Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why we hate forwards facing push-chairs

This has long been a bone of contention among speech and language therapists and the basis of many a discussion between Franky and me. Here is an extract from the New York Times which sums up our concerns very well:
INSERT DESCRIPTIONNicole Bengiveno/The New York TimesShould baby face forward or back?
What direction does your child’s stroller face? New research raises questions about stroller design and the role it may play in a child’s language development.
M. Suzanne Zeedyk, a senior lecturer in developmental psychology at the University of Dundee in Scotland, studied the way 2,700 families interact with their infants and toddlers while pushing them in strollers. She found that caregivers were less likely to speak to infants when the child was facing forward, compared with strollers where the baby faces the caregiver — what she calls a toward-facing journey. In a small controlled experiment, the researchers gave 20 mothers and infants ages 9 to 24 months a chance to use both types of strollers, and recorded their conversations. She wrote about her findings in a recent Op-Ed article in The Times.
Mothers talked to their children twice as much during the 15-minute toward-facing journey, and they also laughed more. The babies laughed more, too.
Of course, infants do not spend all their time in strollers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that babies can easily spend a couple of hours a day in them. And research tells us that children’s vocabulary development is governed almost entirely by the daily conversations parents have with them. When a stroller pusher can’t easily see the things that attract a baby’s attention, valuable opportunities for interaction can be missed.
Ms. Zeedyk notes that forward-facing strollers are a relatively new development. In the 19th century, strollers were designed so that infants faced the person pushing them. But the development of convenient collapsible strollers changed that, because engineering constraints required the baby to face forward to look at the world, rather than a parent or caregiver.
Ms. Zeedyk notes that her findings raise more questions than answers, but she hopes stroller manufacturers will work to develop a collapsible stroller that faces both ways.
Meanwhile, the findings already encourage us to think again about how babies experience stroller rides — and other forms of transportation like car seats, shopping carts and slings. Parents needn’t feel worried, but instead curious about the elements of the environment that attract their children’s interest. The core message of our findings is simple: Talk to your baby whenever you get the chance — and whichever direction your stroller faces.
To read the full report, go to “One Ride Forward, Two Steps Back.”.
This forms part of one of the sessions of the Baby Talker sessions we run from Smart Talkers


  1. This is a really interesting study and something I thought about when we were choosing our first pram before DD was born. DD faced me for the first eight months or so and I chatted and sang at her whenever we were out and about. Now that she's 21 months she faces forward, she'd do herself an injury otherwise trying to see where she's going, but it actually doesn't stop me talking and singing away. Perhaps because I'm already used to doing it...

  2. That's great, it's the first year that's really important. WE need more like you!