What is it with baby transport? Why does it make so many of us feel a bit edgy?
The image released by Plunket upon fitting a front-facing car seat for 8-month-old Prince George
This month, the Royal Family’s New Zealand tour began with a public row about the direction that Prince George’s car seat faced. Last month, Sally Goddard Blythe gave a presentation at the Annual WATCH? Conference, about the importance of movement for babies’ development, but the media headlines focused on strollers. Last week, my blog about a recent New Zealand study on strollers turned out to be my most popular post ever, with 17,000 people around the world reading it to date. The responses to such stories are wide-ranging and emotive: Continue reading
In 2008, I released a piece of small piece of research that caused an international storm. It tried to make a simple point: that the design of strollers shapes our children’s emotional and brain development. The study was, at the time, the only piece of empirical research that I could find that had even tried to explore that possibility.
I thought that parents and manufacturers deserved to know that strollers were important. So did the National Literacy Trust, who commissioned the research, and the Sutton Trust, who funded it.
That shows the far-ranging interest in this issue. The National Literacy Trust is an organization interested in reading, and the Sutton Trust is an educational charity. Yet both of them were interested in baby buggies. They had teachers behind them, urging them to give serious consideration to the idea that strollers could be influencing language development. Primary teachers have been witnessing a steady decrease in children’s linguistic abilities upon starting school, and they had wondered if the fact that so many strollers are now designed to face outward, rather than toward the adult, might be one of a variety of possible factors contributing to that decrease. Continue reading
In a few days time, Kate and William are set to become the most famous parents in the world. And when they walk out with the royal baby, they will be doing so in a Bugaboo stroller.
For those of you who missed this announcement, it was casually made on St Patrick’s Day at a reception for army wives. Kate commented to some of those gathered that she had chosen a Bugaboo, also letting slip that she had settled on a light blue colour scheme. This has led many commentators to conclude that we are all expecting a boy. Continue reading
It has been fascinating to see what’s happened since Monday, when Stokke announced its new range of Connection Strollers. Although it is rather soon to have another (long) blog post from me, I thought it valuable to write a follow up, because so many of you have written to me this week.
My emails contained a range of feelings:
relief : “Its great that the buggy companies are finally listening,”
doubt: “Is there enough evidence to make claims about the importance of stroller design?”
worry: “So are strollers likely to become yet another arena where parents are pressured and blamed?”
excitement: “I think this video will be useful even with the staff in our family centres.”
It is striking for me that this is a question that most of us, scientists included, have not really contemplated: how does the way we transport our babies shape their brain development? Yet is clear, given what we now know of neuroscience, that infant transport must be shaping infant brains.
This is because brains are growing more rapidly between the ages of birth and 3 years than they ever will again. Moreover, relationships with other people have a tremendous influence on that growth: the attention that babies receive, the amount of touch they are treated to, the amount of emotional attunement they experience all matter. Since babies spend their whole first year (at least) being transported by other people, their experiences of that movement must be shaping their neural and psychological development.
Upon leaving the house, what do I come across, lying on the ground at my feet? A discarded label, thoroughly soaked from the last string of showers. It’s a big circular label, attractive and trendy, black background and crisp white lettering. On one side, a very serviceable line drawing of a stroller – positioned facing outward – and, on the other side, a list of the stroller’s ten key features.