A stroller seems ubiquitous for babies these days. But with options like babywearing, using infant car seats, and other transportation methods, are strollers necessary in 2023?
In this article, we’ll analyze the benefits of strollers, their alternatives for on-the-go parents, factors to consider when selecting one, and scenarios when strollers may not be necessary. By the end, you should have a better understanding of whether a stroller is a good choice for you and your child.
- Strollers offer important benefits like convenience, safety, and physical development, but also downsides like bulkiness, overassistance, and environmental impact.
- Alternatives like baby carriers, wagons, and everyday items provide options besides strollers for transporting little ones.
- Consider lifestyle needs, the child’s age, your budget, and the features available to decide if a stroller suits your situation or if alternatives would suffice.
Table of Contents
Strollers of course offer certain conveniences for caregivers and developing babies alike. When used properly, they can simplify parenting on the go. But strollers also have disadvantages to weigh. Below, I’ll take a look first at the potential benefits and then the potential drawbacks.
Benefits of Strollers for Baby Transportation
Strollers provide some great benefits for both parents and thier little ones, including:
Convenience for Parents
The biggest advantage strollers offer is convenience. When you’ve got a baby in one hand and a diaper bag slipping off your shoulder, convenience is key! Strollers allow you to:
- Transport your baby and all their gear easily. Strollers provide a place to secure your baby while also hauling diaper bags, purses, snacks, toys, jackets—all the myriad items needed when bringing your baby along. This allows you to be hands-free for shopping, using your phone, etc.
- Walk longer distances comfortably. Carrying a baby in your arms or a carrier is hard work! Strollers enable walking farther distances than would be feasible or comfortable while babywearing. If you like long morning walks or need to run extensive errands, strollers make these activities possible.
- Provide a place for baby to rest. Many babies (not all, but many) fall asleep more easily when in motion, making a stroller the perfect place to get them to nap comfortably while you can keep moving about your day.
Safety for Infants and Toddlers
Strollers also provide key safety benefits for your little ones:
- Protection from environmental hazards. Strollers allow you to enjoy the outdoors while also giving you a safe space to protect your little one. For example, when it’s raining, a rain cover will keep them dry. When it’s too sunny, a solar shade can be used to protect your baby from sunburn without chemical sunscreens. During mosquito season, a mosquito net (or that same sunshade) can keep them from being bitten.
- Slightly reduced risk of injuries. Babywearing is generally safe, but not as safe as a good stroller with a five-point harness. The truth is when babywearing, your baby is going to be as vulnerable as you are to trips, falls, doors suddenly closing on you, etc. A stroller provides a metal cage of protection similar to that of a car seat.
Physical Activity For Parents
Using a stroller can be a great way to increase your own physical activity, including:
- Using a stroller to get around with your child, as an alternative to driving or public transit.
- Going for regular walks outdoors with your baby in the stroller for fresh air and to explore the neighborhood.
- Using the stroller to help you get out jogging, running, or hiking when you don’t have someone to watch your baby while you exercise.
Potential Drawbacks of Relying on Strollers
However, strollers do also have some disadvantages caregivers should be aware of:
- Bulkiness and storage. Strollers take up ample space when in use or stored at home. This can pose issues for smaller homes.
- Hassle with transfers. Moving sleeping baby in and out of strollers can be tricky. Waking baby while on the go can disrupt your plans.
- Too much assistance? Some babies grow overly reliant on strollers versus learning to walk or occupy themselves. There’s a balance.
- Environmental impact. Mass-produced strollers leave a larger carbon footprint than more sustainable babywearing options.
A Note About Physical Development and Activity For Your Child
Although it may seem obvious, the jury is still out on the activity and developmental impact using a stroller will have on your baby.
A recent study asked parents how they felt strollers impacted their kids’ physical growth and activity levels. Overall, parents saw strollers as beneficial for babies’ development. Being strapped in strollers allows babies to build strength by kicking and looking around. The seated posture also helps strengthen core muscles.
For activity, parents were mixed. Some worried strollers reduce walking time. But most felt they only use strollers when kids would otherwise be carried. So strollers don’t replace as much independent toddler walking as you may think.
The takeaway? Strollers seem useful for strength and sensory development in infants. For older toddlers, they likely replace sedentary carrying more than walking. So stroller use in moderation probibly will not reduce your active child’s activity time.
Alternatives to Strollers for On-The-Go Parents
As we’ve just gone over in detail, strollers can be a used for a variety of purposes beyond just transporting your children from point A to B. Enabling activities outside the home, safety, and supporting your day-to-day needs are all good reasons to use a stroller.
But strollers aren’t the only option for wrangling little ones! You have several alternative methods to consider instead of or in addition to strollers:
Babywearing, aka carrying baby in a carrier sling or structured backpack, is a popular stroller alternative providing benefits like:
- Bonding through close babywearing. Physical and emotional closeness is facilitated by keeping baby snuggled right against you.
- Increased mobility while keeping hands free. Caregivers can tackle tasks without negotiating a bulky stroller.
- Aiding healthy development. Research shows benefits to babies from motion, touch, and being upright against gravity.
There are pros and cons to babywearing:
|Pros of Babywearing||Cons of Babywearing|
|Portability and Convenience||Potential for Pain and Discomfort|
|Hands-free Carrying||Breathability Issues|
|Promotes Bonding||Learning Curve|
|Often Easier to Use||Safety Concerns|
|Potential for Discreet Breastfeeding||Duration Limitations as Baby Grows|
|Cultural and Traditional Significance||Expense of Quality Carriers|
|Physical Benefits for the Baby||Limited Storage Capacity|
This is of course a high-level overview.
If you’re intrested in babywearing, there are various types of baby carriers to choose from that can offer you different features. :
- Wraps – Long pieces of fabric tied to hold baby. Takes practice but highly adjustable.
- Slings – A pouch of fabric worn over one shoulder. Very lightweight and simple.
- Soft structured carriers – Have buckles, padding, and ergonomic shapes for comfort and support. Still compact.
Wagons and Pull-Behinds
Wagons, like the classic red Radio Flyer, can be fantastic stroller alternative, especially as babies grow into toddlerhood.
These also offer some pros and cons when comparing them to strollers:
|Pros of Wagons||Cons of Wagons|
|More storage capacity||Larger and bulkier than strollers|
|Versatile for different terrains||Can be unwieldy in tight spaces|
|Fun for kids to ride in||Potential tipping risk if child leans|
|Kids can climb in themselves||Less protective from elements than stroller|
|Often less expensive||Requires space to store|
|Allow kids to walk when desired||Not suitable for infants|
|Unique styling/appearance||Heavier than strollers if loading cargo|
Wagon varieties include:
- Classic red wagons: Nostalgic, affordable, but basic features. Great for yard use.
- All-terrain / utility wagons: Rugged, maneuverable, heavy-duty for adventures.
- Multi-child wagons: Rows of seats, ideal for families or daycare outings.
- Pull-behind trailers: Bike attachments to tow children, pets, or cargo.
Wagons offer more flexibility and capacity than strollers, at the expense of portability. They can be fantastic stroller alternatives for many parents’ needs, especially now that many models also come with a push bar, so you don’t have to always pull it behind you.
Other On-The-Go Gear
Parents shouldn’t overlook everyday items already at their disposal for wrangling babies on adventures:
- Shopping carts: When running quick errands, let the store provide the “wheels” by using the cart as a stroller substitute. Installing car seat holders boosts convenience and safety.
- Walking harnesses: Once babies reach toddlerhood, harnesses allow them to walk independently while keeping them securely tethered. Great for their age of exploration.
- Umbrella strollers: Compact and lightweight, these fold up easily for quick trips without hauling a full-size stroller.
- Car seat carrier frames: Lightweight metal frames allow snapping in a car seat to create an impromptu, portable “stroller” perfect for taxis, travel, or as a spare.
As babies grow, creativity using items already available can reduce need for strollers.
Choosing to Buy a Stroller – Key Features and Considerations
Here are some things to consider to help you determine if a stroller may be worth the investment for you and your family.
Factor #1: Your Lifestyle and Needs
Consider your family’s day-to-day lifestyle:
- Frequency of use – Will you need a stroller daily for extensive use? Or occasionally for quick trips? This impacts durability needs.
- Urban, suburban or rural terrain? City dwellers need compact size and maneuverability. Rural families may prefer rugged, multi-surface models.
- Transit use – If using buses or trains, compact foldability and light weight are key.
- Storage space – Measure where the stroller will be stored and ensure it fits.
Also assess your needs:
- Child’s age and size – Newborn strollers fully recline; many convert to toddler use.
- Number of kids – Can the stroller accommodate your family size now or future growth?
- Physical needs of caregivers – If managing chronic pain, priority features may be comfort, light weight, adjustability.
