This article provides the background information you’ll to choose the best stroller for your needs. It is related to, and intended to complement, our comprehensive side-by-side review of the top-rated full-size strollers.
Why Get a Stroller?
Most parents feel a natural urge to buy every little thing baby might need. A stroller is no doubt on the list, but do you need one?
The answer is maybe not, at least not in the first year. Here’s why…
The purpose of any strolling product is to make it easier to transport your baby while you walk. At its purest, it is just an alternative to carrying your baby in your arms or on your hip. And, your baby will almost always prefer to be held instead of riding.
Wearing your baby in a carrier can be a joy for both baby and parent.
Credit: maximkabb © 123rf.com
A good alternative, especially in the first six months, is wearing your baby in a baby carrier. Infants love the snug hold of being carried on your chest, and toddlers often like to be carried on your back. The best carriers distribute weight so well that you can wear your baby for hours, leaving your hands free to perform other tasks. While strolling is very convenient, a baby carrier offers a practical alternative, and baby carriers are a lot less expensive. The other plus is, carried babies are often less fussy than babies in a stroller.
A great baby carrier can help you get things done while you bond and nurture your little one. We find that holding baby helps reduce baby meltdowns and increases your freedom to resume your normal daily activities.
Health Benefits of Wearing Your Baby
It is also worth noting that too much time in a car seat, bouncer or baby swing can contribute to plagiocephaly, or flattening of the back of baby’s head. What does this have to do with strolling? In the first six months, most parents use their car seat for strolling, connecting it with a car seat adapter to the frame of a stroller. Pediatricians consider it relatively acceptable for a baby to spend 1.5 to 4 hours per day in a combination of car seats, bouncers or swings. However, if your little one spends more than 4 hours in these devices, especially in the first few months when baby’s skull is soft, they will have a higher risk of developing a flattened area in the back of the head. Using a baby carrier in a parent-facing chest position can help by taking pressure off the back of the head, and in combination with supervised tummy time, can help prevent flattening of the head.
The Thule Urban Glide 2 is very easy to maneuver with a swivel front wheel that manages tight spaces with ease and rubber air-filled tires that can traverse almost any terrain.
Strolling is Easy
For most of us, even the most hard-core fans of baby carriers, the convenience of strolling makes a stroller an essential tool that will get daily use for years. The main advantages are:
- Easier on you — pushing your baby on a stroll is a lot less work for you than carrying, even with a quality baby carrier.
- Soothing for baby — a gentle stroll, like a drive in the car, is a tried and true technique for soothing a baby, which in turn could mean more sleep for you.
- Safety — strolling provides a safe environment for your baby, with a sunshade, a protective frame, and a safety harness. Wearing your baby is lovely in many ways, but you need to be careful not to bump into things, and take care when bending over to avoid spilling Baby out. Remember, you should never drink a hot liquid like coffee or tea, over a baby in a carrier. It is much easier to keep Baby out of harm’s way and enjoy your hot coffee, with your little one safely off to the side (never put a hot drink in the cup holder, where there is a risk of it spilling on baby).
- Carry all your stuff — ample storage enables you to comfortably take all the things you and Baby might need while out walking such as a diaper bag, extra clothes, bottle(s), snacks, toys, and personal items.
- Do some light shopping — for things like shopping, having both hands free is a must. While you can pull off shopping with a baby carrier, it can be awkward at times. While storage is somewhat limited, picking up a bag of groceries or laundry can be convenient when out for a walk.
- Get some exercise — getting back into shape is a challenge with a baby needing constant attention, but strolling provides one way to combine quality time with exercise. A brisk walk can be invigorating for you, and joyful for your baby. But, if you want to go jogging you’ll need to get a specially designed jogging option that includes additional suspension systems to protect your baby from dangerous jarring impacts while running, and you shouldn’t go jogging until the baby has more head control (8+ months depending on the jogger).
A Little Extra Investment is Justified
Unlike many other baby products, a quality strolling option will serve you for years. We consider this to be one of the categories where you might want to spend extra to get what you want in a stroller. A quality stroller will serve you between the ages of 6 months to 3+ years, and it can work well for multiple kids, or as a hand-me-down to friends and relatives. Many of the best products, such as the BOB Revolution, enjoy a significant resale value.
