When you’re out and about, the right stroller can make a difference to your – and your baby’s – day. But what about making a baby-as-fashion statement with the latest must-have stroller -you know, it’s always the one with the hefty price tag, the most fashionable colours and just different enough from last year’s model to make second hand a non-option. Will it make your life easier? That’s the question.
Take a walk through the world of strollers and make an informed choice:
Types of prams and strollers
Pramettes (a pram/stroller combo).
Umbrella strollers (fold up easily, like, well, an umbrella).
Layback strollers (baby can sit up, or lay down).
Jogger strollers (with three wheels, rather than four).
- A double stroller for twins, or if you already have a toddler when the new baby arrives.
Which type will suit best?
There’s probably no one stroller that’s going to work for you in every situation, so you need to consider what you’re most likely to be doing, and which would work best in your situation.
- Where are you going to be using it? For shopping, you need one that’s not too wide or bulky (or it won’t get around small aisles), and a good size basket is handy; if you’re going to do a lot of jogging or walking, inflatable tyres make for a more comfortable ride.
- If you’ve a car, it needs to fit in the boot. If you’ll be catching public transport, something light and easily foldable is important.
- You might not have taken much notice of the footpaths around your area before, but what are they like? If you’re going to walk to the shops or the park, big wheels make the ride over rough ground easier and more comfortable.
- Will you get enough use out of a pram, or could you get by with a pramette (stroller/pram combo)?
Strollers sold in Australia must meet certain safety requirements based on the year 2000 version of the Australian/New Zealand stroller standard, AS/NZS 2088. Most manufacturers have their strollers certified to the 2000 version, however the full version was revised in 2009. It’s largely the same as the 2000 version but addresses emerging trends in stroller design and includes some new voluntary safety requirements that address recently identified hazards.
We now test to and base our recommendations on the latest version of the stroller standard, AS/NZS 2088:2009. Unfortunately, we find that not many manufacturers have done the same. Many fail a newly included test that checks that the loops formed by the harness straps, when buckled together, aren’t a strangulation hazard. It can be dangerous for a child to slip through such a loop and get caught, as was found in a tragic fatality in 2005. Children are most at risk from this hazard when left unattended or when the harness is left buckled when not in use, so you can reduce the risk with practical steps. Nevertheless, there’s no need for this problem to exist.
You shouldn't stop using strollers that we've previously recommended based on the older standard. While mandatory requirements are still based on the 2000 version we believe the new 2009 standard improves on safety, and we hope by basing our recommendations on this version, we'll encourage the industry to do likewise.
What to look for
Car boot size: Measure it to make sure the stroller fits without needing the wheels removed.
Weight: Try folding it in the shop and see if you can lift and carry it comfortably.
Brake locks: Get an idea of how well they work by applying the brakes while you try to push the handle.
Straps: Give them a tug to check they're secure and the seat doesn't come away from the frame.
Wheels: Give them a tug to see they don't come off.
- Are there protruding parts or ones that could pose a choking risk?
- Are there gaps that could trap your, or your child's fingers?
- Are there sharp edges or points?
- Is there a child-resistant mechanism for locks?
- And is the stroller stable enough not to tip easily?
Look for the following features:
Wheels: Large ones tend to be better on kerbs or stairs; pneumatic (inflatable) ones can puncture but generally give a comfier ride. In a pramette, fixed rear wheels will become front wheels if you're using it with the handle reversed, making it more difficult to steer. It will be easier to manoeuvre if you can lock or swivel both front and back wheels. In a three-wheel jogger stroller, look for one where the front wheel can swivel, it can make manoeuvring easier, and some can also be locked in the forward direction, which is useful over rough terrain.
Harness: A five-point harness with two shoulder straps (preferably attached to the backrest at shoulder level; padded ones are softer), a waist strap and a crotch strap, with adjustable length as your baby grows. The straps should be easy to adjust and the buckles easy to use (for you, but not your child).
Brakes: Rear brakes; it's handy if they're linked, so the left and right brakes can be locked with a single action. Some also have front brakes — particularly handy on a pramette, as it means you can always lock the brakes nearest you (at the back) whichever way it is facing (pram or stroller mode). Locks you can activate and release with your feet prevent you bending, but make sure your feet fit under them easily.
Adjustable height handle: This is handy for particularly short or tall people, as well as if two people of different heights will be using the stroller at times.
Reversible handle: It can be convenient to have either head or feet end of your baby facing forward - unless the brakes are on only one set of wheels. Check in the store how easy it is the reverse the handle.
Adjustable backrest: Some have an upright backrest that can also move to at least one semi-reclined position; some can be fully reclined (best for sleeping). A three position adjustment makes the stroller more versatile.
Footrest: Reduces the chance of injury from your child's feet touching the ground or getting caught in the front wheel.
Front bar: A detachable bar your child can hold onto. But they're usually not secure, so it's not safe to use them to lift the stroller.
Storage: A basket under the stroller is useful for carrying things like nappies, baby food, clothes and your handbag. Check its size and weight limit - and how accessible it is. A back pocket or pouch is good for lightweight items.
Canopy: That you can extend for shade or shelter. Some have a viewing window so when it's extended you can still see your child.
Leg/boot cover: It's a bag-like attachment you can pull over the child's legs for protection against the weather. Often available as an extra, check the instructions or ask your retailer.
Rain cover: A clear plastic you can drape over the stroller in wet weather. Again, check the instructions or with your retailer whether it's available as an optional extra.
Wrist strap: A leash on the handlebar of jogger strollers that you can loop around your wrist in case you lose your grip while jogging.
Tyre pump: A hand-operated pump for inflating pneumatic tyres; some strollers have a clamp or holder for one.
For more information on how we test, including the results of our tests, see our latest Strollers and prams reviews.