The Big Stroller Mistake Moms Make

baby in strollerWe care about how safe our babies' strollers are. But have you ever considered how a stroller can affect your baby's brain? You may be surprised at how much it matters. Neuro-psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe recently spoke about this at a What About the Children conference. She's concerned that babies are spending more and more time in strollers, car seats, and other equipment. Too much time in a front-facing stroller can limit your baby's speech and physical development.

This reminds me of a funny scene in the movie Away We Go where an uber-crunchy mom scolds another couple for even thinking about putting their baby in a stroller. "Why would you want to PUSH! your child away?!?" she says dramatically. So what's the big deal?

Most of us need strollers to get around with our babies. Even moms who prefer baby carriers sometimes use strollers when they're out for longer stretches of time. Blythe isn't saying "no strollers" -- she's just cautioning us to use them in moderation. Basically, don't use the stroller or car seat as a babysitter. It's not so much about what's wrong with front-facing strollers; it's about what your baby isn't getting when they're in one:

1. Face-to-face interaction with parents.

2. The opportunity to move around and explore.

As you've probably heard many, many times, your interaction with your baby extremely important. All that eye contact, singing, and talking isn't just icing on the parenting cake. It's essential to your child's mental development. It can have far-reaching effects, even into elementary school.

As Blythe puts it:

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.

For example, studies show that babies in rear-facing strollers have more advanced language skills than babies in front-facing strollers. (The problem is rear-facing strollers tend to be more expensive. But it's something to think about.)

Even learning to move their bodies in the simplest ways helps prepare babies' brains to solve problems later on in life. Crawling can have an effect on how your baby learns how to read.

So again -- it's not that strollers are bad. It's that we should avoid using them when we don't really need them. Let your baby get out and explore the world. Make sure you're spending plenty of time face to face with your baby, talking and singing. Your baby's brain needs it.

Have you ever paid much attention to how much time your baby spends in a stroller or car seat vs. in tummy time?


Image via Vasile Cotovanu/Flickr

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talkt... talktojonell

I bought a rear facing stroller in 1997 and again in 2002. I've never been comfortable with the idea of not being able to see my baby's face. You just never know what could be going on.

Saskia Hehemann

My fave strollers (yes, I had multiple ones, due to trail-n error because of my arthritis-like symptoms) were the rear facing, too....only cuz I could use it as an excuse singing out loud, out of tune BUT entertaining my baby yippie!!!

Rhodin Rhodin

The last time I used a stroller was at my last OB appointment during that storm on Wednesday. Preschool and daycare were cancelled, so I had a combined 58lbs of kid to get inside fast and I couldn't lift them both. It was a front facing umbrella stroller, better known for its ability to fit in a trunk than its educational benefits. They took turns. You haven't lived until you've seen a 2 year old pushing a stroller with a 4 year old in it.

Blues... Blueshark77

I feel like the stroller is mostly used to hold our gear while we carry our daughter, although now that she's mobile she likes to walk on her own. We didn't leave her in her bed or car seat or swing very often and never for long periods. I feel sad for babies that have a flat back of the head from being left on their backs too much.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

If a kid is facing their parent then they don't get to see the world around them. There are pros and cons to both. Either way, I'm not concerned because my baby rarely spends more than a couple of hours per week in the stroller. Mostly we just use it at the mall and even then she spends almost as much time walking around behind it as she does sitting in it.

00NoW... 00NoWay00

Blueshark ... both of my babies had the flat head / bald spot from sleeping at night ... that's usually why they get like that.

I had to use a stroller because I had two babies and I could not carry them both.  I was on my own most of the time, too.  I don't think my kids suffered from it.  They always had a lot of interaction at home and at grandparent's houses, etc.

Blues... Blueshark77

I know the flattened head and bald patch can come from sleeping on their backs, but I'm talking about the babies with severely flattened heads that have to wear special helmets to correct it from too much back time. 

OneTo... OneToughMami

I only had her rear facing in the stroller until she could sit up on her own. Then I used the forward facing part of her stroller. I think that face to face time is important but allowing them to see the world around them is also important. 

nonmember avatar Michelle

There is something to be said about allowing your little one to view the world as you do in a forward facing stroller. I never used one even with the rear facing car seat attachment. I think it broadened her experience to not just look at me and we can discuss the experience without looking at each other.

nonmember avatar Melissa

The severe flattening that requires the helmet is alot of the time due to a condition called torticollis. My son was born with it but his doctor noticed early on (3 month check up) so luckily he didn't need the helmet after passing through physical therapy to elongate his shortened neck muscle.

We rarely use the stroller, usually only when we go to the zoo until he is able to walk like we did with our oldest.

I see way to many parents pushing their 4 or 5 year old's in a stroller though, that is ridiculous. Let your kid get out and explore, it may be more "work" for you but it's way better for your child.

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