How to Shop For & Choose a Baby Stroller

Graco Travel System
Graco Travel System

There are only a few things that you truly need for a baby, and a stroller is definitely one of them. Choosing the right stroller for you and your baby is important so you get the features that are important to you, without sacrificing style and comfort along the way. Here are some tips for choosing a stroller.

1. Consider the dimensions

The height of the stroller and its handle(s) are critical for people that are either very short or very tall. Check to make sure the handle height is adjustable, and find the setting that is comfortable for you. Strollers have two handle options as well--you can choose one with a straight handlebar or one that has two curved grips. If you're more likely to be steering with one hand, the bar is the best choice. If you want one that folds up more compactly, the two handle choice might be better. If you have a long stride, you might find yourself constantly kicking the back axle of the stroller, which gets to be very frustrating. Make sure you take the stroller for a test walk to check your stride.

The size of the stroller when it is collapsed is very important for making sure your stroller will fit in your vehicle. There are several models on the market today that collapse into a very manageable size, but you'll have to compare your trunk or cargo space to make sure it fits.

The weight of the stroller should also be considered. It might not seem heavy when you're just casually trying out a stroller in the store, but picture yourself holding your purse, diaper bag, baby or baby carrier, and trying to pull the stroller out of your car. A lightweight option is necessary for those who will be loading and unloading a stroller frequently. An umbrella stroller is good for this purpose, but those usually lack the convenience options like cup holders or snack trays. Umbrella strollers also aren't particularly durable, but they are a good option if you don't have a lot of space or don't care for the bells and whistles of a larger stroller. Convenience options add weight to the stroller, so consider the pros and cons of the trays and cup holders versus the overall weight, if it is a concern.

2. Comfort Factors for the Child

Stroller seats should be padded and cushioned for your child. Under the leg padding is important for children with legs that don't reach the footrest. Some models may include head rests or neck supports. A reclining seat is perfect for children that fall asleep easily in a stroller; check to see how easy it is to recline the seat before your child is asleep. You don't want to try it out when your little one has nodded off and risk waking them up!

Strollers with sunshades are good for babies as their eyes are very sensitive to sunlight. Some travel systems that include a baby carrier might have two shades that pull from opposite directions, giving your baby maximum protection from the sun, as well as privacy from nosy shoppers or by-standers. People mean well, but it gets awkward when people try to get close to look at your baby. These shade offer protection from sun, but also from rain. If you live in a wet climate, you might consider a rain cover too.

3. Convenience Options for Parent & Child

Cup holders and snack trays aren't necessary by any means, but they are convenient. Most moms travel with their keys, cell phone, drink, or snack--and having a place to put them is handy. Having your cell phone and keys close at hand are good for your safety when you're in a parking lot or its dark outside. On the flip side, you risk having items stolen if you turn your back while in a store or other venue.

Under carriage baskets may be on your list of must-have features. The basket is a great place to toss the diaper bag or your purse. Blankets, stuffed animals, your store purchases, or other items may find a home in the basket. You will add more weight as you stowaway items in this basket, but its easier to push the weight than carry it.

You might consider whether or not seat covers can be removed and washed. If they are washable, how easy are they to remove and put back? Check to see how the cover is secured to the stroller to see if its something you're willing to try. Seat covers see a lot of wear and tear, so being able to wash and dry them will extend the life of the stroller, as well as increase the comfort of your child.

The Fully-Loaded Model

A travel system usually offers the maximum number of safety and convenience features you might be looking for. This is a great option for someone who wants all of their gear to match or who wants to make one purchase to cover the car seat, car seat base, and stroller. With cup holders, trays, shades, basket, adjustable seat and handle--this stroller does it all. You can choose from all colors of the rainbow!

The Good All-Around Stroller

Its just a stroller--no car seat or base. This is a great option for someone who already has a car seat and just needs the stroller. It includes all of the convenience factors, and it is lightweight and durable.

The Average Stroller

This option is perfect for someone looking for a no frills model that is still durable and practical. It has a few convenience options like the reclining seat, cup holders and the under carriage basket, but it is a little heavier than other models. It is inexpensive and will get the job done.

The Minimalist Stroller

If you just want a stroller that you safely load your child into and go--this is the stroller for you. No bells and whistles, no weight, and very little hassle. Perfect for parents who travel by planes or trains and just need something to push the child in for a short time period.

Stroller Accessories

You can add convenience to the stroller with added on accessories. You can customize the look and feel of your stroller with clips, covers, extra trays, cup holders, etc.

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