Buying A Baby Buggy: What You Really Need To Know

20 February 2012

A baby buggy, pushchair, stroller, pram. We give the device used to push little tiny people around a lot of different name. Some are not universal, as I found when I was in Canada, where they thought it was awfully cute that I called it a pram.

The thing is, when you're a first time mum, it is really hard to decide what it is you actually need. First off, what you don't want to get is a stroller. These are sometimes called a pushchair as well. But confusingly, I've also seen prams or buggies called pushchairs too.

A stroller is a mode of transportation suited to much older babies and toddlers. Definitely not for newborns.

Now that we've got that struck off the list, you're basically left with three types of buggy to choose from. Read on to find out what they are, and whether they're any use for you. Start from the beginning as some of the features you'll need to take into consideration are the same for some or all pushchairs.

Traditional pram

When I hear the word 'pram' the first image that springs to mind is the good old Silver Cross style pram. In fact, I think I have a picture of myself and my younger sister sitting in one of these. You know the kind - huge, wide, flat bed, gigantic wheels.

Silver Cross still makes these vintage prams, as well as more modern ones, although they cost a fair penny. However, I have heard amazing stories of people finding second hand ones in charity shops and second hand markets. Sometimes all they've seen is just a pram wheel sticking out. And they've been able to pick them up for next to nothing. Honestly, those things were made to last forever, and if you do ever spot one going second hand snap it up.

Prams lie flat for the baby, and baby usually lies facing you. They're handy for naps, and if baby falls asleep. It is really important that a newborn isn't left lying in a curved position for hours at a time. Although don't beat yourself up if you leave them like that for a couple of hours because it is the first time they've slept beyond 20 minutes without screaming EVER and you feel into the nap of bliss. It happens.

If that's the case then it could be colic keeping them up, and in that case I'd recommend seeking some advice about ways to arrange them sleeping that helps. I remember in my excellent The Baby Whisperer book that she recommended a bit of slope under the mattress to keep them at a slant. look up the proper instructions though, I'm no expert!

You'll find lots of more modern baby buggies around too. Phil & Teds, Mamas and Papas, BugabooMothercare - lots of known brands and own store brands as well.

It is a lot of money to fork out for something you're only going to use for a few months. If you aren't able to keep it for the next baby, to get more use out of the pram, consider looking for a second hand pram. You may have to do a bit of hunting around but you can find bargains. A friend got hers off Freecycle. It was free because it no longer folded down. As she didn't drive, that was a feature she could live without.

However, modern prams often convert into strollers too. This gives them a longer life, but  it doesn't magically turn them into slimline models. The stroller will still have the same wheel base and sized frame as the pram.

The Travel System

There's a type of pushchair that you'll find most commonly referred to on websites and by retailers as a 'travel system'. This means that the bit that the baby sits in pops out, and can be used in a car as a car seat.

The attraction of this is that you don't have to keep taking baby in and out, you can just leave them undisturbed in the seat. See above for caveats on leaving baby's in a curved position for too long.

I got one of these for my son (yes that's him holding his much beloved grandad's hand in the picture above). Spent a huge wodge of cash on it - the most we splashed out for baby equipment. But I definitely got my money's worth. Our model was a Jane Carrera Matrix lie flat travel pushchair/stroller. This is no longer made - it looks like the Jane Twone is its successor.

As the name suggests, the baby part worked like a carry cot, and you could lie it flat while strapping it into the car. We didn't do that too often though. You could fold the carrycot up like a normal car seat too. And you could sit baby up this way in the pram as well. It worked as a carry cot, car seat, pram, and later as a stroller when he got older. As a stroller you could flip out the foot rest, and fold the back right down so that a sleeping older baby or toddler could lie flat.

I've seen these advertised for around £100 second hand and they're worth considering. That said, there is a manufacturing wheel defect that affects some of the models. It happened to ours and cost us £80 to have repaired. So before you buy, fold the pram down, and put it up a couple of times to make sure it isn't broken.

Suspension was important to me as I walk everywhere. I don't believe in driving when there's reasonably good public transport and as we live in London I see it as unnecessary. We do have a family car, it's impossible to go without entirely. But when son is a bit older I would seriously consider a car club like City Car. If you're only going to be using a car, and travelling mostly on smooth surfaces, then this isn't so important.

Swivel wheels are also something to consider. These help a lot when pushing your chair about the streets - they make it much easier to manoeuvre. As the ground gets bumpier or more uneven they can be a liability. Our chair had lockable wheels, so we had the best of both worlds. However, the only time I did use the lock feature was when rocking baby to sleep. I could lock the wheels, hook my foot around one end of the chair, and push it back and forth while eating dinner/reading book/drinking the only hot cup of tea I'd get that day.

All Terrain

This was a bit of a priority for my other half. He works in public spaces and has had to help enough mums out of sticky outdoor spots where wheels have got stuck to consider it a priority. We compromised on a pram with sturdy, proper wheels.

Nearly all the features mentioned above apply to these. However, the wheels (and there's usually only three) and suspension are designed to be particularly hardy and able to cope with open countryside, parks, and rough pavements. On the downside, they're huge. The wheel base is quite wide, so they're not easy to use on public transport, or to manoeuvre around shops.

