Oh baby, baby: Getting mobile – strollers and child car seats

Stroller.jpgNew strollers are like new cars in so many ways. The second you drive a brand-new ride off the dealer’s compound, the value drops by about 30 percent. Moreover, strollers have become a bit like a lifestyle statement, like an SUV or big truck, when it is not only about how practical your car or stroller is, but also about what image it portrays about its owner – which usually comes with a fitting (high) price tag. Plus, everyone knows the distinct “new car smell”. While that might be enticing for your horse-powered mode of transportation, it ain’t ideal when it comes to the stroller that your baby will lay in as the fabric of a new stroller tends to have that “new” smell as well. And it is certainly not something that you want your newborn to inhale. You can of course bypass this by getting the stroller so far in advance that the fabric loses that chemical smell. Or, you can simply get a second-hand one. We opted for the latter and haven’t regretted it one bit. One to two-year old strollers are available second hand for as little as 10-25 percent of their original store price. A good quality one will still feel like it is almost new after that short a lifespan, so we concluded that there isn’t really much justification in spending all this money on a new one that, to top it off, also comes with this straight-out-of-manufacturing smell.

20180314_170903-1027171807.jpgWhatever stroller solution you end up opting for, ensure it’s one that can be modified in accordance with your baby’s development. Sooner or later your baby will want to upgrade from laying in a baby bassinet/carrycot to sitting upright. Ideally, you want to choose a stroller system that allows you to exchange the bassinet for a stroller seat option. That being said, we were very glad that we got a detachable solution with a car seat adapter that allows the car seat to be placed on the stroller and thus makes it a more flexible solution for a quick trip to the grocery store or in a crowded city environment. Hence, if your stroller doesn’t already come with an adapter, I strongly recommend this investment. Good news is that they are usually a one-fits-all kinda product, so you don’t have to worry whether the seat and/or the stroller fits to the adapter, though companies will however give you precisely this impression.

Unlike the stroller where it is perfectly valid – and recommendable in my view – to get it second-hand, a baby car seat is a completely different beat. Many countries demand by law that an infant needs to be restrained in a designated baby car seat to protect him when driving, and rightly so. In the United States and Canada, they are also pretty rigid with regards to second-hand car seats in terms of safety requirements. The US ones for instance always have an expiration date stamped on them. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Even though the likeliness of a car seat having been involved in an accident or otherwise damaged might be low, it isn’t worth the risk as you can simply never know for certain whether the seller is telling you the truth about the history of the product. And can you really have faith that the car seat might not have some invisible structural damage inside, because it fell down once? That is unless, of course, you can get a hand-me-down from a friend or relative. Also note that the best aka safest and most hassle free car seat is not always the most expensive one or the one that’s most frequently purchased. In Germany, for instance, the most popular brand actually scored lower in safety tests than a cheaper and lesser-known brand. So we were glad we checked those test results before getting ours. So consult the most recent baby car seat crash test ratings to check what’s best. For Germany this would be the published by the ADAC, for the US it is NHTSA by the United States Department of Transportation, for the UK it is ROSPA and for Australia it is Child Car Seats, an initiative of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP), to name a few. Any option you choose should meet the United Nations standard Regulation 44.04. Simply look for the ‘E’ mark or if the product indicates that it meets the i-size standard (R129).

One worthwhile investment when it comes to car seats and driving is a small baby car mirror (like this one) that can be attached to the back seats neck area. Since babies are rear facing in the car, this allows you to check on him or her by looking in your back mirror. A small expense that repays you with peace of mind as you can focus on driving and do not have to sit there guessing whether your mini-me is sleeping safe and sound or silently in distress.

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