Stroller 101

Next to your child's crib, there may not be another piece of baby equipment that you'll use as frequently as your child's stroller. But finding the right model for you isn't always easy. Jessica Hartshorn, Sr. Lifestyles Editor of American Baby Magazine, has some tips.

First, set a budget. It's possible to spend hundreds of dollars on a stroller, but it's not necessary. There are quality, reasonably priced strollers on the market too. Know what you can afford and stick to that price point. "If you know you can't buy the $650 Bugaboo stroller, then don't even torture yourself," says Hartshorn. "Figure out what you can afford and start there."

It's also important to learn the lingo. Stroller shopping can be overwhelming if you can't sort through all the different product features. For example, a carriage and a stroller are the same thing. A pram is an old fashioned type of stroller where the baby lies down. Jogging strollers have three wheels, but not every three-wheeled stroller is suited for jogging. Be sure to read the label. Some are just for show. Umbrella strollers fold up small so they're easy to transport. Do your homework before you begin stroller shopping. If the terms confuse you once you get to the store, ask a sales associate to help decode the summaries.

A stroller should fit your child and your life. Keep in mind that you'll be bringing home a newborn, so (much like a car seat), it's best to start out with a stroller designed for an infant. "It's going to be something that they can lean back in or ride in their car seat in," says Hartshorn.

Then, consider your lifestyle. "If you know, for instance, you're mostly going to be carrying the stroller in and out of your car and around the mall or indoor area, [try] something that's lightweight [with] plastic wheels," says Hartshorn. If you live in a town with cobblestone streets, or you do a lot of hiking, consider a more rugged stroller that's meant for outdoor use.

Try taking a prospective stroller for a test drive in the store; you want to be sure you're comfortable pushing it. Usually, stores don't mind if customers try them out. Also, read reviews online or ask friends if they've tried a particular model. You may find some surprising drawbacks. "So much depends on your little neighborhood and your life," says Harshorn.

On the same note, look for extras that will help you while you're out and about. If you plan on doing a lot of shopping with your stroller, look for a model with a big storage basket or one that's strong enough to support a lot of shopping bags. If you think you'll need a cup holder or a snack tray, look for strollers with those options.

In the end, though, one stroller isn't going to meet every single need. "You're never going to get through parenthood with only one stroller," says Hartshorn. "You're going to start with this one that fits your infant, later on get one that's better for your toddler, and then maybe some day you're going to need a double."

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By Erin Petrun