As a parent, the most precious cargo that you'll ever carry is your baby. So it's not surprising that you've already added "a stroller" to your baby shopping list and start looking around..
But it's just not that easy, considering there are hundreds of models and types on the market out there.
That's why we created this buying guide, to help you choose the best stroller for your baby.
But first, let's start with this important question:
Table of Contents
- To Buy or Not to Buy A Stroller?
- What types of strollers do you need?
- What to expect in the best stroller 2018
- Considering your lifestyle factors
To Buy or Not to Buy A Stroller?
Well, according to some experts, a stroller isn't the best mode of travel for a newborn, at least for his first 6 months. There's no question that your baby is safe, warm, and comfortable inside the stroller but only up to a point.
Below are some of the reasons why strollers shouldn't be a permanent device for your child:
- Emotional and mental stress
There's a lack of interaction and stimulation from the outside world inside the confines of a stroller. He’s mostly isolated and unable to learn from his surroundings. He’s less likely to be alert and calm. And since your baby only has a short range of vision, he also won't be able to see you when he's inside it (except if he's in a rear-facing stroller).
If he or she can't see you, you don't exist. In his point of view, his primary caregiver has left him all alone. He may be physically safe but he doesn’t feel safe. He’d definitely feel more secure, be more alert, and learn more about the world when he’s in your arms.
- Physical stress
Laying your baby flat on his back is physically stressful on your baby in a number of ways:
First, your baby's spine is C-shaped at birth. So stretching his spine into a straight line is not a natural position and can negatively impact its development. According to research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, prolonged time on a flat surface like a firm mattress or stroller can also cause decreased muscle tone.
Moreover, it increases the risk of your baby developing plagiocephaly, which is a physical deformity of the skull - either the skull gets flattened on the back or on the side.
The best alternative, according to many experts, is upright carrying via baby carriers in a parent-facing chest position with adequate support for the baby’s back, neck, and hips. Not only does this position help your baby’s physical, emotional, and intellectual development, it also strengthens the bond between parent and child.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that ‘wearing your baby’ is a lot less expensive than buying a stroller. It also gives you more freedom - your hands aren’t busy holding the stroller and you aren’t occupied with maneuvering it around people and things, trying to prevent it from hitting anything and hurting your precious cargo as a result.
So, does this mean you should forego the stroller?
Maybe… maybe not!
First, it's important for parents to understand that placing your baby in a stroller, car seat, or baby swing is perfectly normal and not an action of a bad parent. You can't exactly carry your baby in your arms or use a baby carrier while driving around. And there are just some things you can’t do with a child in your arms like enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
In fact, strollers and similar devices are considered essential tools that you will make use of for the next couple of years. Here are the reasons:
- Life is easier
Pushing a stroller around can be a lot more convenient if you’re always on the go like running errands in the mall or meeting up with family and friends around town.
- Rocks your baby to sleep
The back and forth motion of a stroller can be soothing to your baby, much like riding in a car.
A stroller is built to protect your baby from harm. It has a canopy to protect your baby from the heat of the sun or drops of rain. It also has a safety harness and protective frame. With a baby carrier, on the other hand, there’s a greater risk of your baby getting bumped and jostled when you’re walking in a crowd.
In addition, you can’t carry a hot drink in your hand or you might accidentally spill it on your baby. And you need to be careful about bending over to pick up stuff on the floor since there’s a chance your baby might slip out of the carrier and fall. Even worse, you might get off balance and both of you will fall.
Strollers come with storage options for your diaper bag, extra bottles, and other personal stuff you’d like to take with you when going out with your baby. This is ideal if you’re planning on an extended time away from home with the little one. You can even use some of the storage for stuff you buy when you’re out doing a bit of light shopping.
Walking around with your baby wrapped around you is good exercise. But if you want to increase the intensity of your workout by going jogging, you can’t take your baby with you. Unless, of course, you buy one of those strollers specifically designed for jogging or running with your baby.
This type of stroller usually has a specialized suspension system, hand-operated brakes, and a 5-point safety harness to ensure that your baby enjoys the run as much as you. Take note though, this particular type of stroller is only suitable for babies at least 9 months, when their muscles are already strong enough to hold their head up.
So, back to the main question: to buy or not to buy a stroller? Based on the pros and cons of using a stroller, we can definitely state that it’s an essential tool to make life easier and safer for your baby and you. But be aware of how much you use it. Getting a baby carrier along with your stroller is your best bet.
What types of strollers do you need?
