By Anna Studman
Follow our pushchair safety tips to avoid accidents and injuries - from potential hazards with wheels, brakes and harnesses, to babies overheating in pushchairs.
You rely on your pushchair every day, and it will go through a lot of wear and tear. Although pushchairs are largely very safe, accidents can happen. Thankfully, many of them are preventable.
We've been testing pushchairs for years, so we know how find the best pushchairs that are also safe for your baby. This includes identifying choking hazards and traps where fingers can get caught, and using special equipment to test handlebar strength and brake reliability. We even dangle a test-dummy baby from the pushchair’s harness to make sure it’s strong enough to keep your baby secure.
Our pushchair reviews are based on more than 30 tough safety and durability tests, so we're able to single out the safest models. But there are also things you can do as a parent to keep your little one safe in his or her pushchair. Read on for safety tips, common pushchair faults you should watch out for, the truth about pram charms and buggy boards, and what we discovered about pushchair covers and babies overheating.
Pushchair safety checklist
Our eight-point checklist takes you through those things you can easily check as a parent to keep your pushchair safe for your little one. And remember, never leave your child unattended in a pushchair.
- A rickety pushchair prone to wobbling or tipping is an accident waiting to happen. Check for a wide, solid base and get a feel for how the pushchair handles by testing it out in store and consulting our reviews – each pushchair we test is wheeled over 206km of bumpy treadmill, so you can check not only how well they’ll stand up to smooth surfaces, but how they cope with uneven road and potholes and last over time.
- Find out more about the lengths we go to find the safest pushchairs in our guide to how we test pushchairs.
- Even if you’ve got a stable pushchair, you shouldn’t use the handlebars for hanging bags or shopping on, as it can cause the whole thing to topple, even with your child in it.
- You should also inspect the wheels. Our survey of hundreds of pushchair owners in spring 2017 revealed that wheels are the most common pushchair feature to develop faults, and wobbly wheels can be an issue, particularly if you’re using a stroller.
Check the seat recline
Make sure the seat reclines far enough to hold your newborn in a safe, lie-flat position. Not all pushchairs recline to the right angle, even if they say they do, but our tests check for this so you can tell whether your little one will be supported.
If you’re using a travel system with a car seat as the pushchair seat, be aware that current safety advice states that babies shouldn’t be confined to their car seats for long periods.
Check the weight limit
Pushchairs, travel systems and strollers will all have weight limits, so make sure you know what that is before transporting your child, extra baggage, or even an additional child, in the pushchair, as overloading can lead to instability. You'll be able to find the weight limit in the instruction manual or in the technical specifications in our reviews.
Check your pushchair brakes
Ensure your brakes are effective, as well as easy to apply. We’ve found that a lot of pushchairs have brakes that are tricky to get to or not clearly labelled, and all too easy to leave off by accident. Our tests check how well each pushchair's brakes work, and highlight any issues where brakes are fiddly or tricky to use.
Be careful with folding and locking devices
One of the most common pushchair injuries occurs when little fingers get stuck in locking mechanisms or folding hinges on pushchairs. Make sure you’re able to easily and smoothly fold and unfold the pushchair, and lock it into place to minimise the chance of an accident – either getting fingers or limbs caught, or the pushchair collapsing with your child in it.
Keep children well away from folding and locking mechanisms when making adjustments to your pushchair.
Use your pushchair harness
It’s important to use your pushchair’s harness every time your child is in the pushchair. Ensure the harness is easy to do up and undo, and fits snugly on your child so that he or she can’t wriggle around and get tangled, or fall out.
Most pushchairs will have a five-point harness built in, to help keep your little one safe and secure.
Check the safety label
All pushchairs in the UK should carry a safety label confirming compliance with BS EN 1888:2012. If you can't see this, be wary.
Check pushchair recalls and safety notices
Certain models from big brands, including Mamas & Papas, Uppababy and Stokke, have been recalled in recent years owing to safety hazards. Consult our list of pushchair recalls and safety notices to see if you own a potentially dangerous or faulty pushchair, and find out what you can do about it.
Are buggy boards safe?
A buggy board is a board on wheels that attaches to the back of your pushchair for your toddler to ride on. Certain pushchair manufacturers make their own brand of ride-on toddler boards. But there is also a specific brand called Buggy Board.
Whatever the make, if you’re using one of these ride-on platforms on the back of your pushchair, follow the safety instructions carefully. Ensure the board is securely attached to the pushchair and that it can withstand the weight of the toddler on it. Make sure the child is always holding on to the handlebars when riding on the buggy board. And also check that using the ride-on board won't affect your pushchair's warranty.
Pram charms are decorations that clip on to the hood of a pushchair. But as with anything hanging close to a baby or child, there’s a risk that they could end up as a choking hazard if your baby gets hold of one and puts it in his or her mouth. For this reason, we'd advise against using them.
What to do if your pushchair breaks
When we surveyed hundreds of pushchair owners in spring 2017 about the faults they’d experienced with their pushchairs, the top three were wheels, brakes and folding mechanisms – all of which could pose safety risks if they malfunction.
