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No one likes reading product instruction books, and with many items you buy, you don't really need to: It's easy enough to figure out that your new blender works if you hit the "on" button, and that you shouldn't take your radio into the bathtub.
But when you skip reading the documentation that comes with your new stroller, you may have a problem on your hands – a scary, dangerous problem. Small bodies are fragile: they require special handling. It's easy to make mistakes, and the consequences can be grim.
With that in mind, here are 7 mistakes many parents make with strollers.
1) Hot coffee in the cup holder: Take a good look at the cup holders in the parent console of strollers that include them. Shallow, aren't they? In fact, while cars generally offer deep cup holders, the cup holders on strollers are frequently less than 3 inches deep. Put a tall cup in that holder, say, a typical 20-ounce coffee cup, hit a bump, and that hot liquid goes everywhere – right over the top of your child's head. The Burn Center at New Jersey's Saint Barnabas Medical Center reminds parents that scalding is a burn caused by a hot liquid and it's "as catastrophic a burn injury as any other and can often be fatal." Use your stroller cup holders for cool liquids only. Desperately need a hot drink? Park that stroller and take a table instead.
2) Strolling too young: Newborns are not able to sit upright and hold their heads up, which they must do to ride safely in standard stroller seats. Worst-case scenario: Without you realizing it, your baby slumps down and can't breathe properly. Unless your stroller is specifically designed to be newborn-safe (your documentation will say so), or accepts an infant car seat (with or without an adapter), don't use it until your newborn can hold his head up unassisted, which happens at about 8 weeks. Until then, consider an on-the-body baby carrier, or a stroller that uses an infant car seat.
3) Jogging too early: You probably wouldn't even consider jogging without special shoes to weather the jolts your body takes. Your tiny baby similarly needs to have developed strong enough neck and core muscles to safely handle the bumps. Most jogging strollers advise parents to use with kids 6 months and up; it's worth noting that Britax, which owns top jogging stroller maker BOB, recommends holding off on jogging/off-road stroller use until babies are at least 8 months old. Dying to get out there on the road? Many jogging strollers accept newborn car seats and it's fine to walk briskly on smooth surfaces (streets, sidewalks) with newborns in car seats, or to use a jogging stroller as your everyday stroller with kids 8 weeks and up, provided you walk instead of running.
4) Folding with baby nearby: Strollers can hurt tiny fingers. Maclaren recalled more than 1 million products in 2009 after a grand total of 12 fingertip amputations were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Two years later, the CPSC re-announced the recall after reports of 5 more amputations surfaced. In November of 2014, Graco recalled 11 stroller models due to fingertip amputation. Always make sure your baby is a safe distance away when folding or unfolding your stroller, and that the stroller is locked open before putting your child in it. You want to keep all 10 of those beautiful fingers in perfect working order.
5) Forgetting the harness: A 2002 study of stroller injuries found that falls from the stroller caused 76 percent of injuries serious enough to merit a visit to the emergency room. Even if you think your baby's too young or sleeping too deeply to move on his own and slip/fall from the stroller, be safe: Use that harness. Even a fall from stroller-low height can be very dangerous, and babies often move around unpredictably while sleeping. The CPSC also warns that babies can strangle if they slip out of their stroller seat but their head is trapped by leg holes, a stroller tray or a handrest bar.
6) Storing stuff unsafely: Hanging heavy bags on the back of your stroller can make it tip over, on top of your child or with him in it. When possible, carry gear in the stroller's basket. Don't put sharp objects in pockets on the stroller's seat back: Your child could get hurt while leaning back.
7) Failing to return warranty cards: Hoping to protect themselves from potential marketing messages, parents often throw this important card away. Don't: Manufacturers use the information on this card to contact you if there's a recall. Fill out and return these cards; and do a Web search to make sure used strollers haven't been recalled before buying or accepting a gift.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.