I colleague at my previous place of work was busy telling me the other day to “mark her words”, that front facing baby-buggies were nothing but trouble, and that research would prove her correct. Now while I respect this colleague I filed this idea under “crazy talk”, and moved on.
Well, I’ll now admit I might have been wrong. If this study in the United Kingdom has scientific merit, then my (ex-)colleague could well be right. I was in fact gobsmacked when I read the story.
In a nutshell what the article reports is that children who travel in front-facing buggies, as opposed to the old-school backwards or parent-facing buggies, are more stressed and less socially aware than babies that face their parent. Apparently, face-to-face buggies result in more parent-child interaction, and less ability for the child to follow cues provided by their role model.
Interesting stuff right? Kind of makes sense in some fancy psycho-sociological framework, and probably has a sound scientific basis.
But I’m thinking that the study probably didn’t really get to the nubbin of what could be going on in the minds of these wee people. Let’s look at two stats. First, heart rates of babies in away-facing prams (probably of the three-wheeled “jogger-pusher” types extremely popular these days) are slightly higher than face-to-face prams. Second, babies in away-facing prams “sleep” 27%, while face-to-face “sleep” 52%. What the hell that stat means I don’t actually know. I’m assuming the reporter means that babies in face-to-face prams spend more time sleeping.
Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. Babies can start out with fairly rudimentary sight, but it improves rapidly. The real issue for an infant is that they haven’t really worked out what it is that they’re looking at. You can apparently help your infant develop by providing them with black and white pictures of general resolution that allow them to improve their sight.
Simple stuff. Babies can see shapes and colours, but they only recognise things up close, like a parent’s face, the breast, etc. Things far away though they see, but don’t yet recognise.
So, and here’s the clincher. If you put a baby in a front-facing pram they’re not looking at something they recognise, but a whole lot of stuff they don’t. Which is probably confusing for them. Not stressful, but new, meaning that their wee brains are working hard to sort out.
Now combine that with moving forward, at speed, towards a blur of colour, sounds, and lights. Worse, some parents run with these prams, meaning that the baby is hurtling through space, with no point of reference.
Is it any wonder they end up feeling like this: