There's no doubt that you'll want to spend the first few weeks of Baby's life hibernating at home. But at some point (trust us on this) you're going to crave the company of other adults. For that, among other things, you will need a set of wheels—a stroller. You'll want to kick the tires and take them for a test drive, and Joan Muratore—a program leader in the Baby & Child Products Division at Consumer Reports who has overseen the testing of hundreds of strollers—can help. She gave us the scoop on how to choose the best, most safe stroller for your family's lifestyle and location.
For City Slickers
If you live in an urban area, you'll eventually want an umbrella stroller, which are cheap and easy to haul everywhere. But they can't be used for infants since they lack head support, which is why you'll want to start with a combo stroller. They have a chassis that allows the seat to be moved into several positions including a complete recline—perfect for babies who haven't mastered neck control. These strollers can run hundreds of dollars, but they're wise investments because they can last until a child is a toddler, notes Muratore.
Good picks: The Mamas & Papas Sola, in which your child can either face you or out toward the street and runs around $400; and the Maxi-Cosi® Foray which comes in at about $190 and provides a very smooth ride. Both have great safety ratings from Consumer Reports.
For Suburban Types
More of a suburban dweller? Look for a stroller into which you can strap an infant car seat, the most portable way to transport a sleeping baby (which they do most of the time for their first few months). These contraptions are called travel systems, and many parents swear by them. "Some people consider them heavy," notes Muratore, "but they are more affordable than a combo stroller and more practical for someone who is traveling by car often."
Good picks: The Graco® Vie4 Deluxe, which is fairly lightweight and easy to stow in your car trunk and will run you about $100; and the Graco Stylus, which is about $220. Both systems rate high in safety and maneuverability, and also have baskets beneath the seat large enough to accommodate a diaper bag—a good thing, says Muratore: "If your diaper bag is anything like my purse, you could pull the whole thing over if you hang it on the stroller's handle!"
For The Outdoor Enthusiast
Props if you consider hiking with an infant a leisure activity—the very idea of it makes some women want to take a nap! All-terrain strollers are perfect for intrepid, nature-loving types. Designed to handle rough ground and roll right over roots and rocky patches, they can have either three or four wheels and larger tires that make for a better ground grip.
Good picks: The InStep® Grand Safari which costs around $130; and the Baby Trend® Expedition LX, which retails for about $195. Both models get high marks for versatility, and are easy to handle both in the woods and at the mall.
For The Mom On The Run
Are you that mom? You know, the one other moms stare with at with awe as you run by while they sneak nibbles of their children's snacks? Then consider a jogging stroller, though you should wait till your baby is over 6 months to bring her on a run. Once Baby has good neck control, she is ready to help you train for that marathon (or at least keep you company). Jogging strollers are distinguished by their three wheels; look for a model that includes a wrist strap (to keep the stroller from rolling away from you) and a five-point harness.
Good picks: The Schwinn Free Runner (which has an "excellent" safety rating from Consumer Reports) and the InStep® Run Around, which is also good for using off-road, like at the park. That's a good deal, because you'll probably need a second stroller for everyday use, notes Muratore: "You can use these for walking, but they won't be as comfortable for Baby and they're a pain to maneuver because of their fixed front wheel."