I have a few pregnant friends right now, some for the first time. Many of the dads-to-be have spoken to me in excitement about prams – how they can’t wait to buy the pram, what they’re looking for in prams, what the best pram on the market is. I think the reason most fathers-to-be seem to get so excited about the pushchair or pram is that it is gadgetty, which they understand, and makes them feel involved, especially in the early months before they can feel the baby.
The thing is this though: I don’t think anyone should buy a pram before the baby is six months old. Here are my reasons:
- For the first nine months of a baby’s existence, it is close to it’s mother – it can hear her heartbeat and her voice. Once the baby is born, being suddenly removed from that comfort would be disturbing to anyone. Keeping the baby close to you in a sling means that it has ‘kangaroo care’ on tap, it feels mum’s (or dad’s) heartbeat and breathing and is calmer, more relaxed and happier. Dad’s are also better able to bond with babies they carry.
- In the case of premature babies, baby wearing has shown to actually improve a preemie’s condition.
- A baby in a sling is much more engaged with the world around them, rather than just being overwhelmed by it at knee-height. They are involved, take in more, and have more interaction with both their carer, and other people.
- When a newborn is in a sling, it gets to know it’s mothers smell, rhythms and sounds – babies have less colic as the wind is rubbed out of them, they sleep better with the motion. In a pram, babies are in a sort of isolation. I always think of a story I heard, although I can’t find a source for it, of a pram manufacturer that went to an African village to try to sell their wares, but had no luck. Upon investigation, they found the villagers were curious as to why all the white babies (in the marketing material) were being kept in isolation pods. No other mammal keeps its infant purposely separated from it.
- When a baby is six months old, they are able to sit in a pushchair, meaning you can by-pass the whole pram phase, saving yourself a fortune in an expensive convertible pram/pushchair which you’ll only use for six months, then need to find somewhere to store when you no longer use it, thinking you might sell it on later – or use it for the next baby.
- A sling is also better for avoiding flat head syndrome, caused by moving baby from cot to pram to floor, with their head always against a flat surface.
- A major reason I tell parents to wait till the baby is at least six months old is this: When you’re pregnant, you have this ‘dream’ or idea of what life’s going to be likewith your first child. The reality is often very, very different, however. In my case, for example, I was given a beautiful old fashioned Peter Pan style perambulator with large wheels. I loved it. I thought it was beautiful.You might thinkyou know what your life is going to hold with child, but you probably really don’t. At about a year, I decided I needed more exercise, so got yet another pram – a special exercise pram for walkers. It’s great, but it’s very rigid. It’s good for walking, but not running. It’s good for walking but not for shopping – it’s too wide and doesn’t corner well. In other words, it’s perfect for what I needed it for. As compared to the two prams we owned before – fortunately we only bought one for Â£70, but had we paid for all three, we’d have spent well over Â£1200 on them. And in reality we’ve never used any of them (except the walker for when we exercise).Until I got it home, and realised that in order to get it into the house I had to take the pram bit (with baby in it) up the stairs, and put it down in the house, leaving the chassis outside. I’d then have to go down the stairs take off the wheels and drag them, and then the chassis up the stairs in two separate trips. This was not going to work. It also took up half of the nursery, once reassembled.We bought another – thankfully second hand pram, thinking it would be useful to have something easy to use on public transport, and zippy on the pavements. When my daughter was born, we ended up going to a maternity group about 13 miles away, so drove almost daily – and pulling this pram apart to fit it into the car was a nightmare. So, we used the sling my parents had bought us for a long time. I was so much easier on side walks, in shopping centres and on buses. And required little to no assembly.
- Talking about requirements, another thing we didn’t know we’d want when we acquired the first two prams was that I would end up wanting a parent-facing pushchair. Turns out, these aren’t all that easy to find! Our exercise pram is parent-facing, because when I finally realised what I needed, I knew that parent-facing was non-negotiable for me. I had visited my sister in Norway when my daughter was about 6 months old and although I had my sling with me, which we used primarily, she had arranged a pushchair so that she could take Ameli for walks too. It was forward facing only and I hated it. I couldn’t see Ameli. I couldn’t interact with her.When we use our exercise pushchair, Ameli is parent-facing, even though she’s already 17 months. We look at flowers. We point out birds. We â€œtalkâ€. She is interacting all the way, not sitting dumbly in a forward facing position having to take it all in on her own. “The world as described by a parent or carer is a much more interesting (and less frightening) place than unknown, fast-moving scenes whizzing by without any interpretation.” (Research from 2008 showed that children in parent-facing pushchairs interacted better, developed better due to that interaction and were less isolated or “emotionally impoverished“.)While I am a devout baby-wearer, I do understand why people would want a pushchair, especially once the little ones become heavier, wrigglier, and bigger. I had to stop babywearing for a little while because I gained a lot of weight, and Ameli was getting heavier – the two combined were killing my knees. I have managed to get my weight under control again, and now we babywear again, or use a hipseat, or she walks, but when we do exercise walking, she goes in the pushchair.
So – there you have my reasons. They may not work for everyone, and most people might ignore them and many might disagree – we’re culturally indoctrinated to believe that a pram is easier and is ‘baby-ish’ and that having a pram is the first (or second, after the car seat) step towards responsible parenting. Sadly.
Do you agree or disagree? What tips would you give a new parent wanting to buy a pushchair or pram?