Saturday, November 22

Bugged babies

No, not little spy infants, but babies who are stressed out in buggies (or strollers if you prefer).

Babies pushed in buggies facing away from their parents could suffer lasting psychological damage, scientists claim.

Yes, a nice stressed filled tagline to pull you in, just ignore it.
Children made to face away from their carers are more likely to end up anxious adults, the first ever study on the effects of buggies has revealed.

How do they make such a correlation?!
The away-facing babies in the research were "emotionally impoverished", laughed less, talked less and suffered more stress than those facing their parent.

Almost 3,000 parent-infant pairs were studied as part of the research by Dundee University for the Talk To Your Baby early language campaign of the National Literacy Trust.

In one experiment, 20 babies were pushed for a mile, half the journey spent in an away-facing buggy and the other in a toward-facing one.

A quarter of parents using face-to-face buggies talked to their baby - more than twice as many as those using away-facing buggies.

Babies facing towards the buggy-pusher enjoyed a reduced heart rate and were twice as likely to fall asleep.

Only one baby in the group of 20 laughed during the away-facing journey, while half laughed during the face-to-face journey.

Well, that's certainly interesting. Although it's sort of common sense really, isn't it? Unless there's something really engaging going on 'out there', the baby is more likely to laugh and have emotional reactions when facing the parent. But then again, common sense.... most babies are pushed in such facing-away strollers.
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, from Dundee University's School of Psychology, said: "If babies are spending significant amounts of time in a baby buggy, that undermines their ability to communicate easily with their parent.

"Our data suggests that for many babies today, life in a buggy is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful. Stressed babies grow into anxious adults."
UK Sky News

There they go with that enormous leap. Not sure about that one. I mean, I'm not disputing it, and I feel intuitively that babies facing the parent suffer less stress (hmmm... facing a happy parent that is), but sheesh, how do they account for all other environmental factors when deciding what exactly produced the anxious adult?

That aside... did you carry, use a stroller? Would you do anything differently now?


  1. I have always said this. I believe it very strongly. Unfortunately, finding a buggy (or pushchair as we call them) that doesn't face forward is basically impossible here. My baby was in a back-facing pram until about six months or so when she had to move up to a pushchair. I was unhappy about it. I didn't want to use one at all but my back was damaged in labour and I couldnt carry my baby. In my defense, I talked to her all the time and bent over to look at her and often actually managed to push the buggy alongside me!

  2. Well, at least the data sample was large (3,000). I wonder what age range they included as "babies"? And there is a HUGE difference between causation and correlation. We might intuitively say, yes--babies who don't see their parents and are overexposed to the loud, abrupt world in a stroller (buggy, pushchair) might grow up to be anxious adults. But it's another thing to say they grow up to be anxious adults *because of* being in a front-facing stroller. Seems like too simple a cause for such a complex and long-lasting result.

    I carried my children a bit but never used a sling very much. I did have them both in back-facing strollers until they grew out of their infant car seats (because that is typically how back-facing strollers work in the US: only with the infant car seat). This worked well for us, and we didn't take them out to very many overstimulating places in the stroller anyway.

  3. I find this a bit strange actually. I wonder what the basis of the study is - where the funding was sourced (industry linkages etc) and who was in charge at Dundee University. And what were the mitigating factors etc.

    Anyway, it seems as though a legitimate premise has been drawn into a very long bow.

    Personally I used both pram and baby carrier. I chatted away and interacted with my baby whichever mode of transport we used. I do remember her always getting very excited when we were to go out in the pram. She's a curious, social soul, so perhaps it suited her well.

    It seems to be that there are so many intricate and complicated ways parents can feel guilt and worry. Sometimes the science of motherhood can overwhelm instincts and good sense. I often wonder whether it's more about our own control issues and and emotional damage that we end up trying to create elaborate and utopic scenarios for our children.

    In terms of the pram thing, I think it's actually an awful (and possibly dubious) idea that we are psychologically damaging our babies by putting them in a pram. If we interact with them, I don't see how it impacts so hugely.

    And if this is indeed the case, there must be other factors involved, and such findings could well be highly reductionist. As a researcher, I have my doubts about such studies.

    My two bits. Eek.

  4. Wow, what a stretch, eh? Krikey, for a time my infant son was carried, facing away from me...did the nurture get cancelled by the torture? I jest,though I did use a sling with both as infants, moved into backpack for big adventures, and front carry type things, all usefull, and enjoyable. I used a stroller too, and never worried about their pshyche...seriously, it came down to the value of the outing and interactions of us all. Anytime I pay too much attention to what 'they' say I find my common sense goes out the window and we all suffer. So, over time I have learned to trust myself more and that has worked best.

  5. This is just the usual fear-enciting news tripe, right?

    It does bug me (oops pun) though, because some of these theories are really interesting and many have a sound intuitive base.

    Whether these articles trigger fear, guilt, or suspicion, they do very little good imho. Except to initiate discussion, which IS good.

  6. We use a sling; not sure how long this will prove viable, but it works for us for now. The witchling is nearly six months, and about sixteen pounds, I think, so not enormous, but so far it hasn't been difficult - I think I am just getting stronger!

  7. Welcome Earthernwitch - you might be surprised that you do get stronger.
    When I started wearing her I was already thinking ahead at what we were going to do by the time she was 6mths, thinking she would be so heavy. But it turns out that carrying them is a great workout (assuming you have no physical problems). I just became stronger as she grew. And because it's gradual, you improve without strain. I'll take this over the gym any day.

  8. Digging in your archives again...
    I read about that study. I think the important factor is just how much time that baby spends in the stroller. And how much face time that baby has with his or her parents the rest of the day. I think carrying the baby is best--they can see the world around them AND their caregiver, while being in contact with their caregiver. We only used the stroller a few times...even then he doesn't stay in it the whole time. Same with the shopping cart at the store. It's fun for a moment, but then he'd rather be in my arms.


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