Trade Resources Industry Knowledge It's Easy to Make Mistakes and Even Cause Injury

It's Easy to Make Mistakes and Even Cause Injury

Using a stroller might seem intuitive, but it's easy to make mistakes and even cause injury, especially while opening and closing one. The vast majority of stroller and carriage accidents result from falls. Here are some other common lapses, and how to avoid them, so you can stroll with confidence.

Get the right stroller type
Umbrella strollers are generally not geared toward infants, and most don't let you attach an infant car seat. Some newer lightweight strollers, however, can be completely reclined for use with an infant, or can accept a car seat. At least one umbrella stroller reclines fully and has a "boot enclosure" so baby can't slip through. Another pricier stroller has four reclining positions, including flat, which is great for babies who can't sit up yet.

Walk, don't run
You might be eager to get outside and get back to your exercise routine. But unless they have adapters that let you mount an infant car seat, most all-terrain strollers and jogging strollers are not suitable for infants younger than 6 months. Even if you can find an all-terrain or jogging stroller that has adapters to mount an infant car seat, that doesn't mean you should start running sprints with your baby. We don't recommend running with a child until he's more than a year old, with far greater head and neck control than a newborn. All-terrains should not be used for jogging at all unless the manufacturer specifically says that running is okay with their product.

Although some manufacturers suggest that it's acceptable to run with babies as young as a few months, our medical consultants have expressed concerns not only because of the jostling an infant will experience but also because of the risk of a fall to both parent and child.

Where safety is concerned, err on the side of caution. If you have no one to tend to your baby while you go for a solo run, consider hiring a babysitter to watch him or her. Failing that, don't take a child younger than a year for a run in a jogging stroller, and make sure the child is secured with a 5-point harness.

Keep in mind that when you head to a store looking for an all-terrain model, they might be mislabeled. A store might display a model and call it a "jogging stroller" when it's just a regular stroller. If you want to be sure--especially if you want to run with your baby when she's older--make sure you take a look at the owner's manual before you buy.

Practice makes perfect
Take your time, read the manual that comes with your model, and try out all the features before you take your child for a ride. For example, if the stroller has various positions, can you operate the backrest easily? Remember, when the baby is in the stroller, raising the backrest can be much harder than lowering it. Are the buckles on the restraint straps snapping into place properly? Do you know how to attach your infant car seat to the stroller or stroller frame and lock it in place? Take your new wheels for a dry run before you put your baby in.

Don't use a hand-me-down stroller without checking its history
A stroller purchased years ago might have since been recalled. Your neighbor might be happy to hand you his old one, or you might have been storing one. Before you dust it off, however, check with the manufacturer or the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if it's been recalled. Also check the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that recalls child car seats (which may have come with your travel system), for their databases of child car seat recalls and defect investigations. Even if it hasn't been recalled, an older stroller might not meet the latest safety standards. Besides, many new strollers have features that make them easier to use.

Use caution when opening and closing
When you lock the front door of your home or buckle your vehicle's safety belt, you're in the habit of listening for that all important "click." Get in the same habit when opening your child's stroller. It's easy to skip this step when you're in a rush, and some strollers require force and effort to fully lock. Another young sibling might wedge a little finger in a still-open hinge, or the stroller might fold up with your child trapped inside.

In the past few years there have been recalls issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for several strollers because the hinges lacerated and in some cases amputated children's fingers. Before you use a new or used umbrella stroller, or any kind of stroller, make sure that the hinges are either covered (with fabric) or have a closed design that doesn't allow finger access at all. When folding or unfolding a stroller, keep baby's--and siblings'--hands away from the areas that could pinch fingers. And never allow a child to climb into the stroller until you've fully opened it and heard that final "click" or "snap" as the frame is locked into the opened position.

Regularly check your stroller for wear and tear, and make sure sharp edges haven't become exposed and that fabric isn't frayed. You can check the manufacturer's manual for notes on maintaining the stroller.

Don't forget to buckle up your child every time
Use the restraint system every single time you put your child in the stroller, just like you do when placing him in a car seat. Even when your child is older or asleep, make sure that the straps are in place and the restraint buckles are locked. (A really determined toddler can wiggle out of a three-point harness, so opt for a five-point, over-the-shoulder restraint system.) You'd be surprised how little it takes to bounce an unharnessed baby out of his seat. A bump in a sidewalk or tipping the stroller up a curb awkwardly could send your baby forward onto his face.

