The stroller is a big, expensive purchase and there are so many models, it's not surprising that shopping for one makes new parents anxious. The good news: Any JPMA-certified stroller will do. The bad news: You'll end up buying more than one anyway as your needs change and your first stroller gets worn out. But here are some basics to get you started.
Cut through the jargon. Strollers come with their own language. A "carriage" is just another name for a stroller, but often refers to one where baby faces you. A "pram" describes the old-fashioned carriages (big wheels, fancy canopy) that keep an infant lying down -- they're bassinets on wheels and are meant for newborns. A "travel system" is a stroller that comes with a car seat that snaps into it. Baby can ride in the car seat when he's an infant and in the stroller seat once he's older. "Jogging strollers" are sporty three-wheelers you can run with, though now there are some three-wheel strollers that are not for jogging, just for show. Finally, an "umbrella stroller" is a small, lightweight stroller that's more or less a fabric sling on a frame, suitable for a baby 6 months or older. It's the stroller you'll pooh-pooh initially, but will love by the time you've got a toddler and are fed up with lifting, folding, and pushing anything larger.
You can spend as much or as little as you want. Set a budget before you begin -- that's an easy way to narrow down stroller choices. Are you going to splurge on something deluxe in the $300 range? Go for one of the popular styles between $100 and $200? Or seek a real bargain? There are also strollers upwards of $600, but we assume those are for royalty, celebrities, and the wealthy people who imitate them.
Start with a stroller that fits a newborn. This means one where baby can ride lying down flat or almost flat. We love old-fashioned prams, but because they're expensive, heavy, and only safe until the three-month mark, we don't recommend them. A better alternative is one of the "carriage systems" sold by some European companies, in which you buy a separate bassinet that snaps onto the stroller frame for those first three months, and then use the stroller seat after that. But they're pricey, too.
The most practical purchase is a regular stroller with a seat that folds back, so you can continue to use it in the upright position as baby grows. You can log onto Web sites to get a feel for what's out there in your price range, but eventually you should go to a store to do test runs. Consider whether you may also want a jogging stroller and/or an umbrella stroller once baby can sit up (more on those later), in which case you don't want to overspend on this initial purchase.