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Talking to the Mom on the Street to See How She Rolls

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By Tara Swords
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 18, 2008; Page N02

Parents-to-be have to make some big decisions. Breast-feed or bottle feed? Pick her up or let her cry it out? Go back to work or stay home?

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Those decisions are tough, but perhaps nothing is more perplexing to new parents than selecting a stroller. For those in the market, here's a friendly warning: You might want to set a budget before you find yourself in love with the idea of a limited-edition $2,000 stroller designed by a Dutch fashion icon you've never heard of. (That would be the Bugaboo by Bas Kosters.)

Stroller shopping involves an overwhelming set of choices. The varieties alone -- bassinet, full-size, umbrella, convertible -- can make your head spin. And just wait until you collide with the marketing messages that carefully appeal to new parents' desire to give their families only the best and safest rides.

Silver Cross, a British luxury baby gear company, claims to design some of its strollers "in conjunction with leading road safety experts." If that sounds perfect, just head over to HappyMothers.com and buy the Silver Cross 2008 Kensington Carriage in pink for $3,200. And, no, it doesn't come with a baby.

In every price range, stroller marketers sell the idea of a lifestyle that parents might aspire to. Orbit Baby's bassinet cradle, which retails for $240 and attaches to the $899 stroller system, offers an "extendable paparazzi shield." Sure, it blocks out the sun, but that's hardly as sexy as its ability to block the view of a hounding photographer. Even the Cleo stroller from perennial parental favorite Graco, which retails for about $260, claims "uncompromising luxury" and "the convenience and comfort you and your baby deserve."

Fortunately, if you can resist the brand pressure, you can find plenty of high-quality strollers that won't cost you the equivalent of two mortgage payments. While strolling through the Mall and Old Town Alexandria, we ambushed several kiddos in strollers and asked their parents to tell us all about their more modest purchases -- the good and the bad.

Car Seat Combo

Mary Buck of Arlington and Adelina Sokoli of New Haven, Conn., both invested in car seats that snap into a stroller frame. Buck bought a Graco, and Sokoli has a Chicco. The big plus of this style is that you don't have to interrupt a hard-won nap when moving baby from car to stroller.

The good: Lightweight and easy to haul out of the trunk. "It folds down fairly flat, and it even clicks to close," Buck says. "So all I have to do is grab the bar to pull it out."

The bad: Buck says she paid more than $100 for her stroller, which she says is too much considering that the baby will grow and need yet another stroller. "I don't feel like they should charge what they do, because for car seats, you have to change them out so frequently," Buck says.

Travel Model

Chanda Butler of High Falls, N.Y., travels a lot with son Skylar Rainier, 2. She has a Bugaboo, a higher-end brand that she says was worth the price because it came with a bassinet that enabled Skylar to sleep flat when he was smaller. But when she travels, she takes a Quinny Zapp stroller.

The good:"It folds down, and they proclaim it can go into the overhead" compartment in an airplane, Butler says. "It's very easy to take to the gate, and it squashes down and travels fantastic."

The bad: It's not all-purpose. "I haven't found the stroller that can really transition all the way through and is the everyday and the travel stroller," she says. "I don't think it's out there."


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