A stroller is, without question, an essential piece of baby gear. You can not carry your baby everywhere you go. You may develop arms of steel, but the strain on your body can be damaging, particularly as your baby gets bigger. A good stroller will carry you from the sleepy newborn stage through to the walking, talking toddler stage.

What makes a good stroller is different for every family. There are lightweight portable strollers, heavy fully-loaded travel-systems, strollers made for fast movement and rugged terrain, and old-fashioned prams. Most parents opt for a simple stand-alone stroller or the travel-system. The variety of makes, models, and styles can make your head spin. It can be difficult to choose the right stroller for you and your baby.

Before purchasing, take a look at your environment. Do you live in the city or the suburbs? Where do you plan to go with your stroller? How old is your baby? How much do you want to spend on a stroller?

If you live in a city and plan on doing a lot of walking, you'll need a stroller with wheels large enough to cushion the bumpy ride down the sidewalk. You'll also want something easy to maneuver up curbs and through narrow aisles of clothes. If your baby can sit up and look around during short walks to the store, a lightweight umbrella stroller would work just fine. If you were a marathon runner pre-baby and want to feel the burn again, you'll want a rugged jogging stroller.

Before you buy any stroller, it always a good idea to test-drive several models in the store. Strollers are usually collapsible, so you want to collapse and expand each stroller a few times. You want to make sure the stroller has an easy-to-use locking/release mechanism that prevents the stroller from collapsing accidentally.

All strollers should have a restraint system similar to a car seat. The buckle should be easy to operate. The straps should be adjustable to accommodate your growing baby comfortably. There should be a strap that goes between your baby's legs to prevent your baby from sliding out of the seat. This is especially important if the seat reclines so your baby can lie back when napping. You will also want an adjustable canopy to protect your baby from sun, wind, and rain. Canopies with a window protect your baby but still let you see them at all times. A storage basket is handy for storing your diaper bag and small purchases when shopping.

Push the stroller around the store to see how it handles. The handle should be at waist height or slightly below. You should be able to steer most strollers with one hand. Front and rear swivel wheels will make it easier to navigate tight spaces or winding trails. Oversized front wheels with locks, made from rubber rather than plastic, won't wear down easily. For a smooth ride, the stroller should have some form of all-wheel or front-wheel suspension. You also want a frame that can handle changes in weight without veering or tipping over.

If you are purchasing a jogging stroller, test the brakes. The brake lever should be in a comfortable position on the handle bar. They should be easy to use and the brakes should respond quickly when the levers are squeezed.

Strollers really vary in price. Umbrella strollers can be as inexpensive as $12.99 and some jogging strollers are over $700. Most standard strollers fall somewhere in the middle, usually around $350. If you want your stroller to last for more than one child, it is always a good idea to invest in a good stroller and treat it well.

Even the best strollers will show signs of wear if misused. Keep your stroller on the terrain it was designed to endure. Standard strollers are designed for slightly varied surfaces; jogging strollers are better for hikes through the local conservation area. Treating your stroller carelessly when collapsed is also a no-no. Throwing it in the corner, piling heavy objects on top of it, and tossing it around are the quickest ways to break or otherwise damage your stroller.

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