Navigating stairs and escalators
Don't ever take a stroller with a child in it onto an escalator; use a ramp or elevator instead. If you absolutely have no choice, get another adult to help you. One person should hold the stroller at the top and the other at the bottom.

You should also avoid taking your child up and down stairs when she is in a stroller. If there is no ramp or elevator available, take your baby out, collapse the stroller, and carry it. Many serious and even fatal stroller accidents have happened on staircases.

Wheels and alignment
Misaligned and loose wheels can be a chronic problem with some strollers. One sign of good construction is wheels that sit on the floor uniformly when a baby is on board. Some models will let you remove a wheel if you need to buy a replacement, but this is not true for every stroller on the market. If a wheel seems loose, don't use the stroller until you've had a chance to check the problem and re-tighten the fasteners, if needed.

Don't fail to brake
It only takes a slight incline or a jostle to send a stroller rolling away from you. Lock the brake when you take your hands off the stroller, even if you're stopping for just a moment. If you're on or near a bus or train with your child in the stroller, always put the brakes on.

Nap, or nighty-night?
If the stroller you buy comes with a bassinet for your infant, don't assume you can use it as a bassinet in your home. Check the manufacturer's guidelines. Note whether you have to purchase a separate mattress for the bassinet or whether the stroller system comes with it. Some manufacturers also offer separate stands to put the stroller bassinet on when you're home. We haven't tested those.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety standards for bassinets and for strollers, but until recently, bassinets that attach to strollers had fallen through the cracks of federal regulation. Now, stroller and carriage bassinets that are removable from the stroller are covered under the ASTM Bassinets and Cradles standard, as long as they meet the definition of a bassinet/cradle, which most carrycot/bassinet attachments for strollers do. To meet the criteria, the sleeping surface has to lay flat or have no more than a 10 degree angle from horizontal.

One reason we have had concerns about carrycot or bassinet attachments to strollers is that there is no requirement that they have a harness. Unlike a crib, a stroller bassinet is being pushed and perhaps jostled around while the baby's in it. We worry that the baby could wriggle or even slip so that his face is pressed against the fabric sides of the carrycot.

To address this concern, if you want a stroller that comes with a bassinet, look for one with a five-point harness. A few manufacturers now include them. Another option is simply to buy a stroller whose seat fully reclines, and close off the leg holes to keep your infant from slipping out, and always, always use the harness.

Additionally, the CSPC requires that mattresses in stand-alone bassinets be no more than 1 1/2 inches thick. This is to avoid very deep, plush surfaces where a child, unable to turn over or turn his head, could suffocate. Gaps between the sides of the bassinet and the mattress or pad should be no more than half an inch when it is placed in the center of the bassinet. But most stroller carrycots have very thin sleep surfaces that are far less than 1 ½" thick, if any. To avoid suffocation, never use any blankets, quilts, loose bedding or pillows in the bassinet or carrycot.

Stroller bassinets that are removable from the stroller frame are now required to comply with the same standards as stand-alone bassinets as long as their sleeping surface is at an angle of less than 10 degrees from horizontal. That enforcement should protect babies from faulty or dangerous products.

Don't hang anything on the handlebars
Resist the temptation to toss a shopping bag or diaper bag over the stroller's handles, because there's a risk that the stroller will tip backward with your baby inside. Use the basket under your stroller instead; if you know you'll want room for lots of stuff, look for a stroller that has ample storage. Adding long straps to your diaper bag or clips to your stroller's handlebars to hold things is not a good solution and can upset the balance. Unless the stroller manufacturer says something is an approved accessory for your specific stroller, don't use it.

If you expect to carry more cargo than your stroller's basket can handle, use a light backpack--worn on your back, not placed on the stroller handlebars--or bring along a foldable, reusable shopping bag with long straps. You can hang the shopping bag on your shoulder. Buying a large backpack-style diaper bag is also a hands-free way to stow purchases and baby gear throughout the day.

Source: Consumer Reports
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Stroller Safety Tips
Topics: Light Industry