Types of Strollers
There are six main types of strollers:
A traditional, standard-size stroller is the most common type. These full-featured products offer ample storage, comfortable seats, bigger canopies, more maneuverable wheels, and weigh 16-37 lbs. Most offer a car seat adapter of some type, and a minority offer a sufficiently flat fully reclined seat (less than 10 degrees) that can work as an alternative to a bassinet (all recline, but most end up at too steep to be safe for infant sleeping). Some higher-end products, such as the UPPAbaby Vista and Bugaboo Cameleon3, include a bassinet for infants.
Car Seat Frame
Less well known, but one of our favorite options for the first 6-12 months, while your baby is in an infant car seat, is a frame stroller. These products provide a frame that the car seat can click in. For a first-time parent, this seems like an odd approach, but many second-time parents wish they knew about them earlier. A car seat frame is inexpensive, compact, and light with the average weight being 11 to 16 lbs. This lighter weight can be good for moms who’ve just had a baby or C-section and may be limited to what they can carry.
Great for travel, Lightweight strollers (sometimes referred to as “umbrella strollers” because of their small folded shape) are light and more compact, usually weighing between 8-17 lbs. But, they cut some corners compared to full-size strollers. For starters, most don’t offer car seat adapters and thus aren’t usable until your baby is at least six months old. They also use smaller wheels, and this makes them less maneuverable and more difficult to push on rough surfaces.
Outfitted with large air-filled tires and shock absorbers, jogging strollers are specially designed to roll smooth and straight while running and reduce the impact of bumps and curbs on your baby. Most weigh anywhere from 23 to 31 lbs.
A double stroller provides two seats side-by-side or in tandem, and is essential with twins. A double can also work for two kids, such as a baby and an older sibling, but we think using a baby carrier and a single is often more convenient. Most are in the 21-36 lbs range and narrow enough to fit through most doorways. If you are expecting twins, keep in mind that car seat frame strollers come in double versions, and maybe a better option in the first year. Plus, some double strollers won’t accommodate two infant car seats making them virtually unusable until your babies are at least six months old.
Technically, these are not a type of stroller, but just a bundle package that combines a car seat with a strolling product in a single package. We advise caution before buying a travel system as many parents later regret the purchase. Why? Because the product quality in these bundles is often lower. While these bundled systems have attractive prices, they are typically bulky and heavy compared to a car seat frame stroller and may offer poor performance in the long-term compared to competing products sold separately.
Needs Change After 6 Months
We advocate splitting your thinking into two periods:
- Car-seat Strolling from birth to 6 months — for the first six months, your baby can’t sit up and lacks sufficient neck strength to be seated upright. In this period, you’ll use either a bassinet, a fully reclined seat (if less than 10 degrees) or a car seat adapter. Of the three, we believe the car seat is the safest and easiest option.
- Full-size Strolling from 6 months to 3+ yrs — starting at about six months, once your baby gains sufficient neck muscle strength to hold their head up comfortably, they will increasingly enjoy (demand) sitting up and watching what is going on while strolling. At this stage, a baby is bigger and requires more stuff (bottles, food, snacks, toys, clothes, diapers, wipes) than needed in the first six months. At this time, a full-size product’s advantages (more storage / increased maneuverability) kick in, especially for extended walks around town and in your neighborhood.
Helpful Tip: Consider holding off on buying a full-size product until your baby is 6-12 months old. In the meantime, get a car seat frame stroller that works great until your child outgrows their infant car seat at around 9-12 months.
A car seat frame stroller, like the Chicco Keyfit Caddy, is light and compact. Weighing only 11.5 lbs, it makes strolling with an infant car seat simple, fast, and effortless.
Start Strolling in the Car Seat
We encourage new parents to consider starting off with either a car seat adapter for your stroller, or a car seat frame (and delay buying a full-size product until you have a better sense of what your long-term strolling needs will be). While most full-size products offer car seat adapters, a full-size product with a car seat adapter is more cumbersome and more laborious to use than a car seat frame product. A notable exception might be the Baby Jogger City Mini that weighs 17.5 lbs and offers car seat adapters for many of the top infant car seats including the award-winning Chicco Keyfit 30.
