One essential item will be a 'baby mover' of some sort on wheels, for when you and your baby are out and about. This may be a pram, stroller or jogger (also known as a buggy) that accommodates one baby, or perhaps a 'double version' for twins or one that can seat an older sibling. During the early years, your child will probably spend a lot of time in their baby mover, so it is important to choose one that is safe, comfortable and durable.
Prams, strollers and joggers come in a wide range of styles, colours and prices with a variety of performance functions (other than simply transporting your child). Many have hoods to keep out the sun and trays underneath, to carry baby items or a small amount of shopping. You can often buy rain protection covers for them to enable you to take you baby out in inclement weather.
It can be confusing and overwhelming when trying to choose a pram, stroller or jogger, with many being quite an expensive outlay. Try to put some thought towards your individual needs and preferences before going shopping. This may make it easier to choose one that will best suit your needs.
NOTE: There are many terms used for baby movers, we have just used the most common Australian descriptions. Prams (the proper term being 'perambulator') is fairly universal. Strollers may also be known as 'walkers' and joggers as 'buggies'. Some prams are known as 'pramettes', a term that describes a combined pram and stroller. An 'umbrella stroller' describes a stroller that folds up compactly and a 'layback stroller' allows the base to lay flat, as well as an upright position (and usually different levels in between).
Prams essentially provide a 'bed on wheels' for young babies to lie horizontally while being wheeled around. However, many prams today combine the features of a stroller, in that they can be adjusted to support the baby sitting upright when older. These are often called 'pramettes' and mean that the pram/stroller can continue to be used until the child is around 3 years of age.
Most prams have a supportive base and 4 wheels. A few have suspension to 'cushion' the ride for the baby. Prams tend to be bigger and bulkier than strollers and can be cumbersome and awkward when using public transport. They can also be more difficult to fit in a car or store when not in use.
Strollers tend to be used when a baby can sit up unaided (having good neck and head control, about 6 months +). Some strollers are designed to be very compact, folding up into a long, narrow shape that resembles a closed umbrella. You can also purchase 'layback' strollers which allow the child to be in either an upright or reclining position.
Strollers are not recommended for newborn babies, even the reclining style. The back support is not sufficient and they are not designed to provide a firm and supportive sleeping environment.
Joggers or buggies are 3 wheeled strollers. They were originally designed for parents to jog or briskly walk with their baby. However, they are increasingly being used just for every day use. Jogger wheels are relatively large with thick tread, making them easier to move over rough or uneven surfaces. If the front wheel swivels, this can provide greater control in directing the jogger. Some joggers are not suitable for small babies and may not recline.
The main safety concern for 'baby movers' in general is the child falling out of them. Fingers and toes can also get caught in moving parts (for example, when a stroller collapses or is being folded up). Strollers and joggers also have a tendency to tip backwards if the handles are overloaded with carry bags or shopping, with small babies being able to slip out of the harness if this happens. Strollers can also tip backwards if an unharnessed child stands up in them.
You should never leave your child unattended if they happen to fall asleep in the pram or stroller. Babies have slipped down strollers and become caught or wedged between the stroller seat, the front bar or the footplates. Also, babies left alone in prams have been known to get into positions in which they can't move out of that may cause suffocation.
Other safety points to consider include:
- Choosing a pram/stroller that complies with the (voluntary) Australian Standards AS 2088.
- Checking for strong components that feel rigid and not rickety with solid, durable wheels. The pram/stroller/jogger needs to be sturdy to cater for your growing baby. If it folds up for carrying, make sure the frame locks are easy to use and are operating properly (and that it won't collapse prematurely).
- If borrowing a second hand pram/stroller/jogger, make sure it is in good working order and there are no loose or cracked components.
- Look for parcel containers under the pram or stroller. These provide extra storage and stability (rather than hanging things on the stroller handles that may cause the stroller to tip over).
- Test the steering. It should be easy to manoeuvre around corners and across uneven surfaces. Make sure the locking or braking system works correctly and is childproof (meaning that a child cannot operate them).
- Jogging strollers should have efficient shock absorbers to cushion the child if you intend to use it for jogging or going over rough surfaces. Make sure there is some type of hand bar for the child to hang onto when they are older.
- Look for a harness that is a 5 point restraint. This means it has a crotch strap between the legs, straps that go over both shoulders and a waist belt.
- Check the adjustable recline positions, they should lock securely into each position.
- Only use a stroller when you child is old enough to support their own head (around 6 months).
- Do not use prams/strollers as a substitute for a bassinette or cot.
- Do not allow another child into the pram/stroller or jogger unless it is designed for dual occupants.
- Use the harness every time you place your baby in the pram, stroller or jogger. This also helps your baby get used to being secured.
- Do not overload the back of the stroller or jogger by hanging bags from the handles. This creates a tip over hazard. Carry an empty backpack when shopping or use the storage space on the stroller of jogger underneath.
- NEVER hang your personal bag on the handles or leave your purse sitting on the top of the hood. These are well known targets for thieves and your baby's pram, stroller or buggy may be knocked over in the process of being robbed.
- As your child gets older, do not let them stand up or lean out of the pram/stroller or jogger. Take care to keep it out of reach at home so that your child does not 'play with it'.
- Before buying your chosen baby mover, practise folding and unfolding it. Can you do this with one hand? (As your baby will probably be in the other!) Lift it when folded to check the weight. If it is too heavy this may be a problem, particularly if you have a bad back, need to use public transport or have a high position car boot.
Last revised: Tuesday, 10 September 2013
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.