Preamble: We were so confused when we were developing our baby registry. We were feeling awkward about having a registry in the first place.
Our darling bébé was a surprise to us, so there was no advanced planning, no longing gazes directed at tiny baby clothing, no decorating of a nursery. I was living abroad and he was living somewhere else when I peed on the stick and found out. We remained mostly apart until the week the baby was born.
Well, hindsight is 20/20 of course, and I really wish one of my friends with babies had pulled me aside and given me the lowdown on what to look for in a stroller.
(Additionally, I was under an attachment-pre-parent-y fog of idealism that had me saying things like, “A stroller? We probably won’t even use it! Why would I want to push my baby in a device 3 feet in front of me instead of wearing her on my body?” Well, how about because when she hits 12 lbs the backpain became a constant companion from wearing her in the sling. Not to mention when I did something to the nerve in my shoulder and couldn’t raise my right arm or hold her properly because of it. Or because she finds sleeping irresistible in a stroller. Or because you can chuck any number of groceries underneath one… Hindsight is 20/20, right?)
We have a middle-of-the-road-run-of-the-mill-no-complaints (ok, a few complaints) “travel system” (read: stroller + infant car seat) by Safety 1rst. So, first, some basics. There are strollers. There are car seats. There are infant car seats. There are convertible car seats. There are car seats that fit into strollers. There are car seats that don’t. You’ll have to read about all of that somewhere else. Or visit an actual store with a bunch of strollers, unlike me. They’ll probably tell you everything I’ll tell you below and more. But you can trust me, because I’m not trying to sell you a $1200 stroller. Yes, Margaret, they do exist.
Here are my completely personal unscientific thoughts on what you might want to consider. I am actually quoting an email I wrote to a friend who is expecting. But in the email I was being considerate of said friend’s personal choices (i.e. perhaps would not want to buy something used) so I went soft on some things. Here I have said exactly what I really think!
- Buying a complete “Travel system” is good if you drive a lot because if baby falls asleep in car, being able to move her into a stroller for a walk around a store or into the house without waking her up is invaluable! Seriously: cannot be underestimated. Sadly the babe is almost grown up out of hers. I am dreading the day we move to a fixed car seat. Example of a travel system here.
- If you don’t drive a lot however, screw the car seat. You probably need a more urban stroller (read: smaller). Compared to some of the sweet little black numbers we pass downtown, our stroller is a Cadillac. And not in a good way. In a gas-guzzly-I-belong-in-the-70s way. That matters when you want to pop into a little restaurant or shop, and that feeling you have about being the couple hogging the road (or the aisle) when navigating crowded Saturday sidewalks. Is it just you or are people giving you dagger eyes? Those strollers however mostly do not have a car seat as well…some do, and some are compatible with other infant car seats but you have to purchase the car seat separately then. $$$$$ <–dollar signs.
- Think about whether you want to be able to take the stroller on rocky paths or on the beach. There are ‘all terrain’ strollers that can do that! $$$$$$$$<—more dollar signs. Ours did just fine in this year’s very snowy winter. For ice in late winter, we did have to resort to kicking away pieces of frozen sludge in February, so that was awkward, maybe a mega expensive stroller would have just bulldozed over that. Anyhow, don’t worry about jostling the stroller all over the place. It helps them to sleep.
- Features that may be important/are marketed as important: The cupholders. Honestly, cup holders are kinda bunk. We have never been able to put coffee in a cup holder and go over a bump without spilling coffee everywhere. On the other hand, it still helps if you are alone because it’s hard to maneuver a stroller with only one hand. So you must have the cupholder in that case. Or become adept at steering with your stomach and one hand. Or stand still (beware: baby may wake up and start to cry if you stop moving). Some strollers (I hear) have adjustable handles ($$$$$) …this is nice if you and your partner or other caregivers are different heights, because you can raise it to be more comfortable or lower it for the taller person. Neither of our strollers has this feature, which would be useful because the 1rst safety in particular I find to be low. I think having a large and easily accessible storage compartment under the stroller is supremely useful. I wish mine was easier to access. It’s great for running errands with the baby, esp. grocery shopping. I can barely shove my diaper bag in it, much less 7 library books and groceries on a routine errand. (Yeah, my routine errands involve 7 library books, but maybe yours don’t.) This is the most functional additional, unexpected feature of the stroller. VERY IMPORTANT. Some strollers are actually built around this concept. Such as the unfortunately named Bugaboo Donkey.
- You may also eventually need a more compact stroller for air travel, it’s called a “Travel Stroller” (derrrr). These are a lot cheaper (around $80) and fold up. Also called ‘umbrella strollers’. But they are not suitable for infants. Just something to think about down the line. YES MORE STROLLERS. We are looking for this right now. Trying to convince the Da-da we need to get this used.
- Speaking of which, I highly, highly recommend going the way of consignment/ used. Many times they have very expensive, fashionable strollers like bugaboos or uppababys or whatnot for 50% off or more. (If you want to get brand-namey, there are lots of blogs directly aimed at mommies whose goal is to tell you about the fabulous product you don’t yet own but which can make mothering super-easy and awesome but you haven’t bought it yet but don’t worry the reviewer got it for free and it is AWESOME! you should get it. Someone’s gotta do this dirty work. Or you could join a mommy group because that is definitely a good way of learning about stuff other people own that you might consider owning. And if you join a middle to upper class mommy group or go to mommy yoga or pilates you will probably encounter that as well.*) I personally wish we had done that because then we would also have been able to test drive the stroller + we would have one of those sleek super expensive looking strollers without paying through the nose. Now, sometimes, despite our (my) non-materialism, we still have stroller envy.
- The last and most important thing to consider, esp. if you will have to fold up the stroller to put in your car (you will), or fold up in your place (if you do not have a trunk where it can live in your car) is that the stroller (and car seat) be relatively light and easy to fold and that it fold up compactly (stroller, not car seat). The Graco folds up easily but it’s so sturdy it takes up almost the entire trunk space of bébé’s daddy’s luxury sedan. That’s not convenient, plus it’s super heavy. I would not be able to manage and I am a very robust 125lb woman who had superior abdominal muscles until giving birth. Post-pregnancy my abs were shot and actually they’re quite important for being able to lift things. So think about lifting heaving things on the regular without any core strength, and then pick the weight of that heavy thing accordingly. The Graco infant car seat is the worst. With bébé weighing now 20lbs, it is impossible for me to carry her back and forth between garage and house in that car seat without using both hands and my regained core strength (yeah for planks)…
- Invest in the stroller because you will use the shit out of it. Maybe not in the first 3 months. But if you are lucky enough to have a fat, bouncy baby, you will.