If your pushchair develops a fault, you might be able to get your money back. Check our consumer rights advice on how to complain about a faulty pushchair.
It’s good practice to inspect your pushchair for any safety hazards every few months, and make sure the brakes are still working well. If you’ve got a second-hand pushchair, this upkeep is even more important. In addition to following the safety checklist above – paying careful attention to brakes, harnesses, folding and locking mechanisms – you should check the wheels are still correctly aligned and that there isn’t any bad wear and tear (such as rusting, flaking paint or ripped fabric).
Find out more about second-hand pushchair safety.
Do sun covers cause pushchairs to overheat?
You might have read stories about the potential dangers of covering your pushchair with materials to shade your child from the sun, the fear being that this could actually cause your child to overheat. There have been headlines such as : 'Why covering your baby's pram with a blanket could put their life at risk' and 'Don't put blankets over buggies to keep out the sun, parents told'.
The stories go on to say how putting a blanket or towel, or even a muslin cloth, over your pram might seem like an easy way to shield your baby from the sun on a hot summer’s day. Experts warn that covering a pram can cause your baby to overheat – increasing the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
But without a shade or cover, your child is left vulnerable to harmful UV rays and sunburn. The NHS advises keeping babies under six months completely out of direct sun and young children’s delicate skin must be protected from the sun when UV levels are high.
We wanted to test this out for ourselves, to see whether the temperature inside a pushchair raises when the pushchair is covered up with a range of materials and if the temperature raises to the point where there’s cause for concern about covering your pushchair. Also whether certain materials pose more of a risk of overheating. Here's how we did it and what we found:
Our pushchairs overheating test: what we did
We did our testing on a very hot day when the temperature at the start of our test was 33C and increased up to 34.8C. We compared the temperature under five different types of cover – a muslin, towel, fleece blanket, a Koo-di sun/sleep cover and a SnoozeShade – and a pushchair with the hood up, across the space of an hour.
We recorded the temperature at the start and then every 10 minutes behind each cover within the pushchair's seat area. In conducting our tests, we used identical pushchairs for each cover, and set the seat up to be parent-facing, with the hood catching the sun.
What we found
As you can see from our graphic below, all the cover types that we tested showed an increase in temperature within the seat area from the moment we added them.
As the time went on, the interior of pushchair with the hood fully up recorded the least increase in temperature, but we'd expect this as it wasn't fully covered. This was followed by the pushchair covered with the Snoozeshade. The interior of the pushchair covered with the towel got the hottest – nearly six degrees more than the pushchair with the sunshade fully up.
Ultimately what our test shows is that if you are going to cover your child's pushchair up in the sun, you need to be aware that whatever cover you use, it is going to make the temperature inside the pushchair increase straightaway. And that if you leave your child in a covered pushchair in the sun over time, the heat inside the pushchair will continue to go up.
Baby sun protection
But of course, we know that mums swear by pushchair covers for blocking out the light and helping babies to sleep in their pushchairs during the day, and that specially designed products, such as the Snoozeshade we used in our test, have also been designed to protect babies from UVA and UVB rays. Indeed, using a sunshade responsibly can be safer than not using one at all.
Cara Sayer, founder of SnoozeShade, says: 'Sun protection on hot days is vital as we know that five instances of sunburn can increase your skin cancer risk by 80%. The critical thing on a hot day is that if parents have to be out then they check regularly on their child’s wellbeing, encourage regular drinking of water, get into the shade if possible and ideally use a sunshade that has been designed to block UVA and UVB safely.'
A spokesperson for Koo-di echoed these sentiments: 'Our Koo-di Sun & Sleep Shades have been designed to provide an effective block for UVA & UVB rays, to keep your child well protected on a sunny day. We would however never advise leaving your child in their buggy facing the sun, because any sun shade in that position will create an increase in temperature under the sunshade. We recommend positioning the buggy in a shady spot to create maximum protection from the heat of the sun.'
Find out more about baby sun shades.
So the most important thing to remember is that regardless of what you’re covering your pushchair with, you should never leave your child in a covered pushchair without constant checking and supervision.
Experts advise against keeping babies out in the sun for too long anyway, as babies can't sweat, so they can often suffer heat stroke much more quickly than an older child or an adult. And babies can get dehydrated more quickly.
According to Jenny Ward, director of services at the Lullaby Trust, “it is important to make sure that your baby is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold. The chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is higher in babies who get too hot. The optimum temperature for the room or area where your baby sleeps is 16-20°C.”
She warns that,'every baby is different, so while it’s important to be informed about overheating you need to check your baby regularly to see if he or she is too hot. Feel the baby’s tummy or the back of their neck (your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal). If your baby’s skin is hot or sweaty then this means they are too hot.'
She adds, 'it is also important to ensure that your baby has sufficient fluids if bottle-fed, by offering cooled, boiled water to babies under six months or just water from the tap for babies over six months. Fully breastfed babies don’t need any extra water until they start eating solid food.'