Monday, December 6, 2010

Parenting Essentials- Strollers (before you buy)

I have kicked the tires on many a stroller model, and over the infancy and childhoods of my 4 children, I have witnessed the revolution in strollers, from hard to push beasts that required octopus arms to manage to fold it or manouver into your trunk (assuming it could fit there!) to well thought out strollers designed to actually make it a pleasure to be out with your baby/babies.
Once upon a time, places to buy baby stuff used to be limited to department stores like Sears, or ..well, there just wasn't much out there. Now you can shop around for previously loved deals as well as new.
The world has kijiji, and craigslist and a whole host of places to buy used equipment, which I really do recommend, because then, if you do make a choice you don't love, it's not so financially painful when you are reselling it.
Strollers are something I love to look at, love to try out, love to buy. Ahh, if only I had the money to indulge! But, I have had the chance to try a bunch out, as I have ordered and returned more than my fair share.
Now straight off, I will say that no one I know, who has ever had to use their stroller more than once in a blue moon, has recommended graco to me, or safety first.
Maybe they've changed. When I had my daughter in 98, I remember selling my older awful sears model " a'96" that barely pushed empty,(never mind with my 10lb newborn in it!), and getting a graco with "sporty" tires, a useable basket and nice high seat. For the times, that was really a great stroller. It cost me 98 dollars at Costco (or Price Club as it was back then.) Sadly for Graco,they've gone downhill in quality, and uphill in cost.
As with all baby equipment, I can't stress enough, the need to look around and try some out. Push and fold it one handed, while clutching a twenty pound weight and your purse in the other arm. Can't do it? You might want to try another model.
You should also consider what you will do mostly with the stroller.
Are you in the city? Will you be walking a lot? Will you be taking it on and off public transit? In and out of your trunk? Are you just starting out having kids? If you might have more in the future, you may want to think about a model that grows with you, like the Britax B ready, or the Baby Jogger city select. The Baby Jogger city elite offers a similar option, but seating is intended for one baby, one toddler, and might not be suitable if your children are close in age, or fairly well rounded. The top seat weight limit is 33lbs. That sounds huge to you now I bet, but once you have the baby, you will see that supposedly at a year a baby weighs an average of 23 lbs. So, if you need at least 9 months between kids, maybe more, you stand a high chance of child numer 1 being too heavy for the top seat.
That being said, I do love my Baby Jogger city elite, and thankfully, my four year old is only 28lbs and can ride there.
I did not love Phil and Ted's VIbe. It was a pain in my butt, and putting the baby in and out while there was a toddler in the stroller was awkward and weird. It felt like i was trying to pull him out by the head all the time.
I also loved my little Zooper Hula, but it is not convertible to two seats.It is from the time before that phenomenon. It folds up like an umbrella stroller, has a good little canopy, and nice adjustable handles. It can't compete with the Peg Pliko on the canopy, but kicked the Peg to the curb in side by side comparison with my friend's stroller, in terms of weight, manoueverability, ease of folding, size in trunk , etc.
But I'm not trying to sell a particular stroller, since you can see that I like a few different models, from a few different brands. I say, you really do need a lightweight one, if you shop at all, and you need a nice sturdy one that takes rain covers and has a great canopy, if you are going to be doing a lot of walking, or just regular walking at all really. And adjustable handles! A must if you and your partner aren't the same size. I find most strollers are too tall for me. I had to get the baby jogger bike trailer to use as my double jogging stroller, because if anyone else had adjustable handle, I didn't find it, or it was so expensive, I dismissed it as a practical option.
I do not recommend the ones that take your infant seat latched on to them. Might be nice for you, but it is bad to leave the baby in the carseat. They have proven that extended use of carseat compresses your child's airways, and causes death at worst, flat head at best. Not super either way. Is it that difficult to take your child out and put them into the stroller and let them stretch out? No, it's really not. Of course the stroller makes great storage too,if you prefer carrying baby in the sling, or mei tei, your arms, whatever.

Good basket is a plus, and so are drink /cup holders, snack tray, little pockets for mom's stuff... Of course you can always grab Phil and Ted's pannier bags and strap em on to the side of your stroller, like I did. They fit pretty nicely on my Baby Jogger City Elite jump seat. I think they would fit onto a few stroller out there, possibly the Sit and Stands, Bob maybe-any stroller with a space to slip the looping velcro handle on. Rain covers, weather shields, fuzzy Protect-a-bub wraps that strap into your strollers are awesome too if you can get your retailer to toss one in for you. Makes those chilly walks comfy for your little one.
Finally, an important note, regarding price. A friend of mine recently told me 400 dollars was an insane amount to spend on a stroller. She said, she'll just go grab whatever.She is 5 ft 10, her DH 6 ft 3 or 4. GOOD LUCK! They will have to go through a few strollers if they don't test them first and find one they can push without putting their backs out.
I know she is thinking foolishly, because number one, I have 15 years stroller experience that she does not, and number two... grabbing whatever because it is cheap, just causes stroller disappointment, and then purchasing a better stroller, which in the end costs you more, so you might as well just buy the one that actually works for you in the first place. It will be a good investment. Trust me, I wasted money,I'm trying to save other people from doing the same.
Even a "cheap" Graco stroller these days runs in the 270 neighbourhood, so you might as well go the extra mile and buy one that hopefully won't have the tire fall off before your little one turns one!

Parenting essentials-what you need to know, before you buy

As a parent, there are a few things I know now, that i wish i had known before. And I don’t mean things like how babies can soil 14-16 diapers a day in the beginning, or how sleep will seem like a long lost cousin, that’s how little you will see it for a while. A really long while....

I’m talking the basics. Very basic. Like, a newborn baby doesn’t always fit into newborn clothes. Not one of mine ever fit into those tiny outfits. 0-3 month was a better size.

I wish we had have known about outlets, and how you can pick up a $199 high chair for $49.99 if you don’t have to have the newest pattern. Yes my poor child had to do with last year’s colours *gasp*.

I also wish I knew how awesome a sling can be, and that test driving a few in the store is helpful, and i was able to pick one that I subsequently got a lot of use out of.

Back to the highchair; Great big, puffy monstrosity that they are, padded, seat belted, bells and whistles galore....after you have tripped on that thing and banged your toe, spilled the baby food etc... You may end up wishing you had something more compact, and actually space friendly.

Really think about how much space you have in your chosen feeding area. Then, check out the high chair you are dreaming of. Get a box or even just lay out a blanket covering the same square footage, as the footprint of the highchair, and see if it’s in your way after a while. If you have a larger than average home, or a dining area with great design, it might not bother you. If you are like the other 95 percent of people, you’ll be wishing you hadn’t spent so much, and now will be looking for an inexpensive or used booster high chair, or small framed high chair. I like the Ikea one BUT...yes it is a big but, it doesn’t adjust in close to baby, which means that the baby spills food on to their clothes all the time. Erase away that dream of cute little bibs too, most babies rip them off.

Anyway , really consider things before buying the highchair.

Crib too for that matter. None of our kids ever really slept in it, but wow it was great for storage! Playpen, not really a necessity either, and to be honest, who wants to spend time trapped in a little box with limited toys? We used it mainly as a bed for our 3 year old when travelling.

I’m sure I will think of many things I wish i hadn’t bother buying, as time goes on, and I will update when they come to me.