Baby Stuff Overload: Stroller Edition

NOTE: THIS POST WAS WRITTEN 6/13/10, ALSO IT IS WRITTEN IN CHUNKS WRITTEN ON DIFFERENT DATES – BOLD IS THE SECOND SET OF THOUGHTS, BOLD BLUE IS MY MOST RECENT THOUGHTS. AND FINALLY, SINCE I’VE MORE OR LESS COME TO A CONCLUSION, UNLESS YOUR OPINION SHOWS ME SOMETHING OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE (AS IN, THIS ITEM RANDOMLY BURSTS INTO FLAMES), PLEASE DON’T KNOCK MY CHOICE TOO HARD. IT WAS A DIFFICULT DECISION PROCESS FOR ME AND ANOTHER DIFFERENT OPINION MAY VERY WELL CAUSE ME TO SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST (PLEASE DO FEEL FREE TO ANSWER THE FEW REMAINING QUESTIONS THOUGH!). OK, ENOUGH WITH THE CAPS LOCK DISCLAIMER…

What should we get? I feel like there’s a bunch of options:

1. Stroller system – comes with car seat for infants that snaps into base in car and onto stroller. Under that is a toddler stroller (just remove the infant seat). This looks like the most practical option, as it seems it would last a long time from newborn to toddler, but is it? It’s also really heavy, harder to fold up, and though Chris assures me it will fit in the trunk of his car (we’re trading once baby comes, 😦 ) I’m not so sure. I liked the way the felt when I pushed them – safe and sturdy, but do people really get good use out of them or is that just what all new moms think (get the biggest and most inclusive!!) and then just get frustrated with the bulk and find another option? I don’t know. While I certainly see the negatives, and have read reviews about the negatives, I have to say this is my favorite choice right now.

2. Mid-range strollers – we saw a Maclaren I liked that folded up pretty small, but ultimately, we decided it was completely a waste of money. It was nearly the same price as the stroller systems (more when you add in the price of a separate carseat) without the benefit of being useful for multiple ages. It said 3m+ but I’m really not sure how a 3 month old would really fit in that stroller. It was basically just a cushier umbrella stroller. I can just picture my baby sliding out or rolling all over the place, with their head flopped over (I know they have buckle restraints, but even so, this did not look custom fit for a small baby, it just looked like a streamlined toddler portion of the system strollers). Plus, what do you do the first 3 months? Just carry a carseat on its own? Use body carriers (more on this in option 6)? Also, possibly fitting into this category is jogger strollers – forget it. I’m not delusional enough to think I’ll be jogging anywhere – and you can’t even use a jogger for newborns because of the shaking risk. I would like the option to take baby on walks, but I really don’t think I need to waste money on a jogger for that.

3. Bare stroller base (basically just the metal parts and a handle) that accommodates a baby seat snapped in – Like the mid-range strollers, my main concern here is that this is again only useful a limited time, namely the early time (which I guess means I’d have to follow up this choice with choice #2, thus really breaking the bank). When looking up reviews for some stroller systems, I saw a few people recommend just going for these since they fold up smaller and lighter and apparently many stroller system carseats don’t fit in shopping carts (edit: I was informed by a Buy Buy Baby employee that carseats shouldn’t be put into shopping carts, unless you put it into the big part thus necessitating another cart (or just piling food on top of baby, lol), which makes sense stability-wise, but 2 carts?? What the heck do you do with the kid?? I can’t take Chris with me shopping every week and I don’t see myself being able to push a cart and a stroller at the same time), while this choice allows you to choose your own carseat. However, the carseat has to be compatible with the base, and from what I found, this option is again almost as expensive as the stroller system. And again, without the backup toddler seat underneath, this seems like a waste of money to me, too. Not to mention the whole “size of carseats” issue makes me wonder – are system carseats really oversized compared to average or are some of the non-system options smaller than average – and are the smaller ones just as safe or do they just cramp baby or have a shorter usable time?

