Oh baby, baby: Checklist to find the perfect stroller for your family

20180419_1651061896374897-e1524150238238.jpgThere are about as many stroller models available as there are people roaming this planet. Or so it seems when you are out and about hunting for the ONE for your wonderful new family member. In a previous blog post (click here), I talked about tips for selecting a stroller and how to save while so doing. So the article was pretty general and not down to selecting the right model. This time I want to be more specific about how parents can approach the selection of the exact stroller that fits to them. It is easy to get lost in this endeavor, as there are so many types, brands and options. More often than not, however, this prompts people to choose on the basis of design, as we often learned that this is a safe bet to make when it comes to other aspects of our lives. As in: we choose one that we like the look of. While design is certainly important, I compiled a checklist for your family to help you navigate through the process of selecting the perfect stroller – no matter if you get it new or second hand. Keep in mind that it might be that none of the strollers will be able to tick ALL your boxes. Thus you might end up having to rank your priorities. We traded a light weight for good suspension, maneuverability and ruggedness, for instance, as we realized that while we wanted it to be light for potentially being able to carry it up and down stairs to get to the subway in our city, we would find ourselves far more often in the situation of going on long walks in the countryside, so the latter three characteristics far outweighed (excuse the pun) the weight concern. It proved to be the right decision.

Questions you should ask yourself:

Weight

  • How do you live?
  • Where will you go with your stroller?

If you live in an apartment that is not on ground level and has no elevator, it is essential that the stroller be light, as you will end up having to carry it upstairs (and most likely with a baby in the carrycot that is continuously getting larger and heavier). A great brand would be Britax in that case. However if you live in a house or have an elevator, weight is less of a concern. Ask yourself where you might go with the stroller. Are you living in a city with a subway system that is not offering an elevator or escalator at the stops you need to use most frequently? If so, you might end up having to carry the stroller up and down staircases. Yes, as a rule of thumb you can count on people being willing to help you with that (at least in my experience), but the lighter the stroller, the better. If you are quite an outdoorsy person however who likes to go to parks and expose your mini-me to the wonders of nature on countryside walks, then a sturdier option might work better for you. More rugged or robust generally also means heavier though.

Height

  • Are both you and your partner of relatively similar height, or is there a significant difference?
  • Are you and your partner more on the smaller or taller side?

This matters, as there are some strollers that come with very low frame structures, so if you and/or your partner are tall, you might need to bend down quite low to pick up or lay down your baby and that wouldn’t be very back-friendly. Whereas some brands position the carrycot a bit higher, like the models by Joolz and are thus ideal for couples who are on the taller side. If there is quite a notable height difference between the parents, it is essential that the stroller be the necessary height for each of you. Don’t forget that you don’t only walk yourself when you are out and about with the stroller. You also have the weight of the stroller to push, so if the height of the handlebars doesn’t match your physique, you may soon find yourself with neck and/or back problems to deal with.

Flexibility

  • What’s your average daily lifestyle?
  • City or countryside? Or both?
  • Will you take the stroller off paved roads or paths frequently?
  • Will you go running with your stroller?

Does the stroller need to be easily foldable, a.k.a., travel-friendly, since you will have to load it into and out of your car frequently? Do you have to carry the stroller upstairs to get to your apartment, or into a basement? Then, make sure it accommodates for that by being able to easily detach the stroller base and carrycot. Do you live in a city and need to use the subway elevators frequently and thus need a highly maneuverable solution (like ABC or Teutonia) to squeeze the stroller into a small elevator or a packed subway train? If you live in the countryside and mainly go for walks there, this is less of a concern.

Will you take the stroller on walks on non-paved paths? If so, a three-wheeler is superior to a four-wheeler and air-filled tires are superior to hard-rubber ones, for instance. If you are a runner and want to follow your jogging routine AND bring your baby in his/her stroller along, a three-wheel solution is also superior to the classic model. Also, all-wheel suspension of the stroller system is more important for off-road endeavors to protect your baby’s back. This also means that you want to pay attention to the type of fabric of the stroller. White and hard to wipe down might not be a good choice for you in that case. Thus, machine-washable or easy to wipe down and more forgiving fabrics are the ones you should be looking for.

