With lockdown in the UK easing, children heading back to school and spring on the horizon, you may be looking forward to venturing out with your baby a bit more.
If you’re heading out with your family, here are some things to consider to make your life easier, whether that’s with a pushchair, in a car or with a baby sling.
Walking with a pushchair
Is your pushchair seat comfortable?
A well-padded pushchair seat can make all the difference for a happy baby or toddler, and it’s one of the things we get our experts and parents to assess when we do our pushchair testing.
We’ve found some pushchairs that lack padding up the sides of the seat, or you can feel the frame through the cushion.
We also check if the pushchair seat can be reclined back, another useful feature to allow your baby or toddler to have a mid-walk snooze and stop their head flopping on to their chest.
Remember, if a pushchair is claiming to have a seat that’s suitable from birth, the angle on the seat recline should be at least 150 degrees – something our lab always checks in testing.
Don’t forget your rain cover
If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s the unreliability of UK weather. Some pushchairs will come with a clear plastic rain cover to attach and protect your child from the elements.
However, some will be an optional extra that you’ll need to pay for – check the ‘Tech Specs’ tab in our reviews to find this out.
How spacious is your basket?
It’s only once you’ve had a child that you fully appreciate quite how much stuff you need to take with you when you head out, including the previously mentioned rain cover.
A spacious, yet secure storage basket on a pushchair can be a godsend. Our testing checks the weight capacity that manufacturers claim for storage with a realistic representation of items, which include typical everyday shopping items such as pints of milk and packs of nappies.
Our experts also check to see if the basket base will drag along the ground when filled, if there are any pushchair chassis bars that block access, and whether items could fall out of the front or back of the basket when you’re going up or down kerbs and slopes.
If you also have a change bag, be careful about hanging it off the handlebar of your buggy as unless it’s been especially designed for this (check your pushchair instructions and warnings) otherwise it could destabilise the pushchair.
Practice the fold
Being able to collapse your pushchair and carry it with ease can mean the difference between a stressful outing and one that you enjoy.
Success at this is down to two things – whether the fold on the pushchair is easy and straightforward (ideally using one hand), and whether you’ve practiced doing the fold so you’re a dab hand at it.
For the former, check out our pushchair reviews, as we flag if it’s a one- or two-hand fold, and if it’s straightforward or not.
Even if the fold has a knack to it, practice it at home a few times before you head out. It should make it less stressful if you’re doing it under pressure such as on a train platform or at a bus stop.
Will there be facilities?
If you’re heading out for a walk, check if there’ll be any baby-change facilities. It’s possible these will still be shut due to lockdown.
If that’s the case, and you don’t want to change your baby on a mat on the ground, then a carrycot or a roomy lie-flat seat will be your next best option as they provide a surface for your baby to lie down while you change them.
Just keep your fingers crossed that it’s an easy change and not a nappy explosion…
Can your pushchair take a buggy board?
Toddlers and older children may be too big for their buggy (although many pushchairs have weight limits of 22kg – about age four) but that doesn’t mean they won’t get tired legs when you’ve been out.
Buggy boards – a sort of wheeled platform that you attach to the chassis of a pushchair – mean your child can travel in the space between the pushchair hood and handlebar. Some pushchairs come with an integrated buggy board platform that forms part of the pushchair chassis.
In both cases, they can be a lifesaver if your child is feeling tired, particularly if you choose a buggy board that also has a saddle seat on it.
Read our guide to some of the pushchair brands and models that provide the option of a buggy board or stroller platform, and make sure you check the ‘Tech Specs’ on our pushchair reviews to see if it’s an optional accessory.
Scooters and balance bikes
These can be a good option for older children if you want to head out and don’t have a double pushchair or buggy board.
Just remember that if your child gets tired, it’ll be you that ends up carrying it home. Be careful if you’re hanging the balance bike or scooter off the handlebars of a pushchair, as it could destabilise it.
Find out what the most popular bike retailer and scooter brands are by reading our guide.
Driving in a car
Check your baby or child still fits his car seat
If you’ve not been using your car that much because of lockdown, you may not have noticed your child has outgrown their car seat.
Car seat sizes are based on either weight or height, so this is the first thing to check against your current seat. However, there are other signs to look out for, including where the top of your child’s head is in line with, and the position of the shoulder straps.
Have a ‘car change bag’
Keep a backup change bag in your car that has all the essentials you would normally take if you’re heading out on foot.
That way, even if you bring your regular change bag, if you’ve forgotten to restock it with something, you’ll still have some backup nappies/muslins/snacks if you need them.
Pick a buggy that fits in your car boot
When the shops finally reopen, you may want to treat yourself to a shopping spree, but fitting in bags of shopping around a folded pushchair can be a nightmare if you’re having to remove wheels or handles to even get the pushchair into your boot.
Our pushchair tests check whether a folded buggy can fit in the boot of a standard-sized family car, without it touching the parcel shelf or if you need to remove seats or parts to squeeze it in.
Check the section of each review called ‘Is it easy to fold, transport and store?’
Walking with a baby carrier
Great for baby number two
A baby carrier or sling is a great way to transport your younger baby, so you’ve got a spare pair of hands to push your older child in a stroller – and they take up minimal space if you need to stash it in the bottom of your pushchair.
Read our reviews of the best baby carriers and slings.
Think about comfort
If you’re looking for a new carrier, one of the key elements to look out for is comfort for you and your baby.
This means stretchy, yet supportive material if you choose a sling – these are great for very tiny newborns as they will feel cocooned like they’re still in the womb. You want to be able to easily wrap the material across your stomach, shoulders and back so the weight is distributed evenly.
More structured baby carriers need to have well-padded straps and waistbands that won’t dig in, and are easy to adjust without straining around your back.
A carrier or sling should hold your baby so their legs are in an ‘M’ or frog position, to support your baby’s legs and hips.
Our baby carrier and sling reviews look at both parent and child comfort so check the star ratings to see how they score.
For more tips, read out guide on which baby carrier or sling you should buy.