Choosing the right pram is a 9 month research project

Choosing the right pram is a 9 month research project in itself!

For some parents buying a stroller is a decision given equal importance to buying a car! You only need to head to the EB forums to discover stroller aficionados who have multiple strollers and have tried and tested a dizzying array of brands and models. But don't fear, we're here to help! Read the info below and head to the forums for advice on the latest and greatest models of prams and strollers.

What are you looking for in a pram or stroller?
This may seem a simple question to the uninitiated. But you may easily find yourself bewildered by the array of ultra-modern styles, whizz-bang options, and dazzling colours that are on the market today. Take a stroll through the brave new world of prams, and pick up the tips that will save you time and money!

What is available?

 Pramette
This is the modern version of the pram, and it can be put in the layback-flat to upright position. It is a combination of a pram and stroller. Some prams have an optional bassinet, which gives them a traditional pram, or baby carriage, appearance. They generally come with a full canopy and have a good range of attachments and accessories. They are suitable for use from birth.

Stroller
These come in full-size to very lightweight sizes. Basically, they are a smaller, lighter version of a pram, with an umbrella stroller being the very lightest type. Some models do not lie back, or do not have a flat layback position. They are often used for older babies and toddlers, especially for shopping trips.

Three-wheel jogger
The three-wheel jogger is very suited for outdoor walks, especially over uneven ground. They come in both pram and stroller styles. Three-wheelers are often bigger, with a larger distance between the two back wheels than a conventional pram. If you often shop at stores with very narrow aisles, this may present a problem! If you're planning on going jogging with your pram, check that it has been designed especially for this purpose. Not all three-wheel 'jogger' prams are actually meant for jogging, in fact very few 'joggers' passed the Choice tests.

Double & side-by-side prams
Having twins, or need to accommodate more than one child? Double prams come in a few different configurations. Tandem prams have one child seated behind the other. In some models, one of the seats is elevated, or is underneath the other seat. An extra seat attachment may be available on some tandem prams, for a third child.

Side-by-side prams give both of your children the same view. These are quite wide, and can make shopping in stores with narrow aisles difficult or impossible. There are side-by-side prams available with seat attachments for two extra children.

Travel system
There are prams/stroller packages that are complete travel systems. They come with a capsule attachment that can go straight from the pram to snap into a base in the car. It can also be used as a rocker. The capsule is only suitable as a car seat for the first six months, and so you will need to weigh up whether it would be more useful to purchase a car seat that your child can use from birth to preschool age.

Want to know what others think of a particular pram? Confused about what you'll need? Post a question in the friendly Essential Baby forums, you're sure to gain some quick and informative answers!

Befuddled by the endless variety of prams and strollers? To gain an overview of most of the different makes and models, try here. 

After you have purchased your lovely new pram, you may like to try it out with a pram walking group  - try setting up a walking group with other parents in your area. 

What do you want in a pram or stroller?

Can be used from the newborn stage
For a pram to be used from birth, it needs to be able to lay back flat. Newborns cannot sit up! It is okay for it to have a slight incline. Newborns should be facing you as you push the pram - so check that this is the case, or that the pram has a reversible handle. Consider buying a pram with a removable bassinette. The bassinettes can be used in the pram for the first months, and the baby will be facing you. They can also be useful to put the baby in when visiting friends and relatives. Some parents however, may find that they had little use for the bassinette, in which case it is an expensive addition.  

Can be packed into a car
If your car has a small boot, you may need to measure the size of any pram you wish to purchase. Some prams have removable wheels, which make the pram easier to fit into a boot - but you have to consider if you are willing to remove and replace the wheels every time you want to take the pram in the car. It may be the last thing you want to do when you have a baby, nappy bag and paraphenalia to deal with!
Also check how flat the pram folds - you want to be able to fit other things into your boot besides the pram. 

Can fold easily
If you only use your pram to go for walks from your home, this won't be too much of an issue. But if you have to fold your pram up and down a lot, you will appreciate an easy, quick-fold action. Get the shop assistant to show you how the pram folds, and then try it yourself, before you buy. 

Is lightweight
Again, this is not an issue if you only/mostly use the pram for walks from your home. Check the weight of the pram and consider what you will be using the pram for. Hauling a heavy pram in and out of the car as you go about errands, shopping trips, parents groups, playgroup and other places can quickly become a nightmare. If you suffer from back pain, or have a caesar, this point will be of particular interest. Strollers come in some very light weights - the lightest of which is the umbrella stroller. Once a baby is old enough to sit up, a stroller may be the best option for quick trips to the shop. Strollers with no sunshade canopy, which do not lie back, and/or have small plastic wheels, will not be suitable for long walks outdoors, but you can pick these up for less than $50 so they can be a good spare stroller which you can keep in the car.
 