Taking the stroller along on your morning run or going off-road on your walk would call for a brake system that you can activate mid-running if you need to stop suddenly. Don’t forget that a stroller with a baby has significant weight and if you are running, it requires quite a bit of effort to make a sudden stop. So a brake system that works similar to a bike brake comes in handy. If you use public transport a lot, however, you want a stroller brake that you can easily activate and release by tapping it with your food or by turning a switch.

If you are predominantly on paved roads, a four-wheeler might give you more stability, especially if you need to enter and exit busses or the subway frequently and need to make sure the stroller doesn’t tip over while doing so. Or if you do both – going off-road and into the city – then you are most likely in the market for an all-purpose stroller.

Another lifestyle-related aspect is whether or not you will have your baby in a stroller when running errands. This is not so relevant if you do your shopping with a car anyways, but if the store is within walking distance and you plan on going there with your stroller, the size and ruggedness of the stroller basket underneath the carrycot matter.

Your baby

  • Is your mini-me a smaller or larger baby?

This is something that you will only be able to answer once the last trimester commences. While there is of course some basis for comparing what’s most typical in both your families, your baby can still be completely off the beaten track; just because everyone in both your families was always on the smaller to medium size, it doesn’t rule out that your baby might be big, .i.e., long. Our baby was measured to be on the smaller side almost throughout the entire pregnancy, even though I had a gigantic belly from month six. When I went for my eight month check-up, it turned out that compared to all previous checks, our munchkin had decided to speed ahead and had grown like crazy. All of a sudden, and much to our surprise, she was way above average. Given that a baby has an average growth of 3 in/12 cm in the first 3-4 month, this means that a smaller carrycot maybe wouldn’t last until your baby is able to sit by itself. Only if your mini-me can already master this (typically around month six) are they ready to upgrade to a stroller seat. This avoids future back problems, as it puts too much strain on a babies spine to sit in a seat without having the muscle mass to independently hold them in that position. So while it might be difficult to hold off from getting a stroller as soon as possible, as it is one of those purchases that makes having a baby extra real, I recommend waiting till the last trimester to buy it to make sure you don’t have a large baby that outgrows the carrycot too fast. That is, unless you opt for one with a long carrycot in any case. Plus, that shouldn’t mean that you can’t already choose your preferred one and merely reassess the choice once you got a better hang on whether you have a tiny or larger mini human at home.

Storage

  • Where will you store your stroller at home?

This is relevant insofar as it determines whether you need to be able to easily fold the stroller and detach the base from the carrycot and also how large and bulky the stroller can be. If you are able to store it in your large garage, size and folding is no issue. If you need to store it in your house or in an apartment, it suddenly becomes extremely relevant. Also the climate you live in is important to take into account. If you are living somewhere where rain and snow are coming and you need to store your stroller inside your place, you will bring quite a bit of dirt and wetness home if you were to wheel in the stroller. In this case, you would want to be able to easily detach and fold the base and place this outside if possible and only bring in the carrycot. If you have a specific nook in your place where you plan on storing the stroller, take the measurements and make sure that whatever solution you get actually fits into the nook and, most importantly, fits in a way that is easy and hassle-free, because if it is not you can count down pretty fast until you stop storing the stroller in the nook.

Long-term family plan

  • What sized family do you aim to have?

Obviously this shouldn’t mean that you need to decide right here and now when you buy the stroller if you plan on having more than one baby or how many siblings your mini-me should have. It is still a valid – albeit maybe more minor at this stage – point to consider as well. If you and your partner plan on having several kids, it pays off to get a stroller that is long-lasting enough so you can also use it for any future offspring This means that the cheapest one might not necessarily be the right choice for you. Check the stroller for its ability to resist wear and tear. If your family mantra is “all good things come in three” and you thus only plan to have one child, it matters less if the stroller is ready for retirement after the carrycot and stroller seat period of your baby’s life are over.

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