The great pram face off
Babies pushed in away-facing prams are “emotionally impoverished”? Oh, rubbish, says Georgina Guedes.
(Getty Images)
One of the biggest investments facing a new parent is the pram. It’s not necessarily the most expensive item on the list, but it’s the one that provides so many opportunities for confusion that it can be a bit daunting.
With prices ranging from R400 to R25 000 (although that one, I think, could have been taken on the Inca Trail), there’s a lot of variety in prams. And until you’ve had a baby to put in it, you don’t really know what it is you need from one.

I worked out that being light and easy to dismantle was important. And I thought that shopping space underneath was a good idea. Someone told me that two separate handles are important, instead of a continuous arc over which you can’t suspend your handbag.

When I tried to consider the benefits for the baby, I found myself a little out of my depth. Ideally, I’d like my baby to be protected from the sun and rain, stay in, not get jiggled too much and be able to lie down or sit up. Most prams seem to cater for these needs.

I remembered a line from “The L-Shaped Room” where the unwed mother laments the fact that she has no money to buy a pram to exercise the baby, and the doctor asked her gently “exactly how much exercise do you think a baby actually gets in a pram?”

Back to front, upside down, forward, away

Something I’d never considered was whether the pram should face forwards or backwards. A recent study, Babies stressed by buggies, has had baby magazines and websites in a froth over the potential psychological damage that can be done to a child by putting them in an away-facing pram.

According to the study, children put in away-facing prams are “emotionally impoverished”. After a mile-long walk, they had higher heart rates and were less likely to have fallen asleep than their parent-facing counterparts.

The university conducting the study then drew some conclusions, some of which I thought were pushing the facts to meet a desired conclusion. The first that I have a problem with is that an elevated heart rate is an indication of stress. It definitely is, but it’s also an indication of enjoyment or excitement.

Of course children are soothed by seeing their parents’ faces, but eye contact isn’t an essential part of every second of a baby’s life. The point, I would think, of taking a baby out for a walk would not be to give it more face-to-face, developmental time with its parent, but to let it see the world.

Of course, this assumes that most parents spend other times of the day bonding with, interacting with and talking to their babies. Even if I take my baby out for a long walk, or for a blitz of the local shops, at most, this will comprise two hours of my day – and certainly not every day. That leaves a whole lot of other time for me to spend interacting.

It’s entirely possible, though, that when my baby is excited to the point of elevated heart rate by its away-facing pramming adventures, I will remember the one last point of the study – that babies that face their parents are much more likely to fall asleep – with a twinge of regret.

Related link:
Stressed moms and babies

What are your thoughts on which way a pram should face? What kind of pram did you use?

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