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When Can a Baby Sit in a Stroller?

For many parents, a stroller is one of the main baby essentials for away-from-home activities with infants or toddlers.

But when can a baby sit in a stroller?

Infants can be placed in a bassinet stroller or travel system from the day they are born. A baby can be placed in an upright stroller seat she is able to sit without falling forward. For most, this occurs around age six months.

As a pediatrician, I feel that it is important for moms, dads, and other caregivers to be aware of a few stroller safety tips. Let’s discuss some of the available types of strollers, and when your baby can sit in each one.

Which Strollers Can be Used with a Newborn?

Newborns have limited motor skills. At most, they have the ability to turn their heads from side to side. They definitely do not have the ability to support their own head. That’s the reason why when held upright, parents must provide lots of head and upper body support. Because of this, a stroller that allows newborns to lie flat is the safest option. While riding in this type of stroller, the infant’s head can remain in a safe and comfortable position. The flat surface also prevents the body from becoming entangled within a safety harness. Putting a newborn in a seat-type of stroller would cause the infant to fall forward (and possibly out of the stroller) during transport.

How to safely use a travel system with a newborn

Travel System

Many parents prefer to use a stroller travel system. This allows an infant-only car seat to attach to a stroller base, making the transfer from car to stroller much easier. The car seat is designed for the safe transport of infants of all ages, and it is especially appropriate for newborns. You may remember having a car seat assessment at the hospital prior to going home with your baby.

Rear-facing car seats are recommended for travel by car until age two. They are designed for up to 35 lbs and 35 inches. However, as your baby grows, it becomes impractical to continue to use such car seats in a travel system stroller. If an infant or toddler’s legs must be folded in order to sit rear-facing in a car, this is fine for car rides, but it is time to convert to a different type of baby stroller.

Can My Baby Sleep in the Infant Car Seat?

Although it is common for infants to fall asleep while riding in a travel system stroller, they should be removed to a safer sleeping surface once at your destination. Sleeping in an infant car seat increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Allowing an infant to sleep in a car seat for more than two hours is also not recommended. Three percent of infant deaths occur while sleeping in car seats and other such devices.

How to safely use a bassinet stroller with a newborn

bassinet stroller father

Bassinet strollers are the perfect choice for newborns because of the flat carriage surface. The baby can be transported safely, with the head and body fully supported. Most bassinet strollers include a central support strap. This holds the baby in place and prevents rolling. Despite the term “bassinet,” these strollers are not intended to be used for sleeping due to the risk of SIDS.

One version of a bassinet stroller has a detachable “carrycot.” This type of stroller is appropriate for newborns to four-month-olds, allowing them to lie flat. The bassinet attachment can be removed for carrying the infant, but not for use as a car seat. Like other strollers, “carrycot” attachments are not safe for sleeping because their inner surface is softer than the approved crib or bassinet mattresses. Bottom line, do not let your young child sleep in the stroller.

When Can Baby Sit In a Regular Stroller Seat?

Infant Stroller

Once a baby is able to sit without falling forward, an upright stroller seat is safe to use. For most infants, this occurs around age six months.

Infants may require a reclining or an upright stroller depending on their level of motor development. Most four-month-olds have enough neck muscle strength to maintain good head control. Six to seven-month-old infants should be able to sit upright with their backs supported.

Until these milestones are achieved, a stroller that reclines fully is more appropriate.

Babies born prematurely or with special development concerns may not tolerate this type of stroller until months later. The best stroller seat has a five-point harness to keep the baby safely inside. Many have a footrest, and a place to carry other items such as a diaper bag or sippy cup. It is important to choose a stroller according to the manufacturer’s weight guidelines in order to prevent tipping or other injuries.

When Can Baby Sit Comfortably in an Umbrella Stroller?

An umbrella stroller refers to one with handles that resemble a traditional umbrella. They are more compact than other stroller types, and fold easily for riding on public transportation or trunk storage. It provides a seat and safety harness, but no leg support or room to carry other items. Because this type of stroller gives minimal support, it is more appropriate for older infants or toddlers. Umbrella strollers tend to be very lightweight, great for long strolls with your infant, but not good for stability. This stroller can easily tip over if bags or other items are hung on the handles. Parents should be mind full of their infant’s fingers when folding this type of stroller to prevent pinch injuries.

When Is It Safe to Use a Jogging Stroller?

Jogging strollers are great for enabling parents to get some exercise without needing to find a babysitter. However, most jogging strollers are not suited for every infant. Most do not fully recline, and are, therefore, inappropriate for infants who cannot sit upright. There are a few travel system models, however. Because of the car seat attachment, this is the best option for jogging with younger infants.

A smooth ride is also important to prevent the baby from jostling due to the motion of the parent running. Studies show that a “two-hand” hold jogging stroller is more comfortable for the runner, and gives the infant a more stable ride. See our list of the best jogging strollers for more information.

What About a Double Stroller?

Parents of multiples may opt for a stroller that transports more than one baby. They are also helpful when both a toddler and infant need a stroller. The same stroller safety rules apply in regards to which type of stroller is appropriate for certain infant ages. Fully reclinable options don’t exist, so younger infants will need one to which an infant car seat can be attached. Most models are for infants and toddlers who are able to sit upright inside of the stroller.

Because these strollers are intended to be used for more than one child, they can be quite large. So it is best to choose a double stroller that is easy to push, fits easily through most doorways, and is not too heavy to fold and carry. Any other features just depend on what works best for your family.

How To Avoid Stroller Accidents

The primary way to prevent stroller accidents is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use of the stroller. Here are some additional safety tips:

While your infant or toddler rides in a stroller, the safety strap or harness should always be used. Serious injury may occur from a fall out of a stroller or its car seat attachment. Because infants fall “head first,” they may even sustain a skull fracture.

The handles of a stroller should only be used for pushing, not to attach or hang other items. Doing so creates a weight imbalance that could cause the stroller to tip over, resulting in a serious head injury. Many strollers have a storage basket or pockets to carry any items you may need.

During stops, the brakes should always be applied and locked to prevent the stroller from rolling unexpectedly. After removing the baby from a stroller, always fold it out of reach to prevent finger pinch injuries.

Final Words

A good stroller can be a lifesaver for busy parents. No matter which stroller is purchased, safety is of the utmost importance. For infants under the age of four months, it is best to choose a stroller that keeps them flat on their backs. Travel systems and bassinet strollers are convenient, but should only be used for transporting a baby. They are not safe sleep alternatives to cribs or stationary bassinets.

Stroller sleeping has been associated with an increased risk of SIDS, suffocation, and entanglement on the safety harness. Even while your baby is awake, it is best to not to leave him or her unattended. Accidents can happen, so it is best to stay nearby.

Once the head and trunk muscle control has been achieved, it is safe for infants to sit inclined or upright in a stroller. Strollers with a wide base, brakes that lock, and that include storage areas can prevent unintended injuries. Umbrella strollers are the least stable option and should be reserved for toddlers.

With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right stroller for your family. The advice of a pediatrician or other healthcare provider can help you pick the best option and keep your baby safe. You may also want to review the Consumer Product Safety Commission‘s additional tips. And for those of you who own a travel system with a car seat, don’t forget to keep car safety in mind too.

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