4. I also noticed strollers like the Graco MetroLite, which is classified as a “full size” stroller and is compatible for snap-in with certain Graco seats, but I couldn’t tell if there was any benefit to choosing this over a system stroller – is it any lighter or is it basically just the 2 pieces of the system (cushy full size toddler stroller + carseat) sold separately?

5. Or I guess the Combi Cosmo EX is classified as a lightweight stroller (and good for up to toddlers, I guess) and it’s compatible with the Combi Shuttle EX carseat, so I suppose the weight is actually a benefit here, but the price tag is a good $100 more than the Graco Stylus we were looking at (though to be fair, it’s the same price as the highly rated Chicco Cortina we looked at, even if we didn’t like it quite as much), so does anyone know if Combi makes a good stroller? I’ve never heard of them.

6. Umbrella stroller + Ergo/Bjorn carrier – In this scenario, I would carry the baby on me until he or she fit into an umbrella stroller (a long while?). This is the cheapest option, but I’m not sure my back likes the idea and while the umbrella strollers are certainly very lightweight and inexpensive, are they comfortable at all? And do those carriers work on people with big boobs? And what carriers are good?? I don’t want to be folding it around me like origami and I certainly want to make sure my baby can breathe – what’s easy to use and safe?

And then what brand? Babies R Us has a highest rated section on the website and, for example, of category 1, I saw the Chicco Cortina (again, we actually saw this in store, but didn’t it like as much as the Graco Stylus we looked at – but only slightly), Evenflo Aura (totally bypassed in the store because I’d never heard of it and I think the carseat snap-in looked flimsy) and Graco Quattro (the biggest Graco stroller available, not the one we were actually looking at in store. I just walked past this behemoth. 46 pounds my ass.). I just feel like the reviews aren’t terribly helpful because there’s such a mix of good and bad for everything and pretty much everything seems comparable. I just want a list to tell me “This is the best one. Buy this one.” and I want it to be based on opinions of moms and stuff, but also opinions of people who safety train these things and I’d prefer it to be choices for average people like me, not some ridiculous celebrity used brand that costs $800. Does that exist??

EDIT 6/19/10: Ok, so we took a trip to Buy Buy Baby this weekend and now I’m leaning away from the stroller system and more towards a lighter weight stroller that is compatible with certain carseats. The one we liked the best was the Peg Perego Vela (I guess this kinda fits into option 5 above), which I left the store thinking “Ok, I think that’s the one I’ll go for”. But now, I’m seeing that it’s a pretty new model and I’m not having much luck finding reviews (Amazon had only 6) and I’m just not sure anymore. It was light weight, easy to maneuver, easy to fold, and had a place to clip in a car seat (the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio, which seemed quite safe and had good features), so I liked it. I just wish I could read about people who’ve actually used it. Out of the 6 reviews, 5 seemed to love it, but 1 gave it 1 star saying it tipped over with her kid strapped in. I don’t know if she just should’ve been paying more attention or if this is a real hazard with this stroller. It seemed pretty stable, but are the 3-wheeled strollers (3 wheeled, but not jogging; the wheels are smaller) less stable and I don’t know it? I don’t know. I’m just feeling uncertain now. Am I just being unreasonable? Should I just go with what I liked in the store and trust my gut (albeit, my inexperienced gut) or should it be important to be able to find lots of good reviews?

Plus when I was looking up a similar 4-wheeled stroller within the same brand, I noticed that a few people recommended just getting a Graco Snug Ride Stroller Frame (option 3 above) and Graco Snug Ride car seat and then later going back out for a light weight toddler stroller. I suppose the benefit here is that it’s even lighter and easier to fold up and toss in the trunk. Is having to go back out for a toddler stroller a hassle though? Or is it actually helpful to be able to test out different strollers with the actual toddler? And again, it could end up being pricier, I suppose depending on the toddler stroller. Since there’s such a price range in toddler strollers and I haven’t looked into toddler-only strollers, I’m not sure what the cost difference is between this 2-part option and the 1-part Peg Perego option.The Graco stroller + seat together is less than half the price of the Peg Perego stroller + seat. The toddler stroller could be up to $270 just to even the prices. That seems like a pretty doable budget for a toddler stroller. So, is that a better option?