In any event, make sure you get a car seat adapter or frame stroller that provides a click-in method of securing your specific model of car seat rather than a strap-in. The click-in way is much faster and easier than using the two-step strap process.
Why start with using a car seat for strolling?
Here are a few reasons to consider:
- The car seat provides safe, secure, and comfortable support for baby in months 0-6 (and up to 1 year)
- Transitions from driving to strolling are much faster and easier if the baby remains in the car seat
- If baby falls asleep while driving or strolling, you can transition without jostling baby awake (if you don’t already appreciate the maxim, “never wake a sleeping baby,” you will soon)
- Car seat frame strollers are lighter and more compact than a full-size with a car seat adapter, which makes them a lot easier to use and get in/out of the car
- Only a few of the products in our tests provided a fully reclined seat with an angle of fewer than 10 degrees. Higher sleeping angles are believed to increase the risk of infant suffocation in which baby’s mouth and nose end up pushed to the side, blocking their airway.
- Bassinets are available for some products, and can be a good solution for the first few months, but have limitations as noted in the section below.
Important Safety Tip: do not use an infant car seat as a replacement for a crib. Always take the time to transition your sleeping baby to a crib rather than leaving them in the car seat. Only use a crib for unobserved sleep.
Having an included bassinet helps make the Vista a versatile family option that is easy to use no matter what age your baby may be.
A Bassinet is a Luxury
OK, we admit it. We love a bassinet. But there are limitations you should know.
Some high-end strollers, such as the UPPAbaby Vista comes with a bassinet that can attach to the frame, and may (or may not) be suitable for sleeping. The UPPAbaby website prominently notes that their bassinet is appropriate for overnight sleeping as well as strolling. But, as you’ll read below in our safety tips, we’re a bit anxious about bassinets for unsupervised sleeping due to suffocation risk.
As much as a bassinet is dreamy for strolling, we feel obligated to note that it is a luxury you will only use for a brief period, typically no more than three months. Once your baby can move around, a bassinet is no longer safe for sleeping or strolling because they are shallow and lack a safety harness. It is easy for a mobile baby to fall out of one and become injured. A crib is a better investment for sleeping, and your baby can sleep in a crib from day one. On the other hand, a bassinet is nice-to-have, fun for strolling in those first few months, and allows baby to be right next to you for night feedings.
From a practical point of view, a car seat can work much like a bassinet for infant strolling; the advantage is one may walk for a full year instead of only a couple months, and maintain greater utility and improved safety. Transitions between car and strolling are vastly simplified. Plus, using your car seat eliminates the need for an extra piece of baby gear.
In the end, a bassinet comes and goes so darn fast. If you are on a tight budget or even an above average budget, this is one place to save some money that you can put to better use elsewhere.
We’re not saying don’t use a bassinet; we like them ourselves. But, parents who use a bassinet should be aware of the risks and use appropriate caution.
The Full-Size Sweet-Spot: 6 months to 3+ years
Many people buy a full-size product for strolling earlier than they need to when their baby is an infant (or before their baby is born). Most parents find that they stroll most when their baby is between six months and three years.
To find the right option for you, first, try to envision how and where you’ll stroll on a day-to-day basis when your baby is older. It takes a little imagination when your infant is one month old to contemplate what your daily routine might be with a one or two-year-old, but doing so can help ensure your purchase is satisfying in the long-term.
We can provide some rules of thumb that may be helpful.
If you are like most parents, you will start taking more extended strolls as your baby becomes a toddler, and you’ll spend more time at parks nearby. As your little one gets older, you may want to take in museums, the aquarium, or visit other baby-friendly venues that take you further from home.
Rather than a quick out-and-back, your walks with a toddler become longer expeditions and the stroller will become your base camp. You’ll be bringing more stuff to support an extended time away from the house. That means storage for a well-stocked diaper bag, food, bottles, extra clothes, and extra toys too. But, storage is not the only way your needs will change over time.
