. Check the finishing on the pad to see that the seams are tightly sewn, with no danger of unraveling. The pad should fit flush against all sides of the interior of the carriage.
- Brakes: The brakes should hold firmly, preferably on both back wheels, and should not disengage even when you attempt to push the carriage forward. The brake handle should be easy to reach without requiring that you let go of the carriage handle.
- Interior safety: There should be no sharp edges from frame hardware inside the carriage bed that could hurt a baby jostled during maneuvering.
- Folding ease: The most economical unit is a two-piece carriage that doubles as a carry bed. Try collapsing and setting up the carriage to see how easy it is to handle. Examine the safety locks to be sure they prevent the carriage from folding accidentally and hold the carry bed securely. There should be no sharp edges.
- Frame safety: Avoid carriages that have a sharp scissoring action of metal against metal X-joints, which can crush fingers.
Strollers and carriages can make walks much easier, but for the car you'll need a whole new set of equipment. In the next section, we will learn about car seats.
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