EDIT # 2: So, again, with the help of the Baby Bargains book, I looked up our narrowed down 2 choices from the above edit. Again, unfortunately, the Peg Perego is just too new to get much information – despite being the latest edition published earlier this year, the book basically just mentioned that the Vela was going to be released soon. It did review the brand as a whole, giving it a B (the carseat got an A-), which is good, but it also pointed out that the brand had some trouble recently when they started producing the Aria (the sort of predecessor to the Vela) in China, with quality issues. They’ve since returned to Italy, so the assumption is that it’ll be good again, but who knows. So, basically, I’m still in the position of not really wanting to be the guinea pig for a very new product. I’d rather have the security of using a well-known and well-reviewed product. Even if we liked it in the store. Because what do I know about safety?

Our other option, the Graco Snug-Ride frame plus carseat, was in fact recommended in the summary “our picks” section for suburban-dwelling moms (Graco as a brand got a B, while the carseat got an A), followed up with a lightweight, but not barebones umbrella stroller – either a low-end Maclaren, like the Triumph or the Chicco C6 (which I forgot to look at at the store yesterday…). Sooo…I’m thinking Graco Snug-Ride frame, which we played with at the store yesterday and thought it was great. And with either follow up stroller, the total price is a good amount less than the Peg Perego. I dare say I may have chosen. Cue the triumphant music. …Though I do have one question about the seat – there are 3 different Graco-Snug Ride carseats (all of which are supposed to fit the frame), the base one, the 32, and the 35. Each holds up to a different weight and height (base holds 22 lbs, 32 holds 32, 35 holds 35). My question is, do I really need the 32 or 35? When I researched at what age kids hit 22 lbs, I read anywhere from 9 months to a year or so. Even if I’ve moved onto the second stroller by that point (which I’m assuming I will, right?), will the kid still be rear facing? Does getting the 35 prolong rear facing and is that a good thing? Or should I just stick with the base model, expecting to bump up to the next level forward facing carseat once the kid hits 22 lbs?

So, I guess my few remaining questions are:

1. How do you handle a small baby (one unable to support his or her neck, so you can’t just put them in the cart’s seat area) on errands in which you need to push a cart?

2. If I were to try a body carrier, what is a good choice that isn’t hard to use, but is safe (and works with big boobs)?

3. Will I be ok with the base carseat that holds 22 lbs or is it really a good idea to prolong rear-facing with the carseat that holds 35 lbs (and a longer baby, I just don’t remember the inches off hand)?

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marcie
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 20:59:46

    First my disclaimer… I’ve never used a singleton stroller and when it comes to doubles, the options are very limited. I can tell you what we did, though. We bought the frame stroller (in our case, a Baby Trend Double Snap ‘n Go) and put our car seats in it. This was great because you don’t have to wake the baby to move him/her from house/car/store/car/house. You can even get a swing that will take a car seat, too, so even getting home with a sleeping baby isn’t a problem.

    Our infant car seat held up to 22lb, which is 11mo for a 50th percentile baby. At that point they pretty much HATED their car seats and wanted a much more upright traveling experience outside of the van. For us, it was key to be able to know what the boys liked so our next stroller purchase would fit them. We ended up with a wagon. 😀

    I’m going to answer #3 first because I think it’s the most important.

