Buying a pram or pushchair for your baby is a minefield. You're likely to part with the equivalent of enough cash for a second-hand car, but ask any mother if the first pram she purchased is still in use 12 months later and I'll bet the answer's no.
It's the secret the pram and pushchair industry don't want you to know, but many of those expensive designer prams that we get sucked into splashing out on before the baby arrives rarely stand the test of time. The pram that looks perfect in a glossy catalogue or gleaming department store isn't always practical once you're clambering off a crowded bus with a screaming baby and three bags of groceries.
So, in the hope that you might learn from other mums' mistakes and save yourself some serious time and money, here's our definitive guide to buying a pram or pushchair...
Practical is more important than pretty
I've yet to meet a mum who hasn't learned this the hard way and wound up forking out for more than one pram, as a result. We all regret not listening to more seasoned mums who tried to tell us to eschew the bizarrely-named travel system that looks like something made by NASA in favour of a much less glam but infinitely more reliable, lightweight buggy.
Blogger and mum of one Esther agrees: "I really wish someone had held me down 11 months ago and forced me to buy a Maclaren Techno XT buggy," she tweeted recently, striking a chord with disgruntled, multiple buggy-owning mothers everywhere. "Not that I'd have listened to anyone when I was in my mad equipment-buying phase," she admits, "but I do wish someone had explained to me that the only buggy you'll ever need is a stout Maclaren that is suitable from birth. Babies are only in that lying-down phase for, what, five months max? And as long as they're jammed into a cosy footmuff and not being rained on, you don't need one of those ludicrous moses-basket attachment thingies, because you'll be tripping over that thing in the hallway for the next 4,000 years."
Most mums love Maclarens
Look at any experienced mum and the chances are she's pushing a zippy Maclaren or a similar model, and she'll probably admit to wishing she'd bought one earlier. They're compact and lightweight yet sturdy and reliable, easy to manoeuvre and not too big for tucking in a corner of a coffee shop. And they come with an appealing pricetag.
"A Maclaren XT Techno is a snip at £200 while my iCandy Cherry crashed in at about £800 with all the assorted attachments. Daylight robbery," says Esther. "And worst and most important of all, having a designer buggy totally marks you out as a credulous first-timer."
Imprisoned by a pram
A bad pram purchase can literally make you a prisoner in your own home. That's no exaggeration. Mum of two, Natalie, admits: "For the first four weeks after my second child as born I hardly went out of the house on my own as I hated the enormous, unwieldy designer double buggy so much. Daft, I know, but that's how much it matters."
Facing mum isn't much fun
Many mums succumb to a pricey pram because they enable the baby to face whoever's pushing the pram, unlike more affordable, lightweight buggies where the baby faces the outside world. But Esther's unconvinced.
"Some people have a big thing about the baby being able to see you, but in my experience Kitty was always asleep in her buggy when she was really small, and once she was bigger and able to sit up she wanted to look at dogs and ducks and exciting stuff, not my boring old face."
Mum of two, Henrietta, agrees. She specifically chose a buggy that positioned her daughter facing her, but regretted in within a year. "It was lovely until Milly was nine months old but as she got heavier it became really difficult to maneouvre up pavements," says Henrietta. "I was annoyed with myself because I'd read other comments about that at the time - but still went ahead and bought it."
Oh, and a cup-holder is a worthy investment too. You lose so much of your old life and identity when you become a pram-pusher, so the ability to down a decent latte at the same time is a must.