03.Stroller safety and what to look for
Following the tragic death of two babies in separate stroller incidents, the federal government announced a new mandatory consumer product safety standard for strollers, which came into effect on 1 July 2008. The new standard is based on the voluntary Australian/NZ standard, with some modifications:
- All strollers must have a wrist tether strap (leash), to prevent the stroller from rolling away.
- The stroller harness requires only waist and crotch straps (to be in line with the US and European standards). CHOICE thinks five-point harnesses with waist, crotch and shoulder straps provide better safety.
- Brake pedals/levers are coloured red for better visibility (which won’t work as well on red strollers, of course).
Keep in mind:
- Never leave your child unattended in a stroller.
- Always engage the brake when the stroller is standing, to prevent rolling.
- When at a train station, park the stroller with the wheels parallel to the tracks.
- Use a leash or wrist tether strap to keep the stroller attached to you.
- Don’t hang heavy bags from the handles, to avoid tipping.
What to look for
Weight, size and width The lighter the stroller, the easier it is to carry up and down stairs or on buses and trains. As for dimensions, none of the tested models had difficulty fitting through doorways or into a reasonably large car boot.
Wheels Bigger wheels tend to be better than smaller ones over rough ground, kerbs and stairs. However, they can also be harder to fit into a car boot.
Handle Check the handle to make sure it feels comfortable to grip. If you’re particularly short or tall, you may need a model with adjustable handle height. A reversible handle (or seat) is useful if you’d like the option of having your child face you rather than face forward, but check that it’s easy to operate.
Brakes Some strollers have individual brakes on each wheel; others have brakes linked by a bar, so you only push down on one mechanism to activate them. If the stroller handle is reversible, it’s best to have brakes on the front wheels as well, as these will become the rear wheels (nearest your feet) in the reverse configuration.
Swivel wheels at the front make steering easier (but they should also be easy to lock); all the tested models have these. If the stroller has a reversible handle, check whether its rear wheels can also swivel; that will make manoeuvring much easier when you reverse the handle and they’re at the front.
Harness Look for a five-point harness with two shoulder straps attached to the backrest at shoulder level, a waist strap and a crotch strap. The waist straps in particular should be securely linked to the stroller’s frame, so the child can’t lean out and tilt it. Give the harness a tug to check the seat doesn’t pull away from the frame. Make sure the straps are easy to adjust and the buckles easy to fasten and unfasten (for you, not your child).
- An adjustable legrest and footrest help accommodate your child’s growth, as well as keeping their feet clear of the ground and wheels.
- A basket or tray underneath the stroller should be easily accessible in both upright and layback positions, roomy enough to hold a few essentials and deep enough to stop items falling out. Don’t overload it or the stroller may become unstable and hard to move.
- A retractable hood/canopy with a viewing window.
Sleeping in a stroller
- Strollers are not intended to be used for sleeping in, though babies will nap when tired. But take care, a sleeping baby can slip and get caught on the front of the stroller or on the footplates.
- Convertible prams/strollers are not intended for sleeping, even in pram mode. Babies have died from suffocation by slipping through the back of the headrest, or having it collapse. Of course babies will fall asleep when they’re out in a pram—the rocking and jiggling is very soothing. It’s fine to leave the baby in the stroller when you get home if you’re in the room with them—the deaths occurred when the babies were left to sleep unsupervised.
- One option is to buy one of the increasingly popular, albeit expensive, models which have a wheelbase that can be used with a detachable bassinet or a layback stroller assembly.
- Strollers and shopping bags
- Hanging your shopping bags over the stroller handles affects the stroller’s stability. Manufacturers do warn against doing this, or specify a weight limit, but if the stroller has no pouch or shopping basket attached, there’s little else you can do with your shopping. CHOICE thinks all manufacturers should incorporate a well-balanced basket or pouch into their stroller designs to ensure they’re practical as well as safe.
Strollers and shopping bags
Hanging your shopping bags over the stroller handles affects the stroller’s stability. Manufacturers do warn against doing this, or specify a weight limit, but if the stroller has no pouch or shopping basket attached, there’s little else you can do with your shopping. CHOICE thinks all manufacturers should incorporate a well-balanced basket or pouch into their stroller designs to ensure they’re practical as well as safe.
It helps to have a bag already packed with all baby’s changing, feeding and entertainment needs, not to mention an emergency change of clothes, so you can grab it on your way out.
It doesn’t have to be a special baby bag—any good-sized bag with pockets will do.
Most baby bags come equipped with things you’re going to find useful: for example, a change mat, an insulated bottle bag or compartment (useful for keeping expressed breast milk cold, or for warm water ready to mix with formula when you need it).
Compartments or pockets touted for wet or dirty gear probably aren’t so useful—they’re not very easy to clean out afterwards, so just keep a few plastic bags in there.
A bag with a carry strap that can fit over the pram handles may be useful, but make sure your pram can take the weight. With lightweight strollers, using the handlebars can be dangerous.
A backpack style may be more useful than a carry bag if you plan to do a bit of walking.