Choosing a baby buggy from the bewildering choice of three-wheelers, sports models and off-roaders is, for many parents, as stressful and expensive as buying a small car.

**Yet children want nothing more than the reassurance of facing the person pushing them, according to research published today.

They laugh more, sleep more and have slower heart rates, indicating that they are less stressed. Those that are awake talk more. **

It indicates that parents who pay a fortune for strollers that have enviable suspension, leather seats and iPod holders – but point the child in the direction of travel, like most on the market – may be wasting money.

The report, What’s Life in a Baby Buggy Like?, by Suzanne Zeedyk, of the University of Dundee, concludes: “These two studies suggest that it is more isolated than many adults realise – and may be more emotionally impoverished than is good for children’s development.

“As infants get older they are more interested in the environment around them. Outward-facing buggies are seen as supporting that interest.

But if children do not have parents’ facial and body signals available to them, then they have no help available to determine whether things are safe, threatening, pleasant, interesting or dangerous.

Most babies and young children spend between thirty minutes and two hours a day in a buggy, the research says. It was backed by the National Literacy Trust, was funded by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, and claims to be the first of its kind.

More than 2,700 parents with children were observed on British high streets before researchers tested their theories in detail on 20 mothers and infants. The first study noted that the majority of buggies were away-facing.

**More of the infants in these buggies were silent, fewer were speaking and more sought parental attention. Parents with strollers facing them were more than twice as inclined to talk to the infant, and more children talked back.

Also, the child was twice as likely to be sleeping, which the researchers interpreted as a sign of reduced stress levels. One observer said: “So many parents were on mobiles.” Another added: “The only communication seen today was when the child was given sweets and crisps.”

Dr Zeedyk said that previous studies had shown the importance of children seeing their mothers’ facial expressions. “On every occasion that a baby needs a communicative response but is unable to obtain it, this creates a low-level stress response in the infant,” her report said. “When such instances of stress occur repeatedly and frequently, they become damaging to infants’ neural, physiological and psychological development.”

In the second study, 20 mothers took their children out in either a towards or away-facing buggy, before swapping. Pulse rates were lower in buggies that faced their mothers, and children laughed much more. Mothers spoke more than twice as much.**

The report concluded that we hold “cultural perceptions that child transportation methods are fairly inconsequential as long as children are physically safe”.

A spokeswoman for Parentline Plus, the parenting support charity, said: “This research may influence decisions about what sort of pushchair might be most beneficial. However, I’d reassure parents that this is just one small part of early parenting.”

Source: Times Online, UK