Every day, babies and toddlers can be seen being pushed along, facing outwards and into a sea of strangers, often with buggy hood up causing a barrier between the infant and the mother, father or carer.
The current fashion for transporting babies facing away from the person pushing the vehicle appears to be changing slowly as there is now a wide choice of prams in which the baby can face its carer.
The disadvantages of babies facing this way are:
- Frequently the person pushing the vehicle is unaware of the possibility that the child’s hat has fallen over it’s his face or a wasp has landed on its hand.
- If it’s a windy day there is no protection for the occupant if the wind is facing towards him, but if the baby is facing the carer there is some shielding and protection.
- When crossing the road, the baby goes face first, towards the road, unprotected from the fumes of traffic while waiting to cross.
- There is no interaction between baby and carer, so important for normal emotional development.
Older mothers and grandmothers may have fond memories of pushing their own babies in prams which are now considered old-fashioned, talking to them, playing, singing songs and watching their reaction to new sights and experiences around them. Parents may bear this in mind when they look for their baby’s transport system.
There are many advantages to having a buggy facing the person that pushes it, namely:
- The baby is clearly visible and can be seen while walking along, as the baby is responding to being talked to; smiling or calmed if distressed for any reason.
- When your baby is facing you there can be constant observation and interaction between you and your baby.
- As interaction takes place the pleasure and enjoyment of bonding makes the baby feel more secure.
- Older babies and toddlers can join in the carers singing and pointing out interesting things to see on the journey… and so stimulation and learning takes place.
- Adjustments needed to blankets or clothing (especially hats which are prone to falling over the face), can be immediately seen and corrected.
- Toys can be saved from being thrown away.
- If the baby is distressed, sick or their colour changes, immediate action can be taken, and the child is reassured by the presence of the parent.
- Insects or other pests can be seen and removed quickly.
- If your baby slips under the covers it can be retrieved.
- Your baby isn’t confronted with a confusing scene of people and places as they can see a reassuring familiar face at all times.
- Research has shown that which we have instinctively always known, that babies and small children thrive when in close proximity to their human family.
The history of moving babies and children around on wheeled carriages, other than carrying, is fascinating and there are records of baby transport as far back as Ancient Egypt and China.
Throughout human history babies have been carried in arms until they became older and heavier when a variety of slings were used. Babywearing with slings is still very popular and make it possible for parents to be mobile with their babies and have free hands to do other things.
English architect, William Kent invented a baby carriage in 1773, which had the handle at the back with the baby facing forward. It was designed to be pulled by a small pony, dog or goat for the amusement of upper-class children.
Illustrations by Laura Bagnall