Factor #2: Key Features and Accessories
Also consider must-have convenience and safety features:
- Folding mechanism – Look for quick, one-handed folding with carrying strap.
- Maneuverability – Test turning radius and one-handed pushing on your usual terrain.
- Harness – Five-point adjustable harnesses keep wiggly kids secure.
- Brakes – Essential brake system that locks the rear wheels simultaneously.
- Sun shade – UPF protection from sun and rain. Larger canopies provide more coverage.
- Storage – Undercarriage baskets and trays to hold essentials you’ll need access to.
Don’t forget extras that boost convenience:
- Child trays – Snack and cup holders to keep items within kids’ reach. Many are removable.
- Parent console – Handy for phones, keys, drinks. Look for cupholders and storage pockets.
- Compatibility with car seats – Many strollers allow car seat attachment for seamless transfers.
Factor #3: Budgeting Considerations Around Stroller Costs
With so many options on the market, stroller prices range dramatically based on:
- Type – Lightweight umbrellas around $60-$100. Full-size models from $150-$350+. Joggers $300-$600.
- Brand – Higher-end brands command premium pricing but offer exceptional quality and features.
- Materials – Aluminum frames cost more but are lighter. Heavy-duty tires add expense but ensure a smooth ride.
- Convenience features – More storage, accessories, and tech features increase price.
- Add-ons – Infant car seat adapter, parent tray, bassinet kit – these quickly increase the total.
- Luxury models – Ultra-high-end strollers $1,000+ boast amenities like leather, adjustable suspension, and sustainable materials.
Consider not just sticker price, but also value over years of use across multiple kids. High quality can justify higher pricing for extensive use.
Buying used, especially barely-used models, is a smart way to score a higher-end stroller at a bargain price. Search local listings and consignment sales for deals.
Situations When Stroller Alternatives May Be the Better Choice
Strollers serve key functions for parenting on the go, but for some situations, they may not be ideal, such as:
Short Trips Close to Home
For quick trips nearby, portable baby carrying options often suffice:
- Fast errands. Dashing into the corner store? Wear baby or bring the car seat instead of unloading a stroller for a 5-minute trip.
- Brief neighborhood walks. For a loop around the block, babywearing may make more sense than digging out and opening up a stroller outside.
- Quick trips. If you’re just dashing somewhere, innovative gear like hip seats or folding wagons can be handy space-saving choices over strollers.
Older Infants and Toddlers
As babies reach toddlerhood and gain independence, stroller needs decrease:
- Sturdy walkers. Once steady on their feet, young toddlers often insist on walking for short trips and may resist being strapped into strollers.
- Explorers. Toddlers want to run, touch everything, and move at their own pace, which may not align with a stroller’s mobility.
- Stroller refusal. Passionate toddler opinions mean forcing a stroller ride can result in struggles or tantrums not worth the hassle.
In these cases, compact umbrellas, backpacks, or walking harnesses allow independence while keeping hands free and offering portability caregivers need.
Cultural backgrounds also influence attitudes toward strollers:
- Babywearing traditions. Throughout Asian and African cultures, keeping babies snuggled close is the norm versus container-style transportation.
- Community-based parenting. In many indigenous American groups, babies are rarely separated from caregivers, reducing need for independent mobility aids.
For these groups, babywearing may feel right while strollers seem unnecessary or detached.
Final Takeaway – Are Strollers Really A Must-Have?
After this extensive analysis of strollers – their pros, cons, alternatives, and key considerations – what’s the final verdict?
Are strollers mandatory baby items? Or non-essential conveniences?
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many families will use strollers daily and find them indispensable for their lifestyle. For others, strollers gather dust or get donated as babies grow.
Ultimately, thoughtfully assessing your unique needs, habits, and environment will determine if investing in a stroller is money well spent.
As a new parent, take time to honestly assess your lifestyle, needs, and available options before registering. This will determine if a stroller ranks as a necessary splurge or an extraneous expense for your situation.
Trust your instincts, get creative, and don’t let others pressure you into pricey baby gear that doesn’t suit your life. Focus on choosing items that maximize convenience and fit your family’s needs.
With flexibility and realistic expectations, you’ll develop the ideal system for transporting your little ones while navigating parenthood’s wild ride!
Birken, C.S., Lichtblau, B., Lenton-Brym, T., Tucker, P., Maguire, J.L., Parkin, P.C. and Mahant, S., 2015. Parents’ perception of stroller use in young children: a qualitative study. BMC public health, 15(1), pp.1-7.)