A stroller seems to be a pretty basic thing to decide, but the number of choices and features increases continuously. Some stroller functions will make your baby’s trip more secure and more comfortable, while others – such as shopping baskets – are more helpful for busy parents. You can get seats that face forward or back, handlebars that reverse and adjust in height, trays that hold cups, keys, cell phones, and many more.
So let’s start with the most important stroller features:
A restraint system is absolutely essential, the safest system is a five-point harness: this includes two shoulder straps (fastened to the backrest at shoulder level), waist straps and a crotch strap. It secures your baby around the waist, between the legs, and comes down over the shoulders. It’s firmly better than a three-point harness, which only secures the lower body at the waist and crotch.
An enduring five-point harness with a crotch strap will keep a baby or toddler from sliding down, falling out or climbing up and out of the stroller when you’re not looking.
The straps should be adjustable to allow for growth and for proper fit. Make sure the buckles are easy to use (only for you) but comfortable and safe for the child.
According to ASTM International, the crotch strap and waist straps must be interconnected so that the waist strap(s) can’t be used without the crotch strap.
Does the seat recline fully? Newborns require an adjustable backrest that reclines to a nearly flat position until they have head control and can sit up, usually at the age of 6 months. Even for older babies or toddlers, a reclining seat is an extra advantage if they getting tired so they can have a comfortable nap while you’re on the go.
A stroller with regular wheels – rather than air-filled tires – is absolutely fine for most people. Most strollers have one or two front wheels that swivel to make driving easier, offering two positions: full swivel (useful for smooth surfaces) or locked in one forward-facing position (better for rougher terrain).
While the person who’s steering the stroller might prefer the feel of air-filled tires, however bear in mind that wheel type adds a maintenance task, because the air pressure needs to be maintained regularly; a flat tire when you are out with your child could ruin your entire day.
Larger wheels do make it easier to overcome curbs or other rough or uneven surfaces. They might be a bit easier to push, but unless the wheels can also be set to swivel, the stroller could be more difficult to maneuver. Therefore a lockable front-swivel wheel (or wheels) is a good choice, because it can be adjusted to swivel or not swivel.
Good brakes are very important to your child’s safety. This element keeps your stroller from rolling away when you’re parking. Look for brakes that are conveniently positioned, for when your hands are full.
If you live in a hilly city, you might also consider to have resistance brakes that will slow your stroller down on a slope.
Lots of models have parking brakes that are activated by pushing a foot pedal.
Some strollers have “linked” brakes that are activated in a single stroke by pushing with your foot on a bar at the back of the stroller frame.
Other products have a foot-operated pedal above each rear wheel while some new models possess a single hand-operated lever that activates both rear-wheel brakes.
Many strollers of all styles and price ranges have some kind of suspension or shock absorber (covered springs or rubber pads above the wheel assemblies) near the wheel mechanism providing for your baby a more comfortable trip.
Softer suspension offers a smooth ride, however a too-soft ride can come at the expense of steering control. Air-filled tires can help to give baby an even smoother ride, but require some maintenance.
One-handed open / fold mechanism
This is a very important stroller feature when you need to open or fold the stroller with one hand while holding the baby with the other hand. The best strollers fold into compact positions quickly and effortlessly. Those that remain upright when folded are practical if you want to put the stroller in a tight, narrow place.
Always make sure your child is away from the stroller when you open or close it. Do not allow an older baby climb in to the seat as you’re setting it up. Many serious accidents to children have occurred during the opening and closing of strollers.
Some strollers have a one-piece seat that can be adjusted to an almost flat position making them suitable for a newborn.
Other models designed for young infants, with a seatback that reclines completely, must have a means of closing off the leg opening area to ensure that the baby can’t slip through and underneath the grab bar or tray.
Unfortunately infant deaths have occurred when unharnessed babies’ bodies slipped beneath the tray in their stroller. To eliminate this hazard, manufacturers use numerous means – some net or fabric shields or even the footrest – that can be fastened safely to close off the leg openings and can resist 25 pounds of force.
In any case, even with the leg holes closed, the stroller’s harness needs to be used to secure your baby every single time you use it.