Baby walkers were first created to help children learn how to walk. The walker was thought to help children strengthen the baby’s legs and give them an added mobility that they don’t usually get by sitting or scooting around.
Originally, the walker was considered a great place for children to “walk” around to improve their coordination. Parents love the convenience of baby walkers, they love being able to put their child into an entertainment device where they believe their child will stay occupied and stay safe. Parents are fooled by the benefits of the walker, because many children really enjoy being in the walker and are happier babies when placed in this device. Many parents swear by baby walkers, because there are learning toys on the walker to help improve cognitive development and then the ability to walk improves their physical development. However, it has been proven that there are no cognitive or physical developments gained by the use of a walker and the dangers of baby walkers outweigh any convenience that the parents may experience.
Walkers typically delay motor development. A study done in 1999 by Siegal and Burton called Effects of baby walkers on motor and mental development in human infants. The study analyzes motor and mental development in 109 human infants, with and without walker experience (between ages 6 and 15 months.
Walker-experienced infants sat, crawled, and walked later than no-walker controls. Not only that, but they also scored lower on the scale for mental development as well. Also, significant effects of walker type, frequency, and timing of walker exposer was observed. The authors concluded that the risks of walker use outweigh the benefits.
Go Down Steps and Stairs
When a baby gets in a walker they are unable to discern stairs and steps. They believe that they can walk care-free without the ability to get hurt. This “invisibility” outlook and lack of knowledge that children process cause many accidents. Consumer product Safety Commission estimates that each year there are over 3,000 hospital treated injuries associated with baby walkers and most of those include falling down the stairs. In fact, each year there are several deaths associated with walker stairs.
Ability to reach dangerous items
Babies are much taller while in a walker. They now have the ability to reach counter, stove tops and table tops that they weren’t able to reach while on the ground. Parents are unknowingly leaving knives, cleaning solution and hot items on tall surfaces. Children are getting hurt by pulling down boiling water onto themselves, grabbing knives on to themselves and grabbing cleaning solution and drinking it without their parents even noticing.
Bad for hips
Baby walkers change the natural alignment of the spine, hips and legs. Therefore, after many hours spent in these walkers, children can start changing in their natural body structure which can lead to severe consequences in the future. Walking devices can inadvertently place hips in unhealthy positions, especially when used for extended periods of time. When baby’s legs are put in an unhealthy position they are at increased risk for abnormal hip development.
What do Pediatricians Say?
Pediatricians are saying that walkers are mentally and physically harmful to children and should be banned. There should be no more manufacturing of walkers. Gary Smith a pediatrician says, “In just one second, a baby can move 4 feet in a walker with wheels that moves, and that’s not enough time for a parent to catch a baby in a walker who is falling down the stairs or to prevent a baby’s finger from being pinched in a door. Some babies have even drowned in walkers. Typically, the curious baby will walk into the side of the toilet, tip the walker over and go head first in the bowl, or tip into a swimming pool.”
Banned in Canada
Walkers are actually banned in Canada. Retailers are not allowed to sell baby walkers and parents are not allowed to sell baby walkers. The Baby Walker Ban became a law in April 2004. If any person or retailer is found to be selling a baby walker, they can face up to $10,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail. Canada is the only country to have such a ban, but pediatricians are urging other countries to follow suit.
What has been done?
Pediatricians have advised parents to not put their children in baby walkers. They have also tried to ban the sell of baby walkers. Although, the United States has not yet had the ban of walkers and still continues to manufacture them, they have created ways to make walkers more safe for children. In 1995 they made walkers be wider so they can’t fit through doorways.
Baby walkers are also fixed with slip grips to make sure that they can’t go down steps or stairs as easy. Walkers injuries dropped by 60%. In 1990 there were over 20,000 hospital injuries due to walker accidents.
You should stop using these walkers. Parents should no longer placer their child in these walkers. It may seem that sometimes it is more convenient for you to place your children into a walker rather than hold them, but that could be a big mistake.
You should get rid of your walker right now. You are not helping your child, in fact, you are actually hurting your child. Your child is being put more in harms way and their physical and mental development is being severely hindered.
What to do instead?
There are many other ways to entertain your child while you are trying to get things done. Parents can put their children in bouncers, excersaucers or playpens. Anything that is stationary is much safer than walkers, because there is decreased chance of a child getting into something that a parent does not want them to get into.
No matter what device a parent chooses to put their child in, it must be known that these devices are to be considered temporary solution. Children develop much better while being placed on their tummies. Tummy time is essential to baby’s development and can help children to develop mentally and physically at a quicker rate then the children whom are just placed in baby devices.