Since we already established that having a stroller is a must for certain situations, let’s move on to what kind of strollers are in the market today. Unfortunately, you can’t simply go to a baby store and pick one that’s cute or in the perfect color. There are a lot of different types, depending on the parents’ and the baby’s needs:
The best type of strollers for most everyone: Traditional/ Standard-sized strollers
This is probably the one most expecting parents are familiar with. It certainly is the most popular. While traditional strollers have varying styles and designs, it will have several features in common: a reclinable, comfortably padded seat; a canopy or sunshade; large, maneuverable wheels, and an ample storage space under the seat.
A type of car seat adapter is usually featured in this type of stroller. Some models have seats that only partially recline while others can lie flat, enabling you to use it for your infant. Some traditional strollers have outward-facing orientation while others are parent-facing. There are also a handful of strollers that can shift from one orientation to another.
According to our research, a stroller that enables the baby to face the parent has a positive impact on the baby's brain development. They're more likely to "talk", laugh, and interact. They also fall asleep easier because they feel safer when they see the parent.
Price range: $50 - $1000
- Durable, stable, and easily maneuverable even for a newbie parent.
- A good choice when looking for an all-purpose stroller that will last for several years.
- Lots of extra features to choose (*)
- If portability is an important feature for you, this might not be a good choice since it's heavier than an umbrella stroller.
- Not all standard-size strollers recline fully flat so you might not be able to use it for your newborn.
(*) While it has a set of standard features, many models offer something extra. Check which features are important to you or are necessary for your lifestyle since these can vary depending on the model and manufacturer.
Stroller frames/ Seat carriers
Unlike traditional strollers, this type doesn't provide a seat for your child. Instead, it has a lightweight frame where you can attach an infant car seat. Some models are built to accept different brands of infant car seats while others are only limited to their own.
This is an extremely convenient type of stroller for newborns because you don't need to transfer the baby from the car seat to the stroller. Just detach the car seat from its base, attach it onto the seat carrier, and off you go. Stroller frames also have tandem-style models to accommodate newborn twins.
Price range: $50 to $200
- Easy to fold up, highly portable, compact, and light.
- Very affordable, even cheap.
- Your baby can continue napping even when you move him from the car to the stroller.
- Can only be used for a year or less. Once your baby is too big for the infant car seat, you can no longer use the stroller frame.
A travel system is simply a bundle package of a stroller and a matching infant carrier car seat. Like the stroller frame, the travel system's stroller can carry the car seat when it's detached from its base; a convenient way to transfer your baby from car to stroller without disturbing him from his nap.
But unlike the stroller frame, you can still use the travel system even if your baby has outgrown his infant car seat. The stroller's backrest can be adjusted to recline, making it a comfortable seat for your baby when he's ready to sit up on his own. Some models can even be reclined fully flat with the option of closing off the leg holes - a good feature to look out for if you're buying a travel system for your newborn.
Price Range: $150 - $500
- A smooth, comfortable ride for your baby whether he's in the car seat or in the stroller.
- Gives you good value for the money since you can use it for a long time.
- The canopy provides protection from all kinds of weather.
- Heavier and bulkier.
- More expensive
- You need to choose a travel system that has both a stroller AND a car seat that meet all your requirements.
Lightweight/ Umbrella strollers
These are easily recognizable because of their curved handles that look like an umbrella and their folded shape. These strollers are incredibly light (around 8 to 17 lbs only), compact, and easy to fold up.
Because these are highly portable, lightweight strollers are perfect for quick trips to the mall with a baby old enough to sit up on his own. Most lightweight strollers aren’t suited for infants since they lack the proper head support and a fully reclining seat.
To make the stroller compact and light, some features aren't as good as what you'd find with a traditional stroller: the padding is a bit lacking, the suspension isn't as good, and the wheels are small which affect maneuverability. In short, this isn't a comfortable ride for babies younger than 6 months.
There are some newer models that are compatible with car seats though you might need an adapter (which the manufacturer may or may not include with the stroller). Some manufacturers have even introduced lightweight strollers that are filled with features which, in turn, means an increase in price.
Price Range: $150 - $500
- Highly portable strollers that are convenient when traveling with an older baby or toddler.
- More recent models have started to include fully reclining seats or car-seat compatibility.
- Older babies and toddlers may find the seat a bit cramped because of its compact size, particularly whenever they wear bulky, winter clothing.
- A lot of the models don't have a good suspension system or a comfortably, padded seat.
- The wheels are small which makes them harder to maneuver, especially on rough surfaces.
- A lot of the models aren't suitable for infants. Most models don't have fully reclining seats, if they even recline at all.
