Here’s a newsflash: Leaving your baby in a stroller (or any other stationary hunk of gear, like a bouncy chair or car seat) for extended periods of time is all sorts of bad. We’re talking about “hampering speech and physical skills” and less quality time interacting with caregivers—problems that can continue to plague your child long after his stroller years are behind him. Yep, when your high-schooler bombs the SAT, you can blame all that time in the bouncy seat.
This is according to the Daily Mail, which recently reported on a warning from neuro-psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro Physiological Psychology in Chester, who will be speaking at a conference put on by a group called WATCh (What About the Children?).
“Speaking ahead of her speech, she said: ‘Attention, balance and co-ordination skills learned during the first 36 months of life support cognitive learning and have been linked to performance on SATs at school.
‘Infants need opportunity for free movement and exploration, whether that is tummy time, cuddling or rough play.’”
Well, yes, of course. But before you start to panic about all that time your babe has already spent napping in the stroller or swing (or, um, is that just me?), let’s keep reading:
“‘If they are used in moderation there is probably no problem at all,’ Goddard Blythe said. ‘There is perhaps a culture among a new generation of parents who don’t know they should only be used as tools, rather than devices that you can keep a baby in for long periods.’”
While the point that babies need social interaction and the physical freedom to safely explore their surroundings is 100 percent valid (and Goddard Blythe is hardly the first expert to make it), I’m guessing that you—and most of the parents reading this—already know that, and don’t leave your baby languishing in one of these «tools» for hours and hours on end. I’m also guessing that you don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about, especially if that stroller or bouncy seat time allows you to (gasp!) get stuff done on occasion.
That said, Goddard Blythe makes another point that I think bears repeating, which is that studies have shown that kids who ride in rear-facing strollers have more advanced language skills than kids who are pushed in forward-facing models. That’s a point that researcher M. Suzanne Zeedyk made back in 2009, writing in the New York Times that “Mothers talked to their children twice as much during [a] 15-minute toward-facing journey [where baby faces his or her caregiver], and they also laughed more. The babies laughed more, too.”
So don’t ditch your stroller, mama—just make it a rear-facing model. The promise of better language and more baby laughs is a pretty darn good reason, no?
Image of baby in baby stroller courtesy of Shutterstock