Buying your first pram feels like such a big decision. Are you a designer pram family, or do you buy solely on reviews? Perhaps you have limited space and so the large four-wheel-drive prams aren't for you. Maybe you even plan to have one pram for walks around the neighbourhood and another for throwing in the back of the car.
It can be an expensive purchase, so it's one you'll want to get right. Here, we share some advice from seasoned CHOICE parents to help you avoid making the same mistakes we made as wide-eyed first-time parents.
The Bugaboo Cameleon is a large pram. Newborn baby for scale.
A tale of two Bugaboos
Alice, mum of a lively four-year-old, tells of her short-lived love affair with her Bugaboo.
When I was pregnant, buying a pram seemed like *the* moment that made it all real. I only really seriously looked at buying a Bugaboo, because it was The Brand You Had to Have.
I briefly flirted with an elegant Joolz, a quirky Stokke and a sensible Mountain Buggy, but in my heart of hearts I knew the Bugaboo was The One.
When it was first set up, I marvelled at its seeming sturdiness and designer-ness. I loved its solid wheels, its nifty design and the logo that proudly declared to the world that we were a Family of Taste. I was in love, and couldn't wait to show my new beau off to the world.
Alice found babywearing easier than using her Bugaboo.
But once the baby arrived (and swiftly turned my life upside down), the cracks started to appear. The Bugaboo wasn't quite as perfect as I'd first thought. It was huge, difficult to fold up, heavy (not ideal for c-section recovery) and it actually felt much less substantial than I'd imagined a $1500 pram would feel. I hated taking it to the shops because it was like driving a tractor and I was always bumping into door frames and cafe tables because of its sheer size.
In the end, the clincher was that I couldn't walk my dogs with it. I have two lovely but exuberant Border Collies, and it was just impossible to keep them in check while steering a heavy pram with one hand. The love affair was over. We were incompatible.
I quickly took up with a Manduca baby carrier and my Bugaboo was left lonely in the back of the car, gathering dust. I'd occasionally take it out for trips on the train but the spark just wasn't there any more.
Finally, it was over: just before my child turned four, I sold the pram and scarcely thought about it again. Occasionally I look back at it with fondness (on those days when my kiddo wants to be carried everywhere), but for the most part, breaking up with my Bugaboo was the best decision I ever made. My only regret now is that I didn't buy a secondhand pram to begin with and save myself all that money and heartache.
Kate loved using her Bugaboo with her first child.
Kate, a mum of two, had almost the opposite experience.
"I bought a Bugaboo and used it all the time, and totally regretted buying baby carriers as I hated babywearing!" she says.
After her daughter was born, she developed vestibular neuritis [acute vertigo and dizziness] and couldn't drive for three months. "My Bugaboo Cameleon saved me! The only remedy suggested by my doctor was walking, so I went out every day with my Bugaboo and my baby and it was like a walking frame - it kept me stable and helped me recover."
Kate continued to use the Bugaboo when she had a second child.
Kate found her Bugaboo was handy when wrangling two small children.
"It was pretty sturdy with the skateboard/seat attachment, which came in handy because my eldest child's daycare was walking distance from our house. It made dropoff and pickup easier – sometimes the baby would sleep through the whole thing," she says.
The moral of the story
Here's the thing: you can't possibly know what your experience of parenthood is going to be until you're in the thick of it. You won't know if you're going to end up with a velcro baby who wants to be close to you every second of the day (in which case babywearing will save your sanity and free up your hands), or a more independent spirit who likes their own personal space.
You could even end up with a non-sleeping terror who only naps in the pram and has to be pushed around the neighbourhood for hours on end.
In some ways you'd be better off waiting a couple of months to buy a pram once you know what your needs are. But we know how exciting a purchase it is and we wouldn't want to deny you the milestone of bringing home the pram for the first time. Plus, you'll probably need at least something to put the baby in to get out of the house once you come home from hospital.
We can't tell you what your experience will be, so instead we asked the seasoned parents of CHOICE to share what they wish they'd known before they bought their first pram.
Top tip: make sure it fits with your lifestyle
"My top tip would be to consider your lifestyle and where you live. If you are mainly using it for walking and running errands by foot and you live in a suburban area, a pram with decent-sized wheels that can handle bumpy footpaths and grass is worth it. This type of pram is usually bulkier and can't be folded one-handed but has big baskets for storing stuff," says Kate.
"If you'll mainly be jumping in the car and using it on flat surfaces, a compact, easy-fold stroller is better. (They usually have small wheels and are not great on bumpy footpaths or grassy, muddy paths.) I ended up buying a small Maclaren stroller once she was six months old for travelling and going in the car."
"Don't buy something that's too wide so you can still navigate cafes and small stores and not be a pariah," says Ren.
The grandparent test
Julia has a good rule of thumb for buying a new pram: "If the grandparents can use it easily, it's a good sign."
(I can attest to this: my mother had to ask some friendly passersby how to collapse the Bugaboo when she was out with my kiddo. She just couldn't figure it out and, to her credit, it really was not at all intuitive to use.)
To capsule or not to capsule
"The most valuable tip I got when buying a stroller was the saleperson who advised me against buying a stroller with the capsule that you take out," says Pru.
"She had a fake baby in the store (that weighed the same as a real baby) and she put it in the capsule and got me to carry it around the store. I'm only small, but I could barely carry it.
"She also made the point that people buy those detachable capsules as they think they can just take their baby inside from the car and leave them asleep, but due to safety issues you shouldn't leave them sleeping in a capsule or car seat."
A weighty issue
"The larger models are MUCH heavier than you think and you need to be able to lift it easily into the back of your car," says Pru.
"Bear in mind you also might be doing this while recovering from surgery or injury associated with birth."
CHOICE dad Tom thought he was doing the right thing by buying a pram based solely on reviews, but didn't consider how heavy it was.
"We bought a CHOICE safety approved pram – and it weighs a tonne! Not a great thing for a new mum to deal with. Luckily we're on the ground floor so it could be left assembled," says Tom.
CHOICE tip: check the weight of the pram or stroller before you buy. They can range in weight from 4 to 16kg. You can filter our pram reviews by weight if you're looking for a lighter pram.
"Think about where you are going to store the stroller. We lived in an apartment with quite a narrow entrance hallway and there was nowhere else to park the stroller when it wasn't in use, so we had to make sure it was narrow enough to fit," says Pru.
"Be careful about buying a bulky stroller if you are going to take it on buses and trains etc."
Have pram, will travel
"Buy a cheap umbrella pram as a second pram to check into baggage on flights (so they won't wreck your good one), and for any places you need to leave it outside (so the good one doesn't disappear)," says Ren.
"Use a second easily-opening pram for holidays – we were given a friend's stroller which we used for travel/flights and there was less concern when it got scratched or knocked about," says Danny.
"If you're long-haul flying, consider whether your pram would pass as hand luggage. If it's small enough, it's great to have for your child to sleep up until boarding, and can help you transition across large airports quickly," says Tom.
Thinking of travelling? Here are our top tips for buying a compact travel stroller.