By Wendy Mihm | March 28, 2011
If you are expecting a baby, one of the largest and most important baby items you’ll need is the stroller. But, if you’re a savvy mom-to-be, you’ll ask yourself the question “How many strollers do I need?” before you register. That way, you can think through this crucial and expensive item, get it on your registry, and let your friends, family and co-workers pool their resources to buy you the ones that best suit your family’s lifestyle.
Here are some key things to consider about your lifestyle, and some smart strategies for anyone about to make room for baby.
Check In With a Friend
First and foremost, don’t try to do this alone! Certainly a girlfriend or family member ventured into motherhood before you! As I suggest in another FinancialRx article called Choosing Baby Gear, it’s a great idea to tour a girlfriend’s house that already has a baby – preferably one who is at least 6-12 months into parenthood—so she’s beyond the early haze of sleeplessness and discombobulation! She can tell you all about the strollers she really uses versus the ones that look pretty (and cost a fortune) but stay in the closet.
Consider Your Own Lifestyle
Second, go through the following checklist and relate the questions realistically to your lifestyle, your needs and wants as they relate to how you’ll use the stroller. You’d be surprised at how closely your use of a stroller, or strollers reflects your lifestyle. Answers to these questions will help you to understand whether just one stroller will meet your needs or whether you require specialty strollers to accommodate your lifestyle.
Ok, here goes.
The Stroller Lifestyle Checklist
Let’s start with the assumption that this is your first child and stick with single strollers for now. Later we’ll move on to a discussion of latter children and double strollers.
- If this is your first child, you may want to consider the ever-popular Snap N Go stroller, which is great for the first 6 to 12 months of your baby’s life, depending on how big your baby is and how quickly he or she grows. This is basically just a frame with a really big (wonderfully big) basket underneath that you clip the infant car seat into. It’s light, durable, collapses easily and steers easily too.
- Do you live in a densely urban, suburban or a rural setting?
Let’s discuss the urban dwellers and their needs first. You’ll probably be using the stroller on bumpy sidewalks to get to a subway station, a bus line, metro, or subway station. You’ll need to navigate it frequently through turn styles, busy sidewalks, elevators and cross walks. Here are some features to look for:
- The ability to maneuver the stroller with one hand.
- The ability to collapse the stroller with one hand. You never know when a bus driver will demand that you collapse your stroller before you board the bus – and you have to unload all that stuff in the basket and hold you baby at the same time!
- Good, sturdy wheels that can handle difficult terrain.
- Lightweight – you will carry this thing more times than you can count (with and without your baby in it).
- A good sized basket that’s relatively easy to access because you probably also do your shopping on foot.
- Weather shield if you are in a 4-season climate.
- Not too large because you may not have a ton of extra space in your house or apartment.
- Bonus: it can stand on it’s own when collapsed, so you can prop it up on a corner somewhere in a tiny restaurant or at home.
Ok, let’s talk about our suburban and rural dwellers. You’ll probably be using the stroller for walks around your own neighborhood or subdivision, if you live in one. You will also frequently pack it into the car for trips to the mall, to restaurants or other shopping centers. Here are some features to look for:
- Easy collapsibility because you’ll be doing this a lot.
- The ability of the stroller to fit into your trunk easily when it’s collapsed.
- Size: make sure the stroller doesn’t feel too bulky to fit through store aisles.
Now let’s move onto our runners. If you’re a runner you’ll quickly realize that you cannot run with a regular stroller. You need a jogging stroller. A typical jogging stroller has all-terrain wheels, a hand brake, a sun shade for the child and a fixed front wheel, though some newer models have come out with a front wheel that swivels. They can be expensive, so Craigslist is a great way to go for this second stroller.
Ok, let’s revisit the original question: “How many strollers do I need?” My advice would be to first get the one that addresses most of your lifestyle needs as identified above. Live with your baby in that stroller for a few months, then assess any remaining gaps. For example, if you’re a suburbanite that found you primarily use your stroller for long walks in your neighborhood and you have the perfect stroller for that, but wish you just had an additional, inexpensive, lighter stroller for when you have to run out for a few quick errands, maybe you consider adding an umbrella-type stroller to the mix.
I would just caution against registering for multiple strollers right away, before you even have your baby. Register or buy just one first. Then assess later – you will know so much more 6 months or a year from now than you can ever imagine! And the time will fly…
Strollers for Second or Later Children
If this is not your first child, you may wish to consider adding a double stroller to the mix. Double strollers come in many different configurations: side-by-side, “stadium stacked,” and sit-and-stand. See descriptions below.
- If this is your second or later child, is your next oldest child older than 10 months now? You may want to consider the double stroller to be a sit-and-stand stroller, which gives the older child the option of sitting or standing, and an easier way to get in and out. The younger child is typically strapped into the more traditional seat in front, but the seat in the back can be either just a bench that the older child can sit on, kneel on or stand above. Or on most models, you can snap a more traditional cloth seat over the bench and the older child can sit more comfortably in the rear seat as well. The down side of these strollers is that they are long, large, cumbersome, harder to maneuver in tight spaces like stores, and the basket below is often fairly small and can be tough to access, particularly when both children are seated.
- If your children are very close in age or are twins, you may consider the side-by-side double stroller for two reasons: reviewers claim that they are easier to steer than the in-line double strollers (like the sit-and-stand ones or the ones where the children are both seated, one behind the other) and that the basket below is easier to access. Having said that, if you plan to do any shopping with this stroller at all, be aware that very often, the side-by-side stroller will not even fit in the door! And even if you can get it in the door, it won’t fit through the aisles. This is a very big negative in my book. Try before you buy.
- If your children are very close in age or are twins, you may consider the inline double stroller as an alternative to the side-by-side double stroller. On the plus side, you’ll be able to fit in the door anywhere you go, on the negative side, these strollers are more of a challenge to steer, so test drive as many models as you can at the store or at a friend’s house before you register or buy. Also make sure you can fit it into your trunk when it’s collapsed, as these can be heavy and bulky.
- For lack of a better term, the “stadium seating” or “stacked” double stroller can be a good solution for a wider range of kids, as this category of stroller is newer, constantly evolving, and often includes the option to snap a car seat in and out of one of the seats. In the negative column is price – these are expensive! But if you’re getting friends and colleagues to pool their resources into one big ticket item, and this is not your first baby, or you’re expecting twins, it might be worth your time to research one of these as your big ticket item. They’re flexible, maneuverable, they tend to be lightweight, collapsible and all-around excellent double strollers.
Even if you are an experienced mom, I would still recommend that you wait to see what gaps emerge after your next baby arrives, rather than buying multiple new strollers before the new child arrives. For example, if you currently have one child and another is on the way, I would not recommend that you buy a new single stroller for your new baby and a double stroller for both kids. I would recommend that you get the single stroller now, because you’ve been around that block and know what you want! Then I when your baby arrives and you get settled in with him or her and see how your older child adjusts, go out and test a few double strollers with both kids. You’ll know a lot more by then about how the two behave around each other, how big your older child is, and whether your older child will even want to sit in a stroller at all.
Strollers evolve and change constantly, and they are not cheap, so asking the question “How many strollers do I need?” is a savvy one to ask up front. Best of luck in your search!
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