You may need to move across a broad range of terrain, the grass and gravel areas of parks being most common, and you may travel more often in a car or on public transportation as you start venturing further from home.
Mostly in Your Neighborhood?
A lot of people concentrate their walks in their neighborhood, at least initially. When strolling out your door, a more substantial product is not a problem (in fact, its additional storage and performance can make it great). Two of our favorites: the BOB Revolution Flex and the UPPAbaby Vista are both over 25 lbs. However, what they lack in weight and folded size, they make up for in everyday performance. If you are mostly strolling around the neighborhood, a few extra pounds and added dimension are not that big of a deal. Still worried about weight? The BOB Rambler is similar to the Revolution but shaves about 3 lbs off the weight and is smaller when folded.
Frequently Driving Before Strolling?
If you think you will frequently drive or use public transportation before strolling, a larger folded size may become annoying. A light and compact product, like the Baby Jogger City Mini or the Britax B-Lively, have significant advantages in this kind of situation.
If you travel frequently, you might want to consider a lightweight umbrella stroller such as the Inglesina Net to augment or replace a full-size product. It can be very convenient to have both a lightweight product when on-the-road, and a standard size for use in your neighborhood. But, you’ll need to consider whether the convenience justifies the additional expense.
Every day that you stroll, the maneuverability performance of your stroller will be noticeable, and it degrades as your baby gets heavier. During the period you’ll do the most strolling, ages six months to three years, your baby will grow from an average of 16 to 32 lbs. The extra weight of your growing baby and the pile of gear you’ll need to bring will increasingly impact maneuverability. Almost all products are easy to maneuver when empty.
Trying out products in a store can be misleading, especially if you push them empty over a smoothly polished floor as most people do. In our tests, we found significant differences in maneuverability between competing products, especially when fully loaded. And we pushed them all, over various terrain and with varying weight in the seat.
Test Drive One-handed and with 25 Pounds of Weight
To properly test a product in a store, we recommend that you put 25 lbs of weight in the seat, simulating an average 1.5-year-old and a diaper bag; now try to maneuver it with one hand. We’re not kidding. It’s when you load them with the weight that you can feel the differences, and one-handed steering will help you appreciate subtle differences between products.
Consider whether the parks near you will require pushing over unpaved surfaces like grass and gravel. If you need to push over 50 yards of grass or gravel, your small-wheeled product may seem Sisyphean. Will winter change the game for you? Most people go on strolls year-round. If you suspect you will be pushing on unpaved surfaces or dealing with seasonal ice and snow, then you’ll want to focus on products with higher maneuverability and larger wheels.
You may never traverse through snow, but we tested various terrains so you don’t have to.
We’ve read some buying advice guides that describe three-wheeled products as superficial; just going after a “jogger” look. These same “guides” suggest that there is no benefit to these features.
We beg to differ.
In our tests, some of the three-wheeled products kicked some serious butt in maneuverability tests. One of the top performers is a jogger.
The Revolution is the easiest stroller in the review to push and turn. It excels over uneven terrain and off-road hiking with rubber pneumatic tires and dense wheels that make it easy to push even with one hand.
Intuitively, the three-wheeled products, with their big air-filled tires, are significantly more substantial, and bulkier when folded.
But the reality is not as dramatic as you might expect. One of our Editor’s Choice winners, the BOB Rambler, is 25.1 lbs and the average for the group of full-size products is 24.1 with several in the group weighing more. Plus, thanks to the large tires and other features, it scored way ahead in maneuverability, arguably one of the most important metrics for this kind of product.
Key Functional Elements
There are key features that make the difference between an easy-to-push stroller and a frustrating experience. After pushing, pulling, turning, and finagling more strollers than we can count, you can trust we know a thing or two about strollers.
Front wheel comparison. The BOB Revolution on left is a pneumatic tire (air-filled), and the UPPAbaby Vista on right uses foam core rubber tires. Both are high quality wheels. The BOB scored 9 of 10 on maneuverability, in large part due to its smooth, easy rolling wheels, compared to the UPPAbaby which scored 7 of 10.
