Forward-facing buggies 'can cause mental harm to babies'

BABIES who are pushed in buggies facing away from their parents could face lasting psychological damage, scientists have claimed.

The wide-ranging study – the first into the psychological effects of buggies – found babies pushed in the more popular forward-facing models were left "emotionally impoverished". They appeared to suffer more stress than babies facing their parent.

They were also found to be significantly less likely to talk, laugh and interact with their parents.

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Almost 3,000 pairs of parents and babies were studied as part of the research by Dundee University. In one experiment, 20 babies were pushed for a mile, half the journey being spent in an away-facing buggy and the rest in a toward-facing one.

It was discovered 25 per cent of parents using face-to-face buggies talked to their baby – more than twice as many as those with away-facing buggies.

Babies facing towards the buggy-pusher were found to experience a reduced heart rate and were twice as likely to fall asleep, suggesting they were less stressed.

Mothers and infants who had a chance to use both types of buggy laughed more frequently with face-to-face buggies. Only one baby in the group of 20 laughed during the away-facing journey, while half laughed during the face-to-face journey.

Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, from Dundee University's School of Psychology, said: "Neuroscience has helped us to learn how important social interaction during the early years is for children's brain development.

"If babies are spending significant amounts of time in a baby buggy, that undermines their ability to communicate easily with their parent.

"At an age when the brain is developing more than it will ever again in life, then this has to impact negatively on their development.

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

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"It looks, from our results, that it is time that we began carrying out larger-scale research."

Liz Attenborough, manager of the Talk To Your Baby campaign, the early-language branch of the National Literacy Trust which has published the study, said: "This shows something as seemingly ordinary as going out with a child in a buggy where adult and child are face-to-face can be a valuable opportunity to spend time talking together in a way that is stress-free for the child.

"Parents with a two-way facing buggy should use the sociable face-to-face option as standard."

Alison Gibson, of the Glasgow Pram Centre, said: "Parents increasingly want the face-to-face type of buggies, partly because of the interaction that they can have, but there is also the element of welfare.

"A lot don't like the wind being blown into their children's face and some mothers have said that there had been occasions where their child had been sick and they hadn't realised.

"But a lot of companies still favour this design, mainly down to tradition, though they are gradually shifting towards the face-to-face types on the grounds of public demand."