Over the past 30 years there has been a sorry trend in baby carriers and especially prams whereby our babies are left without visual contact with their carers. This is the sort of thing I mean:
Young children cannot learn from the endless stimuli that they are exposed to except through the mediation of their mothers, fathers and other carers who interpret, repackage, censor and explain phenomena to them. It is the three-way interaction between the world, the baby and its carer that allows the child to make sense of it all. Simply exposing the baby to stimuli without the input and constant filtering of the stimuli by the carer over-stimulates and confuses the baby and, at worse, makes it anxious.
Where has this come from? Surely pram manufacturers are capable of making prams that enable inter-action with the baby as he or she grows? Slings that enable baby to face mummy or daddy are certainly available.
The second photo above was used to illustrate a story about Pullitzer prize-winning author Jared Diamond advising parents to boost their babies' confidence by carrying them facing outwards. Jared is an advocate of baby wearing which is great and points out that babies have been carried rather than pushed from time immemorial and that this is beneficial. My issue is where does this facing outwards idea then come from? Traditional societies cited by Diamond do not wear their babies facing outwards. To illustrate his point about traditional parenting wisdom, the article uses this picture:
A mother in face-to-face contact with her child!
Personally I have nothing against prams, especially as the baby grows heavier, though baby-wearing is wonderful. What concerns me is the relative isolation of the babies in the first two pictures compared with these:
Research has shown that when parents are facing their babies in this way in prams, they are twice as likely to talk to them as when they are facing away. You can read this research here: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/research/nlt_research/5313_whats_life_in_a_baby_buggy_like
As far as slings go, Elizabeth of Boba products (a baby sling maker) gives 9 good reasons why you shouldn't carry your baby facing outwards and here they are:
Buying a pram, or even a good sling, is a costly business. They are important bits of kit, allowing us to get out and about, protecting baby from the elements, giving the opportunity for fresh air; but they are also about time spent together, introducing baby to the park, the shops, your locality and sharing your experience of those places with him or her. "Look, duck!", Look at the doggy run", "See the big red lorry", "Here's Grandma" and similar are ways of making sense of the world for the baby, of learning language and the association of word and object. They can't happen when you can't even see your child.