Wheel Size Matters
The one product component that most dramatically impacts performance, both good and bad, is the size and type of wheels. Maneuverability is directly affected by these, and thus, the best scores were obtained by larger rubber wheels using air-filled tires, most commonly found on the jogging options. As we noted earlier in this article, maneuverability is one performance factor that will impact your strolling experience every day.
In our tests, we found bigger wheels to be significantly easier to push and roll over bumps and non-paved surfaces. That translates into less effort for you and with less stress on your baby. Air filled tires make for a smoother ride, but they can go flat just like a bicycle tire. Some people prefer to avoid the larger air-filled tires because they are heavier and might go flat. Our view is that air-filled tires are worth it if you stroll longer distances, over unpaved surfaces, or over rough pavement. Flats are rare, but you might want to get a spare tire tube and have it available in case you need it.
Some of the higher-end products offer “never-flat” tires that use a foam-filled rubber to provide more cushion than solid wheels, but without the risk of flat tires. We found these are a good compromise if you are anxious about a flat. While not as smooth rolling as an air-filled tire, the foam-filled tires did absorb bumps better and performed well compared to their plastic counterparts.
So, why not get the biggest wheels possible?
The downside of bigger wheels is that they are heavier and bulkier. For those who frequently need to load in and out of the car, or travel on public transportation, large wheel size can be a negative. Several in this review have larger foam-filled rubber tires that aren’t as big as those found on the jogging products but are more significant than the traditional wheels that used to be the gold standard for this kind of stroller.
Our review includes specifications of both front and rear wheel sizes, as well as the type of wheels. This information is presented to help you compare competing products.
The Fold-Release handle for the City Mini GT is located in the center of the seat and easy to operate. The B-Agile and City Mini Single are very similar in their operation.
Our favorite folding mechanisms can be operated with one hand, like those found on the Baby Jogger City Mini and Britax B-Lively. We like the capability and simplicity, but should you walk away from products that require two hands to fold? No.
While it is convenient to be able to fold your stroller with one hand, we think manufacturers make a bigger deal of the feature in their marketing than it deserves. Neither of the two Editors’ Choice products offers a one-handed fold, and both scored above average for ease folding.
Simply put, using one hand over two doesn’t mean your other hand is free to do your taxes or diaper a baby. Folding is a quick process that doesn’t give you time for anything else. So even if your stroller is a one-handed fold, it’s over so fast that your free hand will likely be doing nothing or it will be supporting the product and thus still involved.
The inside of the UPPAbaby Vista storage bin has several individual pockets for quick organizing that makes smaller items easy to find.
All of the products offer a basket for storage underneath the seat. A large storage basket can make daily-use more convenient. In our storage rating, we factored in the size of the basket, ease-of-access, and whether additional storage is provided such as a pocket behind the seat, or seat-pockets next to the baby.
The Cruz offers the second largest storage bin in the review and holds up to 25 lbs of supplies. We fit our extra large diaper bag inside with no problems.
The UPPAbaby Cruz and UPPAbaby Vista offer the biggest storage bins in the review with high maximum weight allowances and super easy access. Both options can carry just about any supply you will need in addition to groceries or gifts you find touring the zoo.
Seats, Padding, and Materials
The quality of seating materials and padding varies considerably between brands. We suggest looking for a generously padded seat covered with a durable material that cleans easily. Additional pluses include the use of eco-healthy materials, and for seat covers that remove easily for cleaning.
In our review, we note whether handlebars are adjustable. But, is it necessary that handlebars be adjustable? We don’t think so.
The theory of an adjustable handlebar is that it makes pushing more comfortable for parents who are taller or shorter than average. Since many moms are shorter than dads, it would seem that many couples would find this feature useful. But, our testers of different heights found comfort more related to maneuverability than to handlebar height. Simply put, a highly maneuverable product was comfortable for testers short and tall, even if the handlebar was not adjustable.
It gets a bit more complicated. We found that many of the adjustable handlebars introduced some “play” into the steering, and this means that maneuverability performance can feel “loose” and potentially degraded. As a result, an adjustable handlebar is a trade-off.
