Strollin’ safely
Author: Sara Rider

Getting baby from point A to point B is something that usually requires a lot of planning, coordination and special equipment. Since the middle of the last century, part of that equip-
ment includes the stroller. But with so many options in design and features, how do you know which stroller will be the best for your child and your particular situation, and which ones meet the highest safety standards?

Stroller selection
“Families should consider what their needs will be,” advises pediatrician Sara Woods, M.D. of The Austin Diagnostic Clinic. “What types of activities will they be doing while their baby is in a stroller? How large is their child and how large of a stroller do they need?”

Littlest passengers If you have a child under the age of six months, you need to be certain that the stroller reclines, says Dr. Woods, “since newborns cannot hold their heads up and need support. Umbrella strollers and jogging strollers don’t provide enough support for newborns. Children shouldn’t generally be in jogging strollers until they are around six months of age and have better head control.”

Double strollers The Mayo Clinic recommends that if you have twins or an older child, you consider a double stroller, or a stroller with an attachment that accommodates your older child. But the Mayo Clinic also cautions that if you are going to use an attachment for an older child that you be sure to pay attention to the manufacturer’s weight guidelines so that the stroller is stable when both children are seated.

Easy operation Dr. Woods also recommends that parents consider whether or not the stroller needs to collapse easily and be compact. For parents who want to fit the stroller into the trunk of their cars a stroller that collapses and is compact is a must. The Mayo Clinic recommends that frequent travelers consider a collapsible umbrella stroller, either as their primary stroller or in addition to a sturdier stroller.

Travel systems for easy mobility Other parents may want to consider a travel system, particularly when their baby is very young. “Travel systems are most useful for smaller infants,” advises Dr. Woods. “The advantage is that they allow the family to use the car seat with the stroller, and they can easily change from stroller to car without awakening or moving the baby.” Dr. Woods also points out that this type of system can be helpful in an airport when parents plan on using the car seat for the flight.

However the Mayo Clinic cautions against keeping your baby in a travel system for too much time, particularly when very young. Research suggests that sitting upright in a car seat might compress a newborn’s chest and lowers the oxygen level in the baby’s blood. So although it may be tempting to transfer your infant from the car seat to the stroller and let him continue his nap, the Mayo Clinic advises against letting your child sleep or stay in the car seat for long periods of time when out of the car or the stroller.

Accessories and options
Anyone who has looked at all the available baby strollers knows that strollers – just like that new car you want – come with a range of options. Particularly in Texas, you may want a shade covering, points out Dr. Woods. The Mayo Clinic also recommends getting a stroller with brakes that are easy to operate. And be certain your baby can’t reach the brake release lever. If you choose a side-by-side double stroller, the Mayo Clinic also recommends a single footrest that extends across both sitting areas to keep small feet from getting trapped between separate footrests.

But the best accessory is comfort. “It’s important to make sure your infant appears comfortable and is securely belted into the stroller,” instructs Dr. Woods. “You can choose a stroller with a T-strap or a five-point restraint. Make sure that baby doesn’t slip through the leg openings.”

Safety first
The first rule for keeping your baby safe in a stroller is very simple according to Dr. Woods: “That baby should not be left alone in the stroller.” The Mayo Clinic also cautions to be sure your baby is securely buckled in and that you always use the brakes when you stop the stroller.

If your plans for the rest of this summer include airline travel, or even trips to zoos and amusement parks, take steps to be sure that your child is safe while in the stroller.
• Don’t hang bags from the handlebars, as this can make the stroller more likely to tip over
• Particularly in our hot Texas summer, be very careful about leaving the stroller in the sun while you and the family are involved in activities and your baby is out of the stroller. The Mayo Clinic cautions that the plastic and metal parts of the stroller can become hot enough to burn your child, so always touch all exposed pieces to be sure they aren’t hot before buckling your child back in
• When navigating busy places like the Dallas Zoo or Fiesta Texas, Dr. Woods also recommends that you pay special attention to your child’s arms and feet. “Make sure the child’s feet or arms are not hanging out and cannot be hit…by someone walking by. Be sure they are secure in their seats.”

With the right equipment and the right precautions, baby can get out and enjoy the world with the rest of the family and make it a summer full of discovery.

Sara Rider is a native Austinite who has worked with physicians and hospitals throughout Texas. She frequently writes freelance articles on health topics for newspapers and magazines.

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