Babies paraded as parents’ fashion accessories

Babies paraded as parents’ fashion accessories


The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 09 December 2008

Who would want to be a small child in the 21st century? Virtually from the moment of birth you’d be given the message that other people’s needs take priority over yours.

Within hours of being born, you’re bundled out of hospital because the health system considers there are more important things to do with the health dollar than allow new mothers time to bond with their babies. Mother struggling with breast-feeding? No support at home? Tough. Out you go.

Before you’re a few months old you’re likely to find yourself being left at a creche each morning so that Mum can go to work, because a relentlessly acquisitive, consumerist society has convinced a generation of parents that owning a flash house, driving a late-model car and pursuing a career are more important than raising their children.

At weekends, you’re liable to find yourself being dressed in cute designer-label clothes and dragged off to a trendy cafe, where you’re expected to behave yourself patiently while your parents slurp latte and read the Sunday paper.

And on the rare occasions when you’re taken for a walk in a pushchair – or baby-buggy, to use the cutesy-wutesy name now preferred – you’re propelled toward a procession of bewildering, and possibly frightening, strangers.

The recent report of a Dundee University study that showed forward-facing pushchairs might impair children’s development shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

When a small child is facing its parent there is constant interaction between the two. The Dundee study found, predictably, that this stimulated brain development.

Conversely, the study concluded that babies facing away from the pusher could be “emotionally impoverished” and even suffer stress. The language is a bit melodramatic but the message is simple enough.

There are obvious practical reasons, too, why the rear-facing pushchair is preferable. It means that whoever’s pushing can see instantly if anything is wrong, such as the child choking or being dazzled by the sun, or a wasp landing on its face.

But the vagaries of fashion dictate that the forward-facing buggy is the way to go. Forward-facing pushchairs are now so prevalent that it’s hard to find an old- fashioned one in which the child faces the pusher.

I suspect the appeal of the forward-facing pushchair has more to do with the gratification of parents than with the comfort and wellbeing of the child.

Couples are delaying having children because their careers take priority. When they finally get around to it, they often behave as if this most basic biological feat is something no one has ever accomplished before.

The child then becomes an advertisement for the parents, a fashion accessory to be shown off for maximum advantage. This is accomplished far more effectively when the unfortunate infant is facing forward.


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