There are many types of prams and travel systems on the market; it can be very hard to choose which is the best option for your baby. While some say that a parent facing is better, there are many advantages of either option. We give you the pros and cons and go into some of the research that has been done.
- Emotional Comfort and Bonding
Two studies found that in a parent-facing stroller there was more bonding time for mom and baby. Having the eye-contact allowed baby to see mom and speak and laugh, creating a stronger bond. From an early age your little one can recognise your face, which gives them emotional comfort. Until your little one develops object permanence they assume everything that they see will quickly disappear and many find this distressing. Experts claim infants can develop object permanence around four months. One study observed more than 2722 parents and concluded that parents were twice as likely to talk to their little ones if they could see them, and children were more likely to laugh back strengthening the bond.
This increased contact with mom lead to better speech and faster physical development in the infants. Expert, Suzanne Zeedyk, claims that if an infant is spending significant time in a forward-facing pram it can undermine their ability to communicate. At infancy, your little one’s brain is like a sponge and by isolating them in a forward-facing buggy, without interaction, this can negatively impact on their development.
Neuro-psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe agreed that babies are spending too much time in strollers in general. This does not mean that strollers are bad and we must stop using them, but rather limit the time we do use them. Blythe encourages parents to give their little ones time for free movement or exploration – this can include tummy time, cuddling or rough play. Milestones achieved as an infant can have a lasting effect on later life. For example crawling can have an effect on hand-eye coordination, which affects how your little one learns to read.
- Visual Ability
Newborn visual ability is limited to short distances of twenty to thirty centimetres. Experts claim at the age that seeing a parent or caregiver’s face offers more comfort. As the infant gets older you can switch to forward facing but, before then, the outside world simply looks blurry and can be overwhelming.
- Easily monitor baby
As a new parent you do not want to let your little bundle out of your sight! Having a parent-facing pram allows you to do just that. As infants are less able to regulate their own temperature being able to see them helps you to regulate this. You can easily ensure that your new edition is comfortable and can monitor them easily. By utilising the lie-flat infant recline option available on certain strollers, baby is supported comfortably while they are still too young to support their own heads. Some of the Graco Travel Systems or Prams have a window that you can use to view baby even when forward-facing.
- Stressing Baby
The studies also concluded that parent-facing babies had lower stress levels, as seeing mom’s face comforted them. They were also able to fall asleep faster indicating that they were content. The problem with this conclusion is that stress is measured by an elevated heart rate. This can be due to many things such as excitement or enjoyment and is not necessarily a bad thing. The heart rate monitor was attached to baby’s foot; simply by wiggling or any movement, the rate could have risen. A stressed baby can lead to an anxious adult so take the time to create special quality face-to-face time with baby to ensure that your little one is content.
- Better Neck Support
It is thought that a forward-facing stroller will provide better neck support to your little one should you bump into the curb. In the same thinking as to why rear-facing car seats are recommended. Once your little one is strong enough to hold their neck – this point becomes less important.
The age of the children in these studies was between nine and twenty-four months. While it is true that younger infants do need more face-time with mom, as they get older children like to explore the world. By having a forward-facing pram, children can see many new colours, shapes, faces and other exciting things encouraging development. Babies in the parent-facing prams were said to fall asleep faster and cry more, this could simply be because the infant was bored.
There has been no formal research done, but many moms have found that by placing their little ones in a forward-facing stroller their little ones learned independence. Rachel says: “I didn't want him needing to see me to feel safe, I wanted him to see what was going on around him, now he's the most inquisitive little dude going! “
Currently there is no research outlining the potential benefits of having an infant in a forward-facing position. Babies were found to chat the same amount whichever they were facing. So it really will depend on what you are looking for and what suits you as a parent. Experts also advise that parents limit the stimulation that infants get. Too much stimulation in a noisy environment can be stressful for your little one. Stimulate your infant in a positive way with lots of face time and push them in a quiet environment where they can hear your voice whether parent or forward facing. You can chat to them about absolutely anything to build their confidence and let them know that you are there. Please note that this research can also be applied to slings being used parent-facing or forward-facing.
In todays market you do not necessarily need to buy two prams to get the benefit of both. All of the Graco Travel Systems have a car seat that can connect to the stroller, essentially creating a parent-facing stroller for infants. Options like the Evo Trio have a reversible seat that means that you can easily switch baby from parent-facing to forward-facing as they get older.
Some other things to consider when purchasing a pram or travel system:
- What features would you like? (i.e.parent-facing)
- What terrain will you be using the pram on mainly? (tarred, grass, etc)
- What transport will you be using?
- If you have a car - what will fit in your car boot?
- How light does the pram need to be? (i.e. will you be carrying this up seven flights of stairs everyday?)
- Do you need a parent tray?
- Think of your climate. Will you be needing a raincover or footmuff?
- Will you be alone with baby and need something that you can open and close on your own?
Think about your lifestyle now and then imagine how it will change when baby arrives. Are there any features that you think will make your life easier?