ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – A psychologist has issued a warning that leaving an infant in a stroller, swinging chairs, or a car seat with little face-to-face interaction can cause damaging long-term development.
The warning also claims that overusing these types of baby equipment can prevent an infant from exploring their physical environment and building up social skills in the vital first three years of their life.
“Children need time to move and interact as an important part of growing up,” Sally Goodard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, England told The Telegraph.
Blythe said that many mothers and fathers abuse equipment like that when they get busy in their own personal lives.
Blythe also explained another way parents keep they children occupied when they get busy is by using a smartphone or a tablet.
“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,” Blythe said at a conference in London. “Infants need opportunity for free movement and exploration whether that is tummy time, cuddling or rough play. But social interaction also helps physical development, for example eye contact, singing and talking. That is not happening if a child is in a forward facing buggy and her mum is using her smartphone.”
Previous research from Dundee University found that “forward-facing push chairs can leave infants emotionally impoverished.”
Blythe knows that this equipment is part of raising a child but she said “if used sparingly [it] should not cause problems.”
“The trend is that children are spending an increasing amount of time in restricted sedentary positions, from where the scope for physical experience is constrained,” she added. “The best playground for a baby in the first months of life is firstly the mother’s body and secondly a clean blanket on the floor. From there a child learns head and neck control, and eventually ‘how’ to roll and sit by himself- this is different from the experience of being ‘placed’ in a sitting position by an adult.”
The charity What About the Children? sponsored the conference titled “Building the brain: what’s love got to do with it?”
“I am not anti-baby equipment but I see the results of restricted physical interaction in the early years, and also a new generation of parents who are not aware of what babies and children need in the early years to build the physical foundations for learning,” she added.