A while back I was pushing my toddler in his stroller, busy talking to him and pointing out interesting sights, crazy-looking leaves and other cool stuff. It was at least 10 minutes before I realized he was sound asleep, and had been for awhile. I put on my iPod and headed home, but I wondered whether he listened to me at all when I talked on our walks since my only view was of the back of his head.

Turns out there were folks in the Scotland wondering the same thing. Researchers at the University of Dundee were commissioned by Britain’s National Literacy Trust to see if forward-facing strollers such as mine slowed language learning in babies.

Researcher M. Suzanne Zeedyk, Ph.D., and her colleagues observed 2,700 families with young children going about their daily routine in towns across the U.K. In Britain, as in the U.S., forward-facing strollers significantly outnumber strollers in which the baby faces his care-giver.

At the turn of the last century, babies in strollers always faced the person pushing. Forward-facing strollers emerged in the late 1960s, probably out of the need for them to be collapsible so as to fit in car trunks and other tight spaces. Engineering restrictions meant the child had to face forward, not toward the caregiver.

In their study, Dr. Zeedyk found that of the 2,700 families, infants in forward-facing strollers were spoken to only 11% of the time, compared to 25% when children faced their caregiver. The numbers were even higher for families where the children were carried or were walking with their folks. A smaller, controlled study that showed mothers talked to their children more often when their babies were facing them.

Brain development is greatest between birth and age 3, so this time is crucial for the formation of language. Social interaction boosts brain development, but if a child spends hours a day in a stroller, facing away from their primary caregiver, he or she may be missing out on some true quality time. For many families living in cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco who walk much more than they drive, if they drive at all, an investment in a face-to-face stroller is worth considering.

While the researchers acknowledge their study mainly points to the need for more studies, they do recommend parents take every opportunity to talk to their children regardless of the direction the stroller faces.

I still have my forward-facing strollers — three of them — but they’re rarely used. I prefer to walk holding hands with my little guy. That’s a lot more fun.