    3) There’s a common misconception that once your baby reaches a year old, the best thing for them is to make them front facing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The safest position for any child is rear facing. When in a frontal accident, rear facing distributes the forces across the baby’s backside. If the child is front facing, all of those forces are distributed across their shoulders and hips via the 5-point harness, but there is no head support. The baby’s neck has to handle that all on its own. I can send you a rather scary link that shows a crash dummy child in a front facing seat during an accident.

    So what do you do? Once your baby has outgrown their infant seat, you can get a convertible seat with a five point harness. Depending on your seat, it will have a maximum height and weight for rear facing, and then another set of higher maxes for front facing. I would recommend that you keep your child rear facing as long as possible. Our Safety 1st Air’s hold up to 40lb rear facing. I know you can get ones that hold more than that, too.

    1) I’ve always pushed a stroller and pulled a cart behind me, so I can’t say much about putting a car seat in a cart. I’ve seen lots of singletons in car seats that are sitting in the little seat area. There are some stores with carts that have built-in infant seats (like Publix). For short trips I always just used the storage area under the stroller plus a reusable bag over my shoulder. For full-on grocery store trips, I’d push a stroller with one hand and pull a cart with the other. When the boys were really, really small, I made Jim go with me to push the stroller.

    2) We own 3 baby carriers, the Bjorn, Snugglie, and Moby Wrap. We briefly had a sling but I hated it (and then they got recalled for suffocation risks). I am a size GG in the chest and really like the Bjorn and Moby. Jim loves the Snugglie and it appears to me it’s better designed for a guy. The Bjorn is great because it’s easy to put on, can be used with the baby facing you with head support, or with the baby facing out later. The Moby was great in theory but wrapping yourself with the 15ft of fabric in a parking lot was a nightmare. Most moms that have it wrap themselves at home. It’s really, really great for newborns, though, and makes them feel so close and safe. It would be awesome for keeping them warm during winter, too! If you’d like to try out any of these three, just let me know. They were a life saver since our boys hated strollers when they were little. Jim would wear one and I’d wear the other, and you wouldn’t hear a peep out of them during a +1hr shopping trip.

    P.S. Never, ever buy a Bjorn/Snugglie from a retail store. You can easily find a new or like-new one from a consignment store or sale for less than half the price. A lot of people register for them then never use them. We’ve just about worn ours out. 😀

    P.P.S. Off-brand ones, like you’d get at Wal-Mart are pure crap. I tried to save a couple of bucks and had to return it.

    Reply

    • sleepymel
      Jun 28, 2010 @ 22:07:05

      Well, I’m glad to see you also went with a stroller frame! That makes me feel even better about our choice! And thank you for clearing up the carseat thing! I’ve already looked at the infant seats, but I’ll have to take a trip to Babies R Us and look at their convertible seats, too, sometime – the one you recommended looks great, so long as it fits in Chris’s car (soon to be my car). That seemed to be the only potential negative with actually several different brands I just looked up – reviews online and the Baby Bargains book suggests they may be a tight fit when used rear-facing, even in some midsize sedans – do you think that’s accurate or not so much? Though, I know you have a minivan, so maybe it’s hard to tell. I’ll just have to check it out at the store I guess. Also, I keep reading something about it being hard to get the seat level without propping it up with stuff and then the kids heads bobbing at that position – do you have that issue at all?

      And then, with the carriers – I’m gonna have to kinda echo part of your Moby comment – I watched the instructional video and there’s no way I’m gonna fold that around me every time I take kiddo out. Plus, I’m sure I’d do it wrong and end up putting the kid in upside down, lol! But, I did look at the Bjorn with some interest. What made you choose that instead of the Ergo (with the infant insert)? I’ve heard good things about both, so I have no idea.

      Reply

      • Marcie
        Jun 29, 2010 @ 16:45:13

        Even though we have a minivan, the Saefty 1st seats are still really, really long and we had to adjust our front seats accordingly. There’s also beach towels rolled up under one end so they’re at the right angle. That being said, I actually kneeled in the seat (full body weight on it) and tightened it that way, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere. The boys are leaning back at the right angle and I haven’t seen any head bobbing.

