It was until I gave birth to my first child that I learned about the pediatricians’ concerns on the use of baby walkers. Who would have thought that these popular devices for infants are causing thousands of accidents and injuries to babies every year? There were more than 230,000 recorded injuries due to baby walkers in America from 1990 to 2014.
Most accidents from baby walkers are falling down stairs and falling into pools. That is why it was suggested in 1997 to make baby walkers frame-size wider than doorways. This is to prevent babies from going through doors which is the most common cause of accidents. Unfortunately, the tougher standard for walkers did not prevent all walker-related-injuries to babies. There are still about 2,000 cases of walker accidents each year.
Infant walkers have wheels that let babies move around allowing them to reach objects that they shouldn’t. For instance, electric wires, glasses, or household liquids such as bleach. Infants in walkers could also pull tablecloths with hot beverages, candles, vases, or bottles. You might think keeping an eye to a baby should be enough to prevent an accident. But no. In fact, many mishaps happened under adults’ supervision. This is because walkers enable babies move more than 3 feet in just a second. That is faster than any person could react.
Dangers are not the only reason for banning baby walkers. The devices are actually useless in helping babies to learn walking. In fact, studies found that they delay motor development. This is contrary to the believed that the equipment helps infants walk early.
Babies in walkers have less opportunity to practice walking. They have less time for crawling, sitting, pulling-up, and creeping which are all crucial to develop muscles and walking skill. Infant walkers encourage babies to depend on support from equipment to hold them upright. This does not strengthen the muscles in hips and upper legs which are important to walking.
Moreover, infants in walkers tend to scoot their toes on the floor instead of using their strength to walk. This wrong positioning of legs does not only delay walking but could lead to ankle and joint problems. One of the most common complication due to baby walkers is idiopathic toe walking gait pattern which makes a child walk on his/her toes. This abnormal pattern of walking could last until adulthood if not corrected immediately.
Instead of baby walkers, there are many alternatives to help your little one learns to walk. For instance, playpens. They allow babies to practice walking in a safe zone. Playpens are like huge cribs that you can put on the floor to allow your baby to play and develop his/her motor skills. There are also activity centers which look like walkers but do not have wheels. These devices keep your baby entertained while learning how to walk. They have rotational and bouncing seats with toys around encouraging babies to move his/her feet and hands.
More than any material thing, your support and encouragement are the most important thing to help your baby walk early. Enjoy this fun milestone with your child and hope this article help you make an informed decision.