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Though I had previously seen strollers in some Hollywood movies, my first real experience with them was in France some 9 years ago when I was a student there. Right from the beginning, I was little skeptical towards these carriers on wheels that contained little sweethearts strapped in various fashions. I used to be surprised to see babies sitting passively in them. As strollers were not yet popular in India, I delighted in the fact that babies in our country were mostly carried. Nevertheless my happiness was short lived as on my return to India I found that the strollers had mushroomed here too. For those who know me, they will tell you how I do not think very highly of strollers and bouncy chairs.I am one of those moms who despise the excessive use of all these fasten the baby equipment .
The birth of my son presented me with the litmus test for the feelings towards these carts. We did not buy one, hence silencing all the people who thought they would backfire at me as soon as I had my baby and I got a stroller for him. We did not. We never got a bouncy chair, rocker or walker for our baby. The conspicuous absence of all these apparatus led many to think that we could either not afford them or we did not care enough for the happiness of our son. One benevolent person went to the extent of buying a stroller type tricycle ride-on (the one with animal figures, impossible to be paddled by toddlers) for my baby. I politely refused to accept, she insisted and I had to refuse vehemently.
You must be wondering by now why I am so much against the strollers? I am not.To tell you the truth, I do think that strollers are extremely helpful. Babies are safe in them. They can sleep in them. They can eat in them and of course strollers are easy to get places. You can go shopping with your baby, talk over phone while pushing it forward and even have a quick chat with a lot of people on the way. Great, is not it? Well , that exactly is my problem. For all that ease and comfort, we have to pay a big price. No, no I am not talking about money. I am concerned about the way these strollers affect our kids. Poor souls miss out on all the human touch, running, climbing and talking. Is not childhood about all this? Science proves that kids of all ages starting from the moment they are born need lots of movement. They should have maximum possibility to roll, crawl, walk, run, jump and hang. Walking is essential to developing the human body. It is not an option. It’s a requirement. As Katy Bowman from Nutritious Movement says, Doing other exercise does not replace walking, as your physiology depends on the very particular mechanical signals found in regular, well-aligned locomotion .Law of Specificity indicates: If kids don’t walk, then when they do walk, it’s too hard. So it is of prime importance that we encourage our children to walk as soon as they start toddling.
On my part I have always tried to carry my baby as scientific studies show that when it comes to babies, the act of in-arm carrying supplies not only the correct environment for maximal baby strength development, but also the opportunity for mom to continue to peak her upper body muscle contraction. The use of the arms not only keeps the lymph system (waste removal) process pumping about the breast area, but also helps keep the mechanics of smooth muscle lactation in prime condition. I also used to lay him flat on a mat or gave him tummy time so that he could explore his possibilities of movements stretching his tiny arms and legs, practicing balance of his neck, shoulders and hips. Gladly by seven months, he was up on his feet and cruising around in the entire house. It was tough for me. Very tough indeed, running after a baby all day through but I reminded myself every now and then that this was not going to last for ever. We started going out and walks have helped us in many ways. Apart from the physical exercise that my son gets, it has also done wonders to his communication and social skills. During our excursions, we get to greet many people. He stops by adults playing badminton and requests them to give him the rackets. He suddenly starts chasing a butterfly or bends down to pick up a twig. I run after him and this brings him immense joy. We walk and say hello to the dogs, cars and everything that we see. I point out objects for him and he repeats the words. I see this has really helped with his language skills. He started talking early and was making complete comprehensible sentences by 18 months.
I understand it is easier said than done. Each circumstance is different.Caregivers have a lot of tasks to do and carrying the baby all the time is not a cakewalk. Toddlers take a lot of time to go from one place to another and they run away a way too much. Moreover they are always trying to climb up the stairs here and there and they want to touch everything with their hands while walking. Yet I ask :when will they run and jump if not as toddlers? Research shows that babies' too much time in a stroller or a bouncer or any stationary baby-holding tool does not encourage the growth of their little bodies and little brains. Don't they look bored and dejected in strollers? One more problem I see with strollers is that I find kids constantly snacking in them. This is not a healthy habit and I am totally against it.
It is high time we limit the use of strollers. Wherever possible, parents must schedule time more generously, allowing room for slow walks that let young children absorb the world at their own pace. This however requires a collective effort on the part of caregivers, for one person alone it becomes a very tiring task. Strollers may be necessary until the babies begin to walk, but after they attain the walking milestone, they must be encouraged to walk instead of sitting idle in a ride-on. Please remember that walking stimulates important brain processes that cannot be replaced by riding. So ditch the stroller for the walk up to the play area. Cut down on window shopping so that your toddler can walk in the mall without getting too tired. Put him in the trolleys available at the shops so that all of you get the required break . Enjoy his wonder years in a most natural way!
Next time you step out of your house, consider leaving the stroller behind!
Disclaimer : My views are not intended to hurt anyone's feelings. I am trying to find ways to give our children more time to engage themselves in active play.
Pic courtesy: www.freepik.com