Another factor is how the bar adjusts. Some adjust by rotating on a pivot point on each side, so when the handlebar is at its highest point, the pusher is closer to the frame, which results in several testers kicking the back of the strollers while walking. Other handlebars adjust by telescoping in and out of the frame sides, and when the bar is at the highest point, the tallest pusher is furthest away from back wheels, and thus less likely to kick the frame. The products with telescoping handles had less flex or play in them than those with the pivot point.
A parent tray would seem a simple and logical feature to add. Why not offer a convenient place to store keys or personal items, and one or two cup holders?
Well, not one of the top scoring products in our review came with a parent tray as a standard feature (all offer it as an option with costs ranging from $20-$40). Only four products in the entire review offer a parent tray with the stroller.
Similar to adjustable handlebars, a parent tray offers both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, a parent tray increases ease-of-use by providing some additional storage at your fingertips. But, on the downside, they can get in the way of folding, and make for a bulky, awkward folded size. Also, most parent trays have cup holders that are too shallow to securely hold a water bottle (over your baby’s head). Shallow cup holders translate to items falling out of the console and onto your baby while strolling.
Our two favorite parent consoles are both optional and cost an extra $25, for the UPPAbaby and the BOB. Both use a similar design of soft neoprene that provides a deep (somewhat grippy) cup holder and a zippered compartment for keys. Neither inhibits folding, or increases folded size as the plastic trays do.
A child tray also seems like an obvious feature and one that should be on every product. But, in fact, similar to parent trays, none of the top scoring products offered a child tray as a standard feature, and only five products offered it at all.
Funnily, only the products with lowest list prices seemed to offer a child tray as a standard feature (every product in our review with a child tray cost under $250).
A child’s tray is an accessory marketers love, and new parents intuitively think is essential, but in practice, neither you nor your baby need one. More importantly, like a parent tray, a child tray can be detrimental in practice making folding more awkward and bulky. Alternatively, the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 and the Thule Urban Glide 2 have two passenger stow pockets on the inside of the seat, which is very useful. These pockets can hold most bottles and sippy cups, don’t drop items while moving, and children don’t have to reach forward to use them. Interior pockets a better alternative to the plastic tray that sticks out from the front and can be hard for a baby to reach while buckled and too shallow to adequately hold anything.
Nine Tips for Safer Strolling
We don’t want to scare you, but we do want to make you aware of the types of injuries that happen and introduce some expert advice on how to stroll more safely.
Use the Safety Harness
According to studies published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the most common strolling related injuries are a result of falls, representing more than half of all injuries. The second most prevalent cause of injuries is tip-overs. Experts believe that most of these injuries were preventable if the baby was properly restrained with the safety harness.
Each year a few strolling-related deaths are reported. Again, experts believe that the use of the safety harness would have prevented most of these fatalities.
The CPSC advises to use the safety harness every time:
In 2010, the Consumer Products Safety Commission issued a Safety Alert warning that serious injury or death can occur if children are not properly restrained. An infant’s body can pass through the leg holes or handlebar, but their head and neck can become entrapped. The risk of strangulation is highest for infants under 1 year of age asleep in a fully reclined seat.
Every full-size product sold in the US offers a safety harness. In our tests, we found that the best provide a 5-point harness with an easy-to-use latching mechanism. We suggest parents make a habit of buckling their baby into the stroller with a properly fitting harness every time, no matter what, to avoid accidents and injuries.
Keep Baby Away When Folding
One of the most disturbing strolling related injuries is the amputation of a baby’s fingertips after being pinched in the hinge while folding. This type of accident only occurs rarely, but as recently as summer 2012 Kolcraft recalled 36,000 products following reports of three fingertip amputations. In 2009, Maclaren announced a recall of more than 1 million products following reports of 12 fingertip amputations (another five fingertip amputations occurred in the two years after the recall).
To help avoid this problem, always ensure your baby is a safe distance from the stroller before folding or unfolding.
Make Sure It is Locked After Unfolding
It is easy to only partially unfold and leave the product in a state where it might collapse under a baby’s weight. Make sure to listen for a reassuring click sound indicating it has reached its fully locked and ready-to-use position before use (depending on the model). Also, ensure you are using all the applicable safety features that keep it open.
