Is the use of a forward facing pram really child abuse?

Professor Cathrine Folwer, a health expert in Australia, seems to be claiming that millions of parents around the world, myself included, are guilty of abusing their babies and small children.

As I look across the table at my happy, well-adjusted, healthy son eating his home cooked lunch it’s hard to spot any signs of this harm I’m supposed to have inflicted on him from birth, but apparently I have. Research says that I (and lots of other mothers I know) have cruelly subjected our babies to a “terrifying and very stressful situation’ every time we’ve taken them out to the shops or even for a walk.

So what have we done? Filled their bottles with vodka? Starved them? Fattened them up with a diet of chicken nuggets? Left them outside in the rain when they refused to stop crying in the middle of the night?

No, it’s something far more sinister than that. We’ve used, oh the shame of it, a forward facing baby sling and pram.

According to the Professor and a study carried out by the University of Dundee, these most heinous torture devices we’ve all been using to transport our offspring have not only caused untold suffering to our little angels, but they’ve also stunted their development and turned them into anxious adults. This is because, so they say, children facing forward rarely get their parents’ attention and therefore suffer stress and sometimes even ‘trauma’.

Imagine if you were strapped to someone’s chest with your legs and arms flailing, heading with no control into a busy shopping centre – it would be terrifying,’ said Professor Fowler. ‘Outward-facing baby carriers and prams give babies a bombardment of stimulus, creating a very stressful situation.

Who knew hey? And there was I thinking it was a good thing to let my children have a comfortable, reclinable seat to sit in, surrounded by toys, books and blankets and a great view of where we were heading. Better that than having to look at my tired, puffy face and standard issue eye bags I’d have thought.

And as for the baby sling – which incidentally shouldn’t be used to face babies forward before they’re strong enough to hold their neck up at about 3 months – how on earth can the use of one of those be considered cruel? Aside from the fact that mothers with multiple children – or even those who need the use of both hands – couldn’t physically manage without strapping a baby onboard, surely these pouches can only be an enjoyable experience for the child? Not only are they securely strapped onto their parent’s body (so as close as possible to be), they also have a great view and a chance to sleep. What’s not to love about that?

And now to the legality of it all. I’m pretty sure that nowhere in the 999 pages of instructions that came with either of my prams was there any mention of the possible side effect of long-term therapy for its pint-sized occupant. So does that mean the likes of Graco, Mamas & Papas and Mothercare are about to face the mother of all law suits from ill-informed parents?!

Of course I also don’t remember either of my children sitting (or hanging) there, paralysed with fear and suffering untold trauma. And yes I think I’d have noticed; babies aren’t best at keeping a stiff upper lip when not happy. In fact if memory serves me correctly, my two spent most of the time looking around them with interest, fast asleep or crumbling whatever snack they were clutching into a million crumbs – all of which disappeared into the inaccessible cracks of said heinous torture device.

So when weighing up the facts and research presented by Professor Folwer alongside the knowledge that neither of my children, now 10 and 5, seem to scream in fear every time they see a crowd or develop a nervous tic when I leave the room, I don’t think I’m going to panic too much about the findings of this report.

But perhaps all this time, money and academic intelligence would be far more beneficial if it was directed towards finding solutions to bigger issues, like SIDS and other life threatening childhood diseases, rather than giving new parents one more thing to worry about before the stork swoops in.

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