        I know 2 other moms that have different brands of convertible seats. One has a headrest part that pops off for rear facing (good for small cars) and the other has twins rear facing in a Toyota Corolla. I can find out the brand info for you if you want.

        We went with the Graco Safeseats for our infant seats. If I had it to do over, I would have gotten infant seats that let you adjust the shoulder straps from the front. For the baby to be properly secure, you want to snug down the straps every time you put him/her in the seat. It’s also nice to be able to loosen the straps to get the baby out easier.

        Honestly, I found a Bjorn for like $25 at a consignment sale first, so I didn’t really consider the Ergo. I have a friend who has an Ergo. She really liked it while her daughter was small and facing her, but once she got older (like 5-6mo) the Ergo didn’t have the option to face the baby out. She tried doing the side/hip option but it hurt her back. The “backpack” position seemed cool but in reality the kid can’t see anything but your back, which is a step down from seeing your face. She ended up trying my Bjorn and buying one for herself. I’m sure she’d leave the Ergo with me if you wanted to try it, too.

    • sleepymel
      Jun 29, 2010 @ 17:08:05

      I’d love to know the brand your friend with the Corolla uses. I think I might’ve seen the one that has the pop-off headrest, but if it’s the same one you’re talking about (First Years True Fit?), it said the headrest is required for babies over 22 lbs regardless of height (without the headrest it holds 22 lbs, with the headrest it holds up to 35 I think?), so I’m not sure that one is really any benefit unless it’s still small with the headrest. I may be making too much a deal out the the size. Chris’s car is nowhere near as small as mine, so maybe we’ll have no problem with most seats. Do stores let you test them out in your car, supervised or anything? Or know which cars they’ll fit in if you ask? Or do I just have to measure and hope?

      Also, I didn’t realize you couldn’t eventually turn the baby around in the Ergo – that’s definitely a benefit for the Bjorn!

      Reply

      • Marcie
        Jun 29, 2010 @ 20:38:19

        The True Fit name rings a bell, so that’s probably it. Our boys are just about 22lb right now, to give you an idea. I know there’s convertible seats out there that hold up to 60lb front facing. We went with the Safety 1st Air because of the side-impact protection.

        I’ve had people tell me that Babies R Us let them test out the seat in their car (just in the parking lot, to be sure it fit). I used the following website to see what others thought about how seats would fit in our van. It’s a searchable database.

        http://www.carseatdata.org/

        Another website I used was the ease of fit ratings.

        http://www.nhtsa.gov/portal/nhtsa_eou/info.jsp?type=convertible

        The idea is that the easier it is to use a car seat properly, the safer your kid will be.

        I contacted my friend to see what car seats she used. 😀

  2. Marcie
    Jun 30, 2010 @ 20:16:31

    Here’s what my friend had to say…

    “I have The First Year’s True Fit, but I would not recommend them for one reason: you can’t reach the strap adjustment thingy in the rear facing position. But other than that they’re small and super comfy.

    I’ve heard the Radians are nice and one other kind. Not sure.”

    Reply

  3. Courtney
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 18:05:23

    Excellent blog with lots of useful information on strollers. I just favorited it in my browser, so I can always check out your blog! Are there any products you would recommend? Thanks 🙂

    Reply

    • sleepymel
      Jul 19, 2010 @ 16:52:20

      Thanks for reading! I’m not sure how helpful I am, since the baby isn’t here yet, so I have no practical experience, but I did try to do a good amount of research. Having said that, I guess my recommendations would probably just be for the Graco SnugRider Infant Car Seat Frame Stroller with a Graco SnugRider carseat simply because it seems to be the easiest, smallest, lightest option. As for a follow-up for when baby grows out of that, I still haven’t decided and may not till we actually need one. Probably some kind of smaller, slightly-better-than-basic umbrella stroller.

      Reply

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