My sister-in-law has offered her daughter's old stroller for my new baby. Money is tight and I really can't afford a new one, but what should I look for to protect my little one? Mindful Mom
Dear Mom: While I don't blame you for preferring a brand-new stroller for a brand-new baby, in some instances a used carrier can fit the bill. On the other hand, you're wise to question. Your sister-in-law's generosity - however commendable - must still be outweighed by the safety of the proffered stroller. Sometimes with used equipment, potential safety recalls might not reach current owners, and with cargo as precious as a child, it's imperative you're informed of any problem that may perhaps pop up. (Check for recalls at the Consumer Product Safety Commission - www.cpsc.gov.) With that said, specifics you initially should eyeball include:
- Three or, better yet, five-point harnesses. The three-point goes around the waist and between the legs and is acceptable. On the other hand, the five-pointer, consisting of a harness that also includes over-the-shoulders protection, definitely is preferable. Too, the leg openings shouldn't be too wide to prevent baby from slipping.
- Wheels made of hard nylon or, perhaps, even inflatable bicycle tires. If you live around bumpy roads or rough pavement, shock absorbers also are a good idea.
- A balanced frame. Don't hang objects on the handlebar (and how many of us are guilty of this practice!) as it might cause the stroller to tip over. In addition, the frame should be well upholstered and padded to protect Widdle Wally.
- Along this same line, a locking mechanism prevents the stroller from accidently collapsing. Check for any protrusions that may potentially cause harm, such as pokes, scratches, and so forth.
- Include a reclining feature for infants younger than six months. Their little necks can't support their heads so they need to lie flat. Even for an older child, this feature will allow them to comfortably nap while taking a stroll.
- The canopy needs to be fairly large to shield Widdle Wendy from the elements. In fact, for those who live in more frigid climes, many pediatricians suggest a "boot," an attachment to the stroller that safeguards tiny toes against the cold.
Editor's Note: Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org