23/08/2011 12:40 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Carrying A Baby Facing Forward Is 'Cruel', Claims Child Expert

Baby carried in sling Rex Features

Mothers who carry their babies facing forwards are cruel, according to a leading child health expert.

Catherine Fowler, a professor of child and family health nursing at Sydney's University of Technology, claims babies are frightened if they are carried in a sling or pushed in a buggy looking away from their parents.

'Imagine if you were strapped to someone's chest with your legs and arms flailing, heading with no control into a busy shopping centre – it would be terrifying,' said Professor Fowler.

'Outward-facing baby carriers and prams give babies a bombardment of stimulus, creating a very stressful situation.

'In not considering our baby's perspective, we are inadvertently quite cruel to children'

Her comments are supported by a 2008 study which found that babies suffer if they cannot see their parents while in a buggy. In the research by the University of Dundee, academics found that baby buggies which face forwards may stunt children's development and turn them into anxious adults.

Children found it difficult to get their parents' attention and were spoken to rarely.

Infants suffer more stress and sometimes even 'trauma', the study said.

In contrast, children in traditional parent-facing buggies were more likely to laugh, listen to their mothers talking and to sleep – indicating lower stress levels.

While babies can be positioned to face inwards – the same as holding in your arms – they are often carried facing forwards, particularly once they can support their own heads.

However, her comments have stirred up controversy, with other experts insisting babies actually get bored if they face their mother all the time.

They point out that while Professor Fowler's principle might apply to newborns, it is not so true for babies over three months old, and many buggies and baby slings are designed to face inwards for newborns and outwards for older children.

Midwife Robin Barker, the author Baby Love, said that as long as babies are loved and fed, the direction they face when in a pushchair is irrelevant.

'Parents have enough to worry and feel guilty about without considering which way they push their child in a stroller,' she said.

'I don't think there is an issue with letting children experience the world before they are 12 months old.'

Pushchairs which face 'backwards', so the child is facing the mother, can cost up to ten times more than outward-facing models, she said.

From your own experience, which do you think is best and at what age - facing the world or facing parents?
Do you think this might just be another way to guilt parents who are perfectly able to tell if their baby doesn't like facing forward (like, um, crying and being unhappy)?