Reconsider Buying a Baby Walker
Did you know baby walkers are considered to be so dangerous that they are illegal in some countries? The American Academy of Pediatrics has even called for a ban in the US. Now you're asking, why? Just about everyone has been plopped into a baby walker when they were young, and they've "been just fine!" The short of it is this: baby walkers can cause serious injury and/or developmental issues for babies. I am not here to scare, mommy shame, or guilt trip if you have used or continue to use a baby walker, but I am here to share information so that you can be aware of the risks associated with using a baby walker.
What Is a Baby Walker?
Baby walkers, or infant walkers, are devices with wheels and a suspended seat with leg holes that allow babies — usually between 4 and 15 months of age — to stand and scoot themselves around before they are able to walk on their own.
Since 1970, there have been more than 30 deaths caused by baby walkers. They were banned in 2004 in Canada, and Canadian citizens can be fined up to $100,000 for owning or selling one. There were so many children being injured by using a walker that in 2010 a US federal safety standard was put in place that made sure manufacturers were making safer products. Despite these standards, "2,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries related to infant walker-related incidents in 2014."
Baby Walker-Related Injuries and Considerations:
- Nearly 3/4 of walker-related injuries are from rolling down the stairs, leading to soft tissue injury (bruises and pump knots), concussion (brain injury), and fractures (broken bones). One in 10 walker-related injuries includes a skull fracture!
- The walker can tip and cause the infant to drown by falling into a toilet, tub, or pool.
- The higher-seated positioning of a walker allows the infant to more easily reach up onto countertops or shelves to items that can cause burns or poisoning.
- Babies aren't mentally ready to walk until they are physically ready to walk, which is generally around 12 months of age.
- When we place a younger infant in a walker, there is a risk of developing bone and joint issues in their hips (if used frequently).
- There is evidence that babies in walkers walk later than babies who did not use walkers. This means that putting your child in a walker doesn't actually help them learn to walk!
I am a momma, and I know there are times when we need to leave our babies in a safe, contained spot so we can keep an eye on them while we cook, clean, or shower. In the case that we need our babies to be in a safe spot, the following are some good alternatives to the baby walker:
- Stationary activity centers are a good alternative because the baby sits in the middle and can spin to different toys. Just be sure the baby's feet can touch the floor/bottom of the center.
- Sit me up chairs or Bumbo chairs (the ones with a flat bottom) are another way to keep babies safe and allows them to play while you get things done.
- My favorite thing is to encourage free play in a Pak n Play with the baby on his/her tummy or side!
Babies should spend no more than one hour a day in these alternative containers, but that information is for another post!
Baby walkers are on their way to being banned in multiple countries due to the injuries they can cause. When we, parents and caregivers, need a break, there are many alternatives to keeping a baby entertained that are much safer. Please keep this information in mind when you're considering what toys, gadgets, and gear are best for your baby.
-Cheyenne Allen, PT, DPT