independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Hunting for the ideal pram or buggy

From test-drives to tyre kicking, choosing the right buggy or pram can be tricky, writes Mary Kirwan

Choosing the right buggy is no easy task

IT'S caused more rows and marital spats than is good for any couple. It fosters envy, triggers sleepless nights and leads to feelings of inadequacy and longing.

The condition has become a phenomenon in recent years as parents get to grips with this most seismic of decisions for their baby: choosing the right pram or buggy.

A few of the more desperate mothers have been dubbed 'Pramzilla' as they devote hours of time and price checking to a purchase some equate to choosing a mortgage or car.

Perhaps when you consider the price; up to €1000 and sometimes over, you could be forgiven for thinking the pricing of prams has careered out of control.

And then there's the brands, more to chose from than than in a book of baby names. Do you know your Phil and Teds from your Quinnys? Or your Stokkes from your Mothercare Xcursion? If you do, you've probably become a pramzilla. That's when your baby is the most important thing in your life, but your buggy a close second.

I love my Bugaboo. It's on baby number two and is very much part of the family. It has weathered wintry beaches, potholed city streets, mucky fields, and country roads. It even emerged unscathed from three years in the attic without even a deflated tyre.

The Bugaboos are wickedly ingenious Dutch pushchairs that have been around for about 10 years, with bright colouring and chunky pneumatic tyres.

When you first get pregnant, you're quickly inducted into a parental secret society. These are people who talk animatedly about one-click folds and travel systems.

Buying the right buggy can be a tremendously difficult task for parents. I know one mum who regretted not buying a Bugaboo on her first baby and even admitted crying about her wrong call.

Modern buggies also take time to get the hang of. Much to the amusement of our friends, on our first trip out with our new baby and new buggy we were unable to collapse the blooming thing.

Eventually we had to squeeze the poor baby and buggy fully assembled into the back of our tiny Ford Fiesta. The pram shop told us the golden rule for Bugaboos -- all the white buttons and switches do something -- so press them!

Celebs have become associated with certain makes of buggies. The iCandy was the buggy of choice for Victoria Beckham after having Harper Seven. The company even made her a special peach version to go with her nursery colour scheme!

One iCandy fan is new mum Niamh Cashin, who lives in Glasnevin with son Samuel Frost (five months) and partner Adam.

Forget about the hospital scan appointments and the heartburn, she believes choosing a buggy is up there with the most momentous events of pregnancy.

"Picking your buggy is one of the most stressful parts of being pregnant. It's the one thing you're going to be pushing for a long time. They're so expensive, so you have to be sure you've got the right one."

The pram shops brought out her partner's inner Jeremy Clarkson.

"We went around a few different places and my other half got really into it. He was getting them to do demonstrations," she adds.

He's not the first man to be lured in by the technology of buggies. One of the best-known strollers is the MacLaren. It's a little-known fact that it was invented by Owen Finlay MacLaren, who also invented the undercarriage of the famous RAF Spitfire aircraft.

He was inspired to come up with a collapsible baby buggy after seeing his daughter struggle with an old-fashioned pram while she visited from the United States. He used his knowledge of lightweight aluminium collapsible structures to come up with the famous MacLaren in 1965.

For Niamh, she also had to learn a whole new lingo when entering the world of baby travel gear.

"I knew I had to get something called a travel system with a car seat, frame and iso-fix base. Adam got a good getting a handle on it."

The price of buggies always makes prospective parents take a sharp intake of breath. "We set aside a grand for the system and ended up buying it in Eurobaby."

Niamh's advice with regard to getting a good deal is to shop around and haggle, particularly if you are getting a number of items at the same time. It's also important to ask if there are any sales coming up.

But Niamh's main motivation in choosing the iCandy at €750 was its compact size. Some new buggies should really require a wide load sign because of their bulkiness.

"Cost was definitely a factor but not the deciding factor. We went for the iCandy because it was so compact. I can fold it up, get it into the boot and still get my shopping in around it. You can flip the frame and it still opens, so ease of use was the most important thing."

You can't open a magazine these days without seeing a celeb wheeling their buggy of choice. The fact that a WAG or an actress has endorsed a particular brand didn't swing it for Niamh -- but it does influence others.

"The girl in the pram shop told us they would have people come in and ask for the ' Coleen Rooney' buggy," she says.

Niamh loves her iCandy and is very happy with her choice.

She walks and also does a Dublin City Council fitness initiative for new parents in Johnstown Park in Finglas, called 'Prams in the Park'. She's also training to do a half marathon and can even run with the iCandy on a very flat surface.

The one regret she has was being unaware of the trade in second-hand buggies when looking to buy.

"I didn't know about the second-hand market for buggies until after Samuel was born. The lady in the baby massage class gave out details of a site that sells second-hand buggies in mint condition at a fraction of the price. If I had known, I would have got one," added Niamh.

The Quinny was the buggy of choice for Lynnette O'Brien from Glasnevin, who has an 18-month-old son, Joshua. She quite enjoyed picking out the pram for her son. "Picking a buggy was quite a good experience. I picked it in the last trimester. It was one of the last things I did.

Quinny have been making buggies for 50 years and their most popular is the Buzz. This can work forward facing or parent facing, and has pushchair seat, carrycot or car-seat options. You can even take off the rear wheels for ease of storage.

Lynnette put a lot of effort into choosing the right one. "When it came to picking the buggy, we browsed online to get the look and the feel of them. I could spend hours a day doing research -- I'm a bit weird like that! And they were very helpful in the shops.

Her man also got into the buggy tyre kicking. "The other half drilled them in the shop and had them doing all sorts of things. He had the hang of things long before I did." Little things like the fact that everything was washable on the Quinny and that it had an easy-to-use bar handle were deciding factors.

Lynnette has some practical advice for buggy purchasers. "I walk a lot so it's great, but you may need something smaller and neater if you're someone who uses the car an awful lot. Your buggy needs to suit your lifestyle."

She also investigated the second-hand market, but decided not to go down that route.

"I knew about the second-hand market, but on your first, you really want everything new."

Buggy retailers Tony Kealys have two shops in Dublin, one in Cork, and are opening a branch in Belfast soon.

According to their buyer Dolores Judge: "Our top seller is the Bugaboo as it suits almost everyone."

"The next bestseller is the Quinny Buzz, as they have good suspension and are comfortable for babies and parents. Then the next is the Uppababy three-in-one, followed by the Silvercross Surf."

Dolores says the average spend on a buggy is between €700 and €1,000.

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