Discuss: Australia’s Slippery Slope to Pudding Cap Mollycoddling

Photo from the Sunday Mail showing five toddlers wearing Head Bumpa pudding caps.

There is a movement underway to make pudding caps mandatory in childcare centers and nursing homes in Australia’s state of Queensland.

You’re probably thinking one of two thoughts. “Oh my, I can’t believe it!” or “Wow! An auto-feeding pudding dispenser built into headgear. Awesome!”

Pudding caps are a hot 18th century invention designed to counteract typical falls toddlers make when learning to walk. I profiled them two years ago in Pudding Caps: Then and Now.

The belief back then was simple — fall on your head too many times and your brain becomes pudding. So, parents wrapped their toddlers’ heads in fabric padding.

Today’s inventors take it a step further, recommending “bump caps” for even crawling toddlers.

Yesterday’s Sunday Mail reported that Australia’s Brain Injury Centre is pushing for Queensland to make pudding caps mandatory. The article raises the issue for preschools, playgrounds and junior contact sports. The state’s health director even suggested kindergarten classes.

I tipped you to my perspective by titling this article a “slippery slope.” Consider some factoids from the newspaper article:

  1. Up to 50,000 people suffer brain injuries each year in Queensland.
  2. 0.5 percent of victims remain in a vegetative state.
  3. Toddler skulls take until at least early adolescence to strengthen.
  4. Researchers in the US have found infant skulls are just one-eighth the strength of an adult skull.

Wow, it starts sounding like a good idea. But wait…

How many of those “up to 50,000″ victims are kids? What is the average rate of brain injury (not an “up to” figure)? What percentage of injuries were actually serious? How will the one referenced bump cap protect a child in, say, a vehicle collision when it doesn’t cover the entire scalp like bike or motorcycle helmets do? The cap is composed of strips or bars of high density foam covered by towel-like fabric.

The newspaper article doesn’t reference road accidents, but wouldn’t road accidents be a leading cause of head injuries?

The Brain Injury Centre has an interesting pie chart on its website showing that brain injuries in Australia and the United States comprise more than 50 percent of… of, well, of what exactly? The pie chart is an odd collection of issues from road deaths and stroke to AIDS and breast cancer. So, among that peculiar selection of issues, brain injury dominates. Okay, how about showing us a pie chart limited to physical injuries? How about pie charts showing toddler-only types and causes of serious injury?

None of my commentary is meant to reflect negatively on Australia’s own Head Bumpa pudding cap or the seriousness of head injuries in children. If a child is prone to frequent falls in the home, or is spitfire on the playground, I would consider such a product in that special situation, a decision made by the parent.

Would I recommend pudding caps for all toddlers because it surely would prevent some injuries? No, not anymore than I would recommend pudding caps for all adults because, that too, would prevent some injuries.

Better yet, eliminate playground equipment that kids climb on. No more slides because kids can fall from slides. No more sports because contact sports are ground zero for childhood injuries. Might as well cut all the low lying limbs off the tree in my front yard, too. Where do you draw the line?

No, seriously, I’m asking you, Thinga-readers, where do you draw the line? What precautions do you, or would you, take when your child is learning to walk, playing outside or riding a bike? OK, yeah, my daughter does have a bike helmet.

Also see a competing article on the same news website, but from a different newspaper within the media company: Parents warned on mollycoddling children.


9 Responses to “Discuss: Australia’s Slippery Slope to Pudding Cap Mollycoddling”

  1. RobMonroe says:

    There is a guy at my church that wants to provide these to all infants and toddlers rather than get good, padded carpet….. He’s been told by several folks to get real. Now that I see them in pictures, I would have to agree – buy good carpet!

