How to buy the right pushchair
Pushchairs and prams jargon buster
By Lisa Galliers
Article 4 of 5
What's a travel system? Why do flip-flops matter? And why is the backrest recline vital for your newborn? Find out these answers and more.
Adjustable pushchair handles
If you, your partner or anyone else who will be using your pushchair are different heights, it's worth buying a model with adjustable handlebars. If you've never bought a pushchair before you probably didn't even know they had adjustable handles, but being able to change the height to suit taller or shorter people, will make pushing more comfortable. Choosing a pushchair with handles that turn inward can help support your wrists in a natural position, making all that daily use easier on you.
Air-filled pushchair tyres
Also known as pneumatic tyres; think bicycle tyres, just smaller. These big bouncy wheels will absorb the lumps and bumps of uneven ground, giving your little one a comfy ride. However, they can be a real pain if you get a puncture. These tyres arrive flat and need inflating with a bicycle pump (some pushchairs are supplied with pumps). It's worth keeping a puncture repair kit on hand if you opt for a pushchair with these tyres.
The angle of the recline on the backrest of your pushchair is important because newborns can't support their own weight and need to be in a lie-flat position. The best pushchairs for newborn babies are those with a recline of 150 degrees or more on the lowest setting. Some recline mechanisms are smoother than others. The best ones can be operated with one hand and are easy to use, even with the weight of a child in the seat. Recline options include a lever, buttons, a back bar and a strap or drawstrings. The latter two are usually the hardest to use.
Brakes, brake bars and brake buttons
Some pushchair brakes have separate buttons – one to click on and one to click off using your toes. These are generally the most popular when we test pushchairs. Some brakes need a push with your feet to turn them on, then a flip up to take them off, so if you're wearing flip-flops (or sandals) you could hurt your toes. Watch out for brake pedals that stick out as these can catch on stairs. A bar connecting the brakes can obstruct your feet when walking. A good pushchair will have brakes that are easy to put on and take off again.
This is the bar that goes across the front of your pushchair's seat. It's there to give your child something to lean forward against. The bar is not there to restrain your child in the pushchair (that's what the harness is for). Some pushchair bumper bars include a tray where your child can put a favourite toy. Look for a bumper bar that unclips and swings out. This is easier than having to lift your child over it to get them in and out of a pushchair.
Pushchairs with a good folding mechanism can be the difference between a simple one-handed motion with your baby on your hip, or having to put your baby down while you struggle with clips, catches and buttons. Look for pushchairs with a one-handed fold and accessories that don’t need to be detached. Don’t take the manufacturer's word for it, some claim a one-handed fold but we've found the reality can be very different.
Folding – concertina fold
The concertina fold is when a pushchair folds in onto itself, in three or more segments – a bit like a concertina.
Folding – scissor fold
The scissors fold is when the front and back wheels come together in a scissors action during folding, like closing a pair of scissors to cut.
Folding – umbrella fold
The umbrella fold is mainly found on strollers due to the shape of the frame. The upper half of the pushchair folds over onto the lower half and the support bars at the back of the pushchair also fold, so you end up with a long, rectangular shape. From the side it looks like an umbrella folding down.
Flip-flop friendly brakes
We check whether pushchair brakes are flip-flop friendly or not. That means you can operate the brakes while wearing flip-flops without catching or squashing your toes. This means also your new winter boots won't get scratched, either.
Handles – separate
Separate handles, common on strollers, tend to flex quite a bit when pressure is applied, but we safety test them to ensure they comply with the British Standards for handle strength. A handle bar can be a more comfortable option, but a surprising number of bars are oval or square shaped and can become uncomfortable to use after a long period of time.
Leg rests and leg supports
Smaller children who can't reach the foot rest often end up with their lower legs hanging off the end of the pushchair seat in midair. An adjustable leg rest prevents this by adding to the length of the seat, providing good calf support, which helps to keep a toddler's legs comfortable. Pushchairs usually have between two and six positions for an adjustable leg support. Some are simply yanked into position, other pushchairs have a push button or lever mechanism to release before you can raise or lower the leg rest.
Pushchairs with suspension generally give a more comfortable ride, but the level of padding and seat design will also influence comfort. If your pushchair will only ever see the inside of a shopping centre or roll over well-finished pavements, you don't really need to pay more to get a pushchair with suspension. But if you're going to be heading to the park, across gravelly car parks or out for country walks, then your baby will get a better ride with decent suspension.
Swivel pushchair wheels
Swivel front wheels rotate to move in any direction with very little pushing and pulling. They make it easy to manoeuvre on normal ground, but they can make it harder to navigate across rougher ground or gravel, where the swivel wheel can easily be knocked off course by bumps and dips. For the best of both worlds, choose a pushchair with swivel wheels that can lock, so you can turn this feature on and off depending on where you are heading.
Parent-facing seat (reversible seat unit)
A parent-facing seat is exactly that, it's a seat where you can change the direction so you have your baby facing you. Recommended for that all-important parent interaction while your baby is very young. You can then turn the seat unit forward-facing when your baby is a toddler who's keen to discover the big wide world. You'll see a parent-facing seat also referred to as a reversible seat unit. Most pushchairs have this feature nowadays, but it's not that common on strollers.
Travel system compatible
A travel-system compatible pushchair means your pushchair can be used with a car seat, usually via adaptors, although some slot straight onto the pushchair frame/chassis (which some argue is better as you don't have to store any adaptors when not using your car seat).