Pushchairs: forwards or backwards?

PushchairThis week, Charisse shares her views on prams, pushchairs and buggies.

“I recently read a study by Suzanne Zeedyk, psychologist, which included a look at the way pushchairs are designed, and wanted to share my thoughts about the results. Not only do we need to listen to our Little Ones, but they need to listen to their carers. The direction of the baby buggy has a strong effect upon your child’s vocabulary and how your baby relates to you.

When out in a fast, often over-stimulating world babies feel safer when they have contact with their parents/carers. They need to see Mum’s face to know if that big beast called a dog is going to eat me, or of that “boom” from the construction site is a real threat to baby’s life.

Previous studies have shown that children who were spoken to more as babies have a greater vocabulary than those who were not spoken to very much. Another revelation moves the spotlight from baby to adult: the direction a baby faces affects their carers. When a baby faces toward the adult pushing them, the adult is more than twice as likely to talk to him or her (25% compared to 11%). (Incidentally, the variable of chatty carers vs more silent carers was eliminated in the study by having each carer push babies in both directions.)

Other findings include the rate of sleeping. When babies are facing toward their carer the baby sleeps nearly twice as much (52% compared to 27%). Sleep is when the growth hormone is released. Although it was not stated in this study, I wonder about the cortisol levels in the babies who did not sleep, and whether the levels are higher than average. Restful sleep is important for reducing cortisol and other anxiety hormones.

In summary: When babies are facing their carer they can be seen and heard more readily, and this can allow a baby to feel perceived and then responded to if necessary. It’s an important aspect of the relationship they have with one another. Babies who receive enough tending to when they are distressed learn how to be in connection with other human beings for safety, thus having more sense of safety in relationships in general.  Babies who are not tended to when they might need a bit of comfort, either by looking at Mum’s eyes or hearing her soothing voice, learn how to calm themselves in isolation and grow up not being able to rely on relationships to feel safe.”