So now you've got a good idea about what I looked for in a pram. What did you look for when shopping for a buggy?

TOPICS:   Nursery Furniture   Newborn   Pushchairs   Prams


  • Juliagray
    The picture at the top of this article makes the Silver Cross pram look like a toy version, the model is far too tall to show off this stunning pram. You are right that it is possible to pick up a metal bodied pram secondhand, Marmet, Silver Cross, and other makes are all listed frequently on E Bay. The beauty of these type of prams is that they are suitable from birth until toddler age and they don't wear out like a modern one, so once you have paid out for one it will last years, even generations. I have a Wilson pram (made by Silver Cross) and also a buggy/pushchair/stroller call it what you like, a modern one that folds down for shopping trips in the car. My son loves this pram, he is 12 months old and he sits there gazing around on the same level as the rest of the family, when he is tired it takes no more than a few minutes before he is off to sleep with the gentle rocking motion. But to me what is most important is that these prams are very comfortable for baby, they glide over bumps and the baby hardly feels them, due to the excellent suspension and the big wheels. Have a look at this website where lots of mums like myself are discovering that there is no better pram for baby than a coachbuilt one, probably similar to the ones we rode in ourselves.
  • Juliagray
    I forgot to add that there are other makes of coachbuilt (hard bodied) prams as well as Silver Cross, so if you want to buy one from E Bay or other sites then enter "coachbuilt pram" into the search bar and you will find Royal, LBC, Pedigree and you should be able to buy one from around £100 for one where the body detaches from the chassis, (useful to take in the car) or at least £200 for a bigger model..
  • LynleyOram
    thanks for all the info Julia. That's really helpful. I always recommend looking out for these prams to new mums. Good to know about the other makes.
  • spuckle1
    When we were looking our priorities were: a) size, particularly when folded - will it fit in the boot of your car! b) light & easy to fold - mum having no core muscles / wrist issues post-birth for a wee while at least c) reasonable sized wheels - bigger the better for ride, but too large and air filled increases weight so think about what you're going to use it for. d) how long it will last them - versatility to go from flat for a newborn to a buggy for a 3 year-old would save money in the long run. e) as above, does it have an adapter for the car seat you want. f) maneuverability. With all that in mind we went for the Baby Jogger City Mini with a compact carry cot and adapters for the Maxi-Cosi car seat we wanted.
  • LynleyOram
    Brilliant checklist Spuckle. I think that people often forget about maneuverability - at least until after they've had to take it around the shops a few times.
  • LuschkaPP
    We had a beautiful Silver Cross Pram - it reminds me of the pram Peter was in in Peter Pan - and I was thrilled. Till the first time I had to get it up the stairs of our then maisonette. I had to take it apart outdoors, take the basinet upstairs, come downstairs, take the base upstairs and then it filled up all the available floor space in the 'nursery'. It was a nightmare, and really heavy too. Our daughter never even saw the inside of it, as it was just too hard to use and would have been a massive problem on South London buses too! And I can't imagine it on the underground :( I was devastated. We ended up using a Mei Tai sling for 20 months instead and had the hardest time getting rid of the pram, because I guess everyone else had the same problem!
  • LuschkaPP
    Oh, and it's worth considering whether it has the option of parent facing and forward facing. There's been a fair amount of research about the effects of forward facing pushchairs on a child's development, with the research showing that babies in forward facing pushchairs have less interaction with their parents (which is obvious, really) and this can leave them isolated and that it affects their development, speech and literacy, and how much they laugh etc. It's very interesting reading, if nothing else.
  • 2011mum
    Luschka, I can appreciate the problem you had getting a coachbuilt pram upstairs, but as for taking up too much space I disagree. As modern parents we are expected to have play gyms, bumbo seats, bouncing cradles etc etc all of which take up space, whereas a coachbuilt pram serves the purpose of all these and looks much neater than an array of baby equipment spread all over the nursery. And of course baby can have daytime naps in the pram. As for taking one on the underground and buses, I take mine on the train when necessary with no problem, in reality the footprint of a coachbuilt is much the same as some latest modern prams. But for me the greatest advantage is that instead of relying on my car to go everywhere I now get out into the fresh air, rain or shine (the hoods and apron on a coachbuilt pram are waterproof so no fiddly plastic cover!) and walk, which is better for the environment and I have shed all my pre baby weight!! Vintage is very fashionable now, and I am so glad I have got my vintage pram and wouldn't swap it for a modern fabric one any day.
  • LynleyOram
    It is important to take into account where you have to use the pram. I'd have loved a silver cross if I'd been able to find one second hand. We have no steps, could have just pushed right in. And then out the back door for naps in the shade during the summer.
  • LuschkaPP
    Well, I think they're lovely, but since it took up all the floor space in our 'nursery' and we were in a tiny two bed flat in London, we switched to a sling which took up no room. The only thing that took loads of space, but was worth it for the while we used it, was the jumperoo! Even that took up half the lounge!

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