Forward or parent facing buggy?

Is it best for your child to be forward or rear facing? We look at the research to help you decide…

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Can the direction your buggy faces have an effect on your baby’s development? That’s the shocking findings of research in late 2008.

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While we all thought letting our babies watch the world go by from their forward-facing pushchairs was good stimulation for them, some experts are now saying that what babies actually need to see from their buggy is their mum – and so should sit in parent (or rear) facing pushchairs.

So is a parent-facing buggy best?

In the first ever study on the psychological effects of forward-and parent-facing buggies, researchers at the University of Dundee suggested that babies were less likely to sleep, laugh or interact with their parents if they were facing away from them.

In the study, researchers observed more than 2,722 parents pushing their infants in their buggies, the majority of which were forward-facing. They noticed that:

  • Parents were twice as likely to chat to their children if they were in a face-to-face buggy.
  • The children were more likely to talk back.

In the second part of the study, the researchers looked at 20 volunteer mums with their infants, who were aged between 9 and 24 months. They were asked to push their children in both types of buggy for 20 minutes each. When the children were in parent-facing pushchairs:

  • Their mums spoke to them more.
  • Mums and children laughed with each other more often than when they were facing forwards.
  • Babies were more likely to fall asleep and their heart rate was lower, suggesting they were more content.

If you’ve got a forward-facing pushchair, do you need to buy a new one?

No, there is no need for you to worry that you’re doing your child any harm if you have a forward-facing buggy. It’s important to consider:

  • As yet, there haven’t been any studies to reveal the potential benefits of letting your child look foward at what’s going on around her.
  • The babies in the University of Dundee’s studies actually cried more when they were in parent-facing buggies.
  • They chatted of their own accord just as much, whichever way they were facing.
  • The NHS also point out that a baby’s heart rate isn’t a good indicator of stress. The heart rate changes for many reasons, including excitement and enjoyment. The babies in forward-facing buggies may simply have had more fluctuating heart rates because they were excited by everything they could see going on around them.

“Parents simply need to try and minimise the time their child is in her pushchair in very noisy and crowded environments,” advises child psychologist Linda Blair. “Too much stimulation, noise and fast changing scenery can be stressful for young children so enjoy lots of walks in quieter environments, such as the countryside, which will stimulate your child in a much more positive way.”

The best forward and parent-facing buggies

These days there are so many different buggies on the market that you can get the advantages of both forward-and parent-facing buggies from one model. Manufacturers are even taking the studies into account as they come up with new designs.

“Parents simply need to try and minimise the time their child is in her pushchair in very noisy and crowded environments,” advises child psychologist Linda Blair. “Too much stimulation, noise and fast changing scenery can be stressful for young children so enjoy lots of walks in quieter environments, such as the countryside, which will stimulate your child in a much more positive way.”

Check out our pick of the 10 best rear- and forward-facing buggies.

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And remember, if you have a forward-facing pushchair, there’s no need to worry – there are plenty of other opportunities to chat to your baby. “Just make sure you spend time every day enjoying face-to-face chats with your baby, using good eye-contact and lots of smiles,” says Linda. “You can chat about absolutely anything and this will build their confidence and make those stressful situations easier for them.”

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