Double Check the Parking Brake
We discovered some products in our tests, specifically, the Chicco Bravo LE had parking brakes that could appear locked but would occasionally release when bumped. If such an unplanned brake release occurs in a train station or near a busy road, the results could be tragic. We recommend always giving a little shake after setting the parking brake to ensure the brake is fully engaged. It takes only a moment, but it could prevent injury or death.
The CPSC notes one report of a stroller that rolled off of a dock and into a bay, which resulted in the child drowning.
Never Put Hot Liquid in the Cup Holder
We love a hot coffee every morning as much as anyone, but cup holders (which are typically too shallow in our opinion and placed dangerously above your little one’s head) should never contain hot beverages. A spill of hot liquid can result in terrible burns that not only hurt but leave scars that last a lifetime.
Use the Elevator
Although fall injuries are the most common strolling-related risk, most result in minor injuries to the head and face. However, stairs change the potential risks in a fall.
One fatality reported to the CPSC occurred when a parent attempted to take a stroller containing an unrestrained and sleeping baby up a set of stairs, and the baby tragically fell out, resulting in a fatal injury.
Falls are the most common injury related to strolling, and a fall on stairs is obviously significantly more dangerous. Escalators add the additional hazard of moving mechanical parts. Experts advise that you should never take any strolling product on an escalator or stairs. Find a nearby elevator or ramp and use it instead. If there is no alternative, get some help. Take the baby out of the harness, and carry the baby up or down the stairs or escalator, holding on to one handrail. Have someone else bring the empty stroller up or down separately.
Do not try this at home folks, we’re professionals…
While we test products going up and down curbs and stairs loaded with a test dummy in our review process, these tests are intended to determine if a product has a risk of tip-over or collapsing, not to prescribe a recommended use with an actual baby. We do not use real babies during in-house lab testing for potential safety hazards or concerns.
Check for Recalls
It is wise to make a quick search on the Consumer Products Safety Commission website to see if a product is part of a recall. This research is particularly important for hand-me-down products from relatives or friends, or any used products. The CPSC does a good job of documenting any active recalls, and their database is easy to search by product name.
Do Not Run if it’s Not a Jogger
We cringe when we see user reviews where someone says they have been jogging with a standard product, or any jogging before eight months of age.
Because a baby’s head is large, and their spine and neck muscles are not yet fully developed. The jarring bumps and shocks encountered in normal jogging are not bothersome to the parent but can present real health risks to a developing baby or toddler.
You should never run with a stroller unless it is specifically designed for jogging, and even then not before the manufacturer’s recommended minimum age. Very often we find parents confused that products manufactured by “Baby Jogger” such as the popular Baby Jogger City Mini, or products that look like a jogger, such as the Mountain Buggy Swift, are NOT designed for jogging.
Joggers incorporate additional suspension systems, reclined seating, and locked front wheels to reduce the impact and make them suitable for running.
Even so, most jogger manufacturers recommend waiting until a baby is at least eight months old before using the product for running or jogging. Before then, brisk walks and a strolling workout can help get you back into shape.
Despite the brand name being Baby Jogger, none of the Baby Jogger products in this review are intended for jogging.
Don’t Hang Anything from the Handlebar
Tip-over is the 2nd most common cause of injury when using a stroller, and back-tipping is the most dangerous since your baby is more likely to fall on their head or sustain injuries.
We test for front-tip, side-tip, and back-tip risks in our review process.
But, many parents make the back-tip risks more severe by hanging a diaper bag or groceries on the handlebar.
We understand why. It is so compelling to hang a bag on the handlebar, where it is easy to access and might seem stable. But, don’t do it! Depending on the product, the weight you put on the handlebar, the weight of your baby, the angle of the terrain, and the weight in the bottom storage basket, tip-over risk varies dramatically. In many cases, just going up or down a curb can turn a seemingly stable situation into something dangerously tippy. Tip-over is most common with infants, who are lighter and provide less counterbalancing center weight.
Place your items in the bottom storage basket instead of hanging them from the handlebar. Doing so will increase stability by adding more weight at a low center of gravity.