Can be easily taken on public transport
Buses and trains can present problems. There is often limited space to store your pram or stroller when onboard.  An 'umbrella' stroller that folds up very compact is the best for fitting on the floor space next to you while you are seated. It is also important that it folds easily, preferably with only using one hand - when you are holding a baby or toddler, you will not have both hands free. A sling or baby carrier may be a better option until your baby is old enough to go into a light weight stroller.  

Can be pushed easily
Look for good quality wheels and test the pram for manoeuvrability around the shop before you buy (with a child in the pram if you can!).  Front wheels that swivel (or a single front wheel in the case of a jogger pram) can make turning in tight areas much easier. Can the swivel wheels be locked into position? This can make the pram easier to push over bumpy ground. If you are buying a pram that has a reversible handle, check how smoothly you are able to push the pram in both positions. Larger wheels, and those that are inflatable, can give a smoother ride for your baby, and make it easier for you to push, but keep in mind inflatable tires will need to be pumped up, and may occasionally puncture.

Will move easily down narrow shopping aisles
Twin prams/strollers and even some single prams are quite wide, and can make it difficult when shopping. Check the width of the pram that you wish to buy. Does your local supermarket have a wide stroller isle? Many people are happy with their wide prams, especially if they have twins and want them both to have the same view!

Will last
The most expensive pram is not necessarily the one that will last the longest! In fact one of the most expensive brands on the market failed the Choice test! It is true however that the very cheapest prams will not be the most solid and durable ones on the market. Look for good wheels (large, pneumatic are often best) and a sturdy frame. Flimsy plastic brake levers may severely limit the life of your pram.Colour may be an additional factor to consider. If you buy a bright pink pram for your little girl, you may end up deciding that the colour is all-wrong if baby number two is a boy. A light-coloured pram may accumulate stains that won't wash off.

Has an adjustable handle
We're not all the same height! A pram or stroller with a handle/handles that is too high or too low can be very uncomfortable. If the handle is at the right height for you, will another person, such as a partner, also push the pram often? If the pram you want does not come with an adjustable handle, check to see if you can buy a handle attachment for it.

Looks trendy
We all want a pram or stroller that looks good! But as soon as you make your purchase, the manufacturer is sure to come out with an updated model, or there will be a snazzier pram out on the market elsewhere. But rest assured, if you have bought a pram that suits your lifestyle and your needs, you're way ahead. And you could always jazz things up with a hip new Mothers Bag!

Comes with accessories
Think ahead! If you intend on going for lots of outdoor walks, things like rain covers and good sunshade may be needed. Are there lots of flying insects around your area in summer? -  An insect net may be needed. Do you want an attachable tray for your baby's food or toys? Will you need a basket underneath for carrying things? Do you want a matching baby bag?

A toddler can sit in
If you want your pram or stroller to be suitable from the birth to toddlerhood of your child, check the maximum weight that it can carry. If you are planning on transporting a baby and toddler around together, you may need a pram that comes with an attachable toddler seat or kickboard. Some prams and strollers do not have these options. Don't make the mistake of buying a pram, only to discover down the track that it doesn't have the optional attachments for toddlers that you will need.
 
Alternatively, you may prefer to carry your baby in a sling or carrier, whilst you push your older child in the stroller. There are also "skateboard" style attachments that fit most strollers and can be used for an older child to stand on and hang onto the stroller.If it is your first baby and you are planning on having more, you might be better off waiting to buy a stroller that seats two when your second baby is born, as there will definitely be newer (and possibly improved) models by the time you have your second child. These strollers can be heavier and more awkward so if you can do without one for a few years it might suit you, however it is most cost effective to buy it now and use it for both.

Is safe for my baby
This is a must of course! Prams and strollers must conform to Australian safety standards. (AS/NZS 2088:2000). Prams can become unsafe if babies and toddlers are left in them unsupervised, or if certain parts are added or removed from the pram. Sadly, babies have died due to incorrect use of prams, or from a pram not being fitted out correctly. It is best that the pram has a 5-point harness. A lever that locks both brakes at the one time can be safer as well as more convenient. Ensure that there are no gaps that can trap little fingers, and that the pram holds firm in each position, especially if you are buying second hand. Check to see if a second hand pram or stroller has been recalled.

Good luck and remember there are plenty of experienced pram and stroller lovers in the EB forums if you want the advice of other mothers and fathers.