Sometimes a psychological problem of childhood can be prevented by simple parental actions early rather than therapy later.
Which way should a pram face?
Early developmental delays and psychological abnormalities cost a great deal in therapies today. How many are exacerbated by the way that a pram faces and could be prevented by having a pram that faced the pusher?
Prams usually faced the human who pushed them. The human talked to the baby, telling it about what they could see, and responding to the baby’s needs and chatter. The time spent on an outing was time spent with someone interested in the baby. They learned to talk.
Then prams started to face outward, so that the baby could see where it was going, and what was ahead of it – but with no help in understanding this, or ways of making its needs known except by crying loudly.
Mothers or others pushed the laden pram like they pushed luggage.
The baby did not see them, or see when it was about to be removed.
The mothers or others pushed the pram down the street. They sat with their mates at outside cafes and talked with them, but the baby still faced outward, and was given edibles such as chips of bottles from hands that came round to hand them to them. They ate and drank and looked at what they could not understand.
Sometimes it is even worse. The baby looks at meaningless mobiles that interrupt the sight of where they are going. Or a black veil over the pram gives the baby nothing to do except go to sleep. Go to sleep on an outing when there is so much to see!
The mothers who push this human luggage look like luggage-pushers, not like caring mothers.
It costs nothing to have a pram where the baby can see and hear what is happening to it, described by the pram-pusher, and it may save a lot of therapy in language, relating to others, and the meaning of the life it sees.
What does the research say?
The only research I have found on the subject was by Dr. M. Suzanne Zeedyk, of the University of Dundee , ‘What’s life in a baby buggy like?: The impact of buggy orientation on parent-infant interaction and infant stress’ 21 November 2008. (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0000/2531/Buggy_research.pdf.) She wrote up two studies. The first was a ‘national observational survey, conducted on High Streets in 54 locations throughout the UK and eventually comprising 2722 observations of parent-child pairs, which systematically documented the social interactions of families occurring during buggy use. The second was a small-scale experimental study with 20 mother-infant pairs, which built on the findings of Study I by monitoring both mother-infant interactions and indicators of infant stress, during journeys in the two buggy orientations.’
The average baby spent two hours per day in a pram, so the question is quite important. (Survey of the National Literacy Trust, 2005)
Two studies found that mums were more likely to speak and laugh with their babies in a parent-facing pushchair than in a forward-facing one. This means that taking your baby for a stroll may give you a great opportunity to make lots of eye contact and to bond with your baby
The research also claimed that sitting in a forward-facing pushchair increased a baby’s stress levels. Researchers concluded that travelling in a forward-facing pushchair can therefore leave your baby feeling isolated.
Zeedyk concluded that a cultural belief appeared to exist in the UK (and amongst manufacturers) that, once they can sit up, babies benefit from looking out onto the world around them. However, she claimed that research repeatedly shows that in order for babies to make effective use of that experience of the wider world, they need parents to help mediate and make sense of it for them.
This finding was not accepted by everyone. Baby Love author Robin Barker said that as long as babies are loved and fed, the direction they face when in a pram is irrelevant, but her evidence is anecdotal. Ms Barker said parents had enough to worry and feel guilty about without considering which way they push their child in a stroller.
“This is just another thing that can worry mothers,” she said.
Nevertheless, she does make a point – what a particular baby may want. Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen of the Australian College of Midwives said many children get bored facing inwards after three months.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with children looking forward and watching stimulus around them,” she said.
“He doesn’t seem interested in turning around,” one mother said of her nine-month-old son. Another said her nine-month-old baby was trying to turn around as soon as she could. “She got bored looking at me,” she said.
Perhaps such mothers were not using the pram-time for interacting with their child, being bored themselves.
One solution of course is having a pram that can be fixed to look the way that the baby wanted, and these prams can be bought.