First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Baby in the baby carriage -- but don't you wish shopping for the best baby stroller was simpler? It can be, if you follow these simple steps for how to buy the perfect stroller for your family.

  1. Consider starting with just a frame.. An infant is most comfortable in his car seat. To streamline your stroller-shopping, start with just a frame carrier, which costs less than $100. It's a frame with wheels and a basket that you snap your car seat on. It may not last more than half a year before your curious tot wants to be sitting upright, but it's an economical way to start if you're still not sure what kind of larger stroller you're going to want.
  2. Buy a stroller and car seat together. One way to save money on a full-size stroller is by getting a travel system: a car seat and stroller sold together, each at a discounted price. The car seat snaps onto the stroller initially. When your child is big enough, you can switch to using the stroller by itself.
  3. Learn what you're paying for. Strollers range from $100 to $1,000. The price has to do with the features and materials. High-priced strollers often boast aluminum frames, rubber or air-filled wheels that absorb shock (so baby doesn't feel bumps as hard) and extra components, such as a bassinet. A lower price usually means a plastic frame and wheels. If you're not out on bumpy roads, trails, or in extreme weather, a souped-up stroller may be a waste of money.
  4. Think about your options. Some strollers allow you to switch the way the seat faces, so Baby can see you or the path ahead. Other strollers have snack trays that can snap across the lap once Baby is seated. These features are cool, but may change the way a stroller folds up. To know what is helpful versus a hassle to you, always try out a stroller in a store.
  5. Mostly, consider your life. Here's the Catch-22: the heavier the stroller, the smoother the ride for baby. But the heavier the stroller, the harder it is to lift and cart around. Consider the tasks of your day-to-day life. Will the stroller be in and out of your car? Will you need to lift it up and down stairs?
  6. Test, test, test! Like buying a car, the only way to really know if you like a stroller is to give it a test drive. Take the floor models up and down the store aisles so you can get a feel for every little detail, like the handles or handlebar, the height, and the stride. Also, talk to mom friends who live a similar life to you. What stroller do they like?
  7. And accept that you'll buy another one eventually. Your stroller will get you through babyhood. But for the toddler years, you'll probably need an umbrella stroller, a small, easy-to-fold stroller for babies older than 6 months. Hopefully, it will see you through until your child is ready to walk like a big kid!

Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.

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