These are 3-wheeled strollers specifically designed to give your baby a smooth, comfortable ride as he joins you on your morning run. This type of stroller usually features a fixed front wheel; a braking system on the handlebar; a parking brake; large, air-filled wheels; an excellent suspension system; a hand strap; a 5-point harness; and a long, high handlebar to give you more leg room.
Most jogging strollers are designed to run smoothly, making things comfortable for both the runner and the rider whether you're scaling steep hills, hiking through the woods, or traversing curbs. They're typically heavier and wider than regular strollers to provide stability.
Aside from the front fixed wheel, the size also makes it hard to maneuver this stroller in small spaces or up and down the stairs. Even when it's folded, the joggging stroller is often still bulkier than other types. Newer models offer a swivel-option front wheel. It can be locked into place whenever you want to jog with your baby. It can also be allowed to swivel, perfect for maneuvering the stroller around as you walk.
Some jogging strollers are able to accommodate more than one baby, either side-by-side or one sits in front of the other. While some jogging strollers have fully reclining seats that make them suitable for infants, it isn't recommended that you jog with your baby until he or she is 6 months or older. At that age, he would be able to hold his head straight so that it doesn't roll back and forth as you move the stroller at a fast pace.
Price Range: $90-$800
- Jogger strollers are all-terrain vehicles for your baby; you can use them on any type of surface and still provide a smooth, comfortable ride for both you and the little one.
- Most joggers last longer than regular strollers since they can carry heavier children.
- Jogging strollers that can accommodate two to three children usually have up to 150 lbs as their total weight limit.
- Joggers aren't car-seat compatible.
- Most aren't designed to be used by babies younger than 6 months.
- Unless you have a swivel-option front wheel, maneuvering the stroller can be difficult. If you do have a lockable swivel front wheel, you'll need to make sure that the locking lever is installed correctly.
- Larger and heavier than traditional strollers, these tend to take a lot of space in your trunk (if it fits at all).
- Since the wheels are air-filled, they can go flat
Double and striple strollers
The double or triple stroller is perfect for parents who have 2 or more children who can sit in a stroller. There are two options for this type: tandem and side-by-side.
- Tandem strollers have a similar sitting position as a tandem bike - one person, in this case a child, sits in front of another. This type of double stroller has the same width as a regular stroller that sits one child so it can easily fit through store aisles, doorways, and small sidewalks.
There are a lot of variations to the tandem stroller. Some models have a rear seat that can recline. Front seats typically can't because it would take up the space of the child in the rear seat. Some models enable parents to shift the orientation of the front seat so that both children face each other.
Other models offer a "stadium seat" where the rear seat is much higher, enabling the child at the back to see over the one sitting in front. You can even find models that feature a lower rear seat, the opposite of a "stadium seat." Some standard-size strollers offer a platform that can be attached behind the baby's seat, enabling the older sibling to stand on it.
- Side-by-side strollers look like two strollers joined together. Most side-by-side strollers have similar features to single-passenger ones. And these are equally comfortable for both children.
A side-by-side stroller is best for children that have the same height and weight (i.e. twins) because it makes it easy to maneuver. Some models have reclining seats which can be adjusted independently.
Price Range (for both types): $90-$800
- Tandems can easily fit through the same areas that a single-passenger stroller can.
- When folded, it isn't that much bigger than folded standard stroller either.
- If you have an infant car seat, there are models that can accept in one or both seats in the stroller. You just need to check which brands they are compatible with.
- It's a lot heavier and longer than a single-passenger stroller so steering can be difficult, especially over curbs.
- Some models don't have enough leg room for one or both children.
- Navigating over curbs is easier with a side-by-side model than with a tandem.
- Some models are infant car-seat compatible, even side-by-side car seats (*)
- There are even side-by-side strollers that feature seats that recline (perfect for twins) as well as infant foot enclosures
(*) Some brands can only accept one car seat which only works if you have children of different ages - a newborn and an older child.
- Not all side-by-side strollers will fit through a regular-sized doorway or elevators, despite what the manufacturers may claim. Even if they do, it might be a very tight fit.
- When folded, these strollers may take up double the space of a folded standard single-passenger stroller.
- And the balance of the stroller can be affected if you have children with different weights.
What to expect in the best stroller 2018
This is your primary concern when choosing a stroller for your baby. One of the first things you'll need to look at is the locking mechanism of the stroller frame. Is it easy to use? Does it lock firmly into position? Obviously, you don't want the stroller to suddenly collapse while your baby's inside it.
