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.
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!
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.
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?