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Finding the right stroller

New parents can do without many of the bells and whistles in the baby gear market. But a stroller is a must-have for every parent of a small child. These days, strollers are more than just transportation for the pint-size set. With an array of colors and styles on the market, strollers have become something of a personal statement for parents. "They're not only functional, but fun and fashionable as well," said Larry Azar of R Us Brands.

Safety tips

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association offers the following suggestions for safe stroller usage:

Use the straps. Always make sure your child is properly secured in the restraint straps.

Lock it. When the stroller is open, use the locking device to keep it from folding accidentally or pinching little fingers. Also keep your baby's hands away from moving parts when you are folding and unfolding the stroller.

Don't hang bags on the handles. Use the basket, if there is one. Hanging your purse or shopping bags from the handle can cause the stroller to tip over.

Care tips

Wash the seat pad. Seats can get grungy, particularly with toddlers who are feeding themselves, Azar said. Many strollers come with a removable seat cover that you can toss in the washing machine. If it's not machine-washable, spot-clean stains with soap and water.

Store your stroller in a clean, dry place. Moisture is a bigger concern than temperature variations, according to Julie Vallese, managing director of government and public affairs at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. The key is to keep the stroller dry.

Check the straps periodically to make sure they still fit. The instruction manual that comes with the stroller will tell you how to adjust the straps to fit your child. As he grows, check to make sure they are not too tight.

Shop smart

1. How tall are the adults who are going to push the stroller? If one parent is much taller than the other, consider a model with an adjustable handle height, Vallese said.

2. See if it fits in your car before buying it. There's no point in choosing a model, only to find out later that you can't store it in your trunk. "I don't think parents should ever be shy about asking, whether it's a stroller or a car seat, to see if it's going to fit in their lifestyle and their vehicle," Vallese said.

3. Figure out what matches your lifestyle. Vallese divides strollers into three broad categories and describes them like cars. An SUV, which she says is the workhorse of strollers, is usually a travel system with an infant carrier that can be attached. The compact, or umbrella stroller, is inexpensive and lightweight and can go anywhere. And luxury models are sleek, stylish and easy to maneuver, with plusher padding on the seat.

Low, medium, high: Strollers make up about 10 percent of juvenile product sales in the United States each year, according to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. We asked Azar, R Us Brands' vice president of product development, juvenile and apparel, to recommend three styles from Babies "R" Us' line of strollers.

City Mini stroller by Baby Jogger: This lightweight stroller, folds quickly and comes with a removable lock to keep it closed when it's folded. It also has a large adjustable sun canopy. The seat, which has an adjustable five-point harness, reclines to a nearly flat position. The City Mini, which shouldn't be used as a jogging stroller, comes in black and gray and costs $249.99.

Sola by Mamas & Papas: Children can face forward or backward in the Sola, or recline to take a nap. Car-seat adapters fit Maxi Cosi and Graco infant carriers. The Sola has a five-point harness and an adjustable handle height, comes in grass, red, plum and black, and costs $399. Parents can also purchase coordinating accessories including a foot muff, diaper bag and parasol.

Scope by Truly Scrumptious: These strollers from Heidi Klum's line of baby products come in very berry, Dutch blue and black, and are $99.99. The Scope has a three-position reclining seat, a five-point harness and a one-foot brake system. It is lightweight and easy to transport, Azar said.

Finding the right stroller 02/27/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 5:55pm]

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