Buying a pram isn’t just something to tick off your pre-baby to-do list. Here’s what you need to know before committing to your kid’s first wheels.
1. Make sure it folds up easy
You’ve probably seen some parents casually flick a switch and their pram gracefully collapses into a neat, elongated shape – and you’ve probably seen other parents having to wrestle their pram down as if they were Hulk Hogan taking on Stone Cold Steve.
That’s because, like a lot of baby equipment (I’m looking at you, high chairs…) a pram is grossly over-engineered for what it actually needs to do. So, if you need to read the instructions more than once to collapse and put up the chair, it’s probably going to be a massive pain in the arse.
Remember, you’re going to have to explain it how it works to friends, relatives and grandparents.
Over, and over, again.
2. Not too big, not too small
Some prams are deceptive. They look all small and innocent in the shop, but put them near your car and they suddenly double in size.
If you’re buying it from a shop, then try putting it in your car boot before even thinking about paying. And I guarantee you’ll be surprised how much room it takes up.
I ordered our pram online, after copious amounts of research, only to discover I had to remove the wheels to fit it into the car boot. That (very quickly) becomes a major headache. In case you were wondering, I ended up buying a different car.
Don’t forget that your missus will also be lugging it in and out of the boot, so make sure she’s got something she can work with.
Also remember that bigger isn’t always better. If you live in a place with even a modest number of stairs, then definitely opt for something more lightweight, or make sure there’s somewhere secure at the bottom of the stairs where you can leave the pram until you need it.
There is nothing worse than balancing a wriggling baby in one arm while dragging a deadweight tangle of struts, canvas and wheels up two flights of stairs with the other.
3. Consider a capsule
You can get prams that will do until the child’s almost old enough to drink, or ones that will only be useful while they’re unable to walk. So your choice here is do you buy something specialised that you’ll only use for a year, or something utilitarian that will last a lifetime?
Always remember, these companies want you to part with your cash and love to prey on wide-eyed new mums and dads. Baby will be fine in a regular pram. Go armed with this knowledge when the salesperson tries to sell you a capsule-only pram that will only last 6-12 months.
If you do want something specifically for a very little one, or something that easily goes between pram and car, look for a pram with a detachable capsule. That way, as baby grows, you can detach the capsule and keep the pram.
4. Take it for a spin
Just like a car, the wheels, tyres and suspension are all pretty important parts of the design.
When it comes to wheels, the debate becomes something of a trade-off between large wheels –which are great for any all-terrain action such as heading to the park or the beach – and how much space those wheels take up in the boot of the car.
If the wheels are too small, even mildly cracked pavement can bring the whole thing to a grinding halt.
A lot of the big-name brands make a huge fuss about the suspension on their prams – and, to be fair, decent suspension can make a big difference, especially if the baby’s asleep.
However, a lot of suspension is actually fake plastic, so give the pram and the salesperson a real going-over before committing. Given you’ll use the pram practically every day for at least two years, bad suspension is a big problem.
As with any vehicle with wheels, brakes are fairly important. Give the brake mechanisms a good seeing-to and go for the ones with the red brake pedals or levers, so they’re easy to spot when you need them most.
5. Do a few wheelies
With the pram upright, grip the handles and see how much play there is when you push it from side to side. Too much flex suggests the joints that allow the pram to fold up won’t last very long.
Next, go for a run with it and see if the wheels develop death wobbles. If they do, the pram is either not well made or designed.
Lastly, look at the tyres. If they’re large and inflatable, then they can be punctured – and a pram with a flat tyre is a whole new level of hell on earth. Solid tyres are preferable as they don’t puncture, but they will wear out with a lot of use.
The things that go first in prams are the wheels, specifically where they connect at the axle. If there’s any give in it now, you’re looking at trouble, especially if the wheel is all plastic. Try look for a bigger axle: the bigger the axle the longer the wheels will last.
6. Make sure it fits all the things
Never, ever underestimate this. One day on an emergency shopping run, you’ll be unimaginably thankful that there’s room in the pram to squeeze in a sack of spuds and a six-pack.
Some prams barely have enough space for a toothbrush and nappy, while some you could almost rent out to student tenants. When you’re out and about with bags full of solutions for any and every eventuality, storage space is a godsend.
7. Ignore gimmicks
Among the biggest mistakes new parents make is opting for the top-of-the-line pram that has all sorts of gimmicks and accessories. They are, for the most part, a completely unnecessary expense.
These include in-built sound systems and speakers. They may seem like a good idea at the time, but after a few weeks you won’t use them. Guaranteed.
Also, avoid falling into the fashion trap. Just like clothes, trends in pram design come and go. A few years ago, the ‘jogging pram’ craze swept the country – prams with huge wheels, designed to allow mum or dad to go running with the baby.
Just like those joggers you bought yourself the last time you promised you’d get fit, but only ended up wearing around the house on the weekend, most of those jogging prams never even cracked walking pace.
8. Weather protection is a must
This is Australia, a land where baby’s skin burns faster than a slice of unattended bread in an office toaster. If your pram doesn’t provide sufficient shade, you’ll end up hanging all sorts of jumpers and towels off of it, which you’ll have to adjust repeatedly between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm. And your make-shift sunshade will constantly fall to the ground and get tangled up between the wheels causing you all sorts of stress. So, get good shade.
Airflow is also really important, because prams can get stuffy too. Look for webbing at the side walls that will make it more comfortable for its little inhabitant.
Also consider the pram’s wet weather options. Most of the big ticket prams come with rain covers that clip on really securely. These covers do two things; first, they keeps baby dry, which is good. Second, they create a humid little bubble, which is bad. That’s why a combo of good airflow and proper rain protection is a must.
9. Get a stroller, too
If you have a big pram, also consider getting a stroller-type lightweight pram that’s easier on you when you’re pulling it out and putting it back into the car. We bought a second hand one off Gumtree for $30, or you can pick up a new one for next-to-nothing at any of the large chain stores.
Having a compact, basic stroller was great when flying long haul with our one-year-old. There is no shame owning more than one pram.