How do I determine which option is best for my family?
There are a few simple steps you can walk through to find the best product for your needs. Asking yourself the following questions can take the guesswork and frustration out of finding the right stroller at the right price.
These are some of the strollers we tested in combination with infant car seats in our car seat stroller combo review.
Step 1: Car Seat Compatibility
If you never intend to attach your infant car seat to any contraption for strolling, then you can skip this step. However, if you do plan to use your infant seat while strolling, we suggest you choose your infant car seat first. Why? Finding a quality infant seat that is easy to use and safe is more important for baby’s overall well-being given that you will likely be using it more frequently, or at least it has the largest related safety risks. So choose your infant car seat, then follow the remaining steps for the options that are compatible with your choice.
The BOB Revolution Flex is a nice quality choice that is put together well even if it lacks the sleek styling of many modern day full-size strollers. This BOB earned the highest score for maneuverability, easily moving over almost any surface.
Step 2: What terrain will you be strolling over?
Maneuverability is important. Being able to stroll with ease is arguably one of the most critical aspects of this kind of product. Pushing with one hand, and the ability to turn in tight spaces is important, as is being able to roll over various surfaces. If you plan to stroll only inside the mall or around a paved sidewalk, you can choose almost any of the contenders we tested. If you need to roll over grass or gravel for any period, a green belt outside your house or a nearby park, then you have fewer options to choose from. The BOB Revolution Flex, BOB Rambler and the Thule Urban Glide 2 are the easiest strollers in the group to push over any surface you can encounter.
The UPPAbaby Cruz offers many features, like a storage bin, canopy, adjustable handlebar, adjustable leg/foot rest, belly bar and cup holder accessory (sold separately).
Step 3: What features do you need?
There is a difference between the features you think you need and those you truly do. There is also a difference between a product that doesn’t offer a feature, like a parent tray, and one that offers an accessory for purchase after the fact. You should consider which features are important to you and which you can do without. If you love a particular product that doesn’t have one of these options, determine if you can purchase it after the fact, or if you’d be without it forever. We think some non-negotiable features include a reclining seat, giant canopy, and storage basket with at least 10 lbs of maximum storage. Interesting, but not necessary features, include parent or child tray, cup holders, bumper bars, and a one-handed fold. None of the top products in this review offer all the features you may need or want, but they have parent consoles/cup holders for purchase, which many parents feel are non-negotiable. The UPPAbaby Cruz has excellent storage with a 25 lb capacity, adjustable leg/footrest, recline, and handlebar, and an excellent canopy with large peek-a-boo window.
The pull handle on the City Mini is conveniently located on the seat.
Step 4: Do you need to carry it?
The last thing to potentially consider is whether or not you will need to fold and transport or carry it frequently. All of the products are relatively easy to fold, but the Britax B-Lively and the Baby Jogger City Mini have quick, easy folding mechanisms with a one-hand pull and carry strap. They are also the lightest and most compact in the group, which makes them easy to carry and transport in a trunk or on a bus. It isn’t that the BOB Revolution Flex or the UPPAbaby Cruz are hard to fold or carry, they just aren’t something you likely want to do multiple times a day in a hurry, alone with your baby, a diaper bag, and shopping supplies. Alternatively, if you stroll out your front door and are unlikely to use public transport or need to fit it in your trunk, then the UPPababy Vista is a good choice. This impressive option can grow with your family up to three passengers, has the largest storage in the group, and offers more versatility than any of the other products we tested.
We tested a myriad of different full-size strollers over the course of several updates to this review. Several of these options are pictured here.
There are so many options to meet your strolling needs that it can be overwhelming trying to narrow them down to find the best stroller for your family. After testing over 20 tops models over the years, we feel uniquely qualified to help you decide what performance metrics and features are most important. If you stick to the basics, you can find the right option for you. We think there are several possibilities in the award winners and top scorers. While we pick winners with real families in mind (after all we have kids too), they may not meet your specific needs, which is where the comparison feature in our Best in Class review comes in handy. With this comparison tool and our insider details, you can determine which stroller meets the needs of your family and budget.