    May 19th, 2008 at 6:58 am

  2. Jennifer says:

    Let’s just put all our children into a protective bubble and then we won’t have this problem. On a serious note, I am a believer that they learn from those little bumps. Not that I think a child needs to be taken out by a fall; for those serious falls a hand is quickly in the way of the corner of the table (an no I don’t think my hand can be there each and every time).
    However, watch a child’s reaction the first time they fall wearing underwear rather than a diaper. There’s a surprised look. When they run into a wall because they aren’t looking, they are more careful next time.
    I know someone is going to take this the wrong way, but I don’t know how else to express it. You need to experience some injury to learn about things and limitations.
    A helmet to protect a head during a bike ride is necessary because of the extent of injury a head could recieve more likely than not. A “bumper” on the head because a child may crawl into a wall (I’ve seen it) isn’t necessary.

    May 19th, 2008 at 7:36 am

  3. Cindi says:

    I think I take the automatic mother instinct mode! Sometimes, my husband tells me that I would keep our sons in a bubble if I could! This can be from people as much as other hazards. It is difficult to let go! I am learning to be more free with my two boys. Cindi

    May 19th, 2008 at 7:39 am

  4. Jeffery Williams says:

    The idea seems silly to me. I think we’re designed to handle human scale falls. If you fall and it hurts, you learn to catch yourself or learn to avoid that fall. Now if you increase the scale of the fall (going fast on a bike for instance) you should wear a helmet. It just seems silly to put a helmet on a little kid when they’re just running around.

    May 19th, 2008 at 8:00 am

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    It has already gone that way to some extent. There are no more merry go rounds on playgrounds. High drives at pools have gone away too. I’ve seen parks without swings. (luckily the one near us still has them)

    May 19th, 2008 at 8:16 am

  6. JMo says:

    Yet another example of “overparenting”. The world is not safe. Our job is to teach children to live here anyway, not protect them from it. Geez, if you walk thru Babies R Us or a hardware store, and you wonder how any of us made it through childhood without the multitude of safety products. It’s ridiculous. Overall, I think today’s parents have lost their confidence and don’t trust their intuition – so we look to corporate America to provide us with safety solutions instead.

    We covered the electrical outlets and put foam on the fireplace. That’s the extent of my childproofing. LO just learned how to move chairs and climb up on them. Instead of blocking off the area or removing the chairs, we are teaching him to sit in the chairs.

    That said, I totally support bike helmets and proper protection for skateboarding, etc.

    May 19th, 2008 at 10:25 am

  7. PsychMamma says:

    I agree with JMo – - “The world is not safe. Our job is to teach children to live here anyway.” I think there’s a real danger in over-worrying and thus creating fearful, worrying kids. I try to practice what my grandma and mom called “mindful neglect.” I give my 2 y/o space to explore on her own without constantly hovering with a safety net, but watch from a reasonable distance so I can intervene in any truly dangerous moments. Let me stress that this is very difficult for a first-time, naturally fretful mommy. BUT, I think that it’s good for her (and me) and I’m so proud of each of her accomplishments and successes. I think that each time she shouts “I did it!!” with a grin on her face after doing it by herself, she builds more confidence and courage, which seem like fantastic life virtues.

    It seems like telling kids to wear a pudding cap just in case they fall firmly plants the idea that they might fall, which could teach fearfulness. On the other hand, it could teach overconfidence (i.e., “I have this on so I’m safe”), leading to high climbing attempts that might not be attempted otherwise (and that a pudding cap would NOT protect from).

    I’m not for pudding caps, but we DO use a bike helmet (when biking), even though I do sometimes think about the fact that I somehow survived without one.

    May 19th, 2008 at 1:24 pm

  8. Sara says:

    I think it’s crazy. I never wore a “pudding cap” and somehow managed to make it through life just fine…even going to an ivy league college! And anyone who knows me can tell you how clumsy I am. I agree that kids need to learn how to deal with the bumps, bruises, and scrapes (physical and emotional) that life throws at them. How can you expect a kid to learn to be resilient if he is never given a chance to do it? Accidents happen. They’re a part of life. Kids need to learn how to deal with them.

    May 19th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

  9. Jennifer says:

    PsychMamma you are right about the “I have this on so I’m safe” thinking. After reading your comment, it reminded me of a study I read a few years back that said that skateboarding and bike injuries had risen because children were taking more risks since they have been required to wear helmets.

    May 19th, 2008 at 2:36 pm