Don't want to read? Then watch this "Stroller Safety" video!
You'll also need to make sure there aren't any sharp corners or protrusions that could harm your baby. Look for holes or openings that your baby's fingers and toes could get stuck in.
What about the suspension or the maneuverability of the wheels? Your baby will want a smooth, comfortable ride whenever he's in the stroller, so check the brakes to see if it works and the stroller won't accidentally roll away when you're not looking.
Lastly, look up the stroller you like in Baby Center's Product Recall Finder to make sure it hasn't failed national safety standards.
- If you're getting a used stroller, inspect the stroller just like you would a secondhand car you're thinking of buying. Look at the wheels, the brakes, and the locking mechanisms. Check to see if there are any loose or broken parts, if everything is in good working order. Lastly, check if this particular stroller has been recalled.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is an organization that makes sure that participating manufacturers are meeting all the necessary testing requirements on their baby products.
Their safety checks include looking at the parking brakes, leg openings, locking mechanisms, restraining system, and structural integrity. It also looks for the presence of hazardous points and edges like exposed coil springs that can pinch or cut the child or the parent.
You can check JPMA's website to see which brands have been certified. You can also check the stroller you've chosen or its packaging for a sticker that states the product has been JPMA Certified.
No matter how old your child is, a restraint system is necessary to ensure that your child will remain inside the stroller at all times. He won't slip, slide, or fall out. He also won't be able to climb out when you're not paying attention.
The safest harness is the 5-point harness that secures your child at his shoulders, waist, and between his legs. You'll find this type of harness on most strollers. You also need to look at the buckles of the harness. They should be easy enough for you to open and close but not for your child. Adjustable straps are a must to ensure that it fits your child properly and secures him to the stroller.
Whether you have a newborn or an older child, the stroller should have a reclining seat. Babies younger than 6 months require a seat that can lie flat since they aren't able to hold their head up yet. Older babies and toddlers require a comfortable seat to nap on. Some strollers have seats that shift orientation, enabling them to face you rather than face forward. Make sure that the mechanism for reclining the seat is easily operated, preferably by using only one hand.
Your stroller should be easy to push around even with just one hand, whether you're going in a straight line or negotiating curbs.
Swiveling front and back wheels makes a stroller more maneuverable. Large wheels also provide a smoother ride, no matter what type of surface your on. Air-filled tires also ensure a comfortably, smooth ride but it requires maintenance just like a bicycle wheel. Too-soft wheels can affect steering. A good alternative is foam-filled tires; there's no maintenance required and the ride is just as smooth.
Avoid buying a stroller with tiny, plastic wheels because they're hard to push and maneuver. Check the shock absorbers or suspension systems. These are often located near the wheels.
If you want to jog with your baby, you'll need a fixed front wheel. It will mean limited maneuverability but it also means a less bumpy ride for your baby. A lockable front swivel wheel gives you the best of both worlds - an easier ride all around.
Most strollers have hand or foot-activated brakes. Check the brakes to make sure they're easy to use, no matter what type of shoes you are wearing. Look at the wheels when you test the brakes:
Did they lock immediately once you stepped on the brake? Do you want the stroller to have individually locking rear wheels or both at once? Newer models like jogger strollers have a hand-operated lever aside from a foot-activated pedal that locks both back wheels.
A stroller's handles should be level with the pusher's waist or even a bit below. Adjustable handles are a must if both parents have different heights. Separate handles are harder to maneuver than a single one.
Some models have handles that can reverse position, flipping over the top of the stroller to the other side, changing the orientation of the baby. Other models accomplish this with a seat that shifts orientation. If you find yourself hunching over the stroller, you can buy a stroller handle extension to make things easier.
Fabric and upholstery
While color and style aren't the most important factors when choosing a stroller, it doesn't hurt to find one you find pleasing to look at. It is important though to make sure that the fabric of your stroller can be easy to clean either by washing or wiping it down.
Look at the stroller's laundry instructions. A removable cover is a nice feature because you can easily wash it. Just make sure that it won't shrink, fade, or pucker when you wash it. Some strollers come with "layered" seat fabrics; you get a soft, breathable fabric as its base and an additional layer or two that can easily be attached to keep the baby warm once the weather changes. Of course, this special feature is only offered by high-end manufacturers.
An adjustable cover is a necessary feature in a stroller. A canopy provides protection for your baby from the elements, whether it's the sun, rain, or wind.
For sunny days, you'll want canopies made out of fabric that provides UV protection. You also need to check the canopy for ventilation, either built-in or through the fabric. You want your baby to be able to breathe and feel cool despite the covering.
One nice feature is a mesh or top window that allows you to look in on your baby as you stroll. Some manufacturers offer canopy add-ons such as a separate rain/wind shield, insect netting, and additional parasols.
Canopies come in various sizes and coverage. There are some that offer skimpy protection at best while others can be pulled down to cover the entire opening of the stroller. Some models have 180-degree rotating canopy which keeps your baby shielded from the elements in any direction. Some canopies feature a pocket for your iPad or tablet so your baby to watch videos while in the stroller.
A storage basket beneath your baby is a feature that's really nice to have. It certainly makes carrying stuff around much easier. To find out how much storage you'll need in a stroller, consider what stuff you'd like to haul with you whenever you take your baby out.
Some examples are a diaper bag, extra bottles, and maybe some toys. You should also think about what stuff you might want to store under the stroller basket while you're doing errands such as a bit of laundry you picked up or some small shopping bags.
Your stroller's storage basket should be durable and able to hold the weight of all the stuff you plan to put there without bottom scraping the ground. Some models offer more storage options than just the one under the seat such as a zippered compartment for keys or a wallet, or a fold-down subdivider. Some strollers feature a cup holder for the parent and the child. Others have a parent tray which is made up of a cup holder as well as a compartment for holding your phone, keys, etc.
Parents who are planning to have more children in the future should consider buying a convertible stroller. Convertible strollers are those that can be reconfigured to accommodate another child such as adding a second stroller seat, a standing platform, a car seat, or a bench seat for an older child.
Warranty and refund policy
Just like with any other important purchase, you need to look at the warranty and return policy of the manufacturer. Most manufacturers and retailers of strollers cover poor workmanship and flaws in their warranties.
Stroller malfunction, however, is not always covered. If this happens, you will need to ship your stroller for repair or return it to the store to get a replacement. Both of which will require you to shoulder shipping costs and leave you without a stroller for some time.
Choose a retailer that is more amenable or flexible when it comes to returns, especially if the return occurs months after your purchase. Also, don't throw away the packaging until you're absolutely sure that you won't need to replace your stroller.
A folding mechanism that can be operated with one hand is a big bonus, especially if you're other hand is currently occupied holding your baby. However, while some strollers can be easily folded into a compact position within a few seconds, not all of them can be done so with just one hand.
A lot of strollers that necessitate the use of both your hands to open and close are still easy enough to operate. Some strollers are self-standing, remaining upright even in its compact position, so they're easy to store in a closet or along a hallway.
Parents have varying lifestyles and needs which means that strollers often have a wide range of features to meet those requirements. And the more features you have, the higher the price you'll need to pay for your stroller.
Aside from the features we've already discussed, there are several others that you might want to know about such as an adjustable footrest or leg rest and a padded seat insert for newborns.
Protective leg coverings or boots is a feature that some strollers have to provide warmth to your baby's legs in cold weather. Some leg coverings are also used to cover the leg holes, insuring that the infant remains inside the stroller when you recline the seat.
Most leg coverings or boots are sold separate from the stroller. Should you find one that isn't specific to your stroller, you'll need to check if it interferes with harness use or with folding the stroller.
Considering your lifestyle factors
One of the most important considerations when choosing a stroller is your lifestyle. You'll need to consider the following:
Your baby's season of birth
This is one of the most important factors you'll need to consider when deciding which stroller to buy. If you live in Minnesota and your baby will be born during winter, you probably won't be going out much so you won't need anything more than an infant car seat during the first few months. If it's sunny in winter where you live, then you might want to consider a lightweight stroller with a decent sized canopy.
The developmental stages of your baby
For the first few months, your baby won't have the muscle strength to hold his head up or sit by himself. This means that you'll need a stroller that can be adjusted to meet your baby's growing needs such as accepting an infant car seat or having a fully reclining seat. Or, you might want to buy a stroller for each of his developmental stages like a stroller frame for his first 6 months before transitioning to a traditional stroller.
Where you live can affect how much use your stroller will get. Are you located in the suburbs or in the city? If you spend a lot of time driving, your stroller might not be of much use to you. If you're a New Yorker without a car, you definitely will be making the most out of your stroller.
How you live
Your daily activities are equally as important as your location. If you like walking everywhere and plan to do so with your baby, you'll need to go for a higher-end stroller that is sturdy and solid. If you don't want to walk around that much and plan to limit yourself to quick trips outside, you may find a stroller frame or infant car